ANYONE familiar with Kelvingrove Museum will know the orrery – a beautiful model of the solar system dating back to the 19th century.

Now, one of the most beautiful pieces in the museum’s grand collection has inspired a Bafta-winning Scottish studio’s next video game.

Blazing Griffin, a multimedia company based in Glasgow, previously spoke with The National after picking up a Bafta for its work on Hercule Poirot: The First Cases.

Following that success, the team has developed a sequel – The London Case – which the iconic Kelvingrove has helped inspire.

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In an exclusive chat and tour of the studio, those behind the latest project explained what appeals about the famous detective, building on the success of this game’s predecessor and why the studio is thriving.

Who are Blazing Griffin?

AS the studio’s co-head of games Justin Alae-Carew explains, Blazing Griffin is made up of three key elements – “games, pictures and post”.

It’s worked on the likes of Vigil and Inside Man as well as Anna and the Apocalypse. The latter was an idea that was generated in-house with the studio then also handling production and post-production internally.

“Crime and murder seems to be a bit of a theme in our work,” Alae-Carew adds.

Indeed, previous video games have included Murderous Pursuits and Murder Mystery Machine.

The National: The new game sees Poirot explore LondonThe new game sees Poirot explore London (Image: Blazing Griffin)

Eventually, they turned to one of the most iconic crime-solvers of all – Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Building on success

PART of the difficulty, of course, in taking on such an iconic character is bringing something new to the table.

Poirot has of course recently been seen on the big screen courtesy of Kenneth Branagh as part of a genre that can be seen everywhere,

from board games like Cluedo to Knives Out.

“We’re huge fans of the genre and the author so these games have been very exciting for us,” Alae-Carew says.

Part of what has made Blazing Griffin’s adaptation so successful is that they weren’t tied to a specific adaptation, but rather allowed to create a fresh story that focused on the sleuth in his younger years.

“That’s what we did for The First Cases. We wanted to take the character and the idea of an Agatha Christie mystery and create a new story that was fresh and unexpected.

The National: Players take control of the iconic detectivePlayers take control of the iconic detective (Image: Blazing Griffin)

“I think the biggest bit of praise was people assuming it was an adaptation of a novel that hadn’t seen the light of day but it was actually our own creation. We see The London Case as an evolution of that first game.”

Grand ideas

“AUTHENTICITY is key in this story. A painting gets stolen, there’s a series of suspects and it becomes a classic whodunnit but one of the likely suspects turns up dead so that triggers a larger investigation,” explains Neil McPhillips, who also serves as the studio’s co-head.

One of the areas the player can  explore in the game is in a museum, a space that was inspired by Kelvingrove.

McPhillips continued: “The centrepiece of our museum in our game is an orrery. You can find that in Kelvingrove  we made a big golden one and it thematically tires into our story.

“With the story being in the art world, we set out to visit museums and we all have a strong love of that space.

“It’s what inspired the location and we spent a lot of time there. Our space is primarily in a gallery and it stood out as a nice inspiration to lead on.”

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Alae-Carew echoes his colleague’s thoughts explaining that it was the perfect building to draw upon.

“It’s a place with a lot of art but it’s also a grand representation of the wealth of the past. If I was to say the characters visited an art exhibition, you could be thinking of a small room but we wanted to draw inspiration from something grand.”

An eye for detail

WHAT separates good artistic works from great ones lies in the detail. Things that you might not even initially notice but that nonetheless immerse you in the world of the story.

That’s where the game’s writer Iain McGinley and concept artist Fiona Burton come in.

“It was quite a daunting task because you can’t tear this character apart,” the writer explains.

However, the studio says that they had a wonderful working relationship with Christie’s estate who only ever responded to scrips and ideas with minor suggestions rather than the need for a total overhaul.

McGinley continued: “We wanted for people to finish the game and leave them thinking about the characters – either positively or negatively.

“Even if you don’t like them the fact is that means you’re remembering something about them.

“To start with, there was a lot of what could potentially work because we know who Poirot is and the kind of man we have to create.”

McPhillips adds that while working on the first game, they wanted Poirot to defend a character who had done something wrong but was going to face harsher consequences than were perhaps necessary.

This was one instance where the Christie estate stepped in to give feedback. “They explained to us that Poirot wouldn’t behave in this way because he cares about justice first.”

As well as protecting the character, they also keep an eye on historical accuracy. Alae-Carew adds that it was once pointed out to them that a character was wearing too many buttons on their coat.

For concept artist Burton though, that level of detail is exactly what she wants when it comes to character design.

The National: Plenty of detail goes into character designPlenty of detail goes into character design (Image: Blazing Griffin)

“At the very beginning of development for the game when we’re not 100% sure on the story, I get stuff from Ian and his description of what the characters will be like.”

One detail she’s particularly proud of is Poirot’s waistcoat.

“Every flower, everything on it means something although I’m probably the only one that knows,” she says, laughing. “I could have picked anything but then that wouldn’t add to the overall feel.”

What’s next?

MCPHILLIPS explains that the Scottish video game industry is in a “strange place”. There was a boom during Covid when everybody was stuck inside before things calmed down but, as a studio, Blazing Griffin is going strong.

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“As a studio we’re just trying to forge ahead with our strengths. We have a number of projects behind us that have been received well by critics and fans for the quality of the narrative and the story.

"At the same time, we just want to grow as a studio and gain more experience.”

If these Poirot games are anything to go by, Blazing Griffin’s success looks set to continue for some time.