At New York Comic Con I got a chance to take a look at The Walking Dead: Our World. The game came out back in July and soon is going to be getting more updates. I was invited by AMC's games and entertainment applications' vice president Clayton Neuman to check out the gam and see some of the new and upcoming features being added to it.
For those who haven't played it, Our World isn't too different from other mobile GPS-based games. You'll wander around the real world and find groups of zombies out and about. You then fight these zombies in simple first person shooting, collecting cards that give you new guns, allies, passive power-ups, and places to build. Over time you'll level up, get new items, save NPCs, and more. Along the way you can team up with other players to form teams and complete weekly challenges.
If you're already a player of the game, I got a chance to check out two new mechanics. The first is bait, which has just been added fully in a recent update. When you get bait you can lay it down, allowing you to take on an endless hoard of zombies. You get three tries to get as far in the fight as possible, scoring points for kills and bonuses for headshots. The more you get, the better your reward at the end. Your friends can get in on it too: when you place a bait, it becomes available for everyone nearby, making it a social activity.
The second was a PVP mode. The game will be adding in an asynchronous multiplayer mode. Players can leave squads of four allies out for other players to fight. If you've played any raider battles in the game, then this should look quite familiar to you. You can shoot cover until it breaks and order your melee-focused units to run out and attack. The idea is interesting, and I'm curious as to how player-made teams will change it up further.
In addition to this, Clayton also told me that there was a roadmap planned for the game. While he couldn't give many specifics, he did give me a little to work with. He told me that fan favorite character Jesus would be added to the game soon. In addition to this, he said that the team had "some fun ideas" concerning the villains of the show and how to implement them in the game.
After showing me these new mechanics, Clayton took some time to talk with me about how The Walking Dead: Our World came about and more things he'd like to add to the game.
TechRaptor: Can you tell me how you came about the idea for The Walking Dead: Our World?
Clayton Neuman: Yeah, so basically The Walking Dead is the most popular show on television. It has been for the past six years in a row. I say not to brag, I say it to illustrate that our fans are some of the largest and most passionate fans on the planet. One of our operating theories going into creating this game was the idea that one of the reasons our fans love this show is that every episode presents them with this hypothetical question of what would you do in the zombie apocalypse. Everybody has their theory. They go "oh I wouldn't go there, I'd set up a camp here" or "I'd do this" or "I'd do that". What we wanted to do was to create a game, an experience, for our fans that really challenged that hypothetical. That gave them the opportunity to live out their apocalyptic fantasies, and to do it in their own world.
So this is something that wasn't really possible until recently with the advent of new technologies like the Google Maps SDK, which as you saw provides a ton of data and allows us to make sure missions are populating no matter where you are, if it's in a big city or a small city, and with AR kit. Have you played with the AR mode in the game?
TechRaptor: I have! Only in my house, which doesn't work very well, but I want to—next time I go outside I'm going to give it a real shot.
Clayton: Yeah, I mean, we can take a look at it, because it really does work spectacularly, especially when you're outside. The cool thing about the AR kit is... [At this point Clayton starts up a game and sets up the AR mode.] So not only is it great to see walkers in your world, and it's fun, but what it'll allow you to do is that it'll allow you to anchor these objects relative to your position. So what I can actually do is I can move around this space and I can get right up close to Michonne. I can walk around Michonne.
That's cool, but it also serves a gameplay function. It's that, I don't know if you've gotten to... the game is relatively easy when you start, but as you keep playing missions get harder and harder and harder. It gets to a point where it's very hard to keep the walkers in the distance, because they're going to be coming up at you. What you can do in this mode is that, because you can move around in the space, if walkers are coming up on me and my gun is reloading I can take a step back and buy myself more time for the gun to reload so I can beat the mission. What can you see here is that there's like a blue line, so this is a box that we've created around the entire playing field. What we've done, basically, is limit the ability for you to move too much because we don't people, like, running into traffic playing AR.
TechRaptor: That would be bad.
Clayton: A little bit. But we also want the movement to be a key part of the gameplay. So if I complete a mission, which I'm sure you've seen...
Clayton: Not only will I get... [Clayton finishes a quick mission.] It will automatically capture my gameplay footage and encourage me to share that footage on socials or with my friends or text it to a friend, and if I do that it'll give me an extra resource pack. So we really wanted people to have fun with this, and it took until now for these technologies to be available. But now we can sort of, in a very seamless, realistic way, can bring the zombie apocalypse into the real world, and we can encourage our players to go out, as we talked about, find a community of other survivors, to work together to reclaim their city, to build shelters-- I assume you've seen shelters?
