The Switch library has most genres and game types covered, including titles that encourage us to slow down, assess clues and solve mysteries. Frogwares is a developer well known in this area for its Sherlock games, though it made its Switch debut with the very solid port of original IP The Sinking City in 2019. In more recent months the company has been busy bringing two Sherlock Holmes titles to the system, a series that has done a great deal to establish the studio for over a decade.
It was only in February that we had Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, and now the latest arrival is its successor Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter; in terms of game entries of the last few years, Switch is now only missing the studio's latest work - Sherlock Holmes Chapter One. In the here and now there are plenty of crimes to solve for Holmes fans on Switch.
Frogwares is a company with a large part of its team based in Ukraine, too, though it has remained busy despite the current conflict in the country. With some of its team located elsewhere in Europe and with support from partners, The Devil's Daughter arrived against that troubling backdrop.
We posed some questions to Sergey Oganesyan, the studio's Community Manager, to learn more about The Devil's Daughter, working on Switch and the challenges currently facing the team.
First of all, can you talk a little about the company’s long history of Sherlock Holmes games; what inspired you, in the early days, to work with the character?
Well, there are a few reasons for it. The first one is that we’ve always been fans of adventure, mystery, and investigation games. It’s a genre combination that we love. There’s no better buzz than putting the pieces of the mystery together and throwing your accusation and deduction at the suspect. Did you miss any vital clues? Anything that you missed in conversations or didn’t pick up on? In that one single moment, you’ve put your reputation on the line and soon you’ll find out if you were correct or not. And if you add a splash of grey moral area, you start having a bit of an internal conundrum. The law isn’t always just. So what do you do when laws and ethics clash? Yeah, it’s a topic that we love exploring. Don’t get us started on it!
And if you’re a fan of mystery, investigations and detective thrills, well, it doesn't get any bigger than Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous detective. Working with that character is a dream, and also a challenge. After all, with such a huge fandom, you want to make sure you get him “right”. And sometimes that right might mean quite a few different things for different people. Saying all that, having a recognisable name does also help from a business point of view. It helps you get noticed. Nevertheless, you still have to make a good game, a good adventure, and a good mystery. The name will take you only as far.
Working with Sherlock is a dream, and also a challenge. After all, with such a huge fandom, you want to make sure you get him “right”.
Creatively, what in your view have been the most significant changes and adjustments as you’ve continued working with the IP in recent years?
The technical capabilities is definitely one change that made a huge impact. When we started 20 years ago, tech was so limited compared to what we have now. We had to work with 2D plains, and you can forget about large sprawling areas. Once consoles became more powerful, we were able to bring Sherlock into the 3D sphere, allowing us to bring in a first-person mode that really opened up more design choices. It helped in making people feel more immersed in the story they were playing. And of course, it allowed us to create more graphically rich games, with bigger locations, more content, and higher production values.
It’s not just the tech that is changing though. People’s expectations of games, as a medium, is changing too. We as developers and as players, we get influenced by our culture. By playing other games and being opened up to other types of thinking, we get inspired ourselves, which in turn pushes that internal benchmark of what’s a good game and what it should be further and further into different directions. Heck, even the audience itself is changing. Players from 10, 12 years ago, well, their habits have changed too. Maybe they might have less time to play as they did, so they are looking for different experiences? And it’s hard not to have your own thoughts and personal experiences influence the games that you’re making as well. For example, during Sherlock Holmes The Devil’s Daughter, a lot of us in the studio became parents, and that filtered through to the game itself too.
Switch owners will also know you for The Sinking City, can you discuss how your Holmes games influenced the approach to that title?
If you played The Sinking City, and you start playing our Sherlock Holmes games, you will see how our own definition of games have evolved over the years. In our Sherlock Switch games, you will see familiar mechanics like exploring crime scenes, taking notes in your case book, interviewing subjects, and piecing all the clues together in the Mind Palace. If you enjoyed that train of gaming thought in The Sinking City, you will enjoy our Sherlock titles as well.
In recent months you’ve brought relatively recent Holmes games to Switch, with Crimes and Punishments and now The Devil’s Daughter. With Crimes and Punishments, can you talk about the experience and feedback from sharing that with a new audience on Switch?
