Tales Of Monkey Island Demo, Pricing Difference

By John Walker on July 8th, 2009 at 8:52 am.

I want a spin-off where you play as Le Chuck.

The demo for the first Tales of Monkey Island episodic adventure is available now. As indeed is the game. It seems so soon after the first announcement that it exists. This time you don’t appear to be able to buy the episodes separately. Instead Telltale want you to commit to the full five episode series in one purchase.

But put your arms back down. It works out cheaper. Whereas buying each of the five chapters would usually cost you $44.25, as one they’re $34.95. (The Steam UK prices work out similarly, at £25 rather than £30.) Well, cheaper unless you decided you didn’t enjoy a chapter and wouldn’t buy any more, I guess. There’s no doubting it’s an odd approach to being episodic – certainly Telltale have meddled with purchasing options in the past (rather upsetting people with a sudden change in pricing policy for the final episode of the Strong Bad games), and they seem very keen to encourage people to buy the full load of Wallace & Gromit games in one go, only offering the bundle on Steam. But this seems to be the first time there’s been no option at all to pick up just the one chapter.

Of course, this might change in the next few days. Initial enthusiasm for people wanting to play the new Monkey Island content created by Dave Grossman and Mike Stemmle would likely see them buying it in whatever form is available. But then we’re not often impressed with this sort of thing. Of course, there’s also the rather strong argument that these are not going to be individual stories, but rather a five-part serial. It wouldn’t make sense to play episode 3 without playing the others, we’re assured. (Sell it as one full game, then?)

Any how, the point is, there’s a demo out so you can see whether this is going to raise your heart or see you ranting on forums about how they’ve ruined Guybrush’s hair, etc. I’ve not had a chance to play the full episode yet, annoyingly, but from a quick go at the demo I’m pleased to report the voice acting from the regular cast is superb, and the design is a happy compromise between Telltale’s familiar engine and a traditional LucasArts motif. In fact, it’s really rather lovely just to see the LucasArts logo at the beginning of a Telltale game. It’s like seeing Pepsi holding hands with Coke. Maybe, sniff, one day we’ll all get along.

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152 Comments »

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  1. LionsPhil says:

    “…but why not just delay it another 6 months and release all the episodes together as a full sequel.”

    Because then it might highlight that it’s not one big, well-constructed game, but a number of small, trivial ones stuck together. Also, this way they get paid in advance.

  2. Sartoris says:

    So one of the first puzzles is maze-like. Will game designers never learn…*sigh* But hey, fifteen minutes in and I chuckled once. More than I expected from Telltale.

  3. Sinnerman says:

    This demo was really short. If you watched the gameplay trailer then there really isn’t that much point in downloading it if you were not already impressed.

    I liked it more than the Sam & Max episode that I tried but, regrettably, there isn’t much evidence that there would be anything I would find funny or challenging in it. Not sure if a review would convince me otherwise as it would have to be by a grumpy person like me with the same tastes.

  4. MD says:

    Is the mouse-lag a feature, or just a problem with my setup? I’m getting it in the game as well as the menu, and it’s very offputting.

  5. Clovis says:

    I can’t stomache more than $20 for a full Adventure Game, so the idea of $45 for a complete season is crazy. The idea of paying $35 and only getting to play 20% of it now is super crazy. The Telltale games have been fun, but they’ve never been great. I might actually pay $35 for an AG if I thought it was actually the Saviour that adventure gamers have been waiting for.

  6. Schadenfreude says:

    I thought it was okay. No huge laughs, but I can see myself playing the full set and enjoying them. Still not 100% sold on the character design though.

    And the interface seems to be unnecessarily over-complicated. What’s wrong with click-to-move? And for the item combination why not just click an item on an item like CMI and dozens of other adventure games?

  7. Gabanski83 says:

    Yeah, not too keen on the click-and-drag method of movement, but the rest of the interface is fine by me.

  8. Andy`` says:

    Just a thought: maybe it was LucasArts’ idea? Either way, it’s an interesting little experiment. And episodes are still an experimental thing for games: not every approach has been tried yet, nowhere near it, and only a few companies have really managed to keep their thing going well. But its easy to accidentally use it in the same manner as other techniques (expansion packs, DLC), and get them all confused.

