In the 1st Degree

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
In the 1st Degree
In the 1st degree cover.jpg
In the 1st Degree box cover
Developer(s) Adair & Armstrong
Publisher(s) Brøderbund
Designer(s) Peter Adair, Haney Armstrong, Dexter Chow
Platform(s) Windows 3.x, Macintosh
  • EU: 1995
  • NA: August 31, 1995
Genre(s) Adventure game
Mode(s) Single-player

In the 1st Degree is an interactive legal drama adventure computer game released in 1995 by Brøderbund in which the player plays the role of a prosecutor attempting to convict an artist for grand theft and the first-degree murder of his business partner. The player must first examine evidence, then interview witnesses, and finally go to trial to secure a conviction. The program was developed by Peter Adair and Haney Armstrong of Adair and Armstrong.

Tagline: Someone's dead. Someone's lying. Can you prove Murder One?


This game served as a departure from what Broderbund usually published, and was the first in their catalogue to tackle human drama and film-making in this way.[1][2]

The San Francisco City Hall Courthouse was used for the courthouse setting, and the actors were filmed separately in front of a bluescreen. The shot was composited later using computer software.[3]

The game has a high degree of realism due to having San Francisco assistant district attorney Al Giannini as legal consultant during the script writing and filming.[4]


James Tobin is a struggling artist in San Francisco who owns an art gallery with his business partner, Zachary Barnes. For some time, the gallery is a lucrative business. However, after a new series of Tobin's paintings fail to sell, the gallery struggles financially. Tensions rise further when a burglary occurs at the gallery and Tobin's new series of paintings are stolen. During this time, unrelatedly, Barnes and Tobin's girlfriend, Ruby Garcia, have a one-night stand. One morning a few weeks later, an incident occurs between Tobin and Barnes at the gallery and Tobin shoots Barnes dead.

Tobin claims that he killed Barnes in self-defense following an argument and a struggle. The police do not accept this claim and believe the killing to be an act of premeditation. They believe that the burglary several weeks before Barnes' death was carried out by Tobin himself, that he stole his own paintings to gain the insurance money to save the struggling gallery. Saying that Tobin killed Barnes not only to cover up his crime but also as an act of revenge for Barnes' affair with his girlfriend, the police arrest Tobin and charge him with grand theft and murder in the first degree.


The game is played through the eyes of San Francisco District Attorney Sterling Granger. The game begins with a video clip in which the homicide is announced on the news. After that, police detective Inspector Looper briefs the player on some of the facts of the case that have been discovered in her investigation. (Like all character interactions in this game, the briefing by Looper is full motion video, with the player having a first-person view.)

The player is then taken to Granger's office, where the player can choose to examine various evidence documents and photographs; view videos from Looper's interrogations of Tobin, Ruby, Barnes' wife Yvonne, or gallery employee Simon Lee; interview each of them (except Tobin) directly; or go to trial.

The main gameplay is the pre-trial interviewing and the direct or cross-examination of witnesses at trial. During interviews (and during the trial), the player is given a choice of questions to ask, each of which elicits a different response from the witness. Based on these questions and their responses, new questions become available. Only if the player asks the proper questions (and, sometimes, in the proper order) will the necessary information come out during the trial to secure a conviction against Tobin. (For example, if the player fails to make Ruby comfortable about discussing her affair with Barnes during the initial interview, she may deny ever having the affair when asked about it at trial.) In asking questions, the player also has to deal with the witnesses' different personality types and their relationships with Barnes, with Tobin, and with each other. (For example, Barnes' widow Yvonne, who works as the press secretary for San Francisco's mayor, speaks in a relatively calm and dignified manner, whereas Tobin's girlfriend Ruby is quick-tempered and can become very hostile.)

During the trial portion of the game, a video clip of a local newscast follows each witness' testimony. In those clips, reporters analyze the prosecutor's performance (and, thus, the player's performance) in the examination of that particular witness. The player's examination of a witness also can have an effect on the kinds of questions asked by Tobin's attorney and the witness' response to them.

