When we became aware of The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct opportunity with Activision and AMC, we leapt on it. We devised a first-person survival-horror strategy approach and pitched it. Our game was planned as a labor of love: an endeavor to create a relatively intimate The Walking Dead game experience for fans like us… as well as players new to the series who were looking for a different type of zombie game. Our goal was to create an authentic and compelling experience worthy of the name.
Since then, of course, Telltale has released all the amazing episodes of their deserved Game of the Year, and AMC’s series has consistently shattered broadcast television records! So while ‘pressure’ may be an understatement, we’ve stayed the course. And Activision and AMC have been steadfast, wonderful partners in us making the game we set out to make in the first place: a new type of zombie game experience for players that want to take on The Walking Dead’s world for a while!
Here are some of the lessons the team learned while developing The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, which is out today on PS3!
I was skeptical, but I learned that you can create a game that uses one fundamental type of enemy and still maintains challenge, intensity, and intrigue throughout. There are no super-zombies or acid-spitter zombies in The Walking Dead universe, but we found that by adding lots of behavioral and physical variations within the accepted Walker ‘spectrum’, we were able to keep players scared and surprised throughout the game. –Russell Mirabelli, Lead Programmer
I learned that smashing zombie skulls sounds alot like smashing various fruits and veggies. It gave us some great audio for the sound department. The lingering fruit-salad fragrance in the studio was an added bonus. –Brian Fieser, Lead Sound Designer
I learned, or relearned, that you simply cannot overestimate the value of a headline actor that gets the material, is excited about the game, and brings their own expertise to the character. As Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker have been credited multiple times with shaping the characters of Daryl and Merle Dixon — the only major characters that don’t appear in Mr. Kirkman’s comics. These two know those characters as well as anyone: what they would and wouldn’t do, what they would and wouldn’t say, and were incredibly generous in sharing that with us. In terms of authenticity, what higher authority is there? —Drew Haworth, Creative Director
Well-defined parameters work really well to help bring out creative solutions to problems. For example, one of Survival Instinct’s points of focus is on replayability, rather than a single static campaign where you see everything the first time you play. So that helped inspire elements like the Travel System and its unpredictable Road Events, catering to unique playstyles and results based on player’s weapon loadouts, flexible and dynamic Walker AI, and branching paths on the Georgia map. –Jason Alexander, Primary Level Designer
Walkers don’t wear shorts. You’d think they might, in Georgia, but no. Long pants, maybe a nice skirt. We learned that fact from Greg Nicotero. –Robert St. Aubin, Concept Artist
A key lesson for me during the course of development was to see the importance of Daryl’s crossbow. Our initial builds only allowed melee weapons and firearms, so there was no real way to kill a walker from a distance without drawing the entire street to your location. When TRI introduced the crossbow, it opened up all kinds of possibilities in strategically pacifying an area of walkers. Add the ability to reuse ammo and we have a great candidate for the ultimate zombie weapon. If you gave me a choice between Daryl’s crossbow and two bolts, or an assault rifle with a full 30 round clip. I’ll take the crossbow every time! –Matt Hohl, Activision Producer
One thing I learned through extensive hours of playing The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is to always, always CLOSE DOORS BEHIND YOU! It seems like something so innocuous that it wouldn’t be a big deal, but trust me: it is. I can’t count the number of times where I get into an altercation in a room that only had one or two walkers in it, only to have a flood of them hear the noise and pour out of the door that I haplessly left open behind me (d’oh). This is especially significant when you’re entering a building since the dead pretty much run rampant in the streets — an open door might as well be a neon sign inviting them in after you. Metal doors are the best since the walkers can’t break through them, but even those flimsy wooden doors are enough to delay the herd and buy you a few precious seconds to GTFO. So, for heaven’s sake, shut the dang door on your way in and out! –Dino Verano, Activision Associate Producer
If you didn’t preorder the game, don’t worry, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct will be getting a DLC pack containing a Herd mode and backpack full of new weapons on April 18th!