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BioGamer Q&A: Glenn Gamble on “THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT”

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Out March 19, for Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii U, THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT is packed full of zombie goodness. To get more insight into the chaos to come, FANGORIA recently sat down with Terminal Reality’s Principal FX Artist/System Designer, Glenn Gamble.

Before the interview started, Glenn commented:

“I just wanted to say I have loved FANGORIA since I was a kid. I always wanted to get into FX for movies with my heroes growing up being the Tom Savini’s and the Sam Raimi’s of the movie industry. I count myself lucky that I didn’t fall too far from that life goal tree, working in the game industry doing FX and design. “

FANGORIA: THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT follows brothers Darryl and Merle Dixon in their adventures to the presumed safety of Atlanta during the opening days of the zombie apocalypse. Why were these two characters chosen to be the protagonists of the new game, and how much will we learn about the duo by playing the upcoming release?

GLENN GAMBLE: There are a thousand reasons why we went with Daryl, and honestly I can’t think of a single reason why we wouldn’t have chosen him. At the time in our development process, when our attention started to turn toward the story, season two was airing on AMC and Daryl was really becoming a character onto his own. We all thought he was a compelling character, and he was trending well with the fans. He was a TV show exclusive character, which didn’t hurt either. The game was being designed as a survival game and if you recall back to season one, the first time the audience was introduced to him, he was hunting a deer. More and more, he just seemed like the best fit for the game we were making.

So, once the decision was to make Daryl our hero, we started looking at what we could do with him. We scoured the show for any comments he made about his past. What it all kept coming back to was the character progression he makes in season two. We wanted to answer some of the question of, ‘Why does he change so much?’ What most people don’t think about is that until the most recent episodes in season three, Merle and Daryl haven’t really shared any screen time together. We wanted to go back and give these interesting characters a bit more time together, with a story about where they came from. Considering there have been few stories told during the time Rick is in a coma and the world is starting to fall apart, we felt this gave us the most latitude. Not to mention, it gave us the opportunity to tell you where the crossbow comes from (and no it isn’t from the side of the road).

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FANG: THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT will be the second video game, following 2012’s Game of the Year THE WALKING DEAD. In what ways will these two titles be similar, and what are the main features that will be included in SURVIVAL INSTINCT that was not featured in the Telltale series?

GLENN: As a gamer, it is really cool that we can have two separate but complementary WALKING DEAD games out at the same time. However, short of being set in the same franchise, however, the two games are very different. The awesome Telltale game is based on the comic and is more of a story driven adventure. SURVIVAL INSTINCT is based on the AMC show and is a first person survival game, so it is more action orientated, where players have to make dynamic decisions and use the items they find for combat and survival.  Instead of watching the story from a third person perspective, we want to ground the player in the universe, which is one of the reasons we went with a first person camera. It is much harder to see what is coming when you can’t angle the camera around the corner in front of you (though we do have a peeking option to help you with that).

FANG: Will THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT include any form of multiplayer? What was done to ensure the upcoming release is a success in this crowded genre?

GLENN: In a word, thinking. As Daryl, you will have to think in order to outwit our Walker A.I. This means being environmentally aware and checking your corners for Walkers. Think of it as a high stakes game of cat and mouse, where you constantly have to evaluate the situation in front of (and sneaking up behind) you, hopefully without drawing too much attention to yourself. It is a single player search-and-survive game with minor resource management. You can play the game run-and-gun style if you want, but that is like ringing the dinner bell. Firing weapons alerts every Walker in the area to your presence and is a good way to get torn apart. Walkers are incredibly aware of their surroundings while looking for potential food, are drawn to “human sounds” like breaking glass or footsteps. They respond to this external stimulus, but that doesn’t mean they all react the same – they are the undead after all. Just like on the show, we can’t predict what a Walker is going to do every time. Some are quicker to react than others; some may take the long way to get to the player, etc. We have had more than a few deaths in playthroughs because someone forgot to check a corner and got taken down by a sneaky Walker. This is why I prefer using distraction items, like throwing a bottle so it breaks in the distance. The strategy has its pros and cons, of course – it might make it easy to get by a group of Walkers, but then you have to be double sure to not attract that group when engaging the next one. I’ve seen other players here who want to kill every Walker as they go, but that is too risky for me. It is up to you, and we encourage everyone to come up with their own play style.

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FANG: Will players need to have some understanding of the series that came before it to fully appreciate the storyline you guys are cooking up in THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT, and what sort of surprises will be included in the game for those of us who can’t get enough of the comics and television show?

GLENN: That is the beauty of doing a game focused around the start of a series. Anyone, fan or not, can jump in and participate. For the fans, they will hopefully get more out of both the characters Merle and Daryl in seasons two and three, because they have an interesting relationship that we are expanding on. There are a few things about Daryl that may surprise you about his past, like the last moments he had with his father. That said, I don’t want to spoil anything, since a big part of any WALKING DEAD experience is the story. But I am not completely heartless; I’ll give you just a taste. You’ll find out about Merle’s favorite chair in one of my favorite scenes in our game.

FANG: THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT seems to be largely a game about surviving at all costs, and this means rationing supplies and sneaking past zombies whenever possible. What sort of incentives will players have to choose flight over fight and ration supplies? Also, can you tell us a bit about some of the other characters we will meet throughout the game?

GLENN: In WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT we really wanted to capture the feeling of the show. So that means three Walkers is a serious threat, which was inspired by the episode in season two where Rick gets overwhelmed and piled on by three Walkers. This is a fairly low number for most games. My record in hand-to-hand combat with a group of Walkers is six at one time, but I helped make the combat system so I have more practice than most. This is a huge reason not to engage Walkers directly if you can help it. A player that tries to analyze the situation in front of them will do better than one just charging blindly in. But don’t think too long either; we try to keep the player from ever feeling safe. Walkers can smell you out if you sit still. Given the dynamic situations the player finds themselves in, sometimes it is better to just run than going for that extra tank of gas.

The interesting thing about rationing supplies is that it goes hand-in-hand with managing the survivors of the game. All resources that help Daryl also help the survivors. So the rations that heal Daryl also heal the survivors. The weapons Daryl uses can also be given to a survivor to aid them if they go out to forage (except the crossbow, no one is touching that). So this shared resource pool helps the group, but you run the risk of losing a shotgun if the person you equip it never comes back. Gas is the item you have to conserve the most since every time you drive somewhere you are burning a valuable resource. It is an interesting mechanic. Along the way you will encounter random mini missions that can help you out if you are willing to explore, however you will be exposed and the threat level will be that much higher.

For much more on THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT, find its official site here.

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About the author
Amanda Dyar http://www.biogamergirl.com
A native of Southern Texas, Amanda Dyar spent most of her youth in Tennessee where she played football on her high school team. Amanda wrote her first short story at age 6 and went on to publish several books based off her collection of writings. At age 17, Amanda graduated with her first degree in Pre-Law and continued her higher learning over the next 10 years receiving four more academic degrees. She went on to start her own publication dedicated to gaming and horror called "BioGamer Girl."
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