A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

It is a truth universally acknowledged but little examined that Telltale's games have issues. The studio rose to prominence with 2012's Game of the Year-worthy The Walking Dead adventure game. Since then, their games, wonderful in many ways as they may be, have been accompanied by an undercurrent of fan anger. Each subsequent notch in their belt -- a good review here, an award nomination there, a new licensing deal over there -- has carried with it echoes of unhappy players, people who are upset over buggy games, erased saves and purchases that won't carry through.

A couple of weeks ago, the second episode of Telltale's high-profile Game of Thrones came out. Its reception followed a now-familiar pattern: On the one hand, I and most other critics in the press played and mostly liked it. On the other hand, there was a growing chorus of indignant fans, upset about several major bugs. For example, many players on Xbox One had found that their choices from the first episode weren't carrying over to the second one. They were forced to replay the entire first episode and re-make their decisions, undoing a significant amount of the reactive magic of the original experience.

My colleague Jason Schreier tried playing on iPad last week, but couldn't, thanks to a disastrous experience with episode two -- echoing dialogue, choppy cutscenes, and constant performance issues. ("I can't believe I spent $US25 on this," Jason said, after attempting to play on Wednesday.)

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

All last week, user reviews on the Game of Thrones app store page were unequivocal: The game was a "disaster", "unplayable", "broken", "buggy", "a mummer's farce". Yet since last week, it's been featured on the App store's Editor's Choice list.

When I asked Telltale what the deal was with Game of Thrones on iOS, their PR rep referred me to their support forums, and to a post saying that they were aware of the issues on iOS and had submitted an update to Apple to fix the game. The iOS patch went live on Friday, and after downloading it, Jason reports that the game runs more smoothly for him. But while the patch seems to have fixed the majority of the lag and audio issues, several app store reviews are still reporting problems, including a bug that renders the opening fight sequence impassable:

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

There's another sticky post at Telltale's support forums acknowledging the Xbox One save transfer bug, and an additional post last Friday says that they have submitted a patch to Microsoft and that they expect it to be released sometime in the next 7 to 10 days.

So: Both episodes were messed up when they came out, one version was mostly fixed about a week later, the other version will (probably) be fixed at some point in the next week or so. That's that, at least for now.

But that isn't that, not really. For so long, there's been too sharp a disconnect between what we in the press say about Telltale games and what we hear from players. These games are well-liked by the media and by gamers, and for the most part, deservedly so. They're engrossing, well-written adventures that let us visit worlds we've previously only watched on TV or read about in books. My Kotaku colleagues and I have written many articles praising Telltale's games, and we love to join readers in talking about them. Yet each game is accompanied by an inevitable crowd of people calling foul, people with bugged and broken games who feel ripped off and ignored.

Part of the problem is that Telltale's games are released in piecemeal "seasons," and most players only have to spend around $US5 to play the first episode. After that, many players will opt to buy the full season up front -- usually for around $US20 total -- since that's a better deal than waiting and buying each episode separately. Thing is, it's usually in later episodes that the problems hit.

After years of reading various emails and forum posts reporting problems with various Telltale games -- problems that I, usually, have not personally experienced -- I decided to look into some of the most widespread issues their games have faced since 2012's The Walking Dead.

I headed over to the Telltale Support forums, expecting to find several lengthy threads centered on the most common problems for each game. Instead, I found something a lot messier. In every game's support hub, there are dozens of threads outlining problems with pretty much every version of all of the studio's games. I spent several days last week reading as many as I could.

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

At first, I worried that listing user complaints in an article would feel unfair, like cherry-picking. After all, I was reading the support forum, so of course the majority of the posts would be about problems people were having with the games. Telltale's main forum is filled with happy users, contentedly chatting about the stories and characters in the games.

An hour or two of reading later, I had set that worry aside. Telltale's support forums paint a portrait of a publisher that is constantly releasing buggy and even outright broken games, and, unlike most of the other companies with which it competes, one that lacks the resources to meaningfully help or, sometimes, even acknowledge its frustrated users.

A few caveats, before we get into this:

