Global Brand Director Almir Listo and Global Development Director Saul Gascon tell us everything they can about the upcoming shooter.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is an upcoming co-op game in which players can take on the role of one of four people who survived a zombie apocalypse. Each of these characters have their own backstories and motivations, and players will slowly be able to learn more about them as they complete missions in the game. Apart from the shooting action, players will also have to maintain a camp, and there will also be some stealth mechanics as well.
To learn more about the game and its development, Gamingbolt reached out to the Publisher Starbreeze and Global Brand Director Almir Listo and Global Development Director Saul Gascon answered the following questions.
"We are paying great attention to making sure that everything from characters to the environments are special and have meaning for the player"
First of all, it has been a while since the game was first announced. What took you so long to reveal the game?
Almir: Haha, we’ve been busy! It’s true that the contract for the game was signed about four years ago. In the beginning we started with a smaller core team trying to define what game to make. There are many games in this genre, and it was obvious for both OVERKILL and Skybound that we wanted to make something different, and true to The Walking Dead Universe.
Saul: So we started small, and due to the unforeseen success of PAYDAY 2, we decided to grow the team at its own pace, to keep supporting our existing community of players. After our gameplay and technical prototyping phase, around 2 years ago, we went into full production. We know that gamers have been waiting, and it’s great to see the excitement of those who played it. We can’t wait to start this journey with our community from launch, and see what amazing content we’ll add based on player feedback and requests.
Apart from being an action game adaptation, will this game also place a heavy emphasis on the story, or does gameplay take total precedence?
Almir: As a studio, we live and die by gameplay: our games are fun. And it’s been very interesting to work together with Skybound to add an interesting narrative element to the game.
Saul: OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead is a 4-player co-op shooter at heart, where progressing through the story unlocks new levels and missions. The survivors have their own personal backgrounds, and we want players to be interested on how they got to where they are, and what drives them to continue surviving. We have a dedicated narrative team that works in close collaboration with Robert Kirkman to ensure that we continue to build a strong narrative filled with characters and events players will care about, while our gameplay team pushes for fun. It’s quite a unique mix!
As each of the character’s stories are unique, how do these stories play out in the co-op mode?
Almir: We want to be able to offer a co-op experience as true to the universe as possible, wrapped in an original story written together with Robert that is canon to the comics. We are paying great attention to making sure that everything from characters to the environments are special and have meaning for the player.
Saul: As you progress through the game, you will get to know the characters better and better, finding pieces of the story hidden in the world, that will unfold the personal stories of each character, and immerse you in The Walking Dead universe. Also our main rival, Reina, leader of The Family, has her own motivations to confront us and fight with our group. Is she as bad as she seems? Or is there something pushing her to act as she does?
Almir: Much like in the comics, all characters are deeply developed, and the stories do not end after launch; we’re already writing future storylines for players to experience, new places to explore, people to find, enemies to confront… Our post-launch plan builds around our tried and tested method of constantly evolving the game together with the community, like we continue to do with our other games.
What can you tell us about the unique abilities of each of the different characters?
Saul: Your character’s ability is their innate, natural skill in what they do. For example, Maya, having previously been a trauma surgeon, is naturally better at helping downed players get back on their feet after a struggle – this works as a passive bonus. Then we have something called your character active ability, where you need to scavenge the world and find the appropriate components to craft it. What kind of item you can put together depends on what character you decide to play as. For example, Heather can make a smoke grenade that when used, creates a distraction that allows players to either remain unseen or gain combat advantage.
Almir: For us as developers, it’s important that the choices you make for your character affects the outcome of the game. Because it is a multiplayer game, you can achieve greater things together by combining your load-outs.
Fact box – Active abilities
Our group of survivors will have their own backstory, individual skill trees, squad roles, and combined with the different weapons and other survivors you will play with, we think there will be many different play styles out there.
Will there be a variety of missions for players to tackle? Can you tell us a bit about the different kinds of missions’ players can to expect to see in the game?
Saul: There will be various mission types and maps at the launch of the game. They range from more offensive rescue operations, equipment retrievals and fighting for specific resources; to defending your camp from bandits as well as walkers. Some of the levels are unlocked by advancing through the story, but others will only appear in your map if you take care of your camp, send survivors out to scavenge, and when they find something interesting that requires your attention, then you can go there and retrieve it yourself. But you’ll have to hurry, as these are going to be available for a limited time.
