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.

The Wall

Posted on January 2006 by TelltaleGames

So, I was sitting at my desk the other day, minding my own business, trying to think of things for Fone Bone to say when he looks at loaves of bread, when a toothy, Tom Sawyer-looking guy came into the office carrying a large can of paint and a brush. He mumbled something unintelligible, a name I think, and then shuffled off to the back and began slathering white paint onto a wall. I didn't think too much of this. It happens all the time: people come wandering in off the street and paint our walls for us. If they're any good we hire them to do games -- Mai Nguyen's work on the north end of the conference room is still much admired and has been the subject of many a lunchtime conversation.




It wasn't until an hour or so after he left that I suddenly realized that the wall he'd been painting hadn't been there the day before. It had popped up unbidden and unexpected, like gout or the highway patrol, an implacable white rectangular policeman standing beefily atop the Blue Line.




Imagine coming home to discover that someone has broken into your house and left new furniture there, or remodeled your kitchen. It's disorienting to find something where you were expecting nothing, more so than the reverse. I was baffled, perhaps a little frightened. But also curious, so I investigated further, thoughts of the obelisk from 2001 zipping through my feverish little brain.




As it turns out, the wall was standing beefily, yes, but not quite squarely atop the Blue Line -- the Line angles out from beneath the wall, so about half of it is still on our side. Now, I don't know if I ever mentioned this before, but the Line is made of tape, and thus could easily have been removed from the carpet before putting up the wall. The fact that it wasn't speaks of great haste on the part of the builders, suggesting that the wall was an emergency measure.




I wondered if perhaps Gregfrank had erected the wall out of fear, after his recent harrowing voyage into the mysterious country beyond the Line. Then it occurred to me that it might be more likely that someone on the OTHER side had done so, for exactly the same reason. Maybe someone is trying to physically contain the explosive creativity that is Telltale. Or maybe, maybe the wall has something to do with the strange disappearance of Graham Annable. I have heard frequent chuckling from the vicinity of the wall, and it sounds suspiciously like the insidious laugh of Brendan Q....




Whatever the cause, the wall is there now, and I feel it looming like a deadline over all that I do. Watchful. Disciplinarian. Final. Although I know rationally that it isn't, it feels like the office is shrinking, inexorably closing in over time.




As things tend to do.




In other news: all and sundry continue to build quality entertainment for you, you, you!


Time to Tally the Score

Posted on January 2006 by TelltaleGames

It is once again that time to reflect on the successes and failures of the previous year and to make (mostly futile) promises to oneself for the year to come. I like to call this ritual "Tallying the Score"�. Life is much like a game, with every year a turn. Scoring is fairly subjective as it is up to the player themselves what they consider advancing or falling back in the game. You arrive at the first of the year, tally your score from the previous turn, and strategize how you might do better this time round.


2005 was a very solid turn for Telltale. It would be difficult, in fact, to list all the great advances that won us over-brimming buckets of points. Just trying to enumerate them in my head causes my brain to tumble and spin. Releasing Telltale Texas Hold 'Em and Bone: Out from Boneville scored us gargantuan numbers of points. We were able to announce our up-coming CSI and Sam & Max projects, in addition to carrying on work with some of our new favorite characters in our second chapter of Bone. We moved from our tiny claustrophobic sardine can to a nice new office and our numbers swelled from less than 10 to about 20. We received health insurance. Babies were born. Our web-site was made all shiny and sleek and comics and blogs have amused and informed. Our fan base has grown larger and even more vocal that ever.


There have been set-backs too of course. The loss of Dave's chair touched us all deeply, and Gregfrank hasn't been the same since his excursion over the blue line. Not a one of us were able to anticipate the sudden treachery of the coffee machine. We lost several PCs to spontaneous combustion. But, when the numbers are put down and the score tallied, we have clearly come out ahead.


I have spent much of the following week in meditation and prognostication and I feel that 2006 is going to be an even bigger turn for our little troupe of storytellers. 2005 we were just building steam. This year its full speed ahead. The office is full of excitement at the possible twists and turns that await us.


After the reflection part of the "tallying"� ritual comes the New Year's Resolutions part, also known as "good intentions which by the end of the year feel more like vapid lies"�. Here are my personal resolutions which you may choose to use as inspiration to develop your own list of good intentions:


1) Find and purchase a copy of Animal Crossing for the Nintendo DS. (Which seems to be sold out across Atlanta and the greater SF Bay Area).

2) Complete Psychonauts before opening my new shiny copy of Shadows of Colossus.

3) Get around to buying Sea Monkeys for my desk.

4) Decrease caffeine consumption.

5) Defeat Gregland at Chess (or at least appear coolly detached at the inevitable result.)

6) Finish writing blogs before 5pm on Tuesdays.

7) When asked by other game developers, strive* to be more humble about where I work and how truly fabulous it is.

8) Resist* the urge to divulge my sinister plans before I complete them.

9) Be a part of the creation of games that we all feel proud of making.


2006 has so far been murky and gray here in San Rafael, but the year itself promises to be a bright sunny one for Telltale. It is our pleasure to invite you all to enjoy it with us.


Happy New Year!




*Remember, when creating your own list of resolutions, that terms like "resist"� and "strive"� are -- by the nature of their non-committal tones -- extremely useful.

A Christmas Tale

Posted on December 2005 by TelltaleGames

It's holiday time at Telltale, and the office is awash with the twin spirits of good cheer and generosity. Under such circumstances, Dave and Heather can occasionally be persuaded to relax their iron grip on this blog space to allow someone else to have a say. This week we have given the floor to Greg Frank, if for no reason other than to demonstrate that he is a real person and not someone we just made up.



A Christmas Tale

(or: Too Many Sugar Plums Before Bedtime)



Twas the night before Christmas and all through Telltale, not a creature was stirring, not even a snail. Which is a good thing for the snails, since Randy seems to have a vendetta against the little mollusks...




It is a bit of a mystery as to what lies beyond the Blue Line which sits on the floor at the back of the office. Not many have dared venture across it, but those few who have dare not speak of what is on the other side. One cold winter night, I took it upon myself to cross over the line and see first-hand if anything lay beyond, or if it was just a piece of tape on the ground.




The first time I stepped across, the blood rushed to my head and something bothered me. I felt something terrible was about to happen. Greg Land had been bragging about how he and Dave Grossman rescued his grey chair from the other side, but neither he nor Dave would tell me what it was like to "cross the line"�. So, taking a deep breath and throwing caution to the wind, I crossed. That's when the light-headedness really took effect and I thought I would faint. Hearing a voice call out to me, I backed up over the line, back to the safety of the office, and looked for the source of the voice, but there was no one in sight. Thinking nothing of it, I got back to work. For the next few days the temptation to cross the line and venture even deeper into the other side intensified. It's just a corridor that loops around back to the office, right? It is just a piece of tape, or some joke that someone decided to play on us.




Finally, it was time to prove to myself and the people around me that I was not scared. I would walk over a piece of tape. As my co-workers prepared for their holiday vacations, I was steeling my nerves for my expedition. It was a crisp winter morning. I crossed the line and ventured forward. At first the feeling of dread returned (along with the light-headedness). Denying this feeling, I inched onward. It was then that I noticed this room didn't quite look like the rest of the office. It had many doors that were closed and just looped back towards Greg Land's Desk. But I kept following it. Now standing in familiar territory, I noticed that no one was in the office but me. Had I missed lunch? How long did it take me to finish that loop?




I went to lunch and got a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's which tasted very odd. Did chicken always taste so meaty? I mean, it looked like chicken but tasted more like a steak. Anxiously, I waited for my co-workers to return. That is when Kevin, with a can of Dr. Pepper in his hand and a red hat on his head, walked through the door. My eyes went wide in horror as I realized this was not the Kevin that I know. The Kevin known to me doesn't have 8 legs like an octopus, and the can of Dr. Pepper he was holding wasn't a can of Dr. Pepper. He was holding a hand that was holding a can of Dr. Pepper. I began to tremble when he looked at me. His face looked as it should, and his voice sounded like Kevin as he said, "Hey Greg, Sorry we missed you for lunch."�




I was about to ask what he meant about "we"�, when the rest of the gang walked in. Well, what I thought was the rest of the gang, but they looked completely different. Dave Felton walked in with a robe and hood humming to himself with his eyes completely red. I don't mean red as in he had red eye or bloodshot, I mean his eyes were completely glowing red. Then he was followed by Randy who had what looked like the head of a dragon, the body of a snake, and the legs of a wolf. I began to quiver and wondered if I was seeing things. They all smiled at me and said they were sorry they missed me for lunch. I found this exceptionally weird, since they have never said that to me before, not to mention they looked like monsters right out of an H.P. Lovecraft book. Then it hit me. I was insane. That was the only solution. There is no other option. All the stress, long hours and chemicals from the Rockstar energy drinks made me go completely mad...Wait. Was it insanity? No, it must have been crossing the Blue Line; it sent me into a world that was overrun by monsters. I started to get up and back away slowly from my desk, not taking my eyes off of the creatures that I thought were my co-workers, and made the trip all the way back past Greg Land's desk, past the locked doors and all the way back to where the Blue Line was.




Keeping my back to the Line, I closed my eyes and prayed that everything would be normal again and took a step backwards. I kept backing up and accidentally bumped into Kevin. He looked at me and asked if I was okay. I jumped away from him while turning around and noticed that Kevin looked completely normal again. So did everyone else in the office. Taking a deep breath, I began to laugh and told him everything was fine. He asked if I wanted to join him, Daniel, and Graham for lunch and I said "Sure, let me just get my coat"�. I was so happy it worked and that I was safe and sound back in the real world. Vowing never to cross the Blue Line again, I grabbed my jacket and noticed a card on my desk. When I opened it, it had a gift certificate in it, apparently a gift from the Telltale higher ups. I laughed and followed the gang out, when I noticed something move in the corner of my eye. It looked like a big fat Santa Claus with claws and fangs. His belly was a big mouth full of sharp teeth and he donned a beard of snakes and a dark cloak. But when I turned there was nothing there...must have been my imagination...or was it?