  • All games have some technical problems. If I were to visit the support forums of a larger publisher like Ubisoft or EA, I would find plenty of people complaining of problems installing or operating games. The differences, as I see them, are threefold: A) Telltale's games have all had similar problems for years, and each new game brings the same issues, B) Telltale's major bugs tend to be of the catastrophic and game-halting variety, corrupting saves and erasing progress to an extent that would be noteworthy for any publisher, and C) Telltale's support apparatus appears to be limited to a support email address and a single person responding to forum posts as best he can, and as a result many of their players feel ignored or brushed aside.
  • Some of these threads have been successfully resolved, and, to Telltale's credit, even the unresolved ones tend to contain responses from a Telltale rep. With the majority of them, however, it's unclear whether the user in question actually got his or her game working.
  • I can't verify every claim listed here, or anything close to that. I'm taking each anonymous forum poster's word for it. Or rather, I'm allowing that between all of them, they paint a convincing picture, especially when combined with our staff's firsthand experience of Telltale's games.
  • I had intended to go back to 2012 and put together a timeline of complaints, but that proved unnecessary. Many of the forum posts I found, whether from 2012's The Walking Dead or 2015's Game of Thrones, were from sometime in the last few months. Go further back and you'll find many, many more.
  • This chronicle is incomplete. I tried to find problems that seemed clear-cut or had resulted in multiple posts or responses, but there are dozens I've left off. If you've had your own troubles, I hope you'll share them below.

Here now, an incomplete chronicle of messed up Telltale games:

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

THE WALKING DEAD, SEASON ONE

Telltale's breakout game, and a dark horse contender for a variety of 2012 game of the year awards. But even then, there was unrest among players, and tales of corrupted saves and performance failures on some Xbox 360s. What are some common issues? Let's seeā€¦

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

THE WOLF AMONG US

An interesting follow-up to The Walking Dead, and a game that I didn't love at first, but which grew on me. But what kinds of technical problems did people have with it?

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

THE WALKING DEAD, SEASON TWO

The second season of The Walking Dead didn't match the highs of the first season, but it still managed an engrossing tale, largely thanks to the smart decision to make young Clementine the protagonist. But did it run all that well for everyone?

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

TALES FROM THE BORDERLANDS

This new series is currently awaiting its second episode. We liked the premiere a lot more than we were expecting to; turns out, a Borderlands adventure game works better than you'd think. But was it smooth sailing on the technical front?

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

GAME OF THRONES

The first episode of Game of Thrones was better than we'd hoped; the second episode was a bit heavy on plot but still good. Has it been as much of a mess as Telltale's other games?

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

Of all of the posts I've read, one stands out: A recent post by user SammyTheDamed. It's titled Enough! Telltale we DEMAND a response! GoT Ep2 glitchy mess on iOS, etc.

"You have thousands upon thousands of customers who trusted you and purchased a season pass," he writes, "placing faith you would deliver at least functional product. You have failed and refused to acknowledge the buggy, glitchy, stuttering debacle that is the iOS release of GoT ep2 and the myriad of problems.

"This is inexcusable and a slap in the face to your customers. [...] You want to be a jerk to your customers Telltale? Fine, your choice as a company. But I will be vocal, and will no longer trust your 'season passes'. You have lost my trust and respect as a consumer."

To me, the harshest thing about that post is the "etc." in the title. That "etc." contains all of the problems I've listed in this article and then some. It says, more or less, "I am angry about this problem, but also all of the other problems everyone here has had to put up with over the years." Everyone already knows what he means, so he only has to say, "etc."

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

"I have been ignored by their support for over a month now," writes a poster in another thread. "Do yourself and all gamers a favour and do not support them anymore. They could care less, cause they already got our money..If you think I'm a troller..Look it up on their community boards and blogs. They been doing this for over a year now, and they wont refund you or compensate for your issues. Wish I would of known this ahead of purchase."

For their part, Telltale appears to have tasked one guy with responding to every user on the support forum. He goes by "Telltale Mike," and you could not pay me enough to do his job. "I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience," he writes at the start of most of his posts. I find myself wondering how many of his nearly 10,000 forum responses begin with those words.

Telltale Mike does a heroic job of responding to every poster that he can, and from time to time, he really is able to help someone get their game working again. But often as not, his apologies and suggestions are left hanging.

A Chronicle Of Messed Up Telltale Games, 2012-2015

"I emailed Telltale Games Product Support 10 days ago on January 29th regarding an issue with my Walking Dead Season 1 game," writes a poster who has titled his thread "Dissatisfied Customer." "I still have not heard back from them. I am extremely dissatisfied with their service regarding this topic."

"Your just now realising that telltale does not care about us?" a second user chimes in.

"I sincerely apologise for the delayed response," Telltale Mike replies a bit further down in the thread, offering a stock response I've seen him use elsewhere: "We have had an overwhelming amount of support emails after the launch of Tales From The Borderlands and Game of Thrones, and we are working hard to answer every one. If you have not heard back yet, you should be hearing back soon."

Last Thursday, I sent Telltale PR a few questions about all this: Is it fair to say Telltale has garnered a reputation for buggy games? Do they think they're doing enough to respond to people posting to their support forums? What would they say to reassure people that buying a season pass from them isn't a bad idea? They got back to me to make sure I'd seen the new patches for Game of Thrones, but never sent responses to any of my questions.

