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Q&A With the Design Team

posted by Chuck on - last edited - Viewed by 3.4K 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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  • Hmm... two questions at the top of my head. Sorry for long post btw:)

    Q1:
    I heard the driving minigames would not be present in this season. I think this is a good thing as the minigames felt very tacked on. They where fun and all, but kinda ruined the atmosphere in some cases.
    But I was wondering if there still is a chance of us seeing a "real" car chase in season 3. I always liked the small action sequences we got to play ourselves as they did add lots of drama. In fact I have been a big fan of these sequences ever since the very first desert chase in Out from Boneville.

    So is a real Sam & Max car chase, guns blazing, something we may get to see in the new season? If only in one of the episodes?

    Q2:
    This is just a thought, and not specifically related to season 3 in any way, but...

    You see, I love the ideas behind Max`s new powers. Especaly because they are meant to spice up the puzzle gameplay. But have you guys (in your, I'm sure, many brainstorm meetings) ever considered puzzles with multiple solutions? You know, the kind of puzzle where you realize you need to open a sack of flour for some reason and you can use both the screwdriver, the scissor and the gun in your inventory to achieve that.

    The idea is to focus the "Puzzle Gameplay" on exploring, chatting and analyzing the environment in order to figure out what you're supposed to do, but then let how you're doing it be a bit easier by adding multiple "use item on object" solutions where it makes sense. (Kinda like detective work :) )If used correctly the proses shouldn't require much more work on the designers part as animations and cutscenes would almost always be the same, just switch the object used.

    Another way to do "open ended puzzles" is having critical items being obtainable at several locations. So if I figured out I needed a knife I could get it both from the kitchen and from the office drawer (plus maybe from the back of a dead guy in the alley)

    Of course, it would require some pretty clever puzzle planning to make sure "guessing" your way to the solution wouldn't be too easy. But puzzle planning is one of telltales major expertices, so that should go fine I think :)

    As you probably have discussed this kind of puzzle gameplay at some stage, my question is: Why have you chosen not to go with it? Surprisingly few adventure games do and I would like to know if there is some kind of industry wide reason for this :)

  • I really dislike the idea of open-ended, multiple-solution puzzles. At first, they seem like a cool idea. But it's a kind of "on paper" thing.

    More solutions means the puzzle is easier, and it's more logical to just try things rather than think about them, because it's more likely that you can just stumble on one of the answers. Take, for instance, Scribblenauts. Its puzzles aren't really puzzles, because you have such a wide variety of solutions that any challenge comes from the game not doing what you told it to do.

  • When the scripts are being written, how do you test they're funny enough? A lot of companies out there have a test audience, but TellTale obviously revolutionised game developing and have a completely unique cycle, so I can't imagine it would much the same way?

    If I were you guys I'd just all sit around a table and discuss it, whether it's funny enough, but I reckon 12 people sat around telling SamNMax jokes you'll all find it funny - how do you test for the "normal" people?

    I mean, I assume you still try and target a broad demograph in the endless search for more fans, right?

  • @Rather Dashing said: I really dislike the idea of open-ended, multiple-solution puzzles. At first, they seem like a cool idea. But it's a kind of "on paper" thing.

    More solutions means the puzzle is easier, and it's more logical to just try things rather than think about them, because it's more likely that you can just stumble on one of the answers. Take, for instance, Scribblenauts. Its puzzles aren't really puzzles, because you have such a wide variety of solutions that any challenge comes from the game not doing what you told it to do.


    I see where you're coming from. And yes, there is a lot of pitfalls when doing open ended puzzles.
    However when done right it can be very interesting and rewarding for the player simply because gameplay now is based around actually trying to figure out what to do, instead of figuring out how to do something you already know must be done (like opening a sack of flour).

    A good example of this done right (not saying Telltale should do it this way) is a game called "return to mysterious island". It was a game with cheesy story, horrible dialogue and lame cutscenes. Still it gained almost a cult-classic status within the hardcore adventuregame communities, and for one reason: Inventory puzzles was actually fun. I mean really fun, the kind of fun where you were actively entertained for hours just staring at the inventory screen (now picture that kind of puzzle solving fun together with a good story and gameworld!). What the game basically did was giving you simple objectives like: repair the bridge, kill snake or find food. Then you would go around collecting literally hundreds of inventory items which all had some kind of use if you could figure out what, most items had several uses. Items could be combined together to make new items like a fishing rod (and there was many ways to make a fishing rod, using different items), and they could be dismembered later if you needed the items for other uses. All items were useful, but far from all were required. This made you actually think about what you where doing, because it was impossible to guess the answer (there was litterally millions of combinations between all the items and hotspots). But most of all, it was simply pure fun to experiment with combining different items and "build" stuff for later use.

