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For Telltale: a compendium of cross, constructive criticisms on this season's protagonist

posted by Conviva Ebrius on - last edited - Viewed by 3.4K users

(NB Due to the character limit, the criticisms in question can be found below in the first posted reply to this thread. They are a collection in one place of replies that have been posted in other threads, so before anyone should think me mad, I am certainly not expecting people to trudge through that swamp of text and read everything; you might glean some points here and there if you browse; you might find something interesting in the original threads these came from; you could carry on with and bring over the same discussions from parallel threads that are discussing these same topics; but the bulk of material posted following this introduction cannot be taken in all at once and is certainly not something meant for the sake of casual reading. If you want a summary of where I'm coming from, I recommend following the link in this introduction. It summarises things much better than I could.)

This has to count as the lengthiest opening post here in the forums' history, and no less the case with the individual critiques that come after it. Seeing that one of the main purposes of the forums is to provide the Telltale staff with feedback from players, then the dreary, tedious thoroughness provided in those critiques should more than satisfy that purpose. When you consider my place as somebody from the earliest wave of Telltale gamers, the old guard that is the minority, Gen-X, adventure-gamer demographic that has followed them from their start, it's not surprising that back at the time, a 'zombie game' had been the last thing I was expecting this company to try its hand at and the last sort of game I had any craving for or wish to play (the genre had never appealed to me and I wasn't from amongst the TWD franchise's fanbase), but something I nonetheless took a gamble on, having followed the company as far as I had. Despite the words 'distaste' and 'sheer apathy' being appropriate ones to describe my attitudes towards zombie universes, tropes, and themes, the game went far beyond my expectations to becoming my favourite from Telltale's game catalogue, and the same can be said of many others who have played it. Not a small feat, which explains why some players would value this game franchise enough to start viewing its progression with a protective eye. I had high expectations for the second season and although already had found certain flaws at the start of the prologue, had still allowed that prologue to lead me on with a general sense of optimism. What followed after that prologue up until now had been entirely unexpected and disappointing. The way things seem to stand now, I have little hope I'll find myself able to derive some sense of enjoyment or gratification playing this second-season game, owing to some very fundamental problems that relate to the protagonist in her character and story, flaws so distinctly, strongly, plainly and palpably felt and significant enough to have me willing to flesh them out here at considerable length.

The issues have been discussed haphazardly in several threads and likely with little chance for too much depth, given how multiple threads on the same rehashed opinions have a habit of sinking quickly so it wouldn't be bad to see made of this thread a primary hub for other naysayers to express their ideas with more clarity and a place where other forum members can discuss points of contention relating to the way Clementine's personality, story arc, and role vis a vis protagonist vs NPC have been treated as well as points relating to the strongly related topic of player motivation and drive in the game.

I leave the tsunami to follow as food for thought for everyone, but most importantly, I'm putting up this thread as one meant primarily for the eyes of Telltale staff who might find a critical view useful, if sometimes hyperbolically scathing in its venting. I should add that despite my long membership history, I have posted little and rarely participated on the forums--I don't draw much enjoyment out of forum banter or spending the time drawn into a whirlpool of endless memes and gif posts--and I would not normally be taking the time to write so much (I expect I'll be giving the forums a rest after this post) were I not sincere in my attachment to the game and its two primary characters and seriously miffed with the direction this second season has irreversibly taken (no, a third season in the form of a prequel will not mend this). I'll even add a small nugget of personal information to explain why I have enjoyed this game so much: I hail from a Syrian background, and here in this part of the world in the course of the many decades that have passed, we've grown up accustomed to the sight of suffering and dead and murdered children from an early age, whether through the news or having witnessed it in person. A story of a young suffering innocent convincingly portrayed thrown into an unforgiving world and forced to adapt resonates very cathartically with us and in a region like this. Unfortunately, those who do play games over here in the Middle East are normally too busy salivating over some FPS sniper game on their consoles than catching wind of titles like this.

Before anything from my end, I'd like to draw some serious attention to the posts of a fellow forum member, Maxwell Horse, who was at the time this season's first episode was released actively discussing points here regarding the topics mentioned and whom I found to be an outspoken and articulate fellow who could make his points more clearly and succinctly than I in my convoluted fashion, or most others on these topics. He's been inactive since December, which is unfortunate, because I've very much wanted to hear his views in regards to the second episode. Fortunately, though, that means his profile page still shows his comments from back in December under his latest 25 posts. The man's insightful writing cuts straight to the point and is ultimately easier on the eyes.

http://www.telltalegames.com/profile/1450869/maxwell-horse

What follows from this point on is a collection of my own posts, that like too many others coping with this forum design, have sunk and got buried underneath endless layers of endlessly branching lines of discussion. Except for the first, each begins with a link to each post's original place if context is needed. The context for the first post is that it was intended as a response to the increasingly ubiquitous idea in the forums that Clementine in the first Season was something of a proto-Sarah. It eventually grew into a monster of a general critique. It is also a bit more rhetorical, hyperbolic, and spleen-venting than the others--I had to indulge the need to let off some steam. What comes after it has far less of that tone.

If you'll need someone standing by with a toilet plunger to fish you out in case you sink past this point, you should probably go call for him now.

53 Comments
  • The comparison of Season I Clementine with Carlos' daughter, that most off-putting character in the series for exactly the opposite reasons that Becca of 400 days equally was, is made often here, and I take it for what it is: a cop-out argument to justify a fast-forwarding, narratively disruptive and damaging time jump that has produced a violent break in character, entirely disrupting the chances of our contributing to a reasonable, contextually relevant and context-driven evolution and realistic, believable, and compelling development of character arc in continuity with what the player has spent the whole of the first game beginning to build and shape, and worse, an argument that does an absolute disservice in denying entirely what Clementine was and what Telltale had achieved in constructing her character. Had she in the first season indeed been that annoyingly chirpy, caricaturishly naïve and ridiculously impaired teenager to whom she is being compared, the Walking Dead would never have seen the light of day except as a colossal failure. As innocently meek (not inept) as her character was, she was anything but endowed with a stagnant, hopelessly forgettable and irresponsive, underdeveloped personality that would scarcely have been able to muster a challenge to that of a cardboard prop. There had always been a growing, often at times jolted awareness and germinating maturity alongside her child-like traits that made your interactions as Lee with her and her responses enjoyable and rewarding, a personality that responds and is its own and not arbitrarily set as it has now come to be (something that I think could have been possibly avoided, though not without difficulty, without sacrificing her role as the protagonist). One has only to recall such moments as her slighted response to Lee if he tries handling her with kid gloves and telling her nothing is wrong when she asks about Duck as he is being taken out into the woods. And as one can see, all the way to the finale as she assists a limping Lee and works on executing her escape, and even as she does so methodically and with purpose, all the while still showing a satisfyingly believable sense of trepidation and an all-too-human emotion of fear, she was already and had already begun walking the path and taking the steps towards growing up, all within a convincing and gradual pace and an adequate measure of emotional reaction and responsiveness and inner conflict that gave us the level of character complexity and reaction we needed to care about her from the start during the course of the game.

    I could take her dangerous predicaments, her experiences through them, and their scarring impact on her mind and self seriously in their full gravity, and particularly every moment of horrific tension in its full stretch that she would be forced to suffer through during the long instances of a treacherous or perilous situation. Adaptability and appeal and strength of character are not demonstrated in being able to shrug off the strain of that intensity, something which then allows you to introduce a very subtle element of slapstick entertainment to violence by already affording some relief that the person under threat will ultimately come to no serious harm and can therefore even play a little junior action hero with 'endearing' enthusiasm. Rather, they are illustrated when acting whilst being directly exposed to the full impact of that strain and assaulted by its effect. This believability of the paralytic fear that assaults a human being in peril (and not simply adrenaline-fuelled alarm), especially the unabatingly vicious, distressing, and savage kind that barely diminishes in its gravity in the case of one as young as Clementine, is what builds an empathetic connection on the part of the audience and has them with emotional sincerity and concern and a sense of sober seriousness cheer the character forward in the wish for her to survive, persevere, and grow in fortitude, as opposed to the spectator-sport variety of 'ra ra' rooting and 'hoot and holler' fun factor that are starting to grow in the second season. When the gravity of dangerous situations and their psychological torment is alleviated to any degree, realism is diminished and so the fear of danger with it. These should have been made to increase and intensify, as even the painfully and disappointingly misleading prologue scene to this new season had done.

