Fans of Sam and Max and adventure games rejoice... you're time is nearly at hand. On October 17th - the great detective dog and hyperactive rabbity-thingy will be on Gametap for an exclusive 15-day period before being available on Telltale game's website on November 1st.
Telltale Game's sequel to Lucasart's classic Sam and Max adventure game is going in a slightly different direction than most common place sequels as it'll be a month episodic game. Setup like a TV series - it'll run till April of next year over the course of six episodes to make up the first season. While not ready to commit on a price point for each separate episode, Dan Connors, CEO of Telltale Games, said that focus groups felt that $5 was a reasonable amount for the roughly 5 hours they'd gotten out of the game.
The episodic model works because of the lower risks in terms of investments and time. Instead of 3 years and 15 million dollars, a company can spend far less time and money to test an idea in a type of pilot almost like a TV series to see how well it sells, then get feedback from the public nearly instantaneously then decide how to modify the design for the next episode or cancel the game all together if they don't think its profitable.
The design lends itself to over arching storylines and long term character development. The game can also reference itself and the accomplishments of the player later on and make it seem more like a living breathing world.
The biggest source of concern for me is that the content chain is going to stall at some point and that there either won't be enough content to keep me entertained or that the regular ship date for the next episode won't be regular. What is your biggest concern with the episodic model?
My biggest concern is about those episodic games that don't do well after the first episodes and are forced to finish abruptly. You know, even in TV series we're accustomed to have a finale, even when they end prematurely, ie. Surface.
However, we all know that the games industry always seems to be hanging on a tight rope, so I would hate to have a lot of un-finished sagas each one with unresolved cliffhangers.
Right now, I prefer "standard" old-fashioned games that ship as a whole, at least they pack the whole experience for you to enjoy at your leisure. What I don't like too much about episodic games are that they only present advantages for the publishers and developers and not for gamers. You see, as I already mentioned, if the game doesn't do well economically, you can forget about the next installment, even if it was a quality game. Remember that ppl prefer commercial/advertised games even if they're junk rather than good games that are innovative but unknown. Imagine what would've happened if System Shock 2 or Dungeon Keeper had been episodic. We would have just seen one or two episodes of each.
IMHO, I think that if we embrace episodic games we are "lowering our standards" in a certain way, because we are giving the developer the chance to not devote all their time & resources to a given project, and accepting the fact that he can deliver a bad episode #1 with the promise of a "corrected" episode #2 after they hear all our complains or suggestions. And what's more important, they'll have no obligation to keep delivering episodes, so there's nothing that stops them from abandoning the game after a certain episode, just because they "ran out of energy" or something like that.
From my perspective, a full standard game has implicit some kind of "commitment" by the part of the developer, a promise that I'll have the best available experience (theoretically, let's keep the patches out of the question, please) that results from a project that took months/years to create, and that embodies the vision of a group of talented ppl. It's like a watching a movie, reading a book, or listening to a CD. And a begining and an end. In the case of episodic content, I just don't feel that "commitment".
To draw an analogy, full games are like books, while episodic games are like comics. Which ones do you prefer? There's no doubt that books are much more deep than comics.
Me? For all my exposed reasons, I think I'll stick with standard full games for a while longer.
My fear is some episodes will never be finished, and the player will end up paying for just a tiny bit more than a demo of a game. The Bone series is now put on hold in favor of Sam 'n Max, at least until that one is finished. I wanted to wait before buying them until I had read the compilation comic book and I'm glad I did now.
On the other hand, The Exchange Student: Episode 1 - First Day in Sweden is an excellent start of a new series, but I hardly see any coverage, so I don't know if it will get enough exposure to gather the money needed to continue releasing new episodes.