A criticism that was often put toward Telltale Games was its repetitive design choices, but the company appeared to be trying to remedy its Achilles’ heel last year.
Following news that the studio is laying off 225 members of staff and is canning all major projects, details of a cancelled zombie strategy game have been unearthed. The untitled project was set to combine procedural generation with Telltale’s narrative tropes, all through a strategy game filter.
Judging by the details that have come out, Telltale was attempting to create an experience akin to This War of Mine—to tell deep stories that changed every time a player chose to play. VG247 found out about the project by speaking to Alexis Kennedy, freelance games writer and creator of Cultist Simulator, who had some insider knowledge on the game:
“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. […] 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.”
Primarily, the title would attempt to allow the story to “[emerge] naturally from procedural generation,” diversifying the studio’s bilinear progression. The game was set for mobile platforms, but had the scope to be ported to other consoles. Whether the prospective title was to follow a free-to-play financial model is unknown, with the mobile games Reigns and Fallen London touted as influences.
The project, according to Kennedy, was cancelled due to incompatibilities in the studio’s narratives and game design:
“A lot of the difficulty for this kind of approach is trying to find writing that works—it can be too specific, it can be repetitive, and you need to write a lot of it. Too generic and it looks like it’s been assembled on a production line by a language engine.”
Out of the members who worked on this title, only one now remains at Telltale. This game, much like the studio itself, sounds like a lot of lost potential. For more on Telltale Games and the world of single-player, be sure to follow OnlySP on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.