The Walking Dead: Telltale Games AMC and Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead: Telltale Games AMC and Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead has a fairly unique fan-base; they are spread out over Telltale Games and their award winning video game; AMC with their, also, award winning show and the man who created it all via a comic book series, Robert Kirkman. It is the creator who has his hands in each slice of this walker pie and the man who helps to make all the different verses of the Walking Dead work.

Walking Dead Fever…

So this year, Meg and I decided (in between everything else going on) to devote a huge amount of time playing video games as we’ve both been a bit slack in that area of fun for a while now. First on the agenda (or play list) was The Walking Dead: The Game.

I had been watching the developer’s on-line “diary” of this game as they updated on a regular basis what they had done and where they were in the whole process. Telltale Games, the developers in question, were trying to push the boundaries a bit and not only come up with a game that would resonate with the existing Walking Dead franchise, but, they were also trying to breathe new life into the old “adventure” game.

Walking Dead is a “point and click” game with echoes of role play ala Mass Effect. The gaming community received the games release with a kind of euphoric instant acceptance that appears to be more for the “subject” of the game than the actual game itself. The Walking Dead has been popular with folks first as a graphic novel series, then as a television program based on the novels for quite some time.

Just one snapshot of the ever changing group in The Walking Dead.

The game does not follow the telly program, which did surprise me a lot, but the next iteration of The Walking Dead game verse will. Fans of the books will be pleased with the game though. It looks like you have stepped into a volume of them. The art work screams graphic novel and it works extremely well for the game.

The game play itself is a bit of a mixed bag. In some ways it is simple and direct, but in other ways it can be stupidly frustrating. It was probably just me, but I had a hell of a time moving the R3 and L3 together for “easier” movements and object searches. In the area of shooting the infected, it was too easy. When you pulled your gun and got ready to send a “walker” to zombie heaven, all you were given was a “box” like aiming area, no cross hairs or aiming features like Uncharted for example.

This caused me no end of problems at first. I kept dying as I tried to aim at a walker head. It took me literally ages to figure out that as long as you kept the zombie in the box, you were going to hit it. Once I got used to it, however, I was despatching walkers with the ease of an Annie Oakley shootist. Of course, then it got too easy and the end consequence was that it lost a lot in enjoyment value.

Like other games that are flooding the market at the moment, The Walking Dead has more than its fair share of glitches. Most of them were downright funny. Lilly with her invisible rifle, Omid lying in mid-air, to name just two; but some interfered with game play and were infuriating. There was an apparent frame rate issue that slowed action (or stopped completely) changing the outcome of that particular challenge.

It frustrates me that a company like Telltale Games will spend so much money on publicizing their product but will so obviously cut back on expenditure of quality assurance checks to make sure the game play flows smoothly. Anytime that a glitch changes the outcome of an event in the game, the glitch then becomes non-acceptable from the player’s point of view; and player is spelt C-O-N-S-U-M-E-R guys.

My overall experience with The Walking Dead was positive. I enjoyed the game, the story, and the graphics. I did not enjoy the glitches and the obvious “copying” of the role play element that worked so well in the Mass Effect verse. And copying it most definitely was, the difference being that you really did not change any of the “important” elements of the game by your decisions.

*And before I get my head bitten off here, yes I know that ultimately, when you finished ME3 your choices did not count for squat either, but, originally that was not the plan.*

What does confuse me is how The Walking Dead garnered so many awards, accolades, and almost universal acceptance as being the crème de la crème of all the games released in 2012. I can only shake my head and wonder if it has to do with “cross-merchandising” between the novels and the television series.

I haven’t said a lot about the story, but really there is no need to spend a lot of time here. The main protagonist is Lee, who is on his way to prison after murdering his wife and her Senator boyfriend. After the officer driving hits a “walker” and crashes, you play as Lee and eventually meet and befriend Clementine. Once you two “hit the road” you meet the first of the many folks you will encounter on your mission of trying to unite Clem with her folks.

The group dynamics change and flow as there are power struggles and leadership questions. Just as changing are the members of the group, who die off either getting munched by one of the undead or by natural causes. Not really any different from any zombie apocalypse film you seen or game you’ve played or book you’ve read.

Stepping back from the game for a moment and looking at the entire “verse” of The Walking Dead, I think that the existing popularity of a fictional world that the public already laps up has contributed firmly to the high rating given the game. Which is why I think the next game in the “Walking Dead” franchise that is due for release in 2013 as a “prequel” to the TV series will be instantly accepted and raved about.

Pre-order you prequel now…

Regardless of its merits or glitches or game play, the 2013 version of Walking Dead will hit the ground running and not lose one step in its stride towards “Game of the Year 2013. It is so obvious that Telltale Games want to further cash in on the success of the TV show. Of course when the name of the “real” game is making money, you cannot blame them.