Based on the player's overall performance, there are several possible outcomes to the game. The worst possible outcome is that the case is simply dismissed. The game may also end in Tobin's acquittal or with Tobin being convicted of lesser crimes (i.e. manslaughter or second-degree murder), with or without a grand theft conviction. The best possible outcome is a conviction for both grand theft and first-degree murder.


Critical reception[edit]

Review scores
Publication Score
CGW 4/5 stars[6]
GameSpot 7.6/10[7]
PC Gamer (US) 82%[5]
Macworld 4/5 stars[8]
NewMedia "Awesome"[9]
Computer Game Review 91/88/82[10]
PC Games B[11]
Publication Award
CODiE Award Best Use of Live Actors in Multimedia 1996[12]

GameSpot praised its " originality and accessibility".[13] CD-Rom Today wrote " The interface is blessedly simple, the writing is snappy and realistic, and the acting is generally believable and only occasionally hammy. And the graphics are well-designed and rendered."[14]

From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games wrote that the game is less about solving the mystery about more about making a strong case. Often one may know the truth, but the witness hasn't yet been convinced to tell the truth on the stand. Therefore, the game is more about emotions and relationships, rather than facts.[15]

In the 1st Degree was nominated for the Codie Awards' 1996 "Best Adventure/Role Playing Software" prize, which ultimately went to Oregon Trail II.[16] It was the second-place finalist for Computer Game Review's 1995 "Best FMV of the Year" award, which went to Phantasmagoria. The editors wrote, "In the 1st Degree was able to captivate the player with FMV sequences that looked as good as anything from a highly publicized murder trial of several months ago."[17]

Further media[edit]

In 1995, In the 1st Degree was adapted into a novel of the same name by screenwriter Domenic Stansberry (under the pen name "Dominic Stone"), who had worked on the screenwriting for the game.[18] An Official Strategy Guide was also released.[19]


  1. ^ In the 1st Degree - making of. 19 April 2016 – via YouTube. 
  2. ^ In the 1st Degree (Brøderbund Software) (Making of / Behind the Scenes / EPK). 23 March 2016 – via YouTube. 
  3. ^ "The Verdict Is In! Broderbund's "In The 1st Degree" CD-ROM Game Is A 1996 SPA Excellence In Software Award Finalist". 
  4. ^ "Macintosh Players Are Surrounded By Suspicion And Intrigue As They Play The Lead Role In Broderbund's In The 1st Degree; First Entertainment Title from Broderbund Since Myst Allows Anyone to Assume the Role of Prosecutor in a Challenging Courtroom Drama with Amazingly-Realistic Cinematography". 
  5. ^ Howie, Lisa M. (December 1995). "In the First Degree". PC Gamer US. Archived from the original on December 23, 1999. 
  6. ^ Ardai, Charles (December 1995). "In the 1st Degree - Computer Gaming World" (137). Computer Gaming World: 266. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  7. ^ Jeffrey Adam (May 1, 1996). "In the 1st Degree Review - Gamespot". Gamespot. Retrieved September 15, 2017. 
  8. ^ Beekman, George; Beekman, Ben (April 1996). "In the 1st Degree". Macworld. Archived from the original on August 9, 1997. 
  9. ^ Young, Jeffrey Adam (January 2, 1996). "In the 1st Degree". NewMedia. Archived from the original on July 13, 1997. 
  10. ^ Snyder, Frank; Chapman, Ted; Kaiafas, Tasos (December 1995). "J.D. Not Required". Computer Game Review. Archived from the original on December 21, 1996. 
  11. ^ Paul, Fredric (August 1995). "In the 1st Degree". PC Games. Archived from the original on October 18, 1996. 
  12. ^ "1996 Winners". SIIA CODiE Awards. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  13. ^ "In the 1st Degree Review - GameSpot". GameSpot. 
  14. ^ "In the First Degree - from CD-ROM Access". 
  15. ^ "From Barbie to Mortal Kombat". 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Staff (April 1996). "CGR's Year in Review". Computer Game Review. Archived from the original on October 18, 1996. 
  18. ^ "In the 1st Degree Novel". Archived from the original on 1997-04-12. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 
  19. ^ "In the 1st Degree Strategy Guide". Archived from the original on 1997-04-12. Retrieved 2017-03-05. 

External links[edit]