Manhunter: New York

Making of

25 May 2013 - Interview with Dee Dee Murry
(Source: The Manhunter shrine - website no longer in existence)

MHS: How did you initially get involved with the Manhunter games?

DDM: My brothers, Dave and Barry, started creating games together and made the Ancient Art of War series, I joined in as the first Manhunter was started, in the early 80's.

MHS: Did you have any involvement besides doing the artwork (e.g. story)?

DDM: I basically helped with the art work. My brothers and I would discuss the story and scenes, game play, etc but I mainly worked on the art. Dave did much of the programming and story planning, Barry helped with that and also did much of the art and animation also.

MHS: Did you do sprites and animation as well as backgrounds?

DDM: I was not involved with the animation much, I mainly worked on the characters and backgrounds.

MHS: Sierra's old AGI game engine had relatively low-res graphics and was limited to 16 colours. Was it challenging to create the graphics using their system, or did the limitations make it easier?

DDM: Well when we started, we only had 4 colors to work with. So 16 seemed like a full pallette! In retrospect I don't know how we did it with just the 16!

MHS: You're primarily known as an award-winning wildlife artist. How was it to work with such a different medium and with such different subject matter?

DDM: The gap between computer graphics and fine art has closed dramatically since then. But at the time it was a totally different experience to create art with a mouse and pixels. I remember the first scene I got to illustrate for Manhunter New York, a brick wall with a hole blown through it, I spent hours drawing in every pixel. Of course that made the file much larger. So my brother Barry very patiently showed me how to do it more efficiently and I redid the whole thing, correctly this time. It was a good lesson but it was a little painful to delete all of the work I'd put hours into.

MHS: The graphics in Manhunter are post-apocalyptic and sometimes rather ghoulish. There are also some abstract elements to your work, such as vivid splotches and slashes of colour in the sky. What sorts of inspiration and influences did you draw on?

DDM: This came largely from Barry. He had a great imagination and creative ideas.

MHS: Gore notwithstanding, I thought that the graphics in Manhunter were extremely tastefully done. I particularly liked how some scenes were extremely detailed, while others (such as dark underground scenes) had a very minimalist style. Was there a particular approach you took to creating each scene?

DDM: The mood of the scene pretty much dictated the style. And of course the scenes with important clues were done more detailed than others.

MHS: Out of all of Sierra's AGI games, Manhunter's graphics are far and away the most "artistic". Were you involved in taking the original location photographs that were rendered into the game? If so, how did you approach the photography? Manhunter used a lot of creative techniques like long pans, extreme close-ups and unusual camera angles.

DDM: Barry and I flew to San Francisco and spent a couple of days taking photos of the city for the game. That was really helpful. Barry had a great eye for compositions and angles.

MHS: None of the characters in Manhunter ever spoke, so everything had to be relayed visually to the player. Did this create any added challenge for you?

DDM: At times. But it also made it easier in other ways. It was an interesting challenge to convey through images what normally would be spoken.

MHS: You must have had to work from historical photographs to create your vision of Coney Island, because the Manhunter version was based on Dreamland Park rather than the current amusement park. What can you recall about the process that went into that decision?

DDM: Actually that was in the works before I joined the team so don't know the story behind that.

MHS: Do you have any stories or favourite memories about making the games that you'd like to share?

DDM: I am very devoted to my four legged family, so in the game I hid either my pets names or images of them when I thought I could get away with it. The big dog that comes out and runs across the room to attack was based on my Great Dane, Fred.

MHS: What types of projects are you currently involved in?

DDM: We aren't currently making games right now, I help Dave with his online projects.

MHS: Can you tell us about your art studio?

DDM: I paint animals, wildlife, pet portraits, horses..anything with 4 legs. I taught my little blind and deaf dachshund, Hallie how to paint also. She took to it so well she now has her own web site where she sells her paintings and donates sales to dog rescue. She has now been on several tv shows, radio shows, articles, went viral on the internet, was on the Yahoo home page for a day, etc. This weekend we went to an awards banquet to accept the "PAWS Dog Hero Award" she won. Last year she made more money selling her art than I did. We joke it's pretty bad when you make your living as an artist and your blind dog sells more than you do. I love it though she is an amazing little dog.

Thanks again Dee Dee!