To Delos Crossing and back: Memories from Tell Me Why’s development

On August 27, 2020, players all over the world experienced Tell Me Why for the very first time, exploring Delos Crossing and unraveling the Ronan family’s past alongside Alyson and Tyler.

Today marks one year since then, and our team hopes that Tell Me Why has left you with meaningful memories – whether because of the game itself, or where you played it, or who you played it with.

Since memory is such a big part of Tell Me Why’s story, our team wanted to honor its anniversary by sharing memories of our own from throughout the game’s development.

On each anniversary of Tell Me Why’s chapter releases – August 27, September 3, and September 10 – we’ll update this page with insights, behind-the-scenes photos, concept art and more from our team across DONTNOD Entertainment and Xbox Game Studios Publishing. Keep checking back each week!

 

Name: Elena Montuschi

Job Title on Tell Me Why: 3D Animator, DONTNOD

Current Job Title: Junior Associate Producer, DONTNOD

Favorite Line of Dialogue: “You can’t let yourself be defined by the parts that are broken.” This is what Mary-Ann said when Sam was injured.

Favorite Tell Me Why Development Memories:

  • The moment we first heard the soundtrack was so intense and precious (I’ve cried!)
  • When I started to feel “at home” in the Ronan House after months spent working in it
  • When we have seen our friends and colleagues having an interview for the game!
  • Watching people’s reaction to the first trailer!

Favorite Thing You Contributed to the Game: Making Alyson and Tyler hugging each other after years apart!

Favorite Facts About Tell Me Why’s Development:

  • All the weird bugs! (Like when Alyson had a huge head!)
  • Alyson had a brown/blond shatush at the beginning! It then evolved into her beautiful wavy hairstyle with blond highlights!
  • They built a wooden car for the mocap shooting!

A Personal Message for Fans: This game means so much to me: it has been a beautiful experience I have been lucky to share with an awesome team <3 Thanks for playing the game, we mean it!

Close-up of Alyson's concept art, featuring a blond shatush.
Close-ups of some Alyson Ronan concept art, featuring a beautiful blond shatush.

 

A screenshot in which Alyson's head is twice as big as normal.
(We don’t want to know how this happened.)

 

Name: Erik Yeats

Job Title on Tell Me Why: Publishing Services Project Manager, Xbox Game Studios Publishing

Current Job Title: DevOps Product Manager, Xbox Game Studios Publishing

Favorite Tell Me Why Character(s): The Crafty Goblins!!!

Favorite Line of Dialogue: “We look out for each other. That’s what goblins do.” – Tyler Ronan

Favorite Thing You Contributed to the Game: I contributed nothing, but I get to support people who make amazing things! That means I get to claim credit for everyone else’s accomplishments. 😉 (My team built the website and the tool that aggregates player decisions to show you how your decisions compare.)

A Personal Message for Fans: This game, and the fans, mean so much to me. I am so proud to have been even a little part of something that was able to touch your lives.

A black tattoo on light skin featuring the Crafty Goblins.
Erik Yeats (Publishing Services Project Manager, Xbox) got a tattoo of the Crafty Goblins!

 

Name: Frederic Liebgott

Job Title on Tell Me Why: Lead Animator, DONTNOD

Current Job Title: Lead Animator, DONTNOD

Favorite Tell Me Why Character(s): I really liked Sam and Michael, because they bring some lighter moments in this heavy story.

Favorite Tell Me Why Development Memories:

  • The discussions between animators and the real team for finding the good tone and bringing as much emotion as possible on each scene with the facial animation were always very interesting.
  • The motion capture shooting with a great technical team (Metricminds) and great actors. Everyone was so talented and professional.
  • It was really interesting to think up the system for the exotic gameplays (Fishing, plush battle…) from scratch. We formed strike teams to think on it with little time or budget but cool ideas to make it doable.

Favorite Thing You Contributed to the Game: The different animations phases in the dynamic dialogues to keep the scene engaging with as few animations as possible. Giving life to Tyler and Alyson faces in the key moments (the revelations, the lake scene, the flashbacks…)

Favorite Facts About Tell Me Why’s Development: I’m proud to have been able to deliver a game with so much cinematic (the equivalent length of an animated series) with such a small animation team within a healthy work environment.

A Personal Message for Fans: Working on a game with such a strong engagement was a luxury and an honour. I hope that the next [games from DONTNOD] will be as impactful.

Elise Baldwin and Dennis Cheng smiling on a ferry boat with mountains behind them.
Elise Baldwin (Senior Audio Director, Xbox) and Dennis Cheng (Executive Producer, Xbox) enjoying the ferry to Hoonah, Alaska during the Tell Me Why team’s research trip.

 

Name: C. Riana Manuel

Job Title on Tell Me Why: Product Marketing Manager, Xbox

Current Job Title: Director, Brand; G4

Favorite Line of Dialogue: This never appeared in the game, but my absolute favorite line in canon (part of an extended universe press kit that early fans and influencers received) is a note written to Tyler from his Fireweed counselor, Aaron. It reads “…Remember: when the rules are written against you, change the game!”

Favorite Tell Me Why Development Memories:

  • Watching the IRL scavenger hunt that the marketing, community, and narrative teams crafted unfold in real time as fans connected dots and followed the Secret Keeper’s clues to special BTS content.
  • Developing a thoughtful and inclusive spoiler guide to ensure fans have the information needed to experience the story of Tell Me Why without fear of unforeseen triggers or trauma.
  • Creating the Tell Me Why Developer Interview series on Xbox’s YouTube channel – having those conversations taught me so much about the level of consideration and care that DONTNOD and Xbox put into bringing Tyler, Alyson, and Delos Crossing to life.

