Episodic Awesome: Telltale’s Minecraft – Story Mode

When Telltale announced that they’d be working on an episodic Minecraft adventure game [official site], the old hound cynicism sloped across my chamber and nestled its head in my lap, looking up at the screen with eyes like sorrowful saucers. He let out a wheezy whine. The size of the license is more important than the potential for pleasant, semi-passive interactive storytelling, it seemed to say.

The first trailer, which you can see below, has sent the cur scurrying back to his den within the scullery. Story Mode doesn’t look particularly interesting, during this initial glimpse, but the direction Telltale are taking is clearer. It’s somewhere between the blocky playfulness and creative commentary of The Lego Movie, and the ongoing adventures of a thousand Minecraft Youtubers.

A significant proportion of the generation of kids growing up with Minecraft probably find the idea that it isn’t a “Story” game quite baffling. I know youngsters who spend their leisure time either playing Minecraft or watching Minecraft. It’s their favourite TV show as well as their favourite game, and a huge part of the appeal is in the experiences of others, whether they be famous gangs of Youtubers crafting multiplayer sagas, or folks experimenting with weird and wonderful mod packs. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about Minecraft as a narrative engine or genre but I suspect Telltale are attempting to tap into some of that energy.

They haven’t hired a cast of Youtubers for the voice acting though. Main character Jesse is played by Patton Oswalt, and the cast is rounded out by the likes of Ashley Johnson, Corey Feldman, Martha Plimpton, Billy West, Corey Feldman, Paul Reubens and Corey Feldman. There are further announcements to come on that front, it seems.

And there is a perhaps unavoidable Lego Movie vibe. Whether there’ll be an earworm of a theme song with grim lyrics and lessons to be forgotten in its own bouncing rhythms, I cannot say. Some kind of exploration of the meaning of creativity and sharing would be appropriate though. If only it hadn’t been done before, and so recently. Perhaps they’ll stick to comedic cuboid animal hijinks.

Here’s the word from the press release:

You’ll control protagonist Jesse throughout the season, as portrayed by actor Patton Oswalt. Jesse and his group of friends revere the legendary Order of the Stone; four adventurers who slayed an Ender Dragon. The Order are the very best at what they do: Warrior, Redstone Engineer, Griefer, and Architect. While at EnderCon, Jesse and his friends discover that something is wrong… something dreadful. Terror is unleashed, and they must set out on a journey to find The Order of the Stone if they are to save their world from oblivion.

OK. I’ll be in the scullery if anyone needs me, among the kibble and bits. I’ve been on holiday for a week and Old Dog Cynicism has grown hungry in my absence.

34 Comments

  1. Denys Laughton says:

    At least everyone will be getting their Corey Feldmans worth.

  2. rustybroomhandle says:

    I heard somewhere that Corey Feldman was in it too.

  3. Kollega says:

    Somehow… I don’t feel “pumped” for this at all, and I suspect many people might also be for vaguely similar reasons. The thing is, Microsoft buying Minecraft wholesale was just a hipster excuse not to return to the game, and the harsh reality was that I burned out on it long ago. It felt like getting to the actually interesting stuff (underwater bases, Nether railroad networks, truly giant castles, underground hideouts in lava fields, the works) by myself was clunky and tedious, and it was not helped by the sheer difficulty of setting up a multiplayer game – either faffing around with VPNs for a “LAN” game, faffing around with setting up a full-blown server with your own world, or faffing around with joining servers my friends played on, with a dozen roadblocks installed to deter griefers.

    This may be sacreliege to say, but “streamlining” some parts of Minecraft (primarily the multiplayer architecture) would not be such a bad thing. I always found it baffling that a game so perfectly fit for faffing about and/or undertaking epic projects with friends does not have features like drop-in-drop-out co-op, or robust and at the same time easy-to-set-up personal servers. I feel that the popularity of Minecraft was earned despite its technical roughness, not because of it. I don’t think I’ll actually ever return to the game, since I doubt something so fundamental as a clunky multiplayer architecture would be viable to fix. I just hope Scrap Mechanic has smoother multiplayer-organizing experience so I can play that building-and-crafting sandbox with my friends instead.

    • Kollega says:

      P.S. I get that this is not actually Minecraft, but rather a standalone game series (I get from the trailer that it is, anyway). But I felt my explanation for why I don’t bother with anything Minecraft these days needed to be voiced, since I feel other people may have similar thoughts on the matter.

    • Raiyne says:

      I feel exactly the same way, most of my frustration with Minecraft stems from all that wasted potential and also the fact that Notch is a lazy bum who lucked the fuck out with Minecraft’s success. He could have taken the game to a whole new level, with, you know, actual depth and longevity, but nope, he wanted to do it ‘his way’ and refused to invest much in the actual game and instead focused on the franchise itself with lavish conventions. You could say I’m bitter, but I’m just calling a spade a spade.

      • Distec says:

        Minecraft may have failed to live up to its greatest potential, but I’m not sure you can accuse it having poor longevity even if you have grown tired of it. I put it down for good chunks of time and still pick it up with friends to continue on older projects or start something entirely new. Granted, not as much as when I was originally burning through it after purchase, but I think that’s true for most games.

        I do wish there was more to it. But I think the game’s lifespan is going to be more dependent on the player than the game itself. If you’re happy to build monuments and travel networks in creative mode, then you might not need much else.

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          Andy_Panthro says:

          I feel that if they just added in the modding support that was mentioned ages ago, then mods could extend the content in whatever way people want. (I know you can mod it already, but surely it could be made much easier)

          • wu wei says:

            Have you played with any of the larger mod packs? I’m not entirely sure how it could be extended any more than it is currently.

