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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!

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  • @Nojh said: Questions!

    Jake Specific Question:
    1. Hi Jake. I think I remember you...

    You THINK you remember Jake?! Jake is unforgettable! And I bet he... wait, who?:D

  • @Nojh said: Jake Specific Question:
    1. Hi Jake. I think I remember you from the TMI pre-order forum. You do web stuff right? Is there going to be any fun web integration in DPH like the treasure hunting game from TMI?


    I actually haven't done web stuff in a while, so I can only pretend to answer this. There will surely be some web/game integration but it will be different than treasure hunting. I'm not sure how it works or when it will be announced, though :)

    @Nojh said: I really, really liked the opening credits for S&M season 2. They really set the tone, and got you geared up for the episode. I hope the cold-open-to-opening-credits style has been retained for season 3? I didn't miss it in ToMI, because that's a different type of story, but a Sam & Max episode just showing credits at the bottom of the screen without great fanfare just doesn't seem right.


    If you liked that stuff about the opening credits' style, and the structure of the opening in season two, think you will be pleased with the way we handled it in the Devil's Playhouse. Nick Herman and I came in for a weekend and basically killed ourselves to churn out what is, I think, a pretty sweet title sequence. Speaking of...

    @Nojh said: Okay, a question for Jake: What has been the biggest challenge (and conversely, the biggest reward) you've encountered now that you wear more hats at Telltale than ever before?


    The biggest challenge is getting everything done, since I now have my hands in a disgusting number the pies. On a few of the Monkey episodes (notably the finale) I was one of the first people on the game and then was the second to last person off it at the end. The coolest part is that I get to be involved in a gigantic amount of things here at TTG. I go to design meetings and help come up with puzzles and develop story ideas, and then I go back to my desk and make artwork and effects and cutscene type things on the games, and I still occasionally get to design a piece of packaging or something. It's probably too much work, but it's all very rewarding and is the exact type of stuff I've always wanted to do. So hey!

  • [quote=Jake]3 is Joe Pinney (Tales of MI: Lair of the Leviathan, W&G: The Last Resort) design, and Mike Stemmle (Tales of MI: Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, Sam & Max Hit the Road) writing

    4 is basically the reverse of that, from what I hear -- Mike designing, Joe writing[/quote]
    Actually, it's a little more (or less?) complicated than that: Joe is doing puzzle design for both 3 & 4, and Mike is writing the script for both. They're swapping off on the lead designer role, with Joe heading 3 and Mike in charge of 4.

    [quote=The Highway]What influenced you to change the overall FEEL of The Street? I love how grimy it looks![/quote]
    To make it closer to the feel of the comics, as avistew said, and also we were going for a "70s New York" feel instead of the more brightly-lit cartoony feel of seasons 1 and 2. One of the goals was to make the environments a little more detailed, so it's like Sam & Max exist in the real world instead of some cartoon reality.

    [quote=Winther]The control scheme - Is it similar to ToMI, straight-up point'n'click like previous seasons, or something else? For the record, I really liked the controls in ToMI.[/quote]
    So you're the one!

    Yes, on PC and Mac,the controls are almost identical to Tales of Monkey Island. On the PS3 (and if you plug in an Xbox360-compatible gamepad on the PC), there's a new control system designed specifically for the controller.

    [quote=Winther]Speaking of, will there be any more dialogue-puzzles featuring direct control of Max's big mouth? I've really enjoyed the two (I think? Culture Shock and Ice Station Santa? Missing anything?) occasions where we've been able to switch back and forth between them in dialogue.[/quote]
    I liked those a lot, too, but there's not as much room for them in the new season. Since you can switch control to Max anywhere in the game, it seemed weird to switch in dialogues as well. Don't worry that the idea is completely gone, though -- we'll be playing around with the systems throughout the season, and you will have a chance to make Max talk.

