Episodic Disappointment

September 20, 2006 By Glenn Turner

Bone - Episodic Gaming

Dedicated readers know that I'm a pretty big fan of Bone, the comic as well as Telltale Games' initial foray into episodic gaming. However, for some time it seemed as if the only news coming from Telltale's camp was concerning work on their upcoming Sam & Max game and, while I love Sam & Max, the lack of any news about Bone's third episode had me more and more concerned.

But then, a few weeks ago, Chris Kohler visited Telltale to discuss Sam & Max and, while there, was able to shed some light on Bone's current status:

"[M]any of the key team members on that project left the company and formed Telltale Games a few years back. The intent was to produce episodic content, and they got started with two chapters of a game based on Bone.

But now, with all the attention being given to Sam and Max, the Bone games are on hold -- Telltale says we won't see Bone part three until after the first six-game "season" of Sam and Max finishes its one-per-month run. Telltale seems confident in their ability to hit this target, and I can't wait for things to get rolling." (emphasis mine)

I feel as if one of my favorite television shows is stuck in production limbo, never to be heard from again, but never officially canceled. It's too early to say for sure whether my queasiness is merited, but to halt production on new episodes to pursue another project (even if it is Sam & Max) certainly doesn't indicate that Bone is doing wonders for the company.

Then again, there's news like this from Bone creator Jeff Smith stating that he's working on "something akin to a Director’s Cut for the Telltale BONE games". Exactly what that means is still unknown. Perhaps Telltale will just polish the series off as one big title for closure's sake, or something. Who knows.

It's that sort of ambiguity that's bugging me about about the new 'episodic gaming' movement. Between Bone's hiatus and the repeated delays of the Half-Life 2 episodes, gamers aren't reaping the potential rewards of episodic gaming, namely more reliable release schedules and a richer narrative spread over a series of games. With the current 'episodic games', we're still only getting the equivalent of games produced like movies: a small number of parts stitched together and thrown out in an erratic and unpredictable fashion.

I sincerely hope that Sam & Max works out for Telltale, both because I want to play the darn series and also because it, hopefully, will become proof that episodic gaming can work. And then maybe, just maybe, Telltale will start working on a new Bone episode.

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