Telltale's third season of The Walking Dead begins later this year, two years on from the conclusion of season two. It marks a significant shift in the series, acting as both a continuation of the story and a new entry point for players who haven't played before.
Head of Creative Communications Job Stauffer discussed this and more in an interview with IBTimes UK conducted at Gamescom 2016. Most notably, he confirmed that "very well-known" characters from the comic book series, which these games run parallel to, will appear in the upcoming third season.
"As we get into this third season, it does start butting up against where the comics are now," said Stauffer. "Geographically we're very much closer to Virginia, and that does open the door... we will be seeing some characters from the comics, more highly integrated with this third season.
"We experimented with that in our mini-series earlier this year, The Walking Dead: Michonne, but as we go into season three – focusing on characters from the games – the door is open and we will see very well-known characters interacting with [protagonists] Clementine and Javier."
He did not offer any indication of who these characters would be.
Asked what fans can expect from season three, Stauffer discussed the changing themes of the series as it extends further from the initial viral outbreak which brought about its zombie apocalypse, as well as the addition of new character Javier.
"The themes of The Walking Dead are largely the same through and through. They've evolved over the hundred plus plus issues of the comics; themes of family and loss and the darkness of humanity that comes with restructuring society," said Stauffer.
"With Walking Dead season one, the themes were reflective of the earlier issues of the comic – the immediate outbreak, the loss of family and trying to stay together, and just survival. Then with the second season we explored smaller societies and smaller groups trying to get humanity rolling again.
"So for the third season – we haven't actually officially announced a title for the season yet, it may not be called Season Three – it is both a continuation of the first two seasons as well as a new beginning entirely. So, you'll be playing as two different characters. One is Javier, a Cuban American who is dealing with a lot of loss and a lot of issues with his own family and trying to find them, and he meets a young teenager named Clementine, who we know from the first two seasons.
"So whether you've played the first two or not, you'll be introduced to Clem and learn about her through Javier, and you'll also play as her. If you've played the first two, your story will be completely tailored to you based on the decisions you've made in seasons one and two. The door's open for new audiences but it also services the millions of players who played the first seasons."
Discussing the themes of season three in greater detail, he said. "Thematically, we're at an era where it's so many years into the apocalypse that it's not just about small groups trying to get society back up and running, it's larger groups and larger factions. People trying to figure out how to communicate with different communities, how does the mail work, how does commerce work, how do we get society back up and running in this new world, this new frontier of... 'What is America now, what is the world now, after the apocalypse?'."
Telltale Games released the first episode of The Walking Dead in April 2012, and by the time season one finale 'No Time Left' was released in November that same year, the game and Telltale's style, had become the biggest talking point in the industry.
The success of season one led to big changes in Telltale, which has continued to grow ever since. They've now released games based on Minecraft, Batman, Game of Thrones and Borderlands, with a second season of The Walking Dead released across late 2013 and 2014.