Nicole Martinez, Lead Designer for Episode 2 of Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy, published a very kind blog about writing for Lylla the otter. Posted in its entirety for posterity as Telltale Games has shuttered:
Bringing Lylla to Life
posted by Nicole Martinez August 9th 2017
One of the first things they told me when I came on to lead episode 2 was that there was going to be an otter in it. For context, this is my desk…
I may have been more than a little excited. I love otters. They’re adorable, but they’ll bite your face off. I really admire that about them. Then they told me I had to kill the otter. Now I can’t look at a picture of one without feeling like a monster.
So from the start we knew we had to set up this character, fall in love with her, then say goodbye in a really short amount of time. That’s a lot of ground to cover in a single sequence. We did a lot of work early on to streamline those scenes to allow us to focus on the relationship between Lylla and Rocket. Some early plans involved the scientist more, but we found it just distracted us from what was really important in the scene. So instead we focused it all on Lylla and let the other characters fall into the background.
We spent a lot of time talking about who Lylla was. In the comics she’s this very regal character, and we wanted to bring that confidence into our version of Lylla even though her backstory may be a bit different. We tried to play into her nature as an otter as well– a capable tool builder, smart, and resourceful. Because of that it seemed appropriate that she would’ve been the one to teach Rocket how to tinker and improvise.
Very early on we decided they would build the wrist computer together, and Lylla would be guiding Rocket through the process. One of the first moments I remember writing was when Lylla pokes a little fun at Rocket for his ear twitch. I wanted them to feel comfortable with each other, like that old friend you’ve known since childhood. She knows just how far she can push Rocket’s buttons without actually hurting his feelings. It also let us show off a bit of her cocky attitude.
Now, a talking otter in a videogame could very easily come across as too cartoon-y. We had to pay special attention to that while writing her, but a lot of what worked so well with Lylla was due to the amazing performance of Fryda Wolff. She made Lylla charming, funny, cute, and strong-willed in the best ways. There’s a moment when making these games where you finally get the voice and the art all together and see a character come to life for the first time. I was so blown away. I’d seen Lylla’s concept art with her sad little stitches, but seeing her move and hearing Fryda’s voice was a whole different experience. She made her feel so human and the ending that much harder to play.
I’m really glad the response to Lylla has been so positive. Everyone on the team put a lot of care into bringing her character to life, and it’s nice to see people connecting with her the way we have internally. To close this out I’ll leave you with this post-it Molly Maloney stuck on my desk to torture me. Thank you so much for playing!