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Firewatch by Campo Santo Games (Jake Rodkin & Sean Vanaman's new company)

posted by Rather Dashing on - last edited by Jennifer - Viewed by 16.5K users

Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, project leads on Telltale's The Walking Dead, have left Telltale Games to form their own games studio, Campo Santo.


Sean Vanaman via Campo Santo blog wrote:

Deciding to found and then actually CREATE a video game studio has felt like a mix of buying a winning lottery ticket and taking a brash detour that results in a near miss with a pedestrian. Impulse followed by action followed by sitting in your car hyperventilating. The outcome is thrilling at best and disastrous at worst.

There are so many reasons to NOT make games; but in the interest of focus, here are two.

Firstly, games hate to be made. They really would rather not be made and once they catch wind that they might be in the process of being made they break, stall, and use all of their static inertia to produce something that’s really not fun to work on, let alone play.

Secondly, the video game business — the thing that ostensibly allows a band of quixotic programmers, artists and designers to try to wrangle the stubborn monster mentioned in my previous point — is insane. It doesn’t have a very clear understanding of its (readily apparent) nature of risk-taking the way most risk-taking lines of business do. Beyond the risk, and the way it shapes the industry ecosystem, there are very few business oriented end-games that appeal to the types of people who like making interactive experiences. Sell the company? But we’re just now successful enough to make what we want! Create a hit franchise with multi-million-dollar sequels? Come on, can’t we make something new? The Venn diagram of why businesspeople start businesses and why developers choose to make games has a strange middle, indeed.

So why are we doing this? To be honest, it’s because we think we’ve found the right group of people to make the first reason not just worth enduring but actually thrilling. As we talk to our friends and industry colleagues about “doing something indie” with us, there’s a shared pragmatism informed by years in the industry that melds with the lingering youthful enthusiasm that got us into games to begin with. Some of us want to tell stories, some of us want to build systems, and some of us want to create beautiful looking worlds, but we all want to make something. The stultifying difficulty of making a good game is instantly tempered and then squashed.

Furthermore, we believe we’ve found the right partner to make the second reason — the insanity of the game business — moot (or at least insane in a new and unexpected way).

Our first game is being both backed by and made in collaboration with the stupendous, stupidly-successful Mac utility software-cum-design studio slash app/t-shirt/engineering company Panic Inc. from Portland, Oregon. Jake will probably get into it more in a forthcoming post, but, essentially, a long-standing friendship between Jake and Panic founders Cabel and Steve, along with a mutual admiration for not just what stuff we make but HOW we make stuff, lead us to the realization that we all had to work together.


It’s an unlikely partnership that means we get to conceive of, make, and distribute a video game the way we want to and the way we know how, with no per-prescribed set of rules or formula for how it’s done.

So off we go. Check back often and see what we’re up to. Follow us on twitter, perhaps. If you know Jake and me from the Idle Thumbs Podcast than you already know we’ll have a hard time not talking about how things are going. We’re lucky enough to set off with the artists and programmers and designers we’ve fawned over and been friends with for years but we’re also striking out with you; someone, presumably on the internet, who has enough interest to pay attention to an announcement like this and has enough excitement to pay attention to what comes next. We will work very hard to not disappoint.

Did we win the lottery? (It feels like it) Are we about to hit an old lady with our car? (I hope not). The shock is the same either way.


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    Vainamoinen Moderator

    Bloody Eugene wrote:
    Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, lead writers of TWD game, make a new software house named Campo Santo. Do this mean they will leave Telltale? What will happen to season 2? WHO will write the new story?

    I must admit, I'm rather shocked by the news. @Jake has been with Telltale almost right from the beginning, and Sean has already written for Tales of Monkey Island. And of course, they are the main writers behind The Walking Dead.

    The Campo Santo team confirmed to IGN that they have left Telltale and Klei, and will be working exclusively with the new group.

    says IGN. And that sounds very final. :( :(

    Then again, it's not like Telltale doesn't have real creative talent left. So don't worry TOO much.

