The Sam & Max cover story is here!

Posted on July 2006 by TelltaleGames

Two boxes of August's Computer Gaming World arrived on our doorstep this morning -- enough for each of us to get our own copy, and also for each of us to send one home to mom and dad. Thanks, CGW!



In addition to the Sam & Max article, the magazine also has an interview with Double Fine's Tim Schafer in which the Secret of Monkey Island is finally revealed. Really!



Productivity has dropped considerably.







Also: Only one more day until Comic-Con. Woo!

Oodles of Sam & Max coverage

Posted on July 2006 by TelltaleGames

It's Friday and we have reason to celebrate!



1Up has posted a great preview of Sam & Max: Season 1, where they tout Sam & Max as "gaming's first sitcom." They've included three juicy new renders that show off some of the game's characters and environments. Go read it!



The 1Up Show, featuring footage from their visit to our office, should go up sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 Pacific time. (Not sure when that is for you? Look it up!) I'm told that they got so much good stuff they couldn't fit it all into the podcast, so they're going to make a longer video available for download from their site. We'll update with a link when it's available.



Update: The video's up!



To top it all off, Sam & Max currently has an "OMG!" ranking on 1Up's hype meter. Doesn't get any better than that.



Speaking of Sam & Max coverage, if you're dying to get your hands on the CGW article and can't wait for it to show up in stores in a few weeks, you can buy an electronic version here.



In other news, in all the Wall excitement yesterday I forgot to post that Heather was going to do a live interview for the GameSHOUT Gamer Girls radio show. So, you didn't get to hear it live, but it's archived here in all its glory. The first half of the interview is available to everyone. To hear the second half you have to sign up as a GameSHOUT VIP. Says Heather: "In the second half we get into deep issues like Superman and cashing in on nostalgia and how games are good for you. And they trick me into singing the Rainbow Brite song." How can you not tune in for that?!



Happy Friday, all!

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Posted on July 2006 by TelltaleGames

Tear down this wall!Today was a day just like any day -- busy, hot, and punctuated with people at desks going "Cool!" and other people flocking around their desks to see what they were working on. Until, at 6:00 on the dot, some guys started sawing through The Wall, sending the people sitting beside it scrambling for cover.



Tomorrow it will be nothing but a memory. It's hard not to shed a tear.



The blue tape is still there, a little worse for the wear, dutifully preventing us from crossing. Who will be the first to venture over to the other side? And what will they find waiting for them? Tune in next time to find out.



Also, having nothing to do with The Wall, check out this article on MobyGames all about episodic gaming.




Update, two hours later: After quite a lot of vacuuming, the guys taking down the wall left. As a final goodbye (well after the vacuuming but just before the leaving) they tore up the blue tape and threw it away.

Comic-Con Scandal!

Posted on July 2006 by TelltaleGames

Comic-Con info, CGW lowdown, and the debut of Dear Max.

[readmore]

























































Vol II, # 7 July, 2006





















Interesting Panel, Booth-Lurking Staff Storm San Diego

































CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder Now on Telltale's Website
































































MANY ROADS TO JUSTICE










CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder

Crawl inside the mind of a crime scene investigator.




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Sam & Max in CGW Cover-Story Tell-All





































BONE EPISODES GALORE
























Bone Act 2:
The Great Cow Race







































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Bone Acts 1 and 2
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Buy Bone, Get Telltale Texas Hold'em Free!
















Dear Max: Advice from the maw of madness


Dear Max,


I can't seem to find my mobile phone. I've looked everywhere I can think of. My friend told me to try calling it but that's just ridiculous. Any tips on who the culprit might be?

-Missing Mobility in Massachussetts


Dear Missy,
What part of the word "mobile" did you not understand? You can't take your eyes off those things for a minute, or they escape. You can chain them up or nail them to the wall, but then that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Anyway, nobody took your phone; it ran away.

Fortunately, Sam did some research by throwing darts at the internet for a few minutes and has discovered that mobile phones on the loose are like homing pigeons, drawn by forces beyond our comprehension to their natural homeland: Mobile, Alabama. If you really want to find your phone, take a bus to Mobile, but be warned, it has found a new life of unlimited minutes with its wild brothers, they roam in packs, and they hunt unwary travelers like yourself. You may want to get used to writing letters instead.

- Max










































This Just In: Dank Not Dead!
Concerned Dank fans will be relieved to know that the caveman inventor has not gone the way of the dinosaurs, as proven by the recent update to the popular strip. Could an update to the Sam & Max webcomic be waiting in the wings? Only time will tell.





























The Blog with Puzzles In It

Posted on July 2006 by TelltaleGames

It's me again. Deirdra: Warrior Intern, here to fight oppression and save the world with yet another Telltale blog. And this time, I've got my own login...



Anywho, a little while ago, Heather brought in a box of free books for us Telltale employees to take, because they were taking up too much space in her place of residence. Considering that I get easily excited by both books and free stuff, I immediately dived into the box, pulling out all the good ones I could find before anyone else took them. Unfortunately, as I probably should have expected, none of the books were earth-shatteringly good, or else why would Heather be giving them away?



But since I'm willing to settle for "mildly amusing" (expecting "earth-shatteringly good" all the time does tend to make a person consistently disappointed, after all), I ended up taking a book of puzzles cleverly titled "Are You Smart or What?" and written by some dude called Pat Battaglia. My favourite puzzle in said book is as follows:



"This is an unusual paragraph. It has a trait not found in many paragraphs of this many words. Can you find out what it is? It's not as hard as you might think. Just look and study. I know you can do it. Good luck!"



(Hint: This puzzle is not extremely difficult nor can it be done with ease.)



Was that too hard? Here's a deceptively-simple one:



"Tommy's mother has three children represented by the coins below. The first child is named Penny. The second is named Nicole. What is the name of the third child?"



(Slightly misleading hint: Dave Felton insisted that the answer was "Dimitri".)



Be sure to comment if you think you know the answers. Blog writers love comments, after all. They remind us that we do, in fact, exist.

Bone One Volume Edition back in print

Posted on July 2006 by TelltaleGames


I meant to post about this on Friday but it completely slipped my mind...



The One Volume Edition of Jeff Smith's Bone, which collects all of the original black and white comics in one huge book, went out of print about a year ago and has been selling for high prices on Amazon and eBay ever since. Scholastic originally discontinued the One Volume Edition to make way for their colorized reprints (which are awesome in their own right), but due to reader demand they've decided to bring the One Volume Edition back into print as well. It will be out in September.



Heather recently leant me her One Volume Edition (which is signed by Jeff with a sketch of Smiley and a Rat Creature on the flyleaf) so I could catch up on the whole Bone saga, but I've hesitated to bring it home with me for fear of it befalling some kind of catastrophic coffee or red wine related accident. Now I can give it back to her and buy a copy of my very own. (Although, considering the recent Sea Monkey Massacre, I'm not so sure it's safe on Heather's desk, either...)



Now, if only the reprint gods would surprise us with a rerelease of Surfin' the Highway!

Sam & Max on the cover of August's Computer Gaming World!

Posted on July 2006 by TelltaleGames

God, it's hard to keep a secret.



A while back, Computer Gaming World's editor Jeff Green got in touch with Dan asking if they could write a big story about Sam & Max. We didn't have enough to show them then, but by the time E3 rolled around, we were ready. So, the first Friday in June a bunch of guys from CGW and 1UP made the trip up from San Francisco to visit Telltale Corporate Headquarters (such as they are). We brought the bagels and coffee, they brought the tape recorders and cameras, and we spent most of the day chatting about Sam & Max and showing them what we've been working on.



A few lessons learned from the visit:

  • We have barely enough chairs to squeeze eight people into the conference room.

  • It's really hard to cut bagels with plastic knives.

  • The switches for every light in our office (which the photographer wanted to access to get the lighting just right for Steve's close-up) are located on the other side of The Wall. No wonder the lights are always on in here!

  • Steve looks great in a fedora.

The issue mails out to subscribers next week, and it will hit newsstands on July 24. It's Telltale's first cover story and the first big coverage of Sam & Max: Season 1, so we're all pretty stoked. The nine page article includes snippets from interviews with Dave Bogan, Dave Grossman, Brendan, and Steve, insight into the game design process, and some never-before-seen art from the first Sam & Max episode. Not to mention a hand-painted Steve Purcell original on the cover! (Steve's initial ideas are shown below. CGW chose the one they liked best for the final cover.)



The 1UP Show will be covering Sam & Max on their Friday July 14 podcast, so be sure to check that out, too.



New toys!

Posted on June 2006 by TelltaleGames

Dan flew out to Ohio to visit Jeff Smith last week and brought back two limited edition cast statues from the Bone series. Luckily Jon Sgro, our resident Bone collector, was not in the office this morning because I opened the boxes (*gasp*) and put the figures out on display... after several people oohed and ahhed and got their grubby little fingers all over them!



The statues are very nice, quality-wise, and they're numbered on the bottom. Jeff sent us Phoney Bone in his hand-in-the-air pose from the cover of an earlier release of The Dragonslayer (the fourth book in the Bone series), and Smiley in his Mystery Cow outfit, which is of course of great significance to all of us with the recent completion of The Great Cow Race game. The coolest thing (and also the most disturbing thing) about the Smiley statue is that he's resting on his udder with his legs in a running pose, so he really looks like he's mid-stride. The Phoney statue is 728/1000 and Smiley is 2309/2500.








Now we just have to figure out where to put them! Last week, Dave Bogan accidentally knocked an entire colony of sea monkeys off Heather's desk and onto the floor, so logic says we should keep these precious statues away from both Heather's desk and Dave Bogan. I have a hunch Jon would stuff them back in their boxes if given the opportunity. And considering some of the choice phrases I've heard the programmers muttering lately as they figure out how to make Max follow Sam around without getting in his way, I don't think anything marked "fragile" is safe in their vicinity.



Oh well. Guess they'll just have to live on my desk...



Speaking of The Dragonslayer (three paragraphs ago), Scholastic's rerelease will be out August first... just a month away! Jeff recently put some never-before-seen color pictures from the book up on Boneville.com. Yummy.

San Diego Comic-Con

Posted on June 2006 by TelltaleGames

Just dropping a quick note to let people know that Telltale's going to be at Comic-Con in San Diego July 20-23. Dave Grossman, Dave Bogan, and Dan will be presenting a panel on Thursday called "Bringing Great Stories to Life." If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because the panel will be similar to the one we did at Wonder-Con last year, except we'll be able to talk about Sam & Max as well as Bone, and Steve Purcell's joining us for real this time! (We were hoping to also have Jeff Smith join us, but unfortunately he's not arriving in San Diego until later that day. Then again, having that much awesome talent on the same panel could cause collective audience members' heads to explode, so maybe it's not all bad.)



Telltale won't have a booth this year, but Steve will, so if you're going to be at the Con, be sure to drop by and tell him how excited you are about the new Sam & Max games!



Are any of you faithful blog readers are planning to go to Comic-Con? Let us know. It'd be fun to meet up.

It's Sam & Max Brrrainstorming Time!

Posted on June 2006 by TelltaleGames

This week's blog was written by our intern, Deirdra, who's so new to the company she doesn't even have a blog log-in yet! Deirdra is a student from Canada. If you're familiar with the underground adventure gaming scene, you may know her as the author of Cubert Badbone, P.I. and The Game That Takes Place on a Cruise Ship.




Hello, Telltale blog. My name is Deirdra Kiai, and I am completely and utterly new to you. However, I do hope that during my brief sojourn here at Telltale Games working as a programming intern, we will become the best of friends. That is, of course, unless those people in charge of me catch on to the fact that I actually have time to write blogs rather than do actual work and pile ten times more work upon me as a result. But I digress.



