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Unlike many graphic adventure games, The Walking Dead does not emphasize puzzle solving, but instead focuses on story and character development. The story is affected by both the dialogue choices of the player and their actions during quick time events, which can often lead to, for example, certain characters being killed, or an adverse change in the disposition of a certain character or characters towards protagonist Lee. The choices made by the player carry over from episode to episode. Choices were tracked by Telltale, and used to influence their writing in later episodes.
Some parts of the game require timed responses from the player, often leading to significant decisions that will impact the game's story, in the manner of role-playing games (RPGs). Some conversation trees require the player to make a selection within a limited time, otherwise Lee will remain quiet, which can affect how other characters respond to him. Unlike in other RPGs such as the Mass Effect or Fallout series, where choices fall on either side of a "good or evil" scale, the choices within The Walking Dead have ambiguous results, having an effect on the attitude of the non-player characters towards Lee. The player can opt to enable a "choice notification" feature, in which the game's interface indicates that a character has changed their disposition towards Lee as a result of these choices. In more action-based sequences, the player must follow on-screen prompts for quick time events (QTEs) so as to keep themselves or other characters alive. If the player dies, the game restarts from just prior to the QTE. Other timed situations involve major decisions, such as choosing which of two characters to keep alive.
Numerous characters appear throughout the game. Lee Everett (voiced by Dave Fennoy), the primary protagonist, is a native of Macon and a former university professor convicted for killing a state senator who was sleeping with his wife. Lee eventually finds and becomes a father figure to Clementine (voiced by Melissa Hutchison), an eight-year-old whose parents had left for Savannah, leaving her with a babysitter. Lee and Clementine soon encounter a family from Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Kenny (voiced by Gavin Hammon), a fisherman who prioritizes his family above all else; Katjaa, Kenny's wife, who works as a veterinarian (voiced by Cissy Jones); and Kenny and Katjaa's son, Kenny Jr. (voiced by Max Kaufman), nicknamed "Duck". The five join a survivor group led by Lilly (voiced by Nicki Rapp), who was formerly stationed on the Robins Air Force Base. Lilly's group consists of multiple survivors, including Larry (voiced by Terry McGovern), her aggressive and judgmental father, a retired U.S. Army commander who knows Lee's past; Carley (voiced by Nicole Vigil) a quick-thinking regional news reporter who is also aware of Lee's crimes; Doug (voiced by Sam Joan), a resourceful and logical information systems technician; and Glenn Rhee (voiced by Nick Herman), a former pizza delivery boy. In the second episode, two more survivors join the group: Mark (voiced by Mark Middleton), a survivor who used to work for the U.S. Air Force; and Ben Paul (voiced by Trevor Hoffman), a high school student rescued by Lee, Mark and Kenny. Also introduced in the second episode are the farmers-turned-cannibals the St. Johns, consisting of Andy (voiced by Adam Harrington), his brother Danny (voiced by Brian Sommer), and their mother Brenda (voiced by Jeanie Kelsey). In the third episode, more characters are introduced; Chuck (voiced by Roger Jackson), a level-headed homeless man who lives in a boxcar; and Omid and Christa (voiced by Owen Thomas and Mara Junot respectively), a young couple who tend to stay away from large groups. The fourth episode introduces two more characters; Molly (voiced by Erin Ashe), an acrobatic and resourceful young woman who carries an ice axe; and Vernon (voiced by Butch Engle), a doctor and leader of a group of cancer survivors hiding in the morgue of a hospital. The Stranger (voiced by Anthony Lam, and by Roger Jackson through the walkie-talkie) is a mysterious man that communicates to Clementine via her walkie-talkie as the group nears Savannah.
Lee is being taken to prison when the police cruiser he is in crashes off-road after hitting a walker. He escapes, and while taking shelter in a suburban home, meets Clementine, whose parents had traveled to Savannah. The two arrive at the farm of Hershel Greene, meeting Kenny, Katjaa, and their son Duck. After Hershel's son Shawn is killed by walkers, he evicts the others. The group travels to Macon, Lee's hometown, where they join another group barricaded in Lee's family's pharmacy, where Lee discovers his parents and brother are dead. The group is forced to flee but finds a nearby defensible motel to stay.
