Insight into the game’s production from the developers paints a grim picture.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead has been a bit of a disaster for developers Overkill and publishers Starbreeze. Launching to less than stellar reception, the game has also clearly not sold as well as the people responsible for it would have hoped it would, a reality that has also led to some dire consequences for Starbreeze. And according to a report published by Eurogamer, where they collated behind-the-scenes insights into the development process into the game from people who worked on the title (and chose to remain anonymous), a lot of that is down to a deeply troubled development cycle.
Development on Overkill’s The Walking Dead began with the intention of developing it on Starbreeze’s newly acquired Valhalla Engine, but the development team soon realized that the toolset they had on offer was far from ideal for making the game they wanted to make. Developers attached with the project have told Eurogamer that Valhalla was “a piece of shit”, “unworkable”, and “barely 50 or 60 per cent of the way in terms of usability and stability”, and felt like “the engine was fighting against” the developers.
Once the development team decided to make the switch from the troubled Valhalla Engine and instead make the game using the Unreal Engine, it was already too late into the development cycle. “It was as if switching to Unreal was going to solve everything,” a developer told Eurogamer. “In their minds it was magical, but we had other problems that couldn’t be fixed just by changing the engine. The goal was to produce a triple-A multiplayer game in a year on Unreal. Anybody with common sense knew from the start it wouldn’t be possible. A lot of people expected us to postpone the release of the game.”
The game, however, was not delayed, of course. The team working on Overkill’s The Walking Dead learned the ropes on the new engine even while they worked on the game, and coupled with a general lack of a concrete vision for the project and a definite direction to head in, not to mention poor working conditions and extreme stress, that led to a muddied development process.
The project that was launched was ultimately only worked on for a year and a half in totality. “It’s amazing we even managed to pull off something you are able to install on a PC in a single year,” one of the developers said. “We really tried to fix stuff as much as we could.”
“This is why the game feels so alpha,” said another. “It’s because it is. It’s a year-and-a-half in. It’s a beta game because we made it in a year-and-a-half.”
Yet another person attached with the project was equally critical of the project, and minced no words. “Everyone knew it was going to tank,” they said. “All of us, we put our blood, sweat and tears – and our ***ing livers and pancreases – everything into that game, and no matter how much we would push to do it as best we could, it got shat on. No matter how much you polish a turd, it’s still a turd. It was never going to get any better than where it was. It was always hacked. Everything that was done there was – let’s hack it and put it together. There wasn’t much hope for most people, and what little hope there was was dead by the end of it.”
That paints a very grim picture of what went on behind the scenes during the development of Overkill’s The Walking Dead, and really, it’s just scratching the surface. The full report by Eurogamer, which I urge you to read, is even more grim.
Overkill’s The Walking Dead is currently out on PC, and was scheduled for a launch on PS4 and Xbox One in February, but was recently delayed. Read more on that through here.