Telltale Games Reviews | Glassdoor

Telltale Games Reviews

Updated November 17, 2017
68 reviews

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2.8
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Telltale Games CEO Pete Hawley
Pete Hawley
2 Ratings

68 Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Some extremely talented people to learn from (in 8 reviews)

  • Unlimited PTO is nice, benefits are okay (in 5 reviews)

Cons
  • Pay is terribly low for a studio based in the Bay Area or North Bay (in 8 reviews)

  • The company remains in a state of transition from a small to medium-large studio, with all the growing pains that go with that (in 6 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Good place to start, but you won't want to stay long"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Rafael, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Rafael, CA
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Telltale Games full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    - cool people to work with; felt like a family at times
    - IPs could be exciting to the right people
    - flexibility with PTO
    - good place to get your start and learn about the ins and outs of making games very quickly

    Cons

    - felt like constant crunch; no downtime during the year to just take it easy and work on the finer details of the product
    - pay was way too low for the location and raises only came with promotions or yearly review (capped at 4%)
    - some teams are overworked and end up burnt out constantly (QA, Chore, Build/D+R, Production)


  2. Helpful (4)

    "Cool people but constant churn"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Art Department
    Former Employee - Art Department
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Telltale Games full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Some ok licenses to work on - Marvel, TWD, Batman, Minecraft can be really cool for some people to work on

    Lots of shipped titles under your belt - 16-18 per year

    Ok benefits and "unlimited PTO" - Medical Vision Dental etc not mind blowing but these days its important that its at least passable

    Cool people - Everyone is friendly even management. HR is caring and helpful, people go out of their way to help others and be nice to new people.

    Cons

    Constantly on - No time for preproduction, style development or tech development. You will roll from one project to another to another to another

    Terrible engine - Its where art goes to die most of the time. The teams make great looking art but because of the crazy constraints of the engine and sub par lighting it just gets cut in half quality wise. Animation gets hit the hardest and is a constant complaint on game reviews. Its difficult to work with, wastes tons of time dealing with quirks and is pretty unstable.

    "Unlimited PTO" - A major benefit they wave around. It's not really new or innovative and I've heard it mentioned in lieu of salary increases as something that is so special at Telltale. The truth is - an awkward pressure exists that more or less says 'yeah you can take time off when you need it' but don't take more than 2 or 3 days. There are plenty of people who fully indulge, schedule and take time without recourse admittedly. Because of the very fast paced schedule its just not really possible to take more than a day or two off without running into scheduling issues.

    Insane reliance on project management software - It feels like TTG just buys every piece of software Atlassian releases because they heard a different studio is using it. JIRA is used inefficiently and differently on every project, estimates make no sense. Then its all used to drive and budget the project, also to let everyone know how many bugs they need to fix - 48 hours from launch

    High turnover rate - Lack of company culture, high pressure deadlines, terrible engine, low pay

    Low pay - The pay for the area is incredibly low for artists especially it seems. I've heard numbers less than $50k offered for non-junior positions to live and work in one of the most expensive areas in the country. All nearby areas are also expensive. If you're getting less than $65k a year plan on living an hour away or having 4 roommates. There is an annual 1%-3% cost of living raise that's given to you after some arbitrary review process that takes 2-3 months and seems really off base.

    No discernable impact on the project - Most of the time and for most disciplines you will have 0 impact on the project. None. Very little input if given to the artist and over creatives actually making the things people will see. Most things are decided by EPs and CDs and at times random other people who walk by their offices. Obviously the licensor relationship is important to maintain but it really feels like a lot of the times the artists aren't being paid to be creative, they are being paid to follow some guys instructions. For some people thats a good thing but after shipping the same game 16 times it can get a bit old to keep following the same orders over and over again

    Bonuses - They often low ball people and say that episodic bonus will make up for it. You will get a tiny check every episode that ships IF you worked a decent amount of hours on in. If you work on multiple projects you wont get as many even though you work on multiple projects. You'll also complete a good amount of work on the first episode and then less and less per episode meaning you likely won't get those bonuses

    For people considering TTG as their next job - If this is your first big break, great, take it. If you don't mind driving in terrible traffic and living an hour away, cool! If you don't need a salary a family can survive on, this is the place for you! You'll get a ton of shipped titles under your belt in a year or so and lots of production line experience. A job is a job if you are in need.

