Though the "The Walking Dead" video game panel didn't include many surprises, it kept attendees whooping and cheering, especially over its one big announcement for two new Clem action figures. Kevin Bruner, founder and president of TellTale Games, responded to most questions about Season 3 with an iteration of "We're in the process of figuring that out now," but the panelists and crowed were still uber-excited.
Bruner was joined by moderator Greg Miller from IGN, Robert Kirkman, creator of "The Walking Dead," Melissa Hutchison, voice of Clementine, and Gavin Hammon, voice of Kenny.
When Clem's new action figures were revealed, the room just about exploded with applause. The figure will be released by McFarlane Toys in two versions -- one bloodied, one clean -- both with a pistol, hammer and backpack. The panel couldn't give an exact release date, but they did say it will arrive "soon."
Kirkman had to leave early to get to his next panel, but while there he had nothing but praise for TellTale Games. "The novels, the TV shows, and the video games -- none of those are my forte. Comics are my forte. The key is finding people that know those worlds, and understand "The Walking Dead," but beyond that are just really great at those particular fields. We've been really lucky to partner with people are great at all that stuff."
He also admitted, "I tear up sometimes at screenshots of the game."
Kirkman was asked whether he would consider using characters from the video game in the show or the comics, given how popular they've become.
"It's just all about the logistics of the world," he responded. "The things that are happening in the game are actually happening in the same world as the comics, and geographically, stuff doesn't really click. But if there was ever an opportunity where something happened geographically -- like, if in the game someone lit off a nuclear missile in Tennessee, and there was a giant mushroom cloud -- we would totally see that in the comic if they were in any kind of close proximity. So there's a potential for that kind of stuff, and I'm always kind of keeping that in the back of my head, but there just hasn't been an opportunity for that yet."
However, Kirkman admitted that he likes keeping the different mediums distinct. "I'm not ruling it out at all, but I do like that there are certain aspects of every single form of 'The Walking Dead' that you can only get from the comic, the show, etc."
Whether through cosplay or their questions, fans repeatedly expressed their love for the playable character, 11-year-old Clem, and Hutchison, Clem's voice, was equally enthusiastic. "I've truly fallen in love with this character," she said, "There's a lot of games where you go in, you're like, 'Wield your sword!' You do three different kinds of deaths, and you're out, and you're like, 'I think I was on that game?' This is seriously such a cool opportunity for us to get to be so close to these characters, and such an emotional acting experience for us."
She was also moved by the fan embrace of the game. "Seeing all you guys out there, with these hats and all this love, it's kind of -- there are no words!"
Meanwhile, Gavin Hammon got a fair bit of teasing from moderator Miller and the fans. Whether it was Miller comparing Kenny to Old Yeller, or fans cheering loudly that they chose to kill Kenny in the game, Hammon laughed and took it in stride. He did, however, want fans to go back and not kill him, if only so they can hear his "awesome" monologue.
While the overall attitude was enthusiastically positive, a few fans weren't as upbeat. One attendee complained that some of the choices in Season 2 felt "inconsequential."
Bruner responded with insight into TellTale Games' approach to video game storytelling. "We kind of look at that in two ways," he said. "There's the choices mattering emotionally in the moment and being meaningful, and then there's kind of the mechanical, choose-your-own adventure, multiple endings kind of things. And we've always been more about the emotional side. 'Walking Dead' makes people cry, and we're really proud of that. Some of the choices are more about getting you engaged, getting you bought in emotionally, than they are about just -- do you go north? Do you go south? It's a fair criticism, but it's also not part of the core way we're trying to entertain people."
Regarding Season 3, Bruner was generally tight-lipped. Most of the decisions haven't been made yet, and those that have aren't ready to be revealed, due in part to TellTale Games' process. "The ending of the seasons, we commit to really early," Bruner explained.
Miller asked, "There's not going to be a canon ending, is there? I can't imagine one. It's wherever your Clem leaves off -- that's whatever happens in the world."
"Yeah, we kind of made a mess for ourselves," Bruno said. "We're in the process of figuring that out right now, what Season 3's going to look like going forward, and what additional content around that might look like."
For as much as they love the work, Bruner admitted that it's an exhausting game to design. "None of it comes easy," he said, "It is such a monstrous collaborative effort with everyone at TellTale, Skybound, Robert -- it is monstrously difficult, but we're rolling up our sleeves and trying to do it for you again."
Hutchison piped in, "A labor of love!" to nods from the panel and cheers from the crowd -- a comment which really summed up everyone's attitude toward "The Walking Dead" game in the rowdy, happy room.