It’s been fantastic! The response from the Switch community is bigger than we thought... We’ll definitely keep the console in our future plans.
It’s been fantastic! The response from the Switch community is bigger than we thought. We had hopes that Sherlock would find its audience, but we certainly didn't expect such a warm reception! It felt nice seeing all the positive comments about our game coming through and seeing people enjoying the mystery that we created. There’s a buzz in seeing people enjoying what you created. Bringing Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments to the Nintendo Switch also exceeded our expectations financially too. We’ll definitely keep the console in our future plans.
Can you outline what fans can expect from The Devil’s Daughter on Switch? It originally followed Crimes and Punishments, so does it evolve or enhance any particular ideas or gameplay?
With the Devil’s Daughter, we’ve decided to open up the levels and crime scenes a bit more, and for the first time giving Sherlock a semi-open world feel. We played around with the mechanics too, but still keeping the essence of Sherlock Holmes games. We also wanted to dig deeper into the character of Sherlock too by placing him in a not so familiar age and time of his life. Usually, our Sherlock games featured our favourite character when he was older ,more mature - the finished product you might say. With the Devil’s Daughter, we experimented here a bit, and decided to show a younger Holmes. And by placing Katelyn in Sherlock’s life, we were able to see a different side of Holmes, one of a father figure. We love the cold, witty, and almost anti-social side of him. But what about his softer side? His loving side? That’s why we introduced Kaitlyn, so that we can see what that different side of Sherlock could be.
A number of the team are based in Ukraine, though you’ve continued to remain as active as possible. Can you talk about some of the challenges the team is facing, and outline how projects like The Devil’s Daughter on Switch have come together?
As during the COVID-19 pandemic active phase, our team has now switched to remote-only mode due to the ongoing war. At the moment, our entire team is scattered in different safe corners of Ukraine, Europe, and the globe, and keeps actively working on the projects. Now we rely on each other more than ever. There are some team members who joined the Ukrainian armed forces, others are involved in volunteer assistance, and the rest of the team are covering their fellow Frogwarians who are defending our homeland. Such a wartime approach allows the studio to function as it used to.
The Devil's Daughter came as a natural extension of our strategy of porting games to the Switch. We love our players and appreciate their feedback, and we've heard so many times that "gaming mobility" is highly anticipated in our community when you can just keep playing on the go. We started with The Sinking City, then we had a very successful release of Crimes and Punishments, and now we hope that The Devil's Daughter will also be accepted by the Switch community.
In these difficult times, how important has the team found the support and encouragement from fans?
We are deeply grateful to our fans and appreciate the incredibly warm support from our entire community. Over the past month, we've received a huge number of emails and comments on socials from our players from all over the world. Some people expressed their support and encouragement, and some even sent us emails offering to host our employees at their homes in Germany, Sweden, and other EU countries and beyond. We were deeply touched by their kindness. That’s something we didn’t expect. That really cut through to our core.
We are deeply grateful to our fans and appreciate the incredibly warm support from our entire community.
Can you discuss your experiences with Switch in terms of working with the hardware and the general reception of the games? Do you have further plans to support the system?
Of course, when we started porting our games, we faced some challenges that we had not barged into before. It's not hard to guess, we are talking about the specifics of the hardware. Some difficulties are caused by the need to optimize games for the current-gen consoles, so in a sense, it is easier to work with next-gen hardware. However, porting games to the Nintendo Switch is very exciting, and we enjoy working with the platform. In addition, we have partners who help us port games for the Switch with the highest possible quality, while retaining all the original charm of our titles. On top of that, Nintendo consistently provides us with solid information and marketing support too, which always helps.
As for the further plans to support the system, I can say that our team is actively considering this possibility and look forward to further cooperation.
Thank you for your time, do you have a final message you'd like to share with fans?
In these difficult times, I'd like to wish everyone peace. I send love towards all defenders, men and women, who selflessly protect the Ukrainian people. I also share my love with all of our players and once again want to express my sincere appreciation for all their support and solicitude. We will continue to make great games, putting our soul, love, energy, and culture into them.
We'd like to thank Sergey Oganesyan answering our questions; we hope that the Frogwares team and their loved ones can remain safe.
Due to the sensitive nature of this ongoing story, we've decided to lock comments on this post.