The Walking Dead Collection Team Explains the Game’s Visual Enhancements

posted by Telltale November 30th 2017

When The Walking Dead Collection launches on December 5, we believe it will immediately become the definitive version of the series -- not only because it gathers every last Walking Dead episode onto a single disc or download for the first time ever, but also because it provides the absolute best experience possible. This is, after all, the story of Clementine, of Lee, of myriad other characters we’ve all grown to love over the course of dozens of harrowing hours. We owed it to the story, and to our fans, to get it right.

To that end, we invested hundreds of hours into ensuring Walking Dead Collection plays smoothly and looks fantastic. It’s easy to forget how far graphics have come in the five years since Season One debuted, but...uh, let’s just say those old Xbox 360 games don’t look nearly as good as your rose-tinted memory wants you to believe. Updating The Walking Dead to today’s standards proved to be an enormous undertaking, but one we feel was well worth it to help bridge the gap between Clementine’s past and her future in the fourth and final season (due out next year).

If you want to see the results of our labor in action, check out the comparison trailer above. And if you want a little more detail, here’s a look at everything our amazing teams did in order to enhance the hell out of The Walking Dead Collection, in the words of Director of Art Dave Bogan and FunLabs Vice President Mihai Preda:

  • We revamped the texture detail by generating high-resolution meshes (aka 3D sculpts) for all Season One and Season Two character heads and baking these sculpt models into normal maps. All other types of texture maps were retouched to enhance the original art style with more resolution.

christa

  • In addition to increasing the vertex count, which increased the detail and curvature quality on meshes, we populated the scenes with many more objects, and in many cases, replaced texture details with actual geometry. We also changed the foliage structure and density for “hero trees” for better lighting and a more volumetric look.

trees

  • We changed the shading from DX9 to DX11, which means a migration to a more versatile and customizable materials code. Along with the change, we introduced texture map sets instead of the single texture per material. DX11 materials make use of diffuse, normal map, specular, and comic-style ink line maps.

chuck

  • We introduced post process effects, from horizon-based ambient occlusion and geometric outlines to bloom effects and tone mapping. These are valuable tools for enriching the final look of the game and giving the entire collection more visual cohesion across all seasons.

lee

  • We introduced new camera systems like lens-based cameras and auto-focus for a greater cinematic look.

  • We updated the UI to the newest version of Season Three and provided necessary extra menu pages.

As a side note, the whole process involved not only bringing in new modern features but also mitigating the compatibility issues between these new features and the original systems. Making four different titles with different engines coexist as a single game was a demanding task. For example, we had to change and adapt a large amount of animations due to changing light, camera, and material types.

We also had to undergo a very intensive optimization process in order to meet the space constraints of a single Blu-ray disk while increasing the data amount of three of four titles. Also, the old titles were using lightmap technology, and their scenes were constructed with this in mind. Transitioning the same scenes to dynamic lighting meant all scenes not only had to be re-lit but also reorganized internally.

We could, of course, dive way deeper into the painstaking technical work that went into The Walking Dead Collection, but it’s probably best to just stop there. If you’re interested, you can pre-order the game right now or pick it up when it launches on December 5. And until then, be sure to follow Telltale on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more fun in the future.