At Telltale’s panel “Saving Doug: Empathy, Character, and Choice in The Walking Dead” today at GDC 2013, co-creative leads Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman outlined the ideas that guided their design of one of last year’s most acclaimed games. A few of the presentation’s topics overlapped a little with DayZ creator Dean Hall’s comments yesterday at GDC about the value of context in storytelling and of player-generated meaning. But maybe most notably, the pair of designers admitted that they were concerned “every day” about how the game’s story would suffer if players didn’t care about Clementine, Lee’s companion throughout the series.

Hopefully Obvious Disclaimer: This post includes spoilers about Telltale’s adaptation of The Walking Dead.

Jake Rodkin: “While Clementine seems like an obvious choice for a character in a game that’s paying attention to your decisions because she can both influence your decisions and she can be shaped by them, but the creation for Clementine was actually more pragmatic at the beginning. It came from us trying to answer one question, which is: ‘Why the hell would you not leave this group of ass*$#%?’ So we quickly realized that a child that you cared about, someone akin to Carl in terms of Rick from the comics, would mean that you couldn’t just hit the road or maybe you wouldn’t constantly feel like you wanted to. But of course, if you don’t care about that child as well, then we were sort of doubly screwed. Because you’d be frustrated with this group and you’d be shackled to this little kid you don’t care about.”

Sean Vanaman: “Those were real fears. That was like real, every day…”

Rodkin: “Was there talk about cutting Clementine out of the game a week before voice recording? Yes there was.”



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