The Walking Dead: 9 Minutes With Robert Kirkman

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The Walking Dead: 9 Minutes With Robert Kirkman
Like many of you, I’m eagerly awaiting news on the release date of the third episode of Telltale Games’ superb PSN series The Walking Dead, a game that is intimately connected to the grim world of Robert Kirkman’s celebrated comic series.

I’ve long wondered just how involved Kirkman was with Telltale’s hit game series, so when I got a chance to interview him during Gamescom in Germany last week, I dropped my bratwurst and Kolsch and picked up the phone. I first met Kirkman during an interview for the late, great GamePro and, as always, the man is nothing if not humble about his considerable creative achievements. He modestly described The Walking Dead’s surge into mainstream pop culture as “a wild ride,” and expressed great satisfaction with Telltale’s work on the game.

My chat with Kirkman was short (he’s a busy man!) but it yielded some fascinating insights into the creative processes behind one of the biggest properties in comics, TV, and gaming.

Robert Kirkman

Photo by Megan Mack

The Walking Dead for PS3 (PSN) by Telltale GamesThe Walking Dead: Episode Two - Starved for Help

PlayStation.Blog: Why did you choose Telltale Games to adapt the world of your comic to a video game series?
Robert Kirkman: The Walking Dead is a lot of things, but at its core it’s a dramatic human story that’s very emotional. Telltale came in with a proposal that involved doing a very different kind of video game. A video game that didn’t focus on shooting zombies or hiding from zombies or being chased by zombies…they focused on the emotional, dramatic component. It was a very keen focus on decision making and how that affects your characters, and also how those characters evolved over the course of a narrative. Telltale wanted to focus on the storytelling as opposed to the action, which I thought was really cool. They really got The Walking Dead, and they’ve done it justice.

PSB: Did you intend The Walking Dead game to be serialized from the start? If so, why?
RK: The serialization model Telltale does they do very well. The comic book is a serialized story, and I think it’s a cool thing to transition into a game. Being able to play a two-hour chunk of game and end it on a cliffhanger, with a period of time between chapters that builds anticipation for the next story is a cool aspect for the comic. I don’t think there was any “plan” to be serialized, but I think it was a cool carryover to Telltale’s business model.

PSB: So how much input did you provide into the type of game Telltale made? Did you have key creative mandates?
RK: We had a lot of macro meetings early on about what this game would be. In the very early stages, it was very important to me that this game would be something that mattered to the fans. So this game very much takes place in the world of The Walking Dead comic book, and it deals with things that exist there. And you can’t really tell a story like that if Rick Grimes is the main character. Because [the implication would be], “if this story is so important, how come we never saw it or talked about it in the comic? This is clearly a side thing!”

So very early on we decided to focus on a different character and a different story that would weave in and out of the comic book story in interesting and meaningful ways. But we also wanted it to be a standalone story so that the comic and game can complement each other without contradicting each other. We wanted you to experience them both and get a fuller, richer experience. So yeah, those meetings were something I was very involved with.

Talking with the guys at Telltale, I said, “The Walking Dead is sad. If you can make players sad, that’s really what we’re after here. You want to drive the emotional impact of what it would be like to live in this world, and if you can achieve that in a game, that would be amazing.” And that was something the Telltale team was already striving for — making this a really emotional experience, not just scary or exciting. Those were the kinds of decisions we made very early on. But the type of game it is, and the way the gameplay works, is all Telltale.

The Walking Dead: Episode Two - Starved for Help

PSB: Did you have a broad vision for this game, story-speaking? Did you help write any of it?
RK: A lot of it was stuff Telltale came to the table with. They had Lee Everett, they had the storylines and other things. They were working with Gary Whitta — who’s a friend of mine and wrote The Book of Eli, as well as being a huge The Walking Dead fan — to craft this story. One of the things I’m so proud of as The Walking Dead expands is that I’m able to say, “okay, the comic book is mine.” I can make a good comic book, I’m a comic book writer.

But when it comes to making a television show, I don’t know anything about television. So I’ll work with someone like Glen Mazzara, who is our showrunner and knows TV, to make the best the best show possible. I’m not a novelist, so if I want to work on a novel I’ll work with someone like Jay Bonansinga to write it so I know it’ll be good. I like to work with people who know what they’re doing.

So I’m able to step back and say, “Telltale knows how to make good video games.” I’m not going to come in and say, “we should do this and that” because I don’t make video games. Allowing an expert to come in and do what they do best, I think, is the secret to The Walking Dead becoming as big as it is.

