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Q&A With the Design Team

posted by Chuck on - last edited - Viewed by 4.2K users

Hello, honorary Freelance Police! Thanks for pre-ordering the game.

I'm Chuck Jordan, designer and writer of "The Penal Zone", the first episode of "The Devil's Playhouse." I'm also the guy responsible for making sure all the season's stories fit together in some semblance of order.

This thread is for your questions about the new season, as well as "Beyond Time and Space" and "Save the World," and general Sam & Max design-type stuff. I'll be starting out, and as we go on I'll try to rope in the other designers: Mike Stemmle, Andy Hartzell, Joe Pinney, and Dave Grossman.

I'll be answering your questions whenever I've got the time & know-how, with a super-bonus semi-live Q&A today (Monday Mar 15) from 2-3 PM.

So ask away!

479 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Do you guy ever plan to do any referance or bring back any characters from Hit the Road?

  • 2-3PM which timezone? Because it's 9PM here.

    Anyway, my only question for the moment:
    1) Is the entire stroyline for the season already set in stone, or is the entire arc still up for some modification at this point?

  • [quote=Huggernaut]What is everyone's favorite puzzle/segment from the past seasons? Maybe there could also be a tease about their favorite puzzle from The Penal Zone?[/quote]
    My favorite puzzle from previous episodes is either Tic Tac Doom from 106, which was just plain clever; or the puzzle in 203 where you have to make Jurgen unpopular by manipulating "Midtown Cowboys."

    In 301 I think some of the teleportation puzzles are really neat.

    [quote=SamnMad]In previous seasons of Sam and Max, the Street has featured as a sort of hub linking together the game's many varied locations. With the new series seemingly venturing away from our world and out into space, is the Street going to be left behind? And, if not, in what ways has it changed/expanded since the last season?[/quote]
    The new season is going to be centered around New York, not outer space! Sam & Max's street is still a major location in the game, but we're using it a little differently than in previous seasons. We wanted to use more of New York City, instead of seeing little glimpses of places from all over the world. And we wanted to make sure that the street was just one of the locations you'd visit, and the action was more spread out all over the city.

    The biggest changes to the street happen in the first episode, when General Skun-ka'pe arrives.

    [quote=Tjibbbe]I know Telltale considers the comic as the main inspiration of their games, and the new game seems to take the comic roots to a whole new level. Is there any comic (or, of course, cartoon episode or (cancelled) game) in particular that serves as a main inspiration for any of the episodes? Anything that you feel wasn't really present (or even possible) in Telltale's previous episodes?[/quote]
    I think "Beast from the Cereal Aisle" and "Bad Day on the Moon" are the two main influences on the story this season, but I've read the comics so many times that they all kind of run together for me. The visual influence is to make the city seem dirtier and more realistic than past seasons; the comics always seemed more like Sam & Max were cartoon characters in the real world, instead of existing in a big cartoon where everything is simple and brightly-colored. Plus, Steve always crams in tons of detail into the comics -- rats, pigeons, roaches, and whatever else -- so we wanted more stuff always going on in the background.

    [quote=Tjibbbe]Max's new powers bring a whole new dynamic to the game, making the gameplay feel all fresh. It reminds me a bit of Loom. Was that an inspiration behind the choice to do it this way (or if it wasn't, what was?)? Will we see more weird new gameplay choices in future Telltale titles (which I'm very much in favor of!)?[/quote]
    I've actually never played "Loom," so it wasn't a conscious influence. (My first LEC game was "The Secret of Monkey Island.") It was more a result of looking at what worked best in previous episodes -- "Chariots of the Dogs" and "Moai Better Blues" in particular -- as well as what's going on in independent games and other puzzle games. In the indies, they usually take one core concept and do a bunch of variations on it: turning negative space into positive space, making clones of yourself, or, of course, using a portal gun to move from one place to another. I really liked that "Moai Better Blues" (which was designed before anybody here knew about Portal!) took the one concept of the Bermuda Triangles and built a bunch of puzzles around that. So the idea is that instead of having a bunch of inventory items, and you have to figure out what each one's specific purpose is; you have a smaller set of psychic powers and we tell you exactly how they work. Then, you have to figure out how to use those to fit the situation.

    As for whether that kind of thing shows up in the future, it depends on the designers of future games, and of course the feedback we get from season 3.

    [quote=Tjibbbe]Season 2 very directly adressed some of the biggest issues people had with the first season. What are the biggest differences this time? What is it that this game does better than Season 2 (or Season 1)?[/quote]
    I'm hoping that the world ends up feeling bigger and more detailed. We're also more conscious about changing up the formula -- we want to build up a big world over time, with characters and places that you get to know in greater detail, but also keep it from feeling that you're doing the same thing over and over again.

    [quote=Tjibbbe]Where does Max keep his gun?[/quote]
    In his holster, of course.

  • I was reading the comics yesterday (On the Road, to be specific) and the funny thing is that every time I've read the comics, I've noticed something new. (This time it was a guy being squashed between two buildings.)
    I like it that you're trying to bring more detail into the world, this is one of the only things that was a major difference for me between the comics and the telltale games.
    Hmmm... Not really a question I guess... ehmmm... Oh, i know:
    Will there be a guy who's squashed between buildings in this game? :D

    And maybe:
    How much is Steve Purcell still contributing to the writing? Is he still coming up with story ideas and jokes? And what's his take on the Max' psychic powers thing?

