To say that Aviary Attorney is an unusual game would be to completely undersell it. It’s set in 1848, is designed around the proceedings of a murder trial in high court, and the main character is a falcon defense lawyer.
Catching first sight of it takes a while for the whole vision of the game to come into focus and make sense. There are so many bizarre and delightful parts to it that it takes a while to process exactly what it is you’re looking at.
Firstly, the art style is straight out of a book, in fact, it is J.J. Grandville’s “Scenes from the private and public life of animals” that it is derived from. Then you have the Phoenix Wright dramatics added to this; gathering evidence from around its world of animals, and then presenting it in court to hopefully win the case.
Then you have its menagerie of birds, cats, dogs, and rabbits to take on board. All of them dressed up in prim outfits belonging to the 19th century’s bourgeoisie.
There is much to question about Aviary Attorney, and so Siliconera caught up with Jeremy Noghani, the programmer, designer, and writer of the game, who consulted Mandy Lennon, the animator and also designer and writer of the game, to get these questions answered.
Discussed is how the idea for the game came about, how it will be to play when finished, and the the kinds of animal characters we can expect to meet. If you’re after more information upon having read the interview, you can check out the game’s website.
What was it about “Scenes from the private and public life of animals” that attracted you to the idea of making a game derived from it?
Jeremy Noghani, designer: There’s an enormous collection of public domain book illustrations on the Internet. We were looking through it specifically to find art that could be adapted to make a game, and came across J.J. Grandville’s wonderful illustrations. They stood out to us, partly because they were so unique, and partly because it was amazing how much of the humor carried across from 170-year-old drawings.
Was your first idea to make a “bird lawyering” game or did you consider other potential design paths too? If so, what were they?
The initial plan was to make a card game, an RPG, or maybe some sort of traveling game in the vein of Oregon Trail or 80 Days. But then I saw a drawing that looked like a scene straight out of Phoenix Wright and the design decision became obvious.
The choice of Monsieur Falcon as the protagonist came about because we liked his heroic, but slightly confused expression. The resemblance to a particular JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure character may also have been a factor.
What projects have you worked on before Aviary Attorney? Anything quite as bizarre?
I spent the last few years writing academic papers about procedurally generated architecture. Although I learned a lot, it was a little dull. With that in mind, I think that Aviary Attorney is a much more bizarre and creatively liberating project than anything I’ve done recently!
Let’s go into some of the details of the game. What kind of characters have you created for Aviary Attorney and how do they play into the plot?
The main character is Jayjay Falcon, a well-meaning but slightly incompetent defense lawyer. He is joined by Sparrowson, a witty romantic (or so he thinks) who couldn’t quite make it through law school. These are the characters the player follows for most of the game.
Other important characters include Inspector Volerti, a bitter rooster with an uncompromising view of justice, and Renard Vulpes, a trickster fox who seems to enjoy getting into dangerous situations. Of course, there are also a dozen or two eccentric NPCs that the player can interact with, ranging from baron lions to prosecutor rabbits to cafe-running dodos.
The player’s role is to build up a defense case. Could you, firstly, detail what the case is? And, secondly, explain the various ways the player collects evidence for it?
There are a total of four cases in the game. The first starts with the player meeting Lady Caterline Demiaou, a bourgeoisie kitten who claims to have been framed for murder while at a political banquet. The player is then given the opportunity to visit locations around Paris to try to gather information and evidence. For example, they can visit the building where the murder took place and attempt to strong-arm or flatter the owner into revealing details about what happened on the night of the incident.
The player only has a limited number of days before each trial, so they may not have time to speak to everybody they want. They have to think carefully about where would be a smart place to go, given the information they have.
Presumably, once they’ve got the evidence, the player then has to present it in court, right? How are you designing this part of the game?
Right. This section of the game plays out similarly to real-life court cases, in that the prosecutor calls out witnesses to give statements, and the defense—Falcon—tries to find flaws by pointing out conflicting statements or by presenting evidence. If the player does well, then the jury can be convinced to give a Not Guilty verdict.
It has been tricky to make the cases work when the player may or may not have several key pieces of evidence, but we’ve managed it by tailoring the dialog depending on what’s available in the player’s inventory.
How many different paths do you think there will be through the game? Will there be multiple endings, also?
There are a few key moments where a character’s life depends on the decisions the player makes. Most notably, the game continues even if Falcon loses a case. Although the game follows the same major story events, the mood and details of the dialog change considerably. In this way, there are at least three major events that influence how things can change.
There will be multiple endings, but it’s a little early to say exactly how many.
If Aviary Attorney proves popular, would you consider making more games from within the world it takes place in?
Absolutely! There are dozens of characters from Grandville’s illustrations who are bursting with personality, but who won’t make it into this game. We have tons of ideas, but it would probably be better to focus on Aviary Attorney before thinking about sequels and spin-offs.
What are your current plans for releasing Aviary Attorney? More specifically: when, and on what platforms?
We are aiming for a late Spring 2015 release on PC and Mac. A mobile port soon afterwards is very likely.