In honor of The Great Cow Race's release, last week was "Bone week" at Adventure Gamers, an online magazine devoted to the genre. The week closed with a developer's chat, during which Telltale converged upon AG's forum for a digital meeting of the minds. Questions were asked by Adventure Gamers' readers, and answered by Telltale team members Randy Tudor, Greg Land, Heather Logas, Kevin Bruner, Dave Grossman, Dan Connors, and Brendan Ferguson. Here are some of the highlights:"Any chance we will get to see some original IP in the future? I would love to see what you could do without the constraints of a license. And no weaseling out of the question by pointing out that Telltale Texas Hold'Em is original IP."
As far as original IP goes, we've got some ideas brewing that we hope can evolve into our first original adventure. The truth is, developing IP from scratch is a much more time-consuming process than adapting existing IP. But we are working on it.
The other side of the coin is we really like working with licenses! Our time at Lucas honed our "license" skills (while working on Star Wars or Indy). Bringing a license into the game space is something we think we do pretty well! Just look at our Bone games, and imagine what a larger publisher would do to that license! One of the reasons Jeff Smith is working with Telltale is that we're very committed to faithfully executing his license. Same thing with Steve Purcell. And there are many more licenses we'd love to make interactive! Imagine what Telltale could do with the Simpsons, Futurama or The Muppets! (No, we don't have any of those licenses....)
Hold'Em IS valid original IP. We're very proud of the writing and characters in that game, and hope to do more with them in the future... Sheez.... Dudebrough gettin' no respect!Heather:
From a design perspective, it would most assuredly be fun to work on original IP but as Kevin pointed out, it's also a blast to work with really great licenses. Bone is a fantastic story, and very much fun to be involved with.Dave:
I love working on original stuff -- some years ago I was even kind of pig-headed about it. But having a license is like getting a head start...."Surely it's creatively more fun to think up original ideas? Thinking up original ideas for other people's ideas is easier, but far less satisfying. Still fun, but you guys are creative people -- look at LucasArts: the point most people complain about with them now is too much reliance on their licenses!"Heather:
It is terribly fun to think up original ideas. But one of the neat things about doing a game like Bone is it takes a lot of creativity to figure out how to make the game within the restrictions you have. I think that restrictions actually force one to be more creative than otherwise. And the thing is, we LOVE Bone! So successfully telling the story in a fun way while getting to add our own bits to it is extremely satisfying. If we were dealing with a license we were less passionate about, then I agree it wouldn't be as much fun as coming up with our own content."What are the chances Telltale may one day branch out from the casual and adventure genres, to produce games of other genres (i.e. action, RPG, etc)?"Kevin:
Good question. We're (modestly?) trying to invent our own genre, a "Telltale" game. Obviously we're starting from adventure games, but we're certainly willing to mix things up and try new things. However, all our games will focus on story and character. Aside from this sniping game I've wanted to make forever, I wouldn't expect any FPS games from Telltale.Dave:
Different kinds of gameplay tend to support different elements of story, so I think we'd be more likely to incorporate the effective elements of other genres into what we already do, rather than specifically making a shooter or an RPG or what have you. Just one man's opinion.Kevin:
I absolutely agree. Adventure game doesn't mean great story and FPS doesn't mean bad story. XIII was one of my favorite games a few years ago because I really dug the story (and I'm awaiting a sequel!). As long as a Telltale game has a great story (and we can reasonably produce it!), we won't take anything off the table!"Have you guys given any thought to allowing other developers to use the Telltale Now system? I was thinking of the likes of A Vampyre Story or other notable small developers who might want to sell downloadable games."Dan:
We are very interested in working with like-minded developers to get their content on Telltale Now. Bill [Tiller] would be a great fit.Kevin:
Our hope is that Telltale Now becomes like an HBO. We make our own "programming," but also have "shows" from others. But that the overall feel is consistent. So when you want great stories and characters, you go to Telltale, and when you want a shooter, you "tune in" somewhere else. We're not quite there yet, but that's where we're headed."This question is for Dave Grossman. Just wondering how you feel to be back doing design after quite a long absence from the field and what in particular prompted the return?"Dave:
I haven't exactly been absent from the world of design, but doing it as a contractor the last eleven years means you haven't always seen me credited as such. I did do some story-and-puzzle design work on some of the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish titles, for example, but am mainly recognized for having written the scripts, and in general a lot more of my writing is out there than game design. The main difference now is that I'm directly involved in actual game production again, as opposed to sending off a design or a script and then getting the finished product in the mail a year later. I've been mainly a pre-production, design architecture and scriptwriting, occasional emergency firefighting type guy for a long time.
Primarily the change was prompted by two things: 1) I was getting a little weary of freelancing. I like the work and the hours and the exorbitant contracting rates, but I don't like having to scare up new business, read contracts, and so on. I'd rather just be making games. And also 2) The existence of Telltale. Not too many companies are doing the sorts of games I like working on the most, these guys were starting up at just the right time, and some of them were already friends of mine. It seemed like the thing to do, so I jumped on, and I'm liking it."Last November AG did an interview with Telltale where Kevin Bruner said that the third Bone game would be based not only on the third Bone book but on later ones as well. How do you guys plan on tackling this from a design standpoint?"Heather:
One way to look at the story of Bone is not to see it in terms of chapters, but in terms of a continuous story. From that perspective, we have to kind of see what makes sense from the standpoint of telling a coherent bit of the tale in the scope of game we have in mind. It's definitely a tricky task. Especially since after The Great Cow Race is when the Bone story really starts rolling, and then it becomes a full on freight train.Dave:
Yeah, as it happens the first two books each corresponded neatly to a chunk of story and gameplay that was useful for us, but that was almost coincidental. Me, I was reading the Bone comics when they were coming out individually, so in my mind it doesn't even break down into nine books, but into, what, how many comics were there, about 60? Sixty parts."Does anyone of the Telltale staff collect the Resaurus Bone action figures?"Kevin:
Jon Sgro (who is on vacation right now) is the arguably the biggest Bone fan in the office. He's got all of it. The action figures, the comics, the books. Everything. And he barely lets any of us play with them. But since he's not here right now....
*scrambles through Jon's things*
"Hey Fone Bone, having a good time at the spring fair?"
"Sure am Thorn! Let's go get some honey..."
"But we should hurry so we don't miss the cow race"
"Could you tell me your opinion about the future of the adventure games? And what do you think is the position of adventure games right now in comparison with other genres?"Heather:
I personally think we are at a very exciting time for the genre. Lots of games are being made right now, some with decent budgets, and more variety than we've seen in a long time. Developers are finding new ways to create gameplay rather than to just create the most convoluted nonsensical crazy inventory puzzles they can think of. New platforms are being utilized (like the DS) and I think the Revolution will also be a potentially great platform for adventure games. Plus I think that new players are being drawn into the genre through licensed games and through games that are more accessible to them. This is healthy and good. I really think that adventure gaming has a very bright future ahead of it.Dave:
And just what is wrong with convoluted nonsensical crazy inventory puzzles? OK, actually I'm not in favor of nonsensical, which makes them unfair. Yeah, adventure games have had problems trying to compete in a hit-driven, huge-budget marketplace, but obviously we're trying to change that. I've often said they're not dead, only sleeping, and maybe with a little design sense we can rescue them.Thanks to everyone at Adventure Gamers for hanging out with us last Friday! The full chat is archived here.