What we learned while making The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts


Greetings PlayStation Blog. When we became aware of The Walking Dead: Survival Instincts  opportunity with Activision and AMC, we leapt on it. We devised a first-person survival-horror strategy approach and pitched it. Our game was planned as a labour of love: an endeavor to create a relatively intimate The Walking Dead game experience for fans like us… as well as players new to the series who were looking for a different type of zombie game. Our goal was to create an authentic and compelling experience worthy of the name.

Since then, of course, Telltale has released all the amazing episodes of their deserved Game of the Year, and AMC’s series has consistently shattered broadcast television records! So while ‘pressure’ may be an understatement, we’ve stayed the course. And Activision and AMC have been steadfast, wonderful partners, helping us making the game we set out to make in the first place: a new type of zombie game experience for players that want to take on The Walking Dead’s world for a while!

Here are some of the lessons the team learned while developing The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, which is out later this week on PlayStation 3.

“I was skeptical, but I learned that you can create a game that uses one fundamental type of enemy and still maintains challenge, intensity, and intrigue throughout. There are no super-zombies or acid-spitter zombies in The Walking Dead universe, but we found that by adding lots of behavioral and physical variations within the accepted Walker ‘spectrum’, we were able to keep players scared and surprised throughout the game.” Russell Mirabelli, Lead Programmer

“I learned that smashing zombie skulls sounds alot like smashing various fruits and veggies. It gave us some great audio for the sound department. The lingering fruit-salad fragrance in the studio was an added bonus.” Brian Fieser, Lead Sound Designer


“I learned, or relearned, that you simply cannot overestimate the value of a headline actor that gets the material, is excited about the game, and brings their own expertise to the character. As Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker have been credited multiple times with shaping the characters of Daryl and Merle Dixon – the only major characters that don’t appear in Mr. Kirkman’s comics – these two know those characters as well as anyone: what they would and wouldn’t do, what they would and wouldn’t say, and were incredibly generous in sharing that with us. In terms of authenticity, what higher authority is there?” Drew Haworth, Creative Director

“Well-defined parameters work really well to help bring out creative solutions to problems. For example, one of Survival Instinct’s points of focus is on replayability, rather than a single static campaign where you see everything the first time you play. So that helped inspire elements like the Travel System and its unpredictable Road Events, catering to unique playstyles and results based on player’s weapon loadouts, flexible and dynamic Walker AI, and branching paths on the Georgia map.” Jason Alexander, Primary Level Designer

“Walkers don’t wear shorts. You’d think they might, in Georgia, but no. Long pants, maybe a nice skirt. We learned that fact from Greg Nicotero.” Robert St. Aubin, Concept Artist

“A key lesson for me during the course of development was to see the importance of Daryl’s crossbow. Our initial builds only allowed melee weapons and firearms, so there was no real way to kill a walker from a distance without drawing the entire street to your location.

“When TRI introduced the crossbow, it opened up all kinds of possibilities in strategically pacifying an area of walkers. Add the ability to reuse ammo and we have a great candidate for the ultimate zombie weapon. If you gave me a choice between Daryl’s crossbow and two bolts, or an assault rifle with a full 30 round clip. I’ll take the crossbow every time!” Matt Hohl, Activision Producer


“One thing I learned through extensive hours of playing The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct is to always, always CLOSE DOORS BEHIND YOU! It seems like something so innocuous that it wouldn’t be a big deal, but trust me: it is. I can’t count the number of times where I get into an altercation in a room that only had one or two walkers in it, only to have a flood of them hear the noise and pour out of the door that I haplessly left open behind me (d’oh).

“This is especially significant when you’re entering a building since the dead pretty much run rampant in the streets – an open door might as well be a neon sign inviting them in after you. Metal doors are the best since the walkers can’t break through them, but even those flimsy wooden doors are enough to delay the herd and buy you a few precious seconds to GTFO. So, for heaven’s sake, shut the dang door on your way in and out!” Dino Verano, Activision Associate Producer

If you didn’t pre-order the game, don’t worry, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct will be getting a DLC pack containing a Herd mode and backpack full of new weapons next month!

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21 Comments 0 Author replies
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Jamesyp00 19 March, 2013 @ 2:30 pm   1

The whole non-linear world with random survivors sounds really cool, and the fact you can be really stealthy is neat too, It’s just it looks really rushed and jerky, and the fact it’s based on the show instead of the comics is just a notch against it. Might check this out when it hits the bargain bins in a week or so.

Tranquil-Fury 19 March, 2013 @ 2:35 pm   2

I learned to never buy tie-in games new without reading reviews beforehand. This has all the hallmarks of a rush release of minimal quality made to cash in on the success of the graphic novels/TV show.

MafiaCub 19 March, 2013 @ 2:38 pm   3

Well they couldn’t really base it on the comics, since it was about Daryl and Merle.

The TV show, and it’s world gives far greater chance for creative freedom too. To base it on the comics, which is a very well explored, dark world in black and white would leave us little to do. Apart from a ‘this is what happened to Michonne before we met her’ storyline, there’s not a great deal to do because the characters have been fully explored, and those that haven’t shown it, have had it explained (Hershals Family)

Making a video game, in colour, would just not fit right with the comics in my opinion… although, having said that, the TellTale games game is very much like the comics. Can’t deny I’d have loved a MadWorld style game (From the Wii), but I think going with the realistic TV based game is best.

TellTales take, as I mentioned was like the comics and was brilliant, going with a different style based off the TV show eliminates needless comparisons (at least most) and gives them a great chance at developing characters who people already love.