Clayton: To rescue survivors and drop them off at shelters, to maintain those shelters and keep the defenses from falling to walkers, to level up and work together to get better and better rewards. That was really the goal of the game.
TechRaptor: And that separates it from other games using the same AR walk around the world stuff?
Clayton: Yeah. I mean, what we think distinguishes our game is the social gameplay, for one thing. The couch play options that I explained to you. The fact that we want you to wake up on a Sunday morning and if you don't feel like going out, to have a tone of things you can do. To have bait, to have flares, to have missions in your vicinity that you can play no matter if you're in a big city or a small city. So we think that distinguishes our game as well. To be perfectly honest, we think the AR is second to none.
TechRaptor: Okay. So, you've explained the whole thing with bait, with flares, to me. How do you sit down and go "what would be a good idea to put in this game, what would enhance the whole social play?"
Clayton: A lot of it is, you know, the initial features we rolled out with, which is essentially everything but the bait, the PVP, and the Season 9 missions that I showed you, was the result of us developing this game over the last two years and playtesting it. For one thing we know our fans, so I think we have a good sense of what they'd enjoy, and for another thing we're fans of the show too, and we're fans of this genre of gaming so we know what we enjoy. The great thing, now that the game is live and people are playing it and people are enjoy it, is that we're getting a lot of feedback about what's working for fans, what's working for our players, what they like less, what could be better. You know, we envision this game being around for the next five years, so we have a lot of features we want to roll out and the more the game is played and the more fans interact with it, the more we can tailor it to what they enjoy doing.
TechRaptor: Is there anything you guys are looking at right now that you really want to add to the game?
Clayton: I think right now our primary focus is getting PVP and bait shipped, and making sure that it's a fun experience that that our fans like it as much as we think they will. I can tell you that we do have a road map for the next couple years, but nothing that we really are quite prepared to share yet.
TechRaptor: Okay. Is there any specific characters that you really just really want in this game?
Clayton: Yeah. So we certainly have a road map of characters that we're going to be adding to this game both in season nine and beyond. Some of them are actually in the marketing build that I can show you, such as our friend Jesus here, who's coming pretty soon. So yeah. We've got a road map of characters that are being added, and some fun ideas especially concerning villains that I think players will really enjoy.
TechRaptor: So you're saying we'll be able to fight Negan? Is that one of the fun ideas?
TechRaptor: Maybe. Okay. I figure that's the best we're getting. Now you're doing this whole thing with The Walking Dead, and you work with AMC on this, obviously, to base it on the TV show. Is it easy working with the show or...?
Clayton: Yeah, the show has been really great collaborators. We make sure they see everything we're making. We don't want this to feel like it was done by some splinter group and it had nothing to do with the TV show. We want this game to be part of The Walking Dead universe and part of that is collaborating with the show and making sure that everything is of the world, is accurate to the world, looks and feels and is part of The Walking Dead universe. So they look at everything we do, they have writers that look at all the text in our game and make sure that they're sort of on character. So that's really important to us, and distinguishes us from other zombie games, is that is has to feel like a Walking Dead game and not just a zombie game.
TechRaptor: Have you worked with any of the stars from the show?
Clayton: To a certain extent. We've done-- a perfect example of this is we're launching a campaign for our world, actually today, with a series of promos staring Josh McDermitt and Michael Cudlitz. So the idea of theses promos is that Michael Cutlitz is off the show now because he was killed by Negan, but he really misses the show. He really wants to be back on it. So Our World is sort of this way he's found to be a part of the show again, and Josh McDermitt is sort of giving him therapy sessions about his addiction to the game. So it's a really really fun promo, we've got a series of six of them rolling out. Michael Cudlitz agreed to wear a very silly Abraham mustache for the shoot. So we think fans will really enjoy that.
TechRaptor: Is Michael as funny in real life as he is in the show?
Clayton: He's hilarious.
TechRaptor: Okay. I'm actually really happy to hear that.
Clayton: And he and Josh are are hilarious together. They're like really good friends, and they both have really good comedic sensibilities, and so we think fans will really enjoy that series of promos.
TechRaptor: Awesome. Alright, so the one thing I'm taking away from all this, with all the social features, is that Walking Dead: Our World. Our World is the friends we made along the way?
Clayton: [Laughter.] Sure!
TechRaptor: Okay. That's important.
Clayton: It's all about finding various survivors and working together.
TechRaptor: There we go. Alright, well I'd like to thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
Clayton: Yeah, of course, thank you.
TechRaptor: Seriously, it's really cool getting to see this stuff.
Clayton: Yeah. Well I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you keep playing the game, and yeah. Join a group, I think you'll find your enjoyment of the play, the second to second, increases exponentially.
We'd like to once again thank Clayton for taking the time to talk with us.