Telltale Autumn Sale

Telltale and Puzzles: A Rant.

Something tells me this post will somehow affect the job application I sent Telltale. Not sure if it's in a good or a bad way, but oh well. :p

First of all, I am happy for Telltale and what's happened to them since The Walking Dead. As both a long-time Telltale fan and a writer struggling to have his work appreciated (and thus ends up empathizing with other creative underdogs), I'm glad Telltale's been able to release something that's seen so much success, both commercially and critically.

At the same time, though, while The Walking Dead was amazing, it wasn't perfect. While it proved the Heavy Rain-style interactive movie genre can be done right, it's still a very limited format that doesn't allow much freedom for the player. The occasional interactive movie is fine (branching out and trying new things is good!), but I wouldn't want Telltale to focus exclusively on that genre, and unfortunately, with TWD having been such a boon for the company, that seems to be their plan. What raised this concern in me is Dan Connors' speech at the DICE Summit, specifically this quote.
How do we evolve it and make it more of a storytelling medium and less of a puzzle-based medium?

Needless to say, I have a few things to voice regarding Telltale's new direction. Note that I'm not saying any of this out of malice. I've been a fan of Telltale for a long time and would like to stay that way. I don't have anything against anyone there. Hell, if one of my books became a huge hit out of the blue, I'd do everything I could to replicate that success again too, so I know where they're coming from. I'd just like to pitch in my two cents and let everyone else decide what they're worth.

1. Story and gameplay are not mutually exclusive. There's this common idea with people that a game can have great story or great gameplay, but not both. They think strengthening one department means weakening another (and unfortunately, most games don't do much to prove them wrong). Even more distressingly, a few people flat-out discourage games focusing on story, since they believe it has to come at the cost of gameplay. They think being well-written is a flaw!

Telltale wants to focus more on storytelling. That's good. Telltale's writers are top-notch, and they should be able to tell even better stories than before. However, this does not have to come at the cost of gameplay, nor should it. A game doesn't need to be an interactive movie or a visual novel to be well-written. Purely off the top of my head, there's Deus Ex, Fallout, The Longest Journey, Psychonauts, and Silent Hill. All games that manage to excel in both gameplay and story. Just because few games even try to be great at both doesn't mean it's impossible.

2. Change is not always bad, but it's not always good either. A lot of where Telltale seems to be coming from is that not every adventure game needs to be the same. And that's true. I love those old adventure games to death, but they did go out of style for a reason. For most people those old, often cryptic (if not flat-out insane) "use X on Y" puzzles could be frustrating. Evolution is good. When Maniac Mansion came out, a lot of people complained that it wasn't a "true" adventure game because there was no text parser. Thing is, text parsers frequently led to annoying "guess the verb" situations. Since they could only recognize a limited selection of words, why not put those words out there for the player to choose from? That slowly led to the point-and-click interface, which I think we could all agree was a good thing. Telltale's right, there is more than one way to do an adventure game. Hell, it's a bit of a stretch, but look at Portal. It doesn't resemble a conventional adventure game at all, but there's a lot of focus on setting, plot, dialogue, and of course puzzles. It's something of an adventure game in spirit, if that makes sense.

I'm not complaining out of nostalgia. I'm not insisting Telltale stick to games like Sam and Max forever and never branch out (though it would be nice if they never fully abandoned their roots either). If the adventure genre wants to recover, it should evolve. If Telltale manages to come up with the next big thing that revolutionizes the genre, that'd be amazing. I hope they could do it.

The thing is, in my personal opinion, the interactive movie is not "the next big thing." It's not exactly new, for starters. Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit had done it before Telltale. You could call Dragon's Lair an early crude version of it too. If you really want to stretch it, you could call visual novels (and VN/adventure hybrids like Phoenix Wright and Hotel Dusk) the Japanese equivalent, only less like a movie and more like a book.

More important than that, however, is that in terms of engaging the player, it's a step backwards. Putting the story on hold so the player can solve a puzzle may not be the best way to blend gameplay and story, but at least it doesn't completely neglect the gameplay department. Interactive movies are supposed to make up for the limited gameplay with non-linearity (which The Walking Dead did, to an extent), but the problem is other genres can offer that and more. I'm not saying interactive movies should be avoided entirely, but they're not the way of the future either. Hardware has evolved on a massive scale. Games today should be more complex and allow the player more freedom than they did 20 years ago. Removing puzzles and giving the player some dialogue options and QTEs is not the way to do it. When it comes out, Fables should be more interactive than The Secret of Monkey Island, not less.

On top of that, while I'm no businessman, I'm not sure if copying The Walking Dead's formula will work out for Telltale in the long run. Let's be blunt. As great as The Walking Dead was, its quality was not why it sold. It sold because it shared the name of a TV show that's incredibly popular at the moment (yes I know the game is based off the comic, but the show is still what most people would think of). Fables will not have that same name recognition, especially since it won't even be called Fables. If Telltale wants Fables to attract anyone outside the already-existing fans of the comic, the game must be good on its own merits. This includes being well-written (which I'm sure Telltale already has covered), but it also includes being fun to play. Ditto for King's Quest, assuming that hasn't been cancelled yet.

To make a long story short, I'm glad Telltale is trying to change their gameplay, but that doesn't mean diminishing it. Instead of asking themselves "How do we remove the focus on gameplay?", they should ask "How do we make the gameplay feel more organic to the story?" How can we make the player's actions seem logical? It's hard for me to come up with specific situations, but for example, why is the main character grabbing this item? It'll be important later, but he doesn't know that. What's the in-universe reason?

Admittedly, I'm no game designer. The specific big idea that'll change adventure games forever won't come from me. But the guys at Telltale are talented. They've done great things already, and I know they've got the potential to do even better. They just have to try.

Let me know what you think.
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Comments

  • JenniferJennifer Moderator
    edited February 2013
    I think The Walking Dead is a great starting point for the melding of gameplay both Telltale's older fanbase would enjoy without turning off their newer fanbase.

