×

Skybound Games: Modern Live-Action Video Games Inevitable

Skybound Games deep interest in narratively-driven games is driven in part by a belief that modern live-action adventure video games are an inevitability.

“I think this particular part of gaming, this particular genre is, is evolving quite rapidly,” Ian Howe, CEO of Skybound Games, told Variety in a recent interview. “I’m really pleased to see that because it’s a genre I personally love.”

Howe said his love classic adventure games go back to the days of Lucas Arts and even his own work on games like “Grim Fandango.”

That interest is in part why Skybound Games worked with Telltale Games on the studio’s take on “The Walking Dead.” It also drives some of the conversations the group — which is a part of Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment — had with other developers.

“We met with a lot of different companies around the world who are really trying to innovate heavily in this space in terms of how you tell stories in games and how you give the player agency and how you make those choices matter,” he said. “On the surface, it seems like an easy task, but once you really get into that — once you scratch the surface —  it’s an incredibly complex thing to do. It’s actually, in many respects, the most inefficient way of making a game because you end up leaving so much on the cutting room floor.

That’s one reason Telltale Games used the same approach for its many games, something for which Howe thinks the company was wrongly maligned.

“The reality is it’s incredibly difficult to do anything different,” he said. “I’ve met with many companies who are spending millions of dollars trying to innovate and trying to figure out how to do that better or bigger or more. And the truth is not many of them are coming up with anything that innovative yet, but I wait to see what’s going to come over the next couple of years.”

One company actively experimenting with story-driven game-like experiences in Netflix. The company released Telltale’s take on “Minecraft” on its platform and even released an episode of “Black Mirror” that seemed to layer the Telltale approach to adventure-style gaming to a live-action show. “Bandersnatch” was a sort of interactive fiction that may or may not be a video game, depending on who you ask.

“Is it a game? I guess I would not class it as a game probably,” Howe said. “I enjoyed it. I thought it was great. I thought it was an admirable attempt at introducing it into that medium. So I think what they did was great. I’d love to see more of it, but I don’t know if I’d class it as a game quite yet. I think it needs another level of interactivity.”

Ken Mudle, creative director of “The Walking Dead: The Final Season,” said he thinks that “Bandersnatch” shows that a developer could “basically make a Telltale game that happened to have live action visuals.”

“Interestingly Telltale actually ported ‘Minecraft: Story Mode’ to Netflix, which I think actually kind of gave ‘Bandersnatch’ its kick in the leg,” he said. “Stuff like the dialogue timer is exactly how Telltale Games. So I think you could actually even make it more of an adventure game with just live action for every shot. As long as it was well-written and well-designed.

“‘Bandersnatch’ was kind of a weird thing where it deliberately did the many many fake endings. You don’t really have choice in ‘Bandersnatch,’ it’s more about trying to pick apart a puzzle to reach the actual ending. It’s not actually about expressing yourself or making choices that lead to viable possibilities. It’s about trying to find the correct path through a thing, which is an approach you can take. But no one has yet done the Telltale thing, which is choices are about expressing your character.”

Howe said he thinks that creating such an experience — essentially a Telltale game with live action instead of computer graphics — is inevitable.

“There’s already been a couple of examples,” he said. “In some respects, the production cost of shooting live action in some respects is actually more efficient. I think once we get to a point where that technology can be strung together more effectively. I think that’s when we’ll really see a breakthrough. I think we are right there at the moment and I think that is a natural next step for it. Something I’m paying close attention to.

“I think anybody who’s interested in this space has to be paying attention to this.”

Popular on Variety

More Gaming

  • Telling Lies - Logan Marshall-Green

    Sam Barlow's 'Telling Lies' Government-Surveillance Thriller Game Sets Release Date

    After more than two years in the works, “Telling Lies” — the investigative thriller from acclaimed game creator Sam Barlow — is ready to take the stage. The game, produced with and released by Annapurna Interactive, will be available next Friday, Aug. 23, via Steam and Apple’s Mac and iOS app stores. “Telling Lies” will [...]

  • David Messinger, Activision Blizzard

    Activision Blizzard Hires CAA Veteran David Messinger as CMO

    Activision Blizzard tapped David Messinger, a former 15-plus-year veteran of CAA, as its first corporate-wide chief marketing officer. Messinger, based in Santa Monica, reports to Coddy Johnson, Activision Blizzard’s president and COO. It’s the first time the video-game company has appointed a CMO who will oversee the global marketing operations across all of Activision Blizzard [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Oculus Co-Founder Nate Mitchell Is Leaving Facebook

    Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell is leaving Facebook 7 years after launching the first Oculus Rift headset with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Mitchell announced the move on Reddit Tuesday, calling it “bittersweet news.” Mitchell said that he would take some time off to spend with his family. And while he committed to still being involved in [...]

  • nomadic seoul

    Nomadic Expands Abroad, Opens VR Center in Seoul

    Location-based virtual reality (VR) startup Nomadic is getting ready for an international expansion: The company will open its first VR center outside of the States in South Korea later this month. The new location, housed in the CGV Gangbyeon multiplex in Seoul, is being opened in partnership with theater chain CGV and technology provider CJ [...]

  • Singularity 6 - Anthony Leung and

    ‘Meaningful’ Games Start-Up Singularity 6 Raises $16.5 Million Round Led by Andreessen Horowitz

    Singularity 6, the start-up founded by ex-Riot Games developers that’s aiming to create a community-oriented game where players “can feel like they are valued and belong,” closed $16.5 million in Series A financing. The funding round was led by venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from seed investor London Venture Partners (LVP), which previously put [...]

  • Activision Q2 2019 Results Above Expectations,

    Activision Blizzard Q2 Beats Outlook, But Not Last Year's Second Quarter

    Down may not be the new up after all: Activision Blizzard celebrated its Q2 2019 earnings as a success story Thursday, with CEO Bobby Kotick saying: “Our second quarter results exceeded our prior outlook for both revenue and earnings per share.” But while the results were considerably better than the company’s previous outlook for the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content