In one of the least-secretive announcements at last night's Telltale Games event in San Francisco, the studio officially announced their plans to bring Robert Kirkman's beloved comic book series to the video game market. Few details were available in this early stage of development, but based on the meager tidbits of information I could gather, fans of the series should start getting excited for "The Walking Dead" game.
"The Walking Dead" is more than just a run-of-the-mill zombie story. Kirkman's ability to force the reader into truly caring about the characters on the page, sometimes ripping out our hearts in the process, is what makes this series truly special. Sure, there's a zombie apocalypse afoot, but Kirkman's genius lies in focusing on the way a living nightmare affects the human condition, using the ghoulish undead as a set-piece as opposed to the centerpiece.
"I came to Telltale to tell stories...to write about characters," Sean Vanaman, the game's lead designer and writer told me. "The Walking Dead is about more than just zombies, it's largely about how people interact with other people when they're placed into this situation."
The game will be released episodically, as is the norm for Telltale, and for those wondering if "The Walking Dead" will play like a "Left 4 Dead" zombie shooter, the answer is an unequivocal no.
"There's 200 million games out there where you shoot or decapitate zombies," said Jake Rodkin, the game's designer and director. "We're interested in something different. For every zombie bite, there's probably four or five terrible things that people are doing purely to screw with other people. It's that character interaction that we're excited about."
Kirkman has signed a "multi-year, multi-title" agreement with Telltale, and according to both Rodkin and Vanaman, the development team has an open line of communication with the series' creator. This should come as solace to die-hard "Walking Dead" fans, who have expressed some resentment towards the AMC television series' deviation from the comic's canon. Remember the bizarre inclusion of the Center for Disease Control? When asked about the upcoming game's alignment with the graphic novels, Vanaman offered an assuring statement.
"What we do in the game," he said, "needs to live in harmony with what already exists."
There's no indication yet as to whether the game's storyline will be an outright retelling of the comic's narrative, or if players will be controlling the books' main characters, such as leading protagonist Rick Grimes. We do know that the game will not be played in the Telltale's oft used point-and-click format, and that the development team is looking to take advantage of episodic content's ability to leave players with narrative cliffhangers.
With so little information available at this point, it's difficult to truly ascertain where "The Walking Dead" game might be headed. Still, after speaking with Vanaman and Rodkin, I can tell you (as a long-time devoted fan of the series) that I feel completely confident that the game is in more than capable hands.
"The Walking Dead" is slated for release on PC, Mac, iPad, and consoles in Q4 2011. Telltale has promised to reveal more information on the game at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.