WGTC Huddle: Is Telltale’s Formula At Risk Of Saturation?

WGTC DraftTelltale WGTC Huddle: Is Telltales Formula At Risk Of Saturation?

WGTC Huddle is a recurring feature on We Got This Covered, where editors discuss news, gaming trends, hot titles, and what they had for breakfast. This week, Michael Briers is joined by staff writers Robert Kojder and Paul Villanueva to cast a collective eye over Telltale Games. Can the studio juggle four projects at once? What do we want to see from their Game of Thrones series and Tales From The Borderlands? Read on to find out.

Michael Briers:
At the VGX awards show in December, Telltale Games revealed plans to adapt Game of Thrones and Tales From The Borderlands using its familiar, episodic framework. Arguably the highlight of the event, the news meant that these two properties joined The Walking Dead and Fables (The Wolf Among Us) in the studio’s prestigious roster of IPs. It’s understood the GoT license involves an expansive multi-year, multi-title deal, whereas Borderlands will introduce characters such as Handsome Jack et al to the Telltale audience. That said, with the studio now collaborating on four, distinct series simultaneously, does Telltale risk spreading its formula too thin?

Robert Kojder:
It depends on how they tackle it. I think they should only focus on two seasons at once. Telltale has actively been hiring more workers to beef up their studio size, so maybe that will eventually come into play.

Paul Villanueva:
It’s hard to give that answer without knowing all the ins and outs of the studio. I mean, are the several key people that scripted The Walking Dead‘s and The Wolf Among Us‘ tremendous scripts scattered about now? Or are they the same cohesive unit that have just been slammed with more homework. In short, yes, it is a big gamble to take on all these games as well, but if time is taken and the proper comb-throughs are made, it can work. So far, their content has been stellar.

Michael:
There’s no doubting that development on the Borderlands and GoT projects has been ongoing for some time, but considering that the studio planned to release a new episode of The Walking Dead Season One with each passing month, it raises concern as to whether the team can maintain the output of four projects at once. So Rob, would you rather they place TWD and Fables to one side first before venturing into Westeros and Pandora?

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Tall Tales: Does Telltale Have What It Takes?

WolfAmongUs Jack 650 0 WGTC Huddle: Is Telltales Formula At Risk Of Saturation?

Robert:
I’m still curious why it took 4 months to release episode 2 of The Wolf Among Us. Also, if they can’t deliver on their release dates, then yes, they should temporarily shelve one. Although, they’ve since said that such a delay won’t happen again.

Michael:
Yeah, absolutely. TWD was a monumental success for the studio as a whole, and it’s understood that they’ve doubled their workforce as a result. But like you said, WAO slipping to February doesn’t exactly allay any fears.

Robert:
I just want to know what caused it. Was it related to writing the episode? Developing it? Crucial game bugs? They’ve been suspiciously quiet about this fiasco.

Paul:
See, you hear that their studio beefed up but then a longer wait than usual for an episode for The Wolf Among Us occurs and it’s like, I don’t know, what the hell’s going on? But hey, if a longer wait means a higher quality product, then I’m fine with it.

Michael:
True, and it’s important to remember that Fables and TWD were announced simultaneously in 2011, and they ostensibly finished a whole season of Lee Everett and Co. before introducing us to the Fables universe. Do you guys think we’ll see a similar release schedule as regards Borderlands/GoT?

Robert:
I think they’ll always keep The Walking Dead ongoing, but swap out Wolf Among Us for something new, then swap that out for another. In other words, their second project will be a revolving door of sorts, allowing them to experiment while still releasing episodes of their bread and butter, per se.

Paul:
I honestly have no idea how the release dates for each episode will pan out and how the development schedule will fall into place. Will they craft the entire season then distribute them monthly/bi-monthly? Or develop as they go and release them whenever they’re done? I would prefer the former over the latter, but if their team can handle developing on-the-go, then I would love that. Hopefully I’m not into some ideal candy land picture full of raining pizza, but I would love to have an episode of something new every month or two.