Tales from the Borderlands is full steam ahead to its next episode. Game of Thrones is just getting cracking. The Wolf Among Us is starting to feel due for a second season. And the just-announced Minecraft adventure game is on the horizon, too. With so many plates spinning at once, it's difficult to imagine how Telltale could also take the time to patch up their foundations. But that doesn't mean we can't ask, and hope, that they do.

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Comments

    What a negative article :/

    I think I had problems when I bought Law & Order: SVU, but I was refunded on the App Store and just moved on.

      It's just the facts, dude. And most people care about being ripped off and don't get refunds.

    I bought the Telltale collection over xmas having never played any of the games last gen. Just played ep2 of GOT at the weekend and I also had the issue where my choices didn't carry over. GOT is by far the worst Telltale game I have played as far as bugs go I also didn't like the Water colour painting "effect" they did with the graphics.

    Loved the walking dead games though :-)

    I had a problem where the "Tales from the Borderlands" trophies were awarded for playing through "Game of Thrones"! This is apparently more of a PS4 problem than a Telltale one, but it was very weird and the only time I've ever encountered it. I didn't notice till about half-way through that the trophy names made no sense, either (I'm pretty dumb), so I had to replay the first half again. Gave me a chance to tweak my choices, which is good or bad depending on how you want to look at it.

    Last edited 17/02/15 1:11 pm

    I had a weird issue with GoT on PS4. I bought the season pass a month or so back when it was on sale on PSN, played episode 1 and then waited for episode 2.

    Ep 2 arrives a couple of weeks ago, I downloaded it but didn't get around to playing it until late last week. I went into the game, went to start episode 2, but it still said episode 2 was coming soon. I thought that was odd, but figured maybe my memory was dodgy and I hadn't actually downloaded it, so went into the store and... nope, it's downloaded, I only have the option to start the game, not download it again. "Bugger", I thought, and decided to delete GoT in its entirety and re-download it all. Went to delete it and got stuck at the "please wait" screen with the little spinning icon. After sitting there for 5-10 minutes, I gave up and figured it wasn't deleting. But I couldn't actually cancel it, either. In the end I actually had to pull the power plug out and plug it back in. The console restarted, spent a couple of minutes checking its database, then booted back into the OS as usual. And suddenly there was a patch for GoT downloading. I waited for that and it then worked fine. Why I had to do a hard-reset for it to realize there was a patch there, I do now know - don't seem to have that issue with any other games.

    I know I'm the minority - but I haven't had any problems ever with the Telltale games. I've played 3 - 2 x Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us but have never ever run into any of the problems.

    I would prefer to have this kind of luck with lotto numbers instead but beggars can't be choosers.

      Did you play on PC?

        Yeah, all on PC and all via Steam. I did purchase the walking deads after the whole season had finished so I know there would have been patches by then, but I also know that didn't help a lot of people either. I bought TWAU episodically and had no probs.

        I use an older i5 core gaming laptop and there are theories out there about Telltale games not being optimised properly for high grade PCs, but the problems seem to happen too widely for that to be a main reason for issues.

      I've played Walking Dead seasons 1 & 2 and the Wolf Among Us On PC and the only error I encountered was in the final scene of episode 4 of TWAU when, instead of triggering the final cutscene, I went back to the beginning of the scene with all the dialogue options blank. I quit out of the game and went back in - I just had to re-do the final conversation options and this time the episode finished like it was supposed to.

      I understand the season pass/savegame issue seems to happen mostly on consoles but I'm thankful I've not encountered any other issues.

      Personally I'm holding off on Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones until they've reached the halfway mark, though.

      I played exactly those three as well. Playing on PC (after each of those 3 seasons/ series were complete which might be important to note) I too had no issues whatsoever.

      Try playing TWD episode one the Vita, it's a complete mess and almost unplayable at certain points. Any action scenes you need to just wait and die the first time round because the game just freezes and you die anyway. And the input lag is crazy! I'm actually amazed I got through the whole game as I usually have no patience for buggy games. Just shows how good the story and characters were I suppose. I really want to play episode 2 but just can't put myself through it again! :)

    not one single issue on ps3 here, played TWD 1, 400 Days, TWD 2, and The Wolf Amongst Us

    stop drinking the hateraid and start drinking the bubble tea

    The Walking Dead was a bugfest on my Mac. I repeatedly had to restart checkpoints and restart the game. Moved to the PSVita and it was better as was The Walking Dead 2 but still flaky.

    Telltale Games is not known for its stable engine.

      I had The Walking Dead (S1) working fine on steam, cleared the first two episodes then went to play the third and found my choices weren't carried over. And found out the way saves worked, I had to replay a huge chunk to get back. Ended up just giving up.

    I had some problems with The Wolf Among Us on 360 - the first few episodes had terrible stuttering and framerate problems, but they seemed sorted by the later episodes. I think they need to work on their animations next. Characters twirling on the spot looks pretty basic these days.

