Part of the reason that I chose this particular subject for my blog was to open people to the idea of story intensive and emotional video games. To perpetuate the idea that video games can have the same quality and As a result, many of my game reviews are directed towards people that either do not like video games or don’t know anything about them. Before we get into next week’s game review, I need to discuss a concept that some people may not have been aware of – episodic games.
The term “episodic games” is largely self-explanatory, but I’ll try to explain it anyway. An episodic game is created in multiple parts called episodes. When one part is finished, it gets released. Often times, the developer is still working on the next episode when the preceding episode gets released. This schedule means the developer can receive feedback of the previous episodes while working on the next one. It’s possible for multiple games in a series to be created as episodic games. In such a case, each game is referred to as a season. However, just because a game is episodic does not mean that there will be multiple seasons.
Episodic games have a strong tendency to be story-focused rather than gameplay-focused which is one of the reasons that they appeal to me. In many episodic games, the player is asked to make choices and decisions which will have an effect on later episodes. Saving a person’s life in episode 1 may mean they can influence conversations in a certain way in episodes 3 & 4.
One of the most infamous examples of an episodic game is Half-Life 2. After the initial Half-Life 2 was released, a few episodes based on it followed to expand the story. Specifically 2 episodes were released. I used the term “infamous” for a simple reason. Half-Life 2 Episode 2 ended on a cliffhanger that was never resolved. It was published back in 2007, and fans have been waiting eight years for a conclusion that has never happened.
A more popular case with an actually consistent publishing schedule has been the studio Telltale Games. They have arguably perfected the episodic formula. Each of their seasons has five episodes to it. Furthermore, the choices made can span across multiple seasons in different ways. They tend to end their episodes on cliffhangers that leave their fans wanting more. Furthermore the next episode is always released at the most opportune moment when fans have gotten together and built up one another’s desire for more content but before aggravation at delays sets in.
Now, before anyone begins to use this concept as an example of bad story design, please realize that episodic release schedules are not exclusive to video games. Books have been released in packets as well. The Green Mile by Steven King is one example of a serial book along with Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Several recommended reading lists contain Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Wester Front also released in serial. In fact, Wikipedia has a list of seven hundred and seventy titles released in serial form at the time of this post.
Why Am I talking about This Subject?
Next week, I am scheduled to review a game. The game that I have picked is episodic, and I just wanted everyone to understand what that meant before introducing the game. The review should be more about the game itself than anything else.