Video game studio Disruptor Beam has already had success translating two global franchises into free-to-play video games with Game of Thrones Ascent and Star Trek Timelines. Now the independent developer has partnered with Skybound Entertainment to tell a brand new story set in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic book universe. The announcement is being made at the New York Comic-Con today.
The multiplayer, real-time strategy game, The Walking Dead: March, is set in Washington, DC and will launch on the App Store and Google Play next year. What’s different about Disruptor Beam’s games is that they allow fans to tell their own stories through the gameplay and make connections with the other players.
Joey Lapegna, director of product and design for Disruptor Beam, said that as the team started creating The Walking Dead: March to War, they knew characters had to be a primary pillar. This drove a lot of the decisions around the type of game they would create and the areas of innovation they would focus on in order to bring characters to the forefront of the game.
“March to War features immersive 3D graphics and focuses on true multiplayer competitive gameplay, where survivors must actively work with and against others to gain control and progress,” Lapegna said. “Unlike some other The Walking Dead games, players actually have to work with each other in order to succeed (or fail). We are creating a massive world for players to engage with each other and tell their stories on how they survived in the world of The Walking Dead.”
Lapegna said a talented team of artists is working on the game with the goal of pushing the boundaries of what people see in mobile games today, similar to how the studio approached the graphics in Star Trek Timelines. He said March to War will look like no other mobile competitive strategy or Walking Dead mobile game seen before.
In March to War, the player is the leader of their own group of survivors in the DC area and runs into members from a few of the fictional The Walking Dead communities, including Alexandria and The Hilltop. They work together with these groups to learn what it takes to survive in this world and can call on them for help to grow their own community.
“The game’s story is based around Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed comic book series; however, we are creating a gameplay environment that allows rich stories to emerge as players interact with each other in the world,” Lapegna said. “Alliances and friends will form and enemies will be made. There is a deep human drama that comes out of the game systems we’re creating—drama that’s also evident in all of Kirkman’s material.”
The game has been in development since early this year. Lapegna said his team has worked closely with Skybound in expanding this universe, which has already been the subject of multiple critically-acclaimed Skybound games, novels and the AMC TV series.
“In regard to working with Skybound, they really look to our expertise and experience to design the right game systems and player experience that will build a fun and successful game for their fans,” Lapegna said. “They are very involved in the process and provide great feedback, but give us the creative freedom to do what we do best: make games!”
Players will get to recruit some of the famous characters from the comics to become a part of their advisory council. The game will launch with well-known characters such as Michonne, Rick and Negan.
“Our gameplay is centered around controlling scarce resources on a shared multiplayer map,” Lapegna said. “So, the location we chose plays an important role in setting the mood and experience for players. We wanted a location that would allow us to create a beautiful 3D world, show a place that was once living and fit it in well with where the story is now. We’ve built some really incredible technology to recreate the look and feel of the area and are really excited to start sharing some images of it with the world.”
Just as Disruptor Beam did with Game of Thrones and Star Trek, this Walking Dead game has been designed for multiplayer.
“We made a decision within the team early on to create a game that was multiplayer at its core,” Lapegna said. “We believe it is important to both stay authentic to The Walking Dead, as well as create a game that can support and engage players for years. The game is built around the control of scarce resources, and as time goes by, players will become more and more dependent on each other to have access to those resources. Players will need to initiate trades or attacks on each other to maintain each of their communities.”
Disruptor Beam has been able to apply lessons learned from its previous two licensed IPs in developing this new comic book-based game. From a gameplay perspective, Lapegna said a key lesson learned was the value and connection players feel to the characters.
“When we created Game of Thrones Ascent, we added the idea of Sworn Swords, minor non-canonical characters that players could send into battle or as spies against the enemy,” Lapegna said. “Based on their popularity, we doubled-down on characters with Star Trek Timelines and built a game where players could collect their favorite Star Trek personalities and put them in situations together to solve in-game conflicts. The success of Star Trek Timelines can be attributed to these characters.”
While many readers and viewers become interested in The Walking Dead for the zombies, Lapegna said they soon learn that the walkers are not the true source of drama; it’s the human drama that is created as well as the relationships that form through the stresses of trying to rebuild society. Disruptor Beam takes that element, as well as the notion of rebuilding society, and builds that into the gameplay experience.
“It’s a fascinating world with rich characters that can tell such meaningful stories,” Lapegna said. “We all have a fantasy of what we would do if we were in that situation, and the ability to play out that fantasy in a video game or a television series touches on something truly human.”