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It’s Finally Time For Telltale To Shake Up Its Formula

Illustration for article titled It’s Finally Time For Telltale To Shake Up Its Formulaem/em
Screenshot: Telltale’s Batman video game (Telltale)

Today in Austin, Texas, we put on a live episode of Kotaku Splitscreen to talk about Telltale’s formula and much more.


Joining me and Kirk on stage was Kotaku freelancer and The Guardian games editor Keza MacDonald as well as Telltale’s vice president of creative, Leah Hoyer. We talked about storytelling in video games, games as a service, and much more, answering some questions from audience members and even putting on our Soothsayer Hats to tell the future.

You can listen right here:

Get the MP3 here, or read a brief excerpt:

Kirk: The thing I’m curious about related to Telltale—a Telltale-style adventure game is a term that people know. Sometimes it’s used as a pejorative, sometimes it’s used as just a way to describe a game. There are now other studios, Dontnod with Life is Strange, there are other games that sort of follow the same formula, or refine it or change it. Do you see it as a good thing or a bad thing that there’s already this established formula that everybody knows?


Leah: I think what’s cool about it is that people do know it, so it gives us a real opportunity to go in and question some of those things that were assumptions, and in smart ways break that open. I think at Telltale for a while there almost got to be a sense of, there are best practices of how do you keep a player engaged as you’re sitting there thinking about the development. What it’s important for us to do is make sure those don’t become rules you have to abide by. There’s a project I’m working on right now, can’t talk about it too much—

Jason: We’re not gonna let you leave until you tell us what it is.

Leah: (laughs) We had a meeting in a room last week, where we’re talking about the fact that— a couple people are like, “It’s usually our best practice to maybe have a choice every X amount of seconds, minutes, whatever that is, and shouldn’t we be doing that here?” Part of me was just like, you know, if it’s right for the story, if you have enough things to do and you feel like you’re getting to discover and uncover and explore and do lots of other cool gamey activities, I’m okay if we have a scene that has zero dialogue whatsoever. As long as what you’re doing, you still recognize that we are amazing interactive storytellers, I think it’s cool that with that base, we now can make sure that as we’re looking at projects, we’re thinking about questioning all those rules, and knowing when’s the right time to do it. Like, Picasso knew how to make really good classical art before he decided to put—

Kirk: So you guys are like Picasso. (laughs)

Leah: (laughs) We’re gonna put two eyes on the side of people’s face. There’s gonna be a nose on the top of your head for some reason. But no, I think we’re now at that space where we know what does make good interactive narrative so to our core that we really are at a place where everybody’s focused on, “OK how do we innovate, how do we branch out?”


Jason: If you really want to innovate, you should have it so the player makes a decision and then it says on the bottom, “This character will NOT remember that.”

Listen to the whole episode for much more. As always, you can find Splitscreen on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

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*Telltale will remember that.*