As of this writing, Minecraft: Story Mode is set to pre-launch somewhere in 2015. Telltale Games, the award-winning minds behind hits like The Walking Dead: Season One & Two, Tales From The Borderlands and Game of Thrones (the games), are the ones taking the pixelated reign/canvas that is Minecraft to a new, TV-script-like format to bring us a fantasy story that, they promise, “will take you to the Nether, the Farlands, the End and beyond!”.
Minecraft is all about freedom and creativity, TV… not so much.
Telltale Games takes pride in its narrative style and fears not the TV analogies – they sell you “Episodes” that you can also buy in complete “Seasons” sets, and episodes contribute to the bigger narrative arc of each season. Currently we live in a sort of golden era for television, with Netflix subscriptions skyrocketing and lots of cult shows on air and coming, so it makes sense to want a piece of the cake.
And it´s not like they are risking video-game’s integrity, Telltale’s previous releases have been very welcomed among fans and critics alike.
But as well-crafted as these scripts are, they are still limiting the player to a set of events. Mojang (Minecraft´s creators) and Telltale state how you (the player) will be the one steering the story every chance they can; but incorporating an episodic narrative in such an open-worldly game seems counter intuitive.
Don´t get me wrong, video games have a long way to go when it comes to narrative, and we can still learn lots about other media. Her Story, a recent game inspired in old Detective Thrillers, comes to mind as an experiment in how we can tell stories through games, especially about how we can still rely on scripts for answering the player’s questions in an interactive way and without giving unnecessary details (this efficiency is something hard-scripted media like TV and Movies just can´t do, you need to sit and watch the whole thing or you might miss crucial stuff).
“Isn’t it what people want?”
A case can be made about how much Minecraft stories and fan-fiction are posted every day (indeed, Mojang did that, but more on that later). Such an open, endless-possibilities world is a paradise for the creative folk, and that’s just as true while you play the game as for writers that set their stories to the background of pixelated kingdoms and a surprising amount of real-life crossovers.
But the thing is, these people are writing stories. If you have played Dungeons and Dragons and then played the video games you know that, while they are not necessarily bad, the pen-and-paper dynamics don’t traduce over to code. Telltale states that it will keep many elements from Minecraft (it would be a crime if they didn´t let you… craft), but any part they leave out it’s one more reason for players to create a cat tower or working calculator in Minecraft instead.
“Are you saying it will keep nothing good from Minecraft?”
Well, the fact Notch isn’t (and won´t be) involved still makes some “do they really get the magic of the original?” thoughts fly by.
Even then, the people at Mojang know what they are going for – and against. They even made a little game to acknowledge the shock it was for fans to know that Minecraft, of all things, would get the Telltales treatment. They know very well how different this project is from Telltale’s other successes (Minecraft has lore, but no real story to “flesh out”).
Of course, I could be looking at it backwards, and we are before an excellent adventure game thanks to its crafting and customization liberties. Time will tell if the guys at Mojang are correct or not, but they got good reasons to try.