Spanking Death: Ron Gilbert Goes Episodic... And Loves It
June 30, 2008 Page 4 of 7
What you mentioned about how only 20% of gamers will see the end of your game, it's remarkable how true that is despite the outcries from the certain, very specific, hardcore segment of gamers, which is demanding super-duper long games.
I was talking to Valve - this must've been like two or three years ago at this point - and one of the things that they said is that they can do all of their tracking through Steam about usage of their games so few people actually get to the end. And then a few years later they released Portal, which was this completely self-sufficient experience in a few hours. I'm wondering if you've played that, and what you thought of it.
RG: Yeah, I did play Portal. I think there were a lot of things I really liked about Portal. I think having the short game is great, although people bitched about how short it was, which is really amusing to me.
Yeah. That's true.
RG: But yeah, I think Portal was really neat. I think that whole gameplay mechanism was a lot of fun. I think the only downside for me, with Portal, was it seems like they had this really neat little kind of "technology trick", you know, with the portals; and it was really fun to play with that, and I'm glad that it was a short game, because I don't think that you could've sustained that for much longer. I was really not grabbed by the whole "sterile laboratory" environment of it all. I kept, in the back of my head, I kept saying, "What would Nintendo do with it?"
You know, if this was a technology that Nintendo had come up with, and they were going to produce a game on the Wii, where would it take place? What world would it be in? So I think they missed the boat, creativity-wise, with their whole world and their story and everything.
But, you know, Valve is a company very focused on the hardcore gamers; that is a great audience for them, and I think in trying to hit that audience, I think they did the right thing with the game.
Do you know if Hothead is going to try to do anything similar to what Telltale is doing, and build its episodic structure into a complete business model that can be taken to other developers? Telltale seems to really be trying to make that its entire focus in the industry.
RG: I think one of Hothead's big focuses is on episodic stuff. I don't know if it's necessarily "episodic" per se, but I think one of their big focuses is on, I guess you call them "lapsed gamers". These people who are really into gaming, they enjoy hardcore gaming, but they just don't have the time to invest in the stuff.
They're not 35 year old women who are interested in match-3 games. The whole casual game market, which to me is like, I don't even know if I consider that games, in a way, you know? So it's not really those people, but it's the people who have played hardcore games; they've played Half-Life, they've played these things, but they just don't have the time anymore. And I think that's really Hothead's focus, is really trying to get those people. And I think episodic is a very good first step for that.
On the topic of audiences that maybe aren't being catered to as much as they could be - because of your historical importance in the adventure genre, I'm curious what you think about it.
I have, honestly, quite a few friends who played a lot of adventure games back in the '90s, and when that genre started to fade... there are still a lot of adventure games being made today, but it's not quite the glory days that it was when it was you, and Tim Schafer, and Sierra, and Revolution, and all those guys. I feel like a lot of people who I knew, who played those games at the time, aren't playing games now, because they're less interested in just being another space marine. And I'm curious if you think that those gamers will ever be catered to.
One thing I talk about a lot is games that are easier for those people to get into, you know? Games that are still what we would call full games. They're not Bejeweled or something; you're still in a rich world, with a character, and you're controlling it, and you're making decisions, and you're exploring, and doing those things. But just with that greater focus on character and story. I'm wondering if you think that there's any mechanism by which those players will be able to find things that they enjoy again, or if the industry has moved on.
RG: Well, I definitely agree with you, that this industry has one too many space marine games. I'm tired of seeing that stuff, and I think there is no doubt about that. But I think you are absolutely right; there are just a lot of people out there that are being disserviced by the types of games that are coming out.
And you see that a little bit in the success of the Wii, because you don't have a bunch of space marine games on it; you have some things that are lighter, that are more fun, that are more creative, that are more visually interesting... Not "visually" from the "obsessed with technology" kind of interesting, but the "artistically" visually interesting. And I think the success of that proves that out, that there really is that audience, there.
And that is one of the things that I want to do with DeathSpank, and other episodic games I may make, is to do things that are a little more interesting and a little more varied, and to build some games for those people that did like those old adventure games. I mean, DeathSpank, even though there is this kind-of Diablo-esque RPG in it, it is very much an intricate, complex adventure game, much like Monkey Island was.
LucasArts' The Secret of Monkey Island
So I am hoping that I can build this, and that those people are going to like it, and come to it, but it also has some other stuff that people who maybe aren't into adventure games as much, because they are kind of slow and contemplative, that there's other aspects of it that they're going to get into. There is a little bit of adrenaline going on.
I think the key with DeathSpank is going to be to meld those two things together in the right ways, that they don't turn those two types of players off, but they'll actually enhance the whole experience. That's the challenge that I see with the game, getting those two things done right together.
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