Happy Christmas (or other wintry holiday of your choosing) to all and to all a good night!



* Illustration this week by Dave Bogan!



Another Jittery Coffee Blog

Posted on December 2005 by TelltaleGames

Back when I was working on the second floor of "A" Building at [that company that a lot of us used to work for way back when], it went like this: Somebody would make a pot of coffee, which would be emptied within minutes by twitching, caffeine-addicted designers and musicians -- except for the last few ounces. Nobody wanted to take the last tiny swig of java, because the rules of coffee courtesy as they are generally understood would then call for that person to make a new pot. Nobody wanted to be the one to make a new pot. Everybody wanted to be the first one in after someone ELSE made a new pot (this position is known as being "on the drip," a reference to the feature on most modern coffee machines that allows you to pour out a cup of coffee while the pot is still brewing, which feature typically works almost as well as you want it to). People would begin circling like vultures, checking back at the kitchen every ten minutes to see if anyone had brewed more coffee. Sometimes they would stack up like this for hours, circling and circling and waiting to see who would cave in first in a great big multi-player game of coffee chicken.




Here at Telltale, things work a little differently. People do drink coffee, but mostly in the form of extravagant concoctions made by professionals at local caffeinatoriums. Even those who drink regular joe tend to carry it in from the outside. I'm not sure why this is, since we have a perfectly good coffee making machine right here in the office, but I suppose we're supporting the local economy (except when patronizing the mega-chains, but don't get me started about that).




Still, every now and then, somebody brews coffee. It doesn't get mobbed, and it doesn't get vultured. Some gets drunk, maybe even all of it, but then more gets made and sooner or later a half a pot is left and slips into a kind of Coffee Limbo. Walking by the machine, one is never certain how long the coffee has been there, and this causes trepidation, as well as ambiguity of responsibility. You don't want to drink the coffee, because maybe it's from yesterday, but you don't want to throw it out, either, because even if you yourself made coffee earlier, this might be a more recent pot created by someone else. Everyone is unwilling to touch it either way.




And so it sits. This may have something to do with why people bring in outside coffee, thus perpetuating the situation in a vicious cycle.




The ambiguity is resolved eventually when things begin to happen on the surface of the coffee in the pot, but this makes it even more unlikely that anyone will do anything about it. It begins with a whitish film. Nobody wants to touch a coffee pot with a whitish film, much less empty it and clean it.




The film becomes a layer, thickening and bubbling and changing colors like some primordial ooze. It makes me wonder about the composition of the original primordial ooze -- could it be that all life on earth sprang from a neglected pot of cosmic coffee? It would certainly explain a lot about human nature.




Things gelatinize, and lumps begin to appear. Protrusions of the sort that might eventually develop into limbs. But then, just when things are getting really interesting, I'll come in one day and the pot will be empty again.




It's possible that someone has taken the plunge and cleaned the pot, but I am inclined to believe that what has really happened is that whatever it was that was growing in there has simply packed up and moved out in search of a better living space. I imagine it slopping out in the dead of night, cleaning up after itself and then exploring the rest of the office to find a suitable spot in which to grow larger and larger. Perhaps these escaped creatures find one another. There may be a whole colony of them by now, gathering in secret places to do who knows what.




I hope they're friendly. But I wouldn't bet on it. No one is really sure what it was that ate poor Doug Modie, but I have my suspicions. And wasn't he a coffee drinker?




Me, I'm sticking with tea.


The Game of Kings

Posted on December 2005 by TelltaleGames

Chess is dumb.



Kevin bought us a lovely wall-hanging chess board for the office. It is one of those kinds with clear pockets and flat plastic pieces that is very large so you can watch the turn of the tides from across the office. The day it arrived Kevin hung it up, slipped every piece snugly in its windowed pocket and scampered mischievously back to his office to watch the chaos ensue from afar.



Gregfrank was the first brave soul to make a move. He innocently moved one of the light pawns forward two spaces, then sat back down at his desk, whistling innocuously. Lunch time approached, and with it a general collecting around the chess board as we discussed various chess strategies, bizarre moves that are legal and yet have no relation what-so-ever to the basic rules and decided how we would mark whose turn it was. Right before we all left for lunch, I decided I'd be the next intrepid soul to make a move. I studied the board carefully, and moved a beautifully calculated dark pawn from H7 to H5. Gregland chuckled and then, all humor gone, said simply "no"�, and moved my pawn back where it started. My honor besmirched, my pride trounced upon, I asked him what was wrong with my tactics. "We need to decide what move to make."� he responded. "I decided on a move!"� "You don't know how to play chess."� He said simply, and returned to his desk, not even taking the time to make a move himself.



I don't know how to play chess?! The audacity. I certainly DO know how to play chess. I know what moves all the pieces make and I understand the goal. What more is there to a game than understanding the rules and the goal? (Well, the avoidance of cheating, no matter how tempting).



From that moment on, I skulked by my desk, staring with bile at the vinyl board which had now become some sort of strategic general status symbol. I cursed Kevin and Gregfrank as they made move after move, oblivious to my wounded pride. I would tell the story of Gregland's insensitivity again and again to anyone who would listen, painting him as a cruel villain until the whole office stared at him and muttered things under their breath whenever he passed by. Mua ha ha.



After telling this story for the umpteenth time, Gregland looked up in exasperation from his CSI related blood spatters and fluid samples and commented "Well, I guess the difference is if you're playing to win or playing to have fun."�




What I think Greg meant (I didn't ask him, only stared him down with penetrating darts of iciness) is that the act of trying to win is a different kind of fun than exploring the possibilities the game has to offer. "Playing to win"� should also be fun, or else why would one play the game? But exploration offers a different kind of reward.



Academics offer up many different definitions for what constitutes a "game"�. Many of them require that the game have a winning or losing condition. The ones I prefer require instead that games have goals that can be set by the player. Winning can be a goal. Reaching level 30 with your half-elf wizard can be a goal. Causing as much frustration as possible by secretly making bad chess moves while no one is looking can be a goal.



Adventure gamers seldom say they have "won"� an adventure game. Or even that they have "beat"� it. They say things like they have "finished"� the game. In other words, they have explored the world to their heart's content and followed all the story lines to their completion. This is the essence of their charm. An adventure game gives you a world to explore, characters to meet, and challenges to overcome. The player can set their own pace, doesn't have to worry about pitting their brain against a cruel and deceitful opponent and can lose themselves in another world. At least, these are the qualities about them that I have always appreciated.



Life is stressful enough without my entertainment being about winning or losing. No matter what game I am playing, whether I'm playing on a board or a computer or a console, I play for fun. This can frustrate those who take their gaming as seriously as their breathing. Chess is one of those games that seem to generate and amplify this frothy competitiveness.



Excellent! No one's watching! Now, should I move that castle thingie or the horsie guy? (Whose turn is it anyway?)

Did You Hear That?

Posted on November 2005 by TelltaleGames

It was that sound they always use in cartoons when a character gets struck by lightning, the one that makes your skeleton show through your skin as your body spells out secret messages in semaphore. Everybody in the office heard it. I think everybody in TOWN may have heard it.




The sound came from within my computer.




Yes, yes, I know. Those of you who've been following these blogs will recall that it's only been a couple of months since my computer last caught fire, but somehow the Fickle Winds of Spectacular Power Supply Demise had chosen me once again, despite the fact that it was supposed to be Graham McDermott's turn.




A few moments passed, during which I came to the realization that I had not, in fact, been horribly electrocuted, and then I moved on to the real question at hand:

What the heck is going on here?


I want to explain that, while my job is complicated and difficult, my COMPUTER'S job is relatively easy. Computationally intensive things are done by other people's computers. They render models with zillions of polygons. They compile huge quantities of code. Mine never has to do any of that. When it exploded this last time, it was running a word processor, which is the computing equivalent of relaxing on a couch eating bonbons while somebody fans you with a palm frond.




Perhaps these failures are brought on by lack of exercise?




Or is it me? Am I riding the clutch? Should I be changing the oil more frequently? Does this thing require a special diet?




My wife and I go up to see my mother-in-law every now and then to help out with things around the house, and one of my frequent tasks is to tinker with her aging computer so that it will do her bidding. She knows that I am a computing professional. She does not know that I am He Who Brings Cataclysmic Death to Silicon.




But then, her computer hasn't burst into flames lately, nor have any of the ones at my own house. Whatever it is that's going on must also have something to do with this office. I've formulated a few more theories:




  1. Static electricity is building up on my frequent shuffling trips to the table where the Vietnamese durian-flavored candy is. It discharges itself through my keyboard and causes these coronary seizures. I should stop eating that stuff anyway.



  2. Standing resonant waves are emanating from the nearby hypnotherapist's office and concentrating on the exact spot on the floor where my computer lives. I could test this by moving it to the other side of the desk -- if it doesn't explode, I'll know standing resonant waves were the culprit.



  3. Graham McD is sabotaging my equipment in an effort to divert the whims of fate away from himself. He was slated to be next, after all.



  4. Graham A is sabotaging my equipment so that I'll write more blogs about burning computers, thus saving him work by allowing him to reuse old illustrations.



  5. Heather's trying to bump me off so she can do the blog every week. It's only by sheer dumb luck that I have managed to avoid electrocution.



  6. Ghosts. Gregfrank claims the office is haunted by mischievous shades of former tenants. Of course, I never listened to Gregfrank before, why start now?




Just theories, mind you. The jury is out, pending further investigation. In the meantime, I'm nailing dead power supplies to the wall. The hearts of my kills, keening this silent warning:

Keep your computer away from Dave.