         If you have other options, if you're experienced and can afford to look around a little longer, if you have a family and need a certain salary, I'd take a pass and look elsewhere. Just decline politely and on good terms and you can always hit them up later. There are cool people at Telltale and if you like grunt work and getting things done it can be ok. But cost of living coupled with salary and schedule make it a hard sell for the average game developer

    Advice to Management

    Pay more. Use a different engine on a side project to get it figured out.

  3. Helpful (3)

    "CEO has much to grow and learn, Morale is low, Sinking ship"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Telltale Games full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    -Telltale was once a fun creative place
    -Nice and talented crew
    -Some managers care
    -Friday bagels and bi-weekly Mondays we are given donuts and Red Whale Coffee
    -Chance to explore different and cool franchises and build resume quickly
    -Good benefits and decent bonus per episode delivered
    -Good paid time off policy

    Cons

    -It is very difficult to be heard in this company unless you are upper management
    -Franchise partners can be very specific and sometimes difficult to work with
    -Communication easily gets lost compared to other studios
    -Aging and troubled technology that gets force-fed new features that later hinders performance
    -Current CEO is from Zynga and seems to think layoffs are the best way to make up for a giant financial loss
    -3 CEOs in the past year!
    -Studio seems to love saying they want to work on original IP but never seems to actually occur
    -No actual company culture
    -Every project seems to be managed differently
    -Pay is terribly low for a studio based in the Bay Area or North Bay
    -Employees are laid off because executives end up later coming to realize they made a mistake when everyone was warning them about it to begin with
    -Annual reviews do not offer employees a chance to express career goals
    -Too many projects that take advantage and become dependent on new talent that gets paid way too little

    Advice to Management

    Have a heart and be open to people outside of a certain paygrade. Do not let 2 years pass by and after laying off 25% of your workforce announce that the company is not meeting its goals.

    To CEO PETE HAWLEY: Can you not take the day off on the day of layoffs. Have the courage to face the people you are letting go. Do not lie during your first meeting with the company that there will not be any layoffs coming and then have a massive layoff 1 month later. People who have been with Telltale for almost a decade decide to start new chapters of their lives feeling confident that when the CEO says there will not be layoffs that they can take that to the bank. Your lied and put our lives in jeopardy.

    If management cares about telling good stories and want to take the crown back then take risks and start being loyal to your fans and especially your employees.

    To the members of the board: Morale is low and Pete is not helping. Your employees are not expecting the studio to last much longer.


  4. Helpful (2)

    "A Good First Game Studio, but Not Much Else... :("

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Art
    Former Employee - Art
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Telltale Games full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    I wish I had more pros to offer, but here goes. The rank and file are all great people to hang out with, you get to work on lots of different IPs, you ship a great many games (which looks good on a resume). There are a lot of talented people here with good lessons to teach you. Unlimited PTO is nice, benefits are okay. Overtime isn't really asked of you (unless you're in choreography and VFX). It's a pretty stable studio (or was, until recently).

    Cons

    And here come the cons.

    Telltale will train you to churn out work very quickly, but the production schedule is so accelerated that there's no time for polish of any kind. The people at the end of the pipeline get the shaft repeatedly (animation, VFX, sound, choreography), and every time the flames of a current episode have finally been put out, those departments hear that things will be better managed the next episode around. No change ever happens there. Chore is expected to change shots and acting at the drop of a hat. The animators do good work in a ridiculously small amount of time and then it gets frankensteined together in the engine after they've left the project for the next episode, which results in nasty pops and other unpleasantness, not to mention unfair criticism in reviews. If you're looking for reel material, you'll have to make it in your off-hours at home. The accelerated production pace also results in no desire to change engines, because time would have to be taken out of the schedule to learn a new and better one...so they cling to their ancient Tool, which is both a nightmare to work in and to play a game on. The only thing these games have on their side is the writing, and I can't imagine how pressured that department must feel.

    Management seems uniformly hellbent on never heeding a word of the people they oversee. If you're not a lead or in the upper echelons of the company, your voice goes unheard. You are a cog in the machine, and you are expected to polish the turd they hand to you. Executives decide on story beats, for better or worse, and wait to decide on these until the 11th hour, a pro for the "iterative" process. If anyone has a genuinely good idea, it's shot down, or fought tooth and nail because the company doesn't want to take the time to pursue it. If you want a promotion, get good at politicking, because it is everywhere. The amount of backstabbing and miscommunication has to be seen to be believed. Nobody in leadership seems interested in playing current games, either, which seems like a weird con until you observe that Telltale has been making the same kinds of games for years, with no real difference between them. They need fresh ideas and they are not exposing themselves to them. They also love love LOVE having pointless meetings to talk and get nothing done. Most people get more work completed if they never attend one.