    For all its faults in respect to agency and the believability of how those events unfolded, that scene at least offered genuine tension and presented me with the one and only perilous situation so far this season that despite me clearly knowing that she could not possibly come to serious harm at that point in the game, still had me instinctively on edge fearing for the girl's life, and by the end of that ordeal, as opposed to the misery porn that was the ridiculously exaggerated and ruinously unconvincing and melodramatically executed arm-stitching scene, seriously getting worried, and so, motivated further to play, about the continuing deteriorating impact on her mental state thanks then to perhaps the only decent high point or bit of believable genuine acting the writers and voice directors have deigned thus far to allow Melissa Hutchison in her script--and not to forget the animators in their work with facial animations, expression, and language to which the face of the earlier Clementine model lent itself so immeasurably better--as Clementine's distress at the conclusion of the ordeal and her realisation of her fatal mistake steadily emerge in light, shivering sobs, distress that compounded with all the still-fresh trauma, grief, and guilt of Season I, you could palpably feel was going to wrack at her mercilessly; Hutchison was able there in that whole scene--or I rather should say allowed by the writers who afterwards bizarrely decided they had no further need or demand for her skills at frequently providing players with satisfyingly subtle and admirably emotive vocal delivery--and sadly for the first and last time in this season, to deliver convincingly the palpable fear, distress, and grief the part required, and in a good sign, none of which seemed diminished by or to preclude Clementine`s ability to respond defiantly to the person who threatened her.

    It is critical to all this, by the way, to recognise how a good part of how effectively well that scene was pulled off is due in no small part to Telltale's smart adherence to an essential one half of the formula that made the game so successful by providing the player with and sustaining in him the constant protective fear for Clementine's sanity and safety that became the primary motive for playing the game, and that was in amplifying and catalysing those fears by having us project them through the fears of characters who shared a bond and connection with her. Replaying and studying that scene again, I can see that the look of alarm and horror on the face of Omid, the man to whose care the player may have thought well enough of to entrust Clementine in the last season, as he realises Clementine's predicament plays no small role in contributing to that gripping tension by channelling our own initial fear that Clementine's fearful reaction has already built in us and ramping it up, even as she is already showing herself to be on the path to growing up, taking her first steps to learning to face danger alone and defiantly confront the person who threatens her, all the while under the grip of a real dread that she convincingly acts out and displays to us. These dynamics are for the most part entirely absent in everything this season has presented to us following the conclusion of that scene and the introduction of both the new Clementine and the new cast of characters.

    Again, these things, torment, realism, gravity and fear of danger, and characters of substance who project and catalyse our fears through their own fears for the protagonist: these should have been made to increase and intensify, with the audience given no chance to becoming further desensitised to the concern for and threat of danger, mental and physical, as the exposure to general trauma or to that of fatally consequential choices and decisions gradually escalates to test a girl who is finally relatively alone for the first time and even now as she takes her own initiatives on the path of growing up and adapting, still relatively new and fresh to the experience, thus requiring her reactions, responses, and the outcomes of her actions to appear believable enough to keep us drawn in (and that to me includes seeing her react realistically uncomfortably and conflicted when you force her in the name of necessity to take a course of action contrary to her nature and have her reflect--as a growing child conceivably might--on the effects her actions and their consequences have begun to work on her mind and person and have wrought on others) with an appropriately fearful--dare I say, reverently fearful--attitude on our part towards the savagely harsh scenarios and world she faces. It is in that context that we can see Clementine genuinely progress, struggle, and grow--or even succumb to disaster if we choose to let the world lead her to that end.

    Instead of continuing along that line and furthering that character progression, we lobotomised her and installed her with instant contrived personality chips that seem to have an un-engaging and tropishly flat and monotonous world weariness as a common trait, casting away into oblivion everything that was the last season's hard work of constructing a framework and context within which that same character progression could function, take a certain direction, and make reasonable sense. It's a telling fact for me that her reunion with Kenny which I could have enjoyed immensely given the right conditions, just felt out of place and for all my wishes for it not to be, little more than stale fan service that fails to achieve the rivetingly climactic high point that it strives for. From before that point, I had already been forced, and not without effort at resisting it, to stop taking seriously the Clementine the game was trying to market off to me as a solidly constructed character whose contextual role, place, and purpose in the story and game warranted my attention as before. That, in turn, forced me to recognise no longer any connections or continuity this character was supposed to have to the story or characters of the past. When by that point all momentum build-up and immersion and plain interest are lost and you're unable to view her anymore as anything other than a doppelganger, her (most players' obvious) response to Kenny, as much as intended to be heart-warming and somewhat cathartic, will, as the rest of her responses and actions, appear as little more than contrived, artificially simulated prompts that you have to ignore to force yourself into being drawn into their intended emotional effects. (Besides that problem, there were of course the problems from Kenny's side, in how his introduction seemed abruptly forced, half-baked, lacking context, sense, or a decent explanation, but that is altogether another topic.)

    What was yet far more telling was that it wasn't until In The Pines had started to play at the close that I suddenly remembered what sentiments and concern towards the main character, and along with those an interest and motive to play, the game was even supposed to evoke in me, sentiments of affection that I suddenly realised I had nothing of playing up till now since the last season (or since the prologue to this season), and that I was sorely missing. This song was all there was left as a reminder of these (it's very good that it ought really to have been the closing song to the first season), and it clearly wasn't describing or pointing to the hopelessly vacant and stunted android I had been forced into playing this season. I had to take it and the sentiments it momentarily awakened as an ironic death knell to and last fleeting memory of the compelling character with whose growing, evolving, promisingly shaping personality it was a pleasure to interact and see progress through the concerned eyes of Lee, one that I was hoping to see continue gradually shaping itself on the road of survival facing its inner demons and resuming its way forward, whether towards deliverance and fulfilment or disaster and catastrophe, however you'd prefer to define those.

    A depressing dunce and dead stump of a character like Sarah is adamantly not how anybody would have characterised her as. As somebody had the sense to put it: "Portraying children in videogames has always proven extremely difficult; they either come across as too needy and frustrating or too mature and unrealistic in the given context. Clementine is neither of these, fitting exactly in between." That was what defined Telltale's achievement and who Season I's Clementine already was and could have still been in a more evolved and still evolving state in Season II had less time elapsed. That successful approach has been abandoned, and the growing habit of defending the result we have now by resorting to reducing that Season I character to a caricature of ineptitude or stupidity that we can excuse for having done us the favour of 'entertaining' us with being 'sweet' and 'cute' makes one frankly wonder by that logic what there ever was to her to make the initial game the success that it was. I think that the second season has abandoned that formula and its subtleties to its own detriment. It has thrown into the rubbish pile the meticulous care and regardful subtlety with which it approached the hard work of moulding this character and building up her worth in players' eyes in the contexts of both her own self and her place in relationships to other characters.

    Sure, I mean it must be fun and grand at the moment to see our rascally young charge all 'grown up' now (would that we could have seen her do so, you think?) and have ourselves a good, jolly laugh as we watch her rumble and tumble, routinely evading zombies, cracking a few skulls, or operating the controls to a turbine with occasionally clumsy (because she's a little girl, you see--what a smashing good job that will do to counter my disbelief of that) if always deadly effectiveness, and with fully customisable attitudes of 'swashbuckling aplomb' or 'meek hesitation' here at the ready to cater to my obsessive Mass Effect, RPG compulsions, and then follow that up with a thumbs up and thanes' cheer as Luke pats her commendably on the back, maybe accidentally knocking out a tooth doing so so we can all have a hearty chuckle, only then suddenly afterwards to fret frantically with cold brows and sweating palms as she agonisingly makes her perilous way up a ladder! Fun maybe, but that's of the lampoonish whimsical sort one might like to save for the kind of game where one gets to sing embarrassingly naff songs with drunken thanes as they cheer on Beowulf, if you'll pardon me borrowing from the hyperbole in which the new season seems to revel.

    Telltale has botched this one. They closed the first season off as one offering much promise for the prospects of an exceptional second season by having everything that first season had achieved lay down the groundwork on which to build the next and a direction in which it could progress. Instead, they offered mere lip service to that point of origin and set up something fundamentally 'new and different', and those two words sometimes get too much of a positive connotation than they at times show they could ever deserve, and in this case, they have become synonyms for 'irreparable disaster'. Telltale, it's clear what's been done here: the prize character arc of this series has been given the coup de grâce par excellence. You've deplorably ended up pulling a fatal Dragon Age II stunt with this one. To soften the tone for you with a little bitter, hyperbolic humour, the hungry, serrated blades of the axes that fell on many a sad neck in Oakhurst the day of the infamous Black Monday have never felt so dull and petal-like in comparison.

