Telltale Announces Video Game/TV Show Hybrid Project
"Our goal is to create products that have a legitimate chance of winning both a Golden Globe and a Game of the Year."
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The Walking Dead developer Telltale Games on Tuesday announced its latest project, and it's probably not what you expected. Revealed to Entertainment Weekly is what Telltale calls a "Super Show," an ambitious-sounding new venture that is part TV show, part video game.
Telltale is working on the initiative with The Hunger Games and Orange is the New Black production company Lionsgate, which just today announced a "significant investment" in the developer.
The studio's trademark game development style already mirrors TV, in that its games are episodic and place a heavy emphasis on story and characters. But Super Show goes further, giving players the chance to choose dialogue and actions that can affect the entire series in new, potentially more dramatic ways.
How does it all work? Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner explains to EW:
"A 'Super Show' episode combines one part of interactive playable content with one part of scripted television style content," Bruner said. "Both pieces, when combined together, are what make an actual Super Show 'episode.' As we've been developing the series, we're using both mediums in concert to deliver our story. Developing both aspects simultaneously is key to utilizing this new medium. Both parts are first-class citizens during the writing and design process. It's not an interactive series with a show, or a TV show with a game, but a story integrated in a way that only Telltale can do. For us it's a very natural evolution of the interactive storytelling expertise we've pioneered."
Bruner went on to say that it's been a "huge challenge" to integrate the different production styles of live-action scripted content and games. Scripted content is often shot quickly, while game development usually involves and requires more iteration and flexibility, Bruner said.
"Our goal is to create products that have a legitimate chance of winning both a Golden Globe and a Game of the Year"-- Kevin Bruner
"But we've been producing games episodically for over 10 years and have brought a lot of television production techniques to our game studio," he explained.
Bruner further explained that Super Show episodes will contain more content than a typical hour-long TV show. "With this in mind, the release cadence will be more predictable like TV scheduling, but still a bit further apart like our games [are released] to allow newer audiences time to consume and discuss both aspects of the show across their game consoles, tablets, mobile phones, and computers," he said.
Telltale's first Super Show will be based on the developer's new IP, which it has teased extensively. The developer is working on the project with a "world-class creative partner" that was not named outright.
"Together we've created a world where we can really demonstrate the power of this new format and leverage the toolkit it brings to us as storytellers, much like we've done in the [game-only] space," Bruner said.
Going forward, Bruner teased that he can imagine that Telltale might build Super Shows based on the company's existing IP, but only "when it makes sense."
As you might expect, Bruner said he has high hopes for Super Shows in terms of their level of creative excellence.
"Our goal is to create products that have a legitimate chance of winning both a Golden Globe and a Game of the Year," he said. "This means both aspects of the productions must be first-class work."
Each Super Show episode, which is the interactive game and the scripted episode combined, will be released as a singular package. This is to allow viewers/players to enjoy the content in whatever order they would like.
"For instance, if you play the interactive episode first, certain elements of the scripted episode portion will be tailored to reflect some choices made in your interactive playthrough," Bruner said. "If you watch the show before playing, some elements in the interactive portions may be presented differently than if you played first. The interactive episodes will never release without a scripted episode, they will always come out together."
Later on, non-interactive episodes of the Super Show scripted content will be released as traditional TV-like episodes for streaming sites and broadcast TV. "While this obviously can't deliver the interactivity, this version of the scripted episodes will still stand as completely satisfying top-quality television entertainment," Bruner said.
In addition, Bruner discussed why aligning with Lionsgate for Super Shows was the right course of action.
"Successfully bringing a Super Show to market requires more than just game development and television acumen," he said. "It needs an entire integrated development, production, and publishing strategy. We felt Telltale and Lionsgate are both best in class at what we do and we're eager to combine our efforts and complement our skills."
Finally, Bruner made it clear that Telltale will continue to develop non-Super Show games in the future.
"We expect to have a healthy mix of both in our plans in the years ahead," he said. "You might even see us introduce other interesting ways to use modern technology to make stories more personal and enriching."
In other Telltale news, former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello has joined the developer's board of directors.
Telltale has a number of in-development projects. These include future installments in the company's Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands franchise, as well as a third season of The Walking Dead. What's more, Telltale is working on a Minecraft game.
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