I’ll leave you with two things (or maybe three). Am I the only person who wants to see how Clementine (Worst choice of a character name ever, I hear that “Oh my darling Clementine” in my head every time I hear the kid’s name) turned out after the events of the game? And who else besides me, thinks that “actor Anthony Lam” is really Steve Buscemi?

Will these questions ever be answered? Who knows, but I do think that Clementine is already a pistol toting, zombie killing, little momma who will be able to shoot the ears off of any walker who gets too close.

I would have to give this game a 4 ½ stars out of 5 (if I did a star rating system) just for the fun, if not frustrating at times, game play and story.

“Go ahead, make my day.”

Why are Glitchy Games the New Norm?

You cannot refer to yourself as a “gamer” if you don’t know about the multitude of glitches in Skyrim.  Just check out the video below (courtesy of Household Gamer on YouTube) for an example of just a very small amount of glitches that are in this game.

Skyrim has an enormous amount of glitches in its verse. A lot of gamers react quite huffily when this is pointed out. “Well, it’s a huge game man, what do you expect?” I answer, “No glitches.”

In an age where the average expenditure for a AAA title video game is in the region of 50 to 60 pounds sterling (or the dollar/monetary unit of where you live) or more, I expect no glitches…at all.

Back in the day, glitches were unheard of. PS1/PS2 and the old Xbox were practically glitch free. The games were a lot cheaper and yes the graphics not nearly so spectacular. I will also mention that the technology wasn’t as advanced.

Why then, in this advanced technology, enhanced graphics and expensive game arena are most games filled with glitches. More importantly, why are gamers accepting this as the norm? Have we gotten that complacent? That easily pleased? Does a fast paced action packed game with a sandbox world mean that glitches are now acceptable?

I don’t get it.

Incredible floating dead soldier.

At the end of every video game ever made there is an incredibly long list of credits. If you can manage to sit through this infinite scroll of participants who contributed to the game you will see Quality Assurance and Quality Checks et al. I don’t think so. If you Quality Assurance guys were really doing your job, the glitches would be gone. You are all fired.

The problem seems to be that the games industry is placing a huge emphasis on deadlines. Since the industry discovered that they are scraping in loads more coin than the movie industry, they’ve moved their goalposts. It appears that the new target of all main stream games companies is the, “Let’s get hands on those controllers, guys and gals. Players equal profits.

This new adherence to unrealistic deadlines is allowing these technological problems to steadily increase in the gaming world. And it’s not just glitches that are affecting these AAA games.

Remember the rage and fury of Mass Effect fans when the debacle of Mass Effect 3 ending appeared? Because their original ending of the game had been leaked and their deadline was fast approaching (in about 2 weeks time if I remember correctly) they wrote an unsatisfactory ending –not by the original writing team, I hasten to add– and wound up deviating wildly from their first ending.

The result was a mish-mash of an ending that departed from the entire premise of the Mass Effect series. Which was of course that, “Your decisions mould the ending of the game.” All this came about because apparently their new partner (EA games) demanded that they meet the now ridiculous deadline.

I honestly think that the new target of money making versus making great re-playable games and meeting unrealistic deadlines is ultimately going to cost the games industry money.

Hardcore gamers, who are the same guys who started playing when they were in short pants, have gotten older and (surprise!) are still hardcore gamers. The average playing age is creeping up. And I’ve got news for you game company guys, the older you get the less likely you are to be easily satisfied by shoddy products.

Oh no. This doesn’t throw me out of the game at all! Half Life 2 glitch.

There is nothing more annoying, or as likely to throw you out of the moment, than an irritating glitch in a game. Assassin’s Creed has had plenty of, “There’s a guards head and shoulders sticking up through the roof,” moments. These moments (which appear in a disturbing amount of games) are amusing at first. Then just irritating.

Sure I get excited about a new game coming out. I’m beside myself at the moment waiting for the new Hitman.

But as excited as I am about the new Hitman: Absolution, there are a few other games I also can’t wait to get my hands on. And this is where the money thing comes in. I’ve already set aside a few games to trade in for Hitman and Black Ops 2 (don’t judge!) if any more come out like…BioShock Infinite. I’m screwed. Too much expenditure for my tiny budget.

This is my point, I suppose, I don’t mind paying my hard earned pennies for a great, highly anticipated game. But I do begrudge paying for a glitch-filled, highly anticipated game. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling either.

So games companies take note. I think you’re going to find a lot of “hard-core” gamers aren’t going to be happy with being sold sub-standard goods. We might just start asking for our money back.

Glitch (video game)
Glitch (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)