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Strong Bad: Episode Two Interview/Review

Strong Bad: Episode Two Interview/Review
Interviewee(s): Chuck Jordan, Writer/Designer for Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People introduces episodic gaming to WiiWare, a new style of distribution for Nintendo Wii. With our review format, we decided to critique the episodes in a different, yet entertaining manner. We have addressed the strengths and weaknesses of Episode Two, “Strong Badia the Free,” with Strong Bad writer/designer Chuck Jordan.

One of our main complaints from ”Homestar Ruiner” was how the story retreads back through the same locales. “Strong Badia the Free,” however, continually pushes players to new countries and territories. We appreciate the more forward thinking of this episode. Was this a change because of player feedback or instead an intended game design choice?

Chuck Jordan: Telltale is always listening for player feedback (even if we don’t agree, we’re listening). One of the best things about episodic games is that we don’t just work on a game for a couple of years, then put it out and forget about it. We have worked hard to build a community on our site where the fans can get involved in the game as a series goes on, and let us know what they think. That said, it takes a good bit longer than a month to make an episode, and “Strong Badia the Free” was already designed and well into production by the time “Homestar Ruiner” was released.

Changing up the map and story progression for this episode made the most sense for the story; we wanted it to feel like you were exploring the world and building up to a big show-down at the end. It really wouldn’t work as well for another type of Strong Bad story, because the cartoons depend on never quite knowing where anything is, or what’s going to happen next.

This episode also seems like an easier transition game for newcomers to the Homestar Universe. We remarked that novices might not realize to constantly check Strong Bad’s e-mail or punish Homestar in the first episode. “Strong Badia the Free,” however, has a faster pace and moves characters in and out. Are you constantly making sure that each episode has an easy learning curve for first-timers with Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People?

CJ: We’re always trying to keep our games as accessible as possible. We want people to be able to jump in and just explore and have fun with the story and the characters, without being confused, or getting frustrated to the point of annoyance with a puzzle or with the interface.

But half the fun of Homestar Runner is being confused! I know when I first discovered, I was convinced that there was all this elaborate back-story that I was missing out on, and it would all make sense once I’d started from the beginning. Now I’ve seen all the cartoons, and it doesn’t make much more sense than it did at first! And that’s the beauty of it, I think, that the Chapmans have made these characters and world that you can just jump into at any point, and it’s funny even if you’ve got no context for what’s going on. So we’re trying to get the same type of feel with the episodes: just jump in and have fun, and stop worrying so much about making sense.

The gameplay variety was a noted positive for the first episode, especially the stealth mission in King of Town’s castle. We like the mash-up of genres, but this episode’s conclusion revealed a slower segment that seemed much more lackluster. What made you decide to decelerate on such a fast-paced story?

CJ: Well, we didn’t decide to decelerate the story, but to put a different spin on the traditional adventure game puzzle at the end of the game. It’s still essentially a story-based puzzle-– you’ve got to figure out the relationships between the characters and how to use them together-– but presented in a different way than our usual dialogues and inventory items.

Personally, I’m really happy that part got in, because even though not everybody likes it (even within Telltale!), it’s one the things that you can do in episodic games. The most creative TV series will throw a curve ball at you every once in a while: this episode’s in black and white, this is the “musical” episode, etc. Now, we can have that happening in videogames, different types of stories and different types of puzzles, and maybe even extend that to a whole episode. Some people will absolutely love it, some people won’t be able to stand it, but being able to experiment is the best part.

The photo booth, while fun to use, seemed to lack any updates in Episode 2. Will the photo booth stay as it is through the next episodes, or can we expect some exciting changes to it?

CJ: Bending the laws of time and space isn’t enough? Sheesh, some people. :)

We’re going to have a new set of collectible costumes in each episode, and of course a new set of photo booth backdrops for Strong Bad’s modeling. One of Telltale’s “bad” habits is cramming as much “extra” stuff as possible into an episode at the last minute, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone sneaks an easter egg or extra bit of content in there.

All in all, we believe this was a huge step in the right direction for the series. The pacing is better, minor characters are developed more, and we had more fun. And if not enough, a couple of the control issues and graphical glitches from “Homestar Ruiner” were not encountered as often. How will you continue to raise the bar as we proceed through the season?

CJ: I think we’ve peaked, and it can only go downhill from here...

Actually, the episode the studio’s working on now looks like it’s going to be my favorite of the series; I just got back from one of the choreographer’s desks and am still cracking up. Telltale’s games are story-and-character-based (that’s kind of the reason for the company’s name!), so we’re always looking at ways to raise the bar for storytelling in videogames. We’ve got a great set of characters and are working with two of the funniest guys on the internet, so I think we’ve got some great stories to look forward to.

The second episode of Strong Bad, “Strong Badia the Free,” is another recommended pick-up for WiiWare. Telltale Games will release three future episodes, for 1000 Wii Points, each month.

We would like to thank Chuck Jordan for taking the time to answer our questions on “Strong Badia the Free.”

Staff Avatar Evan Campbell
Staff Profile | Email
"Real men don't fight — they sing!"

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