Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is one of the most popular properties in the entertainment world right now. There have been many attempts to play off the success of The Walking Dead, but nothing can compare to the original. The fact is that this long running comic book series has been turned into a TV show on AMC, several video games, and other collectibles and merchandise. There are also several board games based on the property, but only one that is directly based on the comic book series.
The officially licensed (full blessings from Kirkman and his Image division Skybound) board game is based on the beginning of The Walking Dead series. Each player can play as one of the six main characters. The point of the game is to find a safe haven for your team of followers while keeping everyone alive and either avoiding or killing zombies in the process.
The team behind the creation of the original game is now working on an expansion, The Prison, which will cover issues 13 – 24 and takes place, you guessed it, at a prison. They were even willing to submit to a grueling interrogation… I mean, interview. I want to say thank you to Keith Tralins, Matt Wang, and Brian David-Marshall. Let the questioning begin!
Aaron Clutter: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Here at Comic Booked we love Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, and we’re really happy to get the opportunity to chat with your team about your Kickstarter project to create the expansion to the hit board game. The Prison seems like a great expansion, and I would hope we would be in for a lot of surprises.
Can you each tell us a little about your background and what draws you to creating games?
Matt Wang: I have always loved comics and games growing up. I cut my teeth playing old school RPGs such as D&D, TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes, Heroes Unlimited and Rifts. I also went to my local comic book store every week spending my allowance on the latest issue of the X-Men (when they had just one title), Power Pack and Transformers. I later got into Magic during college in NY and that’s how I met Brian David-Marshall and eventually Keith Tralins.
When I went to business school, I was looking to make a change in my career and I thought why shouldn’t I try to work on comics and games? I teamed up with BDM then and have never looked back.
I love playing and working on games because the experience is always different and as a social person, I enjoy the social interaction that games (especially off-line ones) can offer you.
Brian David-Marshall: I started my career in the comic industry where I did everything from working in shops to writing, editing, and publishing. Eventually that sent me falling down the rabbit hole of Magic: The Gathering in the early 90s. That’s how I met Matt and Keith actually – they both played in tournaments I organized in NY. As Matt said, the two of us started working together to create games when he got done with business school. We have worked with Keith on a couple of other licensed games but this is the first time we have set up shop together to do it ourselves instead of seeking out a publisher.
Keith Tralins: I’m a nerd in the entertainment industry. I grew up loving games, especially D&D and board games, and television and movies. So I came to Hollywood specifically to work on where those two passions meet, and along the way, ended up tied into technology, too. I love story telling, and interactive experiences; I like when I can enter a world, and experience it first-hand. To me, gaming is the best way to create that experience. At least, until we have the holodeck.
AC: Why The Walking Dead? What about shambling dead people and dramatic personal interactions attracted you to this property?
MW: The Walking Dead was one of the first comics I read that asked the question of “what happens after the zombie apocalypse” and took it very seriously. Who do I trust? Where do I get food? How do I raise my children?
KT: It’s just so accessible. We’ve all been raised with the threat of world-ending catastrophes, and the zombie mythology really permits us to indulge our disaster fantasies by inserting ourselves into them. Matt’s questions are the ones we all face: who can I trust? How do I survive? That’s what the main attraction to the property was for me… bringing that disaster fantasy to life. And it’s tons of fun to kill zombies.
AC: Do you read The Walking Dead comic series? If so, what do you love and hate about it?
BDM: The impending zombie apocalypse has always been on my mind and when I read the first couple of issues of The Walking Dead it really resonated with me. I just love it. When we had a chance to work on the original game and contribute to the world — our board for the first game is official canon — I could not say “yes” fast enough.
KT: Religiously. It’s my first read when it comes out, bar none. I love the interpersonal relationships; these people are authentic. They’re not super-heroes, they’re not magical – they’re everymen that each and every one of us can relate to. That’s a huge testament to Kirkman’s writing, and what makes it so powerful. I think it’s more engaging than the TV series, and I LOVE that, too. I hate that it only comes out once a month (although the current twice a month has made that a little easier to handle!).