    DLC, especially. The title of ‘DLC’ isn’t really appropriate for some of this stuff, it somewhat devalues it. I think it’s partly down to the use of the term in the console market, with more full games (especially old re-releases) being called DLC if they’re available for download only. It makes no sense to call a new, complete standalone game DLC but that’s exactly what’s happening, and it’s slowly leaking over to the PC market, somehow, though I doubt it’ll get as bad because we’d already established download-only marketplaces way ahead of it. But as the term becomes more interchangable with different things to different people, the easier it is to lose track of some of the episodic experiments, because you can get the impression they’re nothing more than expansions/DLC/patches/etc.

    Which reminds me. This is today, supposedly, likely later tonight (GMT): http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=24332

  9. Andy`` says:

    LA idea: pricing. Really should have mentioned that.

    Oh, and: “And for the item combination why not just click an item on an item like CMI and dozens of other adventure games?”

    It’s more obvious to someone less familiar with older adventure games this way. That kind of approach seems to be what most of Telltale’s stuff is about – assuming you know nothing, or very little, about the genre.

  10. SanguineAngel says:

    @ NikRichards

    That’s all well and good. I respect the fact that they are an indie developer with perhaps a low budget. Indeed, askig people to pay up front for the game so they have more funds is not a terrible plan.

    I recall reading somewhere that the developers of the fatabulous Mount & Blade did this too.

    However, at a time of official release to the public, they might offer the opportunity to purchase episodes in advance, offering a discounted price as insentive – in order to increase their funds. I suspect many might do it in order to support them! BUT to force it upon us if we want to play it at all is ludicrous. Offer the option. I recon they would still get a lot of people buying the lot.

  11. Sartoris says:

    Well, you can always move Guybrush using the keyboard and make him run. Which is just as cumbersome as the drag method.

  12. Hermit says:

    Also, the item combination system at least discourages the old adventure game staple of just clicking every item in your inventory on every other item in the hope that something happens.

    Played through the episode today and I rather enjoyed it.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Dr.Evanzan says:

    I don’t really get why there is an expectation that episodic content should be available individually. I always saw the promise of episodic content to be that it was delivered in regular, reasonably self-contained parts. The benefit over a ‘full game’ being that you can start playing the initial parts before the final parts are complete (and, if the overall series is large enough to give sufficient time for this, to enable the later episodes to be tweaked based on feedback from the early episodes).
    Paying the full amount would be like buying a subscription for a full TV series. You could certainly argue that the subscription should be payable in instalments and could be cancelled mid-season (with you only paying for the episodes you had so far purchased/played). However, I think it’s reasonable enough to expect you to get the entire season and not just cherry-pick episodes.

    I see one important benefit of buying an entire series rather than individual episodes. Just because a game episode is self-contained does not necessarily mean it has to be stand-alone. If you are trying to maintain a continuing thread, with a certain meaningful carry-over between episodes, it makes life very complicated (as a developer) to have to cater for episodes being missed out (particularly if the series allows a non-linear progression). Whereas if you mandate episodes be played as a progression, and you know everyone therefore has every episode, you don’t have to worry about that but can just pick-up where the last episode left off.

    That said, I’m assuming Telltale don’t do anything like that at the moment (I still haven’t played Sam and Max Season 1 properly yet, never mind the latest ones. Too many games and not enough time to play them!) nor do I assume that they necessarily plan on doing so. However, in general, I think my argument stands.

  14. faelnor says:

    I sincerely hope that serious reviewers will not indulge in the “yeah I may not have laughed but I probably wouldn’t laugh at the first MI game either nowadays” is all.
    I want them to tell whether the game is as funny, as CHARMING as the first three. I want them to SAY IT LOUD if they haven’t laughed or if they found it tedious, judging on what it is and not what it could have been if they were younger or less jaded.
    I want to know if we’re offered entrancing Psychonauts-like charm or a-bit-better-than-runaway adventure. And if it’s not better than Psychonauts, then don’t give it a higher score – unlike what happened on EG with a few of Telltale’s previous offerings.

    For god’s sake, be consistent and be honest.

  15. SanguineAngel says:

    @ Dr.Evanzan

    Hi there, whilst I agree with your points as valid reasons to pay up front. I cannot say that I would see this as a solid argument NOT to offer episodic purchase.

