Telltale: A Great Story Will Only Go So Far

telltale-great-story-editorial-banner

Telltale broke into the mainstream with its 2012 Game of the Year contender, The Walking Dead. The small technical issues were overshadowed by the compelling story and unique experience of the property. While the games from Telltale continue to review well, their technical issues have only gotten worse.

To be fair, every game has technical problems, especially new games. However, after three years the same technical hiccups become less acceptable. To make matters worse, the technical problems that caused players to lose saved games have carried over from game to game.

While it’s unlikely Telltale will update its engine anytime soon, they could easily fix their other major problem: the release schedule. Changing the release schedule may sound simple, but it would be an important, straightforward, and easy fix.

As Telltale moves forward, they must do something to improve. There is a rising wave of discontent and anger among fans which will soon become an unstoppable tidal wave. If they cannot fix something as simple as the release schedule, why should fans have faith that they can fix their other problems in their future games?

The only thing scary then waiting 16 weeks for an episode.

The only thing scary then waiting 16 weeks for an episode.

Part of what made The Walking Dead: Season 1 so great was playing an episode, talking to people about it, and then eagerly waiting for the next episode to see what happens next. Episodic games require a consistent release schedule which Telltale has failed to do. The releases have been all over the place.

In the Tales from the Borderlands FAQ it says “episodes are usually available to download between 4 and 6 weeks apart”. They haven’t been remotely close with the Tales from the Borderlands game.

The chart below was partially compiled by user himmatsj, and finished by me, on the Telltale forums (where he is now banned) asking them to remove the “4 to 6 weeks” statement from their FAQ.

Weeks Between Episodes
E1 to E2 E2 to E3 E3 to E4 E4 to E5 E5 to E6
The Walking Dead Season 1 9 9 6 6 N/A
The Wolf Among Us 17 9 7 6 N/A
The Walking Dead Season 2 11 10 10 5 N/A
Game of Thrones 9 7 12 8 17
Tales from the Borderlands 16 15 8 9 N/A

 

As himmatsj points out later in the forum, “It says ‘usually’, not ‘will’. But ’usually’ of course still carries the meaning of ‘more often than not’, which they’ve come nowhere close to meeting”.

It is hard to stay excited or even remember what happened from one episode to the next the when the next episode can take sixteen weeks to come out. After weeks of hearing nothing from Telltale, the last episode of Game of Thrones was finally announced the day before this post went up. It will come out a full seventeen weeks after Episode Five – that’s more than four months.

Only acceptable excuse for all the delays.

Only acceptable excuse for all the delays.

Now, there are many reasons the episodes could be delayed but I believe there are bigger underlying problems. One is working on too many projects at once. The following is a chart of the games Telltale was scheduled to release during 2015.

2015 Release Schedule

  • Game of Thrones Episodes 2-6
  • Tales from the Borderlands Episodes 2-5
  • The Walking Dead Season 2 DLC Michonne
  • Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 1
  • Back to the Future re-release

At first this may not seem like a lot. But in 2014, they finished two games and released the first episode of two more games. In 2016, they will finish Minecraft and Walking Dead Season 3 is rumored to be released. On top of everything they are currently working on, they have also announced a partnership with Marvel for multiple games. While the first episodes of those games are not expected until 2017, it would be shocking if Marvel signed off on the deal before there was any preliminary work and planning done.

Fans are becoming frustrated and who can blame them. It’s important for Telltale to look ahead but it is very discouraging to hear them announcing more games when they can’t even finish the games they already have out.

Even if they could consistently hit their two-month target for release of the next episode, which right now is only 42% of the time, I prefer a similar release schedule to Resident Evil Revelations 2. Finish your game and then start releasing episodes every week or two.

I also really like how HBO handles their shows. Weeks before the season premiere, excitement begins to build and people start to speculate about where the season will go. For the entire season, there is a flood of discussion and articles analyzing the latest episode and how the season is going. Even after the season ends, you see weeks-worth of even more articles and discussion wrapping up the season and people discussing how the next season will go.

What HBO has mastered is how to make the season premieres of their shows big events and keep the excitement going. There were ten weeks of Game of Thrones excitement and discussing and then eight weeks of the same thing for True Detective.

Just give me my last episode and no one gets hurt.

Just give me my last episode and no one gets hurt.

I believe Telltale should adopt the TV season format. It does not make sense for them to break any excitement and momentum for their games by spreading the episodes so far apart and diluting the hype even further by mixing in another game at the same time.

I never watch live TV but my wife and I made time and scheduled our lives around Game of Thrones and True Detective so we could discuss the shows Monday morning with people. With a weekly or bi-weekly release schedule, the discussion surrounding a Telltale season would be much better in quality and more focused.

Even people who prefer to wait and play all the episodes at once could still be part of the discussion because the time in from start to finish would be only ten weeks instead of ten or more months. This would also make marketing their games much easier and allow them to really make each season a big event.

I have mixed feelings about the Defiance game and TV show but there are certain things that Telltale could learn from them. During its first season, an episode of Defiance would air on TV and immediately following had another show online. Their online show had interviews with people from the TV show and game. They discussed the TV show, latest events in the game, and everything in between.

Telltale could release a game episode on Tuesday and on Friday have an online show interviewing the developers, talking about the making of the episodes, and discussing what decisions people made. Again, making each episode and season a big event.

I know gamers would rather have a polished game that works rather than a rushed, buggy game. Unfortunately, the Telltale games are anything but polished and bug free. The least they can do is give a consistent release schedule.

Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook
  • Roger Cannon

    Thanks for the breakdown, Matt. I seem to recall waiting a long time for chapters of one of their old Sam & Max games, too.

  • Now here’s a (horrible) thought that maybe someone smarter than me (which would be just about anyone) can figure out.

    Is it possible they’re holding back the release of some of these episodes until the next business quarter in order to show consistent sales/profits? I don’t know the release dates on all these episodes but it may be something worth looking into.

  • Pingback: PlayStation Plus November 2015 Update | PlayStation Nation()

  • This is one of the best things I have read in a long time

  • Pingback: Game of Thrones Season Finale Out Next Week | PlayStation Nation()