Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Games has made quite the name for itself over the past few months, swooping in to complete The Walking Dead: The Final Season after Telltale’s abrupt closure. Shockingly, the developer was in its infancy with just five developers at the time of the deal and less than a year’s worth of experience under its belt.
Telltale’s closure took both fans and developers by surprise, shutting up shop with just two episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season released. Telltale’s former creative director Kent Mudle and Skybound Games CEO Ian Howe told Gamespot of the unusual developmental journey that the game had taken with the remaining two episodes.
Although Skybound was an established company in other media, Howe explained that the games division was comprised of just five people at the time of saving the game. Thanks to his 28 years’ worth of experience in the industry, Howe recognised that most of the publishing-related work had already been done on The Final Season, meaning that the rest was in the hands of developers.
The deal itself was handled in record-like time, with Telltale officials handing over the rights and assets to Skybound within the month. While the company still faces scrutiny for its lack of severance pay potentially breaking US law, Howe gives “huge credit to the management of Telltale who went out of their way and did everything they could to make this deal happen as quickly as it could.” This helped Skybound to temporarily bring on board around 40 Telltale alumni within 8 weeks of the original development shutting down.
“Telltale was literally the lowest maintenance team I've ever worked with, they literally just came back in and got on with the job,” praised Howe. “That to me speaks volumes about the character of the people there, but also the desire to get it finished. Our part compared to what these guys were doing was very small, but it was really all about the focus of getting these guys back in a room somewhere with the ability to finish the story.”
This was important to realise the original vision as it would have been created had Telltale not imploded. Mudle explains that the Episode 4, the final episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is incredibly dear to him and makes him “extremely emotional. I still can't even look at it without getting a little misty-eyed. I'm just so proud of the work everybody did. We all came together to make this beautiful thing and to leave that stretching back into all the years that I worked with all of those people. It's the end of an era, and it's sad, but I'm glad we got to at least finish it in style.”
KitGuru Says: It’s wonderful that many of the original developers have been able to put a full stop on their journey with The Walking Dead, and fans certainly seem to agree. I truly hope that any staff that Skybound is unable to keep employed find a new place of work soon.