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Ron Gilbert: Episodic design is a bad fit for classic adventure games

Ron Gilbert: Episodic design is a bad fit for classic adventure games

November 9, 2015 | By Alex Wawro

November 9, 2015 | By Alex Wawro
More: Console/PC, Design

"I don’t think adventure games -- at least, like I think of adventure games, you know, the classic point-and-click games -- I don’t think that those can be told episodically."

- Veteran adventure game developer Ron Gilbert.

It's rare to find a developer who's spent more time designing adventure games than Monkey Island co-creator Ron Gilbert, so it's interesting to note that he came away from his time working with Telltale on its Tales of Monkey Island episodic adventure game feeling as though the format is a poor fit for the genre.

Speaking to USGamer as part of a wide-ranging interview, Gilbert noted that episodic design is a bad look for point-and-click adventure games because he feels it contrains the game's scope, preventing players from feeling rewarded for solving puzzles by unlocking access to a wider world.

"To me, those games are about building ever-expanding worlds," Gilbert told USGamer. "It’s about starting the player off in some little confined area, and as they solve puzzles, you just start making the world bigger and bigger and bigger, and the puzzles can then become a lot more intricate and complicated as you’re dealing with this ever-expanding world."

It's an interesting perspective on adventure game design from someone who's spent a significant portion of his career making them. 

It's also an intriguing critique of episodic structure, with which Telltale briefly brought adventure games back in vogue via titles like Sam & Max Save the World and Back to the Future: The Game before transitioning to make more choice-driven episodic "story games" after the success of The Walking Dead: Season One in 2013.

"I just don’t believe that episodic is a good model, but I think what Telltale did, though, was they did stumble upon the right model for that stuff," adds Gilbert. "I think the second The Walking Dead showed up, they realized 'Oh, this is how you do it,' and they just canned everything else."

For more of Gilbert's thoughts on adventure game design and the path of his career, check out the full interview over on USGamer. Gilbert is currently working on his own Kickstarted point-and-click adventure game Thimbleweed Park, which he recently blogged about on Gamasutra.

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