Telltale CEO Dan Connors on Natal, the PS3 and classic point-and-click adventures.
Telltale Games is busy. Not only is it the developer behind the new episodic Sam & Max and Wallace & Gromit games, but it’s also crafting a brand new set of Monkey Island episodes. It’s almost as if the company is leading a resurgence of the point and click adventure game all by itself. Intrigued and excited, we chatted to CEO Dan Connors to discuss the Xbox LIVE Arcade release of Sam & Max Season 1, rebranded to Sam & Max Save the World, but we also talked Project Natal, the PS3 and… hush hush, Day of the Tentacle.
VideoGamer.com: What blew your mind at E3?
Dan Connors: I thought the Shadow of the Colossus stuff was pretty amazing, and the Natal stuff was pretty cool to hear about. Obviously with us and the type of games that we make, the idea of making a person an actor inside of one of our adventures is an idea that’s been theoretical for a long time. It’s nice to see things happening that can get it closer.
VideoGamer.com: How would Natal be applied to the games you make?
DC: It’s a huge opportunity to give the user more ways to interact with the world than just the traditional cursor-based and dialogue-based way in which the games work. It lets people control the character in a new way and communicate with the different characters. It’s going to give them more options and more ways of interacting with the world. That’s really exciting to us, to not be limited by a mouse or a controller in what the user can do and how they can interact with the characters. Our focus is about creating really entertaining scenarios and characters, so removing barriers to experiencing that and making it easier and more natural to interact with, is a huge thing for what we’re doing. The number of ideas and the number of types of designs that you could do around it are… it’s just the kind of thing that gets your creative teams going. Who would have thought of Wii Sports before it came out with Nintendo? It’s the absolute perfect control for bowling. For us, having the user be able to be a character in one of the worlds and solve mysteries and puzzles is a huge deal, a huge leap forward.
VideoGamer.com: Is it conceivable that some of Telltale’s upcoming games might be compatible with Natal or make some use of it, or are we still a long way off from that?
DC: We haven’t talked to them enough about it. It really depends on where they’re at as far as exposing it to developers. We didn’t know about it before they talked about it so we didn’t have a lot of time to think it through, though we’ve just started that process. How we could use it in a product all depends on how far along the mechanic is and what’s the right product to build. But as of right now it hasn’t been in our plans until we heard about it at E3, so we’re just in the very early stages of putting together an opinion on what it can be.
VideoGamer.com: The idea of actually being Guybrush Threepwood on the screen in a brand new Monkey Island adventure is pretty exciting.
DC: Yeah, definitely. Or the idea of being a… (laughs) the idea of being Max is probably a little bit less appealing! You’d have to put on bunny ears or something! But Guybrush is a great character for something like that for sure.
VideoGamer.com: There’s a suggestion that gamers like to kick back and relax on a sofa when they play games, and the idea of having to stand up and flail about isn’t up their street. What’s your opinion on that?
DC: My opinion is Wii Sports and Guitar Hero. Rock Band - there’s no kicking back in Rock Band. There’s an assumption about what gamers want. Sometimes the industry has too much of an assumption of what people want to do. You look at the success of the Wii, Rock Band and Guitar Hero – people want to do more. They’ve been limited. They’ve made the best of what they’ve had. It’s just a natural position to be back on a couch with a joypad. It’s a very finger-focussed activity. That’s just the way it’s evolved to now. To be able to blow that door off is super exciting. I think it’s great.
VideoGamer.com: Moving on to Sam & Max, it’s been rebranded and released on XBLA. What advancements have been made?
DC: We’ve added Achievements. It’s in higher res. The Xbox is a great box for it. It’s really about adapting it to the controller and making it run on the system at a nice high resolution. Obviously it’s all the same jokes. It’s really about the HD and adapting for the controller and adding the Xbox LIVE support so you can get all your game stats.
VideoGamer.com: What’s your approach to Achievements? What works for a game of this type in terms of Achievements?
DC: In Wallace & Gromit we did a lot of solving puzzles in different ways and collecting items that might not have been on the beaten path. Our Sam & Max games are loaded with that kind of stuff. The designers put in so many deep levels of experiencing it, that rewarding the player for going in and finding the nuggets—it’s like a double reward. You get to see the great gag and you get rewarded for it as well.
VideoGamer.com: Season Two is being rebranded to Beyond Time and Space. What kind of release date time frame are we looking at for XBLA?
DC: We’re still working on it but it’s either going to be late summer or early fall.
VideoGamer.com: According to a fact sheet that I’ve read there are currently new Sam & Max seasons in pre-production. Can you give us any exciting news about how they’re shaping up?
DC: We reviewed the design just the other day. Chuck Jordan’s (designer) doing a lot of work on it right now. He’s got a pretty long history with these types of games with Monkey and the other Sam & Max episodes. He and Steve (Purcell, creator) and Dave (Grossman, design designer) got down and banged out some ideas. It’s going to be hard to top saving the world and going to hell, but they’ve certainly got a incredibly bizarre design on the table. It’s absolutely perfect for Sam & Max, but it certainly feels a lot more like the comic books than the first two designs. Some of the character designs we’re looking at were almost a little bit gross! Okay guys, let’s figure out if we really want to go this far! Sam & Max is the best universe you can create in, has always been my feeling. They’re capable of anything at any moment. With the right twisted creative minds it can just go anywhere.
VideoGamer.com: What kind of release time frame are we looking at for the episodes from Season Three?
DC: We’re still reviewing it. Monkey Island is the big focus now. As soon as that’s out and being released into the world we’ll probably be full-bore onto Sam & Max.