    • http://www.telltalegames.com/community/discussion/comment/907702#Comment_907702

      Good points. With apologies for the sheer length, I'll add my bit to this.

      Primary motivation and purpose (secondary motivation involving the personal goals of new characters in a group aside) was I believe the biggest thing that needed to be addressed by Telltale when they decided to focus on Clementine for the second season. How what follows from here relates to that motivation will become clear towards the end, but I'll say I felt that they missed the mark by deciding to present her to us as having relatively solidified her personality (to whatever mould we immediately choose) rather than having us walk the road itself leading to such a point and working our own way up it, meaning that what I had strongly wanted to see with respect to her perspective of things and her conduct was inner conflict and the beginnings of possible change (accompanied with or without a perseverance of integrity, as the player chooses), and not a character-reset option in the form of a set of choices where every available line of action or dialogue comes naturally to her. To quote one reviewer: "The only real sin committed by All That Remains is that it's a first episode to the second season rather than a sixth episode to the first season."

      Fast forwarding was a detriment since the Clementine the conclusion of the first season had primarily motivated me to wish to re-encounter or to have a reason to want to in a new season whose expected appeal to me would have lain essentially in the promise of character development strengthened by close continuity was a Clementine now suffering the direct aftermath of a season's distressing ordeal and having to enter fully this new world now deprived of the protection of her guardian, ready to evolve further, prompted in a certain direction by his influence, and carrying in herself with her the painful effects of everything that had transpired. As you've said, the reactions of characters to her had they been realistic would have laid groundwork that could have further increased the player's empathetic bond to the central character. If alone, then traumatic situations affecting her directly could also assist in that, provided her survival capabilities and vulnerability are balanced realistically to reflect that whatever measure of self-reliance she has and has gained remains limited to an extent that reflects the reality that she is still a child of her age, albeit one of relatively mature experience, but still bound by her physical limitations.

      Empathy to a character such as hers with a past that we have now just played through for a full season I think also requires a certain believable stability (not to mean undeveloped stagnancy) of core character that precludes the full elasticity the game seems to offer to the player. Her sassiness or her engaging in deceitful, manipulative behaviour (meaning particularly of the malicious sort) through the player's direct intervention at the click of a button is on its own fun for its own sake for the reason of contrast you've described (and also a double-edged sword as you say), but in a wider context rather unappealing and in respect to player motivation towards realistic formation of character, purposeless since it amounts ultimately to imposing our projection of character directly and effortlessly upon her. But that is the drawback of her becoming the game's player character. Her actions become ones predicated on the player's whim, not reactive responses of a former NPC backed and fashioned by her initial Season I character and personality along with the added influence of Lee's intervening role (in whatever direction the player had decided to have him take her). If we are for example to choose a deceitful and manipulative course of action directly on Clementine's part (in the case of the player's Lee having steered her in another direction last season) where she acts it out naturally, spontaneously, and with full aplomb, with the rationale being the harsh and demanding pressure of a savage world, at this point in the bigger story, in the way that new available side of her is presented as entirely accessible and natural, I find it quite too early (in a third season perhaps yes, after the player has actually worked and put effort during a second season into fashioning her so against all resistance, especially from Clementine's original self) and also detrimental to the goal of offering the player a purpose to invest his concerns in the girl.

      Instead, I would expect at this stage in the present course of game seasons for the game to show her acting so in such a way that displays stress, tension, and inner conflict, realistically showing the contrary nature of the action in respect to her character, as opposed to her behaving in such a way so naturally so as to appear to rewrite her character altogether. Lee was not a man who was going through a period of development. He was a character whose personality (or rather, manner of action, as unlike a blank slate he was already endowed with a core decency that allowed him to take on the work of caring for Clementine) was set into whatever mould we'd have chosen to give him through our dialogue choices and decisions, onto whom we had licence to project our desired personality as we wished, but that same licence does not extend to the player in the case of Clementine, whose conduct and character ought to be subject to certain restrictions imposed by her initial Season I persona and Lee's influence.

      That is not to say I found the idea of allowing her to grow up and let her personality and manner of speech start developing and maturing itself objectionable (but 'start' is the operative word here in what I was hoping for and I found the time lapse was too great; I was hoping for one that was half its duration to keep her more freshly connected with past events in Season I and less changed and altered, but still enough for her to have transitioned to a point where the reality of being alone without protection set in and she could be considered fair game for the shock of direct assaults with no human aid and being on the receiving end of harmful and anguish-inducing treatment that the sacrosanct nature of her person under Lee's eye in Season I afforded her protection from; her picture here with the older character model was more what I was hoping for, still younger and more vulnerable, but marred by and having born by this point eventually in the course of the game much intense suffering that will have tested and started to affect her character severely: http://imageshack.com/a/img46/6176/bfxc.jpg ). Not meaning here to give an approving nod to the idea of endowing her with an overly Stoic demeanour, but still, I was for example quite happy with the maturity and loss of naiveté that was particularly illustrated in her evening conversation with Luke ("I was stupid")--I did not want to see her stagnantly inexperienced as she had been first introduced--but something as unbelievable and contradicting as that awful, surgically calm, monotonic 'it looks better now' after her arm-stitching ordeal was in the area of too much, and I found that exaggerative distortion of personality far more a disappointment and blow to my suspension of disbelief than the operation itself.

      Unfortunately, the justification employed for executing this entire scrambling of her persona is the narrative black hole produced by the deus-ex-machina stunt of a time gap too far removed from the immediate aftermath of Season I and the early, fresh, beginning stages of psychological effects and impact resulting from the events of that season. For all the praise being showered on the 'hardening' concept (whether mental or in regards to skills)--and I feel players don't realise they've lost the distinction between 'hardened', an un-dynamic state, and 'hardening', a dynamic process with storytelling potential, with many seeming to prefer the former to the latter--I would say let the writers then meet it, with all the dynamics that theme has to offer, to its face and have us directly engage it (and in so doing have it similarly engage our sense of concern for Clementine's continuing development) and manipulate its course as we would have it as it starts to develop and gradually begins to work its way within Clementine (and let interactions with secondary characters, or even reflections on her behaviour and outlook with them play a strong role), still a 'green' player, relatively speaking on account of her age and insufficient lack of experience alone, in a world of cruel survival and still fresh in just having emerged out of a brutal series of shocking experiences (and in terms of outside protection, more vulnerable than was ever the case with her before), instead of, as Telltale has done, consigning it and the more believable cause-and-effect bounds and constraints to her personality (ie. Clementine's original persona combined with Lee's influence and then further on her choices and actions in this hypothetical second season) at work at that stage of her development to a memory hole or some amorphous narrative vacuum with the uninteresting title 'things just simply happened over the course of 16 months past', in which suddenly your imagination is left free to wander and conjure up a backstory relating to that stage of character development to justify rewriting the character and projecting whatever fully set and ready, new persona you choose for her at the click of a button, with her acting out the part of whatever dialogue or action choice you select for her as naturally as if this were already her set character, as if she was like Lee a new protagonist instead of a character whose personality as originally presented and as begun to be influenced by the player in Season I needs to be respected in its natural continuation and should require of a succeeding game to demand of the player who now plays her as a protagonist to clash with and work against if he aims to alter that personality (or, if aiming to preserve it, to face the dangers that threaten its perseverance) rather than relegate that task to a time jump, voiding the significance of your past actions in the last season, so as to consider Clementine already now set in stone, ready to play out naturally and rebooted into whatever personality you will have selected for her through the instant paragon/neutral-survivalist/renegade options (or however one might wish to characterise them) the game presents to you, in effect eliminating the dynamic of internal conflict and Clementine reacting to and being affected by decisions she can make or feel forced to make that run counter to her nature or the code of conduct she has taken to following.

      As we have it now, no qualms or reluctance or unease if a manipulative and callous course of action or one fatal to another is forced upon or taken up by a Clementine whose compass steers away from such a direction. No threat of the fear of weakness, vulnerability, or renewed pain when a hardening, emotionally stripped, or dehumanised Clementine who has embarked on throwing away anything of her former self finds herself reacting with empathy once more at certain moments. No conflicting friction for a Clementine orienting towards a strict pragmatic survivalist's code finding herself being influenced in actions she takes by the strict/ideal ethical considerations or rank bitterness of the two aforementioned personas. More importantly, no danger from the world that would attempt to challenge the respective direction towards which each player has resolved to steer Clementine's maturing disposition and emerging personality, danger that is needed to engage our sense of worry or alarm continually as she grows and develops amidst all the chaos surrounding her.

