It’s Finally Time For Telltale To Shake Up Its Formula

It’s Finally Time For Telltale To Shake Up Its Formula

Today in Austin, Texas, we put on a live episode of Kotaku Splitscreen to talk about Telltale’s formula and much more.

Joining me and Kirk on stage was Kotaku freelancer and The Guardian games editor Keza MacDonald as well as Telltale’s vice president of creative, Leah Hoyer. We talked about storytelling in video games, games as a service, and much more, answering some questions from audience members and even putting on our Soothsayer Hats to tell the future.

You can listen right here:

Get the MP3 here, or read a brief excerpt:

Kirk: The thing I’m curious about related to Telltale – a Telltale-style adventure game is a term that people know. Sometimes it’s used as a pejorative, sometimes it’s used as just a way to describe a game. There are now other studios, Dontnod with Life as Strange, there are other games that sort of follow the same formula, or refine it or change it. Do you see it as a good thing or a bad thing that there’s already this established formula that everybody knows?

Leah: I think what’s cool about it is that people do know it, so it gives us a real opportunity to go in and question some of those things that were assumptions, and in smart ways break that open. I think at Telltale for a while there almost got to be a sense of, there are best practices of how do you keep a player engaged as you’re sitting there thinking about the development. What it’s important for us to do is make sure those don’t become rules you have to abide by. There’s a project I’m working on right now, can’t talk about it too much –

Jason: We’re not gonna let you leave until you tell us what it is.

Leah: (laughs) We had a meeting in a room last week, where we’re talking about the fact that – a couple people are like, ‘It’s usually our best practice to maybe have a choice every X amount of seconds, minutes, whatever that is, and shouldn’t we be doing that here?’ Part of me was just like, you know, if it’s right for the story, if you have enough things to do and you feel like you’re getting to discover and uncover and explore and do lots of other cool gamey activities, I’m ok if we have a scene that has zero dialogue whatsoever. As long as what you’re doing, you still recognise that we are amazing interactive storytellers, I think it’s cool that with that base, we now can make sure that as we’re looking at projects, we’re thinking about questioning all those rules, and knowing when’s the right time to do it. Like, Picasso knew how to make really good classical art before he decided to put –

Kirk: So you guys are like Picasso. (laughs)

Leah: (laughs) We’re gonna put two eyes on the side of people’s face. There’s gonna be a nose on the top of your head for some reason. But no, I think we’re now at that space where we know what does make good interactive narrative so to our core that we really are at a place where everybody’s focused on, OK how do we innovate, how do we branch out.

Jason: If you really want to innovate, you should have it so the player makes a decision and then it says on the bottom, ‘This character will NOT remember that.’

Listen to the whole episode for much more. As always, you can find Google Play. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.


  • ‘This character will NOT remember that.’

    That happened in The Wolf Among Us, you talk to an extremely drunk guy at a bar, and once you finish your conversation with him that flashes up, it was really funny.

    It’s really interesting because telltale have gone from their worst written game yet (Season 3 of the walking dead) to a fantastic on in Batman season 2, which has one of the most interesting Joker’s I’ve seen in Batman.

    They need to focus on strong writing first, then exciting choices later, TWD S3 felt like they just wanted to hit certain beats, and made up the story as it went along.

    • Shit… I didn’t even realise that there WAS a 3rd season of TWD. I guess that shows how far off my radar Telltale have slid. I liked the first 2 seasons, but after playing Game of Thrones, I was pretty much done with the whole Telltale thing.

  • Finally? They’ve needed to for fucking YEARS.

    There’s resting on your laurels, and then there’s Telltale.

    • And yet listen to how the employee talks about themselves. They think they’re picasso. Far out talk about hubris!

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