PAX East 2011: Telltale Talks Puzzle Agent 2
Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of, much less played, Puzzle Agent before my short chat with Tulley Rafferty and Jake Rodkin of Telltale about the game’s upcoming sequel. But after hearing about the origins of Puzzle Agent and how successful it has been for them, I decided to check it out on my iPhone during our return flight to LA. Saying I was pleasantly surprised is probably an understatement. Puzzle Agent is an incredibly charming, dark humor-filled adventure game that I can’t recommend enough.
The first Puzzle Agent follows Nelson Tethers, the lone member of the FBI’s Puzzle Research Division, a position that has continued to receive funding despite the fact that Nelson hasn’t had a case in ten years. That is until he is assigned to visit a small mountain town in Scoggins, Minnesota to investigate a mysterious “incident” at the local eraser plant (which produces the President’s preferred brand of erasers). He soon discovers things are getting pretty weird in the town as almost every resident has been placed in an almost trace-like state in which all they can do is focus on solving puzzles. Project Lead Jake Rodkin described the game to me as “Professor Layton meets Fargo meets the X-Files or Twin Peaks” and I don’t think I could have said it better myself.
But Telltale isn’t a studio that’s really known for their original IPs. So where did the motivation for Puzzle Agent come from? “Starting last year we started an internal program called the ‘Pilot Program’ where people either internally or close to the company come and pitch things and Puzzle Agent was the first game to come out of that.”
“The game really kind of took off.” says Telltale’s Content Programmer, Tulley Rafferty. “Once we saw it on the iPad we realized we needed to take advantage of the tactile nature of it. With the first one we had kind of a mix of different of puzzles, we weren’t really sure where we were going with it. But after we saw it on iPad we realized how satisfying it was to solve these little tactile puzzles, arrange things, and press buttons so that’s kind of were we are taking it for the second one.”
But how has the new process of working on an a new IP been for Telltale? Rodkin broke it down for us. “Being able to sit down with a bunch of super creative writer and game designers and from nothing build out this crazy story about an eraser factory and gnomes in the woods and a weird FBI agent, it’s super fun.”
“Myself and Sean Vanaman are the leds on The Walking Dead game and when we heard Puzzle Agent 2 was being picked up and because we had done the story for the first game along with some other guys we were like ‘Okay, Walking Dead maybe we can slid you over here for a second because holy crap. When we wrote the first Puzzle Agent we had this six page treatment that had a number of adventures of this guy in this town and because the first game was sort of a pilot, we only got to use some of it.”