The Walking Dead Survival Instinct will release on March 19th for the Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii U. We recently had the opportunity to chat with the game’s Principal FX Artist and System Designer, Glenn Gamble. Read on to learn what zombie madness lurks ahead for Daryl and Merle Dixon!
AMANDA DYAR: The Walking Dead Survival Instinct release is right around the corner. Fans will get to explore more of Merle and Daryl’s relationship in the game. How will having two brothers as the main characters affect gameplay as opposed to starting out with a group of random strangers (as seen in Telltale’s game series)?
GLENN GAMBLE: Who said you are starting out in a group of random strangers or with Merle? The characters you start the game with are new to fans but well known to Daryl. These are the first days of the apocalypse so you will get to see how those people survive in this strange new world: adapt fast or die.
As for Merle, exploring a relationship with him is a nice way of putting it. If you watch the show, you know he is more of a force of nature. You either get out of his way or you get hurt. Merle is the type that does better in this kind of world since it allows him more freedoms to capitalize on his particular skills – most of which society normally doesn’t approve.
Now, if it sounds like I am hedging a little here with details, that’s a fair accusation. We both know that a big part of what makes The Walking Dead universe so awesome is the story. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. We had two talented writers (one from the game industry and the other from television) write the script, and it has some really stellar moments. My personal favorite part is Merle’s favorite chair. I have said too much already. No more spoilers; my lips are sealed.
AMANDA: The Walking Dead Survival Instinct focuses more on survival than shooting. How will this be emphasized throughout the game, and how much can players interact with the elements in their environment? Basically, will players be able to interact with anything they come across or just those that are important to the gameplay?
GLENN: We tried to streamline everything across the board, so the player can focus more on playing the game and less about the micromanagement associated with survival. Though collecting some resources and items is vital, we didn’t want to make that a tedious chore. The decisions the player makes are on a group level when it comes to their survivors. In the game, there are glass bottles that can be thrown for a distraction and they are distinctive for that reason. This way a player can target in on them instead of having to dig through a pile of trash. Since things can go from bad to “Oh God, Oh God, we are all going to die” very quickly, this can allow for fast strategic improvisation from the player, which can mean the difference between life and death.
AMANDA: With the popularity of “The Walking Dead” TV series, I foresee a lot of first-time gamers coming out to play The Walking Dead Survival Instinct. How much of the television show is carried over into the game and will any unanswered questions from the show be answered in the game?
GLENN: Hopefully we carried everything over from the AMC “Walking Dead” series. We have their sound and music, with a lot of new materials as well. We copied the show’s desaturated color palettes and hot whites. Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker were even gracious enough to bring their immeasurable talents to voice Daryl and Merle—we’re very focused on authenticity and giving players a true “Walking Dead” gameplay experience. By setting the game to lead into Season 1, while Rick is still in his coma, we really got a chance to explore an area of the universe that has not been addressed. The main idea is to follow Daryl on his journey of survival, much how the first episodes of the show followed Rick. The big difference is Daryl is not in a coma when the game starts when the craziness was actually happening. Something to remember is survivors are not the same in the early days of outbreak as they are in Season 3, where they are forming alliances and trying to kill each other. At this time everyone still has that sense of hope that the authorities can help and that the military will rush in at any minute to save the day. We also get to expand on the story of Merle and Daryl and give them a bit more of the history that they have only alluded to in Seasons 2 and 3. The most exciting part in my opinion is we get to see how Daryl gets his crossbow, which has its own story and adventure unto itself.
AMANDA: One of the most important questions is how scary will The Walking Dead Survival Instinct be? Can we expect a ton of blood, gore and violence?
GLENN: “The Walking Dead” is one of those shows that is so intense; that is what makes it scary. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. Our goal is to mirror that feeling by keeping the player from ever feeling safe in our game. Of course we’ve set up a few scares, but the honest truth is that the behavior of our Walkers makes them far more effective at scaring us than we even hoped. You see, our Walkers’ A.I. is coded so that – as in the show – they don’t always behave in a predictable manner. They take all their cues from sensory perceptions: sight, smell, and hearing in particular. They might investigate something that isn’t there, they might take the long way to get to a player, some react faster than others. They can also smell you if you stay still for too long. There are also random dead bodies that are actually Walkers. So what this all boils down to is the Walkers can get the unexpected drop on us from time to time. Even on us, who made the game and know how it all works!
As far as blood and gore, what would The Walking Dead be if you couldn’t stab a Walker in the eye so deep that you get that satisfying squish when you hit the brain? Walker abuse is one of my big guilty pleasures of the show. Our Walker heads bruise when you hit them with a bat and our limbs amputate if you do a heavy slash with the machete. We spray blood on the walls when you shotgun them in the head. And when you play, try tossing a propane tank at them before firing a few rounds in it. This results in a fiery red mist that can’t be beat. I think we got the semi-coagulated, chunky red stuff covered.
AMANDA: Players will be able to complete side quests to come across other characters and expand their adventure. Will this be the only way to meet other characters, and how many of them will be from the TV show?
GLENN: There is a whole host of survivors you can run across as you play the game. What I love is their range of personalities. Some are terrified and would join the first person who offered help while others require a bit more coaxing. As it goes, each survivor has their own skills which can benefit Daryl in his journey as well as unlock different special relics at the end of the game to encourage replay. Which is a good thing since if you play the game through once, you only encounter about half the levels based on your decisions.
Another nice thing is that our areas are laid out in such a way that you will want to explore to find items and survivors, but you have to weigh that against the risk of encountering more Walkers. A great example of this is the second town in the game. There are three survivors there, but most players we’ve had check it out only encounter one of them. You tell them after they finished playing that there were two others and they want to go back in to try to find them. The side quests in Survival Instinct occur naturally. If you find a car that you want to appropriate, you must then find the keys for it. Or, when you are driving to your next location on the map, road events may occur – opportunities you can choose to take advantage of or situations you have to react to in order to continue your journey. Road events can range from searching an abandoned farmhouse to having to push cars out of the way on a blocked highway as a horde is shambling in. In that second example, you will use up more gas if you choose to find an alternate path to drive around the blocked highway. However, the option to drive around may not be there for the player who hasn’t explored enough to keep their fuel reserves up. Running out of gas on the side of the road is really not something you want to do.
AMANDA: Lastly, what makes The Walking Dead Survival Instinct stand out above all the other games in its genre? And what future DLC is planned?
GLENN: Crafting a compelling flesh-eating, brain dead menace is not as easy as one might think. These aren’t your typical video game bad guys that can run around and dive behind a table to shoot a gun back at you. The zombies that shamble through the Walking Dead universe are slow, unintelligent undead. There are no super zombies here. Our amazing programmers made them incredibly threatening and gave them an acute environmental awareness.
Three Walkers at once is a serious threat if you are thinking about going in for some hand-to-hand combat. That is a fairly low number if you consider how many enemies get thrown in most other games. These guys want to do nothing more than feed, and they will investigate anything that can lead them to a possible food source. If you make a lot of noise, the walkers will immediately know your location so a gun is usually a weapon of last resort. But you can also use noises to your advantage. For example, players can throw glass bottles to get the attention of the Walkers and then sneak past them while they’re distracted. Breaking glass is one of those ‘human sounds’ that they will go to investigate. Think of it as a high-stakes game of cat and mouse where you constantly have to evaluate the situation in front of (and sneaking up behind) you, hopefully without drawing too much attention to yourself.
As far as DLC goes, we have announced a weapon pack and a herd mode releasing later in April.
To learn more, visit the official The Walking Dead Survival Instinct website.
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