Near Savannah, Lee's group meets Omid and Christa who join them. Clementine's walkie-talkie goes off, and a man tells her he has her parents in Savannah. The group sets up shelter in an abandoned mansion before investigating the city. Lee and Kenny go to River Street and discover that all the boats have been taken or destroyed, and useful supplies have been scavenged by the walled community, Crawford. Separated from the others, Lee meets another group of survivors led by Vernon, who helps him return to the mansion, where they discover a parked motorboat in a backyard shed. Lee and the others lead a raid on Crawford for supplies but discover the whole community has been overrun by walkers. Once they return to the mansion, Vernon leaves to return to his group but tells Lee he does not think he is fit to be a guardian for Clementine.
During development of the game, Robert Kirkman and the comic publisher Skybound Entertainment worked with Telltale. According to Kirkman, he had previously played Telltale's Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, and felt that they "were more focused on telling a good story, and I thought they were good at engaging the player in the narrative." Telltale approached him with a proposal which, according to Kirkman, "involved decision-making and consequences rather than ammunition gathering or jumping over things." The proposal's emphasis on the survival aspect of the comics, and the need for the player to make choices between two bad options sold him on the project. Since then, Kirkman became involved with Telltale, mostly providing oversight on what aspects of the story were appropriate components of The Walking Dead universe, in much the same manner as he does for the television show, staying out of the direct development process. Dan Connors, CEO of Telltale, stated that working with Kirkman made it easier for Telltale to craft its story and introduce new characters, instead of having to work with those already established in the comic. One of the few demands Kirkman asked of Telltale was to avoid telling anything involved with the comic's main character, Rick Grimes, as Kirkman has stated long-term plans with the character in other media. Kirkman had not been impressed with an early build of the first episode, but by the time they had presented him with a near-final build, Kirkman told the Telltale team, "Holy shit guys, you did it", according to the game's co-lead developer Jake Rodkin.
The game's story was written with the final scene in the fifth episode, where Clementine either shoots Lee or walks away to let him become a walker, as the established ending that the game would build towards. As such, the character of Clementine was considered critical to the game's writing, and the team spent much time making her the "moral compass" for the game, while assuring that as a child character, she would not come off to the player as whining or annoying. Similarly, the scene with the Stranger in the hotel room was planned very early in development, and also used to review the player's decisions on a moral basis, allowing the player to respond, if they desired, to the allegations. Each episode was developed by pairing a writer and a game designer so that the plot and gameplay style for that episode would work in cooperation and avoid having one feel detached from the other, according to Vanaman. As such, certain gameplay ideas were left out of the game; one example given by Vanaman was a scene where everyone in the survivor group was firing on a wall of zombies, but as this would lead to a discrete success or failure, it did not fit in with the sense of panic they wanted to convey in the scene.
On September 10, 2019, an official soundtrack album of Jared Emerson-Johnson's B.A.F.T.A. Award nominated score to the game was released for digital download and on streaming services, with a special edition set of vinyl lps due to release shortly thereafter.
In previous series developed by Telltale for multiple platforms, they had had difficulty in timing releases to reach all players at the same time. One aspect of this was due to issues encountered on the Xbox Live Arcade service for the Xbox 360; for small publishers, like Telltale at the time, they had to arrange with larger publishers to allocate a slot within the Arcade's release schedule several months in advance, making it difficult to coordinate with releases on other platforms. After the success of the Back to the Future and Jurassic Park games, however, Telltale were able to officially achieve a publisher status on Xbox Live, giving them more control of the release schedule. Furthermore, they had designed the game such that the second through fifth episodes would be treated as downloadable content, allowing them to bypass slot scheduling and assuring same-day release on both PCs and consoles. 041b061a72