Telltale, famous for their story-telling games, have acquired UK game and technology developer Flavourworks for an undisclosed sum in order to bring their unique video technology to Telltale’s future projects.
Flavourworks video tech, TouchVideo, uses live action video, shot at cinema quality, to create interactive, playable gaming experiences light years beyond the CD-ROM-based ‘full motion video’ games of old.
Telltale, of course, are famous for their long-running mobile series such as The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and have just launched the first episode of a narrative game based on The Expanse. After achieving huge success, the expanded studio ran into difficulty as tastes changed and high-budget premium games fell out of favour alongside the new wave of free-to-play. The studio effectively closed before re-opening with new investment.
All-new video tech
Flavourworks are a company we’ve followed with interest as their unique video tech, while yet to break into the mainstream, always felt like something that nobody else had thought of. With one commercially available product out there and garnering praise - spooky ghost story Erica, available on mobile App Stores and consoles - the team had been working on a sequel, action/robbery thriller Cuttlefish and a three part adventure entitled Hush with first episode, Crane, due for release. It’s uncertain as to whether these unfinished products will see the light of day under new owners Telltale or if they were only ever intended as living proof tech demos of what their technology is capable of.
Whatever the backstory it appears that after garnering interest and investment from the likes of Hiro Capital, Flavourworks have now successfully achieved their endgame.
In brief, Flavourworks TouchVideo tech uses live action video loops to create video that you can touch and manipulate. On the surface, games look like you’re watching your favourite Netflix show but, with a swipe or a prod you can turn handles and push doors open, pick up and move objects or carefully twist the combination lock of a safe… The results are seamless and stunning. This is high-grade live action video that reacts to your touch thanks to carefully segueing between multiple streams, cunningly running video backwards and forwards and switching between multiple options and alternative takes without interruption. The playback and gameplay appears magical and, at times, ‘how did they do that?’ impossible.
The team refer to the gameplay as ‘Play Don’t Say’ - i.e. Making choices and playing an adventure game as you would any conventional game, rather than being bogged down in the traditional 'stop-start' of multiple choice text prompts and choices in other ‘live action’ games.
And it doesn’t end there.
In an intriguing sideline, the team were working on using pre-rendered PC and console quality graphics as ammo for their TouchVideo engine. By doing so they could create a touchscreen game with all the looks, frame rate and speed of a hi-spec, big screen PC or console game, but - with zero polygons to push around - playable on any portable device. It’s perhaps in this avenue that Telltale found Flavourworks tech most appealing, alongside internal test projects such as their (working title) ‘FlikTok’ concept - a touchable, interactive way to use their tech in new social video applications.
Big name backing
Gaming legend Ian Livingstone, co-founding partner of Hiro Capital, said, “The Flavourworks team, technology, and creative expertise is a perfect fit for Telltale. Following Telltale’s successful launch of The Expanse, with its strong reviews and excellent player feedback, I look forward to seeing what gameplay innovations a collaboration with Flavourworks will bring in building best-in-class narrative games.”
Zachary Slatter, CEO of Flavourworks, will join the Telltale management team as the managing director for Europe. Commenting on the deal Slatter said, “The Flavourworks team is delighted to be part of Telltale. We obviously recognized the iconic brand and obviously the team. We spent a lot of time really trying to innovate, particularly around the technology, getting it working on multiple different platforms and allowing us to bring these really graphically rich experiences to lower end devices, mobile connected TVs, and more.”