Now he is going back to his roots. Before he became a designer at Telltale, he designed two free adventure games: Nick Bounty: A Case of the Crabs and Nick Bounty: The Goat In The Grey Fedora. He is now creating a third game in the series, that you can help fund now by going to the Nick Bounty and the Dame with the Blue Chewed Shoe Kickstarter page
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Friendly reminder: Given the studio's uncertain future, you may want to re-download your past Telltale orders while their servers still hum. Simply head over to https://telltale.com/account/games, log in to your old account, and archive your collection.
The word on the street is that Telltale had recently updated their older titles to be DRM-free. I'm hearing that this is true for all their games from Telltale Texas Hold'em through The Walking Dead: Season 1. While I can't personally vouch for whether this is true in the case of every one of those titles, it certainly has been true for all the oldies I've tried so far. (By the way, turns out Sam & Max: Season 1 is still pretty great.)
Obviously, this only applies if you purchased your games directly through Telltale rather than some other outlet. (And if that outlet was GameTap, you're probably too embarrassed to admit it.) So if you're not one of those poor dopes, get those installers now and worry about when you're going to use them later.
Since Telltale ate its gun last Friday, social media has seen a lot of heartfelt reminiscing from the quasi-late studio’s ex-employees and collaborators, among them Jake, Bay Area Sound, and voice actress Melissa Hutchison. Today, via Facebook, Steve Purcell has added his voice to the eulogy with the following statement:
I honestly don’t know what to make of the circumstances surrounding the massive Telltale Games layoffs. I’d just like to offer a sincere thanks to all the creative people who contributed to the smart development, marketing and distribution of the Sam & Max series of games, shorts, store items and the Telltale edition of the comics that were all carefully crafted over several years. I always felt that Sam & Max were in caring hands during their ongoing run at Telltale and I’m proud of the products that went out into the world bearing their name. Thank you.
It’s hard to disagree with his view -- Telltale did right by Sam & Max. And while it would have been nice to have seen more games starring them since 2010 (cripes, has it been that long?), there’s no denying that under Telltale’s stewardship, we got a ton of great Sam & Max content following ten years of nada. That resurgence came not just in the form of the games, but in the Surfin’ the Highway and animated series re-releases, killer schwag and other assorted paraphernalia. Man, remember the old Telltale Store? The one that used to: sell stuff?
Speaking of which: Steve, if you're reading this, any chance of re-issuing that old Desoto T-shirt? My 2006 incarnation and I do not have shirt sizes in common.
While the enduring characters keep an eye out for a new game developer to license themselves to, Sam & Max have been busying themselves with being made into collectible toys. As a loyal reader of Mojo, you already knew this.
Today, Boss Fight Studio (the company manufacturing the collectibles) has offered a first look at the design. They stress that the below rendering is a work-in-progress, but it's surely the kinda progress I can get behind:
A glass-is-half-full personality is going to zero in on the positive elements of this new interview with Bill Tiller courtesy of the rakish charmers at Arcade Attack. After all, it offers delightful career anecdotes from one of the industry's best artists, including his time back at LucasArts (and the attendant travails under Randy Breen).
Unfortunately, it also offers this:
Do you think you will ever work on a new Vampyre Story game?
No, I have given up. I can’t raise enough money to do it and I don’t own the computer game rights, though I own all other rights. But I will do A Vampyre Story graphic novel next year. I am bummed we never got to do the sequel, so I’ll tell the whole story of Mona and Froderick through that medium instead.
What projects and games are you currently working on?
I was just working on a side scrolling game based on an idea I came up with called Miskantoic Mary, but I couldn’t devote enough time to it, so we cancelled it. I’ll make that into a kids book I think. Now I am looking for a full-time job and freelance work. I think I am done making my own games. They just didn’t make enough money and were very stressful to make. I’m off to do kids books, comic books and to work full time at a reliable game company.
