The Trace: Relentless Software’s Murder Mystery Game Hits iOS [Interview]

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The Trace

Relentless Software, the British award-winning game developer behind the Murder Files franchise, has announced the release of The Trace on iOS devices. The murder mystery puzzle adventure game places players in the shoes of Detective Sam Pearce, joined by his forensic lab technician partner, Alex, as they’re challenged to solve a three-part case using plenty of environmental investigation and observation.

The Trace begins simply, with an apparent suicide in a mechanic’s garage, which turns into a complicated “whodunit” as players quickly realize things aren’t as they initially appear. To explore the game’s multiple environments, gamers simply tap where they wish to move, and the camera changes to highlight new scenes or key items.

From there, players tap again to bring up new leads or clues, where available. For instance, they may tap on the deceased’s hand to bring up a separate clue interface, where they’ll tap and hold on a finger to scan the victim’s fingerprint. Some key objects contain multiple clues, which the game tracks in real-time, so users always know if there’s something more to find.

The Trace

As players find clues, Pearce creates a web of questions, which players must fill in with the proper answers (represented by evidence). This web further helps players understand when they’ve found every key item in an environment, as they can’t complete the web, and therefore solve the case, without the right amount of evidence. When gamers answer specific questions, slideshow cutscenes explain more of the case. If gamers are stuck, they can post to social media, and are assured they will receive a reply from Relentless to help them along.

We had a chance to chat with Andrew Eades, CEO of Relentless Software, about The Trace, which is now available to download for $ 4.99 on the iTunes App Store. The game is coming soon to Android.

The Trace

SocialTimes: What has Relentless learned from the success of the Murder Files franchise, which helped craft The Trace?

Andrew Eades: Murder Files was originally designed for PlayStation 3 with a DualShock controller. Although, it translated really well to a touch interface and in many ways, it’s better as a touch game, and it suits the more casual audience who love games on their iPad. After Apple featured the game, we briefly hit the No 1. app spot on iPad, which showed us that there was an appetite for puzzle adventure murder mystery games on mobile.

The cartoony style of Murder Files is loved by many, including us, but we felt this tone and style was a difficult match for a more gritty and dramatic murder mystery game. Blue Toad Murder Files was inspired by the Cluedo board game, and was aimed at a family audience, but we wanted to make something a bit more adult as well, so we split the franchise into two – Enigma Express and The Trace. The Trace’s origins can be found in a prototype from 2010 called Blue Toad Crime Scenes, so we were still thinking of using Blue Toad, which became Murder Files at that point.

ST: When users need help answering a question, they can post the content out to social media and ask their friends for help. Can you explain why this route was chosen, over a traditional in-game help feature?

AE: It came from being dissatisfied with other hint systems. They either make it too easy, or the hint doesn’t help because it is too left-field and leaves the player still scratching their head. We also thought about hints as a monetizable point, but again, I didn’t like that idea. So we thought we could combine a social feature with hints. Rather than try to predict the pain points and craft hints that are not too easy and not too hard, we thought we’d do it live on social media. If you get stuck, you can tweet and you will get a reply. It’s a bit of an experiment, but it means we can engage with the players as they play.

The Trace

ST: The Trace offers three chapters, tying into one overall story. Could you see Relentless releasing DLC for the game, starring Sam and Alex, but perhaps solving different cases? Or, taking that idea one step further, do you see The Trace being a new franchise for Relentless, or is it a one-and-done endeavor?

AE: I always look to create something that can be a franchise. We still have plans for Season 2 of Murder Files, for example. With Sam and Alex, we’d like to see some DLC or even a sequel. That all depends on the success of the first one, though. We’ve certainly built The Trace engine with that in mind.

ST: What’s next for Relentless? Are more mobile titles currently in the works?

AE: The Trace is obviously our main focus at the moment, as it’s a big game for us. We are always working on what’s next, and there will be some announcements later in the year on new games.

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Growing a Global Brand Community: Dell Software’s Dave Hansen Talks to Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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Dave Hansen is global vice-president and general manager of sales, marketing, and services for Dell Software. He leads the sales and marketing teams that handle solutions for data center and cloud management, information management, mobile workforce management, security, and data protection. Before joining Dell, Dave served as president and CEO of SafeNet Inc., a leading global provider of data protection.

I invited Dave to Marketing Smarts to talk about managing large brand communities, as well as the importance of training channel partners so they can better serve your end users.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Different (key)strokes for different folks (03:14): “What I have found…is that people look at using so many different methods for accessing information. There are people that love going on the website and doing research. There are people that like the outreach. There’s inbound, outbound, all these different combinations, and then there’s all the social media feeds that we use. There’s no right or wrong answer to this. Historically, people always felt that marketing was advertising, or very focused on one or two things, but now the creativity that goes into it and different applications that people use to consume information have changed. So, we have to keep on bringing in new, younger talent that’s been exposed to these different [channels] so that we can reach them. The customer base is so big, they’re used to way different methods of communications and how we sell and market to them, versus when you get into those millions of customers in those small, midsize companies. They’re all looking for different things through Web searches, as well as Facebook and Twitter, and really you’re [using] a lot of different aspects of the social media that exists today.” 

Before you try to market to different audiences, make sure you can actually serve them (04:53): “First, you have to make sure your portfolio is geared towards those different levels of customers. That’s number one. There are a lot of companies that’ll  try to market products to the wrong market segment…so what I’m very, very clear on with our team is that, when we build a product, acquire a company, we really have to study who’s the customer that we’re really focused on, so that we know how to market effectively and sell effectively to that customer…. Really knowing that the product is…suited for that market, because if it is, it becomes a lot easier for your sales and marketing teams to be able to do that. I can’t overstate how important that is: You have to be designing purpose-building products that actually fit that market [segment] you’re trying to penetrate.”

Build interactive user communities, then listen to what your users say (07:27): “There’s many different ways [to tap your community for insight]. We have advisory boards with a lot of different customer segments and different verticals…. We did an event in Dallas earlier this week, and we had a really broad spectrum of customers at this, and hearing from them is just as critical. Sometimes it’s bad news and sometimes it’s good news, but it’s taking those learnings, and making sure that you can use those ideas and philosophies with those customers going forward, and how you interact especially. To me, it’s one of the most important critical things is how any technology company does interact with their customer base. Because (you know the adage) you’d rather make sure you maintain your existing base. It’s hard to add new customers.”

One of the ways Dell builds community among its employees is to take “Dellfies” (Dell selfies), like the picture that accompanies this post. To learn more about Dave Hansen and Dell, visit software.Dell.com or follow Dell Software on Twitter: @DellSoftware.

Dave and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by:

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

This marketing podcast was created and published by MarketingProfs.

Dave Hansen, global vice-president and general manager of sales, marketing, and services at Dell Software.

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is instructional design manager, enterprise training, at MarketingProfs. She’s also a speaker, writer, attorney, and educator. She hosts and produces the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. To contact Kerry about being a guest on Marketing Smarts, send her an email, or you can find her on Twitter (@KerryGorgone), Google+, and her personal blog.

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