We talked to Dave Grossman, design director at Telltale Games, about the studio's newly announced but already much-anticipated Jurassic Park and Back to the Future games, whose only presence at E3 are "Coming this winter" posters and a pink hoverboard.
What can we expect of the Jurassic Park and Back to the Future games in terms of genre? Both of them are going to be episodic. You can expect Back to the Future to be the next step in the evolution that we have been doing for the adventure game--probably a little more accessible and directed. We've been moving things in that direction for a long time.
Jurassic Park will be a little bit more of a departure for us. The reasons will probably be obvious to people who are trying to figure out how we will do this game. What we always try and do is whatever's best for the license. Jurassic Park is going to require a lot of tension and time pressure and stuff like that--you need to run away from dinosaurs. Your standard graphic adventure mechanics are not very good for that.
We don't want this to be something where you hang around and solve things at your own pace...spend a lot of thinking time, trying to figure out "What do I do with this tool?" or whatever. It's going to be a much more closed-in, claustrophobic, directed kind of an experience. It's going to be you racing to do some small task really quickly before a dinosaur comes around the corner and eat you. Or even if he's not about to, you're going to think that he is.
We've been told to expect both these games this winter. How closely are the Jurassic Park and Back to the Future teams working together?
They are working on the games separately at the same time, but there is some spillover.
Which platforms will be the games be on?
We're not saying anything about platforms for these yet. However, I will point out everything we've ever done has come out for PC, so it's safe to assume that.
Did Telltale pursue these licenses in particular? Are there big Jurassic Park and Back to the Future fans working on the games?
It was strange to see [the fans at Telltale] coming out of the woodwork; even ones you didn't know about. As soon as we said, guys, we've got this opportunity to do a Back to the Future game, what do you think? They were like, oh my god, that's the greatest thing ever. So we definitely got all those guys on the right teams. Back to the Future is one of those things that makes obvious sense for us. Jurassic Park is something we've been looking for, which is a good opportunity to get into something with a serious tone to it and has been a specific goal for us for a while. We want it to be accessible, but we want it to feel serious.
Are you feeling the pressure over making games of film franchises with such huge fan followings?
There's always a little pressure associated with that. It's kind of the same pressure we always put on ourselves--but maybe a little bit larger because it feels like more people are watching. But we always take it seriously: We want to get it right and we will go to great lengths to get it right if we have to.
The Wallace & Gromit series is a good example, where we like like, OK, we're up against a big problem because none of us are English. What are we going to do? So we hired an editor who lives in Britain and we got the voice actors from over there, did a lot of back and forth with [Wallace & Gromit animation company] Aardman...asking is the tone right, is the humor hitting, what do we need to change to get it right?
We'll do the same thing with these. We do have people at Universal who are pretty protective of these licenses. They don't want to just hand them off to somebody and say go make a quick buck. They've been nurturing them for 20 years and want to keep doing so. They've got experts over there to tell us what to do and what not to do.