Cut and Sell - All About Episodic Games (Topic)

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Cut and Sell - All About Episodic Games


Ten years ago, a tendency in game development appeared in our game development as episodic games. It was best developed by TellTale Games with its episodic adventure games, from which today there is one left, living out her The Walking Dead: Final Season. But the fact that the king of this concept died under the weight of his own ambitions does not mean that the episodic nature has disappeared somewhere. With varying success from episode to episode, similar projects come out to this day. This is the recent The Council, and the second season of Life is Strange, and even an episodic DLC for AC Odyssey Legacy of the First. Well, and the second episode, you know what, we have been waiting for more than ten years.

And so, we will tell you everything in detail about how they cut, why they cut and release episodic games. And we'll do it accordingly.

Episode 1: Borrowing

As it happens in principle, in the computer entertainment industry there is such a thing as borrowing certain techniques from the film industry and adapting in your own way. The adapted ideas look very far from the original. After another similar practice, the concept of "episodic games" was born, which is rather vague today, and many creators of such projects interpret it in their own way. We will try to walk through each species. But more on that in the next episode.


Finally, let's end this series with a simple fact: episodic games are when the game is not released immediately, but in parts, giving them to gamers like poikies in the army. And then a dilemma arises: who is better off from this - mortal gamers or game dev gods? Is it worth releasing a game for years and feeding it piece by piece to the players instead of releasing it as a whole product?

Episode 2: More Narrative

In fact, the developers have long cherished the love of breaking up the game and asking for it separately. Today we simply classify these pieces by names such as: DLC, additional content, spin-off, extended or alternative ending, episode, etc. If we talk about episodes, then this concept suits games of the serial format, where the plot is interesting enough to interest the player, breaking off at the most interesting place and making him wait further. Thus, the game promotes itself without advertising or investment in the promotion of the title.


TellTale Games closed last year, but they still made a huge impact, became the wind that carries the sails of the adventure genre to certain pillars, canons and quality standards. Recall that the studio collapsed not because the concept of episodic games failed, but because the studio simply began to make games incorrectly and of poor quality. As a result, they turned out to be not interesting, with a bad picture and parasitized on well-known trends and franchises.


So, modern adventure games are good old quests, from which they removed a huge part of the point & click component and added more narrative elements there: a powerful twisted plot, choice of answer options in dialogues, narration through the player, etc.

The most striking example of a successful episodic game in a serial format is the first season of The Walking Dead. It has spelled out heroes, an interesting plot, moral choices, and most importantly - a balance between gameplay and "kins". Also, the concept of episodes gives the impression of checkpoints, where the player can definitely stop and then continue. Each of the episodes ends in an interesting place, and makes you want more. And although in fact the "episodes" are the same levels, the psychological effect of this is steeper. After all, we are presented with a serial game where we are the main character.


Episode 3: Material Payback

The formula used by TellTale seemed to be impeccable, as they dealt with big franchises like Batman, Back to the Future, Game Of Throne, however the games had to develop further, which they did not do, but not the essence. The main thing is that this very formula allows you to work on the concept of creating only one polished episode. I mean, such a studio creates only 1/5 of the game and releases only it. After that, the production of the second episode begins, and at this time the money from the sales of the first episode is poured into the studio.


Especially cunning gentlemen can generally put up an episode for sale at full price, they say, guys, pay in full, and we will create a game later, and you enjoy your 1/5 of it. However, there is a first stone to trip over. Normal work on the sequel is only possible with the financial success of the first episode, which the public liked.

If this does not happen, the continuation of the game may not come out, as was the case with Sin Episodes, which failed because it was an uninteresting clone of Half Life 2 (it's a pity that the original also decided not to continue).


If the first episode went to people, then this is a victory, no matter how you look. However, even if you sell the game only in parts, and not for the full price at once, it is also profitable. After all, you eat up part of the game for $ 10 and it's not as scary as the price tag of $ 50. This gives the gamer a closer look at the product for a small fee. The concept works well both for people who can buy games and for younger audiences who have to save money to buy.

Episode 4: Cut Seven Times - Sell Seven Times

There are other versions of the episodic game format. So, developers use it in two more cases. In the first, they use episodicity to break the game down into two or three smaller parts that are easier to develop and release. This was the case with Half Life 2 and Alan Wake. If the overall gameplay of the game is, say, 30 hours, it can be broken down into three episodes of 10 hours each. As a result, we get not a sequel, but a direct continuation of the same game, sometimes modified and with new features, and sometimes not.


And there is nothing wrong with that if the project is large. In principle, the gameplay, although not that much, is enough, and to lose more, you need to wait not a year and a half, but only half one. It's easier for developers too. The continuation of the episode is not a sequel, which means that the production process is not so difficult


Episode 5: Expansion of the Series

The second case is the expansion of the series with new missions or alternative endings. The two Burial At Sea episodic expansions for Bioshock and standalone expansions for Dishonored illustrate this better. The original games can easily exist without them, but these DLCs significantly expand the lore and allow you to play for other people, to look through their eyes at the game world and the main plot, as it was in Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches.


However, in the same Bioschock, whoever says what, only in the second episode of Burial At Sea we get the most real ending of the entire series of the game.


This works especially well in stand-alone large products, and we can see this in Far Cry: New Dawn, an upcoming standalone addition to the fifth part. And although there is no mention of episodicity in the title or description, this is a new episode of the fifth game.


Episode 6: Subscription to New Content

To attract people to watch different TV channels, their owners resort to creating many new intriguing projects that will make the viewer come back. This is how it works in America and that is why cult series are riveted there, and Netflix is the largest service for their implementation.

In games, this technique is seen as a way of monetization, that is, an episodic subscription. Now this is not common, but it is observed in various MMORPGs with a monthly subscription, where this very subscription - new episodes of the game that expand the universe. This can be seen, for example, in TES Online.


We can say that such cases of content monetization try to sit on two chairs at once: expand the universe and create a sequel to maintain interest in the game, which will not differ much from the game itself. However, today most events or similar content is added to the game for free so that players can not get bored. Some people may even be angry that any new plot action in the game requires a fee.

Episode 7: Not an ending, but a potential future

Having the facts in hand, we can say that the uncertainty of episodic games is a real thing and it's even good, because it is this vague approach that leaves open the field for experiments so that developers can supply us with new and interesting content every time under this format.


Some even think that "episodicity" is the future of the industry. After all, if the game is excellent, all parties are happy. Gamers play a good title without being overwhelmed by it, and developers have the opportunity to collect feedback and improve the game as it goes on. There is also an opinion that this will save you from spending 60 bucks on the game, and in the end you get 5 hours of story company and multiplayer, where you entertain yourself.

Crushing the game offers us better content in proportion to our expectations and feedback. Indeed, today, the same TV series in the West occupy a more attractive position than a few years ago, when they were the shadow of films in the cinema.

Is this right or not - decide for yourself. I will remain with the opinion that an episodic concept, even if correctly implemented, is not always good. Anyway, now you know everything about episodic games.

The Topic of Article: Cut and Sell - All About Episodic Games.
Author: Jake Pinkman