Despite the headline, I don't honestly blame this turn of events entirely on Zaarin's failure to relaunch the Mojo forums by now after a clear mandate to do so, but let's face it: his dereliction of those duties probably did nothing to help.
One silver lining in all this grief is that we intend to celebrate A Vampyre Story's tenth anniversary in some way before the year is through, so look forward to that.
A recent leak in Valve's Steam API has allowed clever people to extract the number of players of particular games, for the first time ever. In an article published on technology site Ars Technica, precise player estimates for 13,000 titles have been shared. Of note are titles published by DoubleFine, TellTale and, of course, LucasArts.
Note: The list shows the number of people who have played a particular game since achievements were added to it (so older games that had achievements added later will have higher scores than shown). And crucially, the list does not show the number of owners (which will be higher than the players).
In the publishers that Mojo readers are interested in, there are some predictable results and some surprises.
From most popular to least, the list is topped with TellTale's most popular license, beating even the most popular Star Wars title:
The Walking Dead - 2,846,244 players
STAR WARS Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords - 1,529,038
But hot on their heels are the two biggest Double Fine games:
Brutal Legend - 1,235,714
Psychonauts - 1,207,186
After that Campo Santo (well done!) and TellTale make an appearance:
Firewatch - 959,053
Poker Night at the Inventory - 952,378
Poker Night 2 - 671,540
Given the popularity of the Poker Night games, it does make you wonder why TellTale stick to licenses, especially when we drop down and find the bulk of the adventure titles:
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Games Series - 598,965 players
Grim Fandango Remastered - 516,584
Broken Age - 419,666
Minecraft: Story Mode - A Telltale Games Series - 346,763
Costume Quest - 341,308
Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck's Revenge - 288,297
Batman - The Telltale Series - 272,720
Game of Thrones - 272,599
The Cave - 271,663
Day of the Tentacle Remastered - 265,169
Stacking - 248,039
The Walking Dead: Michonne - A Telltale Miniseries - 197,450
MASSIVE CHALICE - 161,770
Gemini Rue - 130,615
Iron Brigade - 109,286
And then, for some comparison, several indie adventure titles, including Ron Gilbert's Thimbleweed Park, and a big shock at how far down DoubleFine's last adventure game remaster is:
Thimbleweed Park - 98,491
Batman: The Enemy Within - The Telltale Series - 80,154
The Blackwell Legacy - 79,474
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series - 69,783
Full Throttle Remastered - 61,757 players
Costume Quest 2 - 57,457
Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded - 56,138
Blackwell Unbound (Blackwell 2) - 52,347
Blackwell Convergence (Blackwell 3) - 49,385
Blackwell Deception (Blackwell 4) - 46,844
Headlander - 44,476
The Shivah - 38,128
Blackwell Epiphany (Blackwell 5) - 20,146
Also surprising is how a sequel to DoubleFine's most popular Amnesia Fortnight title, Costume Quest, performed so poorly when compared to the original. This explains why there were no similar attempts at sequels.
Finally, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the VR only title:
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin - 2,155 players
Are adventure games dead? You decide.
Thimbleweed Park figures have been added (I searched for them before, I swear!), and Ron Gilbert offers the following interpretation:
"Remember these numbers are terribly skewed for games that have been on sale (sometimes in deep discount). Also games that were part of Humble Bundles where the play quickly booted it but never played it. Don’t read too much into these numbers. TWP has been massively successful on Switch and I have no doubt that is cannibalize Steam to some extent. By next month we will have sold more on Switch than Steam and Switch shows little signs of letting up."
"...games that are on sale for $1.99 are going to have horrible skewed numbers from games that are $19 and rarely go on sale. When a game gets past a point, it’s bargain binned and if you only look at units, you not getting the whole story. I’ve bought several $1.99 games, booted them once and never again. I don’t think this is a “valid” sale when comparing to other games (it’s even worse for games that have been in a Humble bundle). As a dev, you’re moving a lot of units at $1.99 but making very little money. If the game is 5 years old, that’s OK. Just don’t compare units from that 5 year old game to a 2 year old game that’s rarely been on sale. It’s not a realistic or even useful picture."
