Slide To Play Q and A: Sam & Max Episode 1: The Penal Zone for iPad

Sam and Max, an episodic adventure series for computers and consoles, recently saw its iDevice debut with The Penal Zone for iPad. We spoke to Dan Connors, CEO of Telltale Games, about why now was the right time to introduce Sam and Max to Apple handheld consoles, and what longtime series followers can expect.

How is The Devil’s Playground, the third series of Sam and Max, different from the previous two?

Dan: Well, it’s a new story. It’s another mad caper for Sam and Max, but we also went in and worked on some new gameplay mechanics. Max has psychic powers in this one. You can switch between Sam and Max to take advantage of Max’s psychic powers, so you have to go inside of his brain.

We used a new mechanic for that that we haven’t used before. So I think that, along with a lot of other changes that have just been made in our content through the years, from a control standpoint and from a cinematic standpoint, have given it a different feel from the last two Sam and Maxes in a good way.

So it’s a little less like the old adventure game, and a little more like an interactive cinematic experience?

Dan: That’s a great way to frame it. It feels very modern in the way we’re handling it, and there’s different things the players learn through time in the world. So we’re continuing to evolve in that direction.

How many episodes are planned for the current series?

Dan: Five episodes.

How many hours of gameplay in each?

Dan: I think it depends on the gamer. I think our quickest people here get through it in about three and a half hours, the average non-professional gamer probably takes around five.

Can we expect to see a lot of references to the previous characters and the previous series?

Dan: We definitely feature new villains and new bad guys in this one. We’ve got an awesome space gorilla in the first one that’s a brand new character, and almost all of the villains are new. If we brought old characters in, we put a lot of explaining around them as well, because we wanted new players to be able to get into the series.

Especially because we’re on a new platform, like the iPad, but we’re also on the Playstation, where there’s a lot of people who will be playing Sam and Max for the first time. We couldn’t count on the fact that they’d played the first two seasons.

How do you try to introduce new players to Sam and Max starting with Season 3?

Dan: Sam and Max, just as characters themselves, you put them in any situation and they’re immediately interesting because of the humor. I think we just put them in a brand new, fresh situation, where you could get a sense for who Sam and Max are, and what they were all about.

As we introduce characters with a history, we add a different element to the game to explain where they came from and what their backstory was. There’s also a notepad that Sam and Max carry around, that has information on the different characters.

So we really made an important part of the design to be able to provide players with the information they were going to need to understand what was going on, and still have our fans who have played the other two seasons really excited to see characters that they were interested in, and have returning characters in the game.

What’s your take on the iPad, and where’s Telltale going to be with iPad games?

Dan: We’ve often said, the style of games that we do, the reason that we build out content with a simpler interface and ways of interacting with the world, is so they could move to new devices as they came online. And the idea of moving over to a touch device like the iPad, we always thought was going to feel great.

In actuality, the playing of it, it really felt like it worked. I’m super-impressed with the experience of our game, and we’re excited about doing more things on the iPad going forward. I didn’t know at first what it would be best for, but after looking at websites, and seeing the different apps that are coming on, and seeing ebooks, it just makes so much sense as an entertainment device, as an easily portable gaming device, and a movie-watching device.

It just seems you could handle all your entertainment in one spot, and such a cool way to do it. I’m really excited, and I love that it can push our game as well as it does as well.

Can we expect to see the first two series of Sam and Max hit the iPad?

Dan: Well, we’re going to watch how things go with Sam and Max and figure out what the right approach is going to be for the library as well as titles going forward, as well as maybe building something specific for the platform that makes sense.

So we’re really interested in the opportunity. We have such a huge library of content to move over, and we’re going after a pretty aggressive schedule going forward. We’ve just got to figure out what the right fits are, and try to manage it all.