    The Walking Dead was great, and the choice based decision making was also great, but it lacked in the puzzle department. They did manage to have an inventory (and that system worked well, once you got used to the changes). It got away from most of the cartoon-like puzzles (like RAnthonyMahan said, they fit within the context of the story), but there's no reason those puzzles couldn't have been more challenging.

    There's an adjustable slider in the menu to let gamers choose how many hints the game gives, so it would be great if they actually put that to use for the old fans too (since the old fans didn't have to use the hints at all in The Walking Dead). Telltale's older games got more challenging as they went on, and it would be great to see their newer games start to do that again.
  • edited February 2013
    They're going to ignore everything and everyone that doesn't agree with their agenda. Anything they can't ignore they'll explain away.
  • edited February 2013
    I got to agree that trying to focus on just Story and trying to get away from puzzles is a bad idea. Let's face it, Yes TWD was a great game and its great that TTG are becoming noticed but Removing the puzzles is a bad idea. BTTF had easier puzzles and yes while in my opinion the story was good and i didn't mind the puzzles, loads of people wanted harder puzzles. Then Jurassic Park came out and i don't think i need to explain this one but if the main problem was that it focused too much on QTE's.

    TWD did manage to find a good balance between QTE's, and exploring. But let's face it, this formula is not going to work for every game. Because while i did like TWD, it won't exactly work for games like Sam & Max, Monkey Island,Puzzle Agent,Strong Bad etc and that's a problem because some series were left on open endings or cliffhangers. Tales of Monkey Island had
    Morgan make a deal with the Voodoo lady and brings her Lechuck.
    BTTF had
    3 future Marty's come and Doc and Marty needing to do something to fix the timestream fast.
    .

    What i'm trying to say is that removing gameplay and just trying to make a game on story would be a very bad idea. We all know how it went last time it happened (Jurassic Park).
  • Blind SniperBlind Sniper Moderator
    edited February 2013
    Very well said. You articulated a lot of my worries as well.

    I think another part of The Walking Dead's success, beyond the popular franchise, was that you were playing as original, relatable characters and responding to situations that were designed from a somewhat realistic perspective (ignoring the zombie aspect). I don't think that Telltale replicating the gameplay of The Walking Dead would work as easily when Telltale is working with characters that are already established in a franchise that are dark, adult representations of fable/fairy tale characters which are less relatable to players than the characters of The Walking Dead. Furthermore, since it was stated that Fables will be canon to the series' lore, Telltale will not have as much freedom to deviate with the different choices characters will make in order to tell their story.

    Furthermore, I also feel that this will deviate Telltale from their plans to release games quicker or even simultaneously. By choosing to adopt The Walking Dead format for their future episodic games, Telltale will spend longer amounts of time for each episode, which will likely be a bad move considering that Telltale is also moving more towards larger fan bases that will lack patience or understanding during the wait for episodes compared to monthly episodes.

    The Walking Dead worked so well not because of the story, or because the puzzles were "easy, but not too easy" for casual gamers. It worked because the gameplay gimmick was a great match with The Walking Dead as a franchise, since The Walking Dead is all about the choices people make. I don't think the gameplay format should be shoehorned by Telltale into future drama/suspense games simply by virtue of having been a success in The Walking Dead, and to think that we could have possibly had Fables by now is somewhat disheartening not as a partial fan of Fables, but as a fan of Telltale for several years.

    I think it's odd to see why Telltale ponders why their Wallace and Gromit point and click sold poorly despite being great, or why The Walking Dead beat out Jurassic Park by a landslide despite both focusing on story over gameplay. I think that if Telltale ever wants to make a huge impact on the masses, then they need to incorporate the good parts of adventure gameplay that work with the license they work with, and add some changes to "spice up" the adventure gameplay while also removing the parts of adventure gameplay that don't work with that license. Adventure games (as of now in my opinion) should not be a virtue of being hard/complex or easy/simple, but rather focus on how fun gamers can have regardless of difficulty.

    What separates "cinematic" games from big companies and cinematic games from Telltale is that even though big companies remove gameplay, they still offer you control and freedom to do what you want and allow you to explore the universe of the game at your own discretion. With Telltale's earlier cinematic games such as Back to the Future and Jurassic Park, Telltale limited your freedoms entirely outside of minor variations from conversation choices or the likes. Even though story is important and can establish games, as clearly seen with the Walking Dead, Telltale needs to learn to separately prioritize gameplay and story instead of offering story as the main gameplay feature.

    The Walking Dead, as I said earlier, shares much with Jurassic Park in that both focus on story. However, Jurassic Park was disliked by many because the "director's chair" gameplay gimmick barely fit Jurassic Park, only by virtue of Jurassic Park being a movie. I remember having a scene in Episode 3 of Jurassic Park where the player had two separate characters with their own motives arguing with each other, and the player was forced to come up with rebuttals for both, essentially having the player argue with themselves in game. However, The Walking Dead beat Jurassic Park massively because, as I said earlier, the "choice" gimmick actually worked with the franchise, and Telltale executed it in a stellar way minus lack of puzzles or depth. In Walking Dead, you weren't arguing with yourself; you weren't performing trivially pointless QTEs for the entire game. You were affecting the story, because your actions mattered, which was important for the Walking Dead; not because the Walking Dead was a drama entirely, but because the gameplay benefitted the Walking Dead in particular.
  • edited February 2013
    They're going to ignore everything and everyone that doesn't agree with their agenda. Anything they can't ignore they'll explain away.

    As I learned from the X-Files so far: Trust no one & deny everything!
  • VainamoinenVainamoinen Moderator
    edited February 2013
    At the same time, though, while The Walking Dead was amazing, it wasn't perfect. While it proved the Heavy Rain-style interactive movie genre can be done right, it's still a very limited format that doesn't allow much freedom for the player. The occasional interactive movie is fine (branching out and trying new things is good!), but I wouldn't want Telltale to focus exclusively on that genre, and unfortunately, with TWD having been such a boon for the company, that seems to be their plan.