      In the absence now of Lee's care/tutelage of the girl, and with our being tasked with playing Clementine as the protagonist (thus also eliminating our fear of danger of pre-finale plot deaths [ironically, this comes along with becoming accustomed to seeing Clementine die over and over in action death scenes necessitated by her protagonist role, becoming comfortably used to her being at home and in her element with violent situations, and further desensitised to fearing for her mortal life or perhaps to any potential death eventually forced by the plot finale]), we as players effectively are left in danger of losing our own protective concerns, this for many players being the primary motivation for playing the original series and seeing it through to its conclusion. Now that Clementine showing herself to be as capable as she is in dangerous situations has started to rub off on people, in order to still maintain that original constant motivation of fear and concern, players can only have recourse to one remaining point of weakness that threatens her, and that is her emotional and mental state, her perceptions and outlook, the danger to her humanity, her vulnerability to the psychological repercussions and tangible consequences stemming from her own conduct, decisions, and actions, but as we have it here now with the game mechanics and skipped time period, there is no option to develop these and fight for them. All we're left with is the ability to have these things defined already and scripted into a personality of our own choosing and made into a comfortable fit for Clementine who can sway and switch effortlessly between them with the click of the mouse. When the season-long preservation of her life was offered to the player as a guarantee by the very nature of her role in this game, I thought there could be only one survival concern left regarding her that the game would be able to focus on and through it hold our interest, and that was the survival of her own self and personhood. Apparently, we've lucked out with that given that these things look not to be at stake.

      I know I've written enough, but let me leave you with my worries before the game was released as I had put it elsewhere, more succinct and less rambling than the stream of consciousness above:

      "My perspective on this is that Clementine hasn't changed irrevocably and finally as much as she will actually be continuing to mature and evolve in her adaptive responses during this season, especially presuming that only a thankfully short period of time should have elapsed since the events of the first. This ought to be the main thrust of the game at this point, seeing her if not through the eyes of Lee but our own continue on, forced to develop her character further and with the hurtful trauma of past events still fresh and reverberating within a mournful and aching psyche. Although this world is one that hardens and forces an early maturity upon a young individual, I've no interest, and I'd think neither does Telltale, in seeing things turn caricaturish and presenting Clementine ready-made and transformed into a type of Xena or worse, Farah from the third Prince of Persia--then again even worse, the offputtingly one-dimensional Becca from 400 Days. This game has primarily focused on the complexities of the human condition and the impact of trying dilemmas, and although an innocence has been marred primarily from witnessing and being exposed to many horrific things, numbness is not something that sets in immediately, and in the interest of maintaining a similar balance as that between 'frustrating neediness and unrealistic maturity' (to paraphrase one reviewer), I should expect that the game will approach Clementine's character as one that nonetheless alongside contrary traits retains a measure of innocence and vulnerability, one that no longer faces the danger of merely being exposed to the horrors of the world, but now to the potential horrors of Clementine's own actions and decisions. In this way, one can still see potential for more grief, emotional anguish, and psychological hurt, which I hope the game will aim to flesh out if only to test the limits and bring the best out of Mrs Hutchison's vocal talents as well as leave room to engage the instinctive paternal concerns of the player on which the first season heavily capitalised.

      There is however one difficulty that I'll be curious to see in what way Tellale will try to resolve. Whilst Clementine may still be only in the process of changing, what certainly seems to have changed fully and immediately as the article suggests, is our approach towards her, that being the direct result of our playing her as a protagonist. Certainly we would not wish for a repeat, introducing a protagonist that replaces Lee in the role of a father figure to her, but players might still wish to reserve the role of the concerned onlooker for themselves, seeing the attraction of the first season partly lay in influencing, reacting, and responding to Clementine as an independent NPC. True that you can maintain that spectator distance between her and yourself when merely controlling her to a certain degree, but if the player should control her as he had Lee, by directly controlling her dialogue (and in short, quick spaces of time that test your instinctual responses no less), then one cannot escape projecting himself onto her in such a way that one can no longer engage as a spectator her own personality and individual reactions, emotions, and behaviour, all the traits that make her an independent character to whom you can react and appreciate. I'll be interested to see how it plays out once the first episode is released."

      • http://www.telltalegames.com/community/discussion/comment/1041186#Comment_1041186

        Your point there is fundamentally crucial, one I think many players don't seem to realise, or to remember anymore, that, yes, she was clearly already starting to become affected and to process things during the course of the game. That in turn brings me to two points that I think need underscoring, that a certain range of comments and attitudes on the forum seem to be implying, and to which I would object. The first point runs counter to the point you've correctly made, and seems often reinforced by unwarranted reductions of the first season's Clementine into a caricature of stagnancy and ineptitude, the worst of these arising when laughable comparisons to Sarah are made in a vein of criticism. Had that been the case, I would not have given the game the time of day looking after a character so needy and frustrating and stunted in her capacity to develop--and just insufferably annoying in general. The second point is a corollary to the first and is made to justify both the magnitude of the time jump and the abrupt break of character that has been forced upon her, that in order to remedy this allegedly problematic Season I persona, she must be reintroduced as she has been now. Some might think me too struck by the magnitude of the jump or see me as uncharitable that I do not see her as being presented, acted out, or written and fleshed out convincingly as a desensitised girl whose emotional baggage I can perceive and relate to but instead as a lobotomised individual reduced to a vacuous shell whose character delivery seems artificial and ineffective and whose attempts at expressing some sort of coherent personality through the mechanics of gameplay dialogue prove far too malleable and void of grounding in something to give it solid cohesion, and therefore shallow. Maybe I should re-play the second episode with a more open mind, seeing it seems to have the ability to convince former nay-sayers from the previous episode, but I'm not confident that will do much, with the angle from which I'm viewing all this.

        Firstly, as you've said, during the first season she begins to become desensitised and to react to and process her painful experience in the world. She is already on the path of change. A character arc has now begun and the game begins setting a pace for it and as events move forward, it seems to promise to us--and very seriously and heavily so--a future progression of that arc, as I believe was the original Season I writers' intention, in which our actions as Lee will play an influence and to which they will offer necessary context as it advances, context that will impart sense to how that desensitisation will in fact continue to develop within Clementine, and to how she will progressively react to it herself. Does she take to it, mentally reinforce it and embrace it, fight it tooth and nail, perceive it as a necessary and useful aid, or a deadening numbness and burden consuming and eating at her as her experiences multiply and their effects grow? What form should it take? What I mean to say is that there exists no such thing as a one character template or manifestation of personality for a desensitised individual, one that poses as some Platonic absolute to which all characters or young children in this universe are headed and destined for, that has for its name 'mechanical shell crafted of sullen world weariness and glum monotony, with the occasional smile", sufficiently bland and vanilla to offer us a platform to accommodate the mindset behind every concievable line of dialogue, a platform I can easily employ now in its current state to endow Clementine with a severe case of a split-personality disorder if I wanted to, yet having her still no less dull at her core.

        The state of a desensitised individual has a context and a history to it involving not only shock, but successive stages of inner wrestling that gradually bring the character to where he is. And for the sake of compelling storytelling, it is imperative that this story should feature a diachronicity to it that has us bridge that gap of time. In the context of what Season I was all about, a desensitised Clementine cannot be a convincing or compelling character without a context that relates to the specifics of that transition and of the inner struggle that has fashioned it, especially since I would dare to say that already at the end of the first season, none of us had come out from this game carrying with us exactly the same Clementine that another player has--any more than was our case with Lee--even though we had all encountered the same girl at its start. Now I say that without any intent whatsoever to downplay or deny Clementine's core, integral personality and the acknowledgement that is her due of being a pre-established character--I rather continue to stress that point emphatically--but one can nonetheless state that each player's respective Clementine is at least unique in respect to the potential future direction of her still-nascent outlook and view of the world, to the orientation that could more likely eventually come to colour her perceptions and characterise her actions, and ultimately to the possibilities that would be faced on her path of development, including tension and conflict between her core character, her coming experiences, and faith or conviction (or future disillusionment) in the lessons or ethics that have been handed down to her, she in every unique playthrough having experienced different things, witnessed vastly different kinds of behaviour, reactions, and attitudes from her mentor and other characters, been imparted with different life lessons and philosophies of survival from the man whose extremely player-unique and playthrough-specific example has been most imprinted upon her mind, all of which has us players in sum exiting the game on divergingly different paths vis a vis the manner of effect which the immediate trials ahead will have on Clementine as well as her reactions and responses and manner of coping with and handling them, this Clementine still only beginning to step up on her own to face challenges and who has not yet been given the chance to apply her growing perceptions and outlook to coming situations or to put the lessons she has been taught into practice.