Almir: We’ll also have daily bounties and weekly missions, that in addition to a completion bonus, they offer a spin to the way you normally would play the game. As we continue post-launch our ambition is to not only grow the available maps but also the types of missions you face together with your friends.
"As a developer, we specialize in live support and can’t wait to get started with our post-launch plans together with Robert and our community"
What will the progression system be like in the game?
Saul: The player gameplay is mission-based, and players will receive experience points as they progress through the game. When you have enough experience you will level up, which gives you skill points to spend on your camp and character tree to unlock new passive and active abilities. The bigger the challenge you overcome, the more experience you will get.
How are you ensuring your netcode and multiplayer components will be stable come launch?
Saul: Networking in our game is essential. To ensure the best possible experience, this is one of our top priorities. In fact, our QA teams are distributed worldwide, and they play the game on a daily basis through networks in different corners of the world. So networking testing is part of our daily development process. We are confident it’s going to be a great experience at launch.
What kind of microtransactions and loot boxes will the game? Will they impact gameplay in any manner or are you going for cosmetics only?
Almir: For us, one of the most important things is to stay immersed in the universe. We don’t think microtransactions and loot boxes fit the game. When you play OVERKILL’S The Walking Dead you unlock character skins by playing the game. When it comes to DLC and updates, our ambition is to keep a balance between free and paid updates.
What can you tell us about the end game?
Saul: That’s where it’s at! For OVERKILL’S The Walking Dead, there is no end in sight. As a developer, we specialize in live support and can’t wait to get started with our post-launch plans together with Robert and our community. This is the community’s opportunity as much as ours to pave our own way in The Walking Dead universe. Who do we meet? Where do we go? What do we find out? It is up to us as survivors to make our way in the world.
You have a great pedigree in the Payday series. What gameplay elements are you picking up from there?
Almir: Thank you. We’ve worked on making co-op games for a long time. One of the biggest elements we’re bringing with us is the importance of teamwork, communication and coordination. Although this has proven to be a great recipe, we’ve tweaked it to be even more adrenaline inducing thanks to resource scarcity and increased importance of CQC; using it is not only about stealth, it’s also about conserving ammo for other humans.
" OVERKILL’S The Walking Dead is a hard game; we constantly challenge players to work together and look for intelligent ways to overcome whatever obstacles we put in their path."
Can you tell us about the map design and how it will throw a challenge to the 4 player mode you are going for?
Almir: OVERKILL’S The Walking Dead is a hard game; we constantly challenge players to work together and look for intelligent ways to overcome whatever obstacles we put in their path..
Saul: Our “Horde-o-meter” system is what ties all of the gameplay features together. It ensures that no playthrough will feel the same. From the early phases of the project we put a huge emphasis on randomization. This process starts with AI placement, loot distribution, enemy types and behavior, and extends to the usage of toolkits and interactables in the game world. Every encounter presents a choice and there are consequences for every action. Conserve ammunition and lose a team member or take the enemy head on, risking attracting a horde of walkers. The Horde-o-meter brings all these systems together and allows designers to build on a strong foundation, driving the gameplay for all the levels.
Can you tell us about the customization options the game will offer?
Saul: There will be ways to change your appearance by unlocking skins, new takedown knives, special flare guns, etc. And since this is an action game, the weapon customization plays a very important part of it. We want players to express themselves through their choice of weapons and mods.
Almir: 45 weapons at launch and over 250 mods give a lot of opportunities for players to explore. We will go more in-depth with our weapon customization system as we get closer to launch.
Do you have any plans to bring the game to Nintendo Switch? If not, why?
Saul: Initially, we are focusing on providing the game for three platforms. After that, we will of course see what other platforms it would make sense to release the game on.
Almir: Our other game PAYDAY 2 recently got released on the Nintendo Switch, and we were excited to see the great reception there.
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from the next PlayStation and next Xbox?
Almir: I think that if you’d ask any one developer, most would have different replies. For me personally, one thing I look forward to a lot is new features that allow us to play games together in ways we never have before. With the type of games we do, the future looks bright.