Robert:
From what I understand, they outline the story — the entire trophy/achievement list included — but they actually write and develop each episode one at a time, which probably takes 1-2 months

Michael:
It really comes to down to a question of quality, like Rob pointed out. Telltale and TWD in particular has experienced its fair share of game breaking bugs — especially the PS3 version — with corrupt saves and jarring texture pop-ins happening pretty regularly. It is the perfect scenario, alternating between four esteemed IPs with each new month, but then that raises the question of whether such an approach would dilute their unique approach to narrative.

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Telltale’s Game of Thrones: A Song Of Ice & Moral Conundrums

Game Of Thrones WGTC Huddle: Is Telltales Formula At Risk Of Saturation?

Robert:
In terms of their future projects, though, I want to see a Game of Thrones title that allows interactions with all the major characters in some way, because even though Telltale is talented at writing, half the appeal would be conversing with those iconic figures. That WRPG shit released in 2012, for example, was awful because it didn’t allow you to engage with Westeros or its characters much at all. Although, they could also try flipping the story on its head and give you reasons to support someone like Joffrey, but make it worthwhile for the game’s protagonist, while still keeping it canon.

Michael:
I totally agree. GoT is arguably one of the biggest IPs in television at the minute, with a dense mythology riddled with a plethora of characters and political intrigue. It’s difficult to call, really; as a fan I would love to see the likes of Tyrion, Daenerys and Jon Snow make an appearance, even if it is brief. But it’s really a question of resources for Telltale if they were to attract the true voice actors — and given their tendency for dialogue trees, those guys would be in the studio for quite a while!

Robert:
I didn’t even think about getting the actors, but you’re right. I mean, look at that WRPG they made — horrible, horrible acting.

Paul:
For me, what I want from Game of Thrones — by far — are moral conundrums upon moral conundrums. Make me uncomfortable. Put me in just the shittiest situations with some seriously heavy and fucked-up consequences. And if they manage to get the voice actors (the one’s alive, that is!), that’d be impressive, but I don’t see it happening. I hope they do; God, do I hope they do. But they seem pretty tied up with the show as it is.

Robert:
Exactly. Personally, I want moral conundrums that make me temporarily switch my opinions of characters from the books/show. Imagine if you were given a reason to support Joffrey? It’d be hard to accept, but it could work.

Paul:
Rob, I would love to see that scenario. It could be one of those things where you’re just agreeing with the little pretty shit just to stay alive or maybe they make you even feel bad for him because of how he was raised.

Michael:
See, that’s what Telltale needs. Cyanide’s quasi-prequel GoT game was so lacklustre because it diluted the legacy of R.R. Martin’s universe into a bland RPG, and I think having those moral conundrums — especially moral conundrums within a truly realised Westeros, in terms of atmosphere — then they could do the brand justice. I mean, narrative decisions are Telltale’s bread and butter at this point.

Robert:
Exactly.

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Michael:
A reason to support Joffery would be really interesting, I’m not sure how far you guys are in terms of the GoT canon, but Martin changes your opinion of Jamie rather expertly in A Feast for Crows. So, subverting expectations in that way with a major character could be a huge factor in their interpretation.

Paul:
Yeah, I was about to bring that up, Michael! I HATED Jamie, but after seeing how he has just been largely misperceived, I developed the feels for him!

Robert:
Yeah, that’s what fascinates me about GoT. You may despise a character and then over time grow to like them. Jamie is a perfect example.

Michael:
Totally! Jamie is the prime example of a character that really gets under your skin for all the right reasons, and Westeros isn’t exactly lacking those compelling conduits for Telltale to exploit. They may not wind up being the A-listers at first, but give us the gamer a reason to care and you have my attention. I mean, if you consider Telltale’s approach, can you imagine a Red Wedding-esque scene that is a consequence of player choice? That would be unbelievably satisfying to see unfold.

Robert:
A playable Red Wedding would be awesome. God, imagine trying to escape!

Michael:
As “The Rains Of Castamere” plays in the background…

Paul:
Oh my God, alternate scenarios! Maybe you can save characters from death through a string of choices and see how the universe would have played out had the character that died in the show stayed alive.

Robert:
That could be something interesting that would jive with Telltale’s structure, but would diehard GoT fans accept being able to alter huge events like that?