PSB: Speaking of the novels, I recently finished The Rise of the Governor. And I understand the next book Road to Woodbury will focus on Lili, an infamous character from the comics. Will there be any tie-in to the game? Is there any chance Lili appear in future episodes of the game, for example?

RK: There will definitely be a character named Lili in the game. Whether or not that ends up being the same character we know and love from the comic and the upcoming novel remains to be seen. But yeah, the new novel comes out in October and I’m excited about it. The novel series, the comic series, and the video game all are intertwined in the same universe. Keeping that continuity straight is something that’s been very important to me, and yeah, we’ll definitely see them continue to connect in a lot of interesting ways moving forward.

PSB: Here’s a question from @iLLeGaL_sKiLLz: on Twitter: “I wish they would delve into the backstory of how the infection happened.” What’s your take on that? Is that a good idea?

RK: Well, I don’t ever really plan on doing that just because I feel like The Walking Dead is set in a very real, grounded world. Once you go past the fact that zombies are walking around trying to eat people, you’re gonna get more and more into the realm of science fiction. Any kind of explanation for why the zombies are walking around, to me, is just going to make it less grounded, less dramatic, and less real for the readers. I like keeping that as an unknown backstory that is really completely unimportant to our characters as the story moves forward. It’s not something that I definitively want to tackle.

PSB: Here’s a question from a Twitter user whose handle I misplaced: “Why do you hate us so? Why must you build up our love only to tear it down? Did someone hurt you?” I think he’s referring to the fact that you have not been shy about killing characters in this series.

RK: [laughs] I don’t know, I’m really just trying to entertain! I understand that it can be frustrating at times. I love the readers and I love the fact that they’re as invested in the characters as they are. I’m just trying to write a compelling and interesting story. When people are upset that a fictional character dies, it’s just telling me that I’m doing my job.

Comments are closed.


14 Author Replies

  • I can’t wait until Episode 3! This game is as interesting as the TV series with lessons on humanity and whatnot. Clementine is my favorite character!

    • Me neither :) I think the game is actually arguably better than the show, at least from a story perspective. But YMMV

  • Would be nice to know more about the origin. Not with an explaination, but at least with what happened at the start. Why the military got destroyed too, etc.

    PS: I love the TV serie, the comics and the game! ^_^

    • Yeah, it would be cool to somehow see those first few days. As for the Army, I’m assuming the zombies ate them ^_^

  • I don’t really like adventure games,but this one is a gem.

  • The biggest mistake Telltale made with The Walking Dead was telling people it would be a month between episodes when they knew damn well they couldn’t meet those deadlines.

    • I think it’s tough making an episodic game that incorporates some user feedback from episode to episode, which I know Telltale does using data they collect from different choices and so forth. Definitely an ambitious project

  • At least they’re making more after episode 5.

  • Episodes 3 – 5 please… so tired of waiting.

  • @ REZBLUE, your totally correct.

    As a matter of fact I believe TTG said that episode 3 was going to be ready to for a mid august release, yet here we are and we have no info on what’s happening.

    Sid, this is the last time I do business with telltale games.

    • Fair enough. I’m impatient, too, but the game has been worth the wait each time. For some context, Kirkman has taken similar heat for being late on some issues of the comic book earlier in its run — it was quite controversial at the time, and he had to constantly provide updates to frustrated readers, but I think it’s also evidence that players/readers are super invested in the story.

  • that was a nice interview, and like the others I’m too tired of waiting for the 3rd episode to be release…

  • Just now signed up for Playstation Plus! Can not wait to play this game finally! Free of charge too! (Cept the $50 fee for PS Plus)

    Infamous, LBP2, Ratchet and Clank. Why did I not sign up for this earlier?!?!?!?!

  • Cant wait for Episode 3, really hoping it gets released next week…Telltale said middle of august :(

  • I cant wait to get the rest of the episodes
    free from ps+

  • Can’t believe there wasn’t a single question about when episode 3 would hit psn. :/

    • Kirkman wouldn’t know. I’m in the same boat as you guys, eagerly waiting for word from Telltale. When they talk, we’ll be sure to spread the word!

  • @ – Nick930930 – your a plus member huh?? very interesting…

  • I wasn’t sure about the walking dead games but got the first 2 free with playstation plus now i’m hooked will be buying the rest of the episodes. 4th season of Sam and Max coming soon? also would love for the next telltale games to come to the vita. thanks telltale

  • Thanks for the great interview! I love this game and the TV series!