    Your anology of the TV series is the same as my own, so let us stick with that. I watch several TV series, and there are many i give up on as they do not entertain me, although I thought they were interesting premises.

    If a channel/producer were to initiate a subscription plan for viewing their series there are 3 things I would demand as a consumer.

    1. That I pay on an episode by episode basis. This is so that if I DO miss an episode or wish to cancel my subscription then I will not lose out.

    2. That if I were to subscribe mid series, the option is made available to pay for and view at my leisure the preceding episodes before entering into the season midway.

    3. A trial basis for each series. If I am dissatisfied with the series after perhaps 3 episodes, then I can cancel my subscription and receive a full refund for those episodes. (unless it was a free trial period)

    These are pretty standard practices for a subscription based model. Just look at something like world of warcraft.

    I took a free 3 month trial. I enjoyed it so I maintained a monthly membership. I had the option to pay in advance for 6 months or even 1 year at a slight discount. I did not do this as I was concerned that my interest would not last that long.

    As it was, about 4 months later I cancelled my subscription having tired of the game. I was able to do so easily. I felt that I had not lost any money in the transaction as I had paid for what I received fairly and more importantly I was able to quit without have to accept something i didn’t want – namely 2 or 8 more months of membership.

    It is well and good offering the option. However, there is a certain moral, if not legal, obligation to the consumer to take their needs and desires into account when producing a product specifically for them.

  16. Schadenfreude says:

    Hrm. Playing the full version, just beyond the demo section and something unfortunate has happened to the dialogue. Your given a choice of three or four wisecracks but no matter which one you pick, Guybrush just says the same thing e.g. I click, “Deep Gut? Elaine’s mother is here?” and Guybrush just says “Deep Gut? What’s a Deep Gut?” Hopefully it’s just in this conversation (In which it happens two or three times) but if this is the way they designed their conversations I won’t get much pleasure out of this.

  17. jalf says:

    @faelnor: You seem to have misunderstood what the scores in reviews mean. It is impossible to find a score that doesn’t contradict dozens of other games. Look at the score in isolation. A high score means it is a good game, a low score means it is a bad game. Different reviewers have reviewed different games in different genres differently. There is no universal and unambiguous scale which every game ever made slots into and where you can see how it ranks compared to everything else.

    The game is fun. I didn’t much like Psychonauts (which btw is an entirely different genre, in case you hadn’t noticed. Why compare it to that?), so I can easily say that this one is better. It is also in a whole different league than Runaway. It is a Monkey Island game, and I think it lives up to the name. More relevantly, rather than raving about games in different genres or universal review scores, how about this:

    The game is fun. I really enjoyed playing through it. Apart from the stupid controls, the game works. This isn’t another failure like MI4, this one is actually good.

    Anyway, there are several reviews up already. Why not read them instead of worrying what reviewers “will do”? So far, they’ve given it very nice scores, and none, that I’ve seen, have said “I’m assuming it’d have been fun if I was a kid again”.

    And I agree with Dr.Evanzan, I don’t really see the problem in having to buy the entire series. It is a way for TellTale to finance development, getting some money up front, before they’ve finished the entire thing, and it lets us play the first parts of the game before the last ones are finished.

    They said in earlier interviews that unlike their other games, the Monkey Island eps would be much closer tied together. I believe your inventory would carry over, and the story directly continues where the last ep ended.

    After completing the first episode, I get the impression that they’re serious about that. It didn’t end like the Sam&Max ones do, with “and they returned home and lived happily until the next episode”. It ended with a small cliffhanger instead.

    As such it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to cherrypick episodes. Basically, you’re paying $35 for a full game – bits of it are just getting delivered to you earlier.

  18. jalf says:

    @Schadenfreude: Yeah, it’s just that conversation (they might do it once or twice again, but it’s not the default.) I’m not sure why they did it constantly in that one conversation, it became really noticeable. Luckily, it’s basically just that one conversation.

  19. jalf says:

    It is well and good offering the option. However, there is a certain moral, if not legal, obligation to the consumer to take their needs and desires into account when producing a product specifically for them.

    So if I decided after playing the first 20% of Psychonauts that I didn’t like it, I should be able to get a refund for the remaining 80% as well?

