The Walking Dead

Payday studio Overkill announced in 2014 that it was making a new co-op FPS based on The Walking Dead, "with elements of action, role-playing, survival horror and stealth." It was expected at the time to be out in 2016, but that eventually became 2017, and then 2018. As far as I know there's been no update to that schedule, but the studio recently teased a big announcement of something that will take place on Sunday. 

What's unusual about Overkill's TWD situation is that despite the passage of more than three years since the first announcement, we still know virtually nothing about the game except that it's a shooter set in the world of The Walking Dead. A "gameplay trailer" released for E3 2015 (via Comicbook.com) hinted at the Washington angle but was otherwise just a pastiche of generic zombie apocalypse visual elements.  

So the big announcement could be a hard release date, but I think it's more likely to be a first proper look at what the game has in store: Whether it will be a straight-ahead run-and-gunner like Left 4 Dead, a more narrative-driven experience (as I hope GTFO will be), or something else entirely. Zombie Payday? Heisting supplies instead of cash in a world struggling to emerge from the ruins of an undead uprising isn't the worst idea for a videogame I've ever heard.   

The curtain will rise on whatever it is at 12 pm PT/3 pm ET on December 10. There's a countdown you can stare at while you wait at overkillsthewalkingdead.com.

The Walking Dead

Every few years, someone claims that adventure games are dead. But adventure games never died: they just changed. "I think what they really mean is the death of point-and-click adventure games," says Ron Gilbert, creator of Monkey Island and, more recently, Thimbleweed Park. "Games like Gone Home, Firewatch, and everything Telltale makes are adventure games, and they can sell millions of copies. But if we limit the description to point-and-click games, I don't know that I fully disagree. These games are a niche market now, but if you make them cheaply and efficiently, they can still do well. Dave Gilbert [no relation] has carved out a nice fanbase."

"What's interesting is that those articles usually come out after a high-profile adventure game is released that's less than stellar," says Dave Gilbert, founder of point-and-click revivalist Wadjet Eye. "Suddenly a game speaks for all adventure games, and the whole genre is dead. This is a narrative that only seems to apply to adventure games. Roguelikes 'died' then came back. So did the platformer and the RTS. But people love talking about how adventure games died, or are dying. Even developers themselves! But I've been making them for 11 years and they continue to sell and support my family, so it's hard to take that kind of thing seriously."

"When people declare things dead in the moment, the odds of them turning out to be wrong are usually close to 100%, so it's easy to brush this kind of thing off," says Sam Barlow, creator of experimental mystery game Her Story. "I think part of it comes from a certain self-consciousness and a certain desire for the medium to hurry up and grow up. Adventure games often feel like an awkward middle ground between the proper narrative games we aspire to and our cruder earlier attempts."

Barlow explains that one of the adventure genre's greatest struggles is the idea of the player controlling the story's protagonist. "They become stuck in the weeds of the plot," he says. "I kinda like the fact that a lot of modern games have reduced the emphasis on the specifics of the actions, and focused more on dialogue and higher-level character choice. I'm interested in finding ways for players to be a part of the experience of a story without having to throw them into the busywork of 'being' a character."

Francisco Gonzalez, founder of indie adventure studio Grundislav, thinks that adventure game designers often stubbornly cling to older design tropes. Mazes, illogical puzzles, excessive in-jokes and too much fourth wall-breaking are just a few of the elements that bother him. "If your game absolutely needs a maze, keep it brief," he says. "Add some sort of puzzle element that allows you to navigate it without having to map it yourself."

"So many point-and-click games these days seem to have random puzzles that don't help move the narrative forward," says Ron Gilbert. "A good adventure game should also be about exploring a world, and in many games you're just teleporting from location to location. Firewatch and Gone Home are about exploring a space, and more point-and-click games need to do a better job of this. Build me a world I want to live in."

He continues, "I don't know that I've played a point-and-click adventure made in the last few years that thoroughly engaged me. I'm a point-and-click snob. I think two things that have hurt the genre are illogical puzzles and puzzles that don't intertwine with the narrative. I still see these issues today. However games like Firewatch get around this by not having deep puzzles. Most adventure games are all about story. In a lot of ways they've thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and that is depressing."

Olivia White of Owl Cave Games thinks too many adventure games still fall into the archaic traps of horrible logic and self-referential humour. "All the people working in the field today who do excellent work are the ones who are actively slicing away the old, rubbish parts of the genre and improving the good parts with surgical focus," she says. "Not all adventure games use moon logic, but plenty of designers are still stuck in the past."

