User Avatar Image

Which Sam & Max season structure do you prefer?

posted by Woodsyblue on - last edited - Viewed by 926 users

This is something that has been on the back of my mind for a long time but I've only just been bothered now to write it up. Telltale has employed two obvious season structures in its games, and Sam & Max has gone through both.

The first two Sam & Max seasons were structured somewhat like a TV show, each episode had a self-contained plot that is usually resolved by the end of that episode but they all contain little links that hint to and build to the finale. Other Telltale games that have followed this formula are Strong Bad and Wallace & Gromit. The Devil's Playhouse on the other hand is structured more like a movie, with every episode representing an act, or chapter, to one big overarching story. The episodes are still structured but you don't get any true resaloution until the end. Other Telltale games that have followed this formula are Monkey Island and Back to the Future.

One of the bigger differences between the two structures is that self-contained episodes often contain a main area that reoccurs in every episode (with similarly reoccurring characters like Bosco and Sybil), in season's one and two it is Sam & Max's street, and while some might find the use of this area lazy and repetitive others may find it comforting and familiar. In The Devil's Playhouse on the other hand Sam & Max are always on the move and no one location is used in every episode (to my memory).

Which of these structures would you prefer a possible season 4 to incorporate? For those who don't like episodic gaming and would prefer to a more traditional game like Hit the Road I've included an 'Other' option, but only select it if you really didn't like either episodic format. Also, if you have an idea for a different season structure that you'd like to see please share.

9 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Oooh boy. The fact Seasons 1&2 are winning this vote makes me worry about you guys.
    The Devil's Playhouse is a better game than Seasons 1&2. That's not just an opinion, because I can back it up and explain why, which I'm going to do right now.

    One of the biggest reasons why The Devil's Playhouse is a better game (and I ACTUALLY MEAN a better game, not just that I like it better) than Seasons 1&2 is because it's a much more highly plot-driven than the previous seasons, and focuses on the progression of the story above everything else, building its puzzles and gameplay mechanics around that.
    And here's the thing: it works BETTER from a gameplay perspective this way. In adventure games, you (typically) can't die, so the biggest things standing in your way as a player is the moments when you have absolutely NO idea what you're supposed to do. These are the frustrating parts of adventure games, like dying is in other video games. So obviously, too many of these moments a good adventure game does not make.
    There are A LOT more of these bad "Okay, what the heck do I do now" moments in Seasons 1&2, BECAUSE of the loose plots. When you have no clue what to do, it's often because you have no idea where the story is supposed to go. Sure, you may have a goal you're working toward, but that goal often amounts to just "Get to this place" or "Stop this guy" which isn't always very helpful towards figuring out what needs to happen next. You see where I'm going with this?

    The Devil's Playhouse FIXES this problem almost COMPLETELY by being a big interconnected plot, giving the player MUCH better indication of how the story needs to progress and what they need to do the solve the current problem or puzzle facing them. You KNOW what you're supposed to be doing much, MUCH more often than the previous seasons BECAUSE the story drives you, and that's why The Devil's Playhouse gameplay model is the better one.
    I know loose individual plots that are revealed to connect by the end SEEMS like a fitting model for an episodic series, but in reality, from a gameplay standpoint? It really does not work or function as well as the more overall plot-driven model.

    And that's just why The Devil's Playhouse is better from the gameplay perspective. I could still get into the MASSIVELY improved mechanics, story, writing, characters, designs, visual work, EVERYTHING.
    But I'll save that for another post.

  • Let's keep in mind why seasons 1 and 2 were done the way they were. Telltale was a young company and had not yet proven itself. With no track record, people are more likely to bite if you sell a single self-contained episode than a whole over-arching series. The episodes were even made so you could join a series in the middle without losing too much (moreso in season 1 than 2, but you could get away with it in 2 if you didn't mind missing a few references). And Telltale's story writers learned as they went what worked and what didn't, making it possible to improve the story mid-season.

    Now, Telltale has several full seasons of quite a few games to show for itself, and individual episodes are no longer sold. That means they can be more interconnected, and they've gone even further with TWD by making decisions in one episode affect the storyline in another. You can't do that with individual episodes. (OK, so they had the car upgrades in S&M Season 2, but that didn't really affect the storyline much.)

