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Now Available: "A Picture Perfect Murder"

A new hidden-object adventure game from Storm Dragon SoftwareTM

Image of A Picture Perfect Murder main menu.

  • Find clues.
  • Interview suspects.
  • Play minigames.
  • Solve the murder.

Double click to view full-screen.

News and Views

Random comments about playing and developing games, developing game engines and other custom software,
running a small business in retirement, and life.

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Just discovered your blog. I can't wait for this to come out also.

Gary Kreisberg

am stuck in game. Is there a walkthrough, am stuck in one spot, in murdered guy's room, hint says to interact with the black thing but nothing happens


@ Gary:

Sorry, there's no walk-through at this moment. If you click on the black thing again, the text that pops up gives you a clue about what you need to do next. If you want more of a hint, I could email it to you, but I'd rather not have spoilers on our front page. :).

M Wild

The reason Gary Kreisberg is stuck is because the game has a glitch and should be tested and corrected before distribution. Very primitive and slow - not professional at all.


@ M Wild
We’re sorry you’re having trouble with the speed of the game. The game was thoroughly tested by us and by non-developers before release, and we fixed every bug reported. If you can tell us exactly what glitch you have found, we’ll fix that one, too. In the case of Gary’s question, it isn’t a glitch, it’s just a hard problem in the game. Thanks for writing.

M Wild

So at least give a hint Regina, if more than one person is getting the same problem, perhaps you should let us know what to do. I checked with Amazon and they ran into the same problem. The cat's paw points to the black box and you can click everywhere, pull all the inventory and nothing happens. There are no clues, no changes to the cursor, no help at all. It's not a professional game, very amateurishly designed. It is extremely slow too. I would not recommend it.


@ M Wild
Sorry for the delay--I'm on vacation with not much internet. Spoiler alert--After the murder, when you click on the black box in the victim's room, you get a message that says something like, "I wonder who could tell me where the key is?" I forget the exact wording. This tells you 1. It's locked, and 2. You need a key. It implies that 3. You need to talk to somebody. Go back up to the lobby and talk to either of the maintenance guys. They will say -- further spoiler alert -- to look in the garden room.

M Wild

Sorry Regina, There was no message & I clicked on every person and nobody talks. I started a new game and the same thing happened at the same spot. I usually don't give up, but I decided it's not worth any more of my time, so I'm giving up. I hope Gary has more luck. Thanks for trying to help.

01.12.17 More on Pageviews

Yesterday I reported that the file transfers for my other website have increased quite a bit, but there is a good explanation. Meantime, the file transfers for this website increased enormously, without as good an explanation. Not counting the period of a Kickstarter campaign, this site has been puttering along at a few hundred file transfers per day for quite some time. But look at this!

July 2016:  136
August 2016:  124
September 2016:  170
October 2016:  119
November 2016:6610
December 2016:9315

What!!?? Almost two orders of magnitude increase in two months?? It seemed to me that there were three possibilities:
1. I am having a lovely dream;
2. I am doing something right (because I have been trying to increase traffic); or
3. Most likely, there was a mistake of some kind.

I got in touch with my ISP, who looked at the complete data and noticed that thousands of these file transfers appear to be for comment bots from Russia and the Ukraine. The ISP sent us instructions on how to block these (which would be different for you). I'll let you know next month how it's going, but meantime, the moral is, don't get excited about a lot of traffic that you can't explain.

01.11.17 "Pageview" Update

Well, my goodness!   Back on 08.08.16, I told you that I had discovered that what I thought was the highest-quality backlink to my other website had a "rel=nofollow" tag on it, and that I had asked the webmaster to remove that tag. He did, and I can hardly believe the results. My website had been puttering along at 800 to 1000 file transfers per day for a couple of years, usually hovering around 930, plus or minus. Here's how the file transfers are going now:

July 2016:  930
August 2016:1047
September 2016:1125
October 2016:1545
November 2016:1795
December 2016:2117

The number of file transfers has more than doubled in the five months after getting the backlink changed. I don't see how this can possibly be a coincidence, but it does make sense. The linking site gets a lot of hits, it's closely related to my site, the link to my site is on their front page, and it's a text link, not just an ad-looking link. That's about as perfect a backlink as you can get. So the moral is, check your backlinks in the page source, not just in normal browser view.

11.18.16 Tools, Part 3: Game Editor 8.

Putting in graphics is so easy that the grandson got bored and bailed on me, and besides, he has other commitments, like Minecraft. He says he'll come back for scripting.

Storm SurgeTM has a number of built-in mini-games, and yesterday I worked on the jigsaw and tiling puzzles in "A Tiny Mystery." If you want puzzles with all pieces initially right-side up, they are almost trivial to build (once you've got the graphics). You put the pieces into their final, assembled position in the StormEd Scene Display window, copy the coordinates for each piece into the slot for final position, and move the pieces out of position. You're done. I'm not kidding. Now, if you want to rotate pieces, you have to do more graphics and a little scripting; I'll tackle that today for the jigsaw puzzle.

