In virtual reality and traditional gaming, zombie experiences are all the rage. Post-apocalyptic survival is a fantasy of many and VR gives them the opportunity to be thrust into dangerous worlds riddled with the shambling undead.
A select handful of games give players a lot of control as they navigate and survive these worlds, even incorporating gameplay mechanics where you’re responsible for the well-being of other survivors. It’s this element, the power of choice, that is going to be the main pillar of a new Walking Dead experience coming to VR as a result of a partnership between Skybound and Skydance Interactive. At E3 2017 earlier this month we got the chance to discuss the announcement with Skybound’s president, Dan Murray.
While there are some high-profile, critically acclaimed zombie titles in VR, such as Arizona Sunshine for example, there are none as high-profile as one based in the world of The Walking Dead would be. The Walking Dead series features thousands upon thousands of zombies but the focus is actually on how humanity survives and turns out to be even more of a threat that any zombie could be. Very few zombie games highlight this type of turmoil and it’s something that could thrive on a VR platform.
“Everything that we do, we tend to try to focus on story, narrative, and character,” says Murray. “So when you think of virtual reality and the potential that affords, it’s an interesting marriage between gameplay and really coming into narrative storytelling.
“I think games and linear narrative have always sort of coexisted. In a way, it’s been sort of a dysfunctional relationship over time. So, this is a great opportunity for the next evolution of what might be possible.”
Skybound has other Walking Dead related games in the works (a shooter from Starbreeze and a free-to-play mobile title) but the focus here is something fresh in the narrative space.
The partnership itself is very fresh and the game is still in a conceptual stage, so there’s not much to say about the finer workings of the game other than it will be running in Unreal. Murray did say that Skydance approached Skybound with an exciting way they wanted to explore the story, but that will all be revealed in the future. All we have to go by right now is that Skybound and Skydance are challenging themselves to deliver “this idea of contextual choice and letting the environment react to you as a player so that you really do feel like you’re immersed in that world”. It sounds similar to what Supermassive aims to accomplish with its Until Dawn prequel adventure, The Inpatient.
With such a focus on narrative, one wonders if the game will be about original characters, some from the comics, or a blend of both, but that’s another thing we’ll have to wait for the development team to share in the future.
There’s no tentative release date, but Murray says they’re aiming to come out “relatively soon” and targeting high-end VR devices like Sony’s PlayStation VR (PSVR,) HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift.
“Timing felt right for us to announce something and really dive in in a big way,” Murray says. “Because we are going after this as a full-fledged VR game. This isn’t going to be a marketing experience. We want to deliver a full commercial product.”
The teams at the table intend for this to be a series of games, but we’ll have to wait to see how things unfold.