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    FreddeN93 BANNED

    They couldn't find a worse time to leave now when Season Two is just around the corner...

  • It is not good news indeed, sure the other writers are good in there own right, but those two men made Walking Dead and a lot of Telltale games, this will in someway affect Wolf Among Us and Season 2 is negative ways, just how negative I don't know, I do wonder why they left even though I am sure we will never know.

  • Well, that's.... some pretty shocking news. Especially now, given that Season 2 is nearing. This may or may not affect their upcoming titles in a bad way. It's too early to tell exactly how teir departure will affect the rest of the team, but I'm still feeling confident.

  • If there were ever a time when we need puzzlebox or Kevin or another staff member to weigh in...

  • I guess they did not want to be associated with a company that releases shoddy coding work (TWD Vita and a multitude of bugs in other versions) and who furthermore insult their customers by giving them the silent treatment when issues are brought up (TWD Vita).

    TWD is great from a story perspective, but from a technical perspective many of the versions on different platforms are very poor indeed.

    I wish these guys the best in future endeavours. Telltale, well let's hear about a Vita patch.

  • I do want to know why, I know very well that it does not matter but it would be nice to hear something instead of what someone like AMC always says, they always say it was 'creative differences' and they drop it, I personally thought those two guys were amazing writers and have to wonder why they left while Telltale is still in the spotlight.

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    Kevin Telltale Staff

    Hey Everyone,

    Jake and Sean are indeed off doing their own new thing, and we couldn't be more excited for them (in fact, I was just having lunch with Jake today!) The simple answer is that they had been here a long time, and Telltale is focused on doing one thing amazingly well (episodic story games). They wanted to explore some other directions and I think we'll all be impressed when we see what they are up to!

    Any way, it was sad to see them go, but they'll always be members of the Telltale family!


    • Jake was like the last pillar of the old Telltale Games. This feels very LucasArts circa 2004. The old games & audience are abandoned for walking dead, telltales Star Wars in the quest for profit. Commercial realities indeed.

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        Vainamoinen Moderator

        I see your point. But I believe you exaggerate a lot. Especially with the LAEC/Star Wars - Telltale/TWD comparison... you can bring that up again when they've reached Season 42. ;)

        At the time, we don't even know if TWD will eventually have as many Seasons as Sam & Max. Just like the vampire craze, the zombie craze might not be without some kind of expiration date. ;)

        • Well it's quite clear Telltale has mistaken making a video game for one of the hottest TV franchises of the last 20 years for thinking their shit don't stink. Now they can abandon their past, their fans, their old franchises because everyone wants to "play" these episodic stories. I think how Fables does will tell a lot about whether people like what Telltale do or they just like the Walking Dead. The fact that the powers that be have no interest in a season 4 of Sam & Max I find very disheartening. That was the IP that launched Telltale.

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            Jennifer Moderator

            Hero1 wrote:

            The fact that the powers that be have no interest in a season 4 of Sam & Max I find very disheartening. That was the IP that launched Telltale.

            No one at Telltale ever said they don't have plans to make Sam & Max Season Four. In fact, other than The Walking Dead, the only license we know they are working on is Fables, and that was one of the big announcements of 2011 (and it was originally supposed to release in 2012). Telltale delayed all of their games because of the delay of Jurassic Park and then they had to delay them again due to the switch from monthly to bi-monthly releases for the first season of The Walking Dead. They got a lot of fan backlash for announcing things early and then having to change their projected release dates because of the delays. Now, they understandably don't announce things until they are just about ready to release.

            It's not that big of a lapse in time between Sam & Max seasons either. It's only been three years since Sam & Max Season Three. There was a two year break between Sam & Max Season Two and Three, so a four year break would be understandable, especially given the unexpected delays. And, Telltale did prove that they still care about the license by including Sam & Max in Poker Night 2.

            They have said that they have unannounced projects in the works, so, given that they've shown they care enough about the Sam & Max license to not lose it (remember, Steve Purcell owns the rights to the characters, and the rights will revert back to him if they aren't used such as what happened with Infinite Machine and LucasArts), I wouldn't be at all surprised if the fourth season of Sam & Max is one of those unannounced projects.

