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A Chicken that Tastes Like Banana

posted by TelltaleGames Telltale Staff on - last edited - Viewed by 465 users
Those who read my other blog or who've visited The Pumpkin House of Horrors will already be painfully aware that Halloween is my official favorite holiday, and that I spend most of the rest of the year waiting for it to come around so I can put small creepy things all over my house and dress like a mad scientist without raising too many eyebrows. And eat candy, oh yes, lots and lots of candy.



The Halloween candy season at the offices of Telltale Games began this year in that uncertain period after the first people arrive at the conference room for a meeting but before a quorum has been reached, the hazy period where you don't want to begin talking about the meeting itself but can't quite get your mind to go elsewhere. Jon Sgro broke the pencil-tapping quiet by asking if anybody knew where would be the nearest place to get candy corn. Candy corn. Mmmmmm.



There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can resist the siren call of candy corn, and those who cannot. As it happened, all four of the people in the conference room at that moment fell into the latter category, and a lively discussion of the merits and composition of candy corn ensued (candy corn does contain four or five different kinds of sugar, but, contrary to what you might expect, no wax whatsoever). Eventually the meeting started, but down in the cellars of our brains, we were thinking about candy corn.



A bowl of candy corn appeared the next day, and the chomping began immediately. A game designer quaking on a dextrose binge is not a very pretty sight, it's like watching a large nervous animal in a small cage. This is why the press is not allowed anywhere near our building during the month of October. Yes, and the candy corn supply has already been replenished numerous times by various addicts, mostly Jon and me.



And candy corn was just the beginning. Jon and Heather went out one afternoon and returned with a pumpkin-shaped vat full of assorted sugary Halloween treats. These were extremely popular, and the vat was reduced to Dennis in short order.



Perhaps I should explain that: Dennis was someone I knew growing up, a small, skinny kid with a large head, kind of clumsy. Nice guy, but he was always picked last when choosing up sides for whatever game we happened to be playing (I was usually next-to-last, except when Dennis wasn't around). A similar dynamic of leftovers occurs with a bowlful of nuts or a plastic vat of candy: there tends to be a bunch of one type of tragically unwanted item remaining after all else is gone. In this particular instance, the Dennis was banana taffy.



I'm not sure what people around here have against banana taffy -- maybe they've all got crowns or other expensive taffy-susceptible dental work (speaking of which, I hope my dentist doesn't read this blog). Maybe there was a banana scare before I started working here that no one talks about. But for whatever reason, suddenly there was a bucket of banana taffy just sitting there.



I approached it uncertainly at first, thinking of my dentist and expensive dental work. But taffy is a play-with-me food, and I succumbed to the allure and took a piece.



Taffy is like edible modeling clay. This particular brand comes in a neatly-packaged rectangular shape. I took the wrapper off, warmed it in my hands a bit to soften it, and then began working it. I rolled it into a ball, then a cylinder, squashed and stretched and pinched and prodded. I spiraled it and extruded little bits at one end. I made a small model of the Eiffel Tower. I did a chicken, then squeezed it into bust of Millard Fillmore. I made a banana-flavored banana slug, then ate it before Greg Frank (who went to a school where the mascot is a banana slug) could get his hands on it. I took another piece. My hands began to get sticky.



I should mention that while I was doing this, I was not simply goofing off. It gave my hands something to do while we were working on the design for the next Bone episode, and the similarities did not escape me. It's taken me a long time to get to the point, but here it is: doing a design based on an existing story is a lot like making little chickens with your taffy.



When you adapt an existing story to another medium, you take the wrapper off and warm it in your hands to soften it. You push and pull and stretch, changing its shape to take advantage of the strengths of the new medium while avoiding the weaknesses (in our field, most of both of these have to do with that powerful but sometimes pesky interloper: interactivity). And in the end, you wind up with something new made of the original material, something that has changed its shape without changing its flavor. A chicken that tastes like banana, or a Telltale game that tastes like Bone. Typically you do all of this with other people, making the design process much like a group taffy pull. You all get very sticky.



And now that I've said that I should probably get back to work, but I'll report that we're well into the design at this point, and I have to say I'm pleased with it so far. The shape feels good -- and it definitely tastes like banana.






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