Little background on my job first: As a cinematic Artist at Telltale, we are tasked with bringing the game together (within our scene)
, while working with the writers, animators, modelers, audio department, producers, the Director, and the amazing performance from our talented voice actors. We help to craft the gameplay and overall cinematic experience.
Mark Darin was the writer for this scene. Mark and I are huge dog lovers (being a dog friendly company actually, most of everyone at Telltale are dog lovers), so working on this scene proved to be challenging at certain points. When I first heard what scene I was given, I took to watching movies featuring “man’s best friend” for inspiration. Even movies I swore I would never watch again, ones that made manly tears well up as tons of dust got caught in my eyes.
Mark did an awesome job of writing all these moments when Clementine tries to include Sam in her thought process as she’s going around the camp. There were changes made to the beginning of the moment when you first meet Sam outside the camp, so we put in our best effort to think up even more ways of helping the player connect to him: throwing the Frisbee multiple times, petting Sam when he’s walking around the trash can (the pet is different depending if you’ve played with him or not)
, etc. We wanted Sam to toe the line from still being a domesticated animal, to one that has had to live on his own for who knows how long. From the picture the player picks up in the van, you clearly know he used to be a family pet.
For myself, I had an English bulldog for almost 9 years. He was my best friend and was with me for huge moments in my life. I too found myself (much like Clementine)
talking to my pup during those times when no one was around. Playing off of those memories of my dog was my inspiration to how Sam would “respond” to Clementine when she talked or did something. The hardest time I had to draw upon though was when I had to put down my own pup. My dog was having a hard time breathing and I found out through an x-ray that he had only two weeks left to live. Those two weeks went by way too quickly. Before I knew it, I was in a room with Tank (that was his name)
, with two syringes hooked up to him: one to help him go to sleep and one to help him pass on. The nurse injected the first syringe and walked away, giving me time to say good-bye. As he was sitting, his head started to nod up and down as if he was about to go to sleep. I was taking the time to tell him how much I appreciated him, how much he helped me through the hard moments in my life. But not even three minutes went by when he started to sound like he was choking. The medicine that was supposed to help him fall asleep was actually hindering his breathing due to his faulty lung. I didn’t get the time to properly say goodbye and had to rush to the nurse to tell her she had to do the second syringe immediately as my best friend was in pain. I put my face down next to his so the last thing he saw was his best friend and watched him take his last breath. Much like Clem, I felt like I was having to hold the knife to my friend’s throat. This is the memory I drew upon as I did my best to give Clementine and Sam their due. Much like a lot of you, I wish Clementine could have had a doggie friend for the rest of the season. But just like life, it doesn’t go the way as we hope it would. Sam was hungry, who knows when the last time he ate was, and he had an instinctual moment.
Jessica Brezzo, Ryan Rasmussen, and Patrick Bryan were the animators for certain parts of the scene. Ryan did an amazing job when it came to Sam being hurt and his death (if the player chooses to do so)
. During a team meeting we all saw the animation Ryan had created, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t gasp, hang their jaw, or bring a hand up to their mouth. Sam wasn’t evil, he was hungry. So I tried to shoot it in a way that showed that Clementine understood this, no matter what she just went through or the choice the player makes. Melissa Hutchison (voice of Clementine)
read a line that sent shivers down my spine. If you check the dog’s collar when you first meet him, Clementine will know the dog’s name is Sam. So when you choose to put Sam out of his misery, Clementine will say, “I’m sorry…Sam.” God, the way she read that line, the quiver in her voice, gets me every time.
For the other side of that performance, Sam (and all other audio)
, was done by Jack Fusting and Lazar Levine. It was pretty cool as they got a bunch of dogs from the office to record lines for Sam. As different breeds make different sounds, they recorded and pooled them together to make a doggie database of sorts. Lazar handled the injury and death of Sam, and he just absolutely nailed it. It’s to his credit that I’ve noticed in YouTube play-throughs that no one has Clementine sitting there pondering whether to kill Sam or not (even though there is no time limit and you can sit there indefinitely)
. Two to three seconds later, players have already made their choice.
There is a special thanks I need to add, to both Kirsten Kennedy and Dennis Lenart (Producer and Director of this episode)
. For having faith in me to do this scene justice, and trusting my opinion when it came to certain beats with Sam. Truly (so far)
one of the most memorable moments here at Telltale!
So far during my time here at Telltale, this was the hardest and most rewarding scene I’ve worked on. I’ve been happy to see how much this moment has impacted the people playing it and the debates that have followed. Thank you
for reading, everyone. I hope this shows you not only how much these stories impact you as the player, but the people making the game as well.
Vi et animo,~Ryann