The Walking Dead franchise has seemingly reached the pinnacle of success. Its live-action TV series on AMC is wildly popular as fans eagerly await its third season and the 100th issue of the comic book that started it all is the best selling indie comic book of the century. Thanks to TellTale Games, it's also a popular episodic video game series whose creators want to see expand into future seasons.
For anyone not familiar with the comics, TV show and game, The Walking Dead has always been about people and about survival. The zombies are not the focus; they just provide the backdrop to test the willpower and determination of regular everyday people when put in the most extreme situations, often with a no-win scenario. As we've learned thanks to TellTale's games, people are inherently good in that the majority of the time, they'll tend to do the "right" thing, even though it's just a video game.
Take a look at the video up top to see some of the interesting statistics TellTale pulled from The Walking Dead - Episode 2. They highlight key decision points throughout the game where it's up the player to make a tough decision, some easier than others, some that may not truly have a good solution. Most of the time, even if it's not necessarily the most logical decision to make in terms of sheer survival needs, players will make the good/light side/paragon choice.
Telltale's marketing director Richard Iggo speaks to the apparent good nature of players:
"Some of the stats we’ve seen coming back from player decisions have created a perception that even in dire times — and when faced with no-win situations where each decision is morally grey — the majority of people will try to do the ‘right’ thing if they can, even if there’s really no ‘right’ decision to be made. It’s fascinating because even when we offer players a decision where the apparently darker option might make sense from a purely logical point of view, they’ll often try to choose the ‘higher’ ground at personal cost even if that means being put in danger or having a relationship with another character suffer because of it."
Games with player choice are opening up a new facet of game design. It was one of the core building blocks of the Mass Effect series and was appropriately praised in Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain. To put the onus on players in how to overcome tough situations, then to make them face the consequences of their actions brings an entirely new and untapped type of experience that we want to see more of.
As for what's next? Iggo has some big words for The Walking Dead - Episode 3.
"In terms of absolute heartbreak in the episodes we’ve seen so far, [Episode 3: Long Road Ahead] takes the crown. You’re really going to have your morals tested right from the opening scenes of the episode, and since the bulk of people who play the game seem to make decisions based on what they would actually do in the situations presented to them, this episode is going to hold up a very dark mirror for a lot of people."
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.