    As a Plus member, since we were offered the first two episodes free, I hope Sony doesn’t leave us hanging on whether or not we can expect future episodes for free. Either the episodes should be free when they first release or Sony should give Plus members a bundle discount on the remaining three.

    I wouldn’t be too happy if I felt like I needed to buy each new one as they released at $5/ea. only to have Sony offer them for free at a special discount a few months down the road.

  • Cant wait for Episode 3. The game is really interesting and fun clementine is by far my favorite character.

  • I can’t wait for TWD ep.3! im getting it as soon as its released!

  • Giving PS+ subscribers the first two episodes free and not the rest is stupid. Those of us who have gotten it and played, are already hooked and we would like to have the rest free otherwise, getting the first two episodes and that’s it? Come on.


  • It’s hard to say if the season pass was worth it. Sure the wait between episodes is exhausting, but it definitely builds up anticipation to the next episode, I just hope it isn’t too long resulting in replaying the first two episodes just to jog my memory on what choices I made.

    Otherwise, these are quality titles and definitely worth picking up for anyone even remotely interested in wanting to invest themselves in an interesting world, story, strong characters and writing, with clever (and difficult) choices given to the player.

  • Everyone is excited for EP 3, but I am excited for whichever one Gary Whitta is writing to be honest! Love the game, love the universe of course, but I will wait patiently and remember the first rule of this game…

    Don’t ask when the next episode is coming out. Also PC version of TWD with my PS3 controller means I’m still at least being half loyal to Sony. :P

  • @19, I don’t necessarily think it’s stupid, at least not on their part. It’s an obvious ploy to get you to buy the series if you want to play episode 3. Did you really think they were going to give you the rest for free? I wouldn’t be surprised if Telltale is delaying the release of the rest of the series for this very reason. You have to remember – they don’t give a damn about the consumer or what you think about their methods, their first goal is to make money, clean and simple. By giving out the first two episodes for free on plus, they are probably going to get several thousand more sales at the very least when episode three comes out.

  • Any chance there will be a super discount on a season pass for Plus subscribers or is this another example of a drug dealer giving freebies to hook the person for life.

  • when will the next ep comeout?

  • Sid I dont know where to say this but I need to say it Uncharted 3 is 19.99 now …. and there isnt a single brand new copy at any gamestop in Puerto Rico lol tell naughtydog or whoever is in charge of that to make more copies and send them out here! Why lower the price if the product isnt available :(

  • You know you guys who want everything FREE sound very impatient and unfair to the people who are trying their est to create a quality game. “Haste makes waste” is somethig I strongly believe in. Be patient guys this is a gem worth the wait. I love PS+ an everything it has offered me. I joined not for free stuff but because I believe it was going to help Playstation bring such great indie titles to the masses. Be patient and the rewards will continue to be shared for eVeryone.

  • I paid $19.99 for all of the episodes only to find out that a couple months later, they would be free for playstation plus members and I am one of them. Looks like I wasted $10. Damn good game too, also sick of waiting months for a new episode. Feels like they’re timing it for the week Season 3 of the Walking Dead airs on television.

  • Bad A** game, love the story line. But this will be the last game from telltale I purchase. I was under the impression it would be month to month. Way too long between chapters. Get it togeather Telltale.

  • still waiting for episode 3 >_>
    gosh are we gonna wait 2 months more for episode 4 as well?!!!!!

  • I think the TV Show is bad, and I haven’t read the comics (yet) so I was skeptical at first. But I love the Telltale games (ate through Back to the Future and Sam & Max), so I gave this a try. This game is SO GOOD! Man, It’s so good that I wonder if there is a link between the TV Show and the Comics, because the game is nothing like the TV Show. Anyway, I too am sold out for the next installment of “The Walking Dead: The Game”.

    Also, I like how Telltale manages Episode-based games now. Before, each episode was its own game, with its own trophy list, but that meant that you couldn’t get Platinum (I have 100% in all 5 BttF and Sam&Max games, but no platinum)… You need ~30 trophies to be elligible for a platinum, but these games were 5 * [11-13] trophies… A total of 55 trophies, but no platinum. This new way, where you get episode 1, then buy addon episodes is great! I won’t have to wait for a Blu-Ray version and re-purchase it to get the platinum (like I did with Back to the Future).

