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PAX Prime 2012 – Telltale Game’s the Walking Dead Panel

Posted on September 15, 2012 AT 07:22am

The very first thing that the panelists said was that The Walking Dead was a game with mature content and that the panel would even try to censor itself. The panelists were Sean Vanaman, Jake Rodkin, (the main Game Designers of The Walking Dead) and Gary Whitta, the series story consultant and writer of Episode 4. They started by describing what an average day is for The Walking Dead team, a day full of playing the game to see where the spots that need improvement are and iterating on those and sometimes just going into a “writing-cave” and not coming out until something meaningful is ready. Whitta spoke on the differences he saw between the games and the AMC television show and how the show is following the story of the main set of characters from the comic book, but the games have the freedom of their own set of character that won’t conflict with the world that the comic or show builds.

All three panelists described their games as a chance to go over the top with “horrible” in games, giving themselves the opportunity to push their characters to do things that players would be shocked with. They said the world of The Walking Dead as one that doesn’t depend on the zombies, but uses them to push the people involved into the interesting drama that makes the experience. The writers/designers want you to be so involved with what is happening with the cast that you forget about the zombies until they come right back and you go “Oh Shit! Zombies!”

Sean and Jake went on to describe how the original idea for the game was a story about the little girl Clementine and her older brother, but they felt that it was too difficult to explain to the player the preexisting relationship between them. They later came up with the idea of Lee and how he became the lead character in the episodes, but they had another problem: why would Lee (the player) stick around the main cast of characters? Why wouldn’t he just say “forget you guys, I’m going to go fend for myself.”? That’s when Sean and Jake realized that Clementine is an excellent anchor for Lee to continue to stay with the main cast, because he has to take care of this innocent girl. Sean and Jake then spoke about how worried they were that Clementine would be a character that most players would hate and that they didn’t want to drag her around like an escort quest, this lead them to cast Clementine’s voice to Melissa Hutchinson, an adult voice actress, rather than a girl of Clementine’s age.

Another problem that the designers ran into is that 15-20 seconds lacking of player action is too long and many of the player-testers got bored, so they had to focus on writing small tidbits of dialog and story that intertwines with gameplay rather than a long dramatic scene. They also wanted to focus very much on having every choice that the player makes be one that the player could argue one way or the other, with no “right answer” that the player expects that game to want them to choose. They said that they loved it to see the statistics of almost every major choice each come back as roughly 50%-50% on which options the players went for in the earlier episodes.


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