    The pay is also horrible, not just for games, but for the area. The Bay is one of, if not the most, expensive areas in the country, and they do not compensate well for cost-of-living. Making $50k is barely enough, and they will never give you a meaningful raise after a year except for what's needed to compensate for inflation. You have to threaten to leave to see any kind of better pay or promotion, and what you ask for when you are offered a job is likely what you will continue to get for as long as you're there. If you're fine with making a not-great salary, having room mates, and dealing with a super long commute, then go for it. You can get bonuses for successfully shipping an episode on time, but if deadlines get moved back because of decisions further up the chain for story reworks, your chance of a bonus is nil. This really rankles when you're in the end of the pipeline and got all your work done on time for the original deadline. The bonuses aren't even that much, either, which doesn't help. If you have a family to support, I don't know that I'd recommend it.

    All in all, this is a good place to work if you're just trying to get your foot in the door of the games industry, but don't look to stay long. Artistic stagnation is a real problem, and it will get worse the longer you stick around. Get in, ship some games, get out.

    Advice to Management

    Stop back-stabbing. Get the whole story before you accuse an employee of misconduct, or talk behind their back with your groupies. You are jumping to conclusions and putting words in other peoples' mouths far too often. Learn to value the opinions and ideas of the people who work under you, or the turnover is going to keep being high as they look for greener pastures. And believe me, your Glassdoor will continue to get worse and you will have a tougher time hiring because of it. Learn from the mistakes you made on previous episodes and work to right them. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to work out better is the definition of insanity. Play some games so you know what people like, and realize that Telltale's formula and engine have aged incredibly badly. And DO something about it. If the same people keep making the decisions, nothing will ever be fresh again.


  5. Helpful (1)

    "Not a great place for long term; not healthy"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Telltale Games full-time

    Pros

    + can meet some nice people
    + at least if you "need" to do overtime they provide dinner

    Cons

    - crunch is chronic
    - upper management can be disrespectful of you as a person and your time, often "asking" for OT sometimes last minute
    - outdated tech, process flow, and project planning all need to be improved upon (this deficiency results in the OT)
    - no true original IP to work on; licensed IPs is the name of the game
    - high turnover rate

    Advice to Management

    Start respecting your employees and treat them as people; compromising that to reach financial goals is terrible. May be an ok foot-in-the-door place, but currently not a place to invest in long term.


  6. "Dubious"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    A chance to further your writing skills.

    Cons

    I would have serious concerns about the ethics of any company that asks for writing applicants to submit writing samples only if they agree to sign a waiver stating that Telltale cannot be held responsible for any similarities between their games/stories and applicants’ materials. Nice way to get material for free.


  7. "Good place to grow career"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Telltale Games full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Great IPs, good benefits, projects are cool, allowed to actually be creative, come up with ideas that actually get implemented in game.

    Cons

    Employees can bring dogs in to work and I'm allergic.

  8. "Fun and friendly work environment"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Rafael, CA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in San Rafael, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Telltale Games full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Great benefits, friendly colleagues, awesome product

    Cons

    I wish they offered free lunch, but they do have vending machines with healthy options.


  9. "Turbulent but looking up"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Sound Designer
    Current Employee - Sound Designer
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Telltale Games (Less than a year)

    Pros

    close knit dev teams. intimate relationship with content

    Cons

    compressed schedules. same-ish content and game styles.

    Advice to Management

    focus on original IP. be more disciplined with content review, edits and workflow. listen to your fans


  10. Helpful (3)

    "Not the place to be - so many better options other than a career starter."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I have been working at Telltale Games full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    - hard to get fired
    - unlimited PTO
    - cool IPs
    - get credit on lots of titles

    Cons

    - totally unstable. corrupt people in charge, talented people leave, managers useless, and schedules are unrealistic
    - same embarrassing reviews about tech/performance but no real changes
    - every year they beg us to stay because "it will get better" but the biggest salaries go to the biggest jerks

    Advice to Management

    - care more about being professional and pay attention to who is actually doing good work. stop rewarding the people who don't know how to do their jobs.


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