The Side Effects of Storytelling

Posted on November 2005 by TelltaleGames

I have been walking through Telltale's offices for almost a year now. But recently, things have changed. Something strange is afoot.



Have you ever noticed how good storytellers get immersed in their stories? The character actor who adds 50 lbs for the part, the great joke teller who captivates the audience with the perfectly timed punch-line, the book reader who has a multitude of different voices and uses just the right one for each character in the book that they are reading you. I remember my father reading to me at bedtime, at the same time enthralling me and then scaring me as he made the characters come to life from Grimm or Andersen, Tolkien and Carroll...



Walking through an office of electronic storytellers is sort of like that.



First, there was laughter and humor in the air as they gave birth to Texas Hold'Em and Dudebrough and his pals. Upbeat, light hearted, positive.



Then things turned a little more serious as the emphasis shifted to telling a story of a strange and magical land. The atmosphere a little wistful, and a little mystical, but still with a hefty dose of humor tossed in. People looked a little misty eyed -- as if they were looking just over the horizon. Making a new world come to life.



Then came CSI and the mood shifted again. What should we do about the blunt instrument? How bloody to make the body and should the bloody footprints cross the room? Who did it? How will we find out? Serious faces, furrowed brows, lots of intensity, lots of focus, lots of problems to solve, mysteries to untangle.



But now. Something strange is afoot.



I walked across the office on Friday. Pass the first person -- what was that cynical laughter about? Pass the second and third people -- why are they butting heads? Pass the fourth, and as he looks up at me -- those crazy, staring eyes -- look away quick. Approach the end of the room. A stack of paper. Should I turn the top page over. Visions of Jack Nicholson and The Shining. Page after page of "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"�?



Ah. It's clear. A silhouetted pair on a black background.



They are working on Sam and Max.



Editor's note:
Matthew is an integral part of the Telltale extended family. In addition to helping helping with our strategy, the man sports dangerous skill at petanque and impeccable taste in interior decoration.

The Old Grey Chair

Posted on November 2005 by TelltaleGames

Not long ago, I heard Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on National Public Radio, talking about how even though he's been on the court for eleven years, he's still the junior member (not for much longer, though), so he has to get coffee for Justice Scalia. Thinking of the Supreme Court as a place where there are hazing rituals for the new guy makes it seem somehow more... human, I guess. Whether or not that's a good thing I'm not sure.



Here at Telltale, as indeed at many companies, the totem pole dictates what kind of office equipment you have. When I first stepped through the portal into the Sardine Can earlier this year, a place for me to work was hastily erected in the fifth corner, built of spare scraps of wood from the fence outside and populated with dusty items that had been rejected or broken by other people. These included the exploding computer I wrote about back in September ("Do You Smell That?"), and also The Chair That Nobody Wanted.



In a room full of sleek, black, exotic luxury model ergonomic chairs that appeared to have been individually designed for their masters, mine was clearly the Dennis. It was small and grey and insecure. It had no arms, no headrest, and no fancy upholstery. Where the others boasted control panels for adjusting pitch, yaw, lumbar pressure, core temperature, and sleep number, mine had a single lever to move it up and down. It was a simpler concept of chair from a simpler time, something you sat on, rather than in.



I liked it. I, too, am small, and it fit me pretty well. It had a warm, homey, endearing quality, like an old blanket or a dog that bumps into things. And since nobody coveted it, I could leave it unlocked at my desk without worrying about it being stolen.



Actually, that's not quite true. Nobody ever took my chair on purpose, but Telltale occasionally hosts focus groups and other varieties of midnight raves, and these usually involve at least one rousing game of musical chairs. So periodically I would come to the office to discover that my chair had been musicaled to some remote region, and I'd have to go find it. It was never very hard. Like I say, it didn't look much like the other chairs.



The chair and I grew comfortable, until I couldn't imagine another.



Then one day, after Bahamian Rain Tango Night (an event we stage from time to time to keep the plants properly watered), I came to work and there was an elegant, purring black jaguar with a headrest, a control panel and a heater core sitting at my desk, and The Old Grey Chair was nowhere to be found.



I looked everywhere. I checked the conference room, the watering hole, Troy's Office of Mystery, and the hockey court. I tied a rope to Greg Land and belayed him over the Blue Line. No sign of my little grey friend. I worried that it might have been washed away, or magically transformed into the sleek black machine by a team of upholsterers from "Extreme Makeover: Office Chair Edition." That evening, I hired Lance Watt-Knott, an expensive but talented local furniture detective, who brought over all sorts of sophisticated surveillance equipment. He set up a command post in the server room and began having coffee and donuts delivered in large quantities.



Meanwhile, I started sitting in the new chair. It was... dare I say it? Extremely comfortable. It was soft and roomy. It leaned back more easily than the Ol' Grey Chair. Its back-massage capabilities relaxed my body while the onboard internet connection stimulated my mind. I came to regard it as more of a sanctuary than a chair, and gradually, I accepted the fact that it was actually much nicer than the old one.



After a few weeks, I fired the detective. He was getting sprinkles all over the servers, but more importantly, I had moved on. I no longer wanted to go back to the frankly less comfortable comforts of the old chair. I was happier now, and more productive. The old grey chair is still out there somewhere, in a quiet grassy pasture I hope. Good luck to it. We'll always have Paris.



Like many of us, I'm a creature of habit. I find something I like and I stick with it. I've been wearing the same kind of shoes since 1979. Humans being the way they are, I don't know why anyone ever puts "new and improved" on a label. It might as well say "unfamiliar and scary."



But I sure do like my new chair.



Yes, and sometimes I take a long time getting to the point, and this blog is just about over, and I still haven't done so. I originally intended to tie this in to online software distribution.



But then, maybe I just did.











Editor's note: Dave is off sunning himself on a beach in Mexico while the rest of us slave away here. I am posting this on his behalf, but take no credit for his verbal meanderings, written or otherwise. -- HLL

Running of the Cows

Posted on November 2005 by TelltaleGames

Today, I learned some interesting things about cows. Did you know, for example, that there are 52 recognized breeds of cows in the United States? That female bovines do in fact naturally have horns? Or perhaps most strange of all, that the web is full of enthusiasts for the awkward, clumsy beasts?



You see, dear readers, designing games is not all fun and frolic. Oh no! It requires dedicated and serious research. Delving into facts that might make mere mortals tremble with unknown terror. This research may include everything from exposing oneself to the arctic chill of classic games freezer lockers to carving one's way through the clammy jungles of cow fan pages. It is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who tend to be easily distracted by addictive online games or thoughts of tasty burgers for lunch.





I currently am on a mailing list of intelligent folks in the gaming industry. Recently, someone mentioned the desire to become involved in games while currently being ignorant of the gaming world and all it encompasses. Games were a new interest to them, and they simply hadn't spent their formative years mired in gaming shops or strategy guides. While many of us railed for this person to immediately start seeking out games with which to educate themselves, there was also the voice of dissonance which suggested that their ignorance was actually an advantage. That they were fresh and "uncontaminated"� by previous ways of thinking about games, and rather than expose themselves to every game experience possible they should take this "fresh perspective"� and run with it. (Not literally of course, as one might run from cows, but rather in the figurative sense that their lack of education might somehow grant them remarkable new insights into games from the perspective of an outsider.)



Piffle poffle. These are words which strike at my very soul and leave me quivering in my bed at night, unable to sleep or even to concern myself with new schemes for taking over the gaming industry. Research is extremely valuable to a game developer, and in fact to a creative thinker of any kind. The more one knows about things that are similar to what one is creating, the more expansive a library of ideas they have at their disposal. The more they understand the common pitfalls of what they are trying to make, and how they might go about avoiding them. The more easily they can communicate their flashes of lightning-bright genius to their fellows.



In short, being able to conduct good research is an extremely valuable skill. For a game designer, this research is being conducted constantly. Every game played, every fact learned, every behavioral trait observed, can be stored away in the vast dusty vault of the designer's mind to be pulled out for use at a moment's notice. A designer can spend weeks at a time completely engrossed in a project. While you may think they are discussing prevalent issues amongst dairy farmers, their devious minds are considering how every word you say may be applied to their current game. Eventually this can cause break-downs in marriages and isolation from friends. But we are not here to discuss my personal problems.



Now, if you'll excuse me, I must return to my cattle appreciation web pages.

Soapbox: Why These Stories Have Puzzles

Posted on November 2005 by TelltaleGames

Heather and I have fallen into a comfortable rhythm with these blogs, and we seem to have adopted distinctly different roles. Heather handles meaty topics involving the theory, practice, and business of games, stimulating lively discussion, while I lean towards fanciful poetic commentary about the things that go on here in the office, resulting mostly in confusion and nervous chuckling. At one point I was thinking that this week's blog would be about my chair. But Heather's contribution last week got me all fired up, dealing as it did with a topic near and dear to me: interactive narrative. So I thought I'd pretend I know something about it.



Like Heather, I've often sat jamming pencils into my forehead while listening to people debating whether it's better to give a player total control over a narrative, or none at all, and like Heather I also think the most interesting area lies smack in the middle. Consider the word "interactive," meaning "capable of acting on or influencing each other." People often forget that interactivity implies TWO parties, in this case a player and a designer, each of whom is empowered to exert some influence over the other. Take it too far in either direction and you don't have interactivity, you just have activity.



But how do you accomplish a collaboration with someone you've never met? The Player is trouble. The Player is an untrained, wildly unpredictable pest who is going to come in and make all sorts of terrible decisions about where to go and when to do what. Or possibly not, but as a designer you have to assume the worst, and set things up so that your story, at least the parts you consider important, will bend but not break, no matter what The Player tries to do to ruin things. This turns out to be trickier than it sounds. There is a certain temptation to seize absolute control and force matters, an easy solution - but one which defeats the purpose of working in an interactive medium. The Player gets to mess with your story. Your pacing is at his mercy. Get used to it. If you don't like it, write a movie instead.