    So I think if we do get a Season 4, it's going to be a real full season, and it'll work out great. Hopefully more puzzles than their more recent games, though. :)

  • Sam and Max and structure...I don't think that's how it works.

  • @Tora Newton Y. said: giving the player MUCH better indication of how the story needs to progress and what they need to do the solve the current problem or puzzle facing them. You KNOW what you're supposed to be doing much, MUCH more often than the previous seasons BECAUSE the story drives you,

    I have to say that this is something that does happen in adventure games (I never felt I didn't know what to do in any of the seasons, I didn't know how to solve the problem but I realisized the problem the game wanted me to solve). But I didn't think season 3 solved that because I didn't think there was a problem with it in the first season and really just because it is an overarching story doesn't mean that it makes it clearer than in the standalones, your just increasing the scale of the story. For example in They Stole Max's Brain you have to get the three badges or whatever they are to get to Sammun-Mak you know you have to find a way to get eachof the badges exploring you find the different puzzles and NPC's you have to interact with, campare to in Night of the Raving Dead wher you need to get the zombies to stop Jurgen by proving he is uncool there isn't much indication of how you do this it like the previous example requires you to do three tasks. This isn't a something brought up by the overarching plot more how the puzzle is set up, if you were following the plot you should of understood that to get to the next part you need to solve a puzzle this doen't matter if its on a whole season length or an episode length. The writing should lead the player into the puzzle and if they don't understand what the need to solve it would be that the writing hasn't lead them into it or the player had not been paying attention.

  • I remember not having a single clue of what I had to do in Moai Better Blues, but that's not related to the story structure at all. For example, in S&M Season 1 there was not a single moment when I didn't know what I had to do or accomplish, everything was pretty clear.

  • @Sausy Gibbon said: I have to say that this is something that does happen in adventure games (I never felt I didn't know what to do in any of the seasons, I didn't know how to solve the problem but I realisized the problem the game wanted me to solve). But I didn't think season 3 solved that because I didn't think there was a problem with it in the first season and really just because it is an overarching story doesn't mean that it makes it clearer than in the standalones, your just increasing the scale of the story. For example in They Stole Max's Brain you have to get the three badges or whatever they are to get to Sammun-Mak you know you have to find a way to get eachof the badges exploring you find the different puzzles and NPC's you have to interact with, campare to in Night of the Raving Dead wher you need to get the zombies to stop Jurgen by proving he is uncool there isn't much indication of how you do this it like the previous example requires you to do three tasks. This isn't a something brought up by the overarching plot more how the puzzle is set up, if you were following the plot you should of understood that to get to the next part you need to solve a puzzle this doen't matter if its on a whole season length or an episode length. The writing should lead the player into the puzzle and if they don't understand what the need to solve it would be that the writing hasn't lead them into it or the player had not been paying attention.

    Act 3 of 303 (aka The Sammun-Mak World) is in general kind of badly designed, so that's maybe not the best example to give.
    As a whole, though, The Devil's Playhouse does a MUCH better job of moving you along through the game by letting the story and writing tell you where you need to go or what to do than the previous seasons did.

  • What I'm saying is the way the puzzle is set up and the writing should determine if you do or don't know what to do not the fact that it is an overarching story or a standalone plot in each wouldn't change alot. As I said it is only a difference in scale of the story so it shouldn't change from each time. Although having a longer story does incline the player to be more focused on what is happening so you know what your goal is from the last game while in a standalone you need time to establish what is happening. This is question of which structure you prefer not which season is your favourite.

    I think standalones are the way to go, mostly because I think Sam & Max are suited to shorter stories. Its hard to keep spontaneous over a multiple episode story as the player will start to work out what is going to happen next by following the plot or if you try to have to many twists and non-sequiturs you run the risk of angering the player by making them feel lost or giving them the feeling that their actions have no consequence on the plot of the game. You could see this from the fans reaction to the ending of 305 where the time travel alternate Max replaces the old Max , TT tried for a non-sequitur and there were people that didn't like it because up until that point there was always a sense of how one thing should follow another. With a short plot you could have something like the Rubber Pants Commandoes employing a bit of deus ex machina by coming in to save the day and not have the player feel like they have been cheated because they haven't invested as much time in completing the story.

