Updated Tue, Jan 14, 2014 by Martuk
Class4 was originally presented as a zombie MMOG, or as Undead Labs lovingly once called it, an MMOZ. It was the purported dream project of the developer, and also, at the time, targeting consoles only. Luckily, the developer realized the advantages of the PC platform and ported State of Decay over.
Undead Labs teased many early development details for Class4 prior to the announcement of State of Decay. This was likely more of early conceptualization than anything else as only bits of concept art and feature ideas were discussed. But Jeff Strain has gone on record saying that both Class4 and State of Decay were being developed simultaneously.
“Class 4 is being developed simultaneously with Class 3. You can think of Class 3 as the platform for Class 4. There's a big difference between saying that you're going to create an open-world survival zombie game and saying that you're creating an open-world survival zombie game that can then quickly turn around and evolve into an online world. In terms of the scalability of our content, how robust the player engagement technology is, and our production pipeline -- all of that has to be engineered towards the greater demands of a full-scale online world. Ultimately, as we develop the game (Class 3) we're also developing Class 4.” – Undead Labs Founder Jeff Strain, March 2011
The team always had two intersecting games planned, the first of which was State of Decay, a game that was originally a co-op introduction to the story of the game’s world. As often happens with development, things got cut, one of which was the co-op, making it a single player game. But despite that, State of Decay was still a huge success and a fun experience. Class4, however, is a different beast.
Long before Class3 became State of Decay, Undead Labs revealed some of what they had planned for their MMOZ. And while they later tried to distance themselves from the MMO label by calling the title an “online virtual world,” many of the concepts of the game are still very MMO-like.
“We feel that “MMO” has become highly associated with a specific game design template, and we don’t want people to assume that’s the kind of game we are making”. – Undead Labs Founder Jeff Strain, February 2011
The initial pitch from Undead Labs for Class4 included servers filled with thousands of players forming groups to and build up their base defenses to keep the hordes of undead at bay, not unlike State of Decay but on a much grander scale.
“Ultimately you’ll try to locate other friendly humans and increase your chance of survival through numbers. Together, you may eventually gather enough materials and defensive measures to move into larger shelters like an abandoned house, and potentially clear out other nearby establishments like the local 7-Eleven”
“A lot of it has to do with how real world the stories are– aside from crazy hordes eating your flesh. It’s everything you see, like the breakdown of human society, the challenges people face trying to survive, figuring out if there are others you can trust, learning to work together.” – Undead Labs 2010
The Class3 and Class4 codenames for the projects were both a nod to the literary works of Max Brooks, who authored The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z as well as significant to the timeline of the story, essentially measuring the level of disaster by class, with 3 being the aftermath of the initial zombie outbreak and 4 basically code that society has pretty much gone to hell in a hand basket.
“Class 3 and Class 4 are kind of like Richter-scale numbers for zombies. Class 1 is just a small low-level outbreak in a rural area that's easily contained. Class 2 is when a certain region in a country might be affected. Class 3 is more like, say, China drops off the grid for six months. Class 4 is a total societal collapse -- it's the global zombie outbreak. What we're trying to do with the name is give a nod to zombie literature like the Max Brooks books (World War Z). What we're trying to do is both pay homage and to give a better scale of each title.” – Undead Labs Founder Jeff Strain, March 2011