The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct was pigeon-holed as a first-person shooter as soon as it was announced. Terminal Reality’s principal effects art and system designer Glenn Gamble has explained to VG247 why it’s not, and how the studio feels about the game being labelled so quickly.
In an interview you can read in full here next week, I spoke with Gamble about the reveal of Survival Instinct and to challenge the preconceptions press and gamers have had about it. After hearing more about the game, it’s clear that it’s not a straight first-person shooter.
Guns are sparse and make noise that attracts the horde, you need to scavenge for resources silently. There are moral choices based on which of each stage’s survivors you help, and which you leave to die – as you can only rescue so many in your truck at the end of each stage.
There are multiple mission branches, random encounters mid-stage and more. Its certainly not sounding like a straight up corridor shooter, so I suggested to Gamble that perhaps the press and gamers had jumped the gun – so to speak – in presuming that The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct was a shooter, without having first seen a single screen.
“I can understand how that happened,” he replied. “You have Activision who is well known for Call of Duty, and then you hear , ‘Oh my god a first-person Walking Dead game’.
“At the beginning the game just kind of announced and we didn’t really go into much detail at the time – we wanted to build up to it. I don’t understand how PR works. I actually do system design and stuff, but people have responded well to ‘talking to the dev’ kind of thing.
“I don’t know all that magic stuff, but being a gamer and somebody who actually loves gaming journalism – I’m just eating up everything that’s out there about BioShock and all the upcoming games -so I can sometimes see how those jumps in logic can happen if you just don’t have the details.”
I asked if Gamble felt that this was a preconception the team felt obliged to challenge, just to make sure that the public and press understands that the game isn’t a shooter.
“Oh yeah,” he replied. “We really do want to challenge the traditional undead game. If you notice a lot of undead games throw a lot of zombies at you – or if they call them ‘Infected’ or whatever else. That’s their game type, that is the game they’ve crafted.
“As we are working within The Walking Dead universe, we have a very specific type of undead that we’re dealing with, which are the Walkers, these classic, slow-moving, shambling, very stupid undead creatures.
“The big challenge was, how do you make a game with this slow-moving, methodical enemy feel dangerous. That was a big challenge for us, and that’s why we went with the idea of – if you watch the show, three Walkers almost overpower Rick in season two.
“That is our benchmark. Three Walkers should be something that a skilled player could take on hand-to-hand, but a novice player may need to take a step back and say, ‘I may need to think of a way around this’. I helped design the combat system and my record is six. I can only take on six Walkers in hand-to-hand combat.”
“Six enemies is usually pretty easy to deal with, so we have a pretty low amount of enemies that are dangerous to the player. Because of that we could make these slow, methodical walkers.
The decision to go first-person also caused some gamers to assume that Survival Instinct was a shooter, when in fact, Terminal Reality rested on the viewpoint to ratchet up the tension and fear by giving players less peripheral vision.
Gamble continued, “The other thing is, one of the reasons we went first-person with this game is with a first-person camera you can’t look around the next corner in front of you.
“So that helped create that tension you see in classic movies and in The Walking Dead show, especially in the prison when they’re running through the hallways, and they don’t know if there’s no Walkers, one Walker or twenty down the next hallway until they actually get there.”
What we discussed in the full interview and above makes me more intrigued in the game, and I feel bad because I also assumed it was a shooter at first. That said, we’ve not seen much of it in action, and the game is out in Europe on March 22nd. The clock is ticking.
I think Terminal Reality and Activision really needs to start convincing the masses more openly soon if it hopes to banish the ‘shooter’ pre-conception before then.
What’s your take?