Interview with Michelle Duval

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Elrond
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Interview with Michelle Duval

Post by Elrond » Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:26 am

I recently had the opportunity to ask one of the designers of the Clue games from the early 2000s, Michelle Duval, a few questions. Enjoy! If you have any follow-up questions for her, she’s agreed to try to answer them (within certain bounds). My questions are numbered and her answers are the quotations.

1) Could you please describe the process that ultimately resulted in the relaunch of Clue in 2002? It retained the basic feel of the 1990's series, but offered incredibly more detailed stories. In fact, it seems to have worked extra hard to weave together past versions of the game (for example, in the UK, Green was always an Anglican Vicar, while in the US, he had always been a mobster; in the 2002 version, he's a mobster posing as a reverend; similarly, the US version always called the victim John Boddy while the UK version called him Dr. Black. This also was combined in the 2002 version). In addition, the stories and characters in the 90s changed in different media (in one story, Prof Plum is Dr. Black's cousin, in another, he's just a friend, etc.), whereas post-2002, they are remarkably consistent. How did that come about?
Cluedo was the very first of the whole Clue series when it was created in the late 1940s and hit the market in 1949. Parker Brothers purchased the rights to produce the game for the US market but made changes to the characters Reverend Green and Mr. Black. PB felt the US market wouldn’t accept a reverend as one of the suspects so changed it to Mr. Green. This was the way it was until the early 2000s when the design team was tasked to bring the UK & US versions into a global combined game. The team worked on combining the characters and their storylines. The team created a storyline that made sense and the characters were given birth dates, careers, personalities and the geography of where they lived. A matrix document was worked up so that the characters, their stories and their town would be consistent in any future game.
2) Were there any significant changes in the 2002 versions that made the game significantly different than previous versions, or was it simply the artwork and character backstories?
The changes were significant because this was the first time that the characters became consistent for all Clue/Cluedo Games and in all countries. New artwork was created that fit the new Clue document descriptions. However, the matrix document was what became important for all the new Clue games.

3) In 2003, Clue FX was launched. This game incorporated several new characters: Lady Lavender, Prince Azure, Rusty, Lord Gray, Ash the Butler, Inspector Brown, and the Meadow-Brooks. These characters would stick around for several games. However, in the 1980s, there had already been an expansion of new characters for the Clue stories which featured Sgt. Gray, Madame Rose, and M. Brunette. The only character that ended up being retained from the 1980s to the 2000s was one Miss Peach. Why weren't Rose, Gray, and Brunette included in these remakes? Why Miss Peach? And she is *never* a suspect of anything more heinous than a break-in... was she intentionally held back from being a murder suspect?
Those characters were Parker Brothers creations needed to expand their Clue brand. They were never developed as important characters. The 2000s characters were based on strong easy to see color choices and what type of strong characters would work best with the newest games. Certain color characters were created to have softer, less capable of evil personalities. Miss Peach exists for her easy to see color and given a personality that fit into the new Clue branded games.
4) In 2005, Clue Mysteries was launched as a prequel to Clue FX. The stories led up to the day before the original story told in Clue FX. What was the process of developing this game?
Clue Mysteries was based on the game “Mysteries of Old Peking.” That game was fun but it was very insulting in the way the characters and storylines were developed. We wanted the fun but with less insults to any ethnic group. The new Clue characters I thought could really fit to a new mysteries game so I lobbied my managers for the opportunity to recreate the fun of Mysteries of Old Peking using the whole new world of Clue. My boss finally gave in to me and I worked with a great team to make a great mystery game. All the clue devices were created by me with the help of engineering and the stories were created by the copywriter, an outside copywriter and by me. There was a matrix I created for the characters, the places, the weapons and the town places that was used to create the stories.
5) In 2006, Clue DVD was launched, set between Clue FX and the original Clue. It seems to have been widely appreciated, getting several awards and selling pretty well for the time. Similar question: how was this project developed?
Clue DVD was developed by the same people who developed the Clue FX game so does have a similar feel there. It is a very fun game but didn’t generate enough revenue for Hasbro to show interest in expanding into another game. The cost of the development, manufacturing and marketing of all games is run by the cost engineering group. A game has to have a good return versus the overall costs in order to enter and stay on the market.
6) There were two "dropped" cases from Clue DVD that actually are contained in the DVD files but not accessible through the menu ("Christmas at the Mansion" and "A Dark and Stormy Night" - interested fans recently uncovered these and have worked out the stories to make them playable) - can you tell us anything about these two cases?
I can’t really because I was not involved in the development of the game other than playing the rough game and giving them feedback. Clue DVD required a lot of development of the stories that had to work with the DVD format. They might have been “ready for playing” but not ready for the manufacturing process required.
7) Were there ever thoughts to expand Clue Mysteries or Clue DVD? How far along did those stories get? Since the timeline of the Clue games was fairly consistent, when would those expansions have been set?
Yes, there were thoughts of expansion that were looked at early in the design process. However, those games didn’t bring enough revenue for management to back any expansions. They were dropped at that point.
8 ) Tell us a little about the development and launch of Clue Express (2008). It seems to have been fairly short lived because of the Discover the Secrets re-launch later in 2008, but it's actually a fun little game... did it just get lost in the shuffle, or was it not well received?
This game was developed to give players a shortened game of Clue. It used the newer characters but was just a basic game of Clue without the big board and any character story development. Again, games stayed in the product line as long as a certain amount of revenue is brought in for the company. Also at this time I was developing the Game Tasters games – a taste of higher cost games such as Trivial Pursuit and Scattergories. The thinking was people liked playing games but were reluctant to spend the time and cost of the regular games.
9) Were there other games/ideas in development that would have continued the stories told in the four core games (Clue, Clue FX, Clue Mysteries, and Clue DVD) set in the 1920s? When would they have been set, what sort of game were they, and what was the basic story (and what characters were they supposed to include)? Tell us a little about these if you can.
No, when the revenue fell short of what the company wanted for us to continue down this path, it was abandoned.
10) In 2007, the UK got a game called "Cluedo Party" which was set as a prequel to Clue Mysteries and introduced the characters of Lord Gray and Lady Lavender. This game was later released in Germany but never in the US - why didn't the US ever get this game?
This game was developed in the UK for their European market. They used some of the artwork created for the 2000s rebrand but there was no interest for this game to be marketed in the US. The US was moving in a different direction.
11) In 2008, the Clue brand changed dramatically, completely re-working the game and doing away with the 1920s setting (replaced with a contemporary setting in Hollywood). Can you talk a little about that decision?
In the 2008 reboot the new development team decided no one cared about the characters, who they were and what they looked like. The game became more contemporary hoping to catch on with a younger generation.
12) Were you at all involved in the development of what eventually became the re-launch of clue in 2016 in which the classic character of Mrs. White was replaced with Dr. Orchid? Can you tell us anything about that?
No, I retired in 2012 and have not kept up with the latest Clue/Cluedo game. It looks to me like it’s just an update on the graphics.
13) The game Clue is a family game, but its core subject is murder... This must be an awkward thing to handle in marketing and game development. Several later games (Mysteries and DVD) avoided murder while Clue FX and Cluedo Party embraced that element of the story - how did the topic of "murder" impact the development of games at the time?
Clue is the classic “who dunnit” game and has been accepted for what it was by the general public. The murder of Mr. Black isn’t ever sensationalized in the game – it’s just who did it, where did they do it and with what weapon. The Mysteries and DVD game only worked with numerous storylines as long as the characters didn’t die because we needed them for the next mystery.