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            Kevin Telltale Staff

            Power that be here! Well aware of the stink, and I have a huge interest in Sam & Max!

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              Vainamoinen Moderator

              Well, Sam & Max certainly only start stinkin' when Season 4 turns out to be a choice & consequence driven "episodic story game". ;)

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                Jennifer Moderator

                Vainamoinen wrote:

                Well, Sam & Max certainly only start stinkin' when Season 4 turns out to be a choice & consequence driven "episodic story game". ;)

                Moral choice definitely wouldn't work in Sam & Max because they don't act based on any moral code, but rather on impulse.

                But there's no reason choice and consequence couldn't be worked into Sam & Max. The Wolf Among Us system of choosing between two locations, and having the other location you didn't choose still play out could be quite fun with the freelance police. Sam and Max often cause a lot of collateral damage when they help people, and that could be played up for laughs. It would be quite fun if the location you choose to go "help" actually ends up in worse condition than the location that you didn't go to. :)

                I know where you are going though. Puzzles are integral to Sam & Max given their game lineage. But, there's no reason choice and consequence and adventure puzzles have to be mutually exclusive. :)

          • By writing one sequel? Exaggerate much

    • Kevin, are you guys working on a patch to fix the crazy amount of stuttering in the Vita version of TWD? Since there's been no responses in the appropriate topics I have to ask here.

      Telltale should work on communication. Leaving customers hanging with issues and a silent treatment is not cool.

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        Kevin Telltale Staff

        Sorry you're having issues with the Vita version, but there are no plans to issue a patch at this time.

        • Say what? You release shoddy, stuttering software and you don't intend to fix it? Why exactly is that? You don't even begin to care do you?

          • before blaming telltale, maybe you should a) check the game install on what ever a vita uses b) reinstall it fresh, (if thats possible) c) check your vita firmware/operating system is up to date.

            heck even checking the battery is charged enough

            maybe even settings on the vita for stuff..

            • It has nothing to do with the install, the system or anything like that. The game is stuttering on all Vitas, I'm not the only one with this issue. It's simply a rushed, subpar effort that shouldn't have been released in such a state. There really isn't more to it. And Telltale doesn't plan on fixing it. It might not matter to you since you don't have the game on Vita, but since it's the version I bought I am appalled by this shoddy effort and even more by the unwillingness to fix it.

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            FreddeN93 BANNED

            Vita is not Telltale's main concern presently. The Walking Dead are available on many different platforms; Vita is their newest release. Heck, it was only yesterday the game got on the Vita. Telltale is doing the right thing to focus on the older platforms making them stable before focusing on the Vita. Have patience, I'm sure there will be a fix when Season Two is about to come in one or two months or so.

            • I am amazed at the lengths people go to defend a company that puts out rushed, stuttering software just because they are not affected themselves. Telltale just openly said that they don't even intent to fix it. The game should not even have been released on the state it shipped in. It's indicative of a company that just doesn't care beyond milking a popular franchise for all it is worth without putting in the effort needed to create technically proficient software with proper testing.

              • 'we' are amazed at the lengths some people go to, to slam a company that caters for fans requests of multi format releases on portable systems and then within a day complain when it doesn't work right, the main 'home console/pc' formats are not bug free but for most of us they work fine, and the ios versions have been worse than that.

                Ttg test stuff, if they didn't deem it worthy or playable it would not be released..but then again sony had to sign off on it as well right ? so if sony got the same install you did and they passed it why don't you go holla at them ?

                can you prove them saying they won't fix it ?

                don't forget, the game is made by one team and then a seperate team port it to the other ios, vita, formats... milking a franchise ? one season and 1 extra dlc and now because fans asked, demanded, begged, crave more, they made season 2...

  • Oh cool, I "don't have permission" to edit my own opening post.

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    FreddeN93 BANNED

    Still no information if this will affect The Walking Dead? I wish it didn't have to be in the middle of the production of a series I care about -- we all care about.

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