    Yes, exactly. I had hoped for Fables to go back to adventure roots, but as it turns out, nothing could be further from Dan's plans. In that respect, King's Quest, Sam & Max or Monkey Island would have forced Telltale in a more traditional adventure direction, which is why I absolutely don't see these franchises on the horizon. :( :( :(
    1. Story and gameplay are not mutually exclusive. There's this common idea with people that a game can have great story or great gameplay, but not both. They think strengthening one department means weakening another (and unfortunately, most games don't do much to prove them wrong).

    I appreciate the sentiment very much; but the reality is, I do see a balance that's hard to break out of. A basic element of the narrative is structure; a basic element of freedom is chaos. Playfulness means experimentation and sometimes lack of aim; story driven means detailed fixed paths and meaningful action.

    I believe that this distinction applies, in fact so much that I think the best game genre ever to transcend these boundaries is the traditional form of the adventure game. And this is our definitive starting point here, how to evolve the traditional adventure game.
    However, this does not have to come at the cost of gameplay, nor should it. A game doesn't need to be an interactive movie or a visual novel to be well-written. Purely off the top of my head, there's Deus Ex, Fallout, The Longest Journey, Psychonauts, and Silent Hill. All games that manage to excel in both gameplay and story.

    Besides TLJ, which is an exemplary adventure game, the games you name are roleplaying games, action adventures, shooters and mixtures of these genres. As such, they unfortunately do not count in this discussion. Fuck it, if Telltale ever considered an actual RPG or action adventure, I'd go mad with anticipation.

    Telltale's right, there is more than one way to do an adventure game. Hell, it's a bit of a stretch, but look at Portal. It doesn't resemble a conventional adventure game at all, but there's a lot of focus on setting, plot, dialogue, and of course puzzles. It's something of an adventure game in spirit, if that makes sense.

    It doesn't, because Portal renders exactly the kind of "physics" puzzles Telltale wants to get away from. Portal has succeeded in luring an unbelievable number of players into this kind of gameplay, and I believe Dan neither sees this success repeating nor does he believe that this could be Telltale's direction. Portal indeed builds a whole narrative around those physics mechanics; Telltale builds their whole narrative around existing narrative franchises with already fixed rules. It is a completely different kind of game design. Telltale's options are limited due to focusing on stories which are already known.
    If the adventure genre wants to recover, it should evolve. If Telltale manages to come up with the next big thing that revolutionizes the genre, that'd be amazing. I hope they could do it. [...] Removing puzzles and giving the player some dialogue options and QTEs is not the way to do it. When it comes out, Fables should be more interactive than The Secret of Monkey Island, not less.

    We absolutely agree here, but actual adventure parts - exploration and inventory combination for example - WILL be cut in favor of story and pacing. What you and I like is purposefully removed from the equation:
    dan wrote:
    [...]where do we take adventure games from here? How do we evolve it and make it more of a storytelling medium and less of a puzzle-based medium? But I think we’ve shown a way that you can do it [...] but I don’t know if the people that played Walking Dead on XBLA are ready for an adventure game that comes out that is ‘walk around the world, pick up objects, use them on other objects, put them back in your inventory, combine two items, solve the puzzle.

    Think about it. What other games deliver as interactivity are physics puzzles, shooting people, collecting upgrades, battling for level ups, freedom of movement and environment exploration. The quote must be taken with a buttload of salt, but in any case, Dan didn't say: "How do we take interactivity out of adventure games?". This is "just" the traditional adventure approach to interactivity which is attacked - a grave enough sacrilege though.
    "How do we remove the focus on gameplay?", they should ask "How do we make the gameplay feel more organic to the story?" How can we make the player's actions seem logical? It's hard for me to come up with specific situations, but for example, why is the main character grabbing this item? It'll be important later, but he doesn't know that. What's the in-universe reason?

    Admittedly, I'm no game designer. The specific big idea that'll change adventure games forever won't come from me. But the guys at Telltale are talented. They've done great things already, and I know they've got the potential to do even better. They just have to try.

    The questions you ask are exactly the right ones. But as you have experienced yourself, asking them is much easier than answering them. Unfortunately, I experienced The Walking Dead as wit's end in exactly the area of interactivity. QTEs? Press W for forward? Immobile shoot 'em up sequences? What took the place of puzzles is nothing but a substitute for interactivity. I don't feel immersed in the game when it finally tells me to press a button.

    Who tried to "evolve" the adventure genre before? Ah, yes, Ragnar Tørnquist. He arrived at the fundamentally gameplay broken Dreamfall and is now in the process of serious reconsideration. He'll go back to traditional adventure gaming, and he is absolutely willing to compromise the stringency of the story for it. And the reason is: He has understood that all he did before was to cut the fun out of his creation just to "tell his story better".

    If life makes you a game designer - try to make good games.
  • edited February 2013
    You want the company to go a route that will generate less money. Not going to happen. Telltale is closer to the current mood of the general game player than your list is.
  • edited February 2013
    This should really be posted to somewhere like reddit.com/r/games(a discussion-based subreddit not to be confused with the meme-based r/gaming), it's quite good.

    (I'd post it myself, but I'm not sure if RAnthony'd be fine with it yet, so I'm holding off.)
  • edited February 2013
    Funny how this company was founded through point and click adventure games.

    I tried so hard to avoid this, but I'm starting to turn against you Telltale. I'm happy for the success of the Walking Dead, but please don't make that the only type of game you make.
  • edited February 2013
    This should really be posted to somewhere like reddit.com/r/games(a discussion-based subreddit not to be confused with the meme-based r/gaming), it's quite good.

    (I'd post it myself, but I'm not sure if RAnthony'd be fine with it yet, so I'm holding off.)