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Re: Interview with Michelle Duval

Post by Jonathan Green » Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:55 am

Try interviewing Rob Daviau, the developer of Clue DVD Board Game and Clue: Discover The Secrets.
Here's his site: http://www.robdaviau.com/
Check out my Instagram account to see my art - :arrow: https://www.instagram.com/david_rodriguez_art/?hl=en

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Re: Interview with Michelle Duval

Post by Elrond » Tue Apr 02, 2019 12:18 pm

Jonathan Green wrote:
Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:55 am
Try interviewing Rob Daviau, the developer of Clue DVD Board Game and Clue: Discover The Secrets.
Here's his site: http://www.robdaviau.com/
I did try; he said he didn't remember much and referred me to someone else. :) He did say (I think I said it somewhere else) that the two cut cases were cut due to time, and he didn't even know they were included on the DVD.

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Re: Interview with Michelle Duval

Post by Sir Shamrock » Tue Apr 02, 2019 4:35 pm

Elrond wrote:
Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:26 am
In the 2008 reboot the new development team decided no one cared about the characters, who they were and what they looked like. The game became more contemporary hoping to catch on with a younger generation.
This is so sad!

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Re: Interview with Michelle Duval

Post by Elrond » Tue Apr 02, 2019 5:55 pm

I know, right? I have no inside information on how the gaming world works, but I would have thought with the massive success of Downton Abbey starting in 2008 and interest in the Roaring '20s being raised across multiple industries, it would have been a good time to refresh in a different direction while maintaining the stories and personas of the 1920s. I don't claim to be an expert, but it seems like it wasn't the best decision.

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Re: Interview with Michelle Duval

Post by Murder by Death » Tue Apr 02, 2019 8:12 pm

Downton Abbey didn't start airing until 2010 and it really wasn't the worldwide hit it became until a few years later. Games are in development well before they are released as well. I wouldn't be surprised to learn the team on DTS was working for up to 2 years prior to its October 2008 launch. The manufacture lead time alone would have required at least 6 months. Sadly Hasbro was too far ahead of the phenomenon. I would love to see the sales data on DTS. It only took 3 years for them to abandon the concept, and return to a semi-traditional board.

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Re: Interview with Michelle Duval

Post by Elrond » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:36 pm

Murder by Death wrote:
Tue Apr 02, 2019 8:12 pm
Downton Abbey didn't start airing until 2010 and it really wasn't the worldwide hit it became until a few years later. Games are in development well before they are released as well. I wouldn't be surprised to learn the team on DTS was working for up to 2 years prior to its October 2008 launch. The manufacture lead time alone would have required at least 6 months. Sadly Hasbro was too far ahead of the phenomenon. I would love to see the sales data on DTS. It only took 3 years for them to abandon the concept, and return to a semi-traditional board.

Ah yes, your timeline is correct. I guess they had already committed to their re-brand before interest in the 1920s really took of again.

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