  • Am I really the only one that understands the delay? Not only that, I support it! Please telltale DO NOT rush the game! Launch when the game is ready, not a single day earlier!
    I had the feeling that you guys kinda rushed the last episode. Releasing on the very last day of june on a… friday?? You see, the story was great, but he transiction between scenes wasn’t as smooth as the 1st episode. Sometimes it felt the game was going to crash (which never did, hopefully)

    Telltale games, you gotta understand (most) gamers doesnt know what they want. They THINK they want the game NOW .But what they really want is the best experience possible, even if it means some delays.

    @Sid Shuman you think you could pass this feedback to Telltale somehow? Sometimes the majority isnt right. This is one of those times. Again, do not rush. Make the game the best it could be.

    And for all you impatient gamers: Shut the hell up and let developers work.

  • @31 by all means read the comics!! It will blow your mind!
    I’m also reading Thiefs of Thieves which is also great, proving that Kirkman is Comic God!

  • Win great games with PlayStation3, join the Dying2Win Competition

  • GamePro was awesome back in the day. I was Jetfire on the forums there. Whatever happened to avast?

  • Next time they should get the date right..I mean it’s their job!

  • Absolutely Fantastic game series thus far, look forward to each and every new chapter.
    I have been told by friends the books are just as great, must go get them… :)

  • @mush_the_painter…. why is that interesting. You sound pretty suspicious.

  • This game really opened my eyes to a completely new way of playing games. This is more of an interactive TV show/Comic book than a game. Well, it’s a game, but… you know what I mean. I feel like this is a completely untapped area of interactive media that can really take off if done correctly. I really did feel like I was watching a movie, only I was the director! (In a sense…) The Walking Dead game is really really awesome, I enjoyed every second of it. I’m more scared of losing characters than I am of the zombies, which is what looks like their intentions were, so kudos to everyone involved! I’ve only seen the TV show, first season, but since I played the game I went out and bought the first 21 comic books, and have watched the 2nd season. Definitely one of the best stories/series I’ve ever experienced. Seriously, to everyone who has been involved with The Walking Dead on the whole, congratulations. This is art.

  • Love the Comic Series.

    Like the TV Show.

    Enjoy the TellTale games.

    Worried about the FPS game coming out.

    Can we expect more webisodes for the show as well? The ones that showed who certain zombies where before they became zombies was just brilliant.

    Love Carl in the Comic, hate Carl (and some of the other) versions of the tv show. Sad to see so many changes, Carl/Sophia, Dale/Andrea, etc etc etc..

  • Looking forward to more episodes of the game and the TV show, since the comics have finally jumped the shark with issue #100 (nice goin’ , Kirkman >:-( )

  • Silly sid…i know only 1 and 2 are free. This is not a good game to BUY, but i wait long enough it will be free.

  • Why is everyone saying that its stupid to give only the first two episodes for free for PS+? Its not dumb….think about it. Its not that great of a game. So you give the 1-2 episodes away for free and get people to like it and try it. Then to the people who cant wait to get it for free will pay for them.

  • Can’t wait for episode 3!! Need to buy the season pass.

  • Im so glad that this game was free for ps+, i downloaded it on my brothers account, played it on mine, and now im hooked. definately buying part 3, 4, and 5 when their out. this is one of the only games i really care about the story, and thats rare for me.

  • im hearing good talk about the walking dead, i love the show very hard not to look away sreise. but i havent played the games yet. i love horror and advanture games so i must give a try.

  • Well, Sony only replys to the questions that are to praise it´s policies.

    I´m a user of PSN+ since first hour.
    I bought the season pass for this game because Sony promisse i can get 5 episodes for the price of 4. And i has stupid to bought the season pass.
    After a few months, i see that sony offers the first two episodes to plus users.
    I´m not against it, because i like the games, and other users would too, but i think i never will buy other telltale season pass again.
    The games has to came 1 for month (this in April) and at the end of August we still waiting for EP3.
    Sony make me trow money down the toilet, and i don´t like that.
    This is the third time i post asking any justification about this a never got a reply…
    Let´s see if this time any one have the courage to say something about this.

  • I love the games, but it’s damn near september and only 2 episodes…. I don’t like it when people say things and don’t do it. If i didn’t already buy the season pass i wouldn’t continue to play them, but i paid for it so il wait. This was my first game from these guys and it will be my last. I figured they would have hade the first few episodes ready when it came out in April, but if they are really making it as they go why say ‘new episode every month’?

  • when will it come out?

  • i hope more episodes gets available for ps plus :D

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