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Q&A With the Design Team

posted by Chuck on - last edited - Viewed by 12.2K 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
  • Kinda off topic, but the languages talk reminds me of the shooting of the good the bad and the ugly. They had actors from all over the place (americans, spanish, italians, etc...), and each basically said their lines in their own native language, the whole thing being redubbed later. Would be pretty fun to see any footage of this :)
  • With Season 3 will each episode lead to one big pay off at the end or will each episode be seperate stories with no real connection between them?
  • Oh Goodness Gracious Alberta, there were many, many pages to read through. But I did it, and no one asked my question so YES! Question!

    Why the 70's? I love the vibe you've chosen for this season, I just wonder why you chose that decade particularly? Is it just like, gritty New York makes you immediately think of the 70's, or is that when many of the writers/designers were kids themselves so the psychic toys inspired the look? Either way, I love it, and I love that you went with a pre-Star Wars sci-fi.
  • avistew;275499 said:
    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.
    It doesn't always makes sense. Take for example Divinity 2, a RPG made in Belgium (Dutch/French). The original language for it is... German. Because they first released it there. THEN they made an english version of it for the rest of the world (which includes Belgium itself... that had to wait 3 months longer than the Germans). Totally logical, no? :p
    (it's because Germans really like RPG's and adventures, still...)
    TheH2s;275522 said:
    With Season 3 will each episode lead to one big pay off at the end or will each episode be seperate stories with no real connection between them?
    They already mentioned it being a continuous story a la ToMI/end of Season 2.
  • Lena_P;275532 said:
    Why the 70's? I love the vibe you've chosen for this season, I just wonder why you chose that decade particularly? Is it just like, gritty New York makes you immediately think of the 70's, or is that when many of the writers/designers were kids themselves so the psychic toys inspired the look? Either way, I love it, and I love that you went with a pre-Star Wars sci-fi.
    I'm pretty sure the original Sam & Max comics (est. 1987) were set in that period (i.e. in the previous decade when Steve was a kid and he and his brother came up with Sam & Max), and I'm pretty sure I read somewhere in this thread that TTG wanted to better capture the comic's feel even better this time around...
  • Icedhope said:
    Also I own a ps3, and some of my friends are not so old school Adventure game players, so when developing it for the PS3 what are some of the things we can look forward to besides trophies for the Ps3?
    Part of the appeal of bringing it to the PS3 is that it's a type of game that you don't see a lot of on the PS3. I can't think of any other games on the PS3 (maybe the Hothead Penny Arcade games?) that have such a big focus on storytelling and comedy. And I think the new season is the closest Telltale has come yet to delivering an interactive animated cartoon.
    Diduz said:
    Do you know if there will be a PS3 demo of the season? I would be curious to try the game on my console. Unfortunately, I had to buy the PC version because I wanted the dvd and the case at the end of the season. I got pretty accustomed to pure digital delivery, but I want the "full Telltale experience" with all the extras and a nice cover by Steve (I assume Steve will handle the cover).
    There will be a PS3 demo when the first episode is released (after pre-order, most likely). It will include the opening of the game, which you can see in that GiantBomb quick look video. Remember that the DVD is only planned for the PC/Mac releases (it'll be a hybrid disc) bought through the Telltale store. We haven't even talked about what's going to be on the DVD yet, so I don't know if Steve would do the cover, but I'd certainly hope so.
    BoneFreak said:
    Will the basic movement and control and movement be the same for all consoles? Because I wasn't really a fan on ToMI's click and hold movement that was meant more for the Wii.
    The controls on PS3 are designed specifically for the PS3. You use the left stick to move, and the controller buttons to make Sam interact with stuff.
    NickClick2 said:
    What's your favorite of Bosco's disguises from Season 1?