        Consider: the game allows you the option of having Lee, who has faced the full blunt reality of the apocalypse, at the very moment of his death and demise to impart to Clementine advice as inconceivably antithetical and contradictory to survival as that warning her to resist becoming used to violence as it will consume her. In the final scene alone (and compounded by the full example you have offered throughout the game), by way of both your final decision (or your abstaining from it, for that matter) regarding whether she should end your life and the final lessons and parting dialogue, you are allowed in that scene alone a very wide range of differing points of view or survival/ethical philosophies and viewpoints, of parting and strongly impactful council, to instil and brand into Clementine's mind, ranging from the topic of trust to that of building confidence in herself vs realising her weakness and vulnerability as a little girl. In these alone, you will have charted for her an initial future trajectory possibly quite different from somebody else. Remember that despite that she has already been through much, it is only now at the close of the first season that she is quite alone, and therefore her experiences in the next chapter should test her and shape her character growth in ways more critical and different than what she has gone through in the first season. That intermediate role is necessary before you can jump to the point to which this second season has had the temerity to take us. What we have seen in Season I for all its intensity is not enough to explain the result that is her present character. That was but the kernel of it and its starting point, but what she would have had experienced throughout the intervening period of time has ultimately more of a shaping influence and the stronger causal relationship with what she is (if anything) right now. How can we as players identify or connect with how she is now without a personal connection with the events that have shaped her over the years?

        Consider yet another example, if probably too polarised in the scenarios it presents: does she upon reflecting, let's say, on an impulsive act of vengeful harm she has committed and in the process of further desensitisation that follows it, find herself then when thinking of Lee, recalling the man who had not only killed one of the St John brothers in a fit of rage, but even when passions cooled down, calmly and collectively killed the second, and then explained to her that there was nothing wrong in killing such wicked men even if unnecessary (or perhaps does he tell her regrettably that he was wrong and in his actions and words to her down the line reverse course to reflect this, demonstrating to her the concepts of weakness, regret, and admission of mistakes?) or does she recall a Lee who was sufficiently wedded to his principles that he could take a restraining hold of his rage even at its impulsive peak and even spare the first brother, and who at his last wished to instill such a warning against the consuming effects of violence that he resigned himself to the sentence of an undead existence rather than push her to spare him such a fate with a bullet?

        In the case of the first Lee, does his vindictive example reinforce her desensitisation by allowing her to embrace/surrender to a sense of legitimacy/inevitability in regard to her actions? If so, how does her initially constructed innocent side of her character struggle with her mentor's harsh and vindictive example (whether motivated by simple rage or the desire to protect a loved one at all costs)? Does it rebel against it in a panic? Or does she concede to it and take that example as a vindication of her action and start readily to embrace the desensitisation? (NB I understand that denensitisation is not synonymous with heartless cruelty, so I'll ask to be pardoned for letting go of semantic precision in all this.) In the case of the second Lee, she would find herself more easily coming to regret her action, as well as pushed to struggle actively against the numbing it has further caused, in heed to Lee's warning. However, given the impractical nature of the idealism of these lessons to the concept of survival, further trials that prove too much for her in the game might break her will and leave her disillusioned with everything Lee had taught her, even if he strengthened those lessons by example instead of mere words. It is in the myriad possibilities found in nuanced variables like these, and not in the quick lip service of simple in-game reminiscences, that the dynamics and complexity and potential for compelling character growth and storytelling can be tapped to provide immersion and create a strong bond between the player and main character.

        This point in time that we are at right now can best count as a final third stretch of her story arc, where preceding events have already relatively solidified her personality, attitudes, and level or form or shape of desensitisation on the one hand, and her perceptions, ethics, and general outlook all backed by the context of past events on the other. It is at this third part of the arc that her mostly developed character can follow its way in a closing story up towards a final climax and resolution where events of critical impact can take place that might jar her so much as to change her radically (for example, an altruistic Clem who has persevered this far being finally driven by shock into complete disillusionment; an emotionally hardened, cruel and bitter Clem who has walked a path that has eaten away at her humanity suddenly being jolted back by shocking season events and the weight of regrets into turning her back on her bitter self and rediscovering the caring person she once was; or anything in between those two extremes).


        http://www.telltalegames.com/community/discussion/comment/1030638#Comment_1030638

        "The time jump is basically a slap in the face to players who wanted to witness her evolution rather than be thrown into some random time in the distant future and be expected to fully relate to her character. It's just lazy writing, as was the 5 day time jump in episode 2 which could have been used for actual character development."

        Precisely the point, which is why I've found myself mechanically plodding along playing this game with sheer lack of interest: my entire motivation for playing a sequel was to build up on what was started, which meant carrying along the same motivations I had in Season I in order to play this game, concern for the protagonist's evolution and development as she steps more fully into the real world (and now for that of the legacy of the first season's protagonist), and for that reason it isn't a matter of witnessing that evolution as it is steering it and confronting the threats that world poses to the direction we might wish to continue to take it towards from the first season (or even reverse it away from in response to realities to be faced), all of which requires the same motive of protection that had driven us the players before, thus providing us with a clear goal. More importantly, it gives a more interesting, responsive character to contend with, one whose original imported personality (meaning her core personality carrying with it a nascent orientation coming from the directional influence and lessons endowed to it by Lee's intervention and example as fashioned by the player) might itself be an obstacle to what we choose to do or itself an NPC of sorts even if we are given full control over her actions, a personality both whom we recognise from before and that actually responds and is affected and influenced further in its evolution by the actions we choose to undertake as we play her.

        This is in contrast to the current Clementine whose persona is one that is ready-made, a shell waiting to be outfitted with a full personality of our own choosing and projection, and that has no point of reference to anything except whatever our imaginations can conjure up for her backstory in the period of the time gap. It is stale and presents no challenges with regards to shaping her. She is already shaped into what we have chosen for her, and the actions we choose for her will be little more than mere extensions of a personality we have already selected for her. Contrary to what is often said about her, she is not evolving. There is no inner conflict within herself because her actions are applications of whatever moral compass or code of behaviour she already has; they are not mechanisms that can run counter to those and clash with them. Evolution involves changes or results originating in the interaction or clash that occurs between a person's initial mindset and code of behaviour and experience gained from the environment. The other sort of evolution you might want to consider is that of skill and the ability to survive. She's the protagonist and I have nothing to evoke in me the fear that she might die at any moment in the game, unless I want to kill off with a berserker's axe what's left of that vestigial bit of care I once had by wading through a slew of Clementine death scenes that seem to be there for cheap comical value. Frankly, I have little reason or desire anymore to care for the physical safety of this new protagonist.


        http://www.telltalegames.com/community/discussion/comment/1030670#Comment_1030670

        It was a difficult question from the beginning; if one wants Clementine's story to remain the central focus of the season and entire series, how to do so without assigning her the protagonist role and instead primary NPC role but without reapplying the same tried formula that would try to have somebody play the role of a new Lee? I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when the staff were discussing these points.

        Unfortunately, I had invested too much interest in the character and story of the girl to be able to warm up to this incarnation of her. Happy to know you've made peace with that, but I've resigned myself from trying to find some enjoyment in playing this season of the game. Things are quite irreversible at this point, and the dreaded word 'ret-con' seems like the only possible resort. I've started to repeat the mantra that they've pulled a Dragon Age 2 with this season.


        http://www.telltalegames.com/community/discussion/comment/1032271#Comment_1032271

        "The time jump... It's just lazy writing, as was the 5 day time jump in episode 2 which could have been used for actual character development."

        Incidentally, and on the matter of the less obvious time jumps, you've just reminded me now of something else, that things to me had begun already from the start to feel uncomfortably off and abrupt, appearing disjointed and lacking resolution, pushing me to suspect that a continuity stretching from the sharp impact and momentum of past events or a sense of connexion to them was likely to be of little importance and not much the priority. I thought it perhaps to be only a small matter that I had no call to give much notice to, but in retrospect it seems to have been quite the foreshadowing of what direction the writers had ultimately decided to take, working with this story.

