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Report: Telltale is replacing its in-house engine with Unity

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Lurking-Ninja, Jun 25, 2018.

  1. elbows

    elbows

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    On the graphics side of things the scriptable render pipelines in Unity provide the potential for people to innovate on the graphics front without having to use their own engine.
     
  2. hongwaixuexi

    hongwaixuexi

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    TTG's tweet said:" We released some of our best content this year and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, but ultimately, that did not translate to sales."

    Is above sentence a contradiction? Why they failed to translate positive feedback to sales?
     
  3. angrypenguin

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    It's not a contradiction. The people who purchased their games loved them, but not enough people made that purchase.

    Commercially, you're better off having 100,000 people buy your thing and think it's ok than 1,000 people buy it and love it.

    It's reasonably common to have stuff where critical and commercial success are mismatched.
     
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  4. ShilohGames

    ShilohGames

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    It is possible that is the lesson here. But maybe there is still plenty of demand for graphic adventures, but not enough demand to justify a AAA level solution to the demand. Hundreds of employees is strictly a AAA thing, and it is overkill for many games. Maybe a studio with dozen of employees will be a better fit for delivering graphic adventures.
     
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  5. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    I would rather have thousand people love my game than 100k
    And even more so if you are a AAA level company and can't deliver AAA level content
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  6. ShilohGames

    ShilohGames

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    That is not really practical or necessary. The aircraft market is different than the game market. Aircraft safety is extremely important. Also, it is extremely difficult to start a new aircraft company compared to a game software business. There is a huge demand for increased aircraft safety and aircraft company stability. There is not a similar demand regarding game software businesses. If 99% of game developers went out of business today, the game industry would be fine and people would not be killed.

    And when a large game dev company does fail, the talented former employees often find something exciting to do with their talents. We might see dozens of small game devs start up as one big game dev folds. It creates a lot of unexpected opportunities. It is the opposite of a physical plane crash.
     
  7. ShilohGames

    ShilohGames

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    A hobbyist or a small indie dev can take that view, but a large studio cannot. If a company has hundreds of full time employees, then that company needs to deliver sales numbers to sustain payroll.
     
  8. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    That's why I'm a indie, I'm an artist not a hooker looking for customers
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
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  9. dogzerx2

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    Could just be failed expectations. Especially given that the company was growing so fast, expectations also grew... but with growth come costs ... they say you've got to spend money to make money, but that only works if resources are spent efficiently, otherwise innocent people pay the price. Rather than "sales", what he should have said is profits... didn't translate to profits, after all the expenses.
     
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  10. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Yes indeed, and I did specifically say that I was speaking "commercially".
     
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  11. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Indies are commercial (The successful ones), just not the same scale as AAA and they dont need to, less employees.
     
  12. Jacob_Unity

    Jacob_Unity

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    I think the issue is that they struck gold with the first Walking Dead since it was breathing life into a genre that was thought to be long gone.
    And then they overscaled and released more games than the genre could sustain. Too many franchises to carry their growth.
     
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  13. AndersMalmgren

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    I meant more that the only big gfx adventure studio went under. So in a sense it IS a thing of the past. Which is a bit sad, I have many fond memories from my youth playing Kings Quest and Police Quest without hardly knowing the words to type. And games like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, or when the VGA games started to popup. Oh man, or Sherlock Homles The Case of the Serrated Scalpel with digitized voice acting or Amazon The guardians of Eden.

    Good times
     
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  14. dogzerx2

    dogzerx2

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    I'm a bit out of touch but are adventure games as a genre not popular now? For me the idea of exploring and trying things in order to progress can never die.
    Telltale's mistake was to try to grow too fast relying only on adventure genre. You need a little more innovation for that, or pace down your growth. As they say 9 women can't make 1 baby in 1 month.

    Mixing zombies with adventure type was a winning formula for its time... kind of like mixing pokemon with GPS adventuring. The problem is that you never know when those formulas have an expiration date... sometimes they don't! Take minecraft for example, I mean wtf... I reckon minecraft is a refreshing idea, and I had fun with it, but boy it really did click with young audience in a way you wouldn't expect Legos on steroids that's what it is. But those are exceptions to the rule.
     
