Telltale’s The Walking Dead was originally developed as a spin-off game from Left 4 Dead before the team pitched the idea to Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman.
In a documentary celebrating the game’s tenth anniversary, spotted by Eurogamer, the game’s original developers revealed that they had initially been in talks with Valve about a Left 4 Dead narrative spin-off.
A simple prototype was made, but plans fell through, and it was only later that Telltale approached The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman about hosting a game in his universe.
“The very first prototype of the Walking Dead, which was actually meant to be another zombie thing that eventually morphed into the Walking Dead, was actually the first conversation we had with Valve,” said season design and director Jake Rodkin. “It was like, what if we did a narrative side story in the Left 4 Dead universe?”
The prototype was an entirely text-based game, giving the player options to choose from, rather than actually seeing them play out in the game world, as in the final version of The Walking Dead. Gameplay saw players attempting to “spin records” by taking care of a number of characters simultaneously, with poor or late decisions causing their narratives to go awry.
“Thematically it’s a lot closer to what The Walking Dead was about than Left 4 Dead or even a lot of other zombie franchises, so it ended up being a really good fit,” Rodkin added.
“I’m really glad that didn’t work out!” Robert Kirman added about the idea of Left 4 Dead.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 1 became a huge critical and commercial success, essentially inspiring an entire generation of games at the studio.
In our 9/10 review of Season 1, IGN simply said, “The Walking Dead: The Game demands experience.”
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally thinks about tweeting @thelastdinsdale. He’ll be talking about The Witcher all day.
https://www.ign.com/articles/telltale-walking-dead-originally-pitched-left-4-dead Telltale’s Walking Dead was originally launched as a spin-off from Left 4 Dead