MW: I still go to the comic book store every week and The Walking Dead is always at the top of my pile. I can’t wait to see what happens at the end of “All Out War!” I definitely enjoy the unpredictability and the fact that Kirkman still always finds new stories to tell in this universe.
AC:That is great that you guys are familiar with the series. That added passion is definitely a bonus when it comes to drawing people in with a game. But the real question is why should we all go to your Kickstarter project right now and throw a bunch of money at you? In other words, what’s in it for us?
BDM: We are going to be unveiling Kickstarter exclusives throughout the campaign that make funding our project extra special. We just revealed Mike and Terry as two exclusive “Follower” cards that will ONLY be available to people who get the game this way. You wouldn’t want to leave Michonne on her own without them would you?
KT: We chose Kickstarter as our platform, because it just allows us to do way more. We’re also two small companies (MegaGigaOmniCorp and Top8Magic) that are trying to self-publish this game. If this one is a success, it will allow us to continue on our vision of translating the entire series into games. We’re designing with the epic tale in mind!
MW: This board game is focused on the fans and designed to feel as if you are interacting within The Walking Dead comic book world. We have a number of Kickstarter Exclusives that we are announcing soon including more cards and components that are ONLY AVAILABLE WITH THE KICKSTARTER! We also have some cool add-ons such as the Custom Cards. How cool would it be to play with yourself or your friends as characters? The typical retail model would not have allowed for this to happen and we hope The Walking Dead fans come out to support it.
AC: That stuff sounds really awesome. I just picked up a copy of the original game from Amazon and my family and I are sitting down to play this together tomorrow. I can’t wait to see this game and really hope your Kickstarter gets funded. It should help that The Walking Dead is all over the place right now and seems to be one of the hottest properties. Do you see that continuing and evolving? How far do you really think this story can go?
MW: I think it can go on for a long time. Kirkman has created a great sandbox for others to play in, which I think is the most important thing way to keep a property viable and continuing.
BDM: As long as Robert Kirkman can keep coming up with compelling stories, characters, and settings we can keep making games that let you play in his sandbox.
KT: Yeah, the sky is the limit. I love that they’re not shy about branching out and telling the story in as many ways as possible. You know there are other characters just as compelling as Rick in this universe, and it’s nice that we’re going to get to see them. Other heroes, other villains, other people just like us. The Telltale Games episodes are a perfect example of how as long as the storytelling is good, Robert Kirkman’s world will always be fertile.
AC: So, I have to ask are there other comic series that you are fans of or are there any other properties that you are looking at giving game treatment?
KT: Yeah, tons…but I don’t want to say anything that could get us in trouble.
MW: I read a number of series every month and some comics easily lend themselves to great games. Right now my favorite series are Vertigo’s The Wake and Astro City, Image’s Manhattan Projects and Black Science and Marvel’s Avengers and X-Men lines. I always keep my eye out for properties and we are always talking to people.
BDM: There are so many properties I would love to turn into a game. I have been talking to Evan Dorkin about a Milk and Cheese card game for a while now and hopefully we can make that happen at some point.
AC: Keep me in mind when you move forward with any of those. I would love to help you get the word our there. I appreciate all of your time on this interview. As a final part of the interview, what are your top two vital recommendations for survival in the coming zombie apocalypse?
MW: Carry a sturdy knife and an extra pair of socks.
KT: Creek Stewart’s Ultimate Survival Shotgun and a really trustworthy partner that you can outrun.
BDM: Our pleasure! I think that people don’t think about zombie traction enough. I think you could put some good distance between yourself and a zombie horde by spilling out a bottle of olive oil in your wake. I would also strongly suggest keeping a copy of the book Bushcraft in your zombie go–bag.
That was amazing. Another big thank you to the team for letting us help put the word out there. You can go straight to their Kickstarter and support the heck out of them. The team has less than 17 days to go, so get out there and help them make this a great game!