Favorite Thing You Contributed to the Game: Commissioning Jeff Skaflestad and Lisa Andersson’s Tlingit formline print on wood posters, along with a certificate of authenticity explaining the artform in our limited-edition press kit package.

A Personal Message for Fans: If any of the characters, settings, or stories in this game have expanded your own worldview, please share that newfound perspective with someone in your life.

Riana Manuel holding out a poster featuring Tlingit formline art.
Riana Manuel (Product Marketing Manager, Xbox) with one of our limited-edition wood posters.

 

Name: Lucie Prunier

Job Title on Tell Me Why: Senior Associate Producer, DONTNOD

Current Job Title: Senior Associate Producer, DONTNOD

Favorite Tell Me Why Character: Sam: despite all his flaws and mistakes, he is trying to be a decent person.

Favorite Tell Me Why Development Memories:

  • Working with [composer] Ryan Lott was a real pleasure.
  • The design team had regular episode reviews where we all watched one team member play, and we noted improvement suggestions. It was very constructive, and helped appreciate how far we’d come every time.

Favorite Facts About Tell Me Why’s Development: We were able to create an impactful game within a healthy and supportive work environment.

A Personal Message for Fans: Thank you so much for your support! I was a DONTNOD fan before working here, and I know all too well what our games can represent for fans. I’m honoured I could work on one so narratively deep and with an important message.

A "photo" of Alyson and Michael sliding down stairs in a cardboard box.
An in-game photo of Alyson and Michael as teenagers.

 

Name: Dimitri Weideli

Job Title on Tell Me Why: Producer, DONTNOD

Current Job Title: Executive Producer, DONTNOD

Favorite Tell Me Why Character(s): The twins as children. I like the idea to see these characters in the past, see what they’ve been through and to understand their present through all the flashbacks.

Favorite Tell Me Why Development Memories:

  • At the release of episode 1, and waiting at the same time the publication of the first reviews and see the Metacritic going up, and thinking “Yes the people loved it :)”
  • All the MotionCapture sessions : planning, shooting, and see the game coming to life through the help of the actors, the team and the mocap studio

Favorite Thing You Contributed To the Game:

  • Organize and manage the Mocap sessions.
  • Work with an amazing team, and find solutions together to make this game as great and meaningful as it is.

Favorite Facts about Tell Me Why’s Development:

  • For a Mocap Session an actor couldn’t play his part, so while we waited for a long term solution, I had to take the suit and “perform” some small Michael animation. ^^
  • We had a lot of bugs with Alyson’s jacket and hair; By bug we mean they were always moving in weird unatural ways when Alyson was not moving… We spent days to fix and refix these bugs!”

A Personal Message for Fans: Thanks a lot for playing the game!

Dimitri Weideli sitting in a black mocap suit.
Dimitri Weideli (Producer, DONTNOD) performing motion capture for Michael during the Chapter 3 fishing scene.

 

Name: Jesse Hiestand

Job Title on Tell Me Why: Web Developer, Xbox Game Studios Publishing

Current Job Title: Senior Full Stack Web Developer, Xbox Game Studios Publishing

Favorite Scene: The moment of levity & youthful joy where Tyler & Michael are winging stuffed Tom Vecchis at each other.

Favorite Tell Me Why Development Memories: The pins & needles that the Web Team sat on during the page by page, slow reveal of the Book of Goblins artwork & characters. Getting the imagery to layer juuuuust right for the hero on the website.

Favorite Thing You Contributed to the Game: The website!

Favorite Facts About Tell Me Why’s Development: There’s a poster in the [Xbox] office with a dialogue bubble taped to it that finishes the title with well-known song lyrics.

A Personal Message for Fans: We all also wanted Tyler’s denim jacket immediately.

Finalized concept art of Tyler Ronan.

 

Name: Yoann Pignolé

Job Title on Tell Me Why: Lead Designer, DONTNOD

Current Job Title: Lead Designer, DONTNOD

Favorite Tell Me Why Character: Michael, for his good mood, benevolence and humour.

Favorite Line of Dialogue: “She was trying to save the planet way before Al Gore made it cool.”

Favorite Scene: The Ronan House attic, in Chapter 3, where Alyson and Tyler pick up the pieces of Mary-Ann’s story.

Favorite Tell Me Why Development Memories:

  • First time I saw Florence [Guittard]’s illustrations for the Book of Goblins. So beautiful!
  • The atmosphere in the design team, full of energy, talent and humor. Thank you 🙂

Favorite Thing You Contributed to the Game: To have done everything possible to make the design team happy to work on the project and to bring their ideas to life.

Favorite Fact About Tell Me Why’s Development: For the passage under the house, in Chapter 1, we planned to integrate a puzzle using the power of twins, where the player had to match the image of the interior of the house transmitted by Alyson with the configuration of the basement. In the end, we realized that it didn’t make sense and broke the emotional fabric. It’s not easy for a designer to take away a more advanced gameplay opportunity, but it’s a good lesson in the importance of properly integrating a puzzle to keep a coherence between what is being told, the atmosphere, and the gameplay.

A Personal Message for Fans: Thank you all to play our game. We did our best and we put our heart into it and it’s always moving to see that the result is loved by the players, whether they’re used to DONTNOD games or newcomers. See you for our next production 😉

Concept art of the crawlspace under the Ronan House.
Concept art of the crawlspace under the Ronan House.

 

Check back on Friday, September 3 – Chapter 2’s first anniversary – for even more memories from the team!

Tyler and Alyson walking to their car.
Michael Abila walking next to Tyler and Alyson outside the Vecchi store.
Alyson's car in front of the house in summer.