This year, the students are working on the following games:ScummVM:
While we're on the subject of ScummVM and ResidualVM, both projects have had updates lately:ResidualVM 0.31 has been released. This is a bugfix release that fixes a few bugs in Myst III, in preparation for Cyan's upcoming digital release of Myst III that will use ResidualVM to play the game.
ScummVM's addition of Xeen, the first RPG engine added after ScummVM changed their guidelines to allow RPG games alongside the adventure games, is now completable in the daily builds. There are five RPGs that are currently completable: Might and Magic IV, Might and Magic V, World of Xeen, World of Xeen 2 (CD Talkie), and Swords of Xeen. If you want to play these games in the daily builds, make sure that you place xeen.css in the same folder as your game files.
Myst: Masterpiece Edition and Riven: The Sequel to Myst will be powered by ScummVM, and Myst III: Exile will be powered by ScummVM's sister project for 3D adventure games, ResidualVM.
The ScummVM team stated that they'll be working together in the future to "make your journey through the Ages even more pleasant". More news will follow soon. It will be really interesting to see what else will come from this new partnership.
They've stated that the reason for the delay is because they are "committed to exploring new ways to tell our stories. Taking this extra time will allow [them] not only to focus on quality but also to experiment and iterate in order to craft something truly special".
If this means that the gameplay will be significantly different than the cut-and-paste style gameplay that's been in Telltale's games since The Walking Dead, then the delay is certainly most welcome.
Of course you do. And you're in luck, because that's just what was recorded at something called "EGX Rezzed 2018." I assume that's the name of an expo, though it may also be the model of dirt bike my nephew got for Christmas. For those of us who happened to be washing our hair during Tim's panel, here's a handy Youtube embed of the whole interview:
I haven't watched it myself yet, but reportedly Tim mentions the possibility of further LucasArts remasters, iterating once again that he'd insist on the original creators being involved. Hasn't Brian Moriarty been pretty upfront about wanting revisit Loom? Anyway, Tim evidently talks a bunch about Psychonauts as well, so it's sure to be a worthy listen all the way around.
There are a number of layers. Firstly, there is the real ancient Egyptian civilization. Secondly, there is the game’s ’20s setting, which taps into Egyptomania and the fetishization and trends accompanying it. Thirdly, there’s the contemporary world of Campo Santo and the playerbase, where very different conversations about cultural destruction, repatriation, and appropriation take place.
So where is Campo Santo pitching its game tonally? “A lot of the way we work as a group and a lot of the way I’ve always worked as a writer is, we have modern, pretty lefty feelings about shit,” says Vanaman. “But I don’t think we have declarative opinions about the way things should be. This game is not a political statement about representation or a political statement about appropriation of the past or whatever.” He adds, “The act of making the game for us helps solidify or challenge feelings we have held before we had to make the game.” There’s further insight into Zora and Rashida’s relationship: “Zora and Rashida got famous seven years before they make the game, making a movie we would now watch in film school and go that’s kind of fucked up.”
It happened without warning, and goodness knows it happened decades later than it should have, but the the original Maniac Mansion is now available on Steam. Sure, you already have it as a free bonus feature within Day of the Tentacle, but don't you want the pleasure of buying it individually, especially since the last time you could do so was like forty years ago?
And anyway, it's less than five bucks. So do it. Do it now.
Rock Paper Shotgun published an interesting article yesterday about the artistic merit of remastered video games. Ron, Tim, and Brian Moriarty are all on hand to weigh in on the technical and even ethical pitfalls of "upgrading" a classic:
“We had limitations back then” recalls Gilbert in an email interview, “and the artist worked magic to make the game work within those limitations. They often turned working within those limitations into an art all its own. When classic games get ‘hi-resed’, you lose all of that.”
