Kevin Bruner’s game version of zombie thriller The Walking Dead rolled out last year in five installments. Telltale has tallied more than 8.5 million downloaded episodes, thanks in large part to story elements that evolved based on data it compiled about player choices. Bruner’s tenets for narrative development:
Make decisions difficult: Bruner didn’t want characters in the game to be obviously good or bad. "Occasionally we would see choices land all on one side, so we would make things more nebulous," he says.
Write for any plausible scenario: Oh, no—you stranded a fellow traveler on the road with roving packs of zombies! Ack—how do you captain this train!? "When people are really role-playing, they buy into the stories and characters," says Bruner.
Let gamers compare zombie notes: At the end of each episode, Telltale shows players a statistical breakdown of how their choices stacked up. Were you crazy enough to cut off your arm to stave off infection from a zombie bite? So were 71% of all players. The results inspire repeat play-throughs.
[Images Courtesy of Telltale Games]