Michael:
Fair point. Telltale will have to walk a fine line between respecting the franchise and implementing their idiosyncratic means of storytelling.

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Telltale’s Borderlands: No Place For A Hero

Tales from the Borderlands WGTC Huddle: Is Telltales Formula At Risk Of Saturation?

Paul:
In terms of Borderlands, I just want to laugh. Borderlands is all about its humor and smart-assery.

Michael:
Of course, that’s exactly what I’d like to see too. Condensing an expansive open-world like Pandora into a relatively linear foray will be a difficult feat to pull off, though.

Robert:
I just think it could be a great opportunity to explore a universe and lore that consistently takes a backseat to all the shooting and looting.

Paul:
I don’t know how they’d do their signature moral quandaries, if at all, in Borderlands‘ universe; but if they do, it’d be cool to see. Maybe even keep it kind of light-hearted by keeping the moral stuff relationship-based.

Robert:
I’m sure it’s possible some how; Handsome Jack did some pretty evil things.

Michael:
I mean, Borderlands 2 won me over wholeheartedly with its fantastic, often hilarious dialogue. And if that same branch of light-hearted comedy is filtered into the player interaction and those familiar branching narratives, then I’m sold.

Robert:
Yeah, that’s a great point.

Paul:
Yeah, but I feel like they should approach it in a different way here, lest we get tired of Telltale’s super-serious-moral-or-die shtick.

Robert:
I actually like the humorous approach, but I hope it’s done with interesting characters, too.

Michael:
They have spoke briefly about introducing some familiar faces, including Handsome Jack, so you could be onto something there, Rob. Here’s hoping Tiny Tina makes an appearance as well.

Paul:
It’s all about Mr. Torgue!

Michael:
Absolutely, and that’s kind of the question that they face right now. TWD is a relentless, hopeless universe so those moral conundrums really mesh with that post-apocalyptic setting. But with Borderlands, it’s apples to oranges in a sense. High-five Flexington, of course!

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The Wrap-Up

Telltale Recovered WGTC Huddle: Is Telltales Formula At Risk Of Saturation?

Paul:
Personally, I’m curious if Borderlands will be strictly linear, seeing as how Gearbox Software’s property is already an established game. I would love to see a mix-up in Telltale’s formula.

Michael:
For me, Borderlands always had a Mad Max vibe to it anyway. It is a true wild west set in space, so if Telltale were to filter in minor form of exploration, it would be a nice way to balance the old with the new, so to speak.

Robert:
If there is a game to tweak their style with it’s this one, considering it’s already detached from their usual offerings.

Paul:
Yeah, I would love that because I’m pretty sure we’d eventually burn out from the same formula.

Robert:
True. To sum things up, though, I just hope Telltale knows what they’re doing and not just accepting every project that comes their way.

Paul:
Let’s just say with all that being said, I’m cautiously optimistic. I so very, very badly want to believe they can have all of these new IPs shipped out at a high quality; but until I see it happen, I just can’t fully give a strong vote of confidence. But talking about these various possibilities definitely feeds into my excitement about the upcoming titles, let’s just hope the wait isn’t too long!

Michael:
Fair point, their writing always carries such emotional weight. I’ll be the first to admit that the ending to the first season of TWD had me reaching for the tissues. But that impact will be completely undermined if they were to drone it into every IP. For me, the risk of novelty is overuse. And deep down we all want Telltale to be firing on all cylinders. Releasing four projects incrementally across the course of 2014 is no mean feat, and history has shown us their tendency to reschedule release dates. Still, given the huge success of The Walking Dead: Season One, they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

Robert:
Telltale’s Game Of Thrones — coming fall, 2019.

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  • Shubhendu Singh

    Telltale isnt small now, they have been expanding by units from the moment TWD got success. And they are running only 2 Series at a time, the work on GoT series has not even started yet.

    • Michael Briers

      You’re right, after the success of TWD, they’ve definitely boosted their developing team. But they’re still an independent studio, I guess that’s what we were focusing on. Although, Borderlands and GoT have been in the early stages of development for close to a year, according to Dennis Lenart in this interview, so they’re still dividing resources.

      https://soundcloud.com/playstation/playstation-blogcast-episode-5