News: Be Still My Telltale Heart

Tellfail

Telltale Games essentially expired this week, and nothing of value was lost.25 employees remain at the company to finish up some odds and ends, but the assumption is that once work wraps up the studio will sunset itself for good and all. This turn of events came as a bit of a surprise, but on reflection it is not surprising at all that the company would flame out so spectacularly.

Any character facing a life or death situation was guaranteed to die an episode later.

Despite the window dressing, all of their games started to play the same.

Telltale began in 2005 as a studio focused on producing licensed adventure games. They produced well received and moderately successful entries in Lucasarts series like Monkey Island and Sam & Max, but the trajectory of the studio radically shifted in 2012 with the wild success of Telltale’s first season of The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead replaced most of the puzzle solving with quicktime events, which were already hopelessly out of date by the time the game released in 2012 – and the success of that game would mean that all future Telltale games would adopt a QTE focus. Another thing that aged poorly was the Telltale game engine, which was only ever marginally upgraded, and would never be replaced over Telltale’s thirteen years of operation. The Telltale engine was enough to make Bethesda’s Gamebryo engine look high tech by comparison.

So the massive success of The Walking Dead did not facilitate Telltale in updating their gameplay formula, and it did not facilitate them in updating their janky 2005 era game engine, but it did facilitate them in rapidly expanding their workforce in order to release more samey low effort content in any given year. In short it provided them enough rope to hang themselves. Expanding the company to facilitate releasing as many as four games in a calendar year was a huge drain on resources, but the identical cookie-cutter nature of the games meant that Telltale were saturating their own market. Even one game per year is too many when the only gameplay on offer consists entirely of QTEs. Telltale lacked foresight, and ultimately proved to be pathologically averse to innovation and experimentation when it came to gameplay. They did one thing that worked out for them one time and then proceeded to kill themselves by attempting to recreate that success. The dissolution of the company now is no bad thing, because they were never going to do anything worthwhile or interesting.

Capcom Tears Off Final Inafune Band-Aid

Often in the world of gaming news stories come in twos and threes – and this week is no different. Earlier this year Capcom Vancouver was cut down to around 150 employees, and now just this week the company has been dissolved entirely. Capcom expects to post somewhere around a 40 million dollar loss associated with this decision, presumably in the form of a depreciation of company assets.

This grimdark muddy mess compares very poorly to 2006's Dead Rising, a brightly coloured comedy game.

Why does a goofy comedy game end up looking like a depressing dirge?

Readers may recall that Keiji Inafune made a big stir several years ago by bad mouthing his Japanese colleagues and touting Western developers as the saviours of the industry. Inafune would go on to farm out Capcom properties including Bionic Commando, Lost Planet, Dark Void, Devil May Cry, and Dead Rising to Western developers. Inafune would later go on to employ this philosophy with his Kickstarter smash hit Mighty No. 9, and we all know how that turned out. Dead Rising 2 was the only one of these games to be successful, which is why Inafune was allowed to acquire the Vancouver studio which produced it, but after a so-so Dead Rising 3 and an abysmal Dead Rising 4 Capcom has finally seen the sense in disbanding their Vancouver studio, and in doing so has removed the final vestige of Keiji Inafune.

It is unclear precisely how much input that Capcom of Japan had into Dead Rising 2, but given that each successive installment strays further away from that successful formula, it seems like the Vancouver studio may have only ever succeeded because they were under strict supervision. Greater autonomy then must have led to greater deviation from making games that people actually wanted to play. Ultimately, Dead Rising 4 was inexcusable, and there was likely no righting this ship. Nothing of value was lost here.

EA Under Criminal Investigation for Flaunting Gambling Laws

EA, the worst company in America [and very probably the world as a whole], is a company utterly without the capacity for shame. If they had the capacity for shame then they would fix their shit and thereby avoid multiple ‘worst company in America’ awards being bestowed upon them by consumers. If they had the capacity for shame then they would not target children with their paid gambling mechanics!

EA cannot be allowed to get away with this.

[PICTURED]: a sportsball fan reacts to EA’s attempt to pick their pocket.

Many countries have had difficulty in dealing with loot box gambling mechanics, as the working definition of gambling in many jurisdictions relies on the ability for the player to cash out in order for something to be gambling. One country with no such limitation is Belgium. Back in April the Belgian Gaming Commission ruled that the loot boxes found in FIFA 18, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive all breached the country’s gambling laws, and as such had to be either modified or removed, with a generous grace period provided for the companies in question to make changes. Loot boxes were removed from CS: GO because Valve has the capacity to feel shame. Loot boxes were removed from Overwatch because even a company like Blizzard Activision has the ability to feel some small measure of shame. Loot boxes were not removed from Fifa 18, because EA is a company that is utterly without the capacity to feel shame. They are utterly brazen!

EA started the initial loot box stink by the absolutely brazen implementation of loot box mechanics into Battlefront II, and now EA is the one publisher refusing to remove or alter loot boxes after they have been found to be illegal in Belgium. Possible sanctions in this instance include up to five years imprisonment and an 800, 000 Euro fine. A fine of this size is negligible when it comes to a company who makes such an extraordinary amount of money through gambling mechanics in their games, and EA is banking on the enforcement of a jail sentence being unviable for a company the size of EA. Both of these things may be true, but Belgium absolutely needs to prohibit the sale of Fifa 18 and block access to EA Origin within their boarders if they are to stand any hope of curbing the trend of vidya being used as a vehicle to target children with gambling mechanics.

4 comments on “News: Be Still My Telltale Heart”

  1. Telltale went to market with a good idea. The problem was that they never developed that good idea into a better idea. Instead, they iterated upon the idea with a minimum of development and, whilst that works if your audience is sufficient in size, or the releases are far enough apart, neither of those were the case: the audience was small, the releases were scaled up, and the ultimate result was dissolution.

    Pokemon, by comparison, has a straightforward notion–but it advances game-on-game, and the releases are quite far apart (multi-year), with a huge playerbase, so they are able to thread the needle perfectly. This was the sort of perspective that Telltale needed to appreciate, but didn’t.

  2. I am sad that another company has gone down and 250 people lost their jobs.

  3. It’s unfortunate, but this is an entertainment business we are discussing, not a charity. They don’t deserve to keep making money just for participating–they have to sell a product, and that is contingent upon the product being good enough to command those sales.

  4. I’ve never purchased a Telltale game, though I’ve received a few for free over the years. The only one I played couldn’t hold my attention until the end of the first episode, and that was part of the Borderlands games that I’ve enjoyed in the past.

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