Over the years, multiple developers have taken The Walking Dead license and used it to make all sorts of games, from choice-driven adventure titles to first person shooters to co-op focused games, but with The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, Skydance Interactive have done something very unique and very ambitious. Here’s a full-featured VR title with a reactive story, physics-based combat, and a fully explorable world, and as the game’s reviews may have indicated over the last couple of weeks, it works very, very well. Recently, before the game’s release, we sent across some of our questions about it to the developers, hoping to learn more about what makes the VR game tick. You can read our conversation with creative director Adam Grantham below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"It’s not hard to see how VR’s sense of presence makes for a perfect marriage with the horror genre, and when you mix in the motion controllers to give that hands-on experience of visceral violence, The Walking Dead is clearly a perfect fit."
Why did you decide to develop this as a VR-only title?
We’ve been in the VR space for several years now, and at Skydance Interactive we’ve always been excited to push ourselves to invent new experiences, which VR is perfect for. It’s not hard to see how VR’s sense of presence makes for a perfect marriage with the horror genre, and when you mix in the motion controllers to give that hands-on experience of visceral violence, The Walking Dead is clearly a perfect fit.
We were also very excited to bring a fully-realized robust game to VR and saw this as a perfect way to do it, something that moved beyond moment-to-moment mechanics and gave people a meaty, lengthy experience to sink their teeth into. And specifically for TWD, we wanted to push the emotional side of VR presence and experience dramatic human moments of decision that the franchise is known for.
Is it possible that you might consider a release for the game on non-VR platforms, or is virtual reality integral to the experience?
VR is definitely integral to the moment-to-moment physical experience. As soon as you play you immediately understand that. But the game as a whole offers a lot beyond the physical action. Assuming a reinvention of controls and moment-to-moment action for flat screen, a non-VR version could theoretically be possible. We’ve made no announcements about what’s next. But nothing is off the table.
How much of an impact on the story do the choice and consequence mechanics have?
There’s an overarching story with some significant choices that can make the ending play out differently. There are even some tough calls up until the very last minutes. Along the way you encounter many small stories with their own individual choices, and within those small stories you can have a big impact and cause them to play out very differently.
Another key element, especially in those smaller stories, is that the game mechanics are always at play. It’s not just quest-branching that leads to varied outcomes. It’s anything that can happen in gameplay. Did you lead walkers over to the quest giver and get the conversation interrupted and the quest giver eaten alive? Did you accidentally forget to brain him after, allowing him to come back and attack another quest giver minutes later? The gameplay never goes on pause for the story. Instead, it can interact with the story and cause things to play out in surprising and exciting ways.
"Exploration is highly encouraged, even essential to a certain extent. The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners has 8 open sandbox regions, plus a home base which unlocks larger areas as the story progresses."
How much of an emphasis does the game place on stealth as opposed to combat?
For the most part our stealth isn’t about avoiding combat. It’s technically possible, and if you’re extremely skilled you can sometimes pull it off. But more often than not stealth is really about getting the drop on enemies. It’s a tool in your combat arsenal. You can use it with humans and walkers. Especially if you cover yourself with guts and blend in with the walkers.
How much is exploration encouraged in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners? Can players expect to visit some large explorable locations?
Exploration is highly encouraged, even essential to a certain extent. The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners has 8 open sandbox regions, plus a home base which unlocks larger areas as the story progresses. All of the regions have hidden content for you to discover, including locked safes and their codes, gated areas, keys, and rare crafting recipes that can only be found through exploration. You’ll also need to explore just to keep up on the basic crafting and survival game. You’ll find yourself desperately scavenging for food, medicine, bandages, and crafting supplies, just to survive another day.
What impact do the physics-based systems of the game have on combat?
Physics are a cornerstone of combat. Melee requires realistic motion and force. You can’t get away with just slashing around erratically. It takes deliberate motion with a strong follow through to brain a walker. After a successful braining your weapons become stuck and you have to use real force to free them from the bone and brain you just sunk them into. Guns have recoil and can be steadied by using both hands. Each weapon has its own realistic weight properties and you can especially feel the differences between one- and two-handed weapons. When you play you feel like you’re truly engaged in real physical combat.
How long will an average playthrough of The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners be?
We believe an average playthrough will take at least 15 hours, likely more for most players. And if you want to explore all the game has to offer, all the progression tree unlocks, hidden recipes, and side content, it will take even longer.
Can players expect to see any familiar faces or locations from The Walking Dead universe?
Being set in New Orleans has allowed us to make The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners its own unique space within the larger TWD universe. We have new characters, locales, factions, and conflicts. We believe this to be a strong positive for hardcore fans seeking the core themes they know and love, but with a new twist. Having said that, there are some easter eggs from the larger universe that only fans will appreciate, and we’re excited to see the community find them all.
"The team has put a lot of care into crafting this experience in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners for players, and we believe it’s unlike anything they’ve experienced before. For The Walking Dead fans, it’s a way to live in that universe for the first time."
Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game?
The team has put a lot of care into crafting this experience in The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners for players, and we believe it’s unlike anything they’ve experienced before. For The Walking Dead fans, it’s a way to live in that universe for the first time. You can experience the tension and violent intensity up close and personal, feeling the weight of it all, both physically and emotionally. You can be who you want to be, make the calls you’d make, and deal with all the consequences, for better or worse.
It’s a new world, with a new story and characters, but all true to the franchise’s core themes. For VR fans it’s going to be one of the most advanced tactile VR experiences they’ve ever had, and one of the most fully realized VR games to date. For people who have been sitting on the sidelines of VR, it’s a great reason to jump in. We believe we brought a full game to the VR platforms in a way that few have done. For hardcore gamers wanting the promise of VR interactivity, but demanding a real deep game, your time has finally come. Now is a great time to jump into VR and see for yourself.