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Joystiq interview: Holy crap! Telltale talks Strong Bad

Jason Dobson

It won't be long before our wallets are drained of life thanks to Nintendo's freshly delivered digital download service, WiiWare. However, we're saving a few Wii Points under the mattress for Telltale's upcoming episodic take on iconic internet flash cartoon, Homestar Runner, in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. It's dot com.

With the series announced to launch in June and new first episode details expected to drop later this week, we headed over to Bubs' Concession Stand for more information on the upcoming game. Of course, he wasn't much help, though he did point us over to Telltale, where we spoke with marketer extraordinaire Emily Morganti about all things Strong Bad. For the complete breakdown of what went down, hit up the interview below and pop open a one -- just make sure it's cold. A one which is not cold is scarcely a cold one at all.

Gallery: Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People

You first hinted at the project at GDC after Telltale was name-dropped on a Nintendo press release. How long prior to this had the project been in development?

We first started talking to the Chapmans about a year ago. My sense of time has completely left me (releasing a new game every month will do that to you!), but I feel like they first came out here to brainstorm with the team in late 2007. We then spent some time working on the art and put together a prototype so they could see what the game would look like, how it would control, etc. That was in early 2008. After that, things started moving pretty quickly.

Who approached who for the project? Did you knock on Matt and Mike Chapman's front door first, or vice versa?

We contacted them. We were looking for licenses that would work well with our episodic model, and since Homestar Runner is the epitome of an episodic license on the internet -- not to mention very, very funny -- it just made sense. Several people in our office were already Homestar fans before we even approached the Chapmans, and when we first talked to the Chapmans we learned they were Sam & Max fans and had been keeping up with our games, so it turned out to be a good fit.

Followers of Homestar Runner no doubt know of Matt and Mike's love affair with classic gaming, having created their own fair share of games like Dungeon Man 3 and Peasant Quest for their own site. As this project is described as a "3D point-and-click-em-up adventure," how hands-on have the duo been with the game's development?

They're very hands-on. It's as if they're working here with us in the office (except they're in Atlanta). They helped come up with the stories, they're taking passes on the scripts, and of course they do the voice acting. I think anyone who's familiar with the Chapmans' work will be really excited by how much of their personalities come through in the games -- it really feels like playing a long cartoon.

Speaking of length, you've committed to releasing each of the game's five episodes one per month beginning in June. Is this schedule set in stone? Do you plan on having all of the episodes done by June so you just have to roll them out, or will the team be working on each episode up until they are released?

The production is staggered, so when we're finishing up one episode, another one is at beta and another is in the early stages. There might only be a month between releases, but that doesn't mean we've only spent a month developing an episode from beginning to end. It takes more like 2-3 months per episode.

We're still working out the exact schedule, which is why we haven't announced dates yet, but we're on track for a June launch for the first episode. At Telltale it's really important for us to announce a schedule and then stick to it. We think that's crucial for an episodic game. The process we've developed has made us pretty good at estimating how long it takes to build one of these games. (We've released eleven Sam & Max episodes without slipping a release date!)

We know that you also said that pricing details will be announced at a later date as well. Can you give us a ballpark? Should we expect the episodes to hover at or around the same price currently asked for episodes of Sam & Max, around $9 a pop?

That's in the ballpark. We'll announce the actual price (along with the schedule and all sorts of other good stuff) sometime between now and the first episode's launch.

Could we see Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People coming to other platforms besides the Wii and PC? PSN or XBLA for instance?

Maybe down the line, but for now we're focusing on WiiWare and the PC. WiiWare is a natural fit since the Homestar Runner license has such deep roots in old-school Nintendo nostalgia. (The very first Homestar Runner cartoon was done in Mario Paint!) Also the license has a very simple visual style that makes it pretty easy for us to meet WiiWare's download specs.

And naturally we're bringing the series out on PC because we already have a huge audience of PC gamers from the Sam & Max games. So someday, yeah, we might decide to bring SBCG4AP to other platforms, but for the time being WiiWare and the PC version are our focuses.

Will the game launch simultaneously for both the PC and WiiWare?

This is still being decided. When we know for sure how the scheduling will work, we'll tell the world.

We're interested in hearing your thoughts on the landscape of digital delivery since it's obviously something in which you are heavily invested. Why were you attracted to WiiWare over both PSN and Xbox Live, both of which are more established? What makes WiiWare the right choice for you?

We'd like to be on all of these at some point. They're all great platforms for episodic content. WiiWare just happens to be the one we're venturing onto first...The decision really comes down to which console is best for the license we're working on.

Thanks again for all your time today!

I'd like to give a quick (and shameless, I know) plug for Strong Bad's development blog, which is updated regularly by the Chapman brothers. Between their work on the game and maintaining their own site, those guys are super busy, so the fact that they're also turning out new content for the dev blog is something we're really excited about. (It's also very funny and very uniquely Strong Bad...)

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