Where do you see adventure game design going? Telltale takes a fairly deliberate traditional approach to adventure game mechanics. Do you think much about pushing that further?
DG: I think what it really comes down to is whether [a particular] aspect of the game is something that's going to affect how the characters in this story feel, and what the moment-by-moment experience is like. Is it something that's going to affect your kind of broader experience with the form?
Where we've been trying to go with adventures games -- maybe someday we won't even call them that anymore, but this style of game storytelling that we do --is towards something that is a more casual experience.
The "sofa experience" is the way I like to think of it. You're going to be sitting on your couch or with your browser, browsing through stuff. You go, "Oh, look. The new Monkey Island is out. I'm going to play that right now."
You download it, play it right away. You might even finish it right in one sitting. And then you move on to something else. You probably have your family there with you. It's a little bit different from the old experience.
I remember my own childhood playing these kinds of games -- you know, I'm alone, stuck up in my bedroom, and I'm just thinking a lot and banging my head against the wall. "Curse those designers! What do they mean by this puzzle?"
Whereas with this, there are some puzzles in the episodes that I think are hard, but they're not cruel. I think that lack of cruelty is an important feature if adventure games are going to be palatable to large audience. You just can't be that mean. I'm trying to give people a little fun and let them do some things to make them feel clever, but let them get through the game so that they will be ready for the next one when it comes down.
That really brings to mind OnLive and other services in that vein.
DG: Yeah. That seems cool on the surface. I'm not sure precisely how their whole business structure works, but on the surface, it seems like something we might eventually want to look at.
How long have you guys been working on Monkey Island?
DG: We started the design late last year, and production started at the beginning of this year. It's slightly accelerated from our usual schedule, but not very much. It's pretty much par for the course for us.
Last time I talked to [Telltale CEO] Dan Connors, he talked a lot about adventure games being less of a specific genre and more of a broad canvas -- general interactive entertainment that you tune into for a certain kind of experience. That sounds similar to what you just described.
DG: Yeah, I think adventure games are an aspect of games and narrative that have been separated out into their own little nodule, but they're almost like games without any gameplay.
The stuff you're interacting with is the stuff you do with your frontal lobe, while when you're playing another kind of game you might be focused minute-by-minute on where you're standing and who you're aiming at, and that kind of physical action.
In an adventure game, we take care of most of the physical action for you, so it lets you concentrate more closely on the frontal lobe stuff. What might be ideal is something in the middle where you do the physical things that are interesting, and that kind of gives you that certain sensation.
But there are also some broader "thinkier" elements with what's going on in the story, and who these characters are, and how you should be interacting with them. That's more the adventure game design.
It's interesting to hear you discuss those long-term goals, because something like Monkey Island, almost more than anything you've developed to date, basically seems aimed at longtime gamers who know this genre and its traditional components very well.
DG: Oh, we're always thinking about the future, and I love to think of the future several years down the line, but the reality is I mostly have to think of the future three months down the line: What is the next series going to be? What are the small steps that we're going to take between where we are now and where we eventually want to be?
A lot of those elements with this series are in the narrative approach, and how we approach the series in itself, and how the games work together to create an experience, as opposed to the second-by-second side of what are you doing.