  • Will there be a Wii version of The Devil's Playhouse?

  • Has there ever been a puzzle where the testers couldn't figure it out on their own and needed to be taken out as a result of this, but for some storytelling element you really wanted to keep it in the game?

    The reason I ask this is because of the whole "Red Portal in Stinky's" puzzle...

  • Hey, thanks for answering my questions! I just thought of another one:

    In the GiantBomb quicklook you mention that there were several stories the team was considering, but everyone always seemed to like the Psychic Max-storyline the best. The gameplay seems to be centered around Max's powers. Did the new gameplay decisions follow the story decisions here, or did you want to do something different with the gameplay this time anyway?

    And I know you probably can't answer this, but what are some of the different storylines you guys considered that didn't make it? Or perhaps something that was cut from one of the older seasons, like the infamous spin-the-bottle scene that was cut from 204?

  • [quote=Rather Dashing]What does the role of "designer" actually cover? How much do they collaborate on what actually gets into the episode with programmers, graphics artists, et cetera?[/quote]
    It changes from season to season and from designer to designer, but the designer is basically responsible for everything that goes into an episode. It's most like the writing credit in TV production; you come up with the basics of a story (and in our case, puzzles) in a "writer's room," and then one person is responsible for coming up with the game design doc. Sometimes the same person goes on to write the script; other times, it can be a different person.

    We're starting to have a separate "director" role, who takes the design and script and then collaborates with the content programmers, animators, chore artists, etc. through the course of the episode's production. And that's in collaboration with the art director, animation director, lead chore artist, etc. It's a little like the designer is in charge of the "game" side of things, and the director is in charge of the visual/presentation/storytelling side of things. On "The Penal Zone," Nick Herman handled much of the direction, with lead choreographer Dennis Lenart and of course Jake, who does a little bit of everything.

    [quote=Remolay]My only Question, how many forms did Sal go through before Cockroach.[/quote]
    We knew we wanted a giant cockroach in the game from day one, since Steve likes drawing them.

    [quote=GinnyN]By any chance, the doors of DeSoto DO work?[/quote]
    The doors of the DeSoto have always worked; Sam & Max just prefer not to use them. They're big fans of the Dukes of Hazzard.

    [quote=Secret Fawful]Is that Narrator dude with the rose and spiffy accent really the devil returning in another form or is The Devil's Playhouse just a catchy title.[/quote]
    The Narrator is just there because most of the TV shows and movies influencing the season have a narrator. There's Criswell from Plan 9 from Outer Space and Rod Serling from "Night Gallery" and "The Twilight Zone", plus the voice-over at the beginning of "The Outer Limits." Also, there's a great werewolf movie from the 70s called The Beast Must Die! with an opening narration. It was a great way to fit the tone, plus introduce people to Sam & Max if they'd never heard of them before, without just dropping them into a big weird story. Also, I didn't want people thinking they couldn't understand Sam & Max if they hadn't read the comics or played the previous two seasons.

    To find out what "The Devil's Playhouse" means, you'll have to stay through the last episode.

    [quote=Soracha]Will this season be like the previous sam & max seasons, with seemingly separate cases, being linked together in the end, or will it be more like ToMI, where one episode starts where the one before it left off?[/quote]
    It's more like Tales of Monkey Island, with each episode being a chapter in a larger story. People seemed to like that a lot in Monkey Island, and also the final couple of episode in season 2 of Sam & Max.

    [quote=Icedhope]When planning season 3, did you use TomI kind of like a stepping stone to see what you could do with season 3?[/quote]
    All of the series build on each other, but since Monkey Island was the most recent series, it had the most direct influence. From the story side, again, the episodes are a lot more closely linked than they were in previous seasons. And of course, it's building off all the great visual work the studio learned how to do in Wallace & Gromit as well as Monkey Island.

    [quote=Icedhope]How much more demanding on computer will this be for PC's compared to Monkey Island?[/quote]
    You'd have to check the system specs and possibly try out a demo to know for sure. We still have the "quality" setting, so you can turn off stuff like depth-of-field and real-time shadows if it's not performing well on your computer. Season 3's requirements are going to be higher than Tales of Monkey Island, though, since we've got bigger environments with more stuff going on.

    [quote=kierian123]I have a question, are you planning a season 4?[/quote]
    Not yet, we've got to finish season 3 first!

  • When would you say that work on the new season truly began (how long has the game been in development)?

    I remember several articles at IGN, 1UP, etc., that mentioned season three coming in early 2009. The general consensus seems to be that it was delayed because of the opportunity of Monkey Island popping up for you guys. So is The Devil's Playhouse the result of a year (or more) of planning and programming?

  • 1. Besides New York City and General Skunka'pe's ship, what other locations are there going to be in the first episode?

    2. We saw in several videos that there was six slots for psychic powers. Does that mean that there will be six powers in the entire series or does it mean that we will be able to hold a maximum six powers at a time and there will be morethan six?

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