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The Pros and Cons of Culture Shock

posted by Anonymous on - last edited - Viewed by 2.2K users

what did you like,what worked, and what would you like to see?
what didn't you like, what would you like improved?
start listing! :D

74 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • I had no Problems with Cursor movement whatsoever... And the one thing thats missing is the ability to "use" Max - this was a hilarious part in the first game. I'd loved to use max on the pipsqueaks...
    As mentioned by someone before, the caffeine rush of the soda poppers did come a bit unexpected. At least an animation of Max trying to hit them or a matrix-like bullet-dodging would've been cool... ;)

    Which reminds me of the Gun... could Max please point it in the direction of the cursor, not "somewhere"? And please give it a sound worthy of a "Big Gun"...

  • Pros:
    - Felt like Sam and Max, very rewarding and entertaining
    - Puzzles were good and well paced, maybe a little bit easy
    - Music
    - Voice acting
    - Script

    Cons:
    - I think there is a memory leak somewhere in the game... After playing for about 3 hours (getting toward the end of the game) my machine was paging (swapping memory between ram and disk) like mad. I remember one particularly bad transition while leaving Boscos where it literally took 5 minutes to load, HDD going crazy the whole time.
    - When you say full screen, really make it full screen. Use the full screen directx mode or whatever. I have dual monitors and I kept clicking outside of the edge of the window! (to the right) Which in turn ended up crashing the graphics engine and I had to restart the game.
    - Use a verb coin like in the curse of monkey island! I feel that this was and still is the height of adventure gaming interfaces! It allows for much more complicated puzzles which involve the combining of objects and gathering of clues... both of which would be/are difficult with the new Sam and Max interface.
    - Use a loading screen instead of jumping into the next scene and beginning the dialog while the game play thread catches up...

    Although I have many gripes with the telltale engine still, I feel it has come a long way since Bone (I played a friends copy) which crashed a lot more and was harder to interact with.

    So in essence: Writing, Graphics, Sound, Music, Voice acting, and Price are all good. Engine still needs work. But telltale is shaping up to be quite the indie gaming company! I look forward to playing your future releases!

  • (Please pardon my typos, this is a large field-o-text. I've likely missed seven or ninety.)

    Thirteen years is a long time to wait. Thirteen years is long enough to make you realize that if you're just old enough (or young enough depending on which side of the fence you're viewing the concept from), Sam & Max is now part of your childhood or early adulthood and definitely a part of who you are. Especially if you sound kinda like Max and go around quoting Hit The Road and saying Max-esque things to strangers on the street.

    But... thirteen years is also a long time to build up expectations and dream up scenarios for how a perfect-for-you sequel should feel, what its content should be, what should be updated, what should stay basically the same. For the most part it looks like Telltale is approaching the return of Sam & Max - both technically as a game and artistically as precious chunk-o-culture - with a well balanced hand, but there's always room for improvement.


    I'll start with some technical points.

    Technical output qualities were lower than acceptable. Audio encode qualities and texture resolutions - crank em up! While I understand that part of the reason they'd want to keep things lower quality is to reduce download size for gamers (and to reduce thier own bandwidth usage bills), the end result doesn't feel worth the cost.

    If the download size consideration is more for the budget, they need a better deployment method. If they're trying to make the download smaller for us, that favor shouldn't come at the expense of quality. To put that side of it in perspective, consider this: today on a whim I downloaded 3.5GB of episodes of a mildly obscure late 80s science fiction show - not even to watch, but just to have around. I definitely wouldn't mind a 500+MB download for a current and payed-for episode of Sam & Max that I'll actually play.

    Voice is one of the most precious aspects of adventure gaming. Actor performances and potentially great dialogue shouldn't be knocked down several pegs because of a technical hitch. Any audio should at least be encoded at the generally-accepted transparency level for the format used, never lower. The swish and swim artifacts on voices knocked me [and a chunk of fun] out of the game on more than a few occasions.

    There were several times where backdrop (and even some foreground) textures were too low resolution. While it was even noticeable at a screen resolution of 1024x768, it was extremely noticeable - to the point of being distracting - at the screen resolution I choose to play at: 1600x1200. Not limited to these, but some examples of problematic low-res textures are the backdrop outside the office window (which should have really been a mesh instead of a flat anyway) and the curtains in Sybil's.