    The thing about this game is that it seems to be episodic in name, rather than content. Yes, there are episodes, and they’re released a month apart, but they’re not self-contained. They work pretty much like the chapters of the original games. They’re there to break up the flow a bit, and mark off the main parts of the story. But it doesn’t make sense to play them in isolation.

    I consider this to be one game, the same way Halflife 2 or Oblivion were. The fact that it’s delivered gradually over time doesn’t change that, it only means we get to play most of it before it’d been released otherwise.

    Anyway, isn’t it a bit early to worry?
    As others mentioned, other Telltale games only became available as individual episodes a few months after the first one came out. Who’s to say they won’t do that again?

    There’s the demo too. Consider how many other games you’d have happily paid $35 for after trying and liking the demo. Why is this one different?

  20. Sartoris says:

    @Schadenfreude:

    Yeah, I noticed that too. Kinda lazy on their part. I remember those wacky option were a blast in MI3.

  21. Demikaze says:

    @Wulf,

    Yep, I was well and truly wrong. The models actually emote very well and the writing is good! My only criticism is the boat exploding right at the beginning. Didn’t look too hot. All in all, it’s great to have Monkey Island back.

  22. Supertonic says:

    Looks like there’s a nice securom infestation on this one. Stupid bastard thought I had SoftIce on my machine and refused to run. I have no such program. Customer lost.

  23. Dante says:

    @ Clovis

    $20? That’s, what £10-15?

    That’s pretty tight fisted there man.

  24. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    @Richard Clayton
    “I also worry that, because the game is going to be released in small and distinct episodes, that we’ll miss out on the epicness and the complexity of a journey/quest that we experienced in the original 2 MI games and Grim Fandango where the quest is able to tell a story rather than simply offer an hour’s worth of diversion.”

    It’s odd that you bring up Grim Fandango, as that would have worked quite well as four episodes, one per year, with each ending halfway through the cutscene just before the “One year later” caption.

    The only thing episodic development needs to tell an epic, complex story is for the *story* of it to be pretty fully planned out before the first episode is released. That way the early episodes can have all the hooks in them to pick up later in the series, and the series as a whole will hang together rather than (as with the Sam & Max episodes) feeling disjointed. See also Babylon 5.

  25. Quests says:

    I liked the demo visual and controls.

    But these guys seem to care too much about the kids and the casual players, and to be a sofa experience. While i want a true adventure game, not a cartoon network toy.

    I believe i’ll wait for “Ghost pirates of vooju island” and hope it’s a game for adults.

  26. jalf says:

    @Quests: Huh?

  27. Dracko says:

    Oh, and for the record, Wulf, the demo was lousy and decidedly confirmed how unfunny this game is.

    Besides anything else, reviews praising it for referencing Internet memes and Guybrush cheekily going I WON’T BE ABLE TO OPEN THIS MYSTERY CHEST IN THIS EPISODE also tells me humour is dead.

  28. SanguineAngel says:

    @ Jaff

    “Anyway, isn’t it a bit early to worry?”

    By the same token, isn’t it a bit early to go ahead and assume the first episode is going to be representative of the first.

    And

    “So if I decided after playing the first 20% of Psychonauts that I didn’t like it, I should be able to get a refund for the remaining 80% as well?”

    well, frankly if you’re releasing episodic content (and they ARE, no matter how well tied together it is) then YES, or rather, you should have the option to decide that the first episode did not press your buttons and you won’t be paying for the rest.

    Of course it is different if you are buying a single complete entity. But that is not what this is. You are buying the promise of a thing, with no way of telling what it will actually be like. Sure the 1st part has a demo and has been reviewed. But the remaining 80% is entirely unrepresented.

  29. Dracko says:

    The fact that people are defending this practice – regardless of the merits of the game in question, but sheerly on principle – is enough indication that gamers are more than willing to eat shit sandwiches so long as there’s an element of nostalgia or old-school geek-cred band recognition involved.

    Bash fratboys all you want, but at least they play games expecting to play games.

  30. JKjoker says:

    nice, so if the game bombs you get to stick the forever cliffhanged 2-3 episode game up one of your own holes ? specially when, understandingly, a lot of potential buyers won’t the game now but rather wait until the whole pack is released

    or you might get the Valve treatment where the 5 episodes might take about 50 years to be released, sorry but i don’t think ill want to play it when im 70 ….

