While speaking to Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion creator Ron Gilbert at a preview event for The Cave today, I asked for his thoughts on Telltale's The Walking Dead, and if he might consider an episodic format for future adventure games. Though he hasn't played The Walking Dead yet, Gilbert bravely plans to run through all five episodes on a 10 hour flight to Europe tomorrow, and had a few comments on its success and episodic gaming.
"I really like the episodic format," said Gilbert. "I would love to do episodic stuff—I think it's really neat. It allows you to react to what players are experiencing, much like a TV show can react.
"I think, with The Walking Dead, it's kind of proof of the mass marketing of adventure games. Things like Sam & Max are wonderfully fabulous games, but they're a little nichey in a way. But I think The Walking Dead really proved that there's a large number of people out there who, if you build a game that's accessible to them—build an adventure game that's accessible to them—they will just flock to it."
When I mentioned that the level of patience and carefully budgeted entertainment time in the mass audience may be a factor, Gilbert acknowledged that "people's time is pulled in so many different ways today with social media, movies at home, and all these other things," that allowing players to "dabble" in concise segments and still have a good experience broadens the audience.
Gilbert's current project, The Cave, is similar to other recent Double Fine productions in that it can be completed in several hours, rather than after several days or weeks of head-scratching. For Gilbert, it's about "the evolution of adventure games"—bringing them to a mass audience without losing their basic appeal.
"I think there will always be people who enjoy the classic adventure games, and I think there's a whole lot that is really cool and neat and interesting about those," he said. "I think there's also a whole bunch of people that would enjoy adventure games if there was that kind of more visceral moment-to-moment gameplay. And it's not to say that it's action. There's nothing about playing The Cave that you're going to fail doing jumps, or you're never having to time double jumps or anything like that. It's just that act of being able to run around and jump on stuff—it keeps one part of our brain really engaged the whole time, and it frees up the other part of our brain to puzzle solve a little bit more."
The Cave is set to release in January—look for impressions of the hands-on demonstration soon, as well as more from my interview with Ron Gilbert. In the meantime, we wish him luck making the hard decisions on tomorrow's flight. He says he's been warned that "it'll be a pretty intense 10 hours," and might have to break for a movie. May we suggest a comedy?