It is December of the year 2042. The world is still recovering from the disastrous consequences of the World War III. Radioactivity has turned many humans into mutants, and the gap between those and the "norms" (non-affected humans) is growing wider. Certain places in the world have retained the feel and the charm of the old times - among those is the Old San Francisco. There, the private investigator Tex Murphy is trying to deal with unemployment, upcoming poverty, and his melancholic mood following his divorce. After solving a simple robbery case, Tex attracts the attention of a mysterious woman who calls herself Countess Renier, and is hired by her to find a missing statuette. Things gradually begin to go wrong in this investigation, and Tex finds himself involved in a confrontation with a powerful and dangerous secret cult.Under A Killing Moon
is the third game in the Tex Murphy
series of adventures, and a sequel to Martian Memorandum
. The game is notable for its use of detailed, texture-mapped 3D graphics during a time when pre-rendered visuals were still the standard in the genre. Uncommonly for adventure games, Under A Killing Moon
allows full maneuverability. The player can rotate the camera, change the viewing angle, zoom in and out, etc.; it is even possible to look for clues underneath desks, chairs, etc.
Inventory-based puzzles are relatively rare in the game, and the emphasis of the gameplay is placed primarily on exploration, conversations featuring extended topics and choices, and self-contained logical puzzles. Other features include an online hint system (that decreases the player's score with each use), extensive support for additional sound and music devices, and full-motion video technology: cutscenes and much of the dialogue are presented as movies with real actors.
- "殺人月" -- Chinese spelling (traditional)
- "UAKM" -- Common abbreviation
- "Tex Murphy: Under a Killing Moon" -- Series title
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- UAKM was one of the first multimedia games to score "top-notch Hollywood talent" with Margot Kidder, Brian Keith, Russell Means, and even James Earl Jones (voice acting only) playing characters you'll meet during your adventure. It was also one of the first multimedia titles to show that actors working for multimedia games are usually doing so because they have either been paid an exhorbitant amount of money, need the work, or are giving their services for free. In the case of Means, Keith, and Kidder, it was because they needed the money, and while Kidder and Keith put in good performances, Means turns in a terrible one. As for James Earl Jones, he gave his services (which are quite good considering the average quality of the material) for a deep discount (he usually charges $50,000 per 20 minutes of voice work) because his grandson was into computer games and he wanted to impress his grandson.
- Chris Jones, a designer and producer of Access titles prior to this one, plays not only the title role of Tex Murphy but was also the director of the live sequences -- and all this was in addition to his other regular duties designing the game.
- A great many people who worked on the game also appear in the game as various characters. Even a playtester, George Manousakis, gets to kiss Tex's ex-wife.
According to Chis Jones, the budget for the game was two million Dollars.
Under A Killing Moon
, was the first multimedia game to come on four CDs, and the developers hated switching CDs as much as anyone else since, hey, they're gamers too. So they built into the setup the ability to put each CD on a different CDROM drive (for both network CD servers and CD changers) so that swapping was unnecessary. You could even designate different CDs for only two or three drives, to minimize the swapping if not completely eliminate it. This innovation, which was extremely convenient, seems to have been largely ignored by the rest of the industry.
Access is based on Utah, home of the Mormons. As such, some of the people who created UAKM
were also Mormons, and they wrote into the dialog that the phrase "oh my God" never be uttered throughout the entire game. They instead replaced the phrase with "oh my Hell". While the latter phrase does not take the name of the Lord in vain and is okay with the Mormons, it sounds extremely awkward. Other religious references also sneak themselves into the game, such as a moon base worker uttering a prayer right before the base explodes, the existence of God as a character (played by James Earl Jones, of course), the plot of the game taking place across 6 days, with the end of the game on the 7th day, etc.
Two novels were written about UAKM
and its sequel, The Pandora Directive
. Unfortunately, these books have been discontinued by the publisher.
The end credits of the game are accompanied by some funny outtakes. There are also some inside jokes about popular culture, such as an O.J. Simpson
mask in a costume shop (with Tex Murphy saying something to the effect of how scary the mask is).
Under A Killing Moon
marked the death of Access' RealSound technology; the patent holder said in an interview that, by that time, "the market had moved on and the use of sound cards had become commonplace." There is still a small bit of technical innovation in the MIDI engine (designed by Human Machine Interfaces) in Under A Killing Moon
, though: If the user chose to check the "digital drums" option, sampled drum sounds were used instead of synthesized ones. This made the music sound less artificial on FM synthesis-based sound cards like the Sound Blaster.
- Sometimes the limitations of the technology became apparent when moving very close to textures. An inside joke is made about that when examining the fire extinguisher on the wall; Tex quips that the landlord was so cheap that he painted fire extinquishers on the walls to fool the building inspector, since the inspector had "only one eye and no depth perception". :-)
- At one point Tex can examine a piano, and exclaims, "It's even better than a Stauffway!" This is a clear jab at The 7th Guest, which featured a piano branded after bad guy Stauff. (which, in turn, was a play on the well-known Steinway brand of pianos)
- If you're killed multiple times by the Probe Droid later on the game, James Earl Jones as the narrator will say, "The Probe Droid is not as forgiving as I am," referencing one of Jones' seminal lines as Darth Vader.
- You can find a boxed copy of Access's Links 986 aboard the Moon Child. Upon examining it Tex will comment on how it looks like some sort of croquet software.
Like The 7th Guest
before it, Under A Killing Moon
was a technology leader in the gaming industry. It was one of the first (if not the
first) games to use 16-bit 22KHz sound and an immersive, 3D, textured world with light sources and shadows (although the lighting/shadows are a hack; they're pre-rendered into the textures). This is on a 386 with a single-speed CDROM drive -- I myself played it to completion on a 386/40 and a single-speed drive.
Information also contributed by
- Computer Gaming World Magazine
- November 1996 (5th Anniversary Issue) - #99 on the "150 Best Games of All Time" list