  31. SanguineAngel says:

    Er … to clarify i meant “isn’t it a bit early to go ahead and assume the first episode is going to be representative of the rest”

    Sorry, typos galore!

  32. TheColonel says:

    Fortunately, a demo has been released to allow people to decide whether they like the way the game is presented. To me, it would make no sense to only play one episode anyway. Surely they are not going to be totally satisfying in their own right (short and lacking an ending until the last one). It would be like playing the first few levels of a title. If you decide you don’t like a game after that, you’ve still paid for 80% of content you have no further interest in playing. In such a case, surely both episodic and single disc titles could be returned for a refund?

    Is this another machination from the people that claim there’s not enough content in Left4Bed to justify a sequel?

  33. JKjoker says:

    oh yeah, and there is also the Indigo Prophesy method, where the first hour is awesome, multi-layered and full of little details we all love so much and then the rest of the game is carved out of bird droppings

  34. Dracko says:

    TheColonel: One of the contributors to this very blog is a comics writer. He could probably tell you that a lot rests in selling a story arc, let alone a series, on regular quality from an issue to issue basis. I’m not seeing why you wouldn’t expect such a thing in episodic games as well, any more than you would with a TV show.

    I’d have thought in any case that if developers wanted to market and sell an episodic series, they’d want the first few ones to be representative of a larger whole.

  35. Dracko says:

    JKJoker, yeah, if anything, the episodic method would be an incentive for a constant amount of quality, instead of making the best moments last only towards the beginning of a title.

    But it’s quite clear developers want to dodge that at this point.

  36. JKjoker says:

    @Dracko: of course, who wouldnt want to get paid BEFORE they did most of the work and then sit down and enjoy the breeze and take a few points out of the J.Romero’s guide to game development without any rush or responsability

    the thing is, once they get paid the first time, they wont be able to expect any additional money until they release the whole pack together so there is very little incentive to finish it, im sure the voodoo lady would sense a dark muddy future for the serie

  37. RuySan says:

    @dracko, that reminds of the lousy, forth wall breaking humour of Simon the Sorcerer. Seems Telltale just aren’t worthy of this legendary series.

  38. Miguel says:

    @Piispa

    Buy from de Telltale store you pay in dollars so it’s 25€

  39. Quests says:

    jalf:

    I might buy the game because i can turn off voices and pretend it’s a 90’s game. :P

    I also don’t like the limitedness of the one-click interaction. Is it FMV games time all over again(Phantasmagoria and co.) ?
    I like to first do a safe inspection of an item and then actually interact with it. But i understand this would have clashed with TTG’s aim of accessibility and large audience.

    This is all subjective likes and dislikes, tho, i have no idea whether the actual puzzles are challenging or not, and that’s the only important thing, TOMI is prolly still a great game.

    So it’s safe to say that Autumn Moon boys already have my money cause with them you know you’re gonna get a serious hardcore puzzles tale.

  40. jalf says:

    Of course it is different if you are buying a single complete entity. But that is not what this is. You are buying the promise of a thing, with no way of telling what it will actually be like. Sure the 1st part has a demo and has been reviewed. But the remaining 80% is entirely unrepresented.

    And how is that different from, say, Halflife 2? In both cases, you only get the content *after* you’ve bought it. At the time you decide to pay, you’ve seen none of it. (except the demo)

    @JKJoker: You haven’t considered that they might get, you know, more than one customer? Once they get paid the first time, they’ll want to finish the series so that they can convince more people to buy the game — and, you know, so that they have a chance of convincing people to buy their next game. I don’t really follow your logic. Selling a game is hardly a binary thing, (either you managed to sell “it”, or you didn’t”). Instead, it is possible for you to sell many copies, or few copies, or many copies over time. The fact that the first episode was succesful means that they might now get more purchases from some of those who were on the fence. If the second episode is good too, more still will be convinced that the entire series is going to be worth it, and buy it. And if all the episodes turn out good, they’ll be able to pull still more skeptics aboard. So yes, they certainly have a motivation to finish the series, and make every episode shine.