    Another game doing open ended puzzles was Riven. Here the puzzles solutions themselves where linear, there was only one way to solve a puzzle. But the game itself, and where you got the answers you needed to do the puzzles where exstremely open ended (to the point where it got confusing). This made many people dropp off, but those that did get through all had a different story to tell about how they figured out the puzzles (or should I say puzzle). The puzzle itsef was actually kind of easy, but you had to litteraly understand and "get" the world around you in order to figoure out the solution, not many did. Riven was a very very hard game because of this openess, but it was also very satisfying for those that got through. Not very telltaley material to be honest :)

    But I'm getting off topic here and I'm not saying future telltale games should be exactly like this or that, actually they should not. I'm just saying there is IMO a very interesting and untapped potential in looking into more "open ended" puzzle games. Even for episodic games with a strict linear story

  • I have a question.
    People here have been talking about language patches. Are you, the telltale team, aware that those do exist (fan-made), and is it with your approval, or do you disapprove?

    (PS, Beyond Good & Evil is a French game. Although I guess it's possible the voices were recorded in English at the same time they were recorded in French to reach a broader audience).

  • @avistew said: (PS, Beyond Good & Evil is a French game. Although I guess it's possible the voices were recorded in English at the same time they were recorded in French to reach a broader audience).

    The creator, Michel Ancel, and company who made it, Ubisoft, are both located in France.
    However, like with most Ubisoft games, they're developed in English, to reach a broader audience. Because of this, English ís the original language of the game.
    The Gamecube version in the Netherlands came with the dutch and french version.

  • Probably this is not the place to ask this, but, Who has the brilliant idea of make the narrator black and white (except for the rose)? I LOVED his desing since the teaser page, and now I know I going to see him at least once in every chapter I'm HAPPIER. (It's screaming fan art since day one. Which I don't understand why still I'm not do it *Put on the to do list*)

  • @Joop said: The creator, Michel Ancel, and company who made it, Ubisoft, are both located in France.
    However, like with most Ubisoft games, they're developed in English, to reach a broader audience. Because of this, English ís the original language of the game.
    The Gamecube version in the Netherlands came with the dutch and french version.

    It's not that I don't believe you, but then why do English-language website credit both the French and English voice actors? (and none of the other language actors). That led me to believe it was done either in French first or with both languages simultaneously (a la Inspector Gadget).

    Still, if I was to make a name knowing it would be releasing in both languages, and I worked with a French team, I think we'd be discussing it in French and writing the lines in French, then translating into English. The idea of doing it the other way around just seems weird to me.

  • @GepardenK said:
    Another game doing open ended puzzles was Riven. Here the puzzles solutions themselves where linear, there was only one way to solve a puzzle. But the game itself, and where you got the answers you needed to do the puzzles where exstremely open ended (to the point where it got confusing). This made many people dropp off, but those that did get through all had a different story to tell about how they figured out the puzzles (or should I say puzzle). The puzzle itsef was actually kind of easy, but you had to litteraly understand and "get" the world around you in order to figoure out the solution, not many did. Riven was a very very hard game because of this openess, but it was also very satisfying for those that got through. Not very telltaley material to be honest :)

    I haven't played it in a long while and don't remember it well enough to be sure about it, but didn't Blade Runner work more or less in the same way ?
    Although i think it was linked more directly to the actual plot in there than to the puzzle solutions..

  • @avistew said: It's not that I don't believe you, but then why do English-language website credit both the French and English voice actors? (and none of the other language actors). That led me to believe it was done either in French first or with both languages simultaneously (a la Inspector Gadget).

    Still, if I was to make a name knowing it would be releasing in both languages, and I worked with a French team, I think we'd be discussing it in French and writing the lines in French, then translating into English. The idea of doing it the other way around just seems weird to me.

    Well, french being their main language, they must've worked real closely on that too. I know if I'd be making a game in English and I knew it to get dubbed in dutch, I'd spend some time getting that right too.

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