    Go for it. I'm more of a 4chan guy myself, but I doubt they'd be as interested. :p
  • edited February 2013
    Telltale's last decent game was Tales of Monkey Island. And even that one sucked compared to the originals. Every Telltale Sam and Max game pales in comparison to Hit the Road. The fact that Telltale couldn't adventure game its way out of a paper bag is not news.
  • Blind SniperBlind Sniper Moderator
    edited February 2013
    I don't think Reddit has a very active Telltale fanbase. People there still think of Telltale as the big, evil businessmen who wreck Jurassic Jeeps for fun I recall.
  • edited February 2013
    I don't think Reddit has a very active Telltale fanbase. People there still think of Telltale as the evil, big businessmen who wreck Jurassic Jeeps for fun I recall.

    Not since TWD. Now they take every chance they can to worship them.
  • edited February 2013
    Something nobody has been considering here is maybe the adventure genre can't "evolve" anymore. Yes it evolved (mostly for the better) passed the text parser into point & click and story became more centered, focused, and prominent. But the puzzles were all still there in full force as they ever were. And they were done better ALONG WITH the story. I really do think the traditional adventure games had the best combination of story and puzzles ever. I don't think you can possibly make story more prevalent in adventures than they already were in the 90s. Think about Telltale's position here. They're not trying to advance adventures into having more story, even though that's what they say. The kind of story they're trying to inject into adventure games is a "cinematic style story". Cinematic by its very nature is on-rails. You're not supposed to be able to explore. You're supposed to go exactly where the writer/director/designer wants you to go. And that, by its very nature, clashes completely with the very definition of the word "adventure", which is all about discovery, exploration, and experimentation.

    I don't believe it's possible to "evolve" adventures because any "evolution" would turn them into something they're inherently not. Maybe adventures reached their peak and can't get any "better". I find that term demeaning to the genre, honestly, considering how those who coined it explain their alternatives to it. Adventures have made progress (some consider it bad progress but most consider it good, I think), but I really don't think that adventure games can get any "better" without sacrificing too much of what adventures mean to too many people. It ceases to be "adventure" and becomes something else entirely. And this has happened with many genres. And that's fine. RPGs have split off from adventures and even flirted with FPS's in the case of Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and other games like that. But neither are "Adventure Games". I think people confuse the term "adventure" with the genre "Adventure". They are two different things. Lots of games have "adventure" in them but not "Adventure". I don't think you can explain gameplay away sometimes by using one term in place of the other.

    Or maybe Telltale just aren't good at making puzzles, or find them too tiring or time consuming and just want to get away from them altogether to focus on their (only, it seems) talent: telling stories. Remember, these are the same guys who said that walking between screens was boring and should be removed from the game (Jurassic Park). How much more cinematic can you get??

    I'm not a Telltale fan anymore because I thought they were a developer that designed Adventure Games. They aren't. And perhaps never were. Certainly never intended to be. They make "Cinematic Games". To them, the difference is non-existent most of the time, it seems. Yet, they acknowledge it by saying things like "how can we move the genre away from a puzzle-gameplay experience". Here's a hint: you CAN'T! It's what they ARE! Story and puzzle. You can't separate them. In my opinion, you should at least tell it how it is and stop fooling people into believing that you still actually do something that you're not, because they certainly don't. I wish they'd just come out and say that they don't make and don't want to make Adventure Games.

    Telltale confuses me. And the more I read comments like this from them the more I feel cheated and used as a fan to ride on and live off the cash-flow and fame. All until they move off to what they really wanted to do all along, which barely shares any resemblance to Adventure Games. The only thing that links them together is story. And that seems to be their one true talent. Tell me I'm wrong. They didn't add more story and remove puzzles, they just removed puzzles. The story just got close-up camera angles, lots and lots of dialogue, and automatic non-interactive sequences added to it.
  • edited February 2013
    I think the adventure game can evolve, because the adventure game is missing a lot of things, or hasn't experimented with a lot of things.

    Many player characters(more than three), many player stories, real time environments (The Last Express is the only one?), less linear narratives, new interfaces that change the way you solve puzzles, etc.

    There is a lot more innovation within, say, LucasArts games than you may have noticed, because some of it is just a throw-away joke. Something as simple as changing the verbs you use can change everything about how you have to solve the game. People think that the only verbs are Look, Talk, Use, and Move, or synonyms of those. NOPE. WRONG. DUMB.
  • edited February 2013
    Several years ago, I used to think I was the only one here who couldn't trust Telltale. Now, I'm not alone! What a difference several years can make, huh?

    If they pulled an Al Emmo and redubbed the voices of Sam and Max with Bill Farmer and Nick Jameson, I'd trust them again. (And if they sold the cartoon series DVD again, that would be nice.)
  • edited February 2013
    I've never known a more whiny set of fans than adventure game fans, a group so set in their ways that the slightest change, the smallest possibility of a different way of doing things and you're all up in arms. And then there's the people who love to dance on graves pointing and laughing while saying I was right and the people who don't agree are just sheep to be ignored.
  • edited February 2013
    Many player characters(more than three), many player stories, real time environments (The Last Express is the only one?), less linear narratives, new interfaces that change the way you solve puzzles, etc.

    That's all well and good. I agree. But Telltale are focusing solely on story by cutting out puzzles, something inherent to adventure games. And we already know they've cut out exploring as well. Notice I used the words "better" and "evolve" in quotes because their idea of "evolution" is to remove puzzles and just flash more (of the) story in your face with the camera angles and cinematic sequences. I'm referring specifically to the way Telltale are trying to "evolve" adventures with story. I'm not necessarily saying adventures can't evolve, I'm just saying that what they call evolution I call devolution. I still submit that story was never missing in adventures and Telltale haven't upped the ante in that regard, they've just advertised it more.
    There is a lot more innovation within, say, LucasArts games than you may have noticed, because some of it is just a throw-away joke. Something as simple as changing the verbs you use can change everything about how you have to solve the game. People think that the only verbs are Look, Talk, Use, and Move, or synonyms of those. NOPE. WRONG. DUMB.