        The season opened having Clementine immediately start off in safe hands once more in a relaxed atmosphere and setting and light-heartedly chatting. This came across as too disconnected and abrupt a start, given the tense, unresolved cliff-hanger note on which we ended last season. I thought for the sake of keeping things like a 'season start' freshly connected to and proceeding from that immediate aftermath and resolution, they could at least have given us an opening prologue set at the instant she finds Omid and Christa, still dazed with the shock of events fresh in her mind, and with grief breaking the news to them of Lee's death, before allowing for that momentary diffusion of tension in transitioning ahead only a few short months. Or better still for the sake of creating a short, suspenseful climb leading up to that point, start her off a short time before she finds and reaches them, who knows?, maybe even with a few minor preliminary obstacles leading up to that point for her to face as she wanders and makes her way. After all, the somewhat symbolic ending and final, dissonant note on which the last season concluded wasn't that of Lee's death, but of Clementine truly all by herself in the middle of a wide and empty expanse, marking a point of transition. It seems fitting for the sake of a short prologue for the writers to have picked up from that open tail end still carrying the full, packed, charge of the entire first season and conclude that segment to signal an intended continuity before then skipping ahead reasonably in time.

        • http://www.telltalegames.com/community/discussion/comment/1036830#Comment_1036830

          Ha. No, I don't expect a reply to this monster below, but organising my thoughts about much of this made for good cerebral exercise.

          A good exchange between the two of you, but I'll add that Riadon has me re-examining some of my positions. In what sense? (Unfortunately you won't know until quite later ;-) ) First, both of us agree that Clementine's appeal for us is found essentially in her own individuality and cohesive personality, in her being a character who ultimately stands alone and functions independently as her own agent and person, one with whom and with whose personality we as players have a desire to interact and not to take control of, who in what she thinks (especially) and does ought to be free of the outside, interruptive agency of the player, but who nonetheless like any character with a believable personality is receptive and responsive to and affected by her own experience and by the influence of others, and it is ultimately within the category of exertion not of control but of influence, of seeing its effects and noticing how Clementine responds to it--for we'd hardly be content with being mere spectators either--as well as how even in an unexpected manner of reciprocity we ourselves respond to and are influenced by her in return (eg. some players upon factoring Clementine into their equation might have hesitated on a course of action they were just about to take), it is within that category of influence that our role and place and motivations as players lay and whence our primary pleasure in playing the game was derived (within the context of our relationship with Clementine and Lee's personal quest at any rate; the game of course drew us in in other ways as well: the game of survival itself, power politics, our relationships to other characters, etc.). Where it has involved us accompanying Clementine along the rocky path that is her character arc, the proper place that our motivations accorded us was not one of merely observing her growing and following her evolutionary course, but of heavily influencing the direction of that course and working to plot it, yet in order to preserve her own individuality, agency, and free will, doing so strictly indirectly by example and guidance through the agency of someone connected to and who was a visible presence for her, and not, as was done to Lee, by wresting control directly as a player and stealing from these by partially merging our will and personality with hers as my use of the word 'steering' before in a previous post might have seemed incorrectly to imply.

          Season I had not only offered to us in Lee that primary role of influence, a place in the girl's story, and the opportunity to inject our own selves and personal convictions into it to act for her welfare's sake, but had also and again by means of Lee's own character given us our core motivation for playing the game, not by simply counting on Clementine's redeeming qualities and personality to endear her to us, but by cementing our commitment to Clementine's welfare by way of Lee's own concerns and affections for her in the context of his own personal story of redemption and through her own influence on his character. As our good Maxwell Rose (I take a moment to pour out libations in his memory) had put it, in many ways our connection and devotion to her character arc were established vicariously. We had partially merged with Lee to produce an alter-ego to define our place in the world and our role and influence in the lives of these characters. In other words, if the clothes make the man, unlike many an RPG, we had put on Lee as much as we had him put on us. When we think and operate in the world of the Walking Dead, he, with his motives, drive, and goals possesses us as much as we possess him with our own personalities, ethical compass, and manner of acting.

          This goes to show that Clementine's continuing story of character progression for us should be seen as in fact being the story of Lee's legacy that is yet to reach or be told to its full conclusion. This is crucial as it allows Lee's paternal regard and concern to survive his death and perpetuate itself within us the players as a motive to drive us forward with purpose into continuing Clementine's story and seeing how Lee's (our) influence guides her development. But the problem that I do not envy Telltale having had to study and try to resolve is that we now at that point had motive to follow that story into its next chapters, but not one to play a game, because there seemed no longer to be a place for us as players to continue in that role since the character in whom we had channelled something of ourselves and in whose person we had established a means to interact with Clementine and had define for us our relationship to her as players, had in dying removed along with himself our own persona, that which housed our own visible in-game presence and through which we could project our personalities as agents of influence with goals and a role to play. We have now been excised from our place in that universe and our continued presence in this story is forced into having to contend itself to being no less ethereal or helpless and powerless to assist than Lee's floating spectre who can do little more now than watch and follow Clementine, if even that.

          Although I do not disagree at all with and fully supported the decision that was made to kill off Lee and grant closure to his story, this nonetheless had left the developers in a very tricky, messy, and likely unsalvageable situation in trying to move the story forward with us maintaining a place, role, and visible presence in it. The first season with its conclusion now demanded a progression and eventual closure to Clementine's story, but it seems there could be no working way to go about this other than trying to make the rest of the Walking Dead disappointingly into an animated film, because in the context of a game that could assign a satisfactory and appropriate role to us, Telltale were really caught in between a rock and hard place. If the story is to be centred on Clementine, then there is no other role for us there than that of Lee. His motives, his goals for Clementine, his concern for her, his wishing to see her progress, his particular experience with and memories of her, his (and itself ours) history with her, his 'why' that tells me why I should even care to move on with Clementine in this story, live on in us as players, but have no way of manifesting themselves once more in the game world in the guise of another character with agency in her story unless that character was literally possessed by his ghost.

          The problem would not have been solved by playing as a new protagonist because both our motives to safeguard Clementine and our relationship and approach to her as players have been defined through our execution of Lee's role. Playing the role of somebody else and joining ourselves to that new person, whether it is a new character carrying a relatively blank slate but who brings to the table his own back story and personal motives, or one of the pre-established characters from Season I, a person whose skin we would have to wear, would require looking at Clementine through the eyes and motives of that new character, forcing us into constructing a new alter-ego that redefines a player relationship to a past character, one that is separate from that which has defined our relationship to her and perceptions of her, when the entire motivation to continue participating in this story is to continue to behave in the same role of the person you've played before, but that person cannot exist in the game without wearing Lee's skin, as you had bound yourself to his character with its goals and story in order to project yourself into the game. Even in our mind's eye as players behind our screens, we do not see Clementine except through Lee's eyes and all the capacity and framework through which we could imagine interacting with her are those of Lee's role. We'd be finding ourselves instinctively trying to create a substitutive Lee carrying those same motives and approach towards Clementine in whom to replicate the role meaninglessly and unsatisfyingly, and in the case of a Season I character, overriding their pre-established personalities and motives. Clementine's story for us from now on from our personal vantage point as players only exists within Lee's story and perspective and so therefore any alter-ego that would house ourselves along with our original motives, feelings, and attitudes towards Clementine and grant us any contextual capacity to interact with her in a personal continuity can only be inextricably bound to the host character of Lee no less than Clementine's story is to his.

          The most striking proof is that when she reminisces about Lee and speaks of him in Season II, we are meant to feel that she is reminiscing and speaking directly about us. As far as it matters who we feel ourselves to be in this story and in our relationship to Clementine as players, we are still Lee, even after death. We live on in Clementine's memories and in our lasting influence and imprint upon her mind, and her continuing character growth and development always remains in good part our own on-going work, not as puppet masters who substitute her own decision making with our own, but as ones whose selves and whose example and influence and guidance and ethical/coping philosophy and lessons this independently thinking character responded to and freely took to heart and can now from the reference point of her core character and pre-established personality and in her personal odyssey make use of and herself apply to coming situations, accept or reject, or find herself conflicted with, eventually leading her to a heartfelt or persuaded adoption of or disillusionment with these principles, in the face and wake of challenges and scarring trials that she will be forced to face. The final result of that transition and of that last stretch of Clementine's character arc will close the final chapter of the story of Lee's legacy, either vindicating him in his pedagogical role or ultimately condemning him for it.

