By Marty Mulrooney
Following on from the success of AMO’s Tales Of Monkey Island mini interviews last year (What Does Dominic Armato Think?) I decided to go out on a limb and invite Grickle creator Graham Annable back to chat with us once more in an exclusive mini interview, this time specifically regarding his new game Puzzle Agent (recently reviewed here). I was delighted when he accepted my offer! As expected, Graham was an absolute pleasure to interview again: he not only reveals his innermost thoughts on the game, but also offers a small glimmer of hope for fans itching to see more of Nelson Tethers in the future…
Hey Mr Annable, great to have you back at AMO again! How do you feel now that Puzzle Agent has been released?
I feel great! And a lot less busy than I was!
Many readers have asked us: how is your surname pronounced?! :D
It’s pronounced Ann – able…rhymes with ‘Hannibal’ is probably the easiest way to remember! :)
Did Puzzle Agent live up to your expectations?
Totally! In fact given the number of hurdles to overcome (new art style, new game style, very quick production time) I’d say it surpassed what I hoped it could be. There are a bunch of things myself and the team want to finesse and improve upon now that we have a finished game in our hands but that’s always the case really. For the first effort out the door I’m more than proud of what the result was!
What platform did you mostly experience the game on?
Well I played early builds on my PC because that’s what was available during the production but I played the finished version on my Macbook. It wasn’t for any other reason than the Macbook is smaller and easier to sit on the couch with as I played the game. The other versions are still being worked on as we speak so I haven’t had an opportunity to try them yet. I’m very excited for both the iPad and iPhone versions!
This was largely a departure from the usual gameplay style of Telltale’s games. Do you think it will still appeal to fans of their other franchises?
I certainly hope so. Based on what I’ve seen on forums it seems to have already garnered a solid fan base to start with. It’s a different style of game for sure but it isn’t completely on the other end of the spectrum. I would suspect that adventure gamers out there play their fair share of puzzle type games as well. Hopefully Puzzle Agent is a welcome addition to their collection.
Was it a good feeling to go back to Telltale and collaborate with them again?
Completely, yes! I knew it would be and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Everything moved at an extremely fast clip during the production but the team was able to support each other and stay focused on getting a solid game out the door.
How much input did you have into the game, specifically with its story?
I pitched the initial set up of a puzzle agent division and having our main character located in a very Northern setting. And gnomes. I specified having gnomes in the game. I came to Telltale with this very basic outline and the general Grickle vibe. They took it from there and absolutely ran with it! The initial script was written by Mark Darin, Sean Vanaman and I believe Jake Rodkin (my apologies if I’m missing someone). And then from there we sort of slightly tweaked things as a group. It was a really great collaborative process. We all very quickly got in sync on the overall feel of the story I think.
The game obviously had many influences from television and film. What shows and films influenced you personally during the production of Puzzle Agent?
Well, the obvious influences were Twin Peaks and Fargo for sure. I was personally really interested in trying to create an atmosphere somewhere in the realm of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby if possible. I wanted the player to have the sensation of getting wrapped up in something much bigger and far sinister than it at first appeared to be.
Do you know the mystery of Scoggins? Can you tell me?! :-P
I do, to some extent. But I most certainly can’t tell you. The gnomes would take me away! :)
Where did the idea for the Hidden People originate from?
The Hidden People came from a mixture of things. I went to Iceland a few years ago and was completely amazed by it. I was further amazed by the whole legacy of ‘The Hidden People’ within their culture. That trip coupled with the emergence of those crazy videos from South America of people capturing gnomes on camera was what resulted in my ‘Hidden People’ drawings.
What was your favourite puzzle in the game?
Hmmm. That’s tough to say. I’m actually not super good at doing puzzles to be honest. The satisfaction I felt penning in the different bugs was pretty high up there. I enjoyed getting those little fellers caged up.
Are you a fan of puzzles yourself? Crossword, Sudoku… do they appeal?
Ha! Well as mentioned in the previous answer I, myself am not a huge puzzle freak by any means. But I do enjoy looking over my wife’s shoulder and helping with the crossword from time to time. She’s definitely the real puzzle agent of the family. The FBI wouldn’t be hiring me, that’s for sure.
Would you ever consider revisiting Nelson Tethers in your Grickle cartoons or YouTube film shorts?
I wouldn’t say no. The YouTube films are always about me chasing down some random idea. If I come up with an idea that makes perfect sense to feature Nelson in it then I’d definitely do it!
Was it important to retain the visual style of Grickle in the game? How difficult was this to achieve?
It was definitely important. It was the primary reason for doing the game really (at least in my mind). To see if we could create a fun gaming experience that had the same vibe as the cartoons on YouTube. I really feel that Telltale totally nailed it! At first I had my doubts we would be able to pull it all off with the 3D Telltale tool that’s used for the adventure games. My doubts completely disappeared the minute they showed me the first mock up of an environment.
If Puzzle Agent is made into a full series, will players revisit Scoggins? Did you plan any stories beyond the pilot?
The entire story has been mapped out, waaaay beyond the pilot episode and I sincerely hope we get a chance to tell it all. Scoggins would certainly be revisited!
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’ve got a few comic projects I’m excited to move forward on again along with a steady supply of Dank/Dunk web strips I need to continue. Oh! And there’s a few new cartoon short ideas that are half baked in the oven right now and I really need to finish cooking them up!
Thank you for your time!
You’re very welcome! Thanks for having me again!