Updated Tue, May 24, 2011 by B. de la Durantaye
How well does a world of zombies translate into an online world? Part of the horror of ‘survival horror’ is that you feel vastly outnumbered and in danger at every step. How can you still give this same kind of experience in a game that also promotes in-game community? Don’t they run the risk of cancelling each other out?
Portrayal of survivor communities is a staple of the zombie genre. In particular, modern takes such as "World War Z", "The Walking Dead", and "28 Weeks Later" explore the concept of trying to build and sustain communities of survivors in the zombie apocalypse. Of course, basic human nature and the complexities of personal relationships often add another element of stress, which is another interesting angle for our designers to explore.
"I’ve always wanted to play a game that let me answer the inevitable “what would you do” question that always comes up after watching a zombie flick with friends."
From a game design and balance perspective, the questions is not whether you can survive, but instead for how long. Being a part of a community allows you to stop worrying about your minute-by-minute survival during the day. However, communities grow, and resource demands increase, and expectations and hopes continue to rise. While it may have been enough to eat canned beans for the first few months, you can