MafiaCub 19 March, 2013 @ 2:39 pm   4

with regards to the graphics though, they do suck, and it does take you out of it a little at times… not because they’re so bad you can’t concentrate, but I’ve played the game and the opening level has you hunting a deer. It feels and looks like Cabalas Dangerous Hunts: Zombie Edition.

Jamesyp00 19 March, 2013 @ 2:57 pm   5

Telltales game is set in the comics it’s just a different group of survivors, there’s nods to the other group all the time like hershel’s farm etc.
The show just takes everything far out and adds in these random hicks who have aren’t more than gary stu’s who now have there own budget video game. The walking dead is easy to set up with new plots and these guys decided to just cash in on the show and telltales success to make a hack grab at some more cash.


Hmm an Activision published licensed tie-in game, what could possibly go wrong?
On a positive note 1 week guys till Bioshock Infinite!

Hexahedronaut 19 March, 2013 @ 3:15 pm   7

This game is going to get obliterated by critics and fans. Your just trying to cash in on that sweet sweet walking dead pie… But lets be honest this is going to fail worse than Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing. Seroiusly why would anyone buy this when you consider dead island riptide is out soon and that with the 4 player co-op zombie slaying adventure is guaranteed to be astronomically better than this Activition produced garbage.

P.s there’s only one walking dead game done right and that’s telltales walking dead game period!.

RoaringMdog18 19 March, 2013 @ 3:36 pm   8

Watched a walktrough on youtube and can honestly say that it doesnt look that bad. Might pick it up when i can find it for cheap.

MASPALOMAZ 19 March, 2013 @ 4:14 pm   9

It looks like a really fun game even if it doesnt look like Crysis3, the gameplay needs a survival mode with waves of zombies, which the title kinda implies. I also want sentry guns that I can place which will do the work for me. But I am definately checking this out and the insights from this post were pretty interesting thanks 🙂

Hamster8U 19 March, 2013 @ 4:23 pm   10

Just been watching gameplay footage on Youtube & I have to admit that it does look pretty good. Might just pick this up as soon as possible 🙂

Retro_1973 19 March, 2013 @ 4:35 pm   11

I’ll get it when it’s goes down to £20 next month… 😀

the1free_man 19 March, 2013 @ 4:47 pm   12

I was going to ask if the main thing you learned was that a name sells any garbage, but then I realized you didn’t learn that – you already knew it.

another_gamer195 19 March, 2013 @ 5:15 pm   13

Reading a few comments here as confused me a little, for instance the cashing in of a hot tv show, rushed game, and other general negative remarks. Am only sorry i cannot get this on day1, as have still to (attempt to) finish DS3, And begin GoW_A, otherwise i would grab it, as, after all there doing Exactly what myself, and many thousands of other gamers wish for, ie Cashing in on a top tv show. am not sure about the (original ?.) comic side of it all. though the 1% of comic readers, opposed to tv show watchers, seem to complain about any alteration to them, (the comic’s story/timelines).. so i guess that’ll be a hard market to please no matter what. Also how is it a rushed game, is there proof of this, lol. good luck on getting it in ‘bargain bin’ Next month…
Thanks for the article, twas a good and informative read.

dogwalker4000 19 March, 2013 @ 5:35 pm   14

It may not be next month but give it a couple of months and you’ll be able to get it at half the price. If Activisions past TV tie in is anything to go by (Family Guy) this will be very much a disappointment 🙁

another_gamer195 19 March, 2013 @ 5:48 pm   15

Well i guess thats true, as theres very few games nowadays that stay at top price for more than a month, also i haven’t heard of mp mode/need for online pass for this, refreshing.. so 2nd hand price will be worth considering as well.. i feel i Will enjoy this no matter, as am only interested in connection to WD universe, i am hoping though i enjoy it for the more important reasons as well.. guess i will have to wait couple of weeks to see if i have to order portion of humble pie or not.

GANTZn00b 19 March, 2013 @ 5:56 pm   16

does this game offer a coop mode or is it pure single player ?


There’s a reason why the press haven’t been given early review code. The reviews are coming in now and it sounds terrible.

Don’t spend money on this shameless cash in, not only from the TV series and comics, it’s also been rushed out to fool people into thinking they’re buying many peoples GoTY. Especially since Telltale’s Walking Dead isn’t available at retail in Europe, people are going to buy this crap on the back of Telltale’s good press

Scuffy_P 20 March, 2013 @ 9:25 am   18

Greed once again prevails. If this had been released at a budget price, both retail and digital, I would inevitably have bought it. But full price? No wonder Activision are collecting the scraps the other two big publishers don’t want.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a review at Polygon:


You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Scuffy_P 20 March, 2013 @ 9:34 am   19

People would be better sticking to ZombiU for the time being.

A far, far, superior game in relation to the FPS genre.


Shame that yet again, those with motion sickness problems are left behind. I would love to play this game, but the first person view will give me motion sickness. Please consider adding a patch/option to play in 3rd person for us non-FPS players please 🙁

dogwalker4000 22 March, 2013 @ 10:05 am   21

After seeing some of the reviews I can honestly say that I’m not surprised, just a shame that this type of thing still happens in this day and age.

This honestly would’ve really interested me if they could’ve pull it but a lack of a decent story and poor characters seems to have let it down heavily (along with the dated gameplay). Activision saw the money that could be made and went for it. This is the result and unfortunately it’s a mess. 🙁