The Old Tales Series? The Re-sold Tales Series? The Stole-Tales Series? This could be the hardest article I’ve ever had to name, but it will definitely be the easiest one to write. Telltale Games… Stop it. Now. Don’t make me come over there and spank you in front of all the real game developers. Stop it… no, don’t reach into that Marvel fandom and shamelessly ride the coattails of another successful franchise in order to re-sell established properties to mindless fans who are just paying for glorified fanfiction.
Or just go ahead and announce Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltales Series.
Telltales Games can make videogames. They’ve even managed to make games that I like. Their interactive novel approach is, while nothing new in gaming, refreshing. A deliberate change of pace from the deluge of shooting games on the market, Telltale’s repository of titles have indeed received positive reviews and critical acclaim.
But 50 Shades of Grey made a lot of money and is getting three films, so let’s hold off on the circle jerking for a minute or two, shall we?
I bring up the fiddly hues series because it is perfectly analogous of Telltales’ business practice. In this awful trilogy of novels, we see glorified fanfiction spun off from a hugely successful franchise masquerading as unique property. Everything about the composition of E.L James’ porn-for-pensioners trilogy is just Twilight fanfiction repackaged, re-told and re-sold to the masses. How is this any different from Telltales’ M.O?
All this company does is take ideas and intellectual properties that are already too big to fail, slap their name on them, and sell said properties’ back to their gullible fans. From the immensely popular Walking Dead series – created by Robert Kirkman – to the multi-award winning Game of Thrones series – created by George R.R. Martin – all the way through to Batman – created by two guys who were definitely not Telltales games – Telltales’ are horrendously unambitious when it comes to ‘creating’ videogames.
Just take a moment to consider how lazy this company is. They released Batman: The Telltales Series in the same year as the highly anticipated Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice movie came out. Right out of the gate, Telltale knew they didn’t have to market this game, the hype for the upcoming movie would sell the globally-recognised Batman brand for them. Furthermore, the casting of Batman was perhaps the laziest pick in the history of picking things.
Troy Baker? Troy. Baker. The guy who single-handedly redefined the term ‘bakers dozen’ on account of how many V.O roles he takes on and Telltale cast him to voice Batman? It doesn’t help that Baker phoned it in so hard in his role as The Dark Knight that Telltales had to pay to call collect, but even this sub-par performance speaks ill of the studio’s lack of craftsmanship regarding their approach to these IP’s.
Even the crime-scene investigation segments of the game are just offensive parodies of the superbly superior mechanic developed by Rocksteady games in their adaptation of the Batman franchise. Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham series transcended mere fanfiction and established itself as an independent universe that was even recognised by Warner Bros., whereas Telltales Tumblr-worthy attempt at Batman does nothing for the series.
Similarly, Telltale’s diabolical Minecraft: The TellTales Series did nada for the aforementioned franchise, other than profit from its success in the most egregious of ways. Minecraft is a title whose very axiomatic principle is its lack of story. The game is only as successful as it is because it does not attempt to constrain players in any way, allowing them to create their own plots, narratives, spaces, kingdoms, worlds – the list goes on. Suffice to say, the one thing Minecraft couldn’t possible benefit from is a weak, contrived story mode that does nothing at all to enhance the core experience of this monolithic title.
Enter Telltales Games and their ludicrous ‘addition’ to the Minecraft IP: a goddamn story mode. Seriously, what were they thinking with this one? Well, according to Kevin Boyle, the executive producer of Minecraft: Story Mode, he and his team were simply out to copy what Minecraft YouTubers were doing for years… except they wanted to charge you for it. This sickening admission was made during Minecon 2016. During a Q&A panel discussing the development of Minecraft: Story Mode, Boyle states:
“There are a lot of people out there using Minecraft to tell their own stories, and Telltale was really excited about doing something interactive that would let players participate in that story-telling”
What Boyle basically told the useful idiots at You paid for an unfinished game convention 2016 is Telltale were really excited about the prospect of selling you a game about a game in which you make up your own story, except the story is already made up. Telltale sold Minecraft to Minecraft players. They created a game in which you are not the author anymore, but a passive-aggressive observer. This hilarious statement is made two and a half minutes into the hour-long panel, that took place in California in October of this year.
How any consumer can read the above quote and not find Telltale Games utterly contemptible is beyond me. I mean, Boyle even goes on to say that the whole project was put together “pretty quickly” as if that denotes some kind of creative effort on the part of his company of thieves. I bet it took you no time at all to take another man’s work, cut it up into episodes, and sell it back to a fanbase that has already proved how eagerly it wants to be deprived of its money by virtue of paying for the unfinished product you guys ripped off of in the first place!
As if this wasn’t damning enough of Telltales’ lacklustre work ethic and shameful appropriating of a successful franchise, Boyle has the gall to then follow up with this panel-stealing line:
“As a fan…It was an interesting opportunity for me to take something I’m engaged with personally and turn it into my own work.”
Turn it into his own work? Are you serious, Kev? Exactly what part of Minecraft: Unnecessary Mode is your ‘own’ work? The fanfiction-esque, garbage story line, or the graphics, or the gameplay that just gets a copy-and-paste treatment from Telltale’s title to title? The very fact that, in the same panel, you acknowledge that YouTubers who were making their own role-plays and stories were your primary inspiration for cashing in on the success of the title is vile enough, but, as Gamespot’s Associate Editor Matt Espineli points out in GameSpot’s review for Episode one, “everything else is a direct lift from the original game”.
I have no doubt Espineli intended for this comment to be a plaudit aimed at the accuracy Telltale had in transplanting the iconic look and feel of Minecraft into their product, but surely I can’t be alone is reading this as an indictment of just how lazy the studio is? When the best thing you can say to a plagiarist is “your plagiarism is obvious”, I really wouldn’t be too keen to share that kind of praise with anyone, would you? Similarly, IGN’s Justin Davis makes the case against Minecraft: Lawsuit Mode perfectly in his video review, wherein he observes:
“Even more impressive is Minecraft’s gorgeous in-game sets. Each one looks like it was painstakingly and lovingly created directly in Minecraft itself.”
Well, Davis won’t be winning any spelling bees with his elaborate spelling of ‘forgery’, but credit to him for trying. The fact that this game gets credit for looking like the game it is stealing from is appalling. Plus, Minecraft: Scam Mode succeeds in taking away the one thing Boyle and his team were intent to steal from Mojang – the interactivity of Minecraft as a ‘platform’, as identified by Davis in his video review.
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