Last years’ Game of the Year winner, The Walking Dead, was a shocker for some, even though it received critical acclaim from almost every gaming publication out there. So now that Telltale games has hit this home run, where do they go from here? With fan expectations higher than ever, they are under a serious amount of pressure to deliver some truly innovative games. The big question now is can they do it?
The Walking Dead set the bar pretty high and may be quite a tough act to follow. Telltale is starting off right though, having already announced a second season of their acclaimed episodic masterpiece. While this is encouraging, they must keep a few things in mind while moving forward. The most important of which is that we gamers are a fickle species. What is beloved and admired about one game can be hated and crucified in the next if kept exactly the same. While games like Call of Duty obviously don’t fall prey to this issue, a game like the Walking Dead almost certainly would, due to its lack of a multiplayer fan base.
So how could Telltale avert this tragedy? They could start by adding enough fresh new game elements to keep the series interesting while retaining the core identity, the story. The gut-wrenching, character-driven, morally clouded story must be captured again if this franchise is to succeed.
But, as I said before, story alone will not be enough to make the second season a success. Gamers expect gameplay to progress over the life of a franchise, and Telltale must deliver this without fail. While I will say that the game must retain a certain amount of its original playability, the developer must find a way to strike a healthy balance between old and new gameplay elements. Just enough of the original to feel familiar, but also enough new features to feel fresh and engaging. If this tightrope can be walked, Telltale could have another runaway hit on their hands.
But what about after The Walking Dead? While I’m sure that we have quite a bit more zombie goodness to look forward to, what’s next for Telltale Games? It’s anyone’s guess, I suppose, but I would love to see more TV shows adapted into games worthy of their on-screen counterparts. Good adaptations are few and far between, and Telltale may have found their niche market with The Walking Dead. It seems that whenever I play a game based on a popular television series, I am confronted with something that attempts to be a recreation of the series, but lacks the one thing that made us love the show in the first place: a story. I’ve always wondered how this integral piece could be so often missed in the development process. If Telltale can bottle the lightning of their current success, we could see a long and prosperous line of excellent story-driven games, continuations of our favorite television shows and movies, ever expanding their unique worlds. (Personal request: Doctor Who. Make it.)
Have you ever been so into a series that you just couldn’t wait for the next episode, let alone the next season? I know I have, and what better way to capitalize on the season breaks than to create unique episodic game content between seasons? Of course, fan expectations will be ridiculously high, so Telltale will have to play this just right as well. Any series they picked up the rights to would have to be treated with the utmost care, and gameplay would have to be entirely unique on any individual franchise. Applying the exact same gameplay elements as previous games could be disastrous.
So there you are, Telltale. There’s your development plan for the next five years. You’re welcome. Now go out there and start acquiring more television and movie rights so you can make us some more great games. We’re confident that you can do it again.
Date: February 5, 2013