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Anyone else concerned about Sam & Max?


The Tingler
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Moai Better Blues is probably my least favorite episode, but it was still enjoyable and had several laughs. I may have been swayed by my aversion to talking babies. Yeah, and I'm totally hoping for zombie action next episode. *crosses fingers*

I totally agree. I haven't played much of Moai Better Blues, but have read much about it, and it IS my second least favorite, due to lackluster music(the tracks that Telltale posted are the best of the original tracks), and apparent lack of a true villian(unless you count the ghost of Mr. Spatula). It would have been better with an actual volcano god.

 

My least favorite is Situation Comedy, mainly due to rather lackluster music, most of the original tracks were short fanfares, though the Midtown Cowboys theme was quite enjoyable. "They're probably hiding a cow!"

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the Midtown Cowboys theme was quite enjoyable. "They're probably hiding a cow!"

 

I defy anybody here to read that and not involuntarily sing it in their head. Go on, say to yourself "No actually, I'm not going to sing that in my head when I read it." and then read it. See? It's not physically possible.

 

And what's worst is that I have a rather important exam this afternoon and that is now all I will be able think of. Ace.

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Haha -- I sung the tune in my head as well! Argh I can't stop!!

 

Just write "They're probably hiding a cow" 500 times and then pass out. If the examiner is a Sam & Max fan you'll do fine!

 

Honestly, though, I don't think people really think about it like that unless they decide to sit down and over-analyze the hell out of things for the purposes of having a super-developed opinion.

 

It was Aristotle, long before Kipling, who taught us the maxim: "the more you look the less you really see." But that said, it's a lot fun to over-analyse things we really like; even more so for episodic content.

 

I think characters not having an immediate purpose is fine, so long as they're entertaining. That is their immediate purpose.

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What I don't understand about the "make games first, story second" statement, especially in regards to episode 202 of all things, is that the times that Moai Better Blues is being dinged by press and fans, it's for having too much emphesis on puzzles and adventure game gameplay, and not enough focus on story and story structure, and now here you are saying "make a game first, story second!" I think this episode may have needed more of the opposite, if anything.

 

But that said, it's a lot fun to over-analyse things we really like; even more so for episodic content.

 

I think characters not having an immediate purpose is fine, so long as they're entertaining. That is their immediate purpose.

 

I agree with all points there. I like nothing more than the mass speculation, and even the mass over-analysis, that goes on about this stuff. There are some epic, very enjoyable threads on the Telltale forum about where the season-wide story is going, about what the different character subthreads will be about, about what sort of things will happen in episode 203, and about various gameplay elements in the game and whether or not they are to various peoples' likings, suggestions for improvement, etc. All of that stuff isn't just fine, it's excellent. It's one of the reasons I like episodic gaming. I just don't like when people take their opinion and get too grandiose about it.

 

If the Sam & Max series has taught me anything, its that the notions of "what is fun, what is a good puzzle, what is an engrossing story, what is surreal, what is pedestrian, what is easy, and what is hard" are wholly subjective -- I think the reactions to Moai Better Blues drive this home more than any other episode. We've had reviews in the mainstream press which call the game "too game-like," and then followed up hours later by a review going up which says "not game-like enough." Some fans and reviewers have said it's the shortest and easiest episode yet, and then we have others saying the puzzles might be hitting the point where they're too difficult. Some people (including myself) think the situations/locations/characters in this episode are the closest Telltale's come to hitting the crazy unexpected non-sequiter filled storytelling of the comics, and some people think it's trite and bland. There are some people saying this episode didn't hit the mark as often as 201 on jokes, but a lot of people have pegged this as the funniest episode they've played. So, with that in mind, it disappoints me a bit when anyone ever decides that they're going to get up and soapbox about how "things need to change" and delude themselves into thinking that they're crusading for thousands of unspoken fans who agree with them, not stopping to think that it might just be their own personal opinion.

 

As Gabez said, analyzing the hell out of things is great fun. As I said, I'm extremely glad that everyone has strong opinions about all this stuff - it means that people actually care, and are continuing to care. It's just when people launch from speculation and opinions to having a crusade that it becomes ridiculous and a bit awkward.

