Ever since the release of the harrowing first season of The Walking Dead, indie studio Telltale Games has received widespread praise from critics and gamers alike – eradicating bad memories of their take on Jurassic Park – with many people eagerly awaiting Telltale’s future releases. The Walking Dead kicked off its second season last week with an excellent first episode, and the studio has also released the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, a new episodic game based on Bill Willingham’s “Fables” comic books.
Telltale’s recent success has drawn attention from other companies as well, and the studio recently struck a multi-year, multi-title partnership with TV network HBO, and hugely popular historical fantasy series Game of Thrones is set to get the Telltale treatment first. Also announced this month was a Borderlands spinoff title called Tales from the Borderlands, which is being produced in collaboration with Gearbox Software.
Either one of these announcements would be enough on its own to trigger a severe attack of excitement, and both of them together contribute as much to the holiday spirit as any number of twinkling lights or Christmas trees. There are still plenty of questions being asked about both Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones, however, and Telltale’s senior vice president of publishing recently offered a few answers to Polygon.
When asked what first inspired Tales from the Borderlands, Allison replied that alcohol might have had a little something to do with it:
“We were backstage at the  Spike VGAs. And Gearbox was sitting at table one and we were sitting at table two – we were there for The Walking Dead. We got to talking a little bit, and I don’t remember when it the night it became, ‘we should do this thing,’ but it happened over a few cocktails.
“We could have easily left it and chalked it up to too much tequila, but we followed up when we got home. And they remembered the conversation. The ‘Borderlands’ universe has so much story potential, all those great characters. There’s a narrative there in ‘Borderlands 2’ but it serves a certain purpose, and we can serve a different purpose with it for fans of the franchise.”
Given that plans for Tales from the Borderlands have apparently been around for a while – and the game already has a fully animated trailer – it will probably release its first episode before Game of Thrones. However, Allison boasted of Telltale’s unique approach to development and said that the current plan is to “work on three or four great things” every year from 2014 onwards. Telltale bases their production model on television shows, rather than video games, which makes sense for games that are largely based on dialogue and character interaction.
Game of Thrones, like The Walking Dead, is a series that lends itself very well to Telltale’s current formula for storytelling and gameplay. The relationships are fragile, the choices faced by the characters are difficult, and their ramifications can be terrible. While the simplest approach to Game of Thrones would be to make another fantasy RPG out of it (this has already been done), Allison explained that what drew Telltale to the series as a project was the things about it that don’t fit easily into the average AAA game:
“We want franchises that are really difficult to translate into traditional gaming, we don’t want to make another ‘Walking Dead’ first-person shooter. What works with the franchises we have it the characters, the story and drama and the relationships. We look for franchises that are huge and have all those elements.”
HBO’s Game of Thrones is based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novel series, just as AMC’s The Walking Dead is based on the comic books by Robert Kirkman. Telltale’s adaptation of The Walking Dead seems to be based more on the comics than the show, though since it includes mostly original characters this isn’t always apparent. In the case of Game of Thrones however, Allison stated that it will definitely be based on the show rather than Martin’s books:
“Creatively, we’re going to defer to the show because we are using HBO’s license. Playing the game should feel like watching the show and we’ll be making lots of decisions the same way the showrunners do. We’ve talked with them about how they make their decisions and how they pace their scenes, what they do when they face a big plotline and what to keep and cut. We’re taking their expertise and applying it to the material we bring to the table.”
Despite the growing number of games on Telltale’s to-do list, the studio is not planning to outsource any work, and will instead have team members moving between the various projects as and when they are needed. Borderlands, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us will be the studio’s four projects in 2014, and with the content being released episodically it sounds like a system that could work effectively without putting too much strain on the creatives involved.
One thing’s for sure: there’s definitely a lot to look forward to from TellTale in 2014. We’ll keep you updated on Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands as these projects develop.