    The fact that people are defending this practice – regardless of the merits of the game in question, but sheerly on principle – is enough indication that gamers are more than willing to eat shit sandwiches so long as there’s an element of nostalgia or old-school geek-cred band recognition involved.

    You’re contradicting yourself. If this practice is being defend sheerly on principle, then it can not, by definition, have anything to do with nostalgia or geek-cred.

    I “defend this practice”, if you want to call it that, by considering this one cohesive game. The first episode was good, and yes, while the next episode may be horrible, I fail to see how that is different from a non-episodic game. Say, the original Monkey Island. What if the first chapter of that was good, and the remainder horrible?
    I don’t see the fundamental difference, except that you pay a bit earlier than you would otherwise, and you get to start on the game earlier as well.
    I simply don’t see the harm in it. Every game you buy, is basically bought on faith. You didn’t buy Half-Life, Oblivion, Dreamfall or Homeworld because you’d already played through them and knew you loved the full game. You bought those games because you *thought* they’d be good. And Telltale is asking the same with this. They give you a demo, and then they ask you to hedge your bets. If you think the series is going to be worth it, give them your money. If not, don’t.

    Hell, you could even wait half a year until the series is finished, and then buy it all at once. Then there’s nothing episodic about it at all. Telltale isn’t *forcing* you to buy before they’ve finished the series. They give us the option. You can still do as you would with a non-episodic game, wait for them to finish the whole thing, pay for the whole thing, play the whole thing.

  41. Dracko says:

    You’re contradicting yourself. If this practice is being defend sheerly on principle, then it can not, by definition, have anything to do with nostalgia or geek-cred.

    Unless, you know, you’re letting the latter factors cloud your judgement!

    Either way, if you took this game and changed the character models and names, it would still be horrible. It doesn’t get a free pass for having the Monkey Island name on it any more than the Sam & Max, Wallace & Gromit or StrongBad games did.

  42. Dracko says:

    The fundamental difference, incidentally, is that this is designed as an episodic series.

  43. Igor Hardy says:

    I must say the game is excellent. And I wasn’t really too fond of either the episodic Sam & Max or Strongbad. The writing might be more charming than funny most of the time, but Tales has the right atmosphere, characters and gameplay to be up there with the first three games…

    Well, it’s only the first chapter, so things might still change for worse, but I don’t think they will.

  44. jalf says:

    Either way, if you took this game and changed the character models and names, it would still be horrible.

    You know, if you took this game and changed the character models and names, I’d still have liked it.

    The fundamental difference, incidentally, is that this is designed as an episodic series.

    What does that even mean? It is designed as an adventure game. It is designed so that it can be divided into smaller chapters, yes, but so was the original Monkey Island. So was Grim Fandango.

    What does it mean for a game to be “designed as an episodic series”?

  45. jalf says:

    By the way, Dracko, have you played the game?

  46. Dracko says:

    Why yes, I played the demo and saw the trailers and HOLD ON ARE YOU CONDONING PIRATING before I decide to fork over cash to a developer with a horrendously shit history to?

    P.S. You know how a TV series is a different to a movie? Yeah, that’s what “designed as episodic” means.

  47. Dracko says:

    The original Monkey Island was a complete game. So was Grim Fandango.

    The big tip-off is the fact that they were both made from the ground up from beginning to end and sold as such.

    At least my copies came on one CD/three diskettes out of the box. Don’t know about yours.

  48. Lilliput King says:

    “The fact that people are defending this practice – regardless of the merits of the game in question, but sheerly on principle – is enough indication that gamers are more than willing to eat shit sandwiches so long as there’s an element of nostalgia or old-school geek-cred band recognition involved.”

    What? Why? This is the first time we’ve seen this sort of release, and yes, it’s from an old IP we all recognise, but it’s never actually been attempted before. Your assumption that people are therefore defending this method based on the product involved is completely invalid.

    “Frat Boys”? “Nerds”?

    Eh?

  49. Dracko says:

    Liliput King, I’m not seeing the difficulty here: Just because this is the first time you’ve seen it doesn’t make it a good idea. Let alone an honest one.

  50. Dracko says:

    Igor: Really? I found this was nothing like the original’s atmosphere. Far too gimmicky and Hollywoodian, just like the ensuing sequels, I suppose, so it’s to be expected.