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I'm not quite sure why you're taking this out on me, Jake. I wouldn't say I was getting all grandiose about my opinion, just posting it on a forum and saying "this is my opinion". I didn't even bother to do a review 'cause I thought Remi's was pretty on the ball.

 

You're totally right, people's opinions vary wildly. Some people (like myself) think for example that The Mole, The Mob & The Meatball is the worst in the series so far, whereas some people think it's one of the best. I think Abe Lincoln Must Die! is the pinnacle (something I'm sad to say even grasping miserly John Walker agrees with), but Reality 2.0 won our poll as best game.

 

I can understand most opinions (except Mr. Walker's), and most importantly I can see why Moai Better Blues is possibly the most divisive of all the episodes.

 

I do think story and characters are the most important thing in an adventure game, even though that may sound like a contradiction with what I was saying earlier. I just feel that the story and characters have to be tied to the game as well. If there's no reason for me to talk to Flint Paper other than obsessive-compulsive disorder, why should I care about him? If he's the equivalent of the Calendar or Noticeboard in Sam & Max's office, just something to click on, then you might as well just watch a film if you want a story.

 

I understand why Telltale wanted guys like Flint and Jimmy around in episode 202. Both to set up roles in the future and to create more a persistent world for Sam & Max, which continues alongside their adventure. Both of which I do approve of.

 

My problem is that I'd much rather have more things to actually do in the game than loads of things which I can't do anything with which took a lot of time to put in. Have the game and mechanics and basics done first, then add all the little elements that makes the world so detailed and wonderful to play through. Which is why Moai Better Blues felt so short to many people - there just wasn't enough to do in it.

 

Experiment now, to try desperately to make you guys see my point of view. Can anyone name a character (a proper speaking character that you can click on and have a conversation with) in, say, Monkey Island 2, who have no role to play in the actual puzzle-solving? Pirates of Low Moral Fiber count as one, and that Helpline girl at the end is an in-joke rather than a character.

 

...

 

Crap, Herman Toothrot. Right, forget I said anything... :doh:

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You obviously never played Monkey Island 2 on Mega Monkey! On the hard mode you had to beg one of the pirates of low moral fibre so that you could have their bucket. And I think the helpline girl (or, er, was it a guy?) had some puzzle purpose -- if you told her you were lost then she'd say "just walk to the left and you'll get to where you started") And Herman -- he gave helpful advice! And stopped Monkey Island from being isolated. But yeah, I suppose no actual puzzle use -- but his use in other areas more than made up for it.

 

It's interesting... I suppose you have to consider each season as its own altogether, instead of just every individual episode -- so we'll just have to be patient and see how things pay off! Which is also very exciting!

 

It was Coleridge, long before Ian Flemming, who taught us the formula: "suspend your disbelief." I suppose what could apply in this situation is "suspend your distrust."

 

I think there is a good argument, though, in saying that if you have a character in there anyway, you might as well involve them in a puzzle as well, in order to have longer playing time and more "to do." Perhaps there could be side puzzles that don't need to be completed, but are still fun to do? Rather like winning the big cow in The Great Cow Race!

 

If the Sam & Max series has taught me anything, its that the notions of "what is fun, what is a good puzzle, what is an engrossing story, what is surreal, what is pedestrian, what is easy, and what is hard" are wholly subjective
That is interesting -- and in some ways not what one would expect. I mean, we have ideas of what all those qualities are, so surely we would be able to measure what we see in games and books and films against them? But perhaps our ideas of what hard is, what surreal is, etc. are entirely in our minds, though we might think that they are external properties that were set by Father Time.

 

I like to believe that we can be objective about these things to some extent. I think the passage of time helps. The more we consider context, the more we think about qualities, the more the reviews cancel each other out, and the more our minds edge towards settling down, the more we will ourselves more towards some level of objectivity. Probably what is the case is that a game (or film or book) can never be classed as objectively perfect by everyone -- but at the same time it's not completely subjective either. Sam & Max will always be a better experience than finding a maggot in your apple: we might just never agree as to exactly how better it is.

