At last week's San Diego Comic-Con, Telltale Games, one of the 'veterans' in the episodic gaming universe with Sam & Max
, and Hothead Games, the team behind the upcoming Penny Arcade Adventures
, held a panel discussing the new episodic gaming medium, and some interesting opinions ensues.
After one season of Sam & Max
, “The biggest thing we learned is the model works,” said Dave Grossman, Telltale's lead designer on Sam & Max: Season One
. “From a design standpoint we learned that a lot of people are playing these games as a season, rather than individual episodes. We are going to give a little more attention up front on how these episodes play to each other.”
While Telltale has made a name for themselves as one of the pioneers in episodic gaming they are still open to traditional game design cycles. Telltale CEO Dan Connors explained, “If the right job came around and it was an 18-month gig we might do it. We still do the CSI games and they kind of are on a traditional schedule.”
When asked about the advantages of designing episodic games Joel DeYoung from Hothead exclaimed, “I would say personally having shorter turn around time minimizes or reduces the chance of having an unpleasant crunch at the end of a project. There is always going to be a crunch getting things out the door. I would rather have smaller ones more frequently than an epic crunch at the end of two years.”
Connors interjected, “On our schedules we couldn’t go on a death march. It would be like a death walk or a death stroll.”
Hothead's Darren Evenson chimed in with a heartfelt response, “As developers it really sucks when you pour in two years of your life into a product and most of the people who play the game maybe half of it. You’ve got half your content that remains unseen and effectively is forgotten."
Evenson concluded: "Having episodic really allows digestible chunks. People aren’t intimidated by the size of it. And price point is another thing. It is a lot easier for someone to decide to buy a $10, $20 or $30 game opposed to an epic $60 or $70 game and invest a lot of time.”