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Walking Dead studio's newest game adapts post-apocalyptic film Air

Air, an upcoming post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie directed by the writer of Shadow of Mordor and backed by The Walking Dead's Robert Kirkman, is getting a video game, Skybound Entertainment officials told Polygon.

The adventure-mystery game will not be an adaptation of the film, but rather will tell a different story in the same universe as Air, the film's director, Chris Cantamessa, told Polygon. It is in development by Swedish game developer Gaming Corps.

The film stars Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Blood Diamond) and Sandrine Holt (House of Cards, Hostages) and takes place after an international conflict leaves the planet's air toxic and its surface uninhabitable. To save the human race, the government creates a series of underground bunkers filled with cryogenic sleeping tanks that hold people meant to be the seeds of civilization's return.

Reedus and Hounsou play two maintenance workers charged with ensuring that one of the facilities doesn't fall apart before the world is ready to live in again. Every six months the two men wake up for a 120-minute shift to do their work. But one day the sleeping tank for one of the two men breaks.

The downloadable video game, which will be released episodically starting sometime this year on Steam, tablets and potentially consoles, will focus on the inhabitants of another underground bunker, said Cantamessa. No voice actors have been announced for the game yet.

"Air is primarily a modern day Noah's Ark story," he said. "The movie is about one facility and the janitors working there and the game will focus on a different facility with a different type of people stored away in another location on the planet."

Neither Cantamessa nor Skybound Interactive president Dan Murray were willing to discuss details of the game's plot or gameplay. But Murray said the developers were taking a page from how Telltale approached telling a story within the existing world of The Walking Dead.

"The game will have a more modern interpretation of the story-driven adventure game that has an element of puzzle solving and exploration," Cantamessa added. "And the game is introducing to that, an element of investigation and a mystery that needs to be solved that plays with the unfolding events. You'll need to use the various items and hints and clues you find.


Image: Dean Buscher

"This is a little bit like a story-driven adventure game meets Eternal Darkness without being in the horror genre."

Murray said that the game will have players controlling a variety of characters, delivering multiple points of view and will use 3D graphics and a realistic/comic-book art style.

The idea for creating a game based on the upcoming movie came from Gaming Corps, Murray said.

"They approached me once we launched the interactive division and had a keen interest in Air," he said. "They said they wanted to tell a new story in that universe."

Cantamessa, who co-wrote Air, is working with the developers as a sort of show runner.

"I am definitely involved in helping with the process," he said. "The team has been fully involved in terms of seeing the film, reading the script and access to additional material, including not just what will appear on screen but what contributed to the creation of the universe"

While games based on movies still don't have the best track record, Cantamessa believes developers are getting better at working with those sorts of properties. And he should know, Cantamessa has a game development career that goes back nearly ten years and includes co-writing and helping design Red Dead Redemption, co-writing Manhunt and being the lead writer and cinematic director for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

"I'm not concerned at all [about the game negatively impacting the movie]," he said, "because the people involved have experience in both worlds. I believe we are trying a different approach. I think a lot of people are trying to ameliorate the problem you described.

"If anything I'm encouraged that everyone is coming at this problem fully aware and conscious of what has happened in the past. To correct those problems you need to acknowledge them."

"The future is moving toward a brighter relationship between video games and films."

Murray said the problem with games based on movies used to be that developers weren't given enough time or freedom to make something good. That's not the case with the Air game, because that's not how Skybound does business, he said.

"I would say the difference with that approach and this opportunity goes hand-in-hand with what we're trying to do at Skybound," he said. "We view game creators as some of the most creative people in the world. We are treating them as true partners."

Skybound Entertainment was created in 2010 by Kirkman and The Walking Dead executive producer David Alpert. It was born of the concept of creating a transmedia company that allows creators to retain creative control of their properties.

And that creative control, Murray and Cantamessa believe, leads to better creations, which also leads both to have high hopes for video games based on movies.

"The future is moving toward a brighter relationship between video games and films in the same way comics embraced film-making and vice versa," Cantamessa said.

Murray said that recent games are already starting to show that promising future.

"Movies and games have always struggled to co-exist," Murray said, "but Shadows of Mordor exceeded most people's ideas of how games can live up to expectations.

"I think the exciting thing now is that you are seeing fully realized worlds being created in many formats and gamers are willing to experiment with the definition of what a game might be."

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