“It’s true that you can often switch back to the original graphics,” he says, “but that is also true of colorizing black and white movies.
“You can always watch the original, but that doesn’t make colorizing it any less of an artistic sin. Saying you can switch back to the original art feels like a cop-out.”
Thimbleweed Park is now available to purchase for iOS devices, so you can now be a clown in a gritty town while moving around.Oh, and one of Ron Gilbert's other iOS games, co-created by Clayton Kauzlaric, is now optimised for iOS 11 and is permanently free! I'm talking, of course, about the sadly oft-neglected match-3 RPG puzzle game with a long name, Scurvy Scallywags in the Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty. It's fun and it's now free, so grab it on iTunes now.
Tim is the subject of a new article on Medium in which he speaks about the oft-documented strain - and, perhaps, the needlessness - of crunch mode, a period at the end (or sometimes throughout) of a game development cycle when teams work around the clock to meet looming deadlines.
Speaking about his experiences at both LucasArts and Double Fine, Tim's thoughts on the subject are sobering and even personal, such as when he relates how the passionate and relentless climate at LucasArts during his early days at the studio brought consequences at home:
Schafer saw the crunch periods become more demanding as time went on, and it wasn’t long before he experienced the heavy price of that kind of working culture. His first marriage, he said, collapsed after just a year.
“You don’t realize until it has happened that you’re doing all this damage to your personal life by staying at work all the time,” he said. “You can mentally put the rest of the world on hold, but the rest of the world can’t necessarily be put on hold by you. I was so gung-ho about it. If you think someone will wait for you and tolerate you not being around… people move on.”
Even then, with a relationship falling apart around him, the work came first. The rewards were just big enough, and the aura of George Lucas radiant enough, that it felt impossible to leave. Schafer only met Lucas three times in the 10 years he worked for him, but says his presence was felt in the craftsmanship and artistry of the house and its grounds. The attention to detail exuded an air of quality that reminded everyone that things needed to be done right.
Continuing today's accidental theme of Sam's voice actors, Gameranx has an interview with Bill Farmer. Farmer is of course best known as the voice of Goofy for Disney, but Sam & Max gets a mention as well:
Gameranx: You voiced Sam in Sam & Max Hit the Road, whose voice sounds like a more toned-down version of Goofy. Phonetically, how did you make them different?
Bill Farmer: Well Steve Purcell had brilliant dialogue for the game, and I wanted to bring something deadpan but still comedic to the role. So it was a bit of Johnny Carson and more Humphrey Bogart.
You never know why you don’t get something. They just don’t call. Maybe they forgot I was in the first one, maybe they found somebody they liked better, who knows. That’s part of the business. Like with Sam & Max, they did a cartoon show which was not union. I’m a union actor. They took that to Canada to cast which is why I didn’t do that. And so maybe they got on that non-union bandwagon, and you never know with all the politics. A lot of it’s politics, too. So you just stay grateful for the ones you get, and say, hey I’m available if you need me!
Visit Gamerax to listen to the audio recording of the full interview.
PC Gamer published an interview with Tim about Full Throttle in their June issue, but you don't buy magazines anymore, so you didn't read it. At least not until its ink exclusivity ended and it wound up online, which is now.
At the time a LucasArts adventure was expected to sell around 100,000 copies, but Full Throttle sold over a million. And now, 22 years later, the game has been re-released with remastered graphics and audio. I ask the game’s writer/director Tim Schafer what it’s like going back to something he made when he was in his early 20s.
“It’s been interesting looking at how I wrote dialogue back then based on my life experiences at the time, and how I interpret it differently now that I’m older,” he says. “And now that I’ve actually been a biker on the run for a crime I didn’t commit, that adds a lot of depth to it too. I had no idea what that was like back then.”
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