    I thought the half-elf was pretty clever.
    Hassat Hunter said:
    Are there 'sets' from previous seasons that return, the restaurant and office (and modified street) excluded?
    There will be a couple of returning locations. All of the environments have gotten a massive overhaul for the new season, though: the street is the one that looks closest to how it did in season 2, and you can see how much the street has changed in the screenshots and videos.
    Hassat Hunter said:
    With the talk of 'one game' ToMI have you guys dedicated effort into making S&M 3 possible to be played as one streamlined game in the end, or would we still be required to end the game and start the new one manually, even having all 5?
    They're all one connected story, but they're still episodes and designed to be told as episodes. We don't ever conceive of these things as being 1/5 of a bigger game, but as 5 separate games that are all part of a bigger story. It's intended to be like a TV series, where the gaps between the episodes are as big a part of the pacing as what happens inside the episodes themselves. So, short answer: there's no plan to have all the episodes run into each other, because it doesn't really add anything as far as we're concerned.
    Winther said:
    Many filmmakers have said that they can't watch the movies they've made. Could you ever sit down and play a game you've worked on? Or does the process of making them kind of burn you out on that prospect? Especially with adventure games, which are mostly very linear experiences?
    Of the games I've worked on, the only one that I could still play for fun is SimCity 4. (Although I did go back into the Strong Bad games to play Algebros and the Gel-Arshie games again). You have to wait a few years to go back and play a story-based game again, unless you're the type of person who can watch the same TV show or movie over and over again. I did start watching YouTube playthroughs of Monkey 3 recently, and it was neat seeing scenes I'd forgotten. (And remembering how great the music on that game was).
  • borgtrek7 said:
    hello im wondering if its going to be open world and how sick is the humor im
    No, and only moderately.
    pwblaine said:
    Speaking of which, I was a big fan of the old point and click mechanic of seasons one and two, any specific reason the old mouse driven control has been switched to a more keyboard driven approach for moving the character?
    You can check the threads about the control system in the Sam & Max forum, Monkey Island forum, and Wallace & Gromit forum for more detailed info. A brief history: point-and-click is best suited to mice, not console controllers, so they decided to make a console-friendly controller scheme for W&G. Direct control of Wallace & Gromit turned out to be a lot more engaging than clicking on a screen and watching them walk. It also turned out to open up a lot of opportunities for Telltale: the environment artists could make real 3D, 360 degree environments with changes in height and depth, instead of arranging everything from left to right on a stage. Plus the designers can make puzzles based on movement and exploration instead of just clicking on things to get a cutscene.
    LittleRena said:
    What are the odds of a Bosco spin off series?
    Somewhere between slim and none.
    LittleRena said:
    Also, how many doors will Agent Superball be guarding this time?
    Around 3 and a half.
    freelancehero said:
    One thing must be clear first, are both Stinky (or Stinkies) are major enemies that our Freelance duos must face?
    We will be seeing more of Stinky and Grandpa Stinky's story in the new season. How that plays out, you'll have to play the games to see.
    freelancehero said:
    Is it really Sam and Max future in Chariots of the Dogs where they finally put their career to rest?
    The first rule of Sam & Max is not to get too attached to continuity. We've already seen Sam & Max changing the future (and the past), so nothing's set in stone and you'll just have to take it as it comes.
    freelancehero said:
    Will there be trophy for the PS3 version? And so, will our preorder can be pick from either side?
    Each episode of the PS3 version will have its own set of trophies. And I'm sorry, but I don't understand the second question.
    Sciz said:
    So my dream of Valve and Telltale collaborating on a TF2 series is more plausible than I expected?
    The only way to make it happen is to deluge Valve with e-mails telling them you want to see it. Or start an internet petition.

