Skip to main content

With so many VR games on the market that are essentially just minigames, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners feels like a balm. Nothing is sacred. There are few boundaries, to the point where you can even kill NPCs who are vital to the story.

Building the game this way was important to the studio. “It’s such an important part for us,” Guy Costantini, VP of Global Interactive Marketing at Skydance, explains. “Our philosophy around VR games is we should make something that you can’t experience anywhere else, because we think that we should really harness the medium to its fullest extent. So the idea of being able to kill NPCs is a super important one because we wanted you to have that choice, that agency.

“Once we did it with Chapter 1, and we figured out how to do that, which is a big pain in the ass, we did the same thing with Chapter 2. And actually, I think it’s a little harder with Chapter 2 because there are some crucial folks there, that [are important to] entire parts of the story, that you’re just popping. [There are] a couple of people that we put behind like bulletproof glass, like the antagonist, but in general, it’s all about that freedom.”

Before we even have the chance to ask the question, Costantini opens up about the name, the length of which has been mocked by fans. “I’m probably the person responsible for the game name being so long that everybody’s been mocking viciously,” Costantini admits, “but there’s a reason for it. We wanted people to really know that this is a continuation of the story. This isn’t just a raw sequel where everything is new, and we wanted that to be very clear. So the mockery will live on forever.”


Chapter 2 feels like a proper continuation. You can even import your save data from the first chapter to ensure the world is exactly how you left it – the NPCs you killed will stay dead, and your home base will be filled with whatever you left there at the end of your last journey. There’s something about filling up your homebase that feels more personal, since your hands actually placed those objects there with intent. You manipulated the world with your hands and molded it.

The same can be said of the combat, which does things that you just can’t experience in a traditional video game. Hit a zombie with a hatchet and it might get stuck in their skull before penetrating their brain, forcing you to either apply more pressure or pull your pistol from its holster with your other hand and finish the walker, execution-style.


Outside of a few exceptions, VR games have been seen as a little janky over the last few years. We’re used to seeing the main character’s hands flicker around the screen as they try to keep up with the player’s movements. But Saints & Sinners tried to buck this trend. A lot of time went into developing the physics engine so that each piece of the environment interacted with each other as they would in real life.

“I’ve seen some crazy stuff,” Costantini says. “[Players] have done things where they’ll throw a knife and then hit it with the bat and it hits the Walker. They do stuff with arrows that is just out of this world. I personally like the chainsaw a lot because it does dynamic severing, and there’s no game where you can experience that. There’s plenty of games where you click a button to do that, but I feel [the programmers] did a really good job with [the chainsaw].

“So much thought went into our physics system, we went into so much detail. That’s why you don’t see it almost anywhere else. There’s multiple layers of animations that go into actually feeling that knife going through [a walker], and every weapon has a different degree of sticking, pulling arrows from the heads and stuff like that.”


Aside from the physics, many have been put off from VR games as they have been known to make people feel nauseated. However, technology has come a long way in the last few years, and VR is more comfortable to use than ever before. “[Saints & Sinners] has a nice kind of bite size [feel],” Costantini says. “You can play for an hour and it could be satisfying, because you go out from your home base for a day and it was designed around keeping the comfort of the headset in mind. There’s a ton of comfort features in the game. We’re finally at a generation that really understands the stuff that makes you sick. So we avoided it. We have vignetting, which you can turn off, we have snap turning, the movement speed and the fact that you have stamina really helps with comfort.”

It’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into every aspect of Saints & Sinners, trying to create the most immersive world possible, no matter how difficult it may seem. Others would have chosen a similar path, but according to Costantini, this was because of the developers’ backgrounds in home consoles. “We thought that the VR medium really lends itself well to [immersion],” Costantini explains. “If you spend that much on a headset, you are probably a hardcore player, and that definitely helped influence our decision. But I think it all started from the game we wanted to play, and trying to make a true deep gaming experience outside of VR and bring that into VR, but build it from the ground up for VR.


“Everybody that works in the studio has worked on some really big games through their careers, and when we took the plunge into VR, we said, ‘Let’s take all those lessons and build from the ground up and really use the stuff that you can’t experience.’ It makes the immersive experience better because you can do so many things that become enhanced by the medium. If you look at the weapon interactions – in a lot of VR shooters, your weapons are not accurate. We spent a lot of time making the weapons exact, because we want them to be fun and interact differently, and we want them to be kind of fucked up because they’ve been in the apocalypse in New Orleans, so there’s no amount of weapon oil that’ll keep them good.

“That’s another thing; you’re always tired. You’re eating Twinkies and you’re malnourished. So we tried to create the system that we call ‘The Tension Engine’, it’s all about feeling fragile and really having to struggle to get by. It’s about putting you on your toes and putting you in that situation where you feel unsafe and then there’s this great reward when you’re able to overcome that challenge. So that’s what we really wanted to embody.”


Saints & Sinners aims to do this by subverting your expectations. It takes the things that you are used to doing in games, and turns them against you. “One of the moments that I really liked is when you first lose your weapon,” Costantini says, referencing the player accidentally dropping their kit on the floor. “I’ve played games for 20 years and this shit doesn’t happen. Where is my knife? You look back and there are 15 zombies behind you and you can’t go back there.”

“We love watching players kind of behave the way that they’ve been trained by games for a very long time and then subverting that expectation. It’s like, oh, you thought you were safe, you’re not safe. I think that that’s what we aspire to do in game design – surprise people in a way that feels scary, but also rewarding.”