    Geometry and lighting could use some love. While not the worst issue with the game, the visual style would seem much more tuned and rich if the geometric detail were higher. Especially in the character models, there were too many visible corners and awkwardly turned edges. Granted, a small percentage of strange turns aren't generally held as unacceptable for realtime animated models but when a mesh is so sparce that an oddly turned edge darkens, say, a large portion of Max's teeth... there's a problem.

    General roundup: For the world, some large sweeping curves and a few subtle curves could stand several extra edge loops and a tighter handle on fixing broken smoothing. Character faces need nearly twice the amount of geometry they have now. Character bodies need smoother curves and a refactoring of pinched edges (where the attempt at smoothing from one high-degree poly/tri to another creates an unwanted darkening). They could also stand a little attention to smoothing the construction of hard corners (Sam's lapel looks like it was cut from thick rubber, needs to be softened a bit). Architectural corners might do well with some thin bevels to catch a highlight here and there.

    That brings me to the next bits, the shading and lighting. While for the most part the simple bright setup seemed to work, I would have loved the subtle inclusion of a realistically solved (GI) lightmap muliplied overtop the cartoon brightness (again with the me wanting a little more richness and depth) to create some gathered pools of shadow and light. That kind of shading is beautifully compatible with a cartoon-style world if applied with a subtle hand.


    Ok, now some gameplay and creative points.

    Movement could be streamlined. There were times when Sam outwalked the camera pan and left very little room in the frame to click, causing me to have to inch him over for the camera to reveal whatever I was after. That got annoying. I'd love for there to be either an option to use keyboard arrows to move the character directly - OR - simply allow the ability to slide the cursor all the way to a point on the edge of the screen, hold the button down and have the character continue to move in that direction without having to click over and over.

    Puzzles need greater difficulty and more complexity. Outlandish convoluted, yet strangely logical combinations of concepts, items and situations shouldn't only be possible in the world of Sam & Max... they're what I expect! The puzzles in Culture Shock weren't horrible though, just a little obvious and simple. They would be a good primer for somebody who hasn't played Hit The Road, so I suppose it's proper for the first episode. Trouble is... if all six episodes in this season are going to be as short as this one, there's not a lot of time to waste on simple and obvious.

    World needs attention to scale, scope, accessibility and life. It's already been touched on by Laserschwert. We need to feel like we're in a large, living world. In Hit The Road, that was accomplished by showing movement, having extras in the foreground (even if all they did was grunt when you tried to talk to them), showing a nice expansive vista here and there and even having unrelated, even distanced plots and run-on jokes in the background (such as news blurbs of peripheral affects of Sam & Max's carefree adventuring). Add enough of these little bits into the game and suddenly you've got the feeling of a living world.

    Another issue somewhat contributing to the shoebox-/fishbowl-scale problem is accessibility and freedom. If something is part of the foreground set and there's no visible reason it's blocked, you should be able to go there. Just as an example, let's take the alley beside the office building: there was nothing blocking access from the sidewalk, yet Sam wouldn't go back there. No quip about not wanting to, nothing physically blocking his movement, it simply wasn't allowed and as such, felt like an arbitrary limitation. Arbitrary limitations add up and make a gameworld feel unwhole and constrained.


    Now, onto my biggest gripe with the whoooooole works.

    If every episode is going to be set up like Culture Shock, they're too short, too simple, too linear and too self-contained to be worth the asking price.

    Use episodic storytelling for all it's worth! Maybe I missed it, but I saw no beginning of an overall story arc in Culture Shock and that makes me worry about the quality we're going to see later. I want story arcs over the entire series and this season. I want plots and sub-plots. I want many more secondary and bit characters. While I enjoyed Culture Shock, it did feel like a simple 30-minute Saturday morning cartoon for kids when these episodes - if they're to feel worthy of the price - should feel like a one-hour show or at least like a tightly packed half-hour cartoon for adults.

    Sam & Max is supposed to be for adults, I thought. I didn't feel the cartoon series was a great example of the Sam & Max world because the stories were too simple, the humor and dialogue made too easy and family-safe. I dont want this episodic game series to suffer similarly.

  • @Vesh said: Maybe I missed it, but I saw no beginning of an overall story arc in Culture Shock and that makes me worry about the quality we're going to see later. I want story arcs over the entire series and this season. I want plots and sub-plots.


    Uhm I really think you missed it...