"This is actually one of the freer genres to work within," says Sam Barlow. "There are enough limitations that it kind of encourages people to play around the edges, and I think that's important. The adventure game fan is often of a certain type, and there's been a lot of intense, fairly academic discussion and analysis of the genre. It has a lot of fans and creators who are passionate about keeping things moving forward."

No limit

I ask Ron Gilbert if the seemingly limited framework of the adventure genre naturally limits innovation. "For pure point-and-click games, it does," he says. "But people, including me, have a very rigid definition of a point-and-click game and resist change. After building Thimbleweed Park, I do think there's a stigma attached to the genre. People are often predisposed to think they won't like them, and that these games are full of illogical puzzles and bad narrative. As a creator you have a huge hump to overcome. We felt that every day making Thimbleweed."

"There have been a lot of really innovative things done in adventure games recently," says Francisco Gonzalez. "I think the main problem is that if an adventure game tries to innovate too much, then people no longer consider it an adventure game. There's a notion that you need absurd inventory puzzles to be part of the genre, but I consider games like The Cave, which has platforming elements, and the heavily story-led Oxenfree to be great examples of modern adventures."

"What adventure games do well is tell more intimate, more focused stories," says Dave Gilbert. "You wouldn't make an adventure game about a soldier fighting in a warzone. Nor would you make a beat-'em-up about a detective trying to solve a case. So can adventure games limit you? Sure. But for telling the stories I want to tell, the sky's the limit."

So what does the future hold for adventure games? "We're going to see a lot more games that shed the point-and-click mould," says Olivia White. "I think we'll see a bunch of developers adopting the Telltale style, but I'd like to see more games doing interesting things with interactive narrative like Stories Untold and Edith Finch."

"I think things are going to continue as they have for the past 20 years," says Francisco Gonzalez. "There'll always be a market for adventure games, and new generations of gamers will get into the genre through modern narrative games or the classics. But I hope adventure games will continue to evolve and not be afraid to go beyond the traditional genre trappings, embracing the move away from illogical, archaic design."

"We're seeing more games with lighter mechanics and a greater emphasis on story and character," says Sam Barlow. "I think that's something that helps the genre, because it brings in audiences who are hungry for what makes adventure games tick, and also draws in new creators who are ready to mix things up. My vision of the future is one where the adventure game creators step into the world of streaming TV, where they figure out how to use performance and video as a way of telling stories."

"More people are making adventure games than ever," says Dave Gilbert. "So we'll continue to see a lot of new and interesting games coming out."

"If only I knew," says Ron Gilbert. 

The Walking Dead - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

Telltale Games have laid off 90 people today, shrinking the company’s workforce by around 25%. The company says it won’t affect any of their currently announced projects, which includes The Walking Dead’s fourth season, Batman: The Enemy Within, and a second season for Wolf Among Us. (more…)

The Walking Dead

Developer Telltale Games, best known for episodic story-driven games like The Walking Dead and Tales from the Borderlands, announced today that roughly 25 percent of its workforce has been laid off. 

As Gamesindustry reports, 90 people were affected by the wave of layoffs. Before today, the studio was nearly 400 strong. Telltale says the layoffs will not affect any of its ongoing games. However, moving forward they plan to make "fewer, better games with a smaller team."

"I'd like to express our respect for all the contributions that these incredibly talented artists, storytellers and more have made to this company, and that this decision is in no way a reflection on the quality or dedication of their work," said Telltale CEO Pete Hawley. "We have made available our full career assistance services to help our affected colleagues and friends—and their families—navigate this difficult transition as quickly as possible."

Telltale's downsize comes on the heels of two other, more dramatic shifts in the indie scene. In the past week, Gigantic developer Motiga and Torchlight developer Runic Games were both closed at the hand of their shared publisher, Perfect World. 

The Walking Dead - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Veteran The Walking Dead storyman Gary Whitta will return to the episodic zombie apocalypse story ’em up for its fourth and final season, Telltale Games announced today. Whitta was story consultant on the first season and wrote its fourth episode, as well as contributing to add-on episode 400 Days, but hasn’t been involved with it for years. The series has declined over the years so hopefully he might help reverse this.

Telltale have also announced they’re working on prettied-up versions of their earlier Walking Dead games for a big console collection, though they haven’t confirmed if those will come to PC too. (Update: doesn’t look like it.)> (more…)

The Walking Dead

Less than 48 hours after the strong suggestion circulated that a second season of The Wolf Among Us was not in development, Telltale Games has announced that a second season of The Wolf Among Us is in development. It's scheduled to debut in 2018, and will be joined by the fourth and final season of Telltale's Walking Dead series, which was also revealed today. A new Batman series, entitled The Enemy Within, is also on the way, and it's a lot closer: the first episode will be available on August 8. 

