Manhunter: New York

Making of

29 December 2009 - Interview with Dave Murry
(Source: The Manhunter shrine - website no longer in existence)

MHS: The Manhunter games have a pronounced "outside the box" feel to them, from the interface to the graphics to the fact that your aliens were about as far from the stereotypical "little green men" as possible. Were you deliberately trying to be as different as possible from other games of the time, or was that just the way it all came together?

DM: Our intent was to make something as far away from Sierra's Quest games as possible. We also wanted to make a more "mature" game than the other games available at the time. The alien design was the result of needing something that was easy to animate.

MHS: What influenced the oppressive, Orwellian tone of the games and the gritty, bleak cityscapes? What were your main sources of inspiration?

DM: My brother, Barry, came up with the basic idea. He was a big alternative comics fan and that influenced the direction that we took with Manhunter.

MHS: The fact that none of your characters ever spoke definitely added to the atmosphere. Did you find it challenging to create a game that had no dialogue?

DM: We decided that the text parser built into Sierra's AGI was too limiting so we came up with MAD. The MAD device substituted for dialogue and actually made the game easier to design than if we had used dialog.

MHS: The Manhunter series was rather grisly for its time. It was unusual for games from the 1980s to feature explicit gore the way Manhunter did. Was there ever any concern about how that might be received?

DM: Sierra had some concerns about the gore but we convinced them that it was an essential element in the game. We really didn't know how it would be received but it was the game that we wanted to make.

MHS: Manhunter also incorporated a fair amount of slapstick humor and visual comedy. Was this done to balance the horror elements? And whose sense of humor was responsible for the Manhunter's polka-dotted undershorts?

DM: Yes, we thought that it was important to inject occasional humor into the game to balance the horror and to ease any possible concerns that Sierra might have about the dark nature of the game. The undershorts were Barry's idea.

MHS: Manhunter had you playing futuristic detective, and the series had all the ingredients of a gripping mystery novel. Where did that influence come from?

DM: Movies such as Blade Runner were a big influence as well as the alternative comics that Barry was reading.

MHS: The first two games were set in New York and San Francisco, respectively, and the third was to have been set in London. Were there ever any other cities considered for the "honor" of being invaded by the Orbs?

DM: We also considered Chicago and Paris but we liked the Jack the Ripper influence on London. The London game would have had a strong Jack the Ripper atmosphere to it.

MHS: You actually travelled to New York and San Francisco and photographed all of the locations that appeared in the games. Approximately how long did it take to gather all of the location photographs? About how long did it take to develop each game overall?

DM: We were only in each city for a couple of days. We planned where we wanted to go in each city before we went so it didn't take very long to take the pictures. It took around 18 months to develop each game.

MHS: Were there any additional locations that you wanted to include in the first two games, but weren't able to?

DM: Not really. We just picked the locations that best fit the story line.

MHS: Your version of Coney Island was based on Dreamland Park, an amusement park that operated on the same site until its destruction by fire in 1911. How did that come about?

DM: We used Dreamland Park because it was a more interesting place than the later parks. Our idea was that the Orbs reconstructed it to give the citizens of New York a diversion.

MHS: The second game was more complex and convoluted and arguably a bit darker than the first game. Was that deliberate?

DM: In the first Manhunter we were more concerned with the technical aspects of how to present the story that we wanted to tell and learning the AGI. The second Manhunter freed us up to focus on a more elaborate story.

MHS: I would be remiss if I didn't ask at least one question about Manhunter 3. When the second game was under development, was there a vision for the way the third game would unfold, or were you playing it more or less by ear?

DM: When the MH2 was under development, we had to focus all of our attention on it. We had to decide on the location for MH3 so that we could put the teaser at the end of MH2 but that was it other than a few ideas that we couldn't include into MH2 that we set aside for possible inclusion in MH3.

MHS: Whose idea was it to have you wear the brown robes for the pictures on the backs of the game boxes?

DM: The robes were our idea. We rented them from a local costume shop.
Thanks again Dave!