    [quote=Winther]And finally, with all the new wacky stuff going on, will there still be a driving mini-game in every episode?[/quote]
    No, there are no driving minigames this season. They were fun to come up with for season two, but they always felt like minigames instead of being integrated fully into the rest of the game. We decided pretty early on not to do the driving, and as we focused on psychic powers and city map and all the other stuff that you end up doing in the game, it turned out that the new season doesn't really need a separate driving mode. The DeSoto is still a big part of Sam & Max, though, almost a character.

    [quote=The Highway]I didn't like the new way of making Sam talk. I preferred the old way, with the list, but i suppose I'll get used to it. Did you originally consider just keeping the old way for PC and changing it for PS3, or was it one way the whole way?[/quote]
    The dialogue went through a lot of revisions over the course of developing the first episode, but we'd always intended to have it work the same on PC/Mac as it did on PS3, and we always intended to use short topics instead of full dialogue lines.

    Part of that was from the Chapman brothers, actually: when we started Strong Bad, they really wanted to use icon-based dialogues. The reason is that if you read the sentence and then hear the main character deliver the sentence, it slows down the dialogue and makes it feel like you're hearing everything twice (even if it's slightly changed from the text).

    It's also fitting in with the license: like the inventory combination, text-based dialogues seem to me like a fundamental part of the Monkey Island series, one of the ways those games tell jokes. In Hit the Road, you just got icons of the topics you could ask about. It made it less predictable what Sam & Max were going to say, it made the dialogues flow differently, and it made it feel a little bit more like detective work: you were asking people about a set of topics, instead of just launching into random conversations.

    One of the things we noticed about Strong Bad dialogues is that some of the icons could be hard to decipher on their own, so we went with short topic phrases. As the season goes on, there will be some occasions where you want to decide exactly what to say, and in those cases we'll have an interface that's more like the previous Sam & Max seasons and Monkey Island.

    Another new thing, while I'm talking (a lot) about the dialogue system: the dialogue interface now shows you which topics still have new stuff left to hear, and which ones you've "exhausted" and will repeat.

  • So you're the one!

    Well, I thought it was a pretty perfect combination of the benefits of direct control - freedom in camera angles, and to do stuff like having the entire ground in one location be a hotspot - and still keeping the controls pretty much mouse-centric. I'm used to having one hand free when playing adventure games.

    ...

    Get your mind out of the gutter! I've just developed a habit of assuming a rather relaxed, leaned back posture when playing those games, maybe eating or drinking something while I'm playing. That's easier when you're not hunched over the keyboard.

    Also,
    the dialogue interface now shows you which topics still have new stuff left to hear, and which ones you've "exhausted" and will repeat.
    THIS. YES. Thank you.

    ETA:

    Re: The driving minigames, probably a good thing. While they were fun enough, I felt like I was well done with them at the end of the season, and you didn't really miss it in Chariots of the Dogs. I do still think the Paperboy-style game in Raving Dead was brilliant, though.

    E(further)TA:

    @Jake: Yay!

  • Will the guy trapped between buildings have a significant role?

  • [QUOTE=Jake;273558]I actually haven't done web stuff in a while, so I can only pretend to answer this. There will surely be some web/game integration but it will be different than treasure hunting. I'm not sure how it works or when it will be announced, though :)

    Oooh. You're profile says you're still the web guru. ;) So what is it that you do now?

  • @Chuck said: Another new thing, while I'm talking (a lot) about the dialogue system: the dialogue interface now shows you which topics still have new stuff left to hear, and which ones you've "exhausted" and will repeat.

    I was totally going to ask you about that before I read this last bit. I couldn't be happier with the answer. :D

  • [quote=Tjibbbe]You mentioned stuff like Plan 9 from Outer Space and the Twilight Zone as being an influence on this series. Any other movies or any particular Twilight Zone episodes that I could watch to get in the mood for some freelance policing?[/quote]
    In addition to Plan 9 and The Twilight Zone, here's a list of stuff that influenced the season overall and episode one in particular:

    "Night Gallery", "The Outer Limits", The Beast Must Die!, Zardoz, Logan's Run, "Space: 1999", "Star Trek" (the original series), The Flash comics, Scanners, The Fury, Carrie, Flash Gordon (the movie), Murder on the Orient Express, Superman, The Shining, The Manitou, "Battlestar Galactica" (the original series), Pom Poko, "Challenge of the Superfriends", "UFO" (the TV series), The Third Man, Gangs of New York, The Mummy, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Warriors, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers

    Plus more I'm sure I'm forgetting. It's up to you guys to figure out what came from where.

