DeYoung then loaded the game into a different scene, a downtown, dockside location called Hobo Alley. Naturally, one of the businessmen in the area wants your help ridding the area of hobos, and this is where the game abandons its purely adventure game classification.
Rather than scripted battles, you engage enemies in a classic J-RPG style. Characters' actions refresh according to an onscreen timer bar, and in Super Mario RPG fashion every attack and defensive move can be accented by hitting a button at the right time. So, for instance, when Tycho unloads his Tommy gun on an enemy, if you hit the spacebar at the right moment, he does more damage.
What's more, you can perform team attacks and even call in supporting characters from the comic (DeYoung showed me a special attack from Annarchy) to initiate special attacks. When I asked DeYoung if my favorite supporting character, Div the DivX player, would be making an appearance, all he did is smile and tell me they've included over 50 supporting characters.
I asked DeYoung how they came to the decision to incorporate combat into an adventure game. "A lot of us have a soft spot in our heart for adventure games," he said, "and we really want to play a part in bringing that back. But for the modern gamer we think we need some extra assets in there. RPGs are something Penny Arcade fans really like, so we thought it'd be a great combination."
RSPD wasn't the only adventure game I saw at GDC - Nokia is working on a hand-held game called Dirk Dagger and the Fallen Idol, and Telltale was rocking Sam & Max outside the press room. I asked if the genre was making a comeback.
"There's been a little bit of a resurgence," Gilbert said. "Telltale is doing very classic adventure games. But it seems like what's happening is people are taking the really good things about adventure games and starting to integrate them into other games. It's really very exciting. From a storytelling standpoint, adventure games were a really good way to tell a story because it really does weave the story into the actual game."
And other than the combat, the game does stick closely to its adventure game roots. Gilbert referred a lot to Monkey Island when he explained RSPD's dialogue trees, saying the whole experience gets strengthened by Holkins' writing and Krahulik's art direction and storyboarding, which Hothead doesn't plan on neutering for a rating. As of now, they anticipate the game will be rated M and don't plan on needing to tone anything down.
DeYoung says the game lasts about 10 hours on average, six on the short end, and he plans on releasing the game episodically, hoping to be able to produce an episode once every four months. As of right now, DeYoung says most of the work on episode two is done. They wouldn't say how many episodes they plan on having, but they're adhering to the serial drama model, where each episode can stand alone but contributes to an overarching story.
Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness will be available for under $20 on Windows, OS X, Linux and Xbox Live Arcade.