What it boils down to, mainly, is timing and structure. The activities of The Player prevent you as the designer from having strict control over either of those. This tends to really bother writers used to more traditional media, where timing and structure are the two major tools used to accomplish, well, practically everything.



A certain amount of flexibility is required, but you don't necessarily have to give up the whole pizza. There are things you can do to exert influence without seizing absolute authority. For example, one of my favorite wrenches is what we tend to refer to as "puzzles," though it's not important that they be particularly puzzley in nature, just that they be "things you have to do over here before you can do that over there." I call them puzzles out of habit, but I think I tend to think of them more as "dependent opportunities." From a story standpoint these serve a ridiculously useful and important function: they provide a way to structure the experience in a way that does not feel forced. Provided the player is given a believable reason that Event B can't happen until after Event A, say for example B involves a plane flight and A involves an airline ticket, then the ordering of A and B becomes a comfortable, logical feature of the world you've created, rather than an arbitrary imposition of the Tyrannical Story Overlord.



If you wanted to, you could put the whole story in a specific sequence by making each event dependent on the event you wanted to precede it. This is very orderly, but the more you do it, the more you restrict the actions of the player, and it starts to feel like there isn't much freedom. Because there isn't. Might as well watch a movie. Conversely, you could have a story without any dependencies at all, so that events can happen in any order. Now there's loads of freedom, but the story is completely chaotic and probably makes very little sense, in which case why bother with story at all?



Finding a good balance between the order and the chaos is, in my opinion, one of the key elements of effective interactive story design. Telling the story lies neither in narrating a specific sequence of events in a specific order, nor in giving the player the opportunity to do whatever he pleases. Rather, it lies in creating a network of interdependent possible actions, which result in a story loosely organized by the designer, but ultimately under the direction of the player.



See, game design isn't really all that hard.



OK, end of soapbox. In two weeks: we return to regular programming with a gripping tale about my office chair.


Hey! There's a game in my story! (Or is there a story in my game?)

Posted on October 2005 by TelltaleGames

For many years now, a debate has echoed through the vaulted halls of academia. Professors, grad students and authors of distinguished books have been seen spewing venom from their lips and shooting daggers from their eyes at each other in the hallways and ballrooms and hotel bars of international conferences. The argument is usually termed "the narratology vs. ludology debate"� or, more commonly "you know, that game-narrative thing"�. I will not go into great detail here about the battles fought, victories won, casualties lost or narrative readings of Tetris since it will most likely result in staggering levels of reader boredom, especially in those familiar with the debate. Suffice to say, the question is this: does (or should) narrative have anything to do with games?



Given the name of our company, I'd be shocked and appalled if you feel yourself ignorant of our stance on this issue. To me then, the more interesting question is: what is the best way to tell a story in an interactive medium, such as games? Opinions on this are just as sharply divided as on that game-narrative thing.



A few Game Developer Conferences ago, I unexpectedly found myself sitting with an esteemed group of game types in a round table on "Stories in Games"�. A "round table"� is a session during which a group of esteemed game types stuff themselves into a small room no bigger than a shoe box (not unlike Telltale's former offices) in order to listen to the loudest and most extroverted of the group attempt to force their opinions on others. In this case, the opinions seemed to fall into two camps: the "meaningful stories need linearity"� camp and the "non-linearity is KING baby!"� camp.



Arguments were hot and heavy, but the basic concern of the first camp can be summed up as "We have a meaningful story to tell. If we put this meaningful story into the hands of the players, they're just gonna mess it up!"� Across the shoebox, their opponents insisted "The holy grail of games is non-linearity and letting the players make their own stories"� "But those stories will suck!"� whined the first group "Games are interactive! You just want to steal the players' freedom!"� whinged the second.



No one was brave enough to step between the two unruly mobs and suggest that there may be a place in gamerdom for different games with different takes on story. That, in fact, the type of game one wants to make and the goals of the developer may inform what exactly the role of story might be for that particular game. That in fact there are trade-offs between story and interactivity and the amount you want to do both.




But wait...trade-offs? Can't stories and interactivity work together? Well here's the crux of the problem, my adoring fans, and the reason those two viciously vocal camps had formed in the first place: stories, as we are used to them, are highly linear affairs, whereas the nature of games is interactivity. Yes, there has been exciting work in film, television and books that play with this linearity, but the bulk of audiences around the world LIKE their stories nice, clean, and linear. Linearity makes sense, from our own perspective of how the world works. We as human creatures have many choices at any given time but ultimately we make a chain of selections which comprise the story of how our day went (or our week, month, life, etc). Watching a movie is not about watching all possible choices the characters COULD make, but rather the results of the choices they DO make. A story is telling something that has happened. A game is happening now. The nature of interactivity is agency and choice. Interactive means that I, as a player, have some control over the possibilities presented to me.



One can see how this might make linear medium storytellers nervous. If a writer has a specific story she wants to tell, then giving the player the ability to run amok in her carefully crafted world decapitating all her richly developed characters is enough to make her wake screaming in the middle of the night, waking her spouse, and disturbing her herd of guinea pigs. It's hard enough to communicate through a linear medium: how on earth is one to communicate to players of an interactive game?



One solution is to allow the player the tools with which they can make their own story, such as with The Sims, Animal Crossing, or Grand Theft Auto III (depending on your play style). However, there are times -- such as when pouring over the design of Bone 2 in the light of a pale and gray early morning -- where the designer does want to tell a specific story. Games do have one megalithic advantage as a story-telling medium over other mediums -- games can bring the player into the story through interactivity. But the interactivity needs to support the sense of being a part of that story and a part of that world. Which once again leads to the problem: how much a part of the world does one allow the player be while still supporting the integrity of the story one wants to tell?



While this is not insurmountable, neither is it trivial. The challenge is to allow the player to play the important parts of the story, and yet to sneakily guide the player along the points that they cannot be given the power to change. This is the challenge that I, as a game designer, most want to meet head on. I feel that it is laziness to plan the most critical and important story moments as cutscenes. This changes the role of the player from being a part of the action to being a mere spectator. In the end I want the player to lie awake at night re-living the game in the haze of pre-sleep and think "wasn't it great when I did this?"� instead of "wasn't it great when this happened?"� Being more than a ghostly, god-like spectator is the true magic of games as a medium and I feel that as a developer it is my responsibility to make the most of that magic and twist it to my own wicked ends.

Implications of the Somewhat Paperless Office

Posted on October 2005 by TelltaleGames

It was one of those days when I arrive at the office and everyone is off at some local watering hole celebrating Arbor Day or Warren Robinett's birthday, and for a little while I can just bask in the quiet and answer my email and goof off playing online Flash games without anyone looking over my shoulder. I was deeply immersed in "Grow," contemplating strategies regarding the egg and the ladder, when I heard a polite cough from the vicinity of the main airlock.



Turning, I saw that three men had somehow managed to bypass our sophisticated Mission Impossible security system and infiltrate the office. They were meticulously dressed and stood conspicuously upright with their hands tucked away from view until they were needed for shaking. Their smiles had the appearance of having been workshopped, and their failure to blink made my eyes water profusely. One was slightly larger than the other two and did all the talking. My first impression was that they were religious zealots, which in a way they were: they were selling office supplies.



Fortunately, I was not actually completely alone. Aaron Foltz does not celebrate Warren Robinett's birthday because of certain deeply held philosophical convictions. He is trained in the application of several obscure, painful martial arts, and has loads of experience dealing with remorseless, manicured stapler-selling cyborgs. We keep him under glass for just such emergencies. Aaron flowed out smoothly to my rescue.



The battle raged for several hours, but the salesmen never stood a chance. They hurled enticements and alligator clips and all sorts of secret Street Fighter II power-up attacks, which Aaron coolly deflected. "We don't really need that much paper," I heard him say as he nonchalantly blasted the lead cyborg with a massive fireball.



"I can extend the discount!" protested the cyborg, writhing in agony. "You'll just need an account number. For pity's sake, let me give you an account number!"



In the end the intruders were repelled, shuffling reluctantly away, but with their heads held high in case anyone was watching. I last spotted them heading towards the dry cleaner a few doors down, though whether they intended to supply business or solicit it is anyone's guess.



Anyway, Aaron's battle cry, "We don't really need that much paper," got me thinking about Telltale and just how much paper we don't use here.



I remember some years ago, around the same time that computers were being billed as "productivity tools" rather than "distracting objects that allow you to play online Flash games instead of working," evangelists would talk about this great utopia called The Paperless Office where all information would be passed around in electronic form, making everything somehow much better. It was going to change all our lives. Of course what really happened was that word processors allowed people to create more documents faster, and printers allowed them to print more documents faster, and most places of business wound up increasing their use of paper by several orders of magnitude.



Not so Telltale, though. It's not the fabled Paperless Office by any stretch of the imagination, but it's probably the closest thing I'VE ever seen to one. As I look around, the one place I can see where there's a fair amount of paper clutter is my own desk. But it still pales when compared to my desk at Phrenopolis, and a significant chunk of the volume consists of a printout of the complete script for Out From Boneville, which I was handed on my first day here and which I have been using for scratch paper ever since (I'm the sort who likes to take copious notes with pen and paper and then put them in piles where I'll never find them again). Yesterday I printed out a copy of a design doc for Bone 2 that was twenty pages long, and I felt really wasteful. No one else is printing it out. People actually read documents electronically here.



Hooray for the environment!



Of course, there's something else I've noticed a dearth of here in comparison to my last place of work: paper airplanes. I have yet to see a single flattened-out SST swooping past the ficus, corkscrewing dangerously towards the eyeball of some unsuspecting game designer. Unnecessary paper is necessary for paper airplane construction. And of course the paper airplane industry is one of the indicators used to compute the Office Enjoyability Index -- a shortage could conceivably bring Telltale to its knees.