    Again, I agree.
    I've never known a more whiny set of fans than adventure game fans, a group so set in their ways that the slightest change, the smallest possibility of a different way of doing things and you're all up in arms. And then there's the people who love to dance on graves pointing and laughing while saying I was right and the people who don't agree are just sheep to be ignored.

    I'm not set in my ways I'm just against removing one of the singular most defining aspects of Adventure Games: the puzzles. Maybe there is a way to advance it beyond what was done in the 90s, but Telltale are barking up the wrong tree, as has everyone else who's tried to "evolve the genre". Nobody has gotten it right yet. If there is a way, we haven't found it yet. At the end of the day, Telltale's approach isn't the one I'm too fond of. And it's not advancement. Advancement requires adding something. They're not adding, they're taking away and trying to take our attention off of it by shining all their bright neon lights at what they are putting all their ability into.
  • edited February 2013
    Well....you're right.
  • JakeJake Telltale Alumni
    edited February 2013
    I'm glad that there are a ton of companies making adventure games of all kinds at this point. As a life long adventure game fan I'm the happiest I've been with the adventure game genre's (and spin-offs') output and variety and promise in a long long time. The '00s were not the best, and the '10s are very different than the '90s, but there are plenty of things to be interested in. This year we have Dreamfall Chapters and Double Fine Adventure on the way -- both mind-blowing things I never expected to see happen, ever -- while indies continue to churn out more and more exciting stuff every month.

    I don't think anyone would ever say the Walking Dead was trying to touch the space '90s adventure games occupy, but I still personally consider it an adventure game. I might have a wider definition than other people, but I don't know what I can do about that. LucasArts made a very specific type of game in the '90s, Sierra made their own type, and Westwood made theirs. Asking Telltale to ape any other developer or their style seems harsh, and also defeating of creativity.

    "The adventure game is dead" somehow came into fashion as something people said in the 13 months between Grim Fandango and The Longest Journey, and didn't let up until just recently. Now that the adventure game isn't dead, people seem mad that adventure games aren't exactly the same as they were 20 years ago. Which is true, it's been 20 years. Expecting the tree to stop growing because nobody is looking is unrealistic. Except that there are developers who do make games exactly like the ones from before -- the Wadjet Eyes and other indies out there -- maybe with a smaller budget than the '90s but with the same art styles, interface aesthetic, and general puzzle aesthetic. So we've got all this stuff going on, and people aren't happy, and I don't know what there is to do about it. I love traditional adventure games, I still replay Monkey Island 2 and Full Throttle around once a year, but working on The Walking Dead and doing some of the stuff we got to do with interactive storytelling and player experience is stuff I would never take back.

    I don't think the solution is to hope for Telltale to embrace the '90s any more than I think the solution is to abandon the past. Hopefully both and neither and something in between can all co-exist, but it just will never be under the same roof (and, in the case of the adventure game, it never has been).
  • edited February 2013
    I don't think the solution is to hope for Telltale to embrace the '90s any more than I think the solution is to abandon the past. Hopefully both and neither and something in between can all co-exist, but it just will never be under the same roof (and, in the case of the adventure game, it never has been).

    Okay, so then TellTale will embrace the early 1980s with their interactive movies a la Dragon's Lair. Got it.

    Seriously, since when did we associate puzzle-based gameplay with the past, and less interactivity with the future? This is not a question of past versus future, but rather a question of game design philosophy and what we enjoy and value in our adventure games.
  • edited February 2013
    Jake, it's been a while since I've seen you (or anybody from Telltale, really) post on the forums. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    I never said I hoped Telltale would do anything. Because I know they won't. You're doing what you want to do. That's great, really. More power to you. I mean that. I just don't feel you can call it adventure anymore because much of what was adventure has been all but removed. I mean, you're whole mantra now has basically been revealed to be "Forgo the puzzles, be more flashy with the story". I don't consider Adventure to be solely story. For that matter, I don't consider it solely puzzles either.

    At the end of the day, more is being removed than is being added. It's just not advancement the way I see it. I'm not upset over this, I'm just disappointed. I know that Telltale's products hold no interest for me now and I'm fine with that. Some call what you've done advancement. I do not. It's just different and, in my eyes, more of a shallow incarnation than the evolution you're selling it to be. I'm not taking jabs, I'm just being honest.

    I'm not trying to change Telltale or wish they were something they're not and never will be. I don't care specifically for the reason that, as you've said, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. Especially now with all these Kickstarters and successful indie games.
  • edited February 2013
    Jake wrote: »
    snip

    This is exactly the opposite of Telltale's PR, and if Telltale isn't claiming the face of adventure games now, then why all the fluff about evolving the adventure game? You make great points, Jake. Nobody wants to rob Telltale of their creativity. The biggest point I make, and I think Musical, and people like us, is that Telltale is not doing what it's claiming to do. It's not evolving the adventure game. It's just making another kind, and then marketing it as the best next step. That's dishonest. It's a lie. It's not a step at all.

    You can ask us "Well, how are Telltale not evolving the adventure game?"

    Well, it's been said around here a million times. The case has been made over and over and over at varying times for why Telltale isn't making the adventure game better or more advanced.

    Doesn't mean Telltale makes bad games or bad stories. But I resent the claims the company makes, because it's a fraud. It's not real innovation. It's not a massive brainstorm you guys suddenly can lay claim to. People could have been making adventure games more casual years ago. Clock Tower is more casual and is just as cinematic as it needs to be, hell, it was based on a movie that probably doesn't go beyond cult status.