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  15. recursive

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    Anecdotal evidence suggest adventure-like games are actually having something of a comeback, possibly in part thanks to Telltale's TWD:
    • Despite my dislike for David Cage's attitude and writing, his games sell well with Sony's backing and the latest one seems to be selling better than any of the previous ones
    • Until Dawn did extremely well and it's getting a spiritual successor from the same developer.
    • Life is Strange did well enough to get a prequel spinoff from another studio (using Unity no less), a short-story from the main development team (Adventures of Captain Spirit), and Life is Strange 2 comes out in a few days.
    • Wadjet Eye just had a banner success after years of small/modest sales.
    • Anecdotal evidence in my household (specifically my SO) suggests the popularity of Visual Novel Games from western developers or other genre's blending Visual Novel elements are starting to become popular, especially with western indies, as the following occurs:
      • Twine's influence starts bleeding into the mainstream
      • the rise of RenPy and other frameworks, the rise of low-cost VN and VN-lite games on phones picks up. Seriously there's ads for those "life drama" games on my SO's phone browser all the time.
      • Faster turnaround on JPN import titles on PC (whether they're adult oriented or not) although steam has created a temporary hiccup.
      • Some story-oriented western Indie developers realize they're a cheaper risk than trying to bolt a complicated gameplay and inventory system onto a story in the process of changing rapidly. (SPOILER: I have some of my team interested in a quick VN project since I'm rebuilding our action game's framework with ECS, just to see what happens, as cost wise it's mostly art and the time spent writing if you don't get voice acting, the programming is trivial if you don't go overboard).
      • Relative success of Undertale, Dream Daddy, Hatoful Boyfriend, etc. Undertale even did well in Japan, apparently.
      • ROM 2064 did well enough to port it to everything under the sun and hire professional Voice Actors, and get translated to Japanese.
      • The recent kickstarter for Boyfriend Dungeon was apparently %415 funded. I'm not convinced this would have been possible even 3-4 years ago.
    Conclusions after various discussions with some other people:
    • The market for adventure-like games is fine, if anything throwing off convoluted inventory systems and focus on plot choices is probably the single greatest mass design change to help them grow. There's a rise in interest in "story-based" adventure games and VN type games, and it may continue to grow.
    • Telltale was at the right place at the right time, but because they grew too fast they lost the ability to be agile, and the stubborn refusal to change engines earlier due to their former CEO meant they had to keep throwing bodies at the problems their engine caused, causing a slow death spiral as the cost of production for most of their games became greater than the returns.
    • The frequent bugs turned away valuable "champion users" that would have helped some of their smaller titles to succeed or at least break even. Losing them made them lose the buzz that TWD built for each successive title.
      • I know I stopped buying their games due to save bugs on some of their titles and had no intention of buying again until they fixed the engine stability overall.
    • Their pricing model definitely harmed them, as people waited for the full season rather than buying in early.
    • Youtube played a part, but it's probably not as major a factor as it may seem on the surface.
    • Other smaller studios like Dontnod and others were able to get better graphical results and story setups with less overall funding, entirely on the back of original stories. Even in the case of Quantic Dream, they did assist Sony with several tech demos, but all of their content is at least their own IP.
      • This meant they were able to own at least part of the merchandising rights, even if the game is locked to a platform agreement. This also means there's no extra party to deal with for branding, and no licensing fees to negotiate. Telltale had basically no active development in original properties, and thus nothing they owned the merchandising rights to.
    Went a bit rambly, but between various discussions with roommates, developers at my employer, my indie dev team and a few dev friends of mine, I had a lot of this buzzing around in my head for the last several days.
     
  16. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Wait. All of that text and not a single mention of the remastered editions of old adventure games by Lucas Arts? :eek:

    https://store.steampowered.com/app/32360/The_Secret_of_Monkey_Island_Special_Edition/
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/388210/Day_of_the_Tentacle_Remastered/
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/316790/Grim_Fandango_Remastered/
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/228360/Full_Throttle_Remastered/
     
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  17. recursive

    recursive

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  18. Martin_H

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    I think I have this but never played it. To whom would you recommend the game? I never got a good idea of what this game compares to from looking at the screenshots on the store page.
     
