A Host of Prizes
After launching Skylanders Lost Islands, we entered a period called "Live Ops", where we'd add new content and promotions to the game on a weekly basis. Most of the time these additions were simple, like a new building or decoration for your Kingdom. Occasionally, we'd add a "Feature" - a new functional aspect of the game.
The Wishing Well was one of the first Features we added to the game. It was a special area where players could spend a collectible resource, in hopes of winning rare buildings and limited-availability Skylanders. The Well needed a non-playable character as a point of contact; someone who would welcome, encourage, and congratulate you. Eventually, that character would be named Willy and take the guise of a young hermit (but not before first appearing as an older bearded hermit we were asked to redesign).
Before that, we had something different in mind.
Meet Poke Tellman - the charismatic host of your Wishing Well experience.
We wanted Poke to be our distillation of every game show host ever - Alex Trebek's moustache, Bob Barker's microphone, Pat Sajak's hair, and a bleached smile, wrapped up in a snappy double-breasted suit.
About the name. I spent a couple days thinking on it, as did our lead designer Devin. One day's drive home, I was thinking about what makes a good name. Many memorable hosts' first names are one-syllable, and double as a verb: Wink, Bob, Pat, Chuck. Last names were harder, but I liked the sound of something that had two-syllables (with the stress on the first one). Breaking down "Sajak" in my head, it became "SAY-jack", which became "VERB-guy", which became "TELL-man" (pronounced "Tellmin").
The next day... I didn't actually ask Devin; I said "Hey...Poke Tellman". He instantly started laughing and agreed, saying "ship it" (a favorite Devin-ism).
I created the above image so we could get Activision started on the necessary legal checks and to sign off on the concept. Poke's name/likeness passed with flying colors, legally. Creatively, he was DOA: "Skylands' technology doesn't include televisions, so there couldn't be a game show host" they told us.
Back to the well we went.
Within months, the console Skylanders games introduced a video conferencing device called a "far-speaker" and special transistor radios for Trolls. So...