Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Comic-Con 2011: The Walking Dead Preview

At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Telltale game designer Jake Rodkin made it clear that The Walking Dead isn’t your normal zombie game. “The last shot of this game is probably not going to be a guy with two axes on top of a mile-high mountain of zombies,” he said.

We last checked in with Telltale and their progress with The Waking Dead at E3 2011, where we learned a few details about the game. You will play as Lee Everett, a prisoner who escapes after his police escort crashes during the zombie apocalypse, who partners up with Clementine, a young girl he meets along the way. Rodkin noted that players well-versed in “The Walking Dead” story will find a new path to explore, as the game won’t follow the narrative of the comic or television show. Rodkin explained that if they just rehashed the same story, players would think, “’Well I've seen him turn left twice now, I saw it in the comic book and in the show, so I'm going to go left.’ And as much as a designer would hope that people are going to experiment with your system, people would just want to see that story again.” That’s not to say you won’t see some familiar faces. Lee will come across several characters from the comic, including Rick Grimes.

The game begins with Lee in a police car as he’s being transferred to a new prison. The car crashes and Lee runs, but not before taking care of the driver, who is now undead. He stumbles upon an empty house with toys in the yard. Rodkin explains that inside the house you will see examples of environmental storytelling, “It's a kitchen that's been ransacked, but if you look around you'll see some specific stuff, like a stool that's been pushed up into the back corner, and the pantry full of food has been completely raided. You might wonder what's going on with that.” A nearby answer machine will reveal more about the house. Playing it once will be a message of a woman calling the babysitter at the house to explain specifics about her daughter’s care. The second message will be a warning to stay away. The third and final message will be the mother crying, telling her daughter that she loves her before the message ends abruptly.

Lee eventually meets the babysitter, who is now a zombie. Lee defends himself before Clementine, the daughter, runs in with a hammer for Lee to use as a weapon. Rodkin discussed the idea of pairing these two together to create a questionable partnership, “What he did, why he did it, what actually happened, is something that simmers on the back over the course of the story. He's in a cop car being taken to prison, so presumably he's been found guilty in a court of law for something.” This will be revealed over the course of the game.

Telltale is also leaning towards RPGs for inspiration for The Walking Dead. Where as in previous Telltale games, episodes were more self-contained than not. In The Walking Dead, choices and actions will carry consequences in each episode. If a character dies in the first episode, that character will remain dead through-out. But if they stay alive, they will appear in following episodes. “The Walking Dead is not really a game about people who save the world. It's more about a story of trying to survive as people inside of this huge and horrible situation,” Rodkin said, “even the smaller stuff, where, in a conversation, we want the permanent feel of these things. If you're talking to someone, and they ask you what you think about this or that and you're like that sounds like the stupidest thing you've ever heard and they're like what an asshole. Well, you've just told that person something that makes them think you're an asshole, and the game logs that down and moves on.”

The Walking Dead is planned to release sometime this year and is assumed to be available for PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, and possibly the Xbox 360.

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