The Walking Dead: Last Mile is not a game in the traditional sense. I was reminded of this several times during the course of my exclusive preview session with the team behind the upcoming hybrid series. Part Facebook gaming event, part Facebook Watch streaming series, I came away thinking that Last Mile is, more than anything, an intriguing social experiment that comfortably blends advanced technology with one of the world’s most beloved comic book series. world.
When The Walking Dead: Last Mile debuts later this year on Facebook, you won’t need a controller, console, PC, or even a copy of the game to interact with it. To better understand what kind of experience it will be, you just need to understand the play on words in its title. The Walking Dead: Last Mile is itself a MILE, or massively interactive live event.
MILE has been on Facebook before, like Rival Peak, similar to Survivor. During the season, a MILE is like a 24/7 broadcast, with major and minor moments taking place at different times of day for months, and where AI-assisted characters live out their days, whether you are there to influence them. or not.
To interact, players simply need a browser that allows them to access Facebook. There, they decide how involved they want to be with the story of the entire season, whether that means simply watching things unfold like an ant farm, participating in the interactive elements like a morning routine, maybe a new Wordle, or even making it your new favorite dedicated series, like watching a Twitch stream for a few hours every day. If players miss a period of Last Mile, they can keep up with the drama through a recap show that will air regularly and give them something of an “before” segment.
Rival Peak has been developer Genvid Technologies’ most successful MILE to date, but Jacob Novak, the company’s CEO and co-founder, told me the team is using what they’ve learned from that experience to make The Walking Dead: Last Mile. Even better. so that all players can be satisfied no matter their own level of interaction, and perhaps more importantly, no matter what time zone they live in. “If you choose to sit back and watch, you’ll make progress. You don’t need to do anything. The reason you participate in activities is because you want more control over the outcome.”
Although some interactive elements, like the mechanics behind communal decision-making, are still being finalized, Skybound’s Shawn Kittleson gleefully emphasized that Last Mile is being handled as a proper new entry in The Walking Dead’s comic universe, and all the narrative. prestige that comes with it. He also teased that while the undead are often slower or even frozen in the Alaskan setting, other new threats will be revealed for the first time in the franchise.
His story arc, the most exciting thing, is not set in stone. Players will have a lot of influence on how the story progresses, writing a new canon of The Walking Dead that can’t be reloaded, replayed, or rewritten to better fit the lives of its characters or the preferences of its players. As with anything on The Walking Dead, the stakes are life and death, and Facebook users will collectively help decide who lives and who dies.
Think of it like Twitch Plays The Walking Dead, except where all alternate narrative branches are instantly cut off the moment a decision is made. Those tangential universes simply cease to exist. Instead of comparing endings: “What happened to Kenny in his story?”: Players will act as a fractured community trying to come together and help the characters make it out alive, all while telling a singular story that will cement itself as canon and be referenced in future Walking Dead media.
That element is meant to appeal to TWD fans, but Last Mile’s strongest point has a broader appeal: putting a massive community of players in a fight for survival and asking them not to fight each other over ideology. I saw glimpses of several of the characters from Last Mile, whose fate rests in the hands of the millions of potential players who will take part in their saga. These characters will have full voices and animations, and often come from different factions, so players will get to know them, pick favorites, and maybe even align with certain individuals, which can sway their decisions even more than they might consider. “Right”. “or wrong.”
Will the characters go to war? steal from each other? Work to mend both figurative and literal ties? Much of the story cannot be talked about yet, because it is the players who will determine their path over the course of the season of months. “You mean to tell me that people won’t always work together in the middle of a pandemic?” I joked. The irony that such an experience will unfold on Facebook of all places is not lost on me.
While this isn’t the kind of experience where players will freely control a character in first or third person, everyone will have their own character accompanying them through an overlay. Interact with Last Mile long enough and you’ll earn some sort of in-game currency that can be used to bid on different rewards, including a supporting role in cutscenes from the series. As a zombie genre nerd, the idea of my character appearing in The Walking Dead canon is certainly tempting, but what was even more fascinating to me was learning that the player character can die.
“In the world of The Walking Dead, we have the opposite of plot armor,” Kittleson told me. “We have, like, plot magnets.” Players will likely have to create new characters more than once over the course of the long season, like rebooting a post-apocalyptic Tamagotchi. This player character appears to be nothing more than an addition to the UI, but it can help increase the drama for players who want to survive the season with just one character. More importantly, it’s a way to give each player their own face and voice in the drama, though not all of them will be among the die-hards who end up in the series.
This line of thinking opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities for me as a hobbyist. What would I have done if someone like Negan or the Governor came knocking on the door of my community? Would I bow down? Struggle? Run into the woods and leave it all behind? Having a character that can die at any time means that players will have to determine not only what may be the best path for everyone, but also what will be the best path for them. Whether driven by selfishness, charity, pragmatism, or another vice or virtue, crunching those numbers on a scale similar to that of Rival Peak’s many millions of viewers feels right at home on The Walking Dead, a series to who loves to munch on sociopolitical brain food through the lens of… well, actual brains as food.
The Walking Dead: Last Mile will debut exclusively on Facebook in 2022.