    This is not to say I like constant re-ocurring characters and locations, Season 1 layed to heavily on the central location of the street and its surrounding characters every episode. You know you have to get money to buy Bosco's latest invention or had to involve something to do with Sybils new job. A good example I feel for how to do a standalone episode is The Tomb of Sammunmak. Although it is part of a ongoing story it felt much more like a standalone episode. It had pretty much all new location and old ones that they changed so they looked like new, there were recurring characters but they were changed and had different situations so it didn't seem like you were going to the same character with the same formulaic situation as last episode. The way it lead to the over all story works well to, not to much focused on continuity of the series as a whole but introduced themes and characters that would be important to the story in the end. This would be the kind of standalone episode I would want, one that changes the situation from the last but is not bogged down in a recurring location. One which leads to a final but doesn't feel like your just doing a stage in an ongoing continuity. Another good example of something like this is Chariots of the Dogs and What's New Beezlebub the two have linksto each over with what you do in the first have consicenses in the next but the two feel distinctively different episodes.

  • User Avatar Image
    Vainamoinen Moderator

    Season 3 was a logical progression not only of the two preceding Sam & Max Seasons, but at least the Tales of Monkey Island as well.

    The "overarching plot" was always present in the first two S&M seasons.The hypnosis paradigm flooded Season 1, a world domination plot with a slightly less likely eventual villain was what Season 2 was about. But like in an 80's TV series, continuity was pretty much irrelevant. Every episode was about a mildly new problem to be solved with the same old characters and their same old relationships, mostly in the same old environments, often starting in the office. Whatever happened in that last episode was of next to no relevance in the new one.

    The "Tales" introduced actual continuity into the episodic concept, which was long overdue at the time already. Guybrush could find himself in any spot he got himself into during the last episode. Like chapters of an "actual" adventure game, a new setting, an entirely new situation, a story turning point/altered main goal marks the cut between episodes. Some Telltale developers have stated that the cliffhanger would be a defining element in what they do. But no continuity, no cliffhanger.

    Season 3 is as of yet the best application of the episodic idea in Telltale's endeavors. The story arc is rather strong (although weird enough to fit the franchise ;) ) and puts the players into wildly different situations at the outset of these episodes. Sometimes even the game mechanics are slightly altered (episode 2) to give the player a new experience.

    Hopefully, Seasons which put the characters back to their version 1.0 are a thing of the past.

  • @Vainamoinen said: Season 3 was a logical progression not only of the two preceding Sam & Max Seasons, but at least the Tales of Monkey Island as well.

    The "overarching plot" was always present in the first two S&M seasons.The hypnosis paradigm flooded Season 1, a world domination plot with a slightly less likely eventual villain was what Season 2 was about. But like in an 80's TV series, continuity was pretty much irrelevant. Every episode was about a mildly new problem to be solved with the same old characters and their same old relationships, mostly in the same old environments, often starting in the office. Whatever happened in that last episode was of next to no relevance in the new one.

    The "Tales" introduced actual continuity into the episodic concept, which was long overdue at the time already. Guybrush could find himself in any spot he got himself into during the last episode. Like chapters of an "actual" adventure game, a new setting, an entirely new situation, a story turning point/altered main goal marks the cut between episodes. Some Telltale developers have stated that the cliffhanger would be a defining element in what they do. But no continuity, no cliffhanger.

    Season 3 is as of yet the best application of the episodic idea in Telltale's endeavors. The story arc is rather strong (although weird enough to fit the franchise ;) ) and puts the players into wildly different situations at the outset of these episodes. Sometimes even the game mechanics are slightly altered (episode 2) to give the player a new experience.

    Hopefully, Seasons which put the characters back to their version 1.0 are a thing of the past.

    Couldn't have said it better myself!
    Except I haven't played Tales of Monkey Island yet... I REALLY wish I had the money to buy it right now! I want to play it so badly...

    And hooray! The Devil's Playhouse is winning the vote now! <3

Add Comment