    [quote=OzzieMonkey]my question is, after what happened to the Soda Poppers in Season 2, do you know if they will come back? And if not, what Soda Popper-like characters would pop up over the course of this series?[/quote]
    Yes, I do know if they will come back.

    And I can't think of what you mean by "Soda Popper-like," whether you mean villains or child stars or really really annoying characters. I can promise that we'll have two of those three things.

    [quote=Frumyfrenzy]What is Telltale's account on episodic dramatic stories? Is this something Telltale like to/will try in the future? And would there be enough manpower to make such a game without abandoning your other franchises?[/quote]
    I think Telltale's always been open to doing a dramatic series; the trick is finding the right one. It's very likely that you'll see a non-comedy (intentionally) series at some point in the future. (The studio already makes CSI games, which depending on your attitude towards grisly murder, aren't all that funny). It wouldn't mean "abandoning" a franchise, on its own -- there are only so many games the studio can make at once, so it's not as if we can have series based on all the active licenses happening at the same time, anyway.

    [quote=Icedhope]I noticed you said earlier, that this season will story heavy, what made you change your mind from going to case by case and then wrapping it up from the last few episodes, to having every episode more connected?[/quote]
    Dan, Kevin, and Dave made me change my mind. But it was mostly based on the response we got from the end of season 2 -- people commented a lot that they loved how those two episodes flowed right into each other -- and from the overall structure of Tales of Monkey Island.

    [quote=Amaterasu]Around how many items would we be able to fill our inventory with during a single episode? Cuz in S&M season 1 it was like 4-5, and in ToMI it was more like 14-15.[/quote]
    It's going to vary from episode to episode, but it will be between those two -- definitely less than Monkey Island. Again, the general idea is that there's a little less focus on inventory and more focus on psychic powers. Instead of having a bunch of single-purpose items where "you have to read the designer's mind" to figure out what the use of it is, you've got psychic powers and we tell you exactly how they're supposed to work. It's the player's job to figure out how to use the powers to solve a problem.

    [quote=Amaterasu]Around how much time each episode will take? TT episodes usually takes 4-6 hours each... Will the episodes be longer this time? More puzzles?[/quote]
    No, the episodes are going to be roughly the same length as season 2's earlier episodes.

    [quote=Amaterasu]Will there be any BIGFOOTS?! S&M must have bigfoots![/quote]
    MAYBE!? Sam & Max had kind of a falling out with the Bigfoots after Hit the Road, and Max in particular refused to ever work with them again. We'll have to see if we can change their minds.

    [quote=indiana_helge]Is Max still president in Season 3?[/quote]
    Yes. How long he stays President, you'll have to play the games to find out.

    [quote=indiana_helge]Is the giant stone head of Abe Lincoln also in Season 3?[/quote]
    He will show up, in one form or another.

  • User Avatar Image
    bubbledncr Telltale Staff

    @light_rises said: All right! Here goes ...

    2) The animation student/hobbyist in me is curious: As far as you can answer, how much of what's involved in creating an animated short or feature film translates into how you create games? Especially now that you're able to use a more cinematic approach?

    Animated shorts have a lot more planning. Someone generally storyboards the whole thing out before hand, then everything gets blocked in 3d, and then the animator animates that shot to final. Time doesn't always allow for that process games. For cutscenes, the animators usually work with whichever chore guy is setting up the scene to figure out cameras and character positions and then create a rough layout, which gets approved, and then we move on to final animation.

  • Don't know if this has been asked yet, so here goes :-)

    was it tricky getting Sam's pockets to work like you wanted them too? with him putting his hands in them and everything.

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