Development of The Walking Dead: The Final Season remains on pause as Skybound Games continues legal discussions around the game’s future.
Taking part in a Reddit AMA, Skybound Games CEO Ian Howe said while Episode 3 was close to completion before developer Telltale’s closure, “nobody is currently working on the game”. Skybound wants to pick up the game and take it to completion, including wrapping up work on Episode 4, which was previously in pre-production.
Despite this, he added that Telltale had been “incredibly helpful in trying to make this happen quickly”. Skybound is also working to get original team members back on the project, but Howe admitted this was proving difficult.
Around 250 employees were laid off suddenly from Telltale, with a 25-person skeleton crew remaining on to fulfil contractual obligations - which has also since been let go. Staff made redundant were done so without any severance.
Some employees have already moved on to new jobs while others aren’t keen to return to the project. Meanwhile, Skybound Games is based in LA while Telltale was situated in San Rafael in the Bay Area, making a commute impractical.
We’re only going to look outside of that group in situations where we have no other choice.Ian Howe
To be continued?
“Quite simply, some of the team have already been offered new opportunities (which is a really good thing) so we’re still figuring out who is available and who isn’t,” said Howe.
“It’s our absolute intention to complete this story with the people who have bought it this far. We’re only going to look outside of that group in situations where we have no other choice, which hopefully will be not be too often.
“The other thing to consider is even if some of the team are still looking for a job, that doesn’t automatically mean that they want to come back.
“These guys have put a huge amount of emotion into this series and they’ve been through a tough couple of weeks. It would be completely understandable if that meant some of the team have reservations about coming back to finish the game.”
Howe also said in another reply that some staff on the project were already close to leaving the project before the layoffs due to their commitments on the title wrapping up.
“It's unfair to ask someone to come back and do a couple of weeks work, especially if that would get in the way of another job offer, so this is just one example of some of the challenges we face,” he said.
“Every single member of the development team has a unique personal situation and we have to take all of that into account, so there really isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, we have to look at it on a case by case basis and that's why it's not a quick process.”
Despite all the problems, Howe said he “fully expects” The Walking Dead: The Final Season Episode 3 to release this year.
“I'll be very disappointed if we can't make that happen,” he said.
As well as discussing the future of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, Howe also answered questions about working conditions in the games industry.
I can say that I would never expect or ask anyone to work what would be considered inhumane hours.Ian Howe
Previous reports have suggested there was a “toxic management” at Telltale and that staff were overworked on a constant basis.
“I can’t speak to the working conditions of any other company, I honestly have no more knowledge than you about some of the alleged conditions at various gaming companies, I likely read the same news reports as you and it’s certainly been a topic of conversation in the industry,” said Howe.
“What I can say, is that I’ve always been a huge advocate of a good work/life balance, I don’t believe people working 70 to 80 hours a week is sustainable or healthy, I don’t do that and wouldn’t expect anyone who works for me to do anything remotely like that.
“We haven’t hired anyone yet, nor have we made any offers, because we’re not at the stage where we can do that. It’s a long process that unfortunately can only happen in a specific order. What we have as of today, is a goal to complete the game with as many of the original team as makes sense and that’s only if those people want to come back.
“Regarding salary information, I think you have to ask yourself if you’d come back to finish the game on a reduced salary? I’m almost certain I wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to.”
Elaborating on the issue of crunch, he added: “I can say that I would never expect or ask anyone to work what would be considered inhumane hours, so unequivocally yes, I can ensure that [staff won’t be].”