Earlier comments on tools for game development.

09.12.16 What IS "A Picture Perfect Murder"??

Sometimes it's easy to get focused on the details of creating a game and forget that not every person in the world knows what a "hidden object/adventure game" is. Today, by special request, I'll give an overview of the genre and our game. These games go by several names, e.g., casual, hidden object, and adventure games. The "casual" part means that they typically take less than 10 or 15 to complete. Our beta testers, who are experienced in this type of game but did not take part in development, took roughly 8 hours to complete "A Picture Perfect Murder." The "hidden object/adventure" part tells what kind of puzzles you can expect. There's usually a plot of some sort, in contrast to, say, Match 3 games.

In our game, you play the part of a freelance photographer who used to be a crime-scene photographer. You are currently shooting an old mansion that's being converted to a bed & breakfast. Unfortunately, right after you arrive, one of the staff is murdered. You work with the police to solve the murder before the grand opening. You play a number of "mini-games" or "puzzles" to find clues:
  • Hidden object puzzles. Remember those drawings for kids where you have to find six hidden animals or whatever? Like that, only harder.
  • Jigsaw puzzles.
  • Tile-matching puzzles. You turn over two tiles at a time until you find the ones that match.
  • Tile-swapping puzzles. Sort of like a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Spot the difference. Again, this is something you see in children's magazines, only much harder.
  • Cycling puzzles. You turn groups of items around on interlocking tracks until they are in the correct positions.
  • Adventure. Remember the House that Jack built? Say you need to dig a hole. You need a shovel. There's a locked shed. You can see a key inside a glass case. So you need a hammer. Eventually you find a hammer in one of the games, you go back to where you saw the case and break the glass (lots of random vandalism in these games), return to the shed, take the shovel, walk back to the place you need the hole, and dig the hole. In the bottom of the hole you find a clue.
Playing each mini-game gets you a tool or clue. Finally, you use all the clues in a fairly difficult logic puzzle to solve the murder.

So that's what it's all about. It's fun; buy today!

09.10.16 Running a Kickstarter campaign.

What do you suppose Kickstarter has in common with driving traffic to your website? Right! In both cases, the rich get richer and the poor get ignored. It's a lot easier to raise money through crowdfunding if some crowd somewhere is already panting for your next game/movie/CD/book/whatever. For the rest of us, the Kickstarter success rate is only about 35%.

Nevertheless, we decided to give it a try. Kickstarter, for unknown groups like us, is basically an organized way of begging from your family and friends. We did have a handful of contributors that we didn't know (thanks!), but mostly our family and friends pulled us through. Here are some of the campaign techniques that helped us meet our goal of $5000:
  • First, our goal was only $5000. This wasn't nearly enough to finish the game, but it funded our intern for long enough to finish a specific aspect of the game. We squeaked in with $5101, but if we had asked for much more, we wouldn't have gotten anything. You must be realistic about how much money an unknown can raise.

  • Second, we made what I considered (as the writer/director/editor, so some bias there) a funny video for the campaign.

  • Third, we posted quite a few updates in an effort to remind potential contributors that we still wanted and needed their help.

  • Finally, we pestered our family and friends with email until they contributed just to shut us up. Remember:  organized begging. I think we sent out three or four rounds of requests. Some people actually thanked us for sending the reminders, saying that they had intended to donate the first time and then forgot.
Ultimately, our Kickstarter campaign was a lot of work. We did manage to fund our intern for a while, but the income/hour was not particularly high. (It turns out that Clang had the same problem, even though they made $526,000.) If you only need a few thousand dollars, you may want to consider getting a part-time temp job instead.

09.09.16 Legal ways to fund game development.

The one thing you need to know if you decide to go into consulting is this:  Save money while you're making it. (Knowing something about the topic is also helpful.) Consulting is always flood or drought. Fortunately, we already knew this when we started consulting, so when we switched over to working on our indie game full time, we had some savings to pay a lot for things we needed for the game and a little for salaries. I'd say that lasted for a year or so. Then we were really, really broke, and the game wasn't done.

That left us with several options:
  • Go hungry. That would have been okay for a day or two, but it wasn't a long-term option.
  • Get a job. This one would have brought us back to time=money, seriously delaying the game.
  • Beg.
We decided to go with begging, although apparently I was the last person in the universe to learn about Kickstarter. One of my sons showed me the (very glossy) campaign for some sort of real-motion sword-fighting game engine called "Clang", but at first I had no clue how this related to my need for cash. When I finally got it, and when we had been broke for quite some time, Madison and I decided to try a Kickstarter campaign of our own.

09.08.16 You want to build an indie game?

You've seen the warnings: "We're professionals. Don't try this at home." You probably don't have to be a professional to build an indie game, but you do need a modicum of skill, loads of stick-to-itiveness, and either a big team or a lot of time. I'm going to walk you through the process that we followed to fund, create, and market "A Picture Perfect Murder." You may decide to go for it, or you may decide to work for a living, which -- I'll be honest, here -- is more reliable and less time-consuming.

The first problem, of course, is eating. It may come as a surprise that until you are already selling games, no one is going to pay you to build your indie video game. If you're living at home with mom and dad, no problem, but otherwise you need a job, and at first we had contracts designing and developing software for a client. This provided the money we needed, but as you know, time = money. Therefore we didn't have the time we needed, and for a while progress was very slow. When the contracts ran out, we suddenly had more time. Then the money ran out as well. Tune in tomorrow to see what we did about that.

MadDavid's Programming Tip: Fund your game by giving up haircuts.

09.07.16 "A Picture Perfect Murder" makes a sale on Amazon!

Yay! We've sold "A Picture Perfect Murder" on Amazon! Since virtually every relative, friend, and acquaintance we have contributed to our Kickstarter campaign, initial sales have taken a little while to get started. Our good friend Cynna McLaughlin has three books out, and she says she gets a little endorphin rush every time she gets royalties, even if it's her mom who made the purchase. But we're excited because apparently a stranger to us has bought our game. Whoever you are, if you're reading this, thanks, enjoy the game, and please leave a review on Amazon!

09.02.16 Driving traffic to your website: A Baker's Dozen Hints.

Let's summarize:
  1. Driving traffic to your website is hard work. Unless you are made out of money, you're the one who has to do it.

  2. Even if you are made out of money, SEO offers should be viewed with scepticism. You can do it yourself better and cheaper.

  3. Add material regularly, even "daily," although I add occasional large chunks of material to my other website, and that seems to work fine.

  4. A good solid first sentence, in a good first paragraph, reflected in a good description of 155 characters, is essential.

  5. A title telling what each page is about in 55 or 60 characters is one of the few things you actually control.

  6. Search engines don't look at comments, but people can, so be careful what you put in them.

  7. Don't obsess about keywords. Google and Yahoo don't use them and may penalize you for spammy ones.

  8. Do obsess about backlinks. Get on directories. Ask for links from related pages. Post useful comments on other sites.

  9. Traded links are of lesser value, but not worthless. Paid links are of almost no value.

  10. Link out to related sites, but check your site regularly for broken links.

  11. Create an RSS feed.

  12. Figure out what you can give away for FREE. It's the most powerful word on the web, aside from "cat."

  13. Use cats.

08.15.16 "A Picture Perfect Murder" is on Humble Bundle!

We're pleased to announce that you can now buy our game, "A Picture Perfect Murder" on Humble Bundle as well as here in our own store. I haven't completely figured Humble Bundle out yet; Madison is the one who has been working with them. It is clear that they are an established store for computer games and digital comics, at least. They apparently run specials where a few games or comics are bundled for sale together. Part of the purchase price goes to charity. As I learn more about Humble Bundle, I'll let you know.

07.15.16 2:00 p.m. This just in: "A Picture Perfect Murder" is for sale on the Amazon Digital Game Store.

In addition, there are two books titled Picture Perfect Murder and one titled A Picture Perfect Murder, not to mention numerous other books titled A Picture Perfect [Something]" or [A] Perfect Murder. Now, I distinctly remember checking the title at the time without finding much of anything. I guess this title is just an idea whose time had come.

07.15.16 "A Picture Perfect Murder" is finally finished and "on the market."

What this means, in practice, is that instead of spending our days doing something we know how to do - software development - we spend our days doing something we don't know how to do - selling software.

There are a number of online game retailers, and so far we've been in touch with seven of them. Two have not responded at all. One said it wasn't their kind of game. One said they need "Steam keys," which means you have to be on Steam. One said they "wanted to like it" but thought it would be too difficult for their customers to play. One is taking a long time between steps, and one seems to be in the process of accepting it.

We haven't tried Steam yet, because as near as we can tell, Steam is now crowd-sourcing the decision on what to accept, and no one has heard of us. Which brings us back full circle to doing what we don't know how to do: marketing.

All that said, obviously you can and should buy the game here!

07.16.16 One of our Kickstarter rewards was a signed certificate with unique art work from the game. One backer immediately framed his certificate and hung it in his den! While we were creating the physical certificates, I decided that "next time" we will do digital certificates that people can use as the desktop wallpaper on their computers. After this backer's reaction to the paper certificate, I may have to rethink that. Kickstarter reward certificate

More News and Views

September to November 2016 - Tools for Game Development
August 2016 - Driving Traffic to Your Website
June and July 2014
May 2014


All Storm DragonTM games are tested for use by red/green color-blind players.

Our beta-testers play the game both with and without sound. Hearing-impaired players can enjoy the game in its entirety.