          • WyldFyr says:

            No, I haven’t played played with the mod packs, but I have played with some of the mods, and I find the seams between the mod and the game to be unbearable. For example, even my favorite content mod – Mo’creatures has totally different horses and cats, and it is a pain to keep track of which ones you are playing with. Add to this the issue of updates, lack of cross-server support, and reliance on a few dedicated, but unpaid, burnt-out coders to do the maintenance (i.e Bukkit), and it totally becomes a problem. Minecraft still needs REAL mod support!

  4. Zallgrin says:

    Finally a kid-friendly game that DOES NOT completely suck. Playing the Lego games with my brother is such a pain that I am glad that something new appears and I don’t have to suffer through more badness.

    • Wowbagger says:

      I’ve always found the lego games to be fairly competent and vaguely enjoyable in a numb, ‘collect all the things!’ kind of way.

  5. Not_Id says:

    Let me see if I understand this ‘cos it doesn’t make sense.
    Mojang made Minecraft. Microsoft bought Mojang/Minecraft. Minecraft will have an episodic story mode made by Telltale. Not by Mojang or Microsoft studios but another studio?

    Got it now. But still confuzzled!

    • Frank says:

      Not sure why — Telltale make all the adventure/story games. It’s kind of their thing.

      • Not_Id says:

        Why isn’t Mojang or Microsoft making it?

        • Marcus says:

          Tell Tale was already making it before Microsoft bought Mojang.

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          Phasma Felis says:

          Because Telltale is better at making story games than they are.

          When Marvel wants to make tie-in toys for its movies and comics, they don’t try to teach their writers and artists how to make toys; they go to Hasbro and sell them a license. It’s the same deal.

  6. Zankman says:

    Marvel Telltale game? DC Telltale game? Star Wars Telltale game? Star Trek Telltale game?

    Literately anything else but Minecraft Telltale game?

    Ugh, why is this being made?

  7. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I don’t really think Minecraft needs this. Or, at least, I don’t need it. Cause Minecraft is about peoples’ own stories and watching/listening to other peoples’ stories.

    To me the trailer comes across as some sort of hack of more and less well-known Youtube adventures in Minecraft in an effort to make money off of it.

    • KevinLew says:

      I completely agree. The Walking Dead, Fables, Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire), and even Borderlands actually have a known setting and a cast of characters that establishes some legitimate lore. The whole point of Minecraft is that it doesn’t have a story or a real goal… The player is allowed to make either.

      Even worse, this whole trailer seems to be boilerplate fantasy RPG writing… The entire world is going to be destroyed, and the only people that can stop it are the Chosen Ones–the player characters. That’s probably because they are targeting, as you said, the tween market.

  8. MrFinnishDude says:

    I’m kinda glad that I finally burned out of playing Minecraft a year ago. I had played since the first alphas, back when you showed people Minecraft and they said that it was just a stupid game with blocks. I’t is a shame to see where it is now. The old magic is gone.

    Well, you must make way for the younger generation, I bet my little sister will absolutely love this, while I can’t even imagine myself doing so. All one can do is just to move on.

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    municipalis says:

    I was in the bookstore the other day and came across a whole shelf of Minecraft-based fantasy/adventure novels. I’m guess this game is aimed at the same audience: 8-14 year olds.

  10. noodlecake says:

    The trailer for this has to be the most down voted video game trailers I’ve ever seen on youtube. I feel like most of the people voting it down are outside of the target demographic. I’m almost certain that this is a Telltale game for children, unlike the other series they have done. I feel like people are being way too harsh, especially considering nobody has even played the first chapter yet because it isn’t out. I’m fairly sure this won’t be a buy for me, but if reviews come out and it turns out to be a hit with video game critics then I might consider it. It seems irrational to hate on something based on a trailer to me.

    • iambecomex says:

      Absolutely. They’d be fools not to be making the game for a younger demographic than their normal fare. BUT! Angry Internet Man must be heard if everything everywhere is not exactly to his liking. Apparently.

      And please don’t read YouTube comments. Just don’t . It won’t end well.

  11. Nevard says:

    I have to admit to some confusion as to why they made the decision to use those awful sculpted 3D faces, they look incredibly unappealing. There are thousands of fanmade minecraft animations out there that didn’t make the same mistake, and to be frank I don’t see how they could have made this mistake. It doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look like minecraft.

    This article made comparisons to the lego movie. Imagine if all the lego movie characters had 3D eyes and mouths inset into their minifig heads. Wouldn’t that be horrible? Why did Telltale decide to do that?

    Also I still can’t tell if the story is meant to be about people who literally live in minecraft as if it is a fictional setting, or whether it’s about the in-game adventures of the characters played by some real people who are playing a video game.

  12. P.Funk says:

    All I can think while looking at the headline picture is how if this were about actual human players they’d all have chopped that pig to death a while ago.

    • Distec says:

      I actually feel bad every time I have to kill a cow or pig in Minecraft. :(

  13. rustybroomhandle says:

    Oh, this also presents yet another opportunity to plug the worst game I ever made: Steve Quest 1

    link to screwylightbulb.com

    Have fun! (or not, that’s ok too)

  14. clippa says:

    I can’t begin to imagine my disappointment as a nipper if I got this in my stocking on christmas day.
    “There you are, sonny, it’s the new minecraft!”
    Do they let you skip the cutscenes?

  15. Jason Moyer says:

    Looks like Telltale’s take on The Goonies. There are worse things, I guess.

  16. icarium says:

    you had me sold at “Patton Oswalt”.
    that being said i think i’ll wait for this one to be on sale.
    on the other hand i’ve yet to be disappointed by a TTG game.