Anyway, today, I'm going to talk about Sam & Max brainstorming sessions. "What are Sam & Max brainstorming sessions," you ask? Well, they consist of our intrepid Sam & Max co-designers, Dave Grossman and Brendan Ferguson, inviting any member of the Telltale staff (yes, including lowly interns like myself) to help them come up with ideas as to what sorts of strange and wonderful stuff to put into the new Sam & Max games that we're all eagerly waiting for. However, since most of you reading the Telltale blog are not Telltale employees (or are just too busy with actual work to come out to any of the sessions), I shall attempt to recreate the Sam & Max brainstorming experience for you in writing. Ready? Here goes...



It's somewhere around 4:00 and 5:00 Pacific Daylight Time on a randomly-generated day between Monday and Friday. You're sitting at your desk, tapping away at your computer, when all of a sudden, Brendan's deep, deadpan, Ben Stein-esque voice fills the room. "SAM & MAX BRRRAINSTORMING TIME," he announces, and immediately afterwards, you feel a sudden urge to drop everything you're doing and wander over to the Maurice Richard Memorial Conference Room. (That's right, our conference room is dedicated to Maurice Richard. Because we're all Canadians at heart. Now, all we need is a copy of The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier in the office and we'll be set.)



You enter the conference room, plunk your bottom into one of the comfortable office chairs surrounding the big rectangular table, and survey the scene. You are immediately met with the tall, lanky, bespectacled Brendan Q. Ferguson and the leprechaun-esque (well, minus a high-pitched Irish accent, of course) Dave Grossman, as well as any of your other fellow Telltale coworkers who were unable to resist the siren call. You mumble a quiet "hello," and everyone else mumbles a quiet "hello" back to you. Then, the fun begins.[readmore]



First, the designers begin by carefully explaining to you exactly what the wacky premise of the latest Sam & Max episode is going to be. You listen intently, nodding and smiling while secretly wondering if they're nuts. (The answer, of course, being "duh!") Then, ideas start to get tossed around. Some are absolutely brilliant, and others are more than a little bit mediocre, but Brendan jots them all down on his notepad regardless.



All of a sudden, a strange sensation sweeps over your entire body, and you feel the compelling urge to say something. Involuntarily, you leap from your seat, and yell "What this episode needs is an interactive musical number!"



You regret your rather odd outburst immediately afterwards, slinking back into your chair and hoping that no one noticed. But it is too late. Out of nowhere, music starts to fill the room. It sounds like it comes from some sort of show tune, but it's not one you've ever heard before. Then, Dave jumps onto the top of the table and starts singing, "Interactive musical numbers are greeeeat!" And Brendan jumps up next to him, chiming in with "We find them oh so very fun to creee-aaaate!" And then, they break out into a perfectly-choreographed dance routine, surprisingly doing so without falling off the table.



Kevin Bruner, waiting for his code to finish compiling, wanders into the conference room from his office two doors down to see what all the commotion is about. "What's going on in here?" he inquires, only, for some strange reason, it comes out in perfect time with the song. Then, he pulls an accordion out of nowhere and plays a little riff on it whilst dancing a jig. When finished, he takes a short bow and scurries away.



Dave and Brendan continue to sing and dance on the conference room table -- only now the office walls have rolled away on casters, revealing a Broadway stage -- and they are joined not only by the entire Telltale staff, but also by the Bone cousins, the CSI Las Vegas cast, the Telltale Texas Hold'Em poker players, and Sam & Max themselves. You gaze at this display in awe and disbelief until finally, the song reaches its grand finale and everything morphs back to normal.



"So, does this mean there's going to be an interactive musical number in the next Sam & Max episode?" you ask. "Of course not," replies Brendan. "That's a terrible idea." Then, you slink out of the room, dejected, and go back to your coding.



Okay, so I made most of that up, as you can probably tell. But the part about Sam & Max brainstorming sessions existing is one hundred percent true, I swear! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to whatever I was doing before writing this blog. Ta-ta!




Sam & Max Shocker!

Posted on June 2006 by TelltaleGames

New and improved newsletter format! Check out yummy Telltale news and classy new features.

[readmore]


































The Telltale Interloper: Important News Facts























Vol II, # 6 June, 2006




















SAM & MAX SHOCKER!



















Crime-Fighting Duo Make Splashy Entrance at E3






























More juicy Sam & Max / E3 dirt inside:









































Cow Race keeps raking in the good press!

Editors' Choice, Gold Award for second act in Telltale's "Bone" series.
























































PRODUCTS FOR WALL AND CHEST









Sam & Max
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Coming Next Month: Dear Max











































CHECK OUT TELLTALE'S NEWEST GAMES





















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Order Up! Cooking with Rat Creature Number Two
"In the absence of a small mammal, spinach and cheese make a lovely quiche."











1 bag chopped spinach

1 medium onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 Tbsp butter

4 eggs

¾ cup cream

1 ¼ cup milk

½ lb. pepper jack cheese

9-inch pie crust, baked

salt and pepper to taste

















1. Sautée the onion in butter.
2. Add spinach and garlic. Cook until the spinach wilts.
3. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, cream, milk, and salt and pepper. Pour mixture into pie shell.
4. Pour sautéed spinach and onions on top of egg mixture. Shred cheese and sprinkle on top.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves six.






























Comics!




[You should be seeing an amusing comic by Dave Grossman in this space, but you're missing out because you have images hidden.]
































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Telltale NOW

Posted on June 2006 by TelltaleGames

When we first started working with UbiSoft on CSI, they brought us a lot of presents. A few games, some CSI related materials, and some Beyond Good & Evil themed disposable cameras. Three cameras to be precise. Over the course of a year or so, we filled up these cameras with photos which were recently developed by the disposable camera fairy and placed in a spiffy album by the spiffy album fairy. It's been amusing to look back through these pictures and reminisce about the good ol days...



Once, we were a young, raw company, a handful of starry eyed and underfed developers crammed into a tiny office space like so many sardines (if sardines worked in offices). You would have to squirm your way through the slim walkway between desks to get to the single bathroom -- only to be forced to wait while the jerk who sat closer to the bathroom zipped in right before you got there. The space turned into an oven in the summer, the ceiling leaked strange colored liquids, the power would cut out if you tried to be humane and vacuum and the bullet holes in the windows were the "least of your problems"�. We were terribly creative in those days. Every time I thought we had no more space for further desks, we'd find a way to sneak in yet another one for some poor new sucker willing to cramp themselves into our sardine-can like home.



Man, those were the days.



Now, with four titles under our belts, the Sam & Max license firmly in grasp, twice as many employees and a lovely office that we almost all fit comfortably in, we're getting fat and lazy. Now most people in the office only have one job instead of four. The days of flying by the seats of our pants have been replaced with scheduling and trying to make stuff actually happen by certain dates. Things like having power consistently are now sadly predictable. People spend more time working and less time playing carpet hockey. Our tools get easier and easier to use all the time. Our office has homey things like art on the walls and plants (even though one of them looks kinda sad) and sea monkeys and mysterious stains on the rug. In fact, someone else comes to take away the trash and vacuum; we don't even have to do THAT! It's gotten downright cushy around here, and as a result life is less exciting and dramatic, people are more placid, and things are all around more dull.



But this may be changing...why just last Friday had us scrambling to find a location in which we could place a desk for our newest in-coming animator. The mysterious bulge in the carpet behind Kim's desk has created an offspring carpet bulge and the bulge army is threatening to take over that whole corner. We are starting to occasionally get into brawls over who gets to use the conference room and no one has seen any donuts in weeks. Oh yeah, and there's that plant...



Of course, we are still stuck with our rapidly improving tools and our larger selection of office supplies and interns. But soon we will have to take a sledge hammer to the wall that was built over the blue line or else risk returning to our sardine fish ways. Honestly, I ask my co-workers, would this be so bad? To go back to our roots? To exercise our resourcefulness and lose some of these extra pounds of opulence and become our leaner, meaner selves? After all, adversity has been known to breed creative genius.



Though, on the other hand, so has hot coffee, personal space and donuts.

The Blog About Blogs

Posted on June 2006 by TelltaleGames

In honor of last week's illustration of little guys sitting around a table playing games with even littler guys sitting around an even littler table, this week we are bringing you a blog about blogs. Okay, it's not quite the same, but I really like that picture.



So, blogs. Those of you who have been following Telltale from the beginning are already aware of the rich storytelling tradition that spawned in the annals of the Telltale Blog. For those who have joined us more recently, let's just say that starting about seventeen minutes after the company's birth, the fine writers here have been taking time out each week (err... usually) to dish the dirt about what's going on behind the scenes and between the walls of this fine establishment. Starting with such gems as I Kidnapped Brendan Q. Ferguson and the equally riveting I Kidnapped Brendan Q. Ferguson's Kidnapper and continuing through more recent ponderings about developing CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder, The Great Cow Race, and now Sam & Max, the Telltale Blog has gone through a bit of an evolution. In a short year and a half, we've gone from a few guys working in a closet to a real live video game developer, complete with four games under our belt, a 401(k) program, and an Xbox 360 in the lobby.




In spite of our semi-regular rollout of Telltale Blog content, coming up with a good entry isn't as easy as we make it look. (And this being only my third attempt, I'm perfectly qualified to talk about it...) Hence the recent inception of the Blog Bucket, which Heather put out in the middle of the office about a week ago. The premise behind the Blog Bucket is so staggeringly brilliant, I can't believe it's taken this long for someone to come up with it. Basically, whenever anyone has an idea that would make a good blog entry, rather than saying, "Hey, that's a great idea!" and promptly forgetting about it, we now write the idea down on a piece of paper and drop it into the bucket. Current topics swimming around in the Blog Bucket include: naming the sea monkeys, dying plants, jojoba (how come you never see it in shampoo anymore?), the "tangy orange" air freshener in the restroom, and my personal favorite, the Blog Bucket. That's right, I didn't come up with the idea for this blog myself, and it certainly wasn't inspired by last week's illustration. Had you fooled for a minute there, eh?



The bucket isn't the only exciting development in Telltale Blog-land. When Jake and I started working here (effectively tripling the size of the Telltale marketing department), we were asked to try to figure out how far of a reach our dear Telltale Blog has. Sure, we know the die-hard Telltale fans read each and every entry the day it comes out (right? right?!), but how many casual Telltale Gamers are out there, glancing at the blog now and then, maybe even viewing it through one of those new-fangled RSS readers you keep hearing about? As it turns out, not as many as we'd like. And that's mainly our fault. For a long time now, the Telltale Blog has been very tightly focused on the company. This has been fine, but as the company grows, and our games start to reach more and more people, the scope of the blog is changing, too. What better way to celebrate this than by reaching out to the masses?



To do this, we set out to make reading the Telltale Blog as easy as... well, so easy you don't even have to think about it. We've added a bunch of handy buttons to the side of the page that let you add the blog to your homepage (Yahoo, Google, etc.) or to an RSS reader. We're also getting the blog in more places, like LiveJournal, where you're more than welcome to add us to your friends list if you have one. (We try not to think about it too much, but having only two friends is sort of a downer.) And if you really like a particular blog, we'd love for you to vote for it by clicking the Digg this story! button at the bottom of the entry. We can't use this feature ourselves, because a few too many of us voted for a story one day and got Telltale's IP address banned. Come on guys, we're counting on you!



One last thing about blogs. Bone creator Jeff Smith recently started a blog of his own on the new-and-improved Boneville.com website. One of his first entries is about Telltale, complete with a few photos of our office and the folks inside. So go check out what Jeff has to say about us, and about Bone, and about a bunch of other things that are sort-of-but-not-quite related to Bone. Ahh, the beauty of blogs.

