Dave Grossman for Telltale Games

Σάββατο, 03 Νοεμβρίου 2007, Συντάκτης Fallen Angel, Maladroid

Dave Grossman for Telltale Games

First of all, we would like to thank you on behalf of the Greek adventurer’s community for taking the time to do this interview with us. Would you like to tell us a bit about the Telltale Games’ team? We know that many of you have a background with LucasArts. Have you teamed up once again because you have created a strong relationship with one another or because you know that as a team you can deliver great adventure titles to the gaming community?

It's true that the Bay Area boasts an extensive community of people who worked at LucasArts at one time or another, and they seem to tend to stay in touch with one another -- I guess it's not unlike the army in that respect. Currently I think almost half of the people who work at Telltale are LEC veterans, including most of what would generally be regarded as "the principals." And why not? When you're building a company and looking for talented, dedicated professionals to share your vision, it's easiest to call people you already know. But we've also brought in people from elsewhere in the games industry, as well as film, television, art school, and so on. There are a lot of people here who know how to do more than one thing, which I suppose is important when you're a small company trying to produce a lot of entertainment.

Do you feel that expectations for Telltale Games are elevated since many of you have helped to the creation of classic adventure titles? Do gamers tend to compare your latest games with the ones of the good-old-days?

Our games do get compared with classic adventure titles quite often, which is flattering on the one hand, but dangerous on the other. It isn't that expectations are high so much as it is that some fans expect us to be making fundamentally the same kind of games we made fifteen years ago. Which is emphatically not our aim. What we're trying to do with episodic games is to create something in a shorter, more frequent form, as well as something with a broader appeal. It's my hope that as more developers come out with episodic titles, we'll be favorably compared with those, rather than with the classics.

Besides the next episodes of both Bone and Sam & Max that we know you’re working on at the moment, are there any projects that you are considering getting down to? If yes, will they also be in an episodic format?

Telltale is geared specifically for episodic development, and to some degree that even includes our CSI titles (check out CSI: Hard Evidence, recently out for PC, X-Box, and Wii). Although these are released all at once on a disc, each game includes five separate cases, which could easily be thought of as episodes, and which are built in a similar way. So, yes, you can expect lots more episodic content from us in the future, and some new properties as well.

Do you intend to drastically update the graphics engine of Sam and Max for the next Season or the possible upcoming Bone episodes? If so, what are the major improvements / changes we should be expecting?

Drastically, no, not the graphics part. You may see the graphics improve, depending on what our target platforms can handle, but we wouldn't need to change the engine at all for that. We're focusing our technology on other, subtler fronts, where my hope is that you won't even be able to put your finger on precisely what we've done, you'll only notice that the games are getting better.

Let’s talk a bit about Sam and Max’s adventures. They are heavily based on pop culture stereotypes and modern society’s failure to realize it is being patronized. Should we expect our intrepid duo to start swinging a wrecking ball against it at some point or do their priorities lie elsewhere?

Sam and Max's main job is to comment on things, which they do with wit, style, and a certain bemused detachment. While they see it as their civic duty to pummel senseless any purse snatchers they may run across, when it comes to the larger social picture they are primarily observers. So I suspect that any wrecking balls that will be swinging will be verbal ones. Um... does that answer your question?

A great deal of the game’s jokes and references derive from individuals and facts practically unknown outside the US, making the laughs unavailable to most people not familiar with the American ways. Are the duo’s adventures America-centered on purpose and do you consider toning that down in the future?

We're keenly aware that half of our audience lives outside the U.S., and we don't write that way according to any sort of plan -- it's just what we know. There's a certain danger when you play a game written by Americans who rarely even leave the office, much less the country, that it will have a specific cultural focus. My hope is that as modern communications technology brings us ever closer together (even those who never leave the office), the humor will naturally become more global, but in the meantime, you might consider Sam & Max a part of that gradual process of globalization, providing a sort of fun-house-mirror view of American culture. Though I suppose if people were to start basing their impressions of Americans on the antics of Sam & Max, it could lead to serious misunderstanding... so forget I said anything.

Some have suggested that certain characters that appeared in most episodes were overused and have been “dried out”. Are there plans for them returning for the next episodes, maybe heavily changed? Or is there a whole new cast of recurrent faces in store for us this time around?

All of the above, really. Many of the characters will return, and we are attempting to give those people more depth this season, with some small adventures and side plots of their own. But we're simultaneously adding just as many new characters for your continued amusement. We'll probably just keep on building the cast larger and larger as long as the series continues to run.

Would you consider the insane characters or the bizarre situations to be the cornerstone of a good Sam and Max story as far as the comedy element is concerned? And where does Sam and Max’s cynicism come from? Do they know something that we don’t?

In their case it's definitely characters first. Steve Purcell (creator of the Sam & Max comic books) has said that the primary purpose of the stories in his comics is to provide the characters with opportunities to comment on things. And their cynicism comes, along with all of their other traits, straight from Steve. He probably does know something you don't, but I have no idea what it is.

What would you consider as “too much out there” for the Freelance Police to get involved into? I mean, those guys have already traveled to space, entered the cyberspace, won the national elections and reached the status of ephemeral stardom.

I am hard pressed to imagine subject matter that couldn't be covered by Sam & Max. That's one of the things I like about them!

It is no coincidence that the hardware requirements for the series’ games have been kept rather low in order to include as many potential gamers as possible. Did you intend the online distribution to be a step towards the same direction or a necessary evil that leads the other way?