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  19. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    The people in this industry must man up, devs in the enterprise sector would never agree to this S***

    Screenshot_20180925-110152.png
     
  20. Jacob_Unity

    Jacob_Unity

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    Oh yeah, I totally agree. I feel they managed to revive the genre with a new take on it, but the initial success made them overshoot. I love the genre, but it is in many ways a niche compared to others. There's definitely an audience, but it's a different market today, and the number of titles they managed to produced felt like oversaturation.
     
  21. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    I agree, I only played Back to the future myself. Which was fine, but after 3 games it did felt i was done with their style. Maybe look more at the classic ones, for example the classic UI from Lucasfilm games/Lucasarts
     
  22. elbows

    elbows

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  23. Ryiah

    Ryiah

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    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
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  24. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Severance pay is something you contract before you start your employment, not after (well it can be done after, but certainly not when after you get fired). Also if you have a correct configured contract the company will pay a Unemployment insurance premium for you.

    edit: minimum benefits are: Pension, long term sickness insurance, premium payment when sick, unemployment benefits. edit. Forgot life insurance. Edit2: if you are in a country without public healthcare a medical insurance is nice too
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
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  25. ptcmia

    ptcmia

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    Americas work culture is pretty bad. Not as bad as Japans tough.
     
  26. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    I agree, it's a bit silly leaving the back door open then being surprised when things don't go as planned. The fact remains that enterprise and business development uses the same skill set, isn't maximum risk.

    It's common sense to ask for a decent contract. People don't because game dev is fun and they're in their 20s-30s chasing some fun dream so any contract will be perfect. Then they are laid off (despite ignoring every single warning and prior incident)... and then they complain, as if they aren't adults.

    I mean I would complain if it WAS abuse WITHOUT choice. But it's really not! It's maximum choice! Those skills are in demand everywhere. Also I noticed pretty much every big name jumped on Telltale staff on twitter asking people if they wanted a job.

    Telltale's management made mistakes and the staff made the mistake of blindly trusting the contract. Instead of calling for unions, call for common sense. Your next employer will at least respect you for it, and will not reject you for asking. Put that on the table and you realise you don't need to spend $200+ a year on union fees either.

    That union fee can pay for a lot of other things, you know. Including insurance in the event you become unemployed. Anyone ever bothered using their brains at all?
     
  27. sinzer0

    sinzer0

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    Thats the type of stuff that is just complete incompetence on the executives part. There is no way senior executives did not know TellTale was on it's death bed a long time ago, and they did not even suspend hiring.
     
  28. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    Yeah it's done now though and while it's tragic I'm hoping the conversation can move away from union-this and union-that, because that's not going to EVER occur. Because it can't. If it could, it would've - long ago, because there is good money for unions.

    Instead of wasting time and effort on perusing useless actions, I want people to think about their contracts and think about insurance for redundancy, things like that. These are cheap and effective measures against unemployement. Also, having an accountant service - even if you're just staff at a studio, can pay for the insurance alone, so you don't actually lose any money.

    Yes that's a real thing in the US, UK and Europe, but employees don't do it. And I don't know why.

    In any case, my actions are, going forward:
    • Educating anyone we hire about their rights and how they can look after themselves in this industry
    • Making sure we never ever have a draconian policy that would mean people are laid off like this - everyone should have at least a couple of months legal or not
    Unity has a pretty good employee contract I'm betting because they attract top tier talent. So I think really its a good thing that there's developers with bad contracts - they can come to a better place with a better contract.

    And should start by going over their own existing contracts right now. It' not mcdonald's - bespoke is fine in the game industry. You can revise this.

    TLDR? The conversation should not be about whining you got hard done by, but by ensuring you take control of your own contracts. Because it won't end, so people need to be proactive.
     