Also, I've been seeing reports on the news about a plague of trees overrunning the area. These leafy green monsters are everywhere all of a sudden, sucking up water and causing droughts, falling over on people in high winds, leaking sticky substances all over my truck. There are some in our parking lot. There's a big one right outside the window! Yes, and there's no proof that sudden oak death is communicable to humans, but no one has bothered to do a study, now, have they?



And what about those poor hardworking devils in the recycling sector? Collecting and repurposing paper is a big part of their business. We're talking about unemployment on a grand scale, here.



Our games don't even have any packaging! No boxes, no printed manuals, no little inserts advertising other titles, no questionnaires disguised as warranty cards, nothing! Just a delicate haze of electrons. Online distribution is socially irresponsible! A picket line of starving print-shop employees has been demonstrating outside the office. This morning they held Greg Frank down and gave him a nasty paper cut. The situation is becoming ugly.



This is why I have decided to begin lobbying for Telltale to make games that are played on paper. Lots and lots of paper. I have this great idea for a version of Hangman, where you get to make up the words yourself, and even design your own gibbet. I'm also planning a two-player game where you battle for control over a small grid by placing Xs and Os in each of its nine squares, sort of a miniature version of Go, loosely based on an old TV show I once saw. Coming soon to a paper and pen near you.



Somebody's got to save the world now that nobody plays Pictionary any more.


Gazing into the Future of the Past

Posted on October 2005 by TelltaleGames

I do not represent the sharp business minds of Telltale Inc. I am, by trade, a game designer. I also consider myself, by personal inclination, a game researcher.



Now, all game designers are game researchers to different degrees. Ideas are not simply pulled out of thin air as you might suspect. It is often useful to turn to what we in academia refer to as "prior art"� for inspiration. My academic bent confers to me a thirst for understanding all games in all their myriad and complex forms. This means a great deal of time spent with "prior art"�.



I once briefly had a stint working in a Warner Bros. Studio Store Gallery. We sold original animation cels as well as limited edition art based on the Warner Bros. properties. What fascinated and appalled me was that at certain times in the animation studio's history, these beautiful cels were simply washed off and re-used. No one conceived of the fact that some day far in the future anyone would actually want the things!



Astounding parallels can be found in the history of digital entertainment. Who at Atari all those twenty-some-odd years ago would have imagined that anyone today would be purchasing plug-and-play joysticks containing 15 of their titles for $20 each at Urban Outfitters? Digital games have long been considered a temporal medium -- when the newest technology comes out, why would anyone still care about last week's entertainment? Especially now that the new offering is flashier, prettier, longer?



It doesn't take much web-based excavation to discover that people do still care. And BOY do they care! Take the vast number of "Abandonware"� sites, where one can download a vast number of previously released games, on the premise that if no one is selling these games, people should be able to play them. Following in this "if no one is looking then it's legal"� line of thinking are the online repositories of games for MAME, an emulator that allows one to play classic (and not so classic) games that were originally released for now ancient platforms. In fact, emulators for every digital platform known to humankind are available if one knows where to look. No matter how old or obscure the game, if the effort to track it down is made, it can be found.



However, very little of this is legal. For righteous and law-abiding folks like myself, this causes a certain amount of frustration. The quandary being this: I have heard about X neat feature in Y old game. This game is no longer available through any commercial means, so now what? Many companies choose to sit on their old assets instead of releasing them to the public and allowing new generations of gamers to enjoy these pinnacles of game creation. Why this is, I still cannot imagine. If there is no intention to make a profit off these titles, then why in blistering blue blazes shouldn't players be allowed to play them? If my intention is to stay "legit"�, my only available option is to scour E-Bay for someone's copy of the original game (hoping all the while that it isn't a rare title) then try to get this archaic museum piece to run on my modern technology (or else continue to scour E-Bay in order to find the original equipment).



In this light, it is easy to see one reason why the digital distribution model makes some gamers/collectors/researchers a bit queasy. If the game only ever existed digitally, scouring future E-Bay for present titles in order to relive one's past will not be a viable option. What is to guarantee the game's availability once the game is no longer a revenue source for its parent company, not only to future players but to those who bought the game in the first place and now want to play it on their new machines?



Until I get this dratted window-to-the-future-machine finished (I am dealing with a few minor set-backs) I will not be able to know how well Telltale Texas Hold Em or Bone: Out From Boneville will play when I am old and decrepit and only have my gaming nostalgia to distract me from my creaking bones. Telltale intends to ensure that this will be possible and I can only support those efforts. As a game researcher, I understand the importance of making these games available into the future. As a game designer, I want always for people to be able to play the games I have labored over. And as a gamer without the patience to try and make E-Bay purchases work on my modern technology I hope that those companies who choose to hoard their defunct titles rather than making them available to the public eventually come to see the light.

A Chicken that Tastes Like Banana

Posted on October 2005 by TelltaleGames

Those who read my other blog or who've visited The Pumpkin House of Horrors will already be painfully aware that Halloween is my official favorite holiday, and that I spend most of the rest of the year waiting for it to come around so I can put small creepy things all over my house and dress like a mad scientist without raising too many eyebrows. And eat candy, oh yes, lots and lots of candy.



The Halloween candy season at the offices of Telltale Games began this year in that uncertain period after the first people arrive at the conference room for a meeting but before a quorum has been reached, the hazy period where you don't want to begin talking about the meeting itself but can't quite get your mind to go elsewhere. Jon Sgro broke the pencil-tapping quiet by asking if anybody knew where would be the nearest place to get candy corn. Candy corn. Mmmmmm.



There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can resist the siren call of candy corn, and those who cannot. As it happened, all four of the people in the conference room at that moment fell into the latter category, and a lively discussion of the merits and composition of candy corn ensued (candy corn does contain four or five different kinds of sugar, but, contrary to what you might expect, no wax whatsoever). Eventually the meeting started, but down in the cellars of our brains, we were thinking about candy corn.



A bowl of candy corn appeared the next day, and the chomping began immediately. A game designer quaking on a dextrose binge is not a very pretty sight, it's like watching a large nervous animal in a small cage. This is why the press is not allowed anywhere near our building during the month of October. Yes, and the candy corn supply has already been replenished numerous times by various addicts, mostly Jon and me.



And candy corn was just the beginning. Jon and Heather went out one afternoon and returned with a pumpkin-shaped vat full of assorted sugary Halloween treats. These were extremely popular, and the vat was reduced to Dennis in short order.



Perhaps I should explain that: Dennis was someone I knew growing up, a small, skinny kid with a large head, kind of clumsy. Nice guy, but he was always picked last when choosing up sides for whatever game we happened to be playing (I was usually next-to-last, except when Dennis wasn't around). A similar dynamic of leftovers occurs with a bowlful of nuts or a plastic vat of candy: there tends to be a bunch of one type of tragically unwanted item remaining after all else is gone. In this particular instance, the Dennis was banana taffy.



I'm not sure what people around here have against banana taffy -- maybe they've all got crowns or other expensive taffy-susceptible dental work (speaking of which, I hope my dentist doesn't read this blog). Maybe there was a banana scare before I started working here that no one talks about. But for whatever reason, suddenly there was a bucket of banana taffy just sitting there.



I approached it uncertainly at first, thinking of my dentist and expensive dental work. But taffy is a play-with-me food, and I succumbed to the allure and took a piece.



Taffy is like edible modeling clay. This particular brand comes in a neatly-packaged rectangular shape. I took the wrapper off, warmed it in my hands a bit to soften it, and then began working it. I rolled it into a ball, then a cylinder, squashed and stretched and pinched and prodded. I spiraled it and extruded little bits at one end. I made a small model of the Eiffel Tower. I did a chicken, then squeezed it into bust of Millard Fillmore. I made a banana-flavored banana slug, then ate it before Greg Frank (who went to a school where the mascot is a banana slug) could get his hands on it. I took another piece. My hands began to get sticky.



I should mention that while I was doing this, I was not simply goofing off. It gave my hands something to do while we were working on the design for the next Bone episode, and the similarities did not escape me. It's taken me a long time to get to the point, but here it is: doing a design based on an existing story is a lot like making little chickens with your taffy.



When you adapt an existing story to another medium, you take the wrapper off and warm it in your hands to soften it. You push and pull and stretch, changing its shape to take advantage of the strengths of the new medium while avoiding the weaknesses (in our field, most of both of these have to do with that powerful but sometimes pesky interloper: interactivity). And in the end, you wind up with something new made of the original material, something that has changed its shape without changing its flavor. A chicken that tastes like banana, or a Telltale game that tastes like Bone. Typically you do all of this with other people, making the design process much like a group taffy pull. You all get very sticky.



And now that I've said that I should probably get back to work, but I'll report that we're well into the design at this point, and I have to say I'm pleased with it so far. The shape feels good -- and it definitely tastes like banana.






Manual Labor

Posted on September 2005 by TelltaleGames

During my brief stint at that other company, I sat very close to a gent whose job it was to write manuals. He was quite diligent and proficient at his job, but a sense of defeat always hung over him like a dank black cloud of pestilence. null



He would slink back and forth between his desk and the game he was documenting with all the enthusiasm of the final remaining rat who knows full well there is no other sucker rat left to stand between him and the boa constrictor's dinner plate. It wasn't that our manual writer friend didn't enjoy his work. It was simply that he had accepted deep into his soul that his daily labor was, in fact, utterly futile.



No one reads manuals. You know that, I know that, everyone who plays games or works with them knows that. So why do we game companies insist on spending time and money writing up documentation and laying out colorful graphics?