Batman: The Enemy Within will be a five-part series beginning with "The Enigma", which sees the Riddler's return to Gotham City. "But his gruesome puzzles merely foreshadow an even greater crisis. With the arrival of a ruthless federal agent and the return of a still nascent Joker, Batman must navigate uneasy alliances while Bruce Wayne undertakes a perilous series of deceptions," Telltale said. "Which of Batman's new allies will you choose to trust? And how deep into the darkness will you let Bruce descend?" Probably pretty deep, honestly.

Player choices from Telltale's first Batman series can be carried over into The Enemy Within, or you can opt to start afresh instead. The game will also support Telltale's 'Crowd Play' multiplayer feature, which delegates in-game decisions to groups of family and friends with connected mobile devices. Troy Baker will return as the voice of Batman, while Anthony Ingruber is back as John Doe, aka The Joker. 

Details on The Walking Dead: The Final Season—which will probably not be the actual title—are thinner, because it's so much further off. But it will feature Clementine in the lead role, "allowing players to fully step back into the shoes of the fan favorite character." 

The situation is similar for The Wolf Among Us season two, which will be out sometime in the second half of 2018. "This new season will begin a fresh story arc for its returning cast of characters, featuring the return of Adam Harrington as Bigby Wolf and Erin Yvette as Snow White," Telltale said. 

To be fair to Telltale, its response to rumors about a new season of The Wolf Among Us that surfaced earlier this week wasn't a straight-up denial so much as concerted misdirection. Telltale's Job Stauffer said on Twitter only that he worried people were "getting their hopes up in the wrong direction," and noted that Harrington, who started the whole thing with a tweet of his own, has provided voices in multiple Telltale games.   

The Telltale Summer Update video, with a rundown of all three games (but very little on The Wolf Among Us) is below. 

The Walking Dead - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Another comic from Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, is getting the video game treatment. Thief of Thieves, his comic about a Thief, will next year spawn an episodic heist game. Named simply Thief of Thieves [official site], it’ll let us rob all sorts of colourful places as Celia, the apprentice of the comic’s protagonist. It’s leaning on those comic book stylings for its art, as you can see in this here announcement trailer I’ve whipped out a PR person’s pocket: … [visit site to read more]

Back to the Future: The Game - John Keefer

The Nintendo Switch is obviously a gaming device and that is its main purpose, but that doesn't stop people from doing some creative experiments. The latest creative endeavor is a short film from Russia that involves a Switch, a banana and, among other things, skydiving.

The video, created by Valera Boluchevsky and Richard Chirkin is straight out of a drug-induced hallucination, with the Switch being offered as an upgrade to an old SNES. From there, you get a variety of short adventures, from playing on an apartment roof, to playing while riding on a bike and a train. They then jump out of a plane, which is apprently the first time a Switch has been taken skydiving. The good news is that they apparently remembered to pull the ripcord.

And, all the while, the banana and a mysterious helmet-wearing man in yellow follows them around. A plunge into the water sans Switch breaks the supposed dream sequence.

It's whacky, crazy and off the wall, and probably an appropriate item to present as we approach hump day. Dissect and enjoy.

The Walking Dead - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Co-op brain-busting FPS Overkill’s The Walking Dead [official site] is now due in the second half of 2018, following yet another delay. It was previously due some time in 2017, and 2016 before that. Made by Payday developers Overkill Software, the game’s still a bit of a mystery, beyond being a co-op zombie-killing FPS with L4D-sounding dynamic levels and new characters and stories in the world of Robert Kirkman’s zombie comics. Given how vague everything we know is, a delay is little surprise. … [visit site to read more]

The Walking Dead

Stop me if you've heard this one before. The last we'd heard of Overkill Software's The Walking Dead tie-in—a co-op FPS "with elements of action, role-playing, survival horror, and stealth"—it had been delayed from 2016 into the second half of 2017. Well it's just been delayed again, this time until the second half of 2018.

The announcement was made over on Starbreeze Studios' website (Starbreeze owns Payday developer Overkill, by the way) and while you can view the rest of the site in English, the delay post is only available in Swedish, which I am...less than fluent in. Helpfully, Google's auto-translate feature is around to convert the text into something resembling English, the gist being that the delay will allow the game to "reach its full potential". Meanwhile, if you tune into Starbreeze's Twitch channel on May 10, you'll be given "an insight into the development of Overkill's The Walking Dead", which hopefully means we'll finally be shown some footage.

Thanks, Blue's News and VG247.

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