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Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Telltale Games

It’s your decision. You stand between two close friends that have been with you through thick and thin, only now there’s an issue that they just can’t agree on. The two are set to split, and it’s your choice as you to who you side with. They stand either side of you, waiting expectedly for your answer, looking you in the eyes as your brain ticks.  You twist your head back and forth, knowing that the choice will leave one of your close companions heart broken.

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Telltale Games is a developer that everyone will have heard of over the past few years. The team once stood as the last bastion of the point and click adventure, surviving the Sam & Max series and visiting other popular franchises such as Back to the Future and Jurassic Park with mixed results. However the company broke into the ‘mainstream’, if you like, in 2012 with its groundbreaking episodic series, The Walking Dead. Set in the same universe as Robert Kirkman’s popular comic book series, this five episode set stole hearts with its characters that were unlike anyone else found in videogames, and moral choices that created a new type of confliction within players.

The developer has now forged a genre all of its own, with The Wolf Among Us having recently wrapped up as The Walking Dead Season 2 heads towards its fourth episode, with adaptions of Borderlands and Game of Thrones also on the way. It is no doubt an exciting time to be working at Telltale Games, and the company should be thinking about how they can push their storytelling abilities further in the future. Perhaps as it moves on to new projects it should look at virtual reality (VR) technology’s potential to enrich a range of aspects in their dramas.

Telltale Games’ projects thrive on their writing, which includes both plot and character interaction. The latter could become much more effective in VR. We’ve grown strong links between The Walking Dead’s Lee and Clementine or The Wolf Among Us’ Bigby and Snow in the past as third-party participants in their lives. We’ve had to put ourselves in the metaphorical shoes of these protagonists to make the hard decisions. How could that change if Telltale Games started using a first-person perspective with support for the Oculus Rift. We could be Lee, establishing that connection to Clementine ourselves without that initial barrier.

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It’s an admittedly tricky concept, as Telltale Games’ protagonists usually have a personality of their own to share, which would be harder to establish in first-person. That said, other developers such as Irrational Games has conquered this area before with the likes of BioShock Infinite, so The Walking Dead developer would undoubtedly be able to master this approach as well.

Other staples of the developer’s titles could also be expanded upon. Searching environments usually plays a big part in the team’s work, and incorporating the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus could make this a less cumbersome affair as we naturally scope out our surroundings, piecing together how objects may come in handy ourselves instead of having the experience hint as to what we need to acquire.

Telltale Games would certainly have to address a few in-house issues if it was to attempt a VR title, however. The team isn’t known for its technical prowess, with bugs and framerate hitches plaguing its last few releases. On standard monitors, it’s an ugly site but in VR isn’t completely unacceptable, approaching issues such as simulator sickness. If the developer is to even think about a VR project, then it needs to sort these problems out first.

Other than that, we’re sure Telltale Games could produce a stellar VR experience that could redefine videogame storytelling. Perhaps it would be with a new IP, or a series its yet to start working on rather than its pre-existing work, but there’s little doubt that the developer could craft some of the most compelling VR experiences in the future.

‘Make it a (virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets.