The first prototype for the game that would become Telltale’s The Walking Dead series originally began as a narrative-focused spin-off of Left 4 Dead.
That little detail, and many others, make up Skybound Games’ new 10-year documentary about the creation of Telltale’s influential adventure game series, which premiered the first episode of its first season in April 2012. The documentary (via Eurogamer ) brings together several developers who worked on the game, as well as The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, to look back at how the series came to be.
“The first prototype of The Walking Dead was actually for a different zombie thing that ended up morphing into The Walking Dead,” says Jake Rodkin, lead design and direction for The Walking Dead season, in the documentary. “The first conversation was actually with Valve and it was about ‘What if we did a side story in the Left 4 Dead universe?'”
As for what this early prototype looked like, it was what Rodkin describes as a prototype of “boiling pots or spinning dishes”, essentially a collection of character progress bars that would continue to fill until the player approached them. Of course, a Telltale Left 4 Dead side story never came into being, something Kirkman is glad it didn’t work out. There hasn’t been a new entry in the Left 4 Dead franchise, spin-off or otherwise, since 2009’s Left 4 Dead 2.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead series would eventually spawn several seasons and spin-offs of its own, and is best known for fan-favorite characters like Lee and Clementine. It would establish Telltale’s formula that would be used in a number of similarly licensed titles, ranging from Game of Thrones to Batman.
While many of Telltale’s games, such as The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands, were well received by critics and considered successes (so much so that both games are getting sequels), Telltale filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2018. Telltale’s closure, which happened as the company was in the midst of releasing episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, Kirkman’s own company, Skybound Entertainment, brought in several Telltale developers to finish the game. The last two episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season were released in 2019.
LCG Entertainment purchased Telltale’s name and assets following the studio’s original closure and is behind the upcoming second season of The Wolf Among Us along with Adhoc Studio, a team made up of former Telltale developers. Tales from the Borderlands will have a sequel later this year developed by Gearbox Software, the developer of Borderlands.
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