Fresh from the heaping pile of accolades that The Walking Dead received in Game of the Year lists that stretched across all corners of the industry, one hopes that developer Telltale Games isn't taking its success for granted. At last week's DICE summit in Las Vegas, Telltale co-founder and CEO Dan Connors revealed a bit more about his company's plans for another season of episodic zombie avoidance and drama, and shared some more info about the upcoming Fables-based project. He also shared some insight into the role of puzzles in traditional adventure games, and how that relationship might not be the same as it once was.
The Walking Dead is far from Telltale Games first release, but according to Connors, it exemplifies what what the developer has been striving to achieve. "In my mind, this is what we've been working toward for a long time," he told IGN.
Connors admits that no-one predicted the game would be such a runaway success, but feels the game is ultimately a product of the developer staying true to itself. "We've never strayed from who we are," he said. It makes sense then, that Telltale is keen to leverage The Walking Dead's brand of storytelling in its other properties.
"We've pushed and worked our asses off to do this. Now it's a really good template," Connors said. "All that work paid off. When executed well, with the right franchise, with the right gameplay mechanics, with a great story, with great writing, this is what it can be. It's really powerful and really compelling."
Connors also agrees that adventure games were indeed making a resurgence, but asserts that definition of adventure shouldn't be bound by the mechanical tropes of yesteryear. "It's so hard, because what is an adventure game? Does it have to be an inventory-based game with puzzles and dialogue? Or is it anything where you have dialogue and puzzles," Connors asked. "There's parts of adventure games in every game out there. In a way, adventure games started the idea of graphics in games. They're like the blues of the whole thing. Every game has some adventure game mechanic in it. So resurgence-wise, it's great that Ron [Gilbert] and Tim [Schafer] are working on it." Making the genre more of a "storytelling medium" and less of a "puzzle-based" medium is Connors' ultimate challenge to makers of adventure games.
"Hopefully they continue to push mechanics forward as well and don't retreat back to the known 1992 or 1993 vintage of adventure game mechanics, which can be something that people have clung to for a long time," Connors said. "It hasn't had the ability to go outside of the people that really like it. It's like a really good wine or something that some people really love and other people can't drink."
Granted, The Walking Dead is certainly a solid answer to that challenge. Even so, Connors seems to think that part of this evolution of adventure games is necessary to reach a new, nontraditional audience. "I don't know if the people that played Walking Dead on XBLA are ready for an adventure game that comes out that is 'walk around the world, pick up objects, use them on other objects, put them back in your inventory, combine two items, solve the puzzle,'" he said. "I don't know if that's a direct link."