With Telltale’s Minecraft: Story Mode now available, Josh had a chat with the studio’s Creative Communications Manager, Laura Perusco, to find out what their new tale is all about.
SR: Minecraft has always been about unparalleled creativity and unrestricted gameplay. Telltale’s episodic adventures provide a more linear experience. How are the team building gameplay around Minecraft’s core values?
Laura: It’s really interesting how we’ve wrapped the gameplay of Minecraft into our story. Something I think this game does well is how seamlessly crafting is integrated into the story, and it doesn’t affect the pacing at all.
At certain parts in the game you might have a bunch of materials you’ve collected, some of which you’ll be able to use to help solve a problem. In the first episode, for example, there’s a pressure pad you must activate from a distance. Using your inventory you’re able to choose which item you want to make to help you at that moment, it might be a bow and arrow or a fishing rod etc. It’s awesome playing the game with veteran Minecraft players, because as soon as they know what materials are in their inventory, they instantly know what they can build.
SR: Telltale are well known for presenting engaging stories with emotional moments, Minecraft seems to offer something more family friendly. Moving forward are Telltale aiming to go back to their roots a little more, to the times of Sam & Max, or is it more of a mixture?
Laura: Telltale are always looking for rich universes that have a lot of potential for interesting stories. Whether that’s a dark and more mature license such as The Walking Dead or something that’s an all-ages adventure. The age group that we aim for doesn’t define whether it’s going to be an interesting story or not.
SR: VR is a big talking point at the moment, do you think the addition of virtual reality would bring anything special to Telltale adventures?
Laura: It’s actually a bit tough to translate our Telltale worlds into the realm of VR, because games are made in the language of cinema. Cinema is a very defined experience, we know what you’re going to be looking at and we know how to present our content. But in VR you can look anywhere, how do we create the same affect and experience? It’s going to take time to figure that out.
That said, all of us at the office are super excited about it — we are video game nerds after all. There’s someone in the office who has an Oculus for people to try out and HTC Vive has also been kind enough to lend us their kit. That, in particular, is a fantastic experience that I found absolutely mind blowing. VR is definitely something that’s on our radar, though we don’t have anything specific to announce as of yet.
SR: Point and click is part of Telltale’s DNA. Could you ever see the company building an open-world adventure that presents dialogue options and mechanics we’re all familiar with but in more sprawling environments?
Laura: I think Telltale’s real strength is in telling compelling stories and as long as we can maintain that ability then I don’t see why not. However, we’re all about scripted entertainment and I’m not sure how well that would work in a open-world video game. We’re always open to furthering gameplay depending on the license, but as long as it stays within our vision.
SR: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what do the team think of Life is Strange?
Laura: We’re always interested in what other companies are doing. Personally I just love playing other story-centric games.
SR: There’s unlimited potential for future titles and after having two shows such as the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones adapted into Telltale’s world, do you think there’s potential to branch out into other well known properties? Of course TV shows are episodic just like the games.
Laura: The team really want to work on properties that we’re all big fans of. Minecraft Story Mode came about because there were a lot of people in the office who would play Minecraft, whether that’s with their kids or family, and we were already making Tales from the Borderlands.
We were already in this space of creating a video game set in the universe of another video game, so we asked ourselves what other property would be suited to the same conversion? Minecraft came to our mind and we approached its developer Mojang straight away.
SR: Are there any games that you personally think would work well as a Telltale adventure? I guess it would be hard to adapt something such as Naughty Dog’s critically acclaimed The Last of Us.
Laura: A lot of us played The Last of Us in the office, we all love Naughty Dog. There’s actually an easter egg in their game that references our first season of The Walking Dead. One of the houses they built within the game is a replica of Clementine’s house; it has a pool in the back yard and her tree house.
SR: That’s amazing! How many people know about that?
Laura: It’s not a well-guarded secret! But yeah, we’re friends with Naughty Dog.
SR: The first episode of Minecraft Story Mode is about to release, but how strict are you on the scheduling of the rest of the series?
Laura: We always keep our schedule flexible, because we develop content live amidst the fan feedback we receive. Obviously we already have the season arc planned out and we know where the story is going, but there’s space within that to develop certain sectors in accordance to player response.
We’re constantly reading our social media pages and listening to make sure the story is being heard in the way we intended it to be. If an episode needs a little more love to make us more comfortable in releasing it, we’d definitely put the time and energy in to do that.
Minecraft: Story Mode has already released its first episode and it is available to download on home consoles, PC and mobile platforms. In the meantime you can catch our review of the series once it’s finished its run.