    Important note: Don't actually do this it would be sad.
    freelancehero said:
    What will happen to Bluster Blaster?
    The COPS are back in season 3. You'll have to see what happens to them in the episodes.
    Vainamoinen said:
    I loved the music in previous seasons. Come "Tales of Monkey Island", I was disappointed that MZL's music bits were so incredibly short, while JEJ could create such wonderful, lengthy cues even exceeding five minutes. Will we get such long pieces again?
    I don't know the actual numbers, but it feels to me like 301 has more music than any other Sam & Max episode. And Jared's outdone himself, both with the compositions themselves and all the different variants on them that we kept asking him to do. As a result, we broke Jared. I hope you're happy.
    Vainamoinen said:
    The new inventory looks very fancy - it also looks as if not much stuff fits in. That's OK, I gather the puzzles center more on psychic powers, nonetheless: What's the maximum inventory items on one page?
    You're right, there is more emphasis on powers than inventory with the new season. But the UI fits about as much stuff as the Season 2 UI. I think the actual limit is around 10?
    light_rises said:
    When it comes to deciding which characters you are or aren't going to bring back for a new season, have you ever felt constrained -- or at least pressured -- by fan response to any of them, despite your own plans? For example, do you feel you have more freedom to use (or not use, as it were) characters whose fan feedback was more tepid than not? And, conversely, less freedom if the characters were widely popular or disliked?
    We're always listening to what fans are saying (and responding, with super-long posts). But for the most part, the characters the fans like are the same as the ones we like, and we haven't really had any "Nikki and Paolo" situations. (The three characters that fans seemed to hate the most were designed to be annoying, remember). Whenever I've suggested bringing back or not bringing back a character, it's mostly been based on whether I liked them or not, and whether I thought there was something interesting or funny for them to do. If you put in a character just because it's popular, not because it fits into the story, then it becomes obvious pretty quickly.
  • Lackey said:
    That said, are you guys interested in any new properties to work with?
    Yeah, the studio is always looking for new properties that would make a good episodic game series. Keep watching the boards for developments.
    Bloody Eugene said:
    it was already answered that the game will be english only, but what for other languages? Will they ever be available?
    There will be localizations at some point, as you say it's a good way to expand the games to a wider audience. But the reason they've usually been handled by publishing partners (like Atari and the Adventure Company) is because they have the resources to do a localization. At the moment, Telltale just doesn't have the resources to do multiple languages right out of the gate; it's enough work keeping up with multiple platforms AND an episodic release schedule.
    Kroms said:
    howww do you make sure something is funny or not?
    Write it, see if it makes you laugh, ask other people around the studio for a second opinion. The surest way to kill a joke is to over-think it.

    Also, if you're short on time, a useful trick is to take something that's not funny and then write the opposite of it. THe entire script of 301, for example, is the opposite of Precious Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire.
    Tjibbbe said:
    How do you decide who gets to do which episode (of which series)? Is it just random, or based on personality? Was it just coincidence that Jordan got to do the Trogdor-episode and that Stemmle got to do the episodes that were set on Flotsam?
    It's usually semi-coincidental who gets what episode based on timing and scheduling. But what actually ends up going into the episodes besides the main story beats, is decided by who's heading up the episode. So it's not as if it were completely random.
    Icedhope said:
    Are there any hysterical moments that you thought were funny, but when you were writing an episode and ended up cutting it?
    Nothing's jumping to mind. Usually the really lousy ideas get weeded out during the design process.

    (Earlier I said "not a lot gets cut, actually" in response to some question, but that's not really true: A ton of stuff gets cut while the episode is being designed and sometimes while it's being written. By the time the episode goes into production, though, you need to be pretty confident that you've got good source material that can't be easily cut).
    Astro Gnocci said:
    How would you (no one in particular) define the characters of sam and max ?
    Sam is the dog and Max is the rabbit.