    The Dig was cinematic. Full Throttle was cinematic. Cinematic and adventure games isn't new. You didn't invent it. You've gotten better at telling stories with your engine. You've gotten better at writing. And maybe puzzles would hold you guys back from evolving YOUR talents. But it's not evolving the GENRE. However, that doesn't look good on paper. Wild statements about how you've advanced everything looks good on paper.
  • edited February 2013
    I think this lengthy article posted at Adventure Gamers sums up the issue well. I encourage all to read it.
    The key point to remember is that immersion is the end game, not gameplay, and puzzles are just an instrument. Who here overcomes every single obstacle with the exact same approach? Nobody, so why do we arbitrarily restrict ourselves in games? Makes no sense. Perhaps there are more puzzles that would fit naturally if developers stopped limiting themselves to a select few problem-solving variations. I'm a proponent of multiple solutions, but that's not what I'm suggesting here. I'm merely recommending that the options best suit each scenario, not a prescribed gameplay formula. Sometimes a situation demands outwitting an opponent, sometimes brute force and ignorance are called for (Zork Inquisitor's Brog says hi). The issue isn't so much a need to think outside the box, but just plain putting more damn puzzle approaches INTO the box to draw from.
    Ultimately, puzzles may be integral to the adventure experience, and that is still a good thing overall, but it doesn't mean that the mold is forever set. The who/what/when/where/why and how (and how often) such puzzles are implemented must best suit each story's design instead of following a particular pattern just to call itself an "adventure". It's this slavish devotion to the same old puzzle types where the genre is guiltiest of being stagnant, and as more and more games start to branch out and try new things (or old things in new ways), we should all support such developments wholeheartedly. Without such ambition, we'd have no Stacking or Ghost Trick or even Professor Layton. They may not all work, and we won't all like the results, but we should always embrace the creative attempt. The tried-and-true is here to stay, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying now. For a community so devoted to puzzles, why haven't we figured that out?

    The best thing about today's AG scene is that there is so much diversity in the types of games made. I understand why people might be concerned by certain directions Telltale might be taking, but one has to ask if the stories they are telling require more complex puzzles. TWD was all about relationships and choices. Quite frankly, having more complex or involving puzzles would have hindered the pace of the game. If something has worked well for Telltale, and they want to explore that path of game design for telling certain types of stories, why not?

    I think the adventure gaming community has been quite resistant to change because the genre was practically declared dead 13 or so years ago. It survived among a very dedicated group of passionate fans and developers, and now the genre is doing better than ever. I think that because we had to hold on so tightly to avoid losing our beloved genre completely, this made us more aversive to new directions. We've long clamored for the good old days of simple point and click.

    And guess what? We still have the traditional point and click. Look at the multitude of recent games - especially those from Daedalic and Wadjet Eye. Plenty of worthy titles carrying the torch. In addition to those, we have games more focused on immersion and story-telling, or those more focused purely on puzzle solving. The point is, there is something for everyone. I support any developer's desire to try something new or incorporate small bits of other genres into adventure games. It doesn't mean the entire genre is changing, shifting, or losing focus of what makes an adventure. It means that the sphere of influence and range of opportunities for adventure games is expanding, but the core philosophy remains and is protected.

    Some of the best recent adventures have been non-traditional adventures - Heavy Rain, TWD, LA Noire, Portal 1 & 2, etc. Were they the best puzzle games? Other than Portal, not really. But did they captivate players, engage them in the story, require them to make critical decisions, and provide a unique experience? Yes. And I think that above all adventure games are about the story. Puzzles should not define the story. Puzzles should be integrated depending on what the story entails.

    I feel better than ever about adventures. We have companies like Telltale and Double Fine carving names for themselves. We have smaller developers doing amazing things, both in classical point and click or new types of game design. We have all the kickstarters. We have more people becoming interested in adventures.

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is that just because Telltale isn't designing games a certain way doesn't mean that nobody else is doing that.
  • edited February 2013
    It is laughable to see representatives of Telltale arrogantly suggest that they are advancing or pioneering improvements in the adventure game genre, when really what they are doing is rejecting the fundamentals of what make adventure games unique. Telltale appears to now be interested in making QTE-based interactive movies. That's fine, but they should please not claim to be doing something that wasn't done 25 years ago. To be fair, Telltale (a developer which creates no original series, but instead piggybacks off existing, popular franchises) has successfully fine-tuned and made more accessible these kinds of interactive movies. But telltale is no pioneer like Sierra, or even LucasArts was.

    It is almost as if Telltale representatives expect adventure game fans to thank them for moving away from the very game qualities that we love. Sorry, but Telltale is not the be-all end-all, and they certainly are not my preferred developer when it comes to adventure gaming.
  • JakeJake Telltale Alumni
    edited February 2013
    Jake, it's been a while since I've seen you (or anybody from Telltale, really) post on the forums. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    I never said I hoped Telltale would do anything. Because I know they won't. You're doing what you want to do. That's great, really. More power to you. I mean that. I just don't feel you can call it adventure anymore because much of what was adventure has been all but removed. I mean, you're whole mantra now has basically been revealed to be "Forgo the puzzles, be more flashy with the story". I don't consider Adventure to be solely story. For that matter, I don't consider it solely puzzles either.

    At the end of the day, more is being removed than is being added. It's just not advancement the way I see it. I'm not upset over this, I'm just disappointed. I know that Telltale's products hold no interest for me now and I'm fine with that. Some call what you've done advancement. I do not. It's just different and, in my eyes, more of a shallow incarnation than the evolution you're selling it to be. I'm not taking jabs, I'm just being honest.

    I'm not trying to change Telltale or wish they were something they're not and never will be. I don't care specifically for the reason that, as you've said, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. Especially now with all these Kickstarters and successful indie games.