          This all seems to leave us with little choice but to play a second-season game no longer as before in the sense of portraying ourselves in the role of a protagonist with whose personality we merge, whose role in the game we identify with, and through whom we can project our own selves as players in the game world, because the only viable presence now of what was our personal ego in this world is a passive, ghostly one, an imprint, that of memories, lessons, and whatever else of us Clementine carries within her now. In season I, our game-playing role was executed partly through direct intervention when she was in danger and in talking to her directly and presenting an example to her to assist in her processing things as she changes and tries to make sense of and digest what happens around her. But with us being dead now, the only way our 'ghost' can interact with her in a second season and seem to be playing a role in how she journeys ahead and what she does in the same dangerous situations she now has to face alone is when we see her interact with that piece of ourselves that we have left behind in her when again she faces the dangerous challenges of the world and again changes as she processes her new experiences.

          These hows and whys of how she eventually becomes whatever it is she will become is our role in this game. Our continued presence as Lee is in her very progression because this will be derived in much part from what we have imparted to her, having us play a direct, cardinal role in the story of who she becomes and, more importantly, how and the manner in which she is desensitised and how she handles and faces that issue. But the problem is that this is a very passive role, that leaves us stuck watching an animated film. For all of our wish to continue this story, we need gameplay motivation in the context of agency, fun, and interaction with the game itself. As I see it then, what looks like our only remaining option that would leave us capable of actually exercising some agency in a second game to allow us to get our money's worth of gameplay, and actually PLAY the thing is something I have to wonder if even feasible or possible, and this is where I find Riadon's sobering insistence on the futility of the 'no hands on' approach to Clementine causing me constantly to re-evaluate what small faith I've been keeping in the idea that the slightest seeming compromise of that might have given us a solution. Your relevant comments are these:

          "It's literally impossible to set a character with a preestablished personality as the protagonist and expect the character to remain untarnished. No matter how much they don't want to admit it, the player is, to some extent, projecting their own personality onto Clementine."

          Down in my gut, I wholeheartedly agree, and to me, this season is indicative proof, but I have to keep wondering whether there can exist a way of doing this with as little damage as possible with every effort made at establishing constraints that prevent us from intruding upon her personality and individuality, and her own direct role in her development and also leaving us with enough indirect or direct agency or control of some kind over something in the game to offer us gameplay motivation and let us want to play the game in the context of something interactive and enjoyable.

          What I have in my mind is far too sketchy and with little form even to be called an idea, but the idea at its optimal is somehow 'playing' Clem without being Clem, in a sense making Clementine both protagonist and NPC; it is somehow to play this game from the vantage point and narrative perspective of Clementine (only in that sense a protagonist, meaning the focal character the camera follows), but as far as humanly possibly not as Clementine herself in the context of an agent who controls her thoughts or critical actions and decisions in a fashion that binds her to your ego, or has you identify yourself with her, as was the case when playing Lee. Approaching playing her character with that same mindset you had Lee is pointless to me and makes little motivational sense. (Imagine playing a third-season protagonist whose story Clementine has affected deeply. When that character remembers Clementine, would you feel that he is speaking of you yourself as Clementine makes the player feel now when remembering Lee? More to the point, why would you want that?) Mind melding with Clem and turning her into the player's vessel destroys the whole point which is to keep her entirely separate of you, even when playing her, so that she remains a character whose independence of thought, behaviour, and ability to react will make her an object of your focus to whose reactions you can react yourself rather than an extension of you, and akin to NPCs elicit more of an inner response from you than a protagonist would, as if she was separate from the role of main playable character, as if you were a hidden protagonist or absent Lee watching her and reacting to her and her actions. If you try to avoid that problem by pretending she is acting and behaving according to her own volition based on an imaginary simulated model of what you think she's like now and how you think she has changed, then what you are in fact doing now is no more than reacting to your own artificial replication of her actions and thoughts as you would imagine them now to be. This can be no more satisfying and no less forced or contrived than interacting with and reacting to your own written fan fiction.

          What to do? I suppose somehow you must achieve a manner of game design or writing in which you in your role would actually be effectively appearing to play the game not as a protagonist Clem speaking for her thoughts and actions (or trying to replicate them), nor within the context of any personal character agent at all that would house part of your ego as a receptacle. The solution instead--and who knows what different gameplay mechanics this would require?--could be the role of an impersonal force (no ghostly projection of ego but akin more to a hidden director) that somehow in different ways (even through Clem) manipulates, sets into motion, and directs the course of events and scenarios (and the manner in which they unfold or test our protagonist) that Clementine will face and respond to and that further her story without having us hamper her own self-development and compromise her individuality by way of the direct intrusion of our own 'invisible hand' into her actions and thoughts, at least the ones that intervene in the process of character development or involve projection of character. Perhaps the game can separate player-prompted action entirely from matters that dictate personality or its development and leaving action choice in the realm of things that Clem reacts to or does whilst acting on instinct rather than things that would count as extensions of an artificially chosen personality. The worst nut to crack is dialogue choices; these often are direct projections of personality. The question is whether there are certain kinds of dialogue and action choices that can endow the player with the capacity to effect important changes to the story but that nonetheless do not impinge upon the territory of projecting or shaping personality, so as to leave the dynamics of character growth within the hands of the uncontrollable NPC side of Clementine that will respond in its own way to situations based on its pre-established personality interacting with what was instilled in her by the player in Season I. Overall, I think the key to all this may lie in fleshing out and bolstering that NPC component to her character by gutting the time jump and establishing a continuity with Season I where all the nuances of what she has experienced and been taught last season can be imported in their set variables to fill the hole in character caused by this disconnection and that has encouraged the protagonist side of her to fill it up with our own projections. All this is vague brainstorming, but there it is.

          • http://www.telltalegames.com/community/discussion/comment/1041162#Comment_1041162

            Come to think of it, I believe one can really build up on that last suggestion. That missing solid link with the last season is a crucial element that just might give us even more leeway in controlling Clementine, whilst still having us respect the boundaries of her own individuality. Its detrimental absence from the second-season game we have before us now is in large part why I have come to view it so far as a failed project that has demolished Clementine's personality or rather any coherence inherent to that personality. A strong continuity with her pre-established personality carrying with it Lee's influence, an influence that is unique to every player depending on how they had played the first game, has now been broken and discarded by the time jump. Ultimately and fundamentally speaking, it is the interactive combination of these very two components with future experience and choices, and the manner in which they will dynamically relate to each other that will shape character development, something that is further catalysed by inner struggle and reflection in future stages, particularly when such reflection takes place in the context of conversations with others with their own input to share.

            So how does all this factor into the kind of gameplay we are discussing? Here's the point: character development isn't necessarily tied only to the way you act or behave, but also to the mindset and rationale and explanation behind the action, and in Clementine those have a contextual reference point in both her pre-established personality and in what lessons and example Lee has given her. A good reason why the present Clementine, post-time-jump, is so mangled beyond recognition, is that by breaking continuity with the past, any dialogue or action choice is void of context tied to past events and becomes nothing other than a projection of one's personality upon her. However, one action can have a variety of possible reasons and mindsets underlying it. Were our protagonist endowed with her pre-established personality as uniquely influenced by Lee in our respective playthroughs, then it is possible even if we choose an action ourselves for Clementine to have her explain it and rationalise it to us in different possible ways, but in a way that would make sense within and connected to the context of the Season I experience you have imported and the likely personality she would have begun to shape. In other words, you will not be able to project your own backstory or motives, and so, personality, onto Clementine's behaviour, but rather, as a semi-NPC of sorts, she will react to your having prompted her to act in a certain way by bringing the action within the context of her pre-established mindset so as to project her personality, not yours, her backstory, not the one you've conjured up in your imagination for her, upon your action so as to make it appear as if she initiated the action as one stemming from her own motives. (This of course could work to sets of actions that do not sharply contradict her personality. If you choose one contrary enough that cannot be explained in a way that matches her budding orientation, she will exhibit that tension and hesitation and can express this somehow in the context of regret or of a re-evaluation of her initial outlook that is being forced upon her by the stress of more trying experiences.)

