Couzin Film’s award-winning online video 12×10-minute interactive crime drama Le Judas, originally broadcast on Radio-Canada.ca, invites players to unravel a murder mystery by immersing themselves in the action.
It’s not a pure branching narrative, because there’s only one killer, but viewers are invited to choose how their adventure unfolds and might end up choosing the wrong suspect, as they are taken down a series of rabbit holes.
“A project like this can only succeed if the interactive elements are more than just a gimmick,” says Sophie Ferron, president of Media Ranch Distribution – which is selling the format internationally.
To ensure the experience was authentic Couzin Film mapped out the story in two parallel sections: story beats and interactive beats. “They charted each side-by-side to see how the interactive elements truly help tell the story, and alter it,” Ferron explains.
Because interactivity is required by the player at every step of the process, this doubled development time. Complex Excel sheets were also created and each character was put on a chart, with their actions detailed and scenes described from multiple perspectives.
According to Ferron, the editing process also required more work: “We edited more than we needed so that the story could adjust based on the interactions with the audience,” she says.
Audience reaction to the game was very positive, which Ferron believes stems not from viewers “choosing” the story but from being a part of its telling and even its creation. She says: “What works is giving the audience legitimate interactive experiences, where they truly sense that their decisions can alter the story, and maybe even derail it.”