I saw on Rock Paper Shotgun that Capcom has released a free Flash demo of the upcoming Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney game. As someone who recently played Phoenix Wright: Justice for All (my introduction to the series — I haven’t yet played the other two installments), I find this demo interesting for a few reasons:
- Phoenix is no longer the main character.
- The Flash rendition looks and plays exactly like the DS version of the game, and is purported to represent about half of the first case. This is pretty remarkable. It leads me to believe that Flash is actually their development platform for the series, and that they use a “baking” process to convert it into a format that they run on their DS engine. If this is the case, their development costs for the games must have been pretty low (and even lower for subsequent entries) — and, by extension, the revenues from the 2 million copies sold of games in the series are almost pure profit.
My experience with Justice for All also got me thinking about the possibility of proving that the game can be completed. The gameplay does not allow for “retrograde motion,” so to speak, or failure (except in the case where your “health meter” is expended by frivolous objections). As such, it should be possible to test whether or not the game can be completed by simply applying all available actions (a list that is not particularly large) until “forward progress” is made. “Forward progress” could be defined as seeing new dialogue, getting a new item or contact, or going to a new cutscene.
I imagine that, if such a tool were available, it would drastically cut down on the most time-consuming part of QA that would need to be done on the game — checking to make sure that it can be completed. (Inform, about which I keep meaning to write more, has a user-built “skein” that serves much the same purpose.) The Phoenix Wright games are not short, owing to the fact that they have tons of dialogue and many cutscenes. Cutting down the amount of QA needed would mean, of course, more profit, and probably an easier development cycle overall.
I’ve inserted the embedded demo below — hopefully it doesn’t cause issues with your browser. I would say that the demo, while representative of the character and tone of the game, doesn’t show enough of the actual “gameplay” of the game, and doesn’t require much thinking to actually complete.