Telltale's The Walking Dead Was A Left 4 Dead Spin-Off

Telltale's The Walking Dead Was A Left 4 Dead Spin-Off
Telltale | Valve

Written by 

Tom Chapman


26th Apr 2022 15:12

The genre of zombie games is getting ever smaller, and as Resident Evil Easter egg brought Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy into Dying Light 2, we know they can sometimes cross over. However, did you know Telltale's The Walking Dead game was nearly a Left 4 Dead spin-off?

Back when The Walking Dead was the most-watched series on TV and Andrew Lincoln was playing the surly Rick Grimes, Telltale took those shuffling zombies and put its video game genius to good work. So was born the episodic The Walking Dead: The Game. However, it could've been a very different story.

How Did The Walking Dead Start?

As spotted by Eurogamer, publisher Skybound Games has released a special documentary to celebrate 10 years of The Walking Dead: The Game. Design and Direction Lead Jake Rodkin explained how The Walking Dead was originally a narrative side-story set inside the Left 4 Dead universe.

Discussing where things were going, Rodkin said, "The first conversation was actually with Valve, and it was about what if we did a narrative side-story in the universe of Left 4 Dead. That was when Sean [Vanaman] and Carl [Muckenhoupt] had started this prototype... It was just a bunch of progress bars, if you didn't check on enough people, they would either boil over, or one of their events would cause someone else's story to like overcharge and start messing up."

It all sounds very bare-bones, but it turns out, it was better to branch out from the co-op story of Left 4 Dead in favour of something completely new. Rodkin continued, "I'm really glad that didn't work out, but it turns out that thematically, that's actually a lot closer to what The Walking Dead is about than Left 4 dead or even a lot of other zombie franchises, so it ended up being a really good fit."

What Happened Next For The Walking Dead?

Telltale The Walking Dead
Click to enlarge

When Season 1 of The Walking Dead: The Game came out, we'd already had two Left 4 Dead games and multiple DLCs. In the end, Rodkin decided that The Walking Dead had enough source material to adapt without retreading AMC's series. He said it wasn't going to be just enough Rick Grimes story, and originally suggested a young man raising his sister. Ultimately, this evolved into the story of Lee and Clementine - which has its own parallels with The Last of Us which came out just a year later. 

The video also includes an early prototype that features Flint Paper from Telltale's Sam & Max, with those at the top loving the stylised morgue setting so much, it was used for the game's Season 1 finale. Much like The Walking Dead made fan-favourites of Daryl and Carol, Clementine evolved into a hardened survivor of Telltale's world - being her very own Rick Grimes in all four seasons. Although they're all dead and buried now, we're not sure Telltale's zombie adventure would've been quite such a hit if it had been a Left 4 Dead spin-off instead of honouring the legacy of The Walking Dead


Tom Chapman
About the author
Tom Chapman
Tom is Trending News Editor at GGRecon, with an NCTJ qualification in Broadcast Journalism and over seven years of experience writing about film, gaming, and television. With bylines at IGN, Digital Spy, Den of Geek, and more, Tom’s love of horror means he's well-versed in all things Resident Evil, with aspirations to be the next Chris Redfield.
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