 

I'm not quite sure why you're taking this out on me, Jake.
He's got to use his cane to hit something. Oho the pain!
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I did play on Mega Monkey! What I meant was that at least one of the Men of Low Moral plays no purpose, but they sort of count as one character anyway so it doesn't matter. I shot myself in the foot with that argument though, so forget it.

 

I just feel (there's my big mouth about to get me into trouble again) that with the episodes as short as they are and with so few characters in them, almost all of them should have some direct involvement in the plot or the puzzles. That's all I wanted to say, in my convoluted ultra-long way.

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I just feel that the story and characters have to be tied to the game as well. If there's no reason for me to talk to Flint Paper other than obsessive-compulsive disorder, why should I care about him? If he's the equivalent of the Calendar or Noticeboard in Sam & Max's office, just something to click on, then you might as well just watch a film if you want a story.

 

Most people agree that the reason Flint Paper must be there is that Telltale is building towards something. Momentum is a good thing.

 

Any master storyteller recognizes the value of laying a good foundation for your narrative to build upon, and I think it is jumping the gun a bit to suggest that these aspects are completely useless. I guess this is one of the current disadvantages of episodic games. People have a full month to question every little detail about the game before getting to see the full picture.

 

For example, let's say Grim Fandango had been an episodic game. (Forgive me if I get something wrong, because it's been a long time since I played that game.) When you first encountered Lola towards the beginning of Year 2, you might have said, "What a lame and pointless character. I hate her! Damn you, game-maker, for wasting my time!" Then a month or so later, you would have better understood her role in the story and had an emotional reaction to her murder. (At least I did.)

 

If one were to follow your suggestion in an episodic format, they might have created some kind of puzzle that involved Lola the first time you met her. But for what purpose? At that point you're just treading water until you get to the real meat of the story, and that's bad storytelling. The kind that TV writers have to do when they don't know how many episodes their series is going to run. (i.e. the first three seasons of Lost)

 

And I would argue that it doesn't come at the cost of good game design. A lot of people have said that Episode 2 was a fun, and I can't argue with that.

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Grim Fandango is sort of episodic already, if you think about it. If you take the Years apart, they do hold up well on their own. In the context of Year Two, Lola has a big role to play. In fact, doesn't she set up the entire driving force of Year Two, finding out about that photo she took?

 

I think the opposite about the storytelling thing. If a character isn't playing any role, not saying or doing anything of any worth, it's bad writing to have them there like that in the first place.

 

But I'll shut up now, because you're clearly right about Flint having a purpose just not one that's immediately apparent. I'll wait until Season Two's done before going on about this particular topic again.

 

I'd still argue that the Soda Poppers weren't needed in Ice Station Santa, though. And that the purpose of the Glenn Miller puzzle wasn't apparent in any way.

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That's a decent point about Grim Fandango, although I still wonder if Lola had been introduced in Year 2 but her plot point hadn't been fully realized until Year 3, would you have still had the same problem with it?

 

As for the Soda Poppers... yeah, I don't know that one either. But I'll wait until the season's full story has been told until I start to criticize things as being useless.

 

If a character isn't playing any role, not saying or doing anything of any worth, it's bad writing to have them there like that in the first place.

 

Maybe. Unless they're adding that precious thing called "atmosphere" that most games seem to not understand these days. It's a mistake for adventure games (or any game for that matter) to only include things that are used for gameplay purposes, rather than having things there for mood and humor.

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Hmmmm. Atmosphere's one thing, but despite me shooting myself in the foot with the MI2/Herman Toothrot thing I still maintain that very few characters in the LucasArts Adventures were superfluous to puzzles. They were great characters, entertaining, added buckets to the atmosphere, funny, and always had an item or a special skill you needed for something, or were a barrier to progression that you need to get past.

 

Okay, stop it now Chris, you said you'd wait...

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I actually think that episodic games lend themselves more to characters that don't serve the necessary gameplay, just as T.V. episodes can get away with more random "just for fun" characters than films.

 

But I really don't know -- I'm just thinking aloud! Or thinking atype.

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