Contemplating this issue brings me back to some of the happier moments of my childhood. I would clutch my newly purchased game to my rapidly palpitating heart as I climbed into our family vehicle on our way home from the computer store. I would have to wait until I returned to our domicile to actually play the game, but I could tear open the shrink wrap and practically live the experience simply through reading the manual. I could get a feel for what to expect in terms of the story, the gameplay, the controls. Even now I live vicariously through game manuals when I am forced to slave away deep into the night, not being able to see my husband or my home PC for days at a time.



What shocks me greatly is that even in these days of in-game tutorials and streamlined controls, sometimes there is still information in the manual that you actually >gasp< need! I have occasionally found manuals to be a more complete source of necessary information than the tidbits offered in-game. Why this is, I cannot say, but I suppose that manuals can be added to and edited long after the code in a game must be locked down.



I recall playing Ico, and getting stuck in the very beginning of the game. The princess you have just rescued from a hanging cage is being sucked down into a pit of shadowy darkness while inky creatures assault your character. You have a stick. Admittedly, you can light the stick on fire, but even so it was impossible to actually save the princess. While my husband stubbornly assaulted the creatures and the dark pit itself (and finally even the princess) in every way he could possibly imagine, I coolly turned to the manual. And there it was. You pressed a different button to pull the girl out of the black pit of doom. While I triumphantly pulled the princess to safety, he snorted with derision "It should've told me that in the game."� It gave me great joy to mock him ceaselessly and tell him he should've read the manual.



And thus it was with grim bitterness that I turned to creating the manual for Bone: Out From Boneville. Yet, in order to uphold time-honored gaming tradition, it had to be done. It doesn't matter if no one ever skims its pleasing yellow pages, or through its perusal discovers that there is a feature or two they might not even know existed in the game. The manual is a proper part of the package. I believe it would be missed if it were not present.



Just don't be expecting to see cloth maps anytime soon.

Okay... you ready? Start it up!

Posted on September 2005 by TelltaleGames

Whoa, what's this thing? Episodic internet content? Hit the power button. Let's see what happens.

The circuits are humming as Telltale officially began its journey into the world of adventure games last Thursday. In a scant 6 months the first major offering, Bone: Out from Boneville is available to folks looking to slake their thirst for story based entertainment. And oh my! What a buzz!



The message boards have been hopping as a mulitiude of reactions wrestle each other to reach the forefront of popular opinion. I thought I'd been exhausted during the final days of finishing Bone but I've honestly been even more overwhelmed just keeping up with the tidal wave of response since the release last week. It's a harrowing and exciting experience to sink your soul into a project and then let the world at it. I want to thank everyone who has taken time out of their day to play our game and record their thoughts on both its successes and shortcomings. It's been invaluable to the Telltale staff to sift through the letters and assess what we can accomplish going forward as we continue to grow in the land of episodic adventure games.



The knowledge that we're going to be able to iterate upon the momentum of this first game in an extremely short time has me excited for the future of Telltale and the adventure game genre in general. I've not experienced this option in all my years in the games industry and I'm chomping at the bit to roll up the sleeves again and refine our hits and rethink our misses.



The machine has been plugged in and the wheels are turning! Keep the thoughts coming folks, it's only going to continue getting better!


Do You Smell That?

Posted on September 2005 by TelltaleGames

Postulative science tells us that the combined cognitive resonance of twenty brains in intense concentration is enough to generate a hum detectable by some animals at a distance of over a quarter mile. Fortunately for productivity at Telltale, the frequency is too high for human hearing, but dogs were howling all over the neighborhood last week when Heather's voice floated from somewhere northeast of me.



"Dave, do you smell that?"



It's funny, when someone asks if you smell something, you stop and give a sniff or two, and you're not just checking: you actively WANT to smell the something, regardless of its nature, subtle or pungent, sweet or disgusting. There's a certain desire to affirm a common experience with another human being, to establish a camaraderie with which to ward off the chill of an empty universe -- we are not alone, you and I, because here we are together, both smelling this same something. Whatever it is.



"Yes," I said, because I did smell something. There was a faint aroma of burning, like a match in the closet or a brush fire in the hills. I figured it was probably just somebody's frontal lobe overloading, so, having established a chill-warding smell-camaraderie, I went back to work.



But the smell seemed to be getting stronger. Other people started noticing it as well, and with the idea that the brush fire in the hills might actually be a brush fire in the office came the desire to track it down, lest we all perish in a sudden Hollywood-film conflagration, blazing beams falling out of the ceiling and crashing down on the actors in reverse-fame order. People got up and started circling, noses in the air. I think I saw something similar on PBS recently, a nature show in which a pack of hyenas locate a dead hippopotamus.




It was quickly decided that the dead hippopotamus was, in fact, my very own computer. As I bent to check it, it suddenly EXPLODED IN A HUGE FIREBALL, shattering the windows and slamming me into a wall! OK, OK, no, I'm making that up. The monitor screen abruptly went black, and I cut the power immediately. No open flames were observed, but the burning smell was quite powerful by this point, and the back of the machine was noticeably hot to the touch.



The reaction from the spectators was perplexing. No shrieks of horror, no woeful condolences, in fact, no signs of surprise whatsoever. There were knowing nods, some chuckles, and a general atmosphere of camaraderie, much stronger than the smelling-the-same-thing kind, as though this were a common occurrence and I had now completed a rite of passage and become a member of some kind of secret society.



I was a bit thrown to learn that having your computer's power supply burn to a cinder is indeed a common occurrence at Telltale. It had already happened to quite a few people in the room. My machine, unbeknownst to me, was on a watch list of likely suspects in Aaron Foltz's desk drawer. It fit some sort of volatile hardware profile, and apparently everybody but me had been sitting around, quietly waiting for it to go up in flames.



Inside of two minutes, a new power supply and a screwdriver appeared on my desk. Randy Tudor taught me the secret handshake, somebody brought out cookies and cider, and there was a brief celebration while I ceremoniously repaired the stricken computer. And I was up and running again in less time than it takes coffee to cool.



I have since learned that, of the machines on the suspect watch list, only one has yet to fail. We all know where it is, and Graham McDermott is quailing at his desk as I write, the sword hanging over his quivering head by a gradually fraying thread.



Astoundingly, the fact that our development hardware roasts itself on a regular basis has not confounded our attempts to finish Out from Boneville. I am at a loss to explain this. Perhaps the gentle glow of blazing silicon is the candle that lights the way in the darkness. Perhaps... but hey, didn't you hear me? Out from Boneville is finished! Go download it, there's game to be played!


Actual Stuff!

Posted on September 2005 by TelltaleGames

"Out from Boneville"� is just about complete, so that means Telltale is about to again enter into the dangerous world I like to call "Actual Stuff"�. Sure we're generous with concept art, screenshots, movies, interviews and remarkably well crafted blogs such as this. But it's when we get the opportunity to give you "actual stuff"� that the rubber hits the road. And it's the part I love best.


You see, a few years ago a number of us here at Telltale were busy doling out the usual fare of concept art, screenshots, movies and interviews (though no blogs), whilst we were working on some "dog and bunny"� type stuff for another game studio (whose name escapes me at the moment.) Then, quite suddenly, we were asked to stop working on the "actual stuff."� And that "actually"� sucked! Back then, we only brought you stuff every few years, so this was really a set back from our perspective (and I'm certain yours.)


So now we're doing things a little differently. You see, we had some "actual stuff"� in April. Perhaps you're familiar with the award winning Telltale Texas Hold'Em? Though it is a little out of the norm, it was still pretty funny (and notably "actual"�.) And now here we are in September with more stuff! Your new favorite game, Out from Boneville! And guess what? There's even more stuff on the way! Not years from now, but in the Spring! More Bone games and other great stuff. Honest!


So you see, we're not going to give morsals of "actual stuff"� once or twice a decade like we used to (Sorry about that, btw). Nope, for better or for worse, we're giving you the goods every few months. Don't worry, there will still be plenty of concept art, screenshots, movies, interviews and remarkably well crafted blogs for you to dig through, so it won't seem completely foreign. And I think (over time) this notion of "actual stuff"� won't seem so strange and uncomfortable. We think you might actually like it.

Unfocused Group

Posted on August 2005 by TelltaleGames

Kurt Vonnegut once said "Write to please just one person." I find this advice applicable to games as well as to more linear forms, and whenever I'm working on a design I keep an imaginary someone in my head who will be playing the finished product. At one time that player was my dad, but now that he has become computer savvy I have had to fire him and replace him with someone more usefully naive, an enthusiastic but inexperienced dabbler called Tip.



As I'm working, I ask myself: "Is Tip going to be able to figure this out?" and "What sorts of things is Tip likely to try here?" and "Is Tip going to get the obscure cultural reference which is critical to the solution of this puzzle?" I generally assume that Tip, while intelligent, has not only never seen a game like this one before, but has spent a lifetime locked in a small closet and thus has very little practical experience beyond what has been shown in the game up to this point.



While Tip is indispensable to have around, there are certain limitations stemming from the fact that he or she is imaginary, and once in a while it's good to get some flesh and blood human beings into the office to play the game and provide some fresh insights. We did this last night with a small cadre of friends and relations.



People watching people playing gamesOur test subjects arrived by hired limousine at around six o'clock, just minutes before Daniel broke something frightening and dangerous near the Blue Line*. Emergency hazmat crews handled the situation neatly, however, and by six thirty we were allowed to re-enter the building and the office was a busy warren of people playing games and even more people watching people playing games.



If you let a pack of wild jackals loose in a balsa wood living room, you find out very quickly what is sturdily constructed and what is not, and a pack of friends and relations is no different. They do not walk where they are supposed to, they do not think the way they are supposed to, they do not follow the intended path in any way. Which is good, because you've already had plenty of time to make sure the intended path is fun. The jackals frolic in the underbrush and swim in the lake and sniff out situations you hadn't anticipated, thus giving you the opportunity to make sure there is fun in those places as well.