    *SPOILER AHEAD*

    In the end you see this tv show and that guy on it, is clearly hypnotized too. So I think thats a very obvious hint to a continuening hypnotiv story arc... just my 2 cents :D

  • - I think there is a memory leak somewhere in the game... After playing for about 3 hours (getting toward the end of the game) my machine was paging (swapping memory between ram and disk) like mad. I remember one particularly bad transition while leaving Boscos where it literally took 5 minutes to load, HDD going crazy the whole time.

    I had the same problem, it's rather serious IMO. I'd played the game in one go, and I think about 2/3rds through, I suddenly got a message from Windows saying it needed to expand the virtual memory. A glance in the task manager at that point showed 1.3GB(!) of RAM in use total, though Sam&Max only listed about 250MB in the process list. I closed the game and immediately watched my total memory use plummet back to 200MB. This is on Win2K, Geforce 6600GT.

    I also have to echo some of the criticisms here:
    [LIST]
    [*]Too easy. The game puts the solution right in front of you way too many times. In the few cases where the solution was not immediately obvious, there were so little options (item / dialog wise) that I could simply try every one of them and get through the puzzle that way (e.g. end-game). A puzzle should not be solvable by brute force in 5 seconds...

    I know, you don't want to turn off casual gamers either, but maybe you could reward the seasoned adventurer with some extra content, scenes or dialog, hidden behind some tricky, optional puzzles? That could increase the replay value too.
    [*]Driving controls. Having to click repeatedly with the mouse is a horrible design decision. Even click-and-drag would've been better, but really there's no excuse for not allowing use of the arrow keys. Why break with years of gaming common sense? The chase scene was very irritating because of this.
    [/LIST]

    Also, I did feel the game was over way too soon. It took me 3.5 hours to finish. That means for the full game, it would take only 21 hours... that's not much for an adventure game.

    Still, I massively enjoyed the game and laughed out loud from beginning to end. There are way too many good things about this game to list.

    I also agree with the above poster about the stylized black/orange opening scene: that was awesome. I would love to see some more experimentation in this direction in the game itself.

    Major con: no Mac OS X version! I'd love to play this on my PowerBook.

  • This game was lots of fun. I can't remember the last time an adventure made me chuckle so much.

    Pros:
    -Psychoanalysis.
    -Controlling Sam AND Max in conversations sometimes.
    -The driving sequences.
    -Talking to Bosco. "You ever stare down the barrel of a loaded cheese?"
    -Lots of the general responses for looking at things. The banter is great.
    -Replayability value. The first time through I never saw the documentary on the Soda Poppers, for instance.
    -It's SAM AND MAX!

    Cons:
    -The cursor design. It's too "blah." Why not make it into Sam's hand like in Hit the Road?
    -I sometimes wished that dialogue sequences would indicate more clearly whether new lines were left in a topic of conversation or not. It doesn't have to be a full listing of the line, which might spoil the jokes; just something to indicate there're some lines which the player hasn't heard yet when he or she clicks on a dialogue topic for the second time.
    -David Nowlin as Sam isn't as bad as I thought he'd be from trailers, but he still needs to show more emotional range. Sam isn't wooden.
    -As Laserschwert said, Sam and Max should be allowed to travel more in later episodes. While the focus on their neighborhood is fine for an introduction, I don't want following parts in the series to do the same.

    Overall, a fine effort. Bravo Telltale!

  • Pros: Totally great.
    Cons: Can't think of anything. The lenght of the game was good, considering it was a single episode. And for the price. So... I'd say no cons.

  • Pros: Everything except...
    Cons: the camera, it's the one thing that bugged me as I played. The jumping from person to person in cut scenes is fine but it gets a bit tiresome when it happens every time someone speaks. Also some of the locations felt kinda claustrophobic, I think because the camera was so close. It would have been nice to have seen some areas in all their glory without all the camera swinging, Sam and Max's office for one. I think someone suggested larger vista's, not visitable but visible, that would help too. Also, I found the control system okay for this episode but a FT/MI3 type interface would have been just as fine and might have increased the interest levels of each object. Sams hand as the curser would be cool too.

    As I said above this is still a great game and I really did laugh out loud at many points. I just have one last thing to say, is visitable even a real word?

  • More gripes, after sleeping on it…

    I'm not so sure I'm liking the episodic feel. Its too much like the TV series? Very linear.

    I would enjoy a true sequel more. In the spirit of the original game...
    Perhaps they can spin future episodes into more open-ended style games? You can have ‘episodes’ and still retain the freedom of an adventure game. Take money island for example… four games vaguely fit together but the actual game play is very free with plenty of quirks and dare I say it, more atmosphere than S&M episode 1.

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