            Consider: the simple final choice of Season I that Lee needs to make, to have her shoot you or leave you. Only two options (or a third: let her decide), but a small myriad of different explanations and rationales for choosing to do any of the two, each of which projects its own philosophy and mindset and is offered to you to explain your decision--and I believe most of which are explained to Clementine in the context of past events and decisions that Lee took and his subsequent reflections on his past actions, thus making your action and rationale count for something in the area of logic as opposed to amounting to random, arbitrary behaviour. In a Season II other than this one, you will not pick for Clementine her rationale for an action or define her state of mind for her; that is out of your control. She, rather, could explain it herself for you and her reply would be dictated by what makes logical sense based on her path of character development and what she has learnt from you in Season I. One might directly or indirectly control scenarios in Season II such that Clementine takes or is forced into a course of action or decides on something, but she will have an appropriate, believable reaction, frame of mind, and rationale for her action prepared to be explained to you based on how her core character combined with Season I lessons and new experience in the course of this game have shaped her views and caused her character to develop, this rationale being presented in the game as a function of these that you cannot directly pluck out as a dialogue option of your choosing according to your immediate wim to plug in a certain personality chip at the moment.

            Development is likewise also found in the gradual processing of one's actions and in reacting to them and changing accordingly (and such reflections can involve conversations with and the influence of other characters). This is also a function independent of your body-snatcher leaning ways in our hypothetical game, and subject to the contextual reference point mentioned before. It in fact charts for her the manner in which she analyses her conduct (depending on whether it agrees or contradicts the Season I lessons she has been endowed with), the attitude in which she takes up a particular action (with hesitation or full conviction in respect to her moral compass), and the manner and attitude in which she responds, faces, copes, and deals with the process and effects of desensitisation, giving the desensitisation a context in which to frame it and give it particular significance.

            Another example to consider, if probably too polarised in the scenarios it presents: does she upon reflecting, let's say, on an impulsive act of vengeful harm she has committed and in the process of further desensitisation that follows it, find herself then when thinking of Lee, recalling the man who had not only killed one of the St John brothers in a fit of rage, but even when passions cooled down, calmly and collectively killed the second, and then explained to her that there was nothing wrong in killing such wicked men even if unnecessary (or perhaps does he tell her regrettably that he was wrong and in his actions and words to her down the line reverse course to reflect this, demonstrating to her the concepts of weakness, regret, and admission of mistakes?) or does she recall a Lee who was sufficiently wedded to his principles that he could take a restraining hold of his rage even at its impulsive peak and even spare the first brother, and who at his last wished to instill such a warning against the consuming effects of violence that he resigned himself to the sentence of an undead existence rather than push her to spare him such a fate with a bullet?

            In the case of the first Lee, does his vindictive example reinforce her desensitisation by allowing her to embrace/surrender to a sense of legitimacy/inevitablity in regard to her actions? If so, how does her initially constructed innocent side of her character struggle with her mentor's harsh and vindictive (whether motivated by simple rage or the desire to protect a loved one at all costs) example? Does it rebel against it in a panic? Or does she concede to it and take that example as a vindication of her action and start readily to embrace the desensitisation? (NB I understand that denensitisation is not synonymous with heartless cruelty, so I'll ask to be pardoned for letting go of semantic precision in all this.) In the case of the second Lee, she would find herself more easily coming to regret her action, as well as pushed to struggle actively against the numbing it has further caused, in heed to Lee's warning. However, given the impractical nature of the idealism of these lessons to the concept of survival, further trials that prove too much for her in the game might break her will and leave her disillusioned with everything Lee had taught her, even if he strengthened those lessons by example instead of mere words.

            It is in the myriad possibilities found in nuanced variables like these, and not in the quick lip service of simple in-game reminiscences, that the dynamics and complexity and potential for compelling character growth and storytelling can be tapped, and could have been in this game, at least to a reasonable extent (I can imagine the difficulty of programming a game that takes into account the sheer number of possible variables), to provide immersion and create a strong bond between the player and main character. And the final personality that results at advanced, more weary stages of character development can take on numerous forms, each of which reaches back to its own explanation and history and series of rationales, and those numerous forms are not capable of being represented in any meaningful, compelling way by a vanilla-flavoured 'desensitised, monotone Clementine' template with no contextual reference point to any existing transitional point (since one doesn't exist except in the imagination), who has a schizophrenic range of shallow personality dialogue choices that pretends to be able to project the actual depth of the various possible Clementines that could be fashioned through an involving and complex transitional stage that is well fleshed out.

            All in all, it probably sounds like too daunting and challenging a project, but would it have been much to expect to see something of these elements and dynamics in a new season? A pity then that it's far too late for any of that now.

  • Dude sorry but that is just so text heavy. You need to summarise it better. Its too much for one discussion

    I know you said you dont like the forums but thats the way the work, you have to have smaller more focused discussions

    • I'm not expecting anybody to read through all this, much less process it and start debating finer points from each paragraph. It's not there to be directly responded to, but as food for thought alongside discussions already started before in older threads. It's a compilation of individual posts for reference only. If anybody is interested in the topics in question here that have been poked to death already in several threads, consider this a final burial ground. These are the most fleshed out and comprehensively worded thoughts on the subject so far; they might as well just have a thread in which to sit, whilst people continue to discuss their own points between each other. Wade through what you like or no need to bother if you're not inclined. The idea isn't that the wall of text above is waiting for a rebuttal from anyone. Consider this thread as a re-invitation to an already open topic, where people can have those smaller discussions and also cull from what's been written here whatever they might find useful. My intent for it is only to serve as a catalyst for discussions already carried over from other threads and give some momentum.

  • I think Telltale made a few serious blunders in episode 1, but regained some of their footing in episode 2. I'm annoyed about the 16-month time gap too, but I'm doing my best to withhold final judgement until the season is finished.

  • Note 1: I edit excessively wordy articles for a living (because the people who write them are being paid by the word).

    Note 2: I read large books quickly and on a regular basis.

    With those points noted: TOO LONG, DIDN'T READ.

    Was this created with the help of a text generator of some kind?

  • Nice manifesto. But seriously I appreciate that you took the time to write all that, but that is way too much info to start a decent discussion with. I can only say I disagree.

  • What the hell is going on?

  • Replacing simple words with long and fancy sentences? That's what I do in exams

  • I know you probably meant to help with this but it should really be sent directly to the Tell Tale staff with some pointers and suggestions if they can make use of it (I can't tell if we're meant to glean something from this other than it's a critique of Clementine).

    Forums are really meant for discussion and you already expressed a disinterest in discussion with the community. That only tells me that you wanted to do a text dump and didn't really care what other people were going to think about this. The fact that this is 23 pages long makes it really hard to get into and begin to give our thoughts on the matter, not only because of the length of the piece overall but how dense some of the talking points are. Your introduction which had nothing to do with the actual critique took one page alone and I already felt "lost" reading.

    • A thumbs up thanking you for the feedback.

      Not really a text dump. Those are individual critiques originating from different threads and lines of discussion to which the links are provided. It is a collection of critiques, and they build up on points already raised in threads that wanted to discuss the topics of Clementine's character growth and story arc and how these things were addressed in this season. But these aren't angry rants; they try pointing out in detail what the problems are and suggest how they could have been avoided. The quick pace and general casual banter of forums and the lack of focus within a single thread which generally has conversations wildly branching out into many levels don't make them the ideal place for a deeper exposition of ideas, except maybe in small disjointed spurts across parallel threads that constantly crop up and have little bearing or focus on the thread introduction and exist more to perpetuate discussion of the same general topic. Like other parallel threads on this particular topic, this one's meant to keep that going--these discussions propel themselves without needing to return to a starting point--with the critiques and the points of view they offer there as a helpful reference on the side to browse, ones that also point to original threads that have raised the topic before and that might be interesting to look at or even resurrect. The sheer length speaks for itself. Nobody would expect of somebody to approach this as one mammoth tome to be read in its entirety; I'm making no implicit request of that kind, to be clear.

      Yes, I can understand finding it dense. I think if a starting point of discussion other than a follow through from another thread is needed , there's the link to Maxwell Horse's far shorter, and more compact posts which summarise much of the ideas in those critiques.

      • I'll have to come back later to it then cause I would flick through and skim some pieces but still felt lost. I get a bit busy so I don't know if I could get to it until tomorrow. I didn't think they were angry rants though since it's pretty long and I can't imagine someone staying cohesive that long with their thoughts.

        If something does come out of this it'll be interesting but we'll see. I guess I'll try and come back to this tomorrow and see if I can take something from this.

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