They usually uncover a few peculiar bugs to boot -- ours were no exception. They also had a few helpful suggestions about eyebrows and how to cure hiccups.



When we had observed our jackals long enough, we fed them a variety of healthy meats and vegetables served on exotic edible platters made of dough (some sort of European delicacy), along with a choice of sucrose beverage, and then we opened the shackles and let them go home. But the event has left a lasting impression. I was inspired by the volume of what we learned from these people, and I have decided to try to apply the same method in other areas of my life. In the supermarket this morning I gathered the shoppers on the cereal aisle to give me some impromptu feedback on the contents of my cart. Afterwards, I decided to buy fresh pasta instead of dry, and am going to experiment with grilling rutabaga (speaking of which, try saying "rutabaga barbecue" five times fast). Tomorrow evening I'm having friends over to stress-test the kitchen, and this weekend I plan to focus group my toothpaste.



It's a brave new world!




(*Mysteriously, the Blue Line no longer says "Do Not Cross." But no one does.)

Hot Coffee*

Posted on August 2005 by TelltaleGames

I had a most unpleasant experience this past weekend. There I was, out shopping for equipment to help me fulfill my latest evil scheme when I had a sudden craving for a rich smooth chocolaty iced mocha. A half an hour later, this craving turned into a full blown raging desire, and shortly thereafter I developed a painful headache and severe crankiness (well, more severe than normal.) That's when it finally hit me. I have become a slave to the dark caffeine overlords.



You see, since it was the weekend, I had slept in late. And having slept in late, I assumed I would be fine going without my weekday-ritual iced coffee with mint syrup. But alas, I was wrong. Before I knew it the demons were clawing at my insides, sending pain into my skull, and causing me to lash out at even the most minor of offenses. Sipping my frosty and calming iced mocha, I paused to reflect. How did it come to this?



At grad school I had cultivated a one iced mocha, one red bull a day caffeine habit. The many months of freedom from schedules I enjoyed during the several months between graduate school and beginning my employment with Telltale allowed me to shake this habit. I swore I would never go back, but quickly succumbed to the fact that being up early in the morning was eased greatly by a cup of the ol' joe. Having a coffee machine available in the office did nothing to help my resolve. I imbibed intermittently until I started recently riding into work with intern Jeff, who was in the habit of getting coffee on the way to the office. This was my ultimate downfall. I drank my morning coffee every day, and recently have even begun occasionally splurging on more caffeine in the afternoon. If it's available, it is very difficult for me to turn it down. My psychological need is based firmly in the belief that caffeine gives me more energy and provides the neccessary intensity I need to conduct the business that needs to be conducted during the working day.



Game development, I am saddened to report, fosters many bad habits. Like sitting inside all day without any fresh air or sunshine, repetitive stress syndrome, neglecting one's loved ones and reliance on stimulants to get through the day (including, but not limited to: caffeine, nicotine, and boston cream donuts). Games always want to have more things in them then there is reasonably time for, and so game development pushes the limits of sane working practices. Game developers push themselves to the breaking point to meet milestones and get that last little (or big) touch in before the game is ready to ship. Certain members of the Telltale staff haven't been home in weeks, and most of us have begun regularly indulging in our particular vices.



Dave F. averages about 3 espressos a day.

Greg F. chugs a whole Rockstar energy drink in the late afternoons.

Kevin has a Dr. Pepper hoard in his office, and probably drinks about five of them a day.

Jon doesn't drink coffee, but has perfected the 10 minute power nap, and will happily devour any sugary-sweet pastry things that show up in the office.

Daniel also skips out on the coffee, but sucks down Mexican salty-mango-jalapeño candy. Mmmm....sweet salty jalapeñoness....



Despite all this, Telltale is far more humane than some other game companies. (Aside from locking employees in closets and sending them to the Bermuda triangle, of course). A certain friend of mine at a certain large company recently told me how she has been in "crunch time"� since February. Seven months of not having any free weekends or evenings. I wonder what her caffeine consumption is like?



None of this is new...it is common knowledge that making games requires complete dedication and the sacrifice of running yourself into the ground mentally, emotionally and physically. The question I am most often asked when telling others that I am a game designer is "what kind of hours do you work?"� And yet we do it anyway. Why?



I can't answer for anyone but myself, though I would guess my fellow Telltaleites have similar motivations. Making games is intensely creative. Everyone involved makes creative decisions of some kind every day, whether they be about art, design or problem solving. Creativity is very rewarding. There's nothing like a decision that you've agonized over resulting in a great triumph. The rush involved is far stronger than even the most taurine-packed energy drink. I also care deeply about the project I am working on and want it to be the best it can possibly be. I have something I want to share with the gaming community at large, something I think they will really enjoy. I would be much less eager to wake up, slurp down my iced coffee with mint syrup, and come to work caffeinated and ready for action if it were otherwise.








*No, not THAT hot coffee.....

Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures

Posted on August 2005 by TelltaleGames

I methodically brush bristly hairs and bits of quiche from my shirt, pausing for a moment to reflect upon the unusual hazards facing the designer of computer games. This week, it's been rat creatures. Loud, unruly monsters, pouncing upon me repeatedly at my desk, squashing my plants and drooling all over my notes as they discuss the culinary possibilities of my meatier limbs. More than once I have been moved to wonder whether I might have been better off as an accountant or carpeting inspector. Carpeting inspectors rarely have to worry about being attacked by rat creatures.



[Dave at his desk]The rat creatures, you see, are characters from Bone - a lot of you probably knew that already, but just in case you didn't: the rat creatures are characters from Bone, big hairy guys who are somewhat loveable despite their fangs, claws, and frequent attempts to eat the other characters. I've been working on a scene with them this week. They take direction well, but get sidetracked easily. And they break things. Stupid, stupid rat creatures.



I was also working with the rat creatures last week, and the week before. Rat creatures, rat creatures, rat creatures. Their piquant breath has infiltrated my clothing and their husky cackling keeps me awake at night. I've started calling Daniel Herrera "small mammal"� and I think it's freaking him out. Why am I spending so much time with them? It's the RUG principle.



The RUG principle is an important maxim of game design. It stands for "Rework Until Good,"� and it is the reason why a day in the life of a scene or a puzzle sometimes stretches out into a week or a month. Although these things occasionally flit from the mind of the designer and alight directly on the screen with the wave of a wand and a soft ping, it is far more likely that there is a heavy splat and some clean-up involved. Yes, and cleaning up after rat creatures is an unappetizing task, but somebody's got to do it.



The current version of the scene does indeed seem Good, but it has taken some effort to get it there. Don't get me wrong, it's been entertaining, clever, and true to the characters all along, but the subtleties of interactivity can sometimes be hard to gauge until you get them on the screen and tinker with them. If you were to play the last few weeks of the Telltale security camera footage of my desk at fast forward, my exasperated chokes and gasps would sound like a machine gun as the rat creature scene progressed through three distinct designs, and the phrase "stupid, stupid rat creatures,"� uttered by me with ever increasing frequency, would change from an exclamation to a mantra, finally blending into a continuous background hum.



You might also notice me becoming more rat creature-like in appearance, gradually hunching over, fingernails extending, eyes widening and bulging, hair sprouting from unusual places. I begin drooling, jumping up on the desk, squashing the plants. Bits of quiche cover my shirt.



Hello, small mammal!


To Rule is Cool

Posted on August 2005 by TelltaleGames


I was born in the Haight Ashbury district in San Franciso, USA, and spent a carefree childhood steeped in the lore and traditions of the area. As you may be aware, the Haight is famous for having been a key location to the "Summer of Love"�, when hippies gathered in droves to live a free-wheeling bohemian lifestyle and preach about love and understanding. Most of my youth was spent believing that "the summer of love"� simply referred to the peak of a long period of living a life free from struggle while providing an example to the world of peace to the world. It was years later that I discovered the "Summer of Love"� was literally that -- a summer. It wasn't the peak of a several year-long movement. It was, in fact, the entirety of a several month long movement. Peace, man



This saddened me and crushed all my ideals of peace and love, turning me into the caustic and cynical creature I am today. But on reflection, the short duration of the "Summer"� made sense. After all, the lifestyle was the only "job"� these people had. They lived it fully and enthusiastically, but all that love took a great deal of energy, and they didn't have time for such things as making money for rent or groceries. It was a brief, glorious flash of good feelings and flowers and then it was over and done. The hippies "sold out"�: found employment, purchased homes by the beach, created families and adopted puppies.



My painful memories of bitter disillusionment came to me recently when I read a comment by one of our long-time fans that said they liked us better when we were edgy and suffering. Doubtless this was meant to be ironic and he doesn't actually want us to suffer (or at least I hope that's the case). But it did make me think: what happens when Telltale quintuples in size and succeeds in taking over the world? Will our fans abandon us in search of a younger, hipper, edgier, more drenched in suffering company? Is the inherent "coolness"� of a company directly disproportionate to the size of its market share, the number of employees it has, or the square feet of its offices?



True, there is a certain masochistic romance to working in a sardine can, sweating to death in the oven-like San Rafael heat, and losing two hours of work a week to power outages. However, while suffering for one's art may be the height of nobility, it is not long sustainable. Game developers need room to stretch, grow oxygen-giving plants and play floor hockey. Without these essential needs being met, developers quickly become cranky and unhappy and eventually will leave to make someone else's games.



No one likes the "sell out"�. Your favorite local band, for example, who suddenly gains nationwide attention and is now on every radio station and leasing their songs for commercials. Or your favorite game company that has a brilliant title, makes some money from it, then is paranoid about losing that hard-earned money so instead of continuing to innovate just produces endless re-hashes of that title in slightly different forms ad naseum. On the other hand, everyone likes the underdog, because everyone has at some point themselves been the underdog.