The Khan of Cons

Posted on May 2006 by TelltaleGames

I spent this past weekend at KublaCon, also known as the "Khan of Cons" (isn't that adorable?) You may be surprised to learn that KublaCon is not actually a convention organized around discussions of early 19th century opium-inspired poetry. It is, in fact, a gathering of those devoted to the consumption of multiplayer, rule inscribed, goal-oriented entertainment. Games, in other words.



No, these games were not on a computer. They did not require the use of a console or a television. No digitalness or electronicness was present. Yes, you can actually play games in this manner, without electricity or batteries. No, this does not limit one to the realms of Monopoly and Risk (either of which might induce one to ingest opium and write fantastical poetry rather than complete a full game).



As a longtime and prolific gamer, I find the assumption that all games worth playing must be digital in nature to be flawed and irritating in the extreme. This assumption is so widespread that I'm not even able to refer to non-digital games as "games" and use "digital" as a qualifier (i.e. "digital games"). Instead, I must specify that I am referring to games of a non-digital nature. The "gaming industry" refers to the "digital gaming industry". When those in the "gaming industry" want to talk about games that are played on a board or with cards or dice, they will call them "pen and paper" games, which is a ridiculously deceptive term, and not inclusive of the variety of games played off the computer. There isn't even a word that means "the collection of all game types, including board games, card games, role-playing games, dice games, and miniature games that are played independently of any electronic device." At least, not one I can seem to find or invent. Even Greg Costikyan, in one of my favorite pieces of game writing Don't be a Vidiot, refers to this grab-bag as "non-electronic games".



At the above-mentioned convention, I participated in board games such as Puerto Rico and Shadows over Camelot, a very fun card game about goblins blowing each other up called Badaboom and a live action role-playing game based in a Beowolf/Arthurian legends setting. I saw friends and associates I hadn't laid eyes on for years. I paid too much money for hotel restaurant food. All in all, an excellent time.



I will complete this blog entry with a bit of friendly and well-intentioned advice: turning blue from holding your breath, twitching uncontrollably or hitting "refresh" on the forums page every two minutes is not the best use of your Sam & Max anticipation time. There will be plenty of time for these activities once you can actually get your hands on the game. Instead, warm up your brain and social networking skills by finding some exciting "non-digital" games to indulge in until the second coming has arrived. Trust my assurances that between now and Sam & Max's arrival, you and your loved ones will all be far more satisfied with these, more constructive, activities.

People are talking...

Posted on May 2006 by TelltaleGames

I have a confession to make: I haven't played Sam & Max Hit the Road.



That's not even the worst of it. I have a copy of Surfin' the Highway at home, almost untouched. It was given to me by my (now ex) boyfriend in 1998. He and I read through part of it together, and then we broke up and the book went into the closet with everything else he gave me. At one point I almost sold it on eBay. Almost. For some reason I couldn't bring myself to part with it.



I've been telling this story a lot lately. I just can't get over the fact that fate has plunked me down in this crowded office in San Rafael in the midst of the little-project-that-could otherwise known as "Sam & Max: Season 1." My first few weeks with Telltale went by like a speeding train. We were closing in on the big GameTap announcement, and there just wasn't enough time in the day to get everything done--the trailer, the website, the comic generator. Several of us found ourselves at the office until the wee hours of morning putting together the many pieces of the debut that would finally come together at E3. We wanted everyone's first glimpse of the new Sam & Max to make a big splash. More than that, we wanted to give you guys some really cool content to chew on.



Then E3 was upon us. The show only lasts three days, barely half a week. So why did it feel longer and even more draining than the prep work? Could it be because there's never anything to eat at the LA convention center? Because we were overstimulated by all the noise and free t-shirts? These things could have something to do with it, sure, but I think part of the reason those three days felt so long is that suddenly thousands of people were talking about Sam & Max. The work we've been keeping secret, everything that's been happening at Telltale behind the scenes, was finally out in the open. We were able to share the news about our partnership with GameTap. We gave you a date to hold on to for the first Sam & Max episode: Fall, 2006. We got to hear your reactions to the characters, the voices, the direction we're taking. Most of what we're hearing is positive, and that's encouraging, but even the criticisms are good to hear because they're real. People are talking about Sam & Max again, and not just in a bitter "I can't believe Freelance Police was cancelled" way.






A lot of the traffic to our website this past week has been from international sites. Gamers in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium, and Brazil are excited. I thought everyone who cared about Sam & Max already knew about Telltale's plans, but I keep seeing forum posts and blog entries from people going, "Oh my God! There's going to be a new Sam & Max game!" I can't help but wonder how many more of you are out there, going about your daily routines with no idea what we're cooking up. We want to reach all of you, each and every person who ever laughed at a Sam & Max comic, or watched the Saturday morning cartoon, or played Hit the Road as a kid. We'll keep doing what we can to find you guys, because there's nothing greater than the excitement of someone who's just rediscovered Sam & Max.



I'm pretty sure that the only reason I never played the first Sam & Max game when it came out is because no one told me about this awesome game I had to try. Word of mouth is an amazing thing. So, that friend you played Hit the Road with back in 1993? That (now ex) boyfriend who introduced you to Surfin' the Highway? Drop them a line and share the news. It'll make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.



But wait--before you go, any chance you could give me a hint for what I'm supposed to be doing at The World's Largest Ball of Twine?

On Location a Few Hundred Miles from E3

Posted on May 2006 by TelltaleGames

So I was standing on a street corner the other day, shuffling my feet and casting aspersions at passers-by, when a bus drove past with a huge ad on the side, boldly announcing MI3. Or actually it was "M:i:III," but despite the leering face of excitable new parent Tom Cruise next to the lettering, it took me a second or two to convince my brain that MI in this case did not refer to a great new Monkey Island game, but rather to some sort of kinetoscopic peep show which will be projected at the walls of a darkened room in a linear fashion and only at specified times. Go figure.




Sam & Max on the big screen
Speaking of acronyms, the enormous entertainment expo "E3" is going on this week. E3 is actually an abbreviation for EEE -- a savings of one whole character, which just goes to show you how compression-obsessed this industry really is. "EEE," in turn, does not stand for anything at all, but is the sound made by the unprepared upon strolling through the front gates of this extravaganza for the first time. It's a fearsome onslaught of noise and flashing lights not unlike sticking your head inside a slot machine. A dense nugget of Las Vegas, transported from the deserts of Nevada to the deserts of Los Angeles. And instead of free drinks and the chance to win millions of dollars worth of nickels, E3 boasts T-shirts galore, emblazoned with the names of chip companies and peripherals manufacturers.




Here's a telling story from last year. I'm walking around on the main floor in a cathode-ray induced stupor, and I come across a long, unmoving line of young men, waiting in front of one of the booths. There's nothing visible going on at the booth, no game to try out, no amazing new hardware platform being demonstrated. I can't figure out what these guys are waiting for, so I ask somebody. "Oh," she says, "the Playboy bunnies are going to come out and sign autographs." Aha! Now I get it. Satisfied, I keep walking around. Midway down another aisle, I come across another long, stagnant line of young men, easily three times longer than the first one. This must be something really great! I ask again. THESE guys are waiting for a free T-shirt with the name of a graphics card manufacturer on it. Sexy tech beats out plain old sex by a margin of three to one at E3.




Wait, have I told you that story before?




I myself am not at E3 this year, I've stayed home to write blogs and design games and otherwise behave productively. Also, the E3 Powers That Be denied my application for a free pass this time, even though I sent in exactly the same documents as last year. The email said that E3 was for industry professionals -- apparently I haven't been wearing the requisite number of nVidia T-shirts.




Sam & Max E3 posters
Some friends of mine are there, though -- a big dog and a sociopathic bunny, announcing a few particulars about their new episodic game series and partying crazily into the wee hours with graphics card manufacturers, who tend to be a pretty rowdy bunch. I'm speaking of course of Sam & Max - and there's an acronym I can't wait to see on the side of a bus -- a pair of walking arguments for gun control whom you may already have seen tracking their special breed of euphoric madness all over other portions of our web site.




While they're down in LA having a good time, Brendan and I are confined to the conference room until the designs are done for all of the episodes, and probably a bit longer for quarantine purposes. The conference room at Telltale is at least fifteen degrees colder than the rest of the building, which is why it's normally referred to as the c-c-conference room, and why we're working as fast as we can.




Meanwhile, Sam & Max have been calling us up from the expo at all hours, asking for somebody called "I.P. Frilly" and making wild suggestions about the games. Sam wants to be able to project a force beam from his ears and thinks we should get Kurosawa to direct. Max is obsessed with the idea of including a collectible switchblade along with each episode. Every time I try to explain that the games are downloadable, he sarcastically calls me "commissioner" and then giggles uncontrollably.




Man, I can't wait for E3 to be over.


DEATH by POISONS

Posted on May 2006 by TelltaleGames

When I came into work today, I noticed a binder on Greg's chair with the words "DEATH by POISONS"� written in large, unfriendly letters on the cover.



I screamed.



I always thought I would be the only one in the office with a DEATH by POISONS binder, but now I realize it's commonplace. Nevertheless, the title DEATH by POISONS gave me an idea for one of the most improbable segues in recent memory. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to announce the newest RPG I just made up, The Blades of Stenchtar IV: DEATH by POISONS!



For years, the ending of The Blades of Stenchtar II was the most universally despised game conclusion ever conceived, but it has since been worsted by the ending of its own sequel, The Blades of Stenchtar III. Letters have been pouring in from incensed fans around the globe who refuse to accept that Oinktoast the Meticulous could have been killed at the conclusion of TBOSIII.



"I've got a message for whoever came up with that ending: I'm going to bury you with a shovel, then bury the shovel, then bury the guy that buried the shovel."�



Stuff like that.



Well you know it's funny, really, because all this uproar is over nothing. Oinktoast never died at the end of TBOSIII! That was just a translation error from the original Esperanto. The word for 'die' was confused with the word for 'take a very long nap that lasts until the sequel.' Oinktoast Lives!



But as much as its ending was criticized, it was the gameplay in TBOSIII that really steamed our fans' rice. Reviews were scathing.



"I used to be against nuclear weapons, but after playing the mini-games in TBOSIII, now I'm not so sure."�



Stuff like that.



It's clear to me that fans don't want something new. They don't want something different. They want the Same, Same, Same every Game, Game, Game. Hey, that's fine by me. I'm just doing this for the money. TBOSIV is all about getting back to basics, back to the funner, simpler games of yesteryear (aka 2004).



So I studied all the great games of the past for inspiration. What do all the most beloved role-playing games have in common? Game designers the world over have racked their respective brains for the single most fantastic, compelling event that could ever be experienced in a fantasy world, and the response has been near unanimous: rat attacks.



Nothing can be so certain to leave an indelible impression on the player's consciousness as bloodthirsty rats. As such, TBOSIV consists of an ever increasing series of epic rat battles. They will come at you in waves of 2, 5, 10... until eventually you're fighting more rats in a single battle than have ever existed in the universe combined.



All this is done with the tried-and-true fight-or-flee turn-based-combat system. Each turn you have two choices, fight or flee. If you fight, you will attack the nearest rat. If you flee, you will lose. This cuts down on the huge numbers of menus that you must navigate to complete even the simplest encounter.



Like I said, simple and fun.



Oh, and did I mention... these are POISONOUS rats? Five out of five game designers agree: nothing is more exhilarating than watching your character lose a few hit points every single turn because you've been POISONED. It's just plain fun!



So play TBOSIV and die... by POISONS!


Telltale: Keepin' it real (and possibly playing with dolls)

Posted on April 2006 by TelltaleGames

In honor of The Great Cow Race's release, last week was "Bone week" at Adventure Gamers, an online magazine devoted to the genre. The week closed with a developer's chat, during which Telltale converged upon AG's forum for a digital meeting of the minds. Questions were asked by Adventure Gamers' readers, and answered by Telltale team members Randy Tudor, Greg Land, Heather Logas, Kevin Bruner, Dave Grossman, Dan Connors, and Brendan Ferguson. Here are some of the highlights:



"Any chance we will get to see some original IP in the future? I would love to see what you could do without the constraints of a license. And no weaseling out of the question by pointing out that Telltale Texas Hold'Em is original IP."