When you put it that way, I guess at the moment it's a little of each. We think that online distribution is too convenient not to become the way that most people get most of their software, and that's why we've focused our efforts on it. Conversely, not everybody is currently willing or able to get games that way -- but we'll be here when they are.

It didn’t go unnoticed that a great deal of the game’s charm came from the punctual voice-casting. Tell us a little bit about the significance of the actors in this business and the way you get the auditions narrowed down from the “potentially good” to “absolutely awesome for the role” people?

With a game that has as much talking as a Sam & Max game does, the quality of the voice acting can really make or break the experience. Casting is critical, but it's also one of the most enjoyable tasks we have. We work with an outside group, Bay Area Sound, who take character descriptions and sample lines written by our designers and then field a bunch of auditions from local talent. They send us the best ones for review, and the day those arrive is always a really fun day for the design and writing staff. We listen to them all, pick favorites and talk about it, and a clear frontrunner usually emerges. But the real fun is listening to twenty different people all performing the same goofy line, each with their own spin.

Somewhere along the way (I believe it was in the 4th of 5th episode) you decided to enrich the description speeches, replacing the old lines with fresh ones. Was that your original intention or something that occurred to you over the course of the Season?

That was a direct response to feedback from the audience. It's a lot of work to write new tag lines for all of the incidental objects every episode, I mean, sometimes it's hard to come up with ONE funny thing to say about a waffle iron, let alone six. So we were hoping that where the objects didn't change, we wouldn't have to change the lines either. Not so. With the releases of the second and third episodes, we got strong feedback from people playing the games that they wanted to hear new lines for everything. So, we do our best to provide them.

What would you say are the main reasons why you chose to tell us some tales involving the Freelance Police? Try to describe the traits of the dog and rabbit team as if they were listening through the interrogation room, just outside.

I just think they're hilarious. Sam and Max give us a lot of opportunity to make all sorts of peculiar comments about whatever we can think of, including my one-man crusade against Daylight Saving Time. Their stories also tend to be smallish and personal, which is best for episodic games, and since just about anything can happen in their world, it's difficult to imagine running out of material. Also, several of us have worked with Steve Purcell before, and we like any excuse to get him to come by the office.

Now that people are properly introduced to the series, is it fair to expect this philosophy of cranked up difficulty (that was most apparent in the last couple of episodes) to stick with the Freelance Police during their next adventures?

We needed to ease into things at the beginning, but I think we've reached a pretty good level of difficulty with the games now and we'll keep it up. Serious gamers should be satisfied, but novices will be OK as well, since each episode of Season Two comes with a tutorial and a clever hint system.

No matter what goes on around them, Sam and Max appear to remain (almost) completely unchanged. Are there any plans to shed some more light into their personalities or possibly their life before joining the force? Are we going to see them undergo any changes at some point, according to the story?

We do learn a few things about them, and there is actually one notable character change that I can think of coming up in Season Two, but by and large Sam and Max are akin to the forces of nature, and seemingly impervious to change. The people around them, however, are not, and they will probably have many ups and downs as time goes by.

Season One was generally praised as being highly replayable, unlike most adventure games nowadays. What do you think are the main aspects that have gained them that characteristic and how high in your priorities is replayability while creating adventure games?

I think replayability for these kinds of games is all about story, characters, and sense of humor. Revisiting a Sam & Max episode is like going back and rereading a favorite novel or comic book. And who knows, maybe you'll catch some things you missed the first time.

What would you say to those who object to the choice you've made to release your games in a downloadable episodic format? Would you mind explaining why you made such a decision? Moreover, would you explore the possibility of a single-game adventure for the Freelance Police in the future?

We think downloadable and episodic is a terrific way to do games, indeed, to do entertainment in general. It's all about making it easily accessible and constantly fresh. Telltale has been geared in that direction from day one, and it's still our primary focus. If you crave a larger, all-at-once kind of experience, you can always wait until a season is finished and play the whole thing through then... but of course then you'd have to wait.

Although some say that the adventure genre has no future, many companies (both some newly established and others with years of experience in game development) continue to develop adventure games. Since you are one of those companies, would you like sharing with us what made you decide to develop adventure games instead of other genres?

Our aim is to make games that are rooted primarily in great characters and story, which is one thing that adventure games are quite good at. There's a lot to be learned from the way adventure games are designed, and even if we were to wind up moving towards other kinds of gameplay, adventures are still an excellent place to start.

Certain people who have a background in adventure games development have said that adventures need to be renovated. They say that this can be achieved by adding different gameplay elements into adventure games. Do you agree with this belief?

I agree with the first part, but not necessarily with the second. I think adventure games tend to suffer from poor puzzle design, schism between story and gameplay, and a tendency for designers to want to make themselves feel clever, instead of making the player feel clever. Adding different gameplay elements will not fix any of this. Before changing mechanics, I'd like to see designers rethink their basic strategy, perhaps starting with a consideration of adventures as a dramatic medium rather than as a gaming medium, and working from there.

That said, I'm all for using other kinds of gameplay elements, not because I think doing so will automatically improve an adventure game, but because I think different kinds of mechanics have different strengths in terms of what they can dramatically portray. If my story has a car chase in it (as does more than one episode of Sam & Max), some sort of driving mechanic is a good choice for that scene. In general, I prefer to start with the story, and think about what kind of gameplay will best convey what's important about each scene, rather than starting with a particular style of play and trying to squeeze a story into it.

Thank you very much for this interview. We wish you the very best for all your future projects.

Πρέπει να συνδεθείς για να σχολιάσεις
  • Δεν βρέθηκαν σχόλια


  • Δεν βρέθηκαν σχόλια