Suppose your favorite local band gains nationwide attention and their songs only appear on television in commercials about starving children? Does that then make them "sell outs"�? Or suppose your favorite game company makes a fair amount of money on their first title and goes on to spend that money to get bigger, yes, but also to continue to put out interesting games that you enjoy playing. Does being bigger now nonetheless make them "uncool"�?



Sadly, only a few of us at Telltale are truly evil-minded individuals. In fact, most of the company's goals are fairly benevolent. Make games that are enjoyable and immersive experiences. Draw in new fans by making games that are accessible to a wide variety of people. Make enough money that we can continue to pay our very talented staff to continue to make these games. And of course, to take over the world (at least, I believe the company is behind me on this one).



Quite frankly, we will always be cool. Even if our suffering eventually ends. (Hopefully that will come about sooner rather than later.)

Telltale's New Digs

Posted on August 2005 by TelltaleGames

Dave here, bringing you news on the one subject which I know has been foremost in the collective mind of the public, the one thing bigger than all the launching shuttles and supreme court scandals and Tours de France put together. Oh, right, there is that Bone project we're working on, but you've already heard plenty about that. No, I'm talking about Telltale's new office space!



The old office, which we hereby dub The Sardine Shop, was shrinking in around us daily, like a slow version of one of those mechanical-walls-crush-the-hero traps from a hokey adventure movie.The Sardine Shop I regularly elbowed Graham Annable in the head, and Kevin was once trapped at his desk for three days, though to be honest that may not have had anything to do with the close quarters. The power would go out if anyone tried to use the microwave, the air conditioning failed on precisely the wrong week, and as soon as it got fixed it produced a gorgeous waterfall in the Fifth Corner, perilously close to my desk.



Also, the Sardine Shop only had three parking spaces, which is not even enough for Kevin all by himself. A few of us had been parking at the building next door, home of a company called "For Lease"� which had seventeen employees, all imaginary. But then the solid, three-dimensional owner came over and complained that we were blocking his view of the pavement, so we had to resort to stacking our cars vertically.



Clearly, it was time to move.



So we did, many hundreds of feet up the street. The new place is farther from the prison and the water treatment plant, closer to the post office and the dump, and in terms of sheer size is the fifty-five gallon drum to the five-ounce can of the Sardine Shop. You could put a minature golf course in between the desks, and if you squint, the carpet could almost be mistaken for Kentucky bluegrass.



Here are just a few of the things you'll find on a visit to the new digs:

  • Windows that open, if you know the secret password.

  • Air conditioning that almost works.

  • Room to swing a cat, if you were into such things. I'm allergic to cats, so I'm glad we're using that space for a hockey net and a foosball table.

  • A mysterious blue line labeled "Do Not Cross."� So far, no one has dared to find out what happens if you cross it. We're thinking of sending one of the interns.


We're also close to a good taco shop and a hypnotist. Never underestimate the value of a quality hypnotist when you're running a game company.



We are all deliriously happy in the new space. And the best thing of all is that we're above a company that hauls away junk, so when our computers become obsolete every six weeks or so, we can just chuck them out the window. Did I mention the windows open?



*Sardine Shop image provided by the photographic memory of Graham Annable.

Telltale Interview -- Greg Frank

Posted on August 2005 by TelltaleGames

Boys and girls, Telltalers and Telltale-ees, Sea Monkeys and Protoplasm, welcome to our latest interview.



Sooner or later, we will stop hiring new employees and I can actually start interviewing people who have been here longer than a week. But for now it gives me great pleasure to introduce our new newest member, Greg Frank.



So Greg, welcome to Telltale!


Thank you.




And how long have you been working with our illustrious little group?


I have been here for about a week now.



And what niche do you fill in our elite game devving society?


I am a new programmer here. But currently I am doing some level designing and authoring, which means I am mostly working on dialogue and game logic.



I notice you have a giant banana slug on your desk. Please explain.


Ah yes, that is my friend and pet slug. It is an alumni slug, hence the hat with the tassel on its head. I graduated from UC Santa Cruz on June 11th, 2005 with a BA in Computer Science. I bought it in honor of graduating.



Ah yes. (For those who don't know, the banana slug is the mascot of UC Santa Cruz.) Describe, if you will, an average day at Telltale Games.


Well I get in at about 9/9:30 depending of traffic and when I get up in the morning. Then I sit at my desk and check my e-mail. After that ritual is done, I load up the tools I use to control and change dialogue and game logic. Where I spend most of my day fixing problems we find in walkthroughs and duties that Karen or Dave give me. Then get some lunch and finally go back to work. Through out the day I try to make co-workers laugh and hopefully not cry at my terrible jokes.



How do you like our new offices?


I love them. It is nice and small so it is easy to communicate with everyone when I need to and it is big enough that we are not all crammed together. A little too hot on some days, which makes me eye Doug's Fan and think about how lucky he is, how lucky I can be if...um...I buy one just like his.



How much caffeine would you say you consume on an average day?


Well if I told you that I would have to kill you. Just kidding. Actually the message would self destruct and destroy the computers of all the people who visit our site, which we wouldn't want, right? But let's just say it is a lot.



I have heard rumors that you occasionally post on Four Fat Chicks. What have you told them about me?


I have told them how great you are and how much of amazing person you are. Four Fat Chicks is a great site, mostly I just told them I got an entry level job here and that I am doing game development stuff involving logic. Since they are a site that has reviews and a message board about mostly adventure gaming, I have been a member of theirs for a long time even though I am not really fat nor a chick. But hey it is the internet so technically I could be, right?




I have also heard that you, like many of Telltale's distinguished employees, once worked at LucasArts. What games did you work on there?


While I was at LucasArts I was a QA tester for Gladius, Star Wars Battlefront, and Knights of the Old Republic 2.



Share a funny LucasArts story with our fans. They like that.


I don't know of any funny stories I can share from LucasArts without getting sued or harassed by those involved. But let's see, there is hitfoot (can't talk about that), Hot sauce and Pancakes (no), Ah the only thing I can think of is how I got the nickname Greg and Frank. Well there isn't much of a story there; most it was one of the supervisors that started to call me that. But then it moved on to others and I would get e-mails asking about how both of us were doing, or if both of use could share one game, etc... I am even listed as 2 people in the end game credits of Knights of the Old Republic 2.




Finally, tell us a funny story about banana slugs.


Let's see do you mean the UCSC Students or The real thing. If you mean the real thing then you might be interested to know that Banana Slugs have no known predators. Sure salt will kill them but that is a weapon not a predator. As for the students, well there are so many stories that I can go into. Like the getaway style of getting into a car, this happened before I went to UCSC but I am a slug, so it counts. The story goes that I was heading to San Francisco for a party with a few friends after work and I yelled to the last friend getting in my car to do it getaway style and slammed on the gas. He tumbled a bit and I panicked and slammed on the brake, so he went fly head first into the door frame, then I stepped on the gas and he hit the back of the door frame then when I stepped on brake he hit the door again and fell into the car. We all have a laugh about it now. Also there is the story about my friend's car, where you would step on the gas and all the electric devices (including head lights and meters) would all turn off, and many more good times.



Yes, it sounds most humerous. Remind me never to accept a ride from you.

Telltale Interview -- Doug Modie

Posted on July 2005 by TelltaleGames

Yes, friends, they're coming out of the walls here at Telltale. Our office, once so desolate and lonely, is now as crammed as a can of squirmy, game making sardines. Perhaps that's why it is so unbearably hot today. That and the absence of air-conditioning. But I digress.



This week we are interviewing Doug Modie, who appeared out of no-where last week. Or was it two weeks ago? I myself am uncertain. One day I just looked up from my blue-prints and jelly donuts and there he was, intently gazing into his monitor as if trying to solve the riddles of time.



Doug, however, is an extremely busy gent doing very important work and as such has limited time for conducting an interview. So I am generously taking the liberty of exercising my prime improvisational skills to answer the interview questions that he didn't quite get to.



So who are you again?

( D.M. ) My name is Doug. Doug Modie. Rhymes with Modie.



And what is it you do here?

( H.L.L. as D.M. ) I do very important work. I am a programmer and I work diligently with Karen on programming stuff. I also take long moments to stare intensely at my monitor, trying to solve the riddles of time.



Where did you come from anyway? One day I looked up and you were just here. It was most mysterious.

( D.M. ) I came from my house. I was looking for my keys, for like ten months.



Describe an average day at Telltale.

( H.L.L. as D.M. ) As I just explained, an average day at Telltale involves programming stuff and talking to Karen, with occasional pauses to stare at the monitor. Then sometime in the afternoon I'll wander out with my sunglasses on after some secret errand. When it becomes unbearably hot, I turn on my own personal fan and laugh to myself as everyone else suffers.



I hear that you once worked at LucasArts. Which projects did you work on there?

( M.G. as D.M. ) According to MobyGames, I have worked on the following titles:

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), LucasArts

Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (2002),

Star Wars: Starfighter (2001), LucasArts

Star Wars: Force Commander (2000), LucasArts
My career probably spans more years than those displayed since these dates are based on the credits documented in MobyGames (which are incomplete). I have been credited with the roles Design, Other and Programming.



Our fans seem to love stories about LucasArts. Anything amusing to share?

( D.M. ) Ok, this is me talking. I once wrote to Simon (the prez), with some pretty harsh suggestions about the company. In between the time I sent it and when I finally heard back from him three days later, I cleaned out my desk and started preparing my resume.



Finally, he got back to me (after being out of town for three days), thanked me for the suggestions, and provided encouragement and feedback on all the ideas.



Interestingly, a month later, he was gone. Hmmm.



What is your favorite thing about Telltale?

( H.L.L. as D.M. ) I really like all the friendly and intelligent people. Especially when they leave me alone to do my work.



It is ridiculously hot in here and you have your own personal electric fan. How did you manage that little coup?

( D.M. ) I have fans and groupies everywhere .



That Doug. What a card..