“We experimented with different takes on the art style, and [since] there are a lot of zombie games out there [The Walking Dead Telltale series, Days Gone, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, to name a few], we wanted to make sure we had an interesting style that, when we looked at a screenshot, we could say, ‘this is our game,'” says art director Jake Geiger, referencing The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, his latest VR project from Skydance Interactive.
Ahead of its release on Jan. 23, 2020, The Hollywood Reporter was invited to participate in a demo of the game that drops players into the unforgiving wasteland of bloodied and flooded New Orleans — three years after a devastating zombie outbreak — and forces them to make death-defying choices as they fight for survival against not only walkers, but famine, disease and violent threats on the street.
When approaching a starved zombie, it was demonstrated that players can utilize a variety of weapons — ax, crossbow, shotgun, knife, you name it — to take it out with minimal destruction to their own body. Hold the unruly walker in one hand, slice its skull open with the other: a clean kill. As the game moves forward, and if you are still standing, there are opportunities to interact with human characters, accept side missions alongside the main narrative and protect others…or leave them for dead. It’s survival of the fittest, but in a character-driven world.
Teasing the art approach, Geiger said that the team went for a stylized look that played to the strengths of VR, with textures that were more painterly instead of realistic. [It was] a style we could streamline and fit in as much assets as we possibly could,” he explained. “If we tried to pack in too much photo-real stuff, we tend to hit a limit a lot faster, but if we have a streamlined art style, we can get in a lot more content. From a technical standpoint, that was one of the reasons.”
Recalling his collaboration with other creative departments, Geiger said, “We start out with a blue sky approach to a mission or a level that we’re putting together, so we’ll have all the writers in a room and we’ll brainstorm ideas. From there it goes over to design; they’ll make paper maps and come up with rough geometry for the game. Once we’ve reached that stage and they’ve found what makes that stage fun, art will do a pass and work closely with design to reshape it architecturally and make it feel like it was a real building. Then it’s about making it pretty.”
Geiger has been a gamer his entire life, starting with Atari and Nintendo consoles when he was very young.”The first game where I was old enough to understand all the artwork that went into it, was Final Fantasy 7. I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Watch the official trailer below.