    Kinda feels like the author has never been to a gaming community forum before. If you count the posts in any community that basically amount to "Your game murdered my children etc" you'd think humanity had never released a quality videogame since the dawn of computers.

    FWIW I've played the majority of Telltale's product since way back in the awful Bone games, across multiple platforms, and I've never encountered a technical issue that impacted my enjoyment.

    yeah because supplying reviews, forum posts etc in 2015 is conclusive proof for anything, the internet has replaced Mos Eisley as the most wretched hive of scum and villainy

    has is this companies track record any better or worse than say Ubisoft etc

    Still waiting for a Downton Abbey Telltale Adventure.
    "Treat Lady Edith with passive aggressive vitriol"
    "Choose which main character to arbitrarily kill"
    "Make Lady Mary be non-committal to every single potential love interest"
    "Argue in the dining room"

    Ive had major problems with telltale gamed. Firstly, the wolf among us episode 2. It didnt load for about a week, after buying the season pass. Microsoft had to send me a code to get it working. Should of learnt my lesson then, because ive had to purchase the season pass for GOT twice. Thats $60 plus buying the first episode, cos they dont know how to bundle a season pass from episode 1. Its all on my youtube channel. I would leave a link but...

    So pretty much this article should be retitled to "A Chronicle of Messed up Telltale Games, Console and Mobile editions, 2012-2015"?

    Seems their PC versions are pretty much bug free compared to console and mobile editions.

      I had it crash and lose all progress on the PC, so I don't know...

    I have had major problems with every Telltale game on both PC and Mac, ALL through Steam. It seems to me that at times, the cloud saving function coupled with multiple save files is what erases everything. I've had to re-do the entirety of TWD Season 1 a whopping FOUR times (I was looking for a solution) and Telltale NEVER responded to the litany of emails I've sent them. The worst thing is that this all happened twice as myself and my girlfriend separately purchased these games through Steam and we both experienced the same problems multiple times over, separately, over FOUR computers. (PCx3, Macx1)

    I seriously never expected anyone to notice this but it's a bigger deal than deniers (for what reason would you deny?) attempt to purport as no action has been taken on an issue that has existed and been well documented for years. I think I might still be able to find my old forum rants.

    I love Telltale games, but maybe the method I use to play them saves me heartache. I wait until the whole season has been released with the hope that most issues will be patched out.

    No amount of patching will fix characters moving like animatronics, though.

    Played telltale games on PC since their Monkey Island, but Walking Dead was the only one I attempted to play as the episodes dropped. Not doing that again. Some oddity in the save file coding could bork for some people and switch 'default' save locations leaving the affected to have to find their save files and copy them to the new location. Telltale never seemed to even acknowledge the problem or how to fix it. Thought i'd lost 4 episodes progress and was resigned to not bothering with it, but thankfully other players figured it out. Now I just wait for a whole season to be released before I buy.

    What a crazy coincidence. Last night I experienced my first game breaking bug in Wolf Among Us, and this morning I lost all hope of it ever being fixed when I saw their forums.

    Jesus. Looking at that list, I feel like I basically dodged a million bullets by never having had an issue. c.c

    I'm just hoping I'm the first to post it here (after finding it on the US site)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9i0hxwoA8o0 This is a great glitch.

    Man I feel quite lucky in contrast to everyone else here... I don't think I ever experienced any issues on either Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands or The Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 2...

    Telltale, is about to really piss me off. So far, I bought the first two seasons of TWD on Android, lost my saves because of a factory reset due to an OS issue, and I refuse to believe that it's 2015 and they still haven't found a way to backup game saves. So, I decided I was going to repurchase and replay seasons 1 and 2 on my PS3, which I did, and when I decided I wanted to upgrade to the PS4, I was told to just create a Telltale account and back them up. Tried it, no such feature available. This is advice that came from their own support staff. Tried backing up my saves using the Saved Data Utility on my PS3, which worked fine, but found to my dismay that they can't be imported to the PS4 as they are not cross platform compatible. So, I decide to repurchase and replay seasons 1 and 2 YET AGAIN, and now I'm stuck with this bug that hasn't even been addressed for 10 MONTHS. They have taken over $150 of my money and I've had to completely replay everything over again 3 times and now I'm stuck with a choice-making game that ironically won't let me go back and change my choices. Not being able to copy a save or use the rewind feature is some elementary level bullshit. Not having a cloud save feature in 2015 is bullshit. But at the very least I would like the game to work as it should and we shouldn't be waiting 10 months with nothing but "we are sorry for the inconvenience blah blah blah". They need to seriously fix this shit! You'd think with the millions they've made they could afford a support team. More than just some poor dude who decides to respond to forum posts whenever he feels like it.

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