Personally, I find idioms to be a little old hat. There’s one I think Telltale Games could take heed to though, if I can bend their ear: too much of a good thing will kill you, or in this case, our excitement for their games.
Telltale, known for their episodic adventure games, earned acclaim in 2012 for the breakout The Walking Dead: Season One and over the past three years has burned bright with The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands, and The Walking Dead: Season Two, amongst others. TellTale is now in danger of being the bright star that burns the quickest.
LOSING WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL
From their first game in 2005, TellTale Texas Hold’Em, to The Walking Dead: Season One, TellTale released 14 games that were at least three episodes, typically bi-monthly, an average of two a year (they had six single episode games), just about the perfect pace. Series took about half a year each, with rare overlap between on ending and a new one beginning.
Fast forward to 2014. Schedules have switched to mostly bi-monthly and as much as quarterly. This means it’s taking just short of a year to finish one of their games. There was four months between the first two episodes of Tales From the Borderlands, enough time to let the excitement for what was one of their better received series taper off into passive interest. It didn’t help Game of Thrones was running concurrently with it causing further distraction, and at one point there were three TellTale games being released with Minecraft: Story Mode starting October of this year. What once felt like a regular TV schedule now resembles a mess of strings running across an evidence board.
Looking forward, TellTale has already announced five games being developed, three of which are slated to come out before they revisit their flagship series with The Walking Dead: Season Three, with over a year already separating it from Season Two. For context, the first two seasons were separated by five months. Too much of a good thing will make you sick, and there isn’t a developer out there someone wants to see three times a year, especially if they aren’t finishing their own stories.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
You’ll be hard pressed to find someone that thinks TellTale is making bad games. Too many games, sure. Maybe games that aren’t their taste, certainly. As a whole, though, most agree the quality is there, except where it isn’t: TellTale games are notorious for technical and performance issues. Kotaku’s Kirk Hamilton wrote a detailed outline of the former, so I’ll spend my space on the latter.
When I played The Wolf Among Us on PlayStation 3 for the first time, I encountered none of Hamilton’s listed issues. The game ran exactly how it should’ve, which means it was still plagued with excruciating load times, and the audio and video misaligning at the beginning of every scene and after every pause. Bigby Wolf would mime a sentence, freeze, and his voice would catch up to himself. By the time I bought TellTale’s Black Friday sale, I was having the exact same issues with Tales from the Borderlands on my Xbox One.
This is two games I played two years apart, on two different console generations, both having issues running. Through every acclaim and accolade they deserve and looking past every bug and save data purge, when the game is running flawlessly it’s still frustrating users with poor performance. With TellTale upping the ante on games, where’s the time to use one of their 240 employees to fix Telltale Tool, an engine that’s breaking immersion for players?
TAKE A BREAK PLEASE
It’s unusual to tell such a productive studio to take a vacation, but going for a swim is better than struggling to keep above water. With new Batman and Marvel games announced, and follow up seasons for The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones expected, time is short and patience is thin with the decade old studio. TellTale is squeezing everything but the kitchen sink out of the engine they’ve been using since day one, and it’s starting to show. Some could take the “lowest common denominator” argument, saying because TellTale releases their games on last generation systems and mobile devices they’ve got to move as quickly as the slowest person. At what point do they decide to please some people instead of irritating all of them?
It’s important to note this isn’t a comment on the quality of TellTale’s games. It’s a reminder that haste makes waste. The games arguably haven’t changed in years in terms of innovation or performance, and saturating the market is only going to shine a light on both. Please, TellTale. Go away for a little, and make us miss you again.