    I think it comes down to the fact that I believe there is more going on in the Walking Dead than an interactive movie, or a choose your own adventure novel. I don't think it has simply removed the puzzles and concentrated on flashy story. I don't agree that more has been removed than added, but I think the focus is on a completely different place than it was before. I don't think that I would call what The Walking Dead does an advancement, either; I would call it doing something different. "Evolution," "advancement," and that sort of word all imply "the next step in a singular path" to me, which we all know is just not how reality works. If you look at a tree, over time new branches grow up and out and go in their own direction, and the higher up you go, it becomes increasingly difficult to even discern what the true "trunk" is anymore, but you can at least see what's closer to the center than other things. I think that's where we are at with adventure games and I'm happy to be off on a weird branch off in space somewhere.
    MtnPeak wrote:
    Okay, so then TellTale will embrace the early 1980s with their interactive movies a la Dragon's Lair. Got it.
    Welcome to the forums, I hope you stick around with that attitude!

    Also I never said anything about the future. I was talking about the past, and the present. The puzzle based graphic adventure game, without question, had its popular heyday in the 1990s, which is (also without question) in the past. I have no idea what the future holds. That said, there are plenty of people making games of that kind right now, along with a variety of games more unique and varied -- yet still closer to the adventure game tree trunk of yore -- than most of the "action/adventure hybrid" future we were all being sold in the '00s. Sometimes even we make them, but just not lately. (And, according to this thread, even when we do, maybe this bunch in particular hate them anyway, which definitely raises the question of why spill the ink writing about it on our forums?)
    This is not a question of past versus future, but rather a question of game design philosophy and what we enjoy and value in our adventure games.
    I understand what you enjoy in adventure games... I do, too. I have played a lot of adventure games. Not every game is going to be that, I guess. I don't know what else to say?

    Telltale has never made a particularly hard game, from a puzzle perspective, though Telltale has made a number of different games. I don't think Strong Bad, Tales of Monkey Island, Sam & Max Season 3, Puzzle Agent, or the Walking Dead share a ton of things in common except for the things that they all have in common with every other adventure game (walking around, picking things up, talking to people, and doing a series of developer-prescribed actions to advance the story), but none of them are particularly difficult or been known for their puzzles.

    Would I like it if Telltale just stopped in its tracks and made a balls-to-the-wall retro adventure game Sam & Max puzzle fest, just once, to show that we can? Yeah, of course. That would be totally fun to make. I don't think it's likely to happen, nor do I think that the studio needs to for any real reason, both because people here are happy with the things we do make and the challenges we do choose to accept on the projects we do, and because there are plenty of other people making the crazy puzzle-first style of games that everyone loves.

    Apparently I am rambling wildly. Sorry about that.
  • edited February 2013
    Jake wrote: »
    Would I like it if Telltale just stopped in its tracks and made a balls-to-the-wall retro adventure game Sam & Max puzzle fest, just once, to show that we can? Yeah, of course. That would be totally fun to make. I don't think it's likely to happen

    What about King's Quest?
  • edited February 2013
    I don't even think it's just Telltale I resent this anti-90s attitude from, though. It's moreso irritating and even angering because it's EVERYWHERE. To say that Telltale is pioneering that attitude isn't true. (Stahp MntPeak you hurt my brain)

    They're just a product of it.

    The faction of gamers today who say that puzzles need to go because they ruin adventure games aren't thinking it through. But good games get ripped to shreds for it. Sierra's games. Paper Mario: Sticker Star, one of the most interesting adventure game mechanics in years, is universally panned.

    People say puzzles ruin pacing, as if adventure games are like movies. As if GAMES ARE LIKE MOVIES. They aren't.

    The prevalence of this mindset, especially as a group thing that needs to be reinforced and enforced, leaves me stunned and unhappy with the state of things. I think my annoyance at that alone has kept me from even wanting to play The Walking Dead.
  • edited February 2013
    A lot of us with a "200" in our join date year came here in the first place because we're big adventure game fans. And we still are. We're hanging around because we're either hoping we see another good involved adventure game from Telltale some time in the future, or we enjoy interacting with others in the forums here.

    So if you want to drive us away, the ways to do it would be:
    1. Stop making games we consider "adventure."
    2. Make the forums unusable.

    Hmmmmmm....
  • edited February 2013
    It's not that puzzles ruin pacing, period. It's that certain games, the ways the stories are told, may not call for as many puzzles or deeper levels of puzzling.

    Each game, each story, is different. And I guess it's up to the developer to decide how puzzles fit in, and that usually derives from the story.

    I'm as passionate about hardcore adventuring as anyone, and a year or two ago I probably could have posted the OP. But I've warmed up to things and realized that maybe new ventures can be good in the long run.

    If Telltale were the only adventure developer in the world, then I'd be really concerned. But they're not. They're one of many developers. And all these developers have different design and story philosophies.

    I do agree that it comes down to Telltale's supporters to provide feedback on what kind of game they want to see made. But Telltale has to balance that with what has been successful commercially. I think it's a tough position for them, to keep old fans interested but also attract new ones.

    The good news is that there are many developers making the kinds of games to which people are referencing in this thread. If you want to keep those alive, consider supporting them.
  • edited February 2013
    Jake wrote: »
    Would I like it if Telltale just stopped in its tracks and made a balls-to-the-wall retro adventure game Sam & Max puzzle fest, just once, to show that we can?

    Actually, that doesn't sound like a bad idea!
  • edited February 2013
    WarpSpeed wrote: »
    A lot of us with a "200" in our join date year came here in the first place because we're big adventure game fans.

    Now being fair here that. I don't think that's correct for everyone. There is people who only got introduced to the recently. For example, i almost never played Adventure Games until Wallace & Gromit came out which i was a big fan of the shorts and movie. So i got it and i enjoyed it a lot. Then one of my favorite reviewers said Sam & Max was a good game. Fair enough i didn't play any Sam & Max games until i got a PS3 and tried a demo of Sam & Max Season 3. I enjoyed the characters, and the comedy and i got the full game. Then i seen Tales of Monkey Island and it was made by Telltale who made Sam & Max season 3 which i really enjoyed so i got the demo of Tales of Monkey Island and i enjoyed that too.That's how i got into Adventure games anyway.
  • edited February 2013
    This thread, it's almost comical. I could practically make a rage comic out of it. It would probably go something like this:

    Panel 1:
    Fans: Y no TTG employees on the forum?!!!!! Telltale was so much better when the employees posted more!

