Matt’s Take on Episodic Content

In a Gamasutra interview earlier this week, Scott Miller of 3D Realms gave his input on episodic content. Ya know, that thing that Valve seems to love right now.

He seems to dislike the fact that new episodes take too long to be released after each other. And judging from the fact that Half-Life 2: Episode 2 has been delayed until Summer 2007, he does have a valid point. He also thinks that they shouldn’t end with cliff-hangers.

And you’re probably dying to know what I have to say on the subject. Hey, that’s why I put my name in this blog entry’s title:) Well, I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

I completely agree on both points. I think that episodic content has a long way to go before becoming a stable form of expression in the video game market.

Yes, when I played HL2:E1, I was very disappointed that it ended with a cliffhanger. It made the whole experience very anti-climactic. And knowing that we have 2 more episodes to go through before we know the ending makes it hard to get excited about this otherwise awesome franchise. Even Sam and Max is plagued with this kind of problem.

And now with all these delays, we’re not going to see what happens next until the middle of 2007, a full year after the release of Episode 1. Valve has stated many times that episodic content development would make releasing games much quicker and easier, but I’m just not seeing it. Sam and Max has shown it can be done, with plans to release episodes only a few months after each other, so I probably shouldn’t be calling out episodic content just on Valve’s weak definition of it.

Maybe Valve had unforeseen problems when developing their games. It happens to everyone in the business, but I still don’t like where they’re going with episodic content.

Make a game where it’s wholly contained within itself, where it actually has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I’d much rather see episodic content resemble movies than soap operas. If Alyx dies and mysteriously comes back to life in the last few minutes of Episode 3, at the same time having the screen fade to black, I am just going to snap.

The really funny thing about this interview is that Miller said he would never have any of his games on Valve’s Steam digital distribution service. But guess what game was recently announced for Steam, half a day after this interview went live? Yeah, 3D Realms’ Prey.

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16 years ago

I actually enjoyed the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 1, but I agree that Valve needs to be much, much quicker with their releases.  However, I disagree with Sam and Max: It didn’t really end on a cliffhanger, and the next episode is out right before Christmas, only two months later.  While Valve should be chastised for promoting something they can’t keep up with, Telltale seems to be right on the ball.

16 years ago

Sam and Max had somewhat of an unfinished ending, right? I probably went too far in saying it had a cliffhanger. I now hang my head in shame…

16 years ago

It was a bit unfinished, yeah, but after episode 2 their goal is one episode a month I believe, and since they’re supposed to come together to form a whole "season", it makes some sense, and we shouldn’t have to wait too long.