Sunday, April 29, 2012

Telltale's Walking Dead & Writing Adventure Games

When I was growing up, I played the heck out of Sierra adventure games. I liked the puzzles and the stories. So, when Steam told me that Telltale had a new adventure game about The Walking Dead, I figured it would be worth checking out. Especially after going through Guild Wars 2. The game actually does a really good job capturing the feel of zombie apocalypses, and it creates some good, convincing characters in a short time. Spoilers follow, so, you know. Click at your own risk.

Those are hard things for an adventure game to do. I'm not even really sure if adventure game is the right way to define Telltale's game here. There are two or three puzzles, but mainly it is moving forward in a plot while making interesting character decisions. I don't want to spend time writing a review of the game; it was fun, worth the cheap price for the whole season. It has some awkward moments, skips a bit here and there.

But, I think if you want to write good, convincing characters, this is a really good case study in it. For example, normally having a crutch character who relies on you for everything is a frustrating experience for players. Clementine, though, is written to be sympathetic, smart, useful and a good balance for Lee. Speaking of which, Lee is an interesting protagonist since we don't know everything we should about him (since he is us).

In addition, you have some really strong characters, even though the game itself is short, self-contained and they don't get to do much. Carley, Doug and Kenny all get just a little bit of a chance to shine, but they are all fleshed out fairly well. The end choice on who to save is actually not an easy one to make in the spur of the moment, because we know these people fairly well, despite clocking in at about two hours game time.

Ok, except the fact she has no clue how batteries work. But, you know, not everyone is perfect.

Spend the money, play the game and see how to write some compelling scenes. The argument as soon as you enter the pharmacy, for example, with Larry, is a really well-written scene. You barely know characters, yet they get established quickly, and you are presented with a problem with a set of possible solutions to take.



Though, it seems like, despite us saying we're going to watch the little girl and Kenny tries to watch his son, those kids just get into trouble left and right. Is anyone in the Walking Dead universe NOT a criminally incompetent parental figure? I think, though, soon I'll need to go back to writing about history, or this will become a gaming all the time blog.

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