Hey Mike, Ken, and everyone,
I always wondered the same thing about a third game, especially since the events at the end of the second pushed heavily towards a sequel. To me, Manhunter: New York and San Francisco were the perfect games at the right time: I was barely ten or twelve, in my gore-and-monsters phase, and here was an interesting story told with images, technology, and characters that were both unusual and captivating.
Maybe I’m showing my ignorance, but I hadn’t seen anything like this before. Even back then, it seemed fresh. It wasn’t riffing off Blade Runner. Its alien designs were eerie and novel. Its point and click adventure style was different, too. It didn’t have the superimposed text like Deja Vu, Shadowgate, or the Lucasfilm games. And the idea that no one in the world could talk, that everything had to be expressed visually was a cheat that just added to the atmosphere. I poured through the reading materials offered for the game, and me, my brother, and my Dad tackled it together. Yeah, a lot of why I love the game probably comes from the way that I was exposed to it. Perfect timing, playing though it with the family, feeling like we’re unravelling a mystery.
Though I was already a huge fan of the Sierra games, this one came with a different visual style, interface, and personality. I did notice at the time that the graphics weren’t up to snuff with it’s concurrent Sierra releases, but the art style more than made up for it. And its use of the UI-less point and click was so damn farsighted.
You talk about bringing out a new one today, and I just don’t know how you could do that. It was never a huge success compared with the other Sierra games, though it seems to have its fans even today. It would basically be an unknown property, as hard to get off the ground as any new game idea. If you did want to do it, how would you approach it? You can see examples of how the genre has progressed with games like those from Quantic Dreams, or the newer Myst games. These have taken the threads that were created with the early point and click adventure games, and brought them into new directions. Would I love a Heavy Rain style Manhunter game? You can be pretty sure I’d go nuts about it. But that’s about $20,000,000 more development dollars than I think you’d manage to accrue.
Maybe a more realistic goal is for an “updated retro” like Braid, or the Bionic Commando remake. Have beautiful art assets, assembled in a relatively low-budget manner, but doing something novel and new. Hell, a flash game with similar input episodically continuing the storyline would be great. I think the trick is to make something on the cheap without appearing cheap, and that does require design, innovation, and a hell of a lot of talent. Imagine Manhunter as a 2D adventure game, rendered with some cel shaded, Frank Miller style artwork. It always seemed like a great comic book, maybe that sort of treatment would be more consistent with the world than a big budget 3D moneyfest anyway, right?
Do know that if you make anything, and you make it with the best of your effort, I am going to be there, first in line. And I’ll badger my friends about this old game that inspired me, and how it’s coming back. I do owe you guys that much.