Following the reveal of the first Batman screenshots and cast details earlier this week, we sat down with Telltale Games’ Head of Creative Communications, Job Stauffer, at this year’s E3 show. During the interview we discussed the new Telltale engine, Batman as a franchise, and when exactly fans might find out more on a second season for Tales from the Borderlands.
What made you choose Batman as your next franchise?
Job Stauffer: I think we’ve known for a while that the opportunity was kind of bubbling up and honestly I think it’s an absolute dream project for any creator. Whether it’s film or TV or comics and most particularly games, and we’re kind of somewhere in between all of those things. At Telltale, we’re really a lot about character roleplaying and storytelling and really letting you play a character that is complex and who leans in different directions and behave in different ways and are a little more subtle but very distinct at the same time. Also, the complexity of a character like Bruce who has been through so much, with such an unusual upbringing as the heir to a billion dollar empire and has had his parents tragically taken away from him, who has decided to engage in this highly unorthodox nightly quest to save the city. He’s absolutely one of the richest and most fascinating and complex characters out there in fiction and completely right for the Telltale experience.
What feedback have you taken from games such as Tales from the Borderlands going forward with Batman?
JS: All of it. It’s kind of interesting. When we do our series a lot of times when they are overlapping you know we’d like to have multiple series run like television. We like to feel like an HBO or a Netflix where there’re multiple shows running at the same time and when we do that and everything is built in the same studio, often times different series can influence another as they’re running and as they’re being developed live. We’ve known for a while that this was gonna be on the cards and we’ve been excited for years to finally announce it and everything since The Walking Dead and even before that, Telltale has a decade rich history of game development that led to The Walking Dead and that led to the next thing.
Every episode, regardless of the series it belonged to, helped influence every episode we made going forward. In this way I also think that exploring a dual life, like you do with Bigby Wolf in The Wolf Among Us helped influence us the most. You’d see the more personal human perspective versus the sort of giant, beastly, ferocious side that you might typically see in a different type of video game. And as we’re talking about Wolf, thinking about it now, as we were telling the story of this Sheriff that lives among society hidden in plain sight, and has this monster inside of himself that he is. This was really giving us even more fodder and creative inspiration on how to take on a character like Bruce Wayne that also has this fierce icon inside of himself that he embodies and presides as a knight.
How will the decisions and actions of Bruce Wayne or Batman affect the other?
JS: It’s kind of like Batman is writing checks that Bruce Wayne will have to cash later and while he may be a billionaire there’s only so much a person can take and it’s a delicate and emotional balance when you’re playing these characters. When you’re wearing a Batsuit running across a rooftop, fighting Catwoman with all of the Gotham City Police Department watching what you’re doing, and there’s a helicopter flying 40 ft. above your head with a giant spotlight and news cameras watching what’s happening.
All of Gotham is watching what Batman is doing, so everything you’re doing is not only the interpersonal relationships that are affected, so not only will Selena remember what you’re doing but Gotham will remember what Batman is doing. And this will then effect Bruce later on, in the preview you remember Selena scratched Batman’s face in the demo and saw the blood coming off of his collar at the gala later and everyone was wondering what’s happening and why he was bleeding.
Bruce has to deal with that. He has to deal with the repercussions of being Batman, but as he is also this billionaire who’s walking out into a gala trying to raise money for Harvey Dent, his behavior is observed by everyone and also observed by Gotham and they’re really formulating their own perspective on Bruce as well. For example, when someone like Carmine Falcone walks through the door completely uninvited and everyone knows he’s Gotham’s most notorious crime boss and you’re stood in front of Vicky Vale, reporter, you have to make a tough decision there as well. Are you gonna shake this guys hand, are you gonna walk him into your home, or are you gonna get him out? It’s highly politically charged and it’s a game that is right for the Telltale experience.
We’ve seen this kind of dramatic role-playing in things like Game of Thrones and Walking Dead. Like in Walking Dead you have a couple more rations to give out at the end of the day, who are you going to give them to? Clementine, or the kids, the men or the women, like who needs it most? It’s the weight of the world on your own conscience, that’s at the core of a rich Telltale experience.
What kind of changes have you made to the Telltale engine? You mentioned it shortly after you announced Batman. Is it completely new or an updated version of the existing tech?
JS: It’s very much an updated version of our existing technologies, but if you’ve seen today we’re still not quite ready to show it outside of the Batcave, but we’re adding a lot more polish, more effects, lighting effects, physics systems for our Batcape and things like that which our engine has never really had. It’s getting a significant face-lift for 2016 and for all of our projects going forward. We’ll make improvements across all platforms as well. You know the same game that you’re playing on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One is the same game you’re gonna be playing on your Android that you’re interviewing me on right now. It’s really about creating an engine that’s going to look great, feel like a living comic book, and run fantastic on the thousands of different devices that we’re available on.
Tales from the Borderlands was one of the biggest hits of last year, so I guess what the obvious question is when can we expect to see a bit more news on a second season?
JS: We love, love, love, love working with Gearbox. We’re the biggest Borderlands fans in the world. I shouldn’t say that because every time we go out to an event with those guys we see even bigger fans and y’know people get more and more excited about that universe. Gearbox have announced that they’re going to continue and Tales from the Borderlands is the story canon between Borderlands 2 and wherever they’re going to take things next. I think the Vault Key is in their court and I think whatever is going to happen next to any of those characters, if you’re going to see them again, I think that is a question for our friends at Gearbox and we can’t wait to see what happens next ourselves.
Thanks for your time, we can’t wait to check out more of Batman when it releases.
Are you looking forward to seeing how Batman pans out in a Telltale Games series? Let us know in the comments below.