    Panel 2:
    Telltale Employee: Hello, everyone! I'm here to answer all of your questions in a polite way that is also clear!
    Fans: RAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGEEEEE!

    Panel 3:
    Fans: Y no TTG employees on the forum?!!!!!
  • edited February 2013
    Man, such a zoo in here. So much anger.

    For one thing, I can't take someone named ryannumber1gamer seriously, and neither can anyone else. Second, I appreciate Jake actually trying to talk to us.

    But talking BACK is falling on dead ears, okay, guys. Stop with the expectations. Stop with the complaints. They don't get through. The angrier you get, the less you're going to accomplish. Also nobody is going to listen to me because I'm just a troll and a nutcase, durr durr durr. But they can't shut me up!

    Cause I'm not afraid to do the Lord's work.
    He say vengeance is his but I'mma do it first.
    This thread, it's almost comical. I could practically make a rage comic out of it. It would probably go something like this:

    Panel 1:
    Fans: Y no TTG employees on the forum?!!!!! Telltale was so much better when the employees posted more!

    Panel 2:
    Telltale Employee: Hello, everyone! I'm here to answer all of your questions in a polite way that is also clear!
    Fans: RAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGEEEEE!

    Panel 3:
    Fans: Y no TTG employees on the forum?!!!!!

    I mean, are we fans? No no no. We're a chemical mixture that makes chaos.

    We're.....we're Indian food.

    EDIT: And seriously, ryan, get a new name. I hate numbers and words that slur together in names. It's UGLY.
  • edited February 2013
    Secret Fawful, if adventure gamers want to express their concerns about Telltale's abandonment of adventure gaming fundamentals, then that's their right. Not sure it's your place to tell anyone here what to say or not say. Don't see the point in mocking people who are not fans of the direction in which Telltale is going. We love adventure games and want to make our voices heard.

    Anyway, if Jake isn't interested in hearing what adventure game fans want, then maybe he shouldn't read these forums. I hope he does participate often, though. Neither encouraged nor impressed by his comments here, though.
  • edited February 2013
    Giant Tope wrote: »
    Did you just stop reading his post after that sentence?

    No, I didn't, but I felt that it was an idea that shouldn't be ignored is all.
  • edited February 2013
    MtnPeak wrote: »
    Secret Fawful, if adventure gamers want to express their concerns about Telltale's abandonment of adventure gaming fundamentals, then that's their right. Not sure it's your place to tell anyone here what to say or not say. Don't see the point in mocking people who are not fans of the direction in which Telltale is going. We love adventure games and want to make our voices heard.

    Anyway, if Jake isn't interested in hearing what adventure game fans want, then maybe he shouldn't read these forums. I hope he does participate often, though. Neither encouraged nor impressed by his comments here, though.

    The Telltale forums is for fans of Telltale games, not necessarily classic adventure games. I think there are some forums out there that focus more on those sorts of games. While I understand the frustration of Telltale moving away from more puzzle based games, you have to understand there is a huge market for those wanting more of these cinematic games that is honestly pretty uncommon elsewhere.
    lattsam wrote: »
    Actually, that doesn't sound like a bad idea!
    Did you just stop reading his post after that sentence? :p
  • edited February 2013
    MtnPeak wrote: »
    Secret Fawful, if adventure gamers want to express their concerns about Telltale's abandonment of adventure gaming fundamentals, then that's their right. Not sure it's your place to tell anyone here what to say or not say. Don't see the point in mocking people who are not fans of the direction in which Telltale is going. We love adventure games and want to make our voices heard.

    Anyway, if Jake isn't interested in hearing what adventure game fans want, then maybe he shouldn't read these forums. I hope he does participate often, though. Neither encouraged nor impressed by his comments here, though.

    I've been following Telltale since they started, and maybe you have to. But from what I've seen, they've always decided on a direction and stuck with it so steadfastly that any different idea or any dissatisfaction is met with solid rebuttal and absolutely no change in their decisions.

    So at this point, I think actually expecting them to listen or change is futile and I've never seen any evidence of it. And honestly, Jake said he's happy. And I believe in the happiness of the developer before the happiness of the fans, even IF I DO NOT agree with their design philosophy or company direction.

    Everybody constantly trying to get somewhere with them at this point is just a joke to me. It's never happened, and it's not going to happen. They've tried pleasing us in the past anyway, and there's no real end to our wants. The amount of bitching the fans have done has killed any real progress solid debate and conversation could have.

    And how could they not be happy. Telltale broke expectations and have more critical success than they know what to do with. Individually, these guys can feel like a success, and we can't take that away from them. It also means that expecting them to cater to us is pretty silly at this point. It's over. That's all OVER. It's been over for a long time.
  • edited February 2013
    DOE WANT POINT AND CLICK BACK GOD I HATE YOU TELLTALE

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  • edited February 2013
    I've been following Telltale since they started, and maybe you have to. But from what I've seen, they've always decided on a direction and stuck with it so steadfastly that any different idea or any dissatisfaction is met with solid rebuttal and absolutely no change in their decisions.

    So at this point, I think actually expecting them to listen or change is futile and I've never seen any evidence of it. And honestly, Jake said he's happy. And I believe in the happiness of the developer before the happiness of the fans, even IF I DO NOT agree with their design philosophy or company direction.

    Everybody constantly trying to get somewhere with them at this point is just a joke to me. It's never happened, and it's not going to happen. They've tried pleasing us in the past anyway, and there's no real end to our wants. The amount of bitching the fans have done has killed any real progress solid debate and conversation could have.

    And how could they not be happy. Telltale broke expectations and have more critical success than they know what to do with. Individually, these guys can feel like a success, and we can't take that away from them. It also means that expecting them to cater to us is pretty silly at this point. It's over. That's all OVER. It's been over for a long time.

    That's precisely what I was thinking.
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