Telltale Games’ majority studio closure announcement came as a surprise to most gamers. However, many are less concerned with the whys and hows of its bankruptcy and more with the studio’s cancelled projects. Granted, most of these concerns revolve around the unfinished final season of The Walking Dead and the highly anticipated The Wolf Among Us Season 2, but we don’t know what else the studio had up its sleeves, especially since it recently tried (and failed) to completely change how it told stories.
According to VG247, last year, Telltale Games was in the middle of a grand experiment: telling an engrossing tale that doesn’t rely on the studio’s visual novel-style of storytelling. The answer was procedural storytelling. Gamers would no longer be barraged with messages of “Character X will remember that” and instead would experience actual, tangible consequences that weaved new, unique narratives for each playthrough. And the company asked Alexis Kennedy, the creator of games such as Sunless Sea and Cultist Simulator, for help.
“While I was at BioWare, this was early 2017 I think, Telltale approached me because they wanted some consultancy on a specific narrative, procedurally generated thing,” explained Kennedy. “It was a project that had been ongoing for years, with a variety of different people coming and going, to try to find a way to do something different to the usual Telltale approach. Above all, it was something that didn’t require hand-tuned content but allowed room for stuff that emerged naturally from procedural generation. It’s a hard problem and my strong impression is that there was a significant, long term effort by Telltale to try find another way to do things. But given their brutal dev cycle, they could never focus attention on it. It’s really hard to do two kinds of things.”
By all accounts, the game would have been based on a popular zombie-centric property, albeit not The Walking Dead. Moreover, the game would have revolved around base/survivor management and resource gathering, possibly similar to State of Decay or This War of Mine. And, it would have taken influence from games such as Fallen London, which is fitting since Kennedy created that game.
Even though Telltale Games’ recent closure effectively cancelled all of the studio’s future games, this particular experiment stopped development earlier this year. One can only imagine what might have happened had the game been allowed to come to fruition.