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The Burden of Proof: Narrative Deduction Mechanics for Detective Games

Jon Ingold  (Narrative Director, inkle)

Location: Room 2006, West Hall

Date: Wednesday, March 23

Time: 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass, All Access Online Only Pass - Get your pass now!

Topic: Design

Format: Session

Viewing Experience: In-Person/Virtual Livestream

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: Yes

The fantasy of playing the master detective is compelling but brings difficult problems both for players and narrative designers, the biggest of which is the problem of proof. Having uncovered a complex crime full of twists and turns, how can the player show the game they've solved it? And what if they haven't? inkle's most recent game, Overboard!, is a detective game where you aren't the detective (you're the murderer), but its design suggests a novel approach for allowing the player to assemble and refine a solution from evidence and speculation that could be more widely applied. In this talk, narrative director Jon Ingold will outline how Overboard!'s deduction system works, and show how it tackles the problem of proving specific feedback without removing the need for player creativity, and he'll demonstrate how the approach could be applied to more right-way-up detective stories.


Overboard! allows the player to assemble a highly dynamic range of "cases" against multiple characters in the narrative, while providing very specific feedback about their success or failure states. This talk will describe how that was achieved, including specific implementation detail, and outline the wider thinking behind the system.

Intended Audience

The talk is intended for writers and narrative designers interested in more dynamic alternatives to linear and collect-quest approaches to ever-popular "mystery" plotlines.