    I heard Steve say one time that both characters were aspects of his personality, with Sam being the slightly more grounded side and Max being pure id.
    S@bre said:
    Where do I go to get my own pet Mike Stemmle? Do they come off a factory line, or do I have to pay extra to get one hand-made?
    The hand-made ones are higher quality and worth the investment. Be forewarned, though: they shed like a son-of-a-b.
    KaminUkki said:
    Is there any possibility of a Telltale-made HD Remix/Remake of Hit The Road ala Monkey Island Special Edition? Or would that be more for Lucasarts?
    That'd be completely for LucasArts to decide, since they own Hit the Road. I would guess (don't take this as even remotely "official," just my understanding) that a remake would be better handled by LucasArts.
    Wizpig said:
    We know this third series is a good place to start as your first Sam & Max game, but what if you don't know the characters? meaning you never read a comic, etc?
    Because this will be my first Sam & Max game, but not only that: it's also my first Sam & Max "media"
    Am i good to go? is it noob-friendly?
    It's definitely intended to be, so try it out and let us know how we did. We've got an entire character (the Narrator) devoted to easing people into the season, and we introduce all the returning characters in episode 1, so that you're not feeling like you missed out on stuff if you don't know the comics or previous games.

    The key thing with Sam & Max is that they're always constantly surrounded by weird stuff that doesn't quite make sense; half the fun is dumping you into the middle of a bizarre situation and seeing how they just take everything in stride. (And since you're using The Cheat as your forum picture, I'm guessing you're used to that!)
  • haydenwce27 said:
    Will there be cliffhangers at the end of some of the episodes? Please say yes.
    Yes. I'm saying that because you asked nicely and also because it's true.
    GepardenK said:
    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.[...] But I was wondering if there still is a chance of us seeing a "real" car chase in season 3. [...] 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?
    The driving minigames from seasons 1 and 2 won't be back in the new season. But we did look at what the driving games were intended to do -- mix in a faster-paced sequence with the usual talking-and-picking-up-things of adventure games -- and apply that to different set pieces. So it might not be a car chase exactly, but we're always looking for ways to change up the pacing and put in scenes that are more exciting.
    GepardenK said:
    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.
    Everybody's got his own take on it, and you know that kind of thing's one of BioWare's main selling points. But my own take is that I hate any kind of "branching" content at all, whether it's as big as an alternate ending or as seemingly small as using one item instead of another to solve the same puzzle. Some of that's practical: I don't like the idea of making content that half of your players aren't going to see; I'd rather have the team spending their time on stuff that's guaranteed to be in the game.

    Even if you had infinite time and money, though, I still wouldn't like branching paths or alternate solutions. (Unless your story's specifically about branching paths or alternate realities). The reason is that it seems like "fake" interactivity -- it's letting players do a bunch of different things instead of the one most interesting thing. I think that your goal when designing an adventure game shouldn't be to come up with whatever solution works, but the best, most interesting, most clever, or funniest solution to a situation. There's usually a moment in the design meetings when somebody suggests a situation and you think "Yes! Brilliant, that's it exactly." I think the goal of a game designer should be to get the player to that moment, instead of presenting you with a situation where there are three things that work equally well. It's all about guiding the player to make the most interesting moment happen.

    In your opening-a-sack-of-flour example, I'd probably see if we could get rid of the scissors and screwdriver first. That way, what occurs to you as the "right" answer is the same as what occurs to me as the right answer. If we get to the point where we're doing external playtests, though, and somebody comes up with a solution that hadn't occurred to us, we'd either support both solutions, or try to give a good explanation as to why one solution isn't as "good" as the other one. And of course, we do have lots of situations where there's no one "correct" solution -- dialogs, for example, where we give you the option of saying goofy things that all work equally well.
    zmally said:
    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?
    We send the script around to the design team and get everybody's feedback, reworking lines that don't work or adding good suggestions for better gags. While the game's in production, we get feedback from the QA team and from anybody else in the company who's playing the game -- if the QA team or the chore guys say they don't like a gag, I'll try to see if there's a way to make it funnier.

    We do have external playtests for each episode. But there, we usually just try to gauge whether the episode's funny overall instead of going over each individual line.
  • Just out of curiosity, on all the cover screens show a "based on..." gag, who comes up with those and do they actually have any connection to the story of that episode at all?
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