Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse in Metal Dead, an Interview with Walk Thru Walls
Walk Thru Walls is an Australian development studio that is comprised of two men, Liam O’Sullivan and Robert Wriedt, who are set to release their first game shortly, Metal Dead. I recently had the opportunity to interview Liam about Walk Thru Walls, Metal Dead and more.
IGM: First of all for those unfamiliar with the game ‘Metal Dead’, could you please explain what the game is about?
Liam: Metal Dead is a comedy/horror point and click adventure game that follows in the footsteps of the genre classics made by companies like LucasArts and Sierra back in the late 80s and early 90s. You play as Malcolm, an unassuming metalhead trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. As the game begins, Malcolm and his friend Ronnie crash their car outside a medical research facility where all sorts of nefarious experiments take place. Ronnie dies a horrible death in the crash, and soon becomes one of the undead. After being recruited by a mad scientist inside the building to bring him a specimen, Malcolm returns to Ronnie’s corpse to remove his zombified head. The scientist performs an experimental surgical procedure, allowing Ronnie to communicate through a speaker installed in his disembodied cranium. Malcolm jams Ronnie into his backpack and they begin their quest to find out the cause of the undead invasion before escaping the research facility and hopefully making their way to safety!
IGM: With Metal Dead being the first game from Walk Thru Walls, does anyone working on the game have previous experience in the game industry?
Liam: We’re a two-man team, and one half of us worked at the now defunct Krome Studios before its unceremonious collapse in 2010. In his time there, Robert (co-designer, artist, and coder) worked on titles such as Star Wars – Clone Wars: Republic Heroes, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. As for myself, I’m an aspiring writer and this has been a great opportunity to get some of my own work out there.
IGM: What was the inspiration behind Metal Dead?
Liam: Both of us here at Walk Thru Walls are massive fans of gory zombie movies, heavy metal, and old-school adventure games. When we realized we had the skill set to make a game like this, it only made sense to combine all three into what eventually materialized as Metal Dead. If George A. Romero was in a metal band, drank a lot of beer and worked at LucasArts in the early 90s, I think this is the game he would have made!
IGM: Of all the genres out there many game studios, both major and independent don’t seem to focus as much on the point-and-click adventure genre like they did back in the 90s. What made you decide to develop a game in this genre first?
Liam: There’s definitely a gap in the market! These kinds of games have a very loyal fanbase. As a matter of fact, the point and click genre has proved somewhat of an undead creature itself. It died a painful death in the late 90s, but after rotting in its grave for a few years, it’s pulled itself out of the ground and is now infecting a whole new audience. Studios like Telltale Games have brought adventures back into the spotlight by reviving some of the old favorites. Personally, we just love the genre and wanted to make something we would love to play.
IGM: During the development of Metal Dead did you find what ideas were originally intended for the game stayed the same? Or that the original idea or gameplay mechanics changed or evolved to a major degree?
Liam: Surprisingly, we did manage to stick to our original plan pretty closely. As we became more confident with AGS (Adventure Game Studio, a freeware engine) and saw what we could do with it, our original ideas became bigger and more ambitious, which in turn helped the game evolve into something we’re really proud of. There were a lot of triumphant moments when we managed to make an element work when we thought it never would.
IGM: Did you encounter any major difficulties while developing Metal Dead, and if so how did you go about getting around them?
Liam: Starting an independent games company is hugely hard work. For the most part, working on the game itself was a joy. The creative process on Metal Dead was incredibly satisfying, and apart from some times where personal life and illness got in the way, development went smoothly. The business side of things is another story, though. It really is trial by fire. Making sure you’ve done everything correctly financially, protecting your intellectual property… etc. I think we’ve probably filled out an entire forest of paperwork just to get to the point where we’re allowed to sell!
IGM: You recently showcased Metal Dead at Emulator,a gaming event held in Australia, where people got to check the game out. How did you find people’s reaction to the game?
Liam: Everyone who played the game was enthusiastic and had fun with the small demo we provided. That was our first time showing the game to anyone outside our circle of friends and family and to have it so warmly received was great. At the end of the night the event’s organizers held a vote amongst the developers, and Walk Thru Walls managed to come in second place out of around twelve. We were very honored!
IGM: Being based in Brisbane, Australia, you have to comply with Australian classification rules and guidelines to have Metal Dead classified before release. With Metal Dead containing what some would consider a violent concept have you encountered any trouble in getting the game classified?
Liam: Not as of yet, luckily! We’re still awaiting our classification, but we’re pretty certain it’ll come through unscathed. The game is over-the-top and humorous so the violence is hard to take seriously. That said, we have run into a few problems trying to get financial government assistance as a result of the game’s perceived “gruesomeness”, but I think once we receive our classification, everything will be golden. Here’s to hoping.
IGM: With Metal Dead being released for PC are there any plans to release it on other platforms or mobile devices?
Liam: Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the AGS engine, Metal Dead will be confined to PC for the time being. Since AGS has recently gone open source, we’re hoping some brainiac coder out there will figure out a way to make our game work on other platforms. I think the genre lends itself particularly well to the iPad.
IGM: What’s next for Walk Thru Walls once Metal Dead is released? Will you continue developing point-and-click adventure titles or attempt your hand at other genres?
Liam: As of now, we plan to stick with what we know best and move onto another point and click project. If Metal Dead proves popular, we might do a sequel in the near future. No matter what happens though, we’re bursting with ideas (point and click and otherwise) and can’t wait to get them out there!
Metal Dead is currently scheduled to be released some time in December, 2011. If you want to find out more about Metal Dead be sure to check out Walk Thru Walls official website and Facebook page. Also be sure to keep an eye out for IGM’s impending review of Metal Dead sometime in the next month, or two.