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The End of Episodic Gaming at Telltale?

posted by RAnthonyMahan on - last edited - Viewed by 1.3K users

(DISCLAIMER: I do not work for Telltale, or anywhere else in the gaming industry. Everything I say here is pure speculation, so please don't take it as anything official. Kthx.)

There have been two pieces of Telltale-related news lately that interested me. I think it might be possible they're leading into something bigger.

The first is that Jurassic Park won't be released episodically (unless you're on the iPad). The game will still be divided into separate episodes, yes, but all of them will be released at once.

Now, I don't believe Telltale's doing this because they're tired of episodic gaming. If you recall, JP was originally going to be released in April for the PC, but in fall for consoles. Apparently Microsoft demanded every version be released at the same time, pushing the PC version back and forcing Telltale to develop all the episodes before they can be finished. Even if Telltale isn't doing this to avoid episodic gaming, though, the fact stands that they're making a full-length non-episodic game, and I'm sure they're taking advantage of the opportunity to test how people receive it.

The second is that, in addition to Telltale's previously announced publishing deal with Microsoft, they've signed similar deals with Nintendo and Sony. (Their previous publishing deal with Sony only allowed them to publish downloadable games, but now they can publish retail games too.) So if Telltale wanted to, they could give their games disc releases on all three consoles. They'd no longer have to deal with the constraints PSN/XBLA/WiiWare force on games. Not to mention that, as far as consoles go, retail games get more exposure than downloadable titles.

Now, I admire Telltale for having more success with the episodic format than any other developer's managed, but the fact is that episodic gaming carries a lot of inherent problems. The games have to be small (a big issue for an adventure game, since so much of the appeal lies in exploration!). The demanding release schedule means you either rush the episodes' development or fail to release them on time. It's next to impossible to pull off on consoles. If you're doing a more open-ended series, like The Walking Dead is supposed to be, it could be difficult implementing proper continuity between the episodes. (Look at all the reports of Marty getting called by the wrong alias in BttF, and that was just a single choice!) I get a feeling that some people at Telltale have been debating if it's worth sticking to episodic games.

So, as I said before, I suspect Telltale is treating Jurassic Park as a big experiment to see how making a game the normal way turns out for them. If it goes well...who knows what they'll decide in the future? I wouldn't be surprised if The Walking Dead ends up being Telltale's last episodic game. (And even then, it might only be episodic in the same way that Jurassic Park is.)

So...do you think Telltale should stick to episodic gaming or not? And do you think it's likely they'll make the switch? Discuss and whatnot.

82 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • @Alan Johnson said: We're absolutely not moving away from the episodic model at all! We're committed to it 100%!

    This actually really worries me to hear, especially with Telltale taking on 'King's Quest'. I feel that the things about the 'KQ' series that I value the most will be absent due to the episodic format being unable to allow for their inclusion. I'm referring to things such as exploration, freedom, vastness, reward for experimentation, etc. We've seen these things cut down to their barest point in Telltale's recent products, but this hasn't been too drastic or damaging to the overall experience (except for in 'BttF'), since the high quality of other elements (such as storytelling, dialogue and visuals) has been able to compensate for the poor quality (or complete lack) of others. But, with 'King's Quest', I really fail to see how it could avoid being disastrous. The episodic format will be removing and/or diminishing everything that made the original games great, while enhancing those which did not. Episodic gaming on a monthly schedule simply cannot support 'King's Quest'. It's caused problems in other games, but it will cause enormous problems with 'KQ'.

  • Lol @ community management reassurance backfire.

  • I would say that it depends on how the King's Quest episodes are broken up.

    KQ1 is short, and you are allowed to obtain the treasures in any order, so it wouldn't work well.

    In KQ2, the game could be sectioned into "parts" (sort of) by the need to obtain the next key for each door. Granted this game is very short, so it would work better in a longer form such as KQ2+ by AGDI.

    In KQ3, the game could be sectioned into parts such as: before cat-cookie; after cat-cookie/on pirate ship; on Daventry.

    In KQ4, the game could be sectioned into parts, either between items Lolotte demanded or between the passage of day to night to day again.

    In KQ5, it could be sectioned into parts between the opening area; the mountains; the sea; and Mordack's castle.

    KQ6 is hard because you can hop at will between islands, accomplishing various goals in a random order, and there are few clear breaks in the flow of the story.

    The problem I have with having seperate episodes is this: I want to be required to play the game from start to finish, and have the game keep track of my chosen inventory the whole time. I greatly dislike being able to start at any given chapter in KQ7, and I also equally loathe even the remote possibility of the game assuming certain inventory items at the start of a new chapter. For example, when I play KQ7, I almost always choose Colin Farwalker's rope in chapter 1. However, if I started a new game at chapter 3, the game defaults by giving me the bug juice and the horn.

    Given that Telltale have never built an episodic game where various inventory items are remembered and passed from one chapter to the next, nor have they ever required savegame data from previous episodes before playing the next subsequent one, this does make me very nervous.

    Oh, and the whole lack-of-exploration-to-wherever-I-dang-well-please part of the discussion. That also bothers me.

  • I'd also like to emphasize that it's not just the episodic format that I consider to be the problem; it's the one-episode-per-month modus operandi which gets me worried. It not only forces the individual episodes into self-containment, but, due to apparent/existent time constraints, it also causes there to be either: a) no depth to large environments/worlds, or b) extremely condensed environments/worlds; neither of which I want to see in a 'King's Quest' game.

    @MusicallyInspired said: Lol @ community management reassurance backfire.


    Lol @ this comment. :D

  • @caeska said: You can't have multiple endings or a story that branches depending on the choices you make in-game.


    LIES!
    It's just sad TTG doesn't use the ability to do EXACTLY that. Savegame importation becomes more mainstream (The Witcher II, Mass Effect series), so no harm in using that, seeing how registry entries apparently fail due to Windows "safeguards", which lead the the reports of the wrong name.
    And it would be even easier for gamers than a full-game. Want to change something in Ep #3? Just load that up instead of a new game. Or keep tons of saves all over the place...
    @caeska said: First the games have a deadline which is not a really good thing to have if you want to make a quality game.
    You mean like, all games? And seriously how many retail games have a proper instead of rushed ending? Exactly.
    PS. It didn't do Duke Nukem Forever much good not to have a deadline.
    So this point is completely irrelevant in "One game vs. Episodes".
    Also it forces the makers to make the ending of the episode dramatic, which does not always work out.
    No it doesn't. See S&M season 1. Also series like 24 have done it very well for years. Also full games tend to do this with chapters (see also; Monkey Island games).
    @caeska said: I feel like designing a game episodically, then putting it on a disk and releasing it all at once is kind of a "worst of both worlds" scenario
    Yup. No wait, no feedback, no one-game world, but five-game world. It definetely sounds like that...
    Since the game is still going to be released episodically on iPad I'm guessing we're going to get all of the downsides of episodic gaming with none of the benefits.
    So, hopefully this is just for these consoles and not PC, right? Right?
    @caeska said: Agreed. In fact, it was a better ending than 305.
    Agreed. But that in itself doesn't make episodic bad. Just that TTG kind of missed the ball with doing the climax too soon...

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    puzzlebox Telltale Staff

    @Hassat Hunter said: So, hopefully this is just for these consoles and not PC, right? Right?

    For Jurassic Park, all episodes will be released simultaneously on PC, Mac, Xbox and PS3.

  • I love 305's ending.
    Poetic & unforgettable.

  • I love 305's ending too :)

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