Oh, do we have a clip?

Abe Lincoln Must Die!I’ve been sequestered in my apartment for the last week, and I think I can finally say what the project is. I’ve been helping out with Telltale’s Sam & Max adventure games. The first episode I worked on, “Abe Lincoln Must Die!” is coming out on Gametap this Thursday, and then on Telltale’s site March 8.

This is very cool for me for two reasons: first, because I’ve wanted to work on a Sam & Max game for at least fifteen years now, ever since I first read the comics in the LucasArts Adventurer magazine. And this one’s actually going to get released! I did get a chance to work with Steve Purcell (translation: I got to listen while Steve came up with some great ideas) on a game a few years ago, but the pitch never got a publisher. On this series, Dave Grossman and Brendan Ferguson, two of the designers at Telltale, come up with the game design, puzzles, and situations, and I just came in for the last three episodes to write dialogue.

The second reason is because I haven’t played it yet. I always liked how on talk shows, an actor could come on and say that he hadn’t seen the movie he just worked on; there was always something admirably phony and pretentious and too-cool-for-school about it. I’ve only seen one scene from episode 4, a musical number that I have to say worked out a lot better than I’d expected it to. And I have played episode 1, and since I had nothing to do with it, can objectively and honestly say that it’s pretty hilarious.

I’ve worked on a few adventure games, but I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of adventure game puzzles. I play adventure games for the dialogue exchanges and the art and the cutscenes. So I think Telltale has managed to strike a good balance of puzzles that are just interesting enough to keep you engaged, but not so much to get you stuck and frustrated while you wait for the next cutscene. In other words: you want to buy all six episodes right now!

There’s a cool trailer for episode 4 on the Telltale blog. If you’re too lazy to click, here’s a lower-quality YouTube version:

18 thoughts on “Oh, do we have a clip?

  1. I just wanted to say that you’re a jerk. “Curse Of Monkey Island” was easily the best written in the series, and I’ve heard that the new Sam & Max mini-game is the funniest yet. Yet, I had no idea that you kept this weblog, and only came across it by Gamespot mentioning your hand in your latest game and my subsequent search engine findings of “Chuck Jordan” and “Charles Jordan.” I hate you.

    Also, liberal or conservative, Mr. Jordan? I’m just curious, as a Dartmouth student and a fan.

  2. I’m confused. Well, I’m sorry you liked Curse of Monkey Island, and I regret not informing you that I had a blog. It won’t not happen again. Worst of luck in your studies at Bizarro-Dartmouth!

  3. Hi Chuck,

    I’m a fan of the Sam and Max episodes; looking forward to your work in the upcoming episodes–since you’ve been honest about your feelings about adventure game puzzles (I would agree with you) what are your opinions about these games being episodic? Both gamewise and dialog-wise?

  4. Good to see your contributing to the writing Chuck.. I’ll be back here with positive or negative comments once I’ve played the game.. Sam & Max are really hard to write(since Steve does such a great job) so how was the pressure of getting into the dog and bunny’s mindset?

  5. what are your opinions about these games being episodic? Both gamewise and dialog-wise?

    Err, well I’m biased, of course, but I think it’s a great idea. You get new content every month, what’s not to like? We tried pitching episodic adventure games when I worked at Lucas, and at the time they said there was no market for it. I’m glad to see all the pieces are in place now to make it possible.

    I’m just amazed and impressed that Telltale has been able to keep up with the schedule. With as much work as goes into making just a single character or set or musical piece, to have one come out every month is remarkable.

    And just out of curiosity, how are y’all finding this blog? Are you doing google searches on Sam & Max, or what?

  6. Google blog search on Sam and Max got it for me.

    I didn’t know episodic games were pitched at Lucasarts–that’s a fun fact.

    Well my question really was more about the writing/production aspects of episodic games compared to your experience with full-length games, but your answer also seems to address that.

  7. so LucasArts said there was no market for [episodic] adventure games and no market for sam & max.. guess Telltale is laughing now..

    Well to be fair: for all I know, that could’ve just been their tactful way of saying they didn’t want me to be a co-project lead.

    And if I remember correctly, this was after Monkey 3 had been out for a while and Grim Fandango was about to release, so it was still unclear whether adventure games were truly dead yet. The Sims expansion packs hadn’t started coming out yet, so Maxis hadn’t proven that you could make craploads of money selling episodic content. And most people still had dial-up connections, so online distribution wasn’t as practical.

    Sam & Max are really hard to write(since Steve does such a great job) so how was the pressure of getting into the dog and bunny’s mindset?

    Actually, I was such an obsessive fanboy of the comics that I quote them without realizing I’m doing it. The hardest part is making sure I’m not subconsciously stealing jokes from the books.

    Well my question really was more about the writing/production aspects of episodic games compared to your experience with full-length games

    The Telltale guys can tell you more about that; I had the easy part. Just imagine doing what normally takes six or seven months to finish, and doing it in three or four weeks.

  8. Well, I just played through the game, and really found it to be probably the best episode of the bunch, in terms of writing and humor. An insane amount of laugh out loud moments, good job! Since some people might be reading this without having played it yet, I’d say that I like chloroform, how do you say?, chupacabra, toothbrush, devouring entrails, the pope joke, the memo, and the age of the hand. Probably leaving lots of things out, but that’s just off the top of my head.

  9. I’m afraid it’s Windows-only for now, and I haven’t heard anything about their doing a Mac port. All the more reason to get an Intel Mac!

  10. Hi Chuck!
    I’m incredibly glad to see you back in the adventure gaming scene.
    I think that Abe Lincoln Must Die! is an absolute classic, you guys did a wonderful job on the script, it works even for foreigners like me. ;-)
    So, did you meet Steve? Did you have meetings with Steve himself? Did you bow to him in delirious awe?

  11. Thanks for the comments, guys. It’s good to hear. And I’m especially glad (and surprised) to hear that it works for non-Americans. For me, that’s always been one of the hardest parts of trying to write jokes, wondering whether they’re funny to anyone outside the US.

    And to answer your question: I’m a huge fan of Steve’s, but he’s just too nice and friendly a guy to let you be in awe of him.

  12. hey chuck just been playing abe lincoln must die.. i’ve been in tears from laughing so much.. I even tried to drink a cup of tea while playing..bad idea..spit take! but seriously you absolutely nailed all the dialogue… so many great lines I can’t even mention them all.. I probably havent laughed that much playing a game since hit the road..so thanks for the hard work..those hours staring at a blank page were worth something in the end.. did you do writing for episode 5 also?

  13. Glad you liked it, hero, thanks for the comment. I did do a very little bit of writing for episode 5. And I’m currently finishing up working on a larger chunk for episode 6.

  14. Yes, I’m another who found the writing in Episode 4 to be the best so far. Hilarious from start to finish. Looking forward to your continued involvement with Telltale & Sam & Max.

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