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  29. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    But I just got the guillotine all oiled and ready to go.... :(
     
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  30. tiggus

    tiggus

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    Agree - I have seen this at other companies(one I worked at), some of them very large and it boggles my mind. Clearly they know they have a high chance of shutting the door in X timeframe but are interviewing and hiring people up to the week they shutdown.
     
  31. recursive

    recursive

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    It's heavily inspired by Snatcher and other JPN PC -> Console VN conversions of the time.
    Source: Playing it. Also I know the Art Director well before Midboss was even founded; he'd been wanting to make a Snatcher-like game since at least college.
     
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  32. angrypenguin

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    Yeah, it's unclear as to whether they were owed this and denied it, or if they were just surprised when it didn't happen of its own accord.

    That said, by the sounds of the linked Kotaku article, and with 20/20 hindsight, I would have been worried about the company's ability to pay it whether or not I was contractually owed it. Ongoing crunch to meet what should have been standard deadlines and repeated failure to meet sales targets are both indications that money is tight or the company's position is poor or both.

    I feel sorry for the workers involved, not just for the layoffs but also for the terrible conditions that seem to have been pervasive for a while now. :-(
     
  33. zombiegorilla

    zombiegorilla

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    That is the weird part to me. It sounds like they ran out of money, unexpectedly to not be able to pay severance or finish contracts. Which... shouldn’t happen. They knew what they had available. It seems like either someone wasn’t being honest somewhere in chain, or they were expecting an infusion to come from somewhere and it fell through. Like investments or contracts that didn’t pan out or something. You don’t suddenly not have the money to pay 200 people. You have the revenue to support the operation or you don’t, it doesn’t switch off one day. Obviously bad management, but there is probably something else at play.
     
  34. KyleHatch85

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    I think they were banking on the stranger things content from netflix, once they pulled out TellTale were left with nothing.

    A terrible way to do business and unfortunate for all the workers involved.
     
  35. fire7side

    fire7side

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    I'm amazed they lasted as long as they did. They took the story side to an extreme, I think. I haven't played any of them though except the Sam & Max games that were actually games. They should have moved more into stealth game play and kept a certain amount of inventory puzzles. They just dropped everything and started doing visual novels.
     
  36. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    TellTale thought that when they released something novel and somewhat new in The Walking Dead that they could just repeat that over and over with minimal changes or improvements and the financial results would be the same. You can only release what is essentially the same game so many times before what was new and exciting originally just isn't anymore.

    Even with unending franchises like COD or GTA there are significant differences between each iteration. Graphics improvements, new mechanics, etc. TellTale couldn't even bother with that. They would just take a new IP, coble together a new story, jam it into the same tired engine and mechanics virtually without change, and ship the product. Rinse/repeat. They had become essentially a reskin studio but with a AAA level of employees.

    Mismanagement is definitely the cause. The games TellTale sells are a style without a lot of mass appeal, even with a couple outlier hits. Their expenses should have been brought in line with their revenue, which would have meant fewer releases. But fewer releases would mean they weren't oversaturating their niche market, so would have probably helped them over the long run.
     
  37. angrypenguin

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    Well then, clearly I've been wasting all this time I spend reading books... they're just new stories delivered the same old ways. ;)

    I get what you're saying, but I don't think that's the fundamental issue here. Yes, CoD dresses up their graphics and makes some gameplay tweaks, but the reason that works isn't that it's some fundamental truth about success in game development, it works because that's what the CoD audience wants.

    My strong suspicion is that TellTale weren't really targeting "gamers" with all of their big IP stuff, but fans of those big IPs. If you like X and you have a device that can play games, try our interactive version of X! In that context their narrative-centric, hardware lite, simple mechanics approach makes loads of sense.

    I never really saw their stuff as games, I saw them much more as choose-your-own-adventure TV series. Perhaps they'd have landed a bigger audience and better alignment with expectations if they pitched themselves that way?
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
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  38. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Ultimately this. Their games were aimed squarely at TV watchers, not "gamers". In that sort of environment, missing a couple of key IP deals is the end of the road.
     
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