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GDC – Making Great VR Games with “The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners”

The Walking Dead
Courtesy of Skydance Interactive

Production company Skydance Media specializes in various entertainment mediums through their partnership with Paramount Pictures. They are responsible for producing some of the Mission Impossible movies, successful TV shows like Altered Carbon and Jack Ryan, and, recently, have ventured into the gaming sector, under the name Skydance Interactive. So far, they developed three games, with their most popular title being the exhilarating survival VR game The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners.

Day 4 of GDC featured a discussion of the game’s genesis with Skydance Interactive’s Head of Studio, Chris Busse, and Vice President of Global Interactive Marketing, Guy Costantini. The bulk of the discussion was spent going over their approach towards adapting the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead into a viscerally brutal and anxiety-inducing VR experience.

Courtesy of GDC Showcase

Saints & Sinners gives players the ability to play many different missions, each with their own unique sandbox elements. Players will find unique problems that arise from little mistakes that they make during the game, which acts to heighten the stress and helps make the situation of fighting zombies seem all the more realistic. Chris Busse goes into detail about how they create momentum within the game with the idea of the “tension engine.” Players are expected to cyclically craft gear, explore the environment, and fight off zombies, with the central goal being survival.

During a typical Saints & Sinners mission, players wake up at a hub and gear up by finding supplies. You then scavenge and further explore the terrain, which in the game is the city of New Orleans. You run into the cast of human survivors in a fortified tower or house and attempt to earn their trust. After being rejected entry by the survivors, you’ll have to discover another way into the fort. During this process there will be an ambush of walkers for you to help the others fight off.

Chris Busse explained that the game aimed to apply Robert Kirkman’s idea that “the walkers are the weather” and that the real issue is the people. The real dilemmas that arise in The Walking Dead TV show are when different factions of survivors lose trust in one another. Skydance Interactive treats that as a crucial element for Saints & Sinners

Since January 2020, Saints & Sinners has been lauded as an extremely tense survival horror game and is currently available on Steam, Playstation VR, and Oculus Quest.

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