Questions and answers about Sherlock Holmes the waking
Despite the tragic war ravaging their country, Ukrainian developers Frogwares are holding on with the development of Sherlock Holmes The Awakened, a remake of the first installment in the adventure game series.
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened was recently funded via Kickstarter with €252K in pledges. Ahead of the February 2023 release window, we caught up with Frogwares Head of Communications Sergey Oganesyan to learn more about the studio’s current situation and key game features.
First of all, how are you doing in the war scenario? How would you rate the effectiveness of your current development compared to pre-war?
Our team is doing what they can to return to some kind of normality and routine. But we still have to regularly adapt according to the individual situations of the team members, which change quite regularly. One minute you’re in a meeting with someone, the next they have to move to cover because an air raid siren is going off. Or they have to block out half a day to take care of something personal which under normal circumstances might take an hour. So, as you can imagine, it has dramatically changed the way we work and the time it takes to get things done. But everyone on the team is extremely understanding. We’re all in this together so, despite the horrific situation, it seems like it’s brought us all closer together.
Do you also have to deal with less manpower than before, or have you hired new developers to compensate for those directly engaged in the war?
We have not hired people to fill these roles. Everyone who fights or helps aid organizations is still fully paid by us and we have told each of them that when this war is over, their place on the team will await them. So we adapted our workflow in some places and in other places other team members stepped in to help fill that void. The Awakened is also not a project that under normal circumstances would require all 90 of our team members to be assigned to it. So we also were able to not get overwhelmed with the game and miss key people in certain roles compared to if we were making, say, an open-world game from scratch.
In your most recent video, you mentioned new features coming to Sherlock Holmes The Awakened. Can you provide details on this?
The most notable addition will be the Madness Puzzles. Given the Eldritch, cosmic horror theme, we will try to create playable puzzles that convey the feeling of mental decay.
Each puzzle will present a clear objective (i.e. open the metaphorical door to exit), but the rest is up to you. The puzzles will become increasingly difficult and madness-inducing as the story progresses. Additionally, Sherlock’s appearance will also gradually change to portray his ever-worsening mental state.
Playable Watson is also a completely new feature added for the remake. And then, of course, we’re basically taking a lot of the mechanics that we created for chapter one and adding them into The Awakened, which it didn’t have in 2009. Things like Focus mode, the ability to Sherlock to see additional clues and items that may be helpful to the investigation. The Imaigion mode where we piece together the possible sequence of events at a key/clue moment in a case. The more complex Mind Palace system where we put together all the clues collected to try to create our final deductions/theories. Essentially, we’re taking almost every mechanic from Chapter One in The Awakened and rebuilding the existing puzzles to work that way. The way the original game was played has been completely abandoned. So even if you played the first Awakened, the way you go through cases will now be very different.
You announced that Watson would be playable. What kind of differences will players notice compared to playing as Sherlock?
To be honest, we’re still working out the exact details of this one since we really didn’t have this set in stone until we passed the funding for it on Kickstarter. But one of our main motivations for a playable Watson is that it could really help amplify the connection players feel when they see the bond between Watson and Holmes form, which is an important part of our reworked story. . By actually playing as Watson and not just having him as an NPC, the chances of you bonding with them even more as a duo will likely increase.
Of course, there will be times when you as Watson can decide how you talk to Sherlock. There are parts of the game where you, as Watson, have to help Sherlock out of some sticky situations. And you’ll also be able to provide a different perspective on parts of the cases, as you’ll be investigating as Watson instead of Holmes.
The next stretch goal mentions realistic physics for in-game objects. Could this be used to improve puzzles?
In some places they will add a bit to the feel of the puzzles, but since these quests already have a set structure and solutions, the realistic physics never really had much room to influence them in general. Instead, the realistic physics system is there as something we would work on anyway, and now we have a chance to implement it. For The Awakened, it’s more of a nice touch or quality of life feature, so the game feels more modern.
How long do you think Sherlock Holmes The Awakened will last for the average gamer?
We expect the remake to be around 14-18 hours of gameplay, more or less.
Will this remake be unique or do you plan to remake the entire Sherlock Holmes series over time?
It’s hard to say. We chose to remake The Awakened for several reasons. We knew it was one of our most beloved early Sherlocks titles. It works extremely well as a way for us to easily continue our young Sherlock arc in an interesting way. And we had to work on a game with a structure, features and story already defined to make it easier for the team. So we thought a lot about the why and how of this remake. What happens after that very much depends on how the game goes and how the war ends. But since we own the rights to all of our games, the path to making more remakes is up to us and our fans if they want it.
Since this game features inspirations from Lovecraft, is it a bridge to your other IP, The Sinking City? Can fans of this franchise still hope for a sequel?
As for the stories, the two are not directly related. But if you’re a fan of The Sinking City and the way we’ve tackled the horror of Eldrich, then The Awakened should also float your squid-god-loving boat. It’s considered one of our best Lovecraftian stories in any game by a few fans and critics alike.
As for a sequel to The Sinking City, since we own the IP, I think people should rightfully expect something in that vein from us at some point. If not by its direct name, then at least a Lovecraftian open-world horror investigation adventure. We know the lore, and people seem to really appreciate our creative visions, so it’s not a genre we’ll likely be moving away from anytime soon.
Will Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened support ray tracing on PC and/or next-gen consoles?
We did some pre-testing but decided that it wasn’t something we were going to be able to implement properly on top of all the other things we need to finish if we are to hit our February 2023 release date.
Will the game support AMD FSR and/or NVIDIA DLSS on PC?
A few of our programmers have been playing around with both technologies, given that they’re both fairly easily available to us through Unreal 4. But they still haven’t made a final decision on whether we’ll have time to test. , implement and QA correctly. either of these tools for The Awakened. We could also end up supporting one and not the other, again depending on our final tests.
Do you plan to use Unreal Engine 5 for your next game after Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened?
Our team is of course looking at what the UE5 can do with admiration, and the goal is at some point to move on as we are Unreal Engine developers through and through. This is what our team knows best and where we have the most of our expertise. But switching to UE5 now for The Awakened isn’t a wise move. There will always be a learning curve to manage and a lot of experimentation to find what can be done now versus before. We just don’t have that luxury now and we wouldn’t want to burden our team with such a thing now. We have enough unknowns and surprises in our daily lives.
Is there anything else you would like to share about the remake?
I think the main thing that comes to mind is how proud we are that we even got to make this game. The Russian invasion hit at a time when we were in the early stages of developing our next game. The situation and the initial state of the project made it almost impossible to continue, so we had to put it on hold entirely. From there, we had to regroup, rethink and totally adjust how we work and on what. As we said, we had the idea for an Awakened remake for a while, but in less than a month we were able to evaluate and turn an idea into a workable and worthwhile project.
Thank you for your time.