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A Left 4 Dead Spin-Off Eventually Became Telltale’s The Walking Dead

Telltale Games celebrated the tenth anniversary of its acclaimed The Walking Dead series earlier this month. In honor of the event, publisher Skybound Games released a short documentary that took fans on the journey of creating the episodic adventure. This behind-the-scenes video gave viewers a glimpse at never-before-seen designs and early prototypes. However, one of the biggest pieces of information to come from this documentary is that the game was once planned as a sequel to co-op zombie shooter Left 4 Dead.

That’s right, Clementine’s adventure through the grisly world of the undead almost looked completely different. During the short documentary video, the game’s design and direction lead, Jake Rodkin, shared that the game was originally pitched as a narrative-driven companion to Valve’s Left 4 Dead. While Rodkin doesn’t explain why that version of the game was ultimately changed into what it is today, it is interesting to see where it began, especially considering how influential the episodic storytelling of that first Telltale Walking Dead game was.

Released back in 2012, the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead established the template for just about every other Telltale game. Different properties like DC’s Batman and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy would be given the episodic treatment from the studio. The popularity of the narrative-driven “choices matter” format would soon spread to other studios, most notably Dontnod whose games like Life is Strange and Twin Mirror take advantage of the choice-making template.

Beyond the Left 4 Dead tidbit, the short documentary from Skybound offers other fun features and stories from the game’s beginnings. There is a look at an early test run for a morgue setting that was scrapped for the first episode, but showed up later down the road. The mini-doc is also filled with short interviews from the cast and crew as they reminisce about ten years of decision-making and zombie-killing.

We may never know why Telltale ditched the Left 4 Dead idea, but it clearly worked out fine for the studio. Still, it would be interesting to see how different Clementine and the rest of the characters would be in the Left 4 Dead universe.

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