Kevin: As far as original IP goes, we've got some ideas brewing that we hope can evolve into our first original adventure. The truth is, developing IP from scratch is a much more time-consuming process than adapting existing IP. But we are working on it.



The other side of the coin is we really like working with licenses! Our time at Lucas honed our "license" skills (while working on Star Wars or Indy). Bringing a license into the game space is something we think we do pretty well! Just look at our Bone games, and imagine what a larger publisher would do to that license! One of the reasons Jeff Smith is working with Telltale is that we're very committed to faithfully executing his license. Same thing with Steve Purcell. And there are many more licenses we'd love to make interactive! Imagine what Telltale could do with the Simpsons, Futurama or The Muppets! (No, we don't have any of those licenses....)



... AND



Hold'Em IS valid original IP. We're very proud of the writing and characters in that game, and hope to do more with them in the future... Sheez.... Dudebrough gettin' no respect!



Heather: From a design perspective, it would most assuredly be fun to work on original IP but as Kevin pointed out, it's also a blast to work with really great licenses. Bone is a fantastic story, and very much fun to be involved with.



Dave: I love working on original stuff -- some years ago I was even kind of pig-headed about it. But having a license is like getting a head start....



"Surely it's creatively more fun to think up original ideas? Thinking up original ideas for other people's ideas is easier, but far less satisfying. Still fun, but you guys are creative people -- look at LucasArts: the point most people complain about with them now is too much reliance on their licenses!"



Heather: It is terribly fun to think up original ideas. But one of the neat things about doing a game like Bone is it takes a lot of creativity to figure out how to make the game within the restrictions you have. I think that restrictions actually force one to be more creative than otherwise. And the thing is, we LOVE Bone! So successfully telling the story in a fun way while getting to add our own bits to it is extremely satisfying. If we were dealing with a license we were less passionate about, then I agree it wouldn't be as much fun as coming up with our own content.



"What are the chances Telltale may one day branch out from the casual and adventure genres, to produce games of other genres (i.e. action, RPG, etc)?"



Kevin: Good question. We're (modestly?) trying to invent our own genre, a "Telltale" game. Obviously we're starting from adventure games, but we're certainly willing to mix things up and try new things. However, all our games will focus on story and character. Aside from this sniping game I've wanted to make forever, I wouldn't expect any FPS games from Telltale.



Dave: Different kinds of gameplay tend to support different elements of story, so I think we'd be more likely to incorporate the effective elements of other genres into what we already do, rather than specifically making a shooter or an RPG or what have you. Just one man's opinion.



Kevin: I absolutely agree. Adventure game doesn't mean great story and FPS doesn't mean bad story. XIII was one of my favorite games a few years ago because I really dug the story (and I'm awaiting a sequel!). As long as a Telltale game has a great story (and we can reasonably produce it!), we won't take anything off the table!



"Have you guys given any thought to allowing other developers to use the Telltale Now system? I was thinking of the likes of A Vampyre Story or other notable small developers who might want to sell downloadable games."



Dan: We are very interested in working with like-minded developers to get their content on Telltale Now. Bill [Tiller] would be a great fit.



Kevin: Our hope is that Telltale Now becomes like an HBO. We make our own "programming," but also have "shows" from others. But that the overall feel is consistent. So when you want great stories and characters, you go to Telltale, and when you want a shooter, you "tune in" somewhere else. We're not quite there yet, but that's where we're headed.



"This question is for Dave Grossman. Just wondering how you feel to be back doing design after quite a long absence from the field and what in particular prompted the return?"



Dave: I haven't exactly been absent from the world of design, but doing it as a contractor the last eleven years means you haven't always seen me credited as such. I did do some story-and-puzzle design work on some of the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish titles, for example, but am mainly recognized for having written the scripts, and in general a lot more of my writing is out there than game design. The main difference now is that I'm directly involved in actual game production again, as opposed to sending off a design or a script and then getting the finished product in the mail a year later. I've been mainly a pre-production, design architecture and scriptwriting, occasional emergency firefighting type guy for a long time.



Primarily the change was prompted by two things: 1) I was getting a little weary of freelancing. I like the work and the hours and the exorbitant contracting rates, but I don't like having to scare up new business, read contracts, and so on. I'd rather just be making games. And also 2) The existence of Telltale. Not too many companies are doing the sorts of games I like working on the most, these guys were starting up at just the right time, and some of them were already friends of mine. It seemed like the thing to do, so I jumped on, and I'm liking it.



"Last November AG did an interview with Telltale where Kevin Bruner said that the third Bone game would be based not only on the third Bone book but on later ones as well. How do you guys plan on tackling this from a design standpoint?"



Heather: One way to look at the story of Bone is not to see it in terms of chapters, but in terms of a continuous story. From that perspective, we have to kind of see what makes sense from the standpoint of telling a coherent bit of the tale in the scope of game we have in mind. It's definitely a tricky task. Especially since after The Great Cow Race is when the Bone story really starts rolling, and then it becomes a full on freight train.



Dave: Yeah, as it happens the first two books each corresponded neatly to a chunk of story and gameplay that was useful for us, but that was almost coincidental. Me, I was reading the Bone comics when they were coming out individually, so in my mind it doesn't even break down into nine books, but into, what, how many comics were there, about 60? Sixty parts.



"Does anyone of the Telltale staff collect the Resaurus Bone action figures?"



Kevin: Jon Sgro (who is on vacation right now) is the arguably the biggest Bone fan in the office. He's got all of it. The action figures, the comics, the books. Everything. And he barely lets any of us play with them. But since he's not here right now....




*scrambles through Jon's things*



"Hey Fone Bone, having a good time at the spring fair?"

"Sure am Thorn! Let's go get some honey..."

"But we should hurry so we don't miss the cow race"


.....


"Could you tell me your opinion about the future of the adventure games? And what do you think is the position of adventure games right now in comparison with other genres?"



Heather: I personally think we are at a very exciting time for the genre. Lots of games are being made right now, some with decent budgets, and more variety than we've seen in a long time. Developers are finding new ways to create gameplay rather than to just create the most convoluted nonsensical crazy inventory puzzles they can think of. New platforms are being utilized (like the DS) and I think the Revolution will also be a potentially great platform for adventure games. Plus I think that new players are being drawn into the genre through licensed games and through games that are more accessible to them. This is healthy and good. I really think that adventure gaming has a very bright future ahead of it.



Dave: And just what is wrong with convoluted nonsensical crazy inventory puzzles? OK, actually I'm not in favor of nonsensical, which makes them unfair. Yeah, adventure games have had problems trying to compete in a hit-driven, huge-budget marketplace, but obviously we're trying to change that. I've often said they're not dead, only sleeping, and maybe with a little design sense we can rescue them.



Thanks to everyone at Adventure Gamers for hanging out with us last Friday! The full chat is archived here.

Designing The Great Cow Race, Part 4: Post Partum

Posted on April 2006 by TelltaleGames

It is a tradition in the gaming industry to look back on a game once it's complete and discuss what went right and what went wrong in the creation of the game. This process is usually called "postmortem," a term that means "after death" for those of you not familiar with dead languages. Why this term is used continues to baffle me, as the game does not die when production ends. If anything, it's now finally alive. I therefore move that we abandon this dark and morbid term in favor of the more sunny and joyful "postpartum" (meaning of course, after birth). Here then is my postpartum of Bone: The Great Cow Race.



You may be familiar with postmortems from such industry sites as Gamasutra and respected journals as the Game Developer Magazine, where the focus is on the production process. While this is very valuable for others who are actually responsible for making games, I imagine that you, dear readers, are likely more interested in the game itself. Therefore, this postpartum will peel back the gauzy veil of the game design process for Bone: The Great Cow Race and illuminate unto you all my personal favorite features that made it into the game (but almost didn't) and those features less fortunate that were left crushed and broken by the wayside.[readmore]



Those That Were Saved



  1. Possums

    The loveable possum children weren't originally intended to appear in The Great Cow Race. If you've read the book, you'll note that their role is extremely small. And yet as we wrote out the initial outline we realized they'd work out perfectly for one of the tasks we wanted to set before Smiley. We were also tickled with the idea that the player would get to see Smiley interact with the little marsupials. In Boneville, interacting with the possums was a terrific way to show the difference between the characters of Fone and Phoney. Now that Smiley's been added to the mix, it seemed only right to show his own unique personality through the lens of possum playfulness.



  2. Mad Cow in the Barn

    From the very beginning of the design, Dave Grossman and I fully expected that the old barn and Smiley's penchant for making a great deal of noise would never actually make it into the final game. We designed the puzzle, wrote all the necessary lines, but we absolutely knew that the whole thing was just going to be cut. Which would have been a shame, as Smiley would have had less to do and there would be quite a deal less of banging on things. (And who doesn't love to bang on things?) Well, the rest of the team apparently thought it would be a shame too, because before we could say, "No wait, you really don't have to do that..." the interior of the barn was built, the elements were in place, and the puzzle was all programmed in. Just goes to show what the promise of making a cacophonous racket will do for a crew of exhausted game developers who hadn't seen the sun in three days.




  3. Chickens

    Another thing I fully expected to never make it into the game were chickens, even though I doggedly insisted they be added to the character model and animation lists. Many were the production meeting where I risked the woodgey voodoo eye by offering a well-placed, "Don't forget, we still have to make the chickens!" I insisted they were vital to my overarching artistic vision. The reality is I just thought it would be neat to have chickens. Imagine my surprise when I started up the game one day and there they were! At the moment I'm contemplating whether to insist on piglets or sheep for our next chapter.



  4. Fiddly Bits

    Even during Out from Boneville, Dan had a deep desire for making Fone Bone smell flowers. Perhaps originating from Dan's own longing for the simpler, flower filled days of his youth, clicking a flower to make Fone Bone walk up and take a deep pollenified sniff seemed to be Dan's own gaming nirvana. Sadly, due to the time pressures of creating Out from Boneville, Dan's flower smelling dreams didn't quite make it to fruition. For a while, it didn't seem they would blossom in the Great Cow Race either. But just as Dan was despairing of ever smelling a digital flower again, our man Marco came in and saved the day. In fact, not only can Fone Bone smell flowers, he can tip up bottles, throw rocks in wells, and poke under strewn debris. The genius of Dan's floral imaginings is now laid bare. These simple touches are extremely satisfying, and you can be sure that we will try to include more fiddly bits in the games to come.



  5. Secret Stuff

    In Out From Boneville, I very much wanted to incorporate some secret that a dedicated player would have to discover. In common gaming parlance, an easter egg or two. Due to a painfully tight schedule, some were dubious about spending the time to create something that only a handful of players would see instead of spending the same time to create something that everyone would get to see. I admit there is sound logic there, but even so I feel that anything one can do to a game to make the experience special to each individual player is part of the beauty of the medium. In any event, I am extremely pleased that we did get to work a little special bit into The Great Cow Race. Finding the secret doesn't require any deep skullduggery - anyone with a bit of patience and dedication will find it. I've said too much already.



Those That Were Lost








  1. Smiley's Musical Stylings

    Phoney has his last remaining wad of cash and Fone Bone has his copy of Moby Dick. So what space-hogging character reflective inventory item should we bestow upon Smiley Bone? Our first thought was to include Smiley's one stringed banjo. Wouldn't it have been fantastic if Smiley could pull it out and play a tune of the player's choice anytime they desired? Of course it would have. But as soon as we started seriously mulling over the concept, a whole Pandora's Box of technical issues flew, biting and stinging, in our faces. Our second thought was to include Smiley's cigar instead. This brought up a different set of issues. Did we really want the player to be able to light up Smiley's cigar at any point in the game? Smoking brings up very strong feelings in many, many people. We certainly didn't want to layer in some intellect-insulting anti-smoking message by allowing him to smoke only to cough and sputter or else make inane comments like "I should really give these up" or "Smoking by pregnant women may result in fetal injury, premature birth, and low birth weight". At the same time, we didn't want to insinuate to the younger players of our game that since Smiley is a fun guy who smokes, they should get in on the action. We deliberated on this issue for quite some time, and then asked Jeff Smith what he thought. "Smiley has an inexhaustible supply of cheese sandwiches," sayeth the Smith. So cheese sandwiches it is.



  2. Smiley's Encyclopedic Knowledge of Cheese

    Like all true geniuses, myself included, Dave Grossman is occasionally overcome by fits of giggling madness. I was reading through some of the dialogue he had written when I encountered evidence of one such fit, in the form of at least twenty lines by Smiley used to describe his cheese sandwich. It may have been closer to thirty, it was hard to count in my state of shocked disbelief. Each time Smiley used the cheese sandwich from his inventory, he would describe the properties or make some pun about a different type of cheese. I challenge anyone who isn't French to list thirty different types of cheese from memory. And yet this is exactly what Dave had done. Sadly, we were required to cut a fair amount of dialogue and Smiley's vast knowledge of cheese had to go, trimming back to a meager three cheese varieties. It was a dark, dark day, but at least the experience left me with a new-found appreciation for cheese enthusiasts everywhere as well as Dave's twisted mind.



  3. Character shadows

    As some in our forums have already been commenting on, we do not yet have cast shadows for characters. It's something we're working on and if you are all very, very good, perhaps we will have them next game. (Heh....that's an easy out if ever I've heard one...)



  4. Saving Everywhere!

    I consider it the height of serving the common public good to allow players to be able to save everywhere in a game. Some of us have to be able to drop anything we are doing at a moment's notice in order to answer the door, feed the baby, or meet mysterious contacts on the lawn. This was attempted in The Great Cow Race but unfortunately the dreaded TI (technical issues) issue ["technical issues issue?" -ed] once again reared its repulsive mug and forced us to restrict saving in certain areas. You'll still be able to save a whole lot -- just not as much as I would have liked. Oh, but I feel I should add that one thing that we DID accomplish was unlimited saves. So you can relive the old days of Sierra-induced paranoia and save as many individual games as you feel you need.



  5. Unlockable Mini-Games

    Someday....SOMEDAY we will have unlockable mini-games. You will be able to replay your favorite mini-puzzle/games from the main menu after you complete your adventure. AND they'll include new content not found in the main game. AND you'll be able to add your high score to a leader board on our web-site. Really. Some day. For reals.











This continuing developer diary has been brought to you by Telltale designer and writer Heather Logas.





Learn more about Bone: The Great Cow Race - click here.

Designing the Great Cow Race, Part 3

Posted on April 2006 by TelltaleGames

I was informed that I was not allowed to write about sandwiches or tasty cookies this week. You'd think that the public would want to know what foodstuffs fuel my overdeveloped brain. Nonetheless, I will honor the wishes of a certain content coordinator and instead focus this designer diary on the process of design.



The office is a frenzy of activity today. We were informed that we needed to have a build of the game ready by 3pm for review and here it is 4:06. The room is filled with workers quietly hunched over keyboards and mice, working away diligently to get that last bug fixed before the whistle is blown. Gritting teeth and splintering fingernails in an eerie dead silence, afraid that too much volume will remind Dan and Kevin that we're actually working out here and that our deadline was an hour and six minutes ago. No matter how minor the last niggling details, we are loathe to let even a single one get through.



It's times like these that I think back on the project and marvel at how far we have come in so little time. Adapting a story like Bone to an interactive experience is a fun but not inconsequential challenge. Conveying the same sense of emotion and narrative in a game requires very different techniques than creating a comic. The focus changes from telling an engrossing story to involving the player in an immersive world.








We started with the comics themselves. We already knew that we were going to backtrack to the end of the Out From Boneville book and show Phoney's arrival in Barrelhaven and the aftermath of the rat creature attack on the farm. From there we carefully chose the most important story points and themes from The Great Cow Race and constructed an outline to work from. Then it was a matter of detailed discussions on how to best represent these points and themes in an interactive way. We strive to avoid constructing a game where the gameplay and story are treated as disenfranchised cousins; i.e. a jumble of unconnected puzzles and cutscenes. Rather, our goal is to integrate story and game as much as our technology and deadlines will allow. This can be an exercise in brain-jarring, intellect-numbing out of the box creativity, as in all honesty the simplest solution is to unceremoniously jam all necessary exposition into cutscene after cutscene.



Since our love for our players is boundless and never-ending, we prefer to explore more rewarding methods of story conveyance. Therefore, any activity we design must not only be enjoyable to experience but must also support the story and the characters. Even when our unparalleled genius devises a true gem of cunning puzzlery, if it isn't something the character would do or doesn't feel appropriate to the game world then it doesn't find its way into the game. (Weep not, for all these ideas are stored in Telltale's mystic game design vault for use in future products).



When you reach the end of a production, as we are now, and you are frantically trying to complete what you've started, as we are now, it is easy to forget all the intricate reasons why some of the elements were cleverly layered into the game in the first place. Some puzzle or joke doesn't play out quite the way we expected and we find it terribly tempting to cut it out of nervousness that the end player either won't get or won't appreciate what we are trying to accomplish. It is necessary at these times to pause and think back: Why did we choose to do this thing in this manner? What great gaping void would we be creating by removing this seemingly inconsequential bit? In a game this tight, everything that remains at this phase is there as part of a highly developed and complex plan. We have already executed the phase where we trimmed dialog like pruning a bonsai with a chainsaw, and watched twenty of Smiley Bone's lines intended to describe cheese sandwiches fall like so many tiny green leaves. Everything that's still a part of the game is a tenacious survivor of this and similar treatments, and was spared for very good reasons - even if we can no longer remember what they are at this stage.



Do not think for a moment that we are not as impressed as you are with what we've been able to accomplish in the time we have. In six months we've gone from a slim paper outline to a fully developed game with convincing characters and an immersive world. Every bold step the story and the characters have guided our way through the perilous snake-infested jungle of game design. The result is a game that we all can be truly proud of, characters that we've come to know as friends, and a world we don't mind visiting every day when we come into work. Most days, that even beats out tasty sandwiches and rich luscious cookies.











This continuing developer diary brought to you by Telltale designer and writer Heather Logas.





Learn more about Bone: The Great Cow Race - click here.

Designing the Great Cow Race, Part 2: The Home Stretch

Posted on March 2006 by TelltaleGames

Now we find ourselves in the home stretch, barreling forward like a herd of high-spirited racing cows towards a finish line that a mere six months ago seemed impossibly far away. This is the part of the production when people start acting a bit like loopy marmosets, and one shot of espresso is no longer enough to see me through the day. Team members' communication skills start waning, and the most common response to any given question is "huh?" or "what?" Fatigue becomes an ugly fiend that we do battle with on a daily basis.



The other monster we are grappling with in mortal conflict is that devil you may have heard of, the one they say is "in the details." Oh sure, The Great Cow race looks and sounds lovely and it plays like a recently tuned baby grand piano, but there is a never-ending stream of bugs, small touch-ups and polish to address. Fighting the details devil is an ongoing dance of solving problems only to uncover new ones. Still, we seem to be making progress in this battle, pushing the creature further back than it advances day to day.








I began today by mistakenly ordering a small iced mocha instead of a more voluminous beverage (Translation: I'll probably have to venture out into the rain-soaked world this afternoon to purchase a refill). I arrived at work feeling somewhat bedraggled after a weekend of overseeing focus testers and testing the game myself. No sooner was I in the door than I was answering questions about whether I was satisfied with the way a certain scene looked, whether the way an item appeared would clearly indicate to players what they were supposed to do with it and how many shots of espresso were in my mocha (Too few).



I spent the morning updating documentation that helps us track who is doing what and whether certain things had been addressed. I returned a gaggle of emails and sent one to Bay Area Sound to request some further sound assistance. Dave Grossman and I discussed options for certain circumstances for one of the mini-games with Randy for a good ten minutes, only to have Randy discover when we walked away that everything was already programmed the way we had just described. Dave, Randy and I are very, very smart, but even geniuses can occasionally forget their previous acts of brilliance when they haven't had enough caffeine. Then Dave and I sat down and discussed our notes from the weekend's focus group, concentrating on any design issues that still may need tweaking. Fortunately this time our list was fairly short.



Somewhere around noon I realized I had forgotten to eat breakfast, and pulled out my delicious ham/sun-dried tomato cream cheese/basil sandwich and made quick work of it. Now I am writing this but am still feeling rather hungry. And I need more caffeine. Which makes me suspect I will soon drive over to Border's and pick up some another mocha and possibly a terribly tasty cookie as well. Even though said cookies aren't particularly healthy, they are nonetheless gooey and scrumptious.



This afternoon we have our weekly team meeting, during which Dan emerges from his office long enough to tell us we are all completely wonderful people of whom the mere thought makes his every waking moment a true joy. Then I will begin the lengthy process of writing up bugs from the weekend, during which I expect to have many interruptions with questions of various sorts, last minute emergencies, and impromptu tasks. I also at some point need to get started on some of the important writing details that will be required about the same time the game is released.



Yes, plenty to do, even this late in the race. But soon our adventure in game making will be complete and your adventure in game playing will begin. And that, my friends, will be a glorious day for all.




This continuing developer diary brought to you by Telltale designer and writer Heather Logas.





Learn more about Bone: The Great Cow Race - click here.

Designing the Great Cow Race, Part 1

Posted on March 2006 by TelltaleGames

A continuing developer diary by Telltale designer and writer Heather Logas







Hello, and welcome to this lovely Designer Diary. You may not realize it, but between implementing brilliant strategies for world domination and filling up the Telltale website's blog section with my courageous words of wisdom, I actually work at designing games. Follow me, if you will, into the deep and perilous woods of game design as I dedicate these days to the completion of Bone: The Great Cow Race.







I have just completed a multi-week stint as a consultant during voice recording sessions. I sat with the director and technician and assisted in directing the voice actors and providing context for the lines. You never realize how many legitimate ways there are to read the line "Oh no! Maude!" until you try to relate to a voice actor exactly how it should be said. Is it sincere? Sarcastic? Where should the emphasis be? What's my motivation?
The sessions are enjoyable, but exhausting.

The contrast of the bright screens containing the lines in a darkened room strain your retinas. You tire of remembering actor's names and acting cordial in an attempt to fool them into complacency. You eat way too much rich, delectable homemade ice cream at the Scoop in Fairfax and put on about 10 pounds. A difficult burden to be sure.




I'm pleased with how the voice is turning out. Of course all our favorite actors are back from last game. But we have an additional assortment of new talent to voice the like of Lucius and the Barrelhaven Boys and the motley individuals that make up the rest of our assemblage. Gran'ma and Thorn were both recast, and I think fans of the series will be pleased with the results. Oddly enough, an actor's audition tape does not necessarily reflect what the actor in question will sound like when they are in front of the mike. This makes every time the door creaks open and a new face walks in into a rather nerve-racking experience. Is this person going to be what we hoped? Is this going to work out? Will I be able to restrain myself from pulling the lever of doom which will drop them to hungry crocodiles? Fortunately for our fans and the actors, the answer for Cow Race is an absolute yes. I am really happy with the voice acting in this game, and I think even our staunchest critics will agree with me. (If not, there's always the crocodiles).




The real test of course comes when the voice is actually implemented in the game and the characters start speaking aloud. Suddenly conversations that had previously made me smirk now make me full on laugh loudly with much mirth and amusement. The voice acting takes our carefully crafted lines to a whole new level that text alone never reaches. It never ceases to amaze me how smoothly the conversations turn out when they are in the game. You see, in the voice studio we only ever record one actor at a time. Multiple actors do not crowd into the studio to act out conversations with each other. Doing this would be a logistical nightmare. Instead we must have faith that our meticulous attention to detail while directing will result in a smooth conversational flow. Strangely enough, it works!




The sound is slowly permeating the game, creating a richer experience on a day to day basis. Very soon now every location will be humming with ambience, responding with sound effects and vibrating with glorious music. This week, I'm bringing in my GOOD headphones!




Learn more about Bone: The Great Cow Race - click here.



Thanks to Just Adventure for originally hosting this diary.

Immersed in the World of CSI

Posted on March 2006 by TelltaleGames

A few words from the writer & designer of CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder.

-by Greg Land







In our rapid-fire 20-minute meeting with Anthony Zuiker, the infectious and passionate creator of the CSI franchise, one sentence pierced my forehead, swirled around in my brain, and lodged itself the back of my skull. He said: "This game should make people want to play with the lights off, and draw them to edge of their seats."


Those words summed up our goals better than any of us ever had. Isn't that exactly what we all want from a new CSI game? The feeling of total immersion in that world? The feeling of working alongside the master Investigator, Gil Grissom? The feeling of "being" a CSI?





As a designer, much of my job is to work with the team to translate great ideas into specific objectives for us. Draw them to the edge of their seats?" Sure! No problem! (Translation: "Oh, crud!") What exactly does that phrase mean to a programmer? To an artist? To all of us? How do we make that happen?




































How about this: Bring us closer to the characters we love. Closer to the evidence. Deeper into the dark atmosphere. Deeper into the events of the crime. Make it look more like the show.[readmore]


Yes, yes. Those sound like things we can do... indeed, they were things we spent a lot of time doing. So, for this first CSI blog, I thought I'd highlight some of the specific things the Telltale team focused on to draw players deeper into the world of CSI.




First and foremost, it was important to us to make the characters look and feel more like they do on the show. We were fortunate to have the real actors record voice-over again, and we wanted their visual presentation to do them justice. We began by reworking the character models from the ground up.











Grissom in-game (left) and his
TV counterpart (right).




To make our models look like the actors, we created textures using official press photos of the cast from the season five. Then, midway through production, season six started and we upgraded everyone to match their new looks. But that wasn't the end of it. In fact, at one point the producers of the show planned to send us last-minute pictures of Eric Szmanda's hair, since he (playing Greg Sanders) had been growing it out. While the keen eye will notice that our models were actually made with "fewer" polys (to keep performance high in our real-time engine) we think fans will be thrilled with the new likenesses. Grissom, Greg, Catherine, and the rest truly look like the characters we know and love.


In addition to making the characters look more authentic, we felt they needed more of a physical life in the game. To this end, we dramatically improved their movements and gestures. Using both traditional animation and motion-capture, our physical performances go far beyond the "idle" acting of the past. In fact, we choreographed specific movements for almost every voice line, just like an actor would. By grounding the vocal performances in realistically moving bodies, we made the characters more convincing and therefore more welcoming to the player.


To further capture the essence of the CSI characters, we decided to add more conversations showing the CSI working together - as a team. Teamwork is a key trait in each of the CSI personalities. So at last, players and their CSI partners will now find themselves crossing paths with Grissom and Catherine in the lab, mulling over the details of the case, searching together for new ideas - just like we'd expect if we were working with them in real-life.





The changes above paved the way for one of our most significant advancements: we
decided to move the cameras much closer to the characters. This allows players to work face-to-face with their favorite CSI team members, making the experience feel more personal. The previous games almost exclusively used medium shots (from the waist-up), literally keeping the player at arm's length. We decided to take a more cinematic approach. We studied the camerawork and director's notes in several CSI episodes - in particular the shows at the beginning of new seasons. (We learned these get extra attention because they are used to re-establish visual benchmarks for the series.) With an arsenal of new techniques, we "directed" our game with those TV-like camera cuts. We varied our scenes with close-ups, medium shots, camera motion, and other camera conventions to tell the stories. Notice how questioning suspects comes to life, both in the field and in the interrogation room - when the heat is on!


Next: the movies. We wanted to make the crime reconstruction flashbacks look and feel more like the show. The artists deftly captured the visual style, and the sound designers scored each sequence individually. The result is truly engrossing. Moreover, all of our our pre-rendered movies and show clips are now projected full-screen. (Previous games kept the movies in a window over the game's interface.) These upgrades to the style and presentation of the movies help to draw us more deeply into the events of the crime.










Yes, that's Greg, the designer - dead in the CSI morgue. Talk about immersion!



Because collecting evidence is such a large part of the game, we wanted the player to feel like they were using the real forensic equipment that we see in the show. So, our tools are no longer the 40x50 pixel 2-D icons from the previous games. They are realistic 3-D tools. Each has its own feeling of weight and movement. They were created directly from the real-world gear given to us by our Technical Advisor, Daniel Holstein. (Fun note: Daniel is the real-life forensic entomologist that Grissom's character is based on.)





A few other changes deserve at least a brief mention. Thanks to Telltale's 3D engine, the player's ability to navigate the beautifully detailed 3D environments is now much more fluid and natural. We also consulted with a professional cinematographer to make our lighting and camera-movement feel like the show. And the music and sound-effects were brilliantly scored from the richly toned CSI source material by our friends at Bay Area Sound. Note - my favorite way to play the game is with the subtitles turned OFF, the headphones ON, and the volume CRANKED. If you want an immersive experience - this is the way to go!


With the game just days from release, it remains to be seen if our goals of immersion have truly succeeded - players will be the real judges of that. However, the Telltale team immersed themselves in improving the game franchise for nearly a year, and we're certain that fans of both Telltale and CSI have some fun surprises waiting for them...



Visit the CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder product page!

The Admissions Paradox

Posted on March 2006 by TelltaleGames

Hey kids, it's time for a puzzle! But first, a few words from our sponsor.



I thought long and hard about writing another mind-expanding, soul-enhancing, humanity-empowering blog this week, but then I thought, eh, who needs it? Maybe what everyone really wants is to think for themselves, to unlock the mysteries of the universe with their own minds! But could a mere puzzle actually serve as a blog? I say yes, but contractual obligations require me to write an elaborate intro at the very least. This has been a pretty elaborate intro, wouldn't you say? I'd say it's at least as elaborate as the intro to War and Peace, which is so elaborate I still haven't finished it after six years of reading. Actually, I've never read it. I just threw that in because I wanted to include the painstaking attention to detail that is so characteristic of 'elaborate', at least according to dictionary.com. And now, to spare you from reading any more time-wasting filler, here's the puzzle!



In the 1970's, a study was done at U.C. Berkeley to see if there was a gender bias in graduate school admissions. The study found that males had a noticeably higher acceptance rate than females. But when the researchers tried to figure out which departments showed the bias, they actually found that females had the same or higher acceptance rates in every department! How is that possible? Chilling, isn't it!



I'll post a hint later this week, and the answer next week. You probably shouldn't post the answer in the comments section, just to avoid spoiling it for anyone. If you want to brag, you can just say, "Hey everyone, I got it"�, but of course you could just say that even if you didn't get it, because how would anyone verify that?


Wattles and Gibbets and Clappers, Oh My!

Posted on February 2006 by TelltaleGames

When you work in an office where people are developing a game about crime scene investigation, you hear a lot of interesting language. People around here are always discussing the mechanics of stuffing a body into a crate, the difference between a stabbing wound and a slashing wound, the fact that it's "spatter" and not "splatter" - sentences which take on a peculiar poetic quality if you imagine them out of context. They use a lot of unusual vocabulary, words your spell-checker doesn't know like "Ninhydrin" and "Luminol" and "Leucocrystal Violet." It can be difficult to understand.




And it's not just the CSI stuff, either. I also hear plenty of game company jargon that wouldn't make sense to most people. There is talk of "teching objects" and "baking lightmaps" and "exchange visibility," phrases which make use of familiar words but which offer little clue for the outsider as to their meaning.







A lot of professions are like this. Try hanging around medical doctors sometime and listen to the things they say to each other. A translator is required. These people are speaking a different language.




Or rather, a different dialect. We're used to thinking of dialects as being caused by geographic separation, ie, people in Mississippi don't speak English the same way that people in Wisconsin do. But as our occupations become increasingly specialized and require more and more words to describe concepts that are useless to people in other fields, they give rise to PROFESSIONAL dialects -- the doctors and financial analysts and computer game designers in my town may all speak English, but they do so in dramatically different ways. And it can be quite difficult for people speaking different dialects to understand one another, as any American who's tried to ask for directions in London, or in Mississippi, can tell you. At this point I am growing convinced that any attempt to communicate effectively with another person is ultimately doomed to failure.




Meanwhile, as new words are coined to describe exotic diseases and technologies, some of the old words drift OUT of use by the modern suburban masses, and thus become somewhat dialectal themselves. And this is kind of a shame, because a word like, say, "wattle" has a pleasingly quaint sound which will never be achieved by something like "Leucocrystal."




Why have I been droning on like this about words? Because as we've been working on Bone 2: The Great Cow Race, a story which occurs in a rustic, old-timey setting, a number of great words have come up that you might not hear very often any more, depending on where you live and what you do. My hope is that by providing them with a little media exposure, here in this international forum, I might give these words a bit of a shot in the arm, or perhaps even provide them with new meaning to carry them into the future. With that in mind, welcome to


The Great Cow Race Vocabulary Challenge and Poll

(pick your favorite meanings for each of the following Cow Race related words)


yoke

a) a device for attaching two animals together at the neck
b) a joke which is not funny
c) a female nerd
d) the mental leap a player has to make in order to solve an adventure game puzzle

wattle

a) the dangly bit under a chicken's chin
b) the tuft of hair between a cow's horns
c) the stuffing inside a seat cushion
d) indecipherable comments in computer code

gibbet

a) what they hang you from when they hang you
b) an automobile more than twenty years old
c) the part of a chicken nobody wants
d) the little handle attached to an object in a 3-D modeling program

clapper

a) the dangly bit in the middle of a bell
b) the part of a toilet that doesn't work right
c) someone who chides people for spending too much time watching television
d) a somewhat derogatory term for a producer

toque

a) one of those goofy hats that chefs inexplicably wear
b) a farm implement used to aerate the soil
c) a laced Medieval shoe made from a single piece of leather
d) the mental condition of a programmer after working forty-eight hours on potato chips and Red Bull




Me, I like knowing what things mean, but I mostly just enjoy saying the words out loud. Yoke! Toque! Wattle! Gibbet! Clapper! It's a mantra of retro linguistic fashion for the new millennium, and I'd like to hear it chanted in the streets. They just don't make 'em like they used to.




If you care about the "right" answers, that is, what the traditionally accepted meanings are for the words in the challenge, then "a" is correct for all five. But bear in mind that meaning is negotiable as language evolves, and correct is not always best. The historical definitions preclude the construction of a great game-development sentence like "The jokes are yokes and the yokes are jokes, the clapper keeps fiddling the gibbets, and our lead lonker's gone into toque trying to noodle through all the wattle."




Now, for extra credit, a question Dave Bogan asked me which I was unable to answer:

What is a wattle FOR?


WonderCon!

Posted on February 2006 by TelltaleGames

It has come to my attention that some of you were not able to attend our presentation at WonderCon last Friday. Since we are dedicated to making sure all of our fans have equal access to Telltale related goodness, I have here provided for you an exact transcript of the presentation. At least as exact as my memory provides.




DAN: Welcome everyone to our talk about Telltale Games, and thank you for coming. Unfortunately, Steve Purcell will not be able to make it today, as he has a very important meeting with a very important person whose name is best left unmentioned.

AUDIENCE: BOOO! HISS!!

Audience stands up to leave

DAN: But he did send along these nifty signed prints to give you in order to quell your anger.

Audience sits back down

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: oh ok. That's not so bad then...



DAN: My name is Dan Connors and I'm the CEO of Telltale Games. With me here today are two of our completely brilliant and talented team members. Heather Logas is a designer with Telltale and comes to us from uhm...someplace in Georgia...

HEATHER: That would be the Georgia Institute of Technology Mr. Connors.

DAN: Yeah, what she said. We also have Dave Bogan, who is our Art Director and also went to a school.

DAVE: mmm hmm...

DAN: Let's turn this over to Heather who will talk about game design and Bone.




HEATHER: Thank you Dan. We are very fortunate to be working on Bone, which is absolutely fabutastic. If you haven't read the story yet, make sure you go out to the dealer's room after this talk and buy the $500 leather bound limited edition. It makes a lovely gift or family heirloom. Now its possible that some of you were here for Jeff Smith's talk at last year's WonderCon where we announced that the first chapter of Bone was coming out. Based on some of the questions we got there, it seemed like some people were assuming that we were going to make Bone into a first person shooter or platformer. Why is it that game adaptations of other media are ALWAYS first person shooters or action-adventure/platformers? WHY???

DAN: psst...Heather...focus...

HEATHER: Ahem. The gameplay must fit with the nature of the story being told, just as much as the plot points and art style. Bone fits really well with the kind of games Telltale wants to make. Bone has a great story, really great characters and a fun world to explore. All these things lend themselves towards making a story-driven adventure game that everyone can enjoy.



HEATHER: When starting to think about how to adapt a story like Bone to a game, the place to start is with the story itself. First of all, we need to analyze the themes in the story that we can bring out through the game. In Bone, I feel the two most important themes are quiche and stuffed bread thingies.

AUDIENCE: Mm...stuffed bread thingies...

HEATHER: Sorry, I skipped breakfast. What I meant to say is that friendship and responsibility are very important themes in Bone that serve as a touchstone for creating the games.



HEATHER: Playing a story is different than reading or watching a story. In a game we have the POWER OF INTERACTIVITY! For example, we can do neat things like let the player play through the game as Fone Bone and then play through similar situations as Phoney Bone and really experience the difference between the two characters.

(shows the part of the game where Phoney talks to and knocks out Ted's big brother)

HEATHER: See, who needs shooting to make a game when you can instead smash a big bug into an even bigger rock! The other thing that's great about interactivity is that we can let the player really explore and investigate the world of Jeff Smith's Bone in ways that isn't possible on the page of a comic.






HEATHER: Don't you just feel the loneliness, the despair? Can't you feel the cold wind whipping through the stone spires? It reminds me of this poem I just finished writing...

DAVE: O -- KAY...I think it's my turn now....

HEATHER: What about my poem?

DAN: Remember what we discussed about sharing the podium, Heather.

HEATHER: Oh fine. Your loss.




(Heather sits down and Dave stands up)

DAVE: Okay everyone, you can wake up now. Since you people are all here because you love comic books, you will probably actually care about the rest of the presentation. Plus, I have prettier pictures.

(Audience members wipe their groggy eyes. Heather seethes.)

DAVE: Re-creating the art style of Bone in our games is vital to creating an authentic Bone experience. I want to talk about how Jeff Smith treats environments and characters. When Jeff draws an environment, he leaves a lot of room for his actors to move around and he environment never distracts from the actions of the characters. His animation background really shows with his characters, who are drawn with energy and are very...animated.

HEATHER: It really is quite a good poem.

DAVE: I'll show you first of all the process we go through to create an environment. This is the source material we used for the Barrelhaven tavern, which comes directly from the comics. Next you'll see the concept drawing.







DAVE: Note how we keep it looking as much like the tavern as possible, but we might need to include some of these other objects for game play.

(clicks to advance slide)

DAVE: Here's a video showing a walkthrough of the tavern, you can see how things get translated into 3D...

(clicks to advance slide)

DAVE: And here is the tavern with lighting.

AUDIENCE: oooooooh!

DAVE: Yeah, that's beautiful eh...what do you think Heather?

HEATHER: I suppose its nice.



DAVE: Now I'll show you the process for the characters. Here are two of my favorite characters, Phoney and Lucius, from the comic. These are really great characters to work with. Plus they're just AWESOME!

Dave laughs. The audience just stares on in apathy.

DAVE: Ok right. Here's Phoney and Lucius in wireframe...








DAVE: Here's their skeletons, so we can pose them and make them animate.








DAVE: And here they are posed. This is where they really start to come alive.








Now I'll show you a clip of animation for each one.

(clicks to advance slide)

DAVE: Here's Phoney being Phoney...

(audience chuckles and Dave clicks to advance the slide)

DAVE: And here's Smiley with Lucius as the disciplinarian...

(audience laughs)

HEATHER: I have to say Dave, Lucius really looks fantastic.

DAVE: Thank you Heather. Okay, one more slide...

(clicks to advance slide)

DAVE: Humor is very important to Jeff's work and we want to fully capture it. But you can do things a little differently with animation than you can with the printed page. Like this...

(audience guffaws. Dave runs the animation again. Audience guffaws again. This repeats for about 10 minutes, when Dan finally makes him stop clicking "play"�.)

DAVE: Okay, that's all I got for ya. Dan?

DAN: Thanks Dave and Heather. You guys are two in a million.



DAN: So working with Jeff has been a blast. Jeff is a great guy and lets us do anything we want as long as we pass it by his eyes first. Here you can see an image of Smiley before and after the approval process. We sent in the top Smiley, and Jeff drew on top of our version to show us how he'd like us to actually make Smiley. Jeff approves everything we do, from dialog to characters to voice actors, but working with him has been very smooth.



DAN: Now for the part you've been waiting for, Sam & Max!

(audience cheers)

DAN: Telltale is working with Steve Purcell on the next Sam and Max title, and its been great working with him. What's great about Sam & Max is that anything is up for grabs. You could do an episode on the moon and another in the Amazon, and its all cool. What's funny actually is that you'll come up with the craziest idea you can think of about how the game is supposed to go, and you bring it to Steve and he'll ask you "that all you got?"� and push it that much further to make it even crazier!



DAN: Ok, what else we got here? Oh yeah, my marketing buddy made me put in this slide. Here's all the important URLs for our web-site and the Sam & Max online comics and stuff. Oh and you can also check out our store where you can buy this awesome t-shirt I'm wearing.

(audience laughs)

DAN: Thank you for laughing. Ok, let's open this up to some questions, shall we?



QUESTIONER: Can we have our posters now?

DAN: Not till we're done with the questions.



QUESTIONER: In that demo you showed us of the game just now, why was it that when you were finished with that dialog there was only one line available to click?

HEATHER: Because it is brilliant and perfect that way. Next question!



QUESTIONER: Heather, exactly how much caffeine have you consumed today?

HEATHER: Plenty. Next question!



QUESTIONER: Is The Great Cow Race gonna be longer than the last game?

HEATHER: Hey, lay off the last game! It was great!

DAN: Yes, the Cow Race will be longer.



QUESTIONER: Is there any specific process by which you insert Jeff's humor into the Bone game?

DAVE: Well...wait, what, process? I dunno, we just make it funny.

DAN: Duh.



QUESTIONER: I have fifty questions about Sam & Max.

DAN: You get three.

QUESTIONER: Ok, first will it be episodic and downloadable.

DAN: Maybe.

QUESTIONER: Are you going to go with a more adult feel than Sam & Max Hit The Road?

DAN: Probably.

QUESTIONER: It would be cool if you would make each episode a different art style. That'd be really neat.

DAN: What's the question?

QUESTIONER: Are you gonna do that?

DAN: I don't know yet.




QUESTIONER: Since Dave Grossman is completely awesome, I was wondering how much involvement he was going to have in Bone or Sam & Max...

DAVE G: (standing up from the back of the room) Hello hello. An honor to be here. Yes, Heather and I are working on The Great Cow Race together. Sam & Max is very early in pre-production. So far I haven't touched it, but who knows?



QUESTIONER: Can we have our posters now?

DAN: Yes, yes...try not to trample each other on the way up.

(Audience tramples each other on the way up with the exception of my parents, who deftly dodge out of the way, do quadruple summersaults, grab their posters and back-flip out before the crowd makes it to the front.)



That was our presentation as I remember it. Which is to say, exactly how it happened. Probably.

The Blades of Stenchtar III

Posted on February 2006 by TelltaleGames

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce The Blades of Stenchtar III: The Secret of Stenchtar Island, the newest imaginary RPG from Telltale Games!



Now it must be said that our last non-existent blockbuster The Blades of Stenchtar II: Escape from Stenchtar Mountain was something of a financial disappointment. Predictions of a trillion sales proved to be overly ambitious. Is there a reason for this consumer apathy, besides the fact that the game is not real and cannot actually be purchased?



Perhaps so. Fictional game reviewer Theodore Dudebrough may have captured it best when he said, "The (opening) cutscene finally ends and then so does the whole game."� Though the intuitive hourglass-icon interface was universally praised by reviewers, the exclusive use of the cutscene as a game mechanic was even more universally derided. The consensus was that the Stenchtar games had become "too zero-dimensional"�.



Well let it never be said that we at Telltale Games do not respond to criticism. We even respond to criticism of fake games written by fake reviewers on fake websites. That is how dedicated we are!







In TBOSIII:TSOSI, we've done the unthinkable to quiet the critics. No More Cutscenes. That's right, there is not one single cutscene in the entire game. No more dialog in fact. Talk is boring, we want action. So characters will never speak. If you click the talk icon on them, nothing happens. When the characters give you new quests, they just sit there, they don't say anything. This is a game, not a movie. Our philosophy is, "Figure it out for yourselves, you lazy goods-for-nothing."�



Many reviewers criticized not only the previous installment's omission of player interaction, but also its surreal surprise ending, saying that it was "lame"� and "cheap"� and that it "undermined the metaphysical underpinnings of the entire enterprise"�. As a result, TBOSIII:TSOSI begins with Oinktoast floating 600 miles off the shore of Stenchtar Island, claiming the previous adventure was all a bad dream. To this, some would say, "cop out"�. I say, "pure genius"�.



TBOSIII:TSOSI puts the focus squarely where it belongs: mini-games. Oinktoast's adventure begins with a doggy-paddling mini-game in which you must press the '[' and ']' keys in quick succession to paddle the 600 miles to shore. That alone provides 12 hours of gameplay, vastly eclipsing the last game's 7 minute average play time. I doubt we'll be hearing anyone say this one's too short!



Immediately upon arriving on Stenchtar Island, Oinktoast is confronted by a new foe, the self-proclaimed "Final Boss of the Game"�, Marjorie Margarinebutter. Because Marjorie never speaks, she relies heavily on pantomime to convey her unqualified malevolence for you and everything you stand for. Through a charades mini-game, Marjorie informs you that she has convinced all the monsters in the world to attack you every few steps of your journey. Why these previously neutral creatures would throw themselves on the sword for no possible gain is a secret reserved for those in Marjorie's inner sanctum.



Oinktoast tries to ask Marjorie why she's being so evil, but he can't because the talk icon doesn't do anything. Instead, he spends the next three to four hundred hours completing side quests in order to amass enough gold to buy the game's ultimate weapon, the Butter Knife. To make a long story short (too late), Oinktoast confronts Marjorie with the Butter Knife only to discover that Marjorie is actually his long-time arch nemesis, Gloatherd McMoatherd! And it's all revealed in an interpretive dance mini-game. Not one line of dialog! Oinktoast and Gloatherd engage in a titanic battle spanning 3 planets and over 150 uses of the "Heal Wounds"� spell.



Then, in a shocking twist ending, just as Gloatherd is dealt the fatal butter spread, he reveals that he is actually... Oinktoast the Meticulous!



But wait. If he's Oinktoast, that means... Yes, that's right! You've actually been controlling the evil Gloatherd the whole game, but didn't realize it because he cast a spell on you! How did you ever fall for that floating in the ocean story???



That's the real Secret of Stenchtar Island!


Little Bits and Pieces

Posted on January 2006 by TelltaleGames

In this town, they're always working on the bridges. If you want job security around the Bay Area, bridge construction is definitely the way to go, and the project to be on at the moment is the Bay Bridge Eastern Span. For those unfortunate enough to be living anywhere else on the planet, I'll mention that the Bay Bridge is a massive artery connecting Oakland and San Francisco, and that plans have been afoot to replace its eastern span ever since it fell slightly apart during that earthquake back in 1989.




From the existing span, which you can still drive on, you can watch the new one going up, one big cement stick at a time like a giant erector set. It's the kind of thing where if you pass it every day you probably wouldn't notice the progress at all, because each step requires such a tremendous amount of effort and coordination, but over time things seem gradually to be happening. Work is expected to continue for about another five or six years, provided nothing else goes wrong.




A lot of game projects are like this. The scanty initial planning process on Blades of Stenchtar IV is followed by years of gradual progress from milestone to milestone as you watch the structure get pieced together one giant cement stick at a time. Not so the Bone series - with Bone we do the design, and then there's a period of time where people are off in corners creating art and writing scripts, and it doesn't seem like anything much is happening for a while. But then one day, all the little pieces abruptly fall into place, and suddenly there's a game where there wasn't one just a week ago, as though elves came in and built it while you were sleeping. InstaGame, just add water.




OK, maybe I exaggerate just a touch. But hey, that's my job.




Little bits and pieces often combine magically to make a bigger picture, so with that in mind, here are some of the bits and pieces that have been happening around the office lately:




  • Somebody broke the coffee pot. It is unclear whether this was an accidental or deliberate act, offensive or defensive, undertaken by person or persons or hideous crawling beast spawned in the primordial soup of leftover coffee. But it's definitely broken, alleviating any coffee issues we may have had.


  • Another expired power supply has appeared on the Tower of Power next to my desk. Not my own, this time - word has it that it came out of Randy Tudor's machine. Randy works his machine pretty hard, so I am less concerned with the fact that yet another power supply has gone belly up on us than I am with the fact that my desk has apparently become accepted as a sort of elephant graveyard/depository for same. How long can it be before I am unable to claw my way out from beneath the pile?


  • The chess game between Heather and Greg continues at a glacial pace. Queens were recently exchanged, Greg (playing the black) is up by a pawn, and he appears to have superior territorial influence. My dad had a special move he used to use in gaming situations where he felt his position was untenable, which he called "the earthquake" -- but I will not mention this to either player in the interest of preserving a civil atmosphere.


  • Stalwart intern Marco Brezzo actually got paid this week. Congratulations are in order until the accounting staff manage to figure out how this could have happened and those responsible are fired.


  • Brendan Q. Ferguson has been sighted several times leaving purple graffiti on the white boards. He has scrawled a mysterious sequence of numbers - not the same one as in that popular TV series, but it's still got me wondering what arcane significance they may have.


  • The Wall is still here, and has not visibly moved for some time.


  • Our tiny holiday tree (located beneath the buffet table, that's how small it is) miraculously withstands the rigors of time and has not lost so much as a needle. It's as though it were in some kind of science fictiony stasis field.


  • Speaking of time manipulation, someone was actually looking for an actual FLOPPY DISK last week. Remember the days before CD burners were standard equipment and we all used floppy disks for stuff? Remember cassette tapes and buggy whips? Even more amazing: we HAD some floppy disks. There's definitely a time machine hidden in the office somewhere, and I'm going to find it.




    Yes, and then I'm going back in time to patent my idea for TiVo....



Adventure Gaming, Console Style

Posted on January 2006 by TelltaleGames

Before this blog properly begins, I must state that what follows is my own meandering and is not in any way reflective of anything Telltale has planned for the future. To be honest, the future here is hidden behind thick velvety curtains in Dan's office and only the excessively foolhardy or extremely stealthy would risk Dan's wrath by trying to take a peek. I am neither of these, so I am content to instead make wild and usually inaccurate prognostications.



I am shamed to admit that I have trouble with PC games. The trouble in question is simply that I haven't the patience to sit in front of a computer on my spare time for the hours necessary to become engrossed in a deep gaming experience. My couch is far more hospitable and my television screen far more spacious. I played Shadows of the Colossus on my PS2 for four hours straight Saturday night without even blinking. True, my eyes were a bit sore at the end of it, but had I attempted the same on my PC not only would I have had to blink, but my eyes would have been strained and watering, my neck craned painfully, my lower back aching and my legs wrenched in torturous cramps.



Sad to say, as much as I enjoy a good adventure game this species only seems to show its story-driven puzzle-laden face on PC monitors. This becomes a major obstacle to my actually sitting down and playing said games.



There seem to be two major assumptions as to why consoles are not teeming with adventure-gamey goodness. The first is that the entire population of console players is made up of hollering Neanderthals that require a gazillion thrills a second to stay interested and would rather jump up and down rambunctiously and trash talk their friends while playing Madden 2010* than read a good book. Or comic book. Or cry at a movie. Or play a "thinking person's"� game. And the second is that the interface does a terrible job of supporting traditional adventure game gameplay.



Well, I'm here to climb a fairly high mountain (acrophobia prevents me from climbing any higher) and loudly proclaim that both of these assumptions are unequivocally absurd.



While there are many hollering Neanderthals who play console games, there are many calmer folk who enjoy a quiet game they can take their time with. Take one popular series where the gameplay revolves around deep stories, exploration, solving simple puzzles, collecting widgets, turn-based action sequences and playing mini-games. People line up for miles whenever a new game in the series comes out, and there is a whole genre of games similar to them. The gaming press calls them "RPGs"�. I call them adventure games with monsters (or, if you prefer, AGWMs).



On a side note, anyone who thinks that hollering Neanderthals are exclusive to console gamers has never player an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Realm of Puerile Gamers).



The interface argument might at first glance seem to have more teeth. Pointing and clicking seems so simple and elegant a solution to the activities that one wants to be able to accomplish in an adventure game. I myself struggled with Escape from Monkey Island on the PS2. The interface wasn't terrible, but it was enough of a stumbling block that I eventually threw up my arms in despair and returned to the friendly comfort of Animal Crossing. And then there was Grim Fandango's console-like interface which gave me splitting migraines. (I enjoy complaining about Grim Fandango. It makes Kevin uncomfortable.)



But that was then! I have not yet played Indigo Prophecy on PS2 or X-Box, but I have read very positive things about the interface. It sounds as though deep thought was given to developing an interface that would play smoothly on a console. The Nintendo DS's touch screen capability has already attracted a couple of adventure game titles. And peeping over the horizon are the golden rays of possibility in the form of a slim, jaunty rectangle.



Witness the capabilities of the Controller for the Nintendo Revolution. By waving around the remote-control like stick, the player can control movement on screen as a conductor might conduct a symphony. Instant point and click! Combine that with the optional plug in analog controller and now we can enjoy the console-given freedom of moving our character through the world sans clicking while at the SAME TIME selecting on-screen objects with the control stick to look at, operate, etc. And for you way-back old-schoolers (you know who you are) imagine the possibility of mapping an action to a button, or a direction on the directional pad. Now you can very simply switch between touching, listening, licking and sneezing on objects to your heart's content!



The new generation consoles also will finally all be online. The X-Box 360 already has a selection of titles available that can be downloaded and played on the console. Some of these are classic casual games like Bejeweled. This suggests intriguing possibilities of developers being able to finally create games for the console market that don't have to worm their way through traditional channels. This makes these games much more likely to be made and delivered to your hot little hands.



PC gamers may shudder in fear, but I eagerly await the day I can finally sink back into my comfy couch, put my feet up, and immerse myself in a great new adventure. Could the recent developments in consoles finally offer the resounding "NO"� to the grating question "are adventure games dead"�? The answer may be hidden behind the thick velvety curtains in Dan's office, but that is not for you or I to know. Instead we will just have to crane our necks at our monitors and wait.





*By the way: there is nothing wrong with occasionally trash talking your buddies over a friendly game of Madden, so long as your rambunctious jumping does not result in damaged springs or stained upholstery.



Deep Thoughts by Brendan Q. Ferguson

Posted on January 2006 by TelltaleGames

Hello, I'm Brendan Q. Ferguson. You may remember me from such blogs as Chronicles of the Absurd, The Sad Plight of the Adventure Game Bum, and Because It's There. Then again, you may not, as studies have repeatedly shown that the typical reader of this website is between 12 and 18 months old, so most of you weren't even born when those blogs were written.


I was shocked and horrified when someone suggested that I hadn't posted a blog in some time. That is an utter lie. I post anywhere from 50 to 60 blogs A DAY. I think censors must be removing the blogs from the site, that's the only thing I can figure. Down with censorship! Up with me writing anything I feel like, no matter how utterly without merit or grammatically awkward it is!


Okay, that's not really true. As much as I'd like to blame censorship, and as much as I just did, the truth is that I haven't been writing any blogs.


I've been undercover.


You see, I'm one of those game makers that believes that to truly understand the essence of a game character, you need to live his life. Like that time Brad Pitt had to play a lunatic in Twelve Monkeys, so to prepare for the role he actually went insane. Well that's what I did. I went insane. No, just kidding, I went undercover as... FREELANCE POLICE!


Perhaps you've heard of Sam & Max: Freelance Police? Well I am one of the few, the proud, the ugly, who have been called upon to serve their nation by making a new Sam & Max adventure. So I've been doing a little freelance policing of my own to get in the proper frame of mind. Plus, I wanted to be able to handcuff people and be praised for it.


Of course, I swore never to tell anyone of my undercover adventures, unless a million dollar book deal was involved. But I can tell you that on those long, lonely stakeouts, I had plenty of time for thinking. Thinking about games. Thinking about the very essence of the game. And I thought, "Hey, those babies reading the Telltale website might be interested in some of these massively profound thoughts."� (Yes, I'm a little boastful when thinking to myself, because hey, who's listening?)


Here, then, are my Deep Thoughts on Games:


I'm sick and tired of people saying games are "just for kids"�. Maybe if they tried playing one, they'd see that even adults love to jump through hoops like trained dogs.


People say there's too much violence in games. Maybe so, but if I had a dollar for every person I'd killed in a game, I'd convert them to rupees, because all the best stuff costs rupees.


Playing games is fun, but not playing them is fun too. Just not as fun.


Games should be more than mere entertainment. They should be a chance to discover ourselves, or, if that's not possible, you should at least be able to order some take-out or something.


I would love to play a game where you got to be the king of the world and you could rule however you want and you could eat all the macaroni and cheese you want because macaroni and cheese is so good, I'm going to have some right now.


The word 'games' doesn't really even capture what we're making here at Telltale Games. Maybe we should call them 'justice', because that would really make people think.


Games are important for mental health. Psychologists often talk of the need to play. They also talk about falling in love with their mothers, so maybe we should just ignore them for the time being.


A game is like an enchilada. You eat it and then you think, maybe I should've just gotten some nachos.


Well, I'm gonna take a break from all this navel-gazing to go work on Sam & Max. But wait, if I don't handle the navel-gazing, then who will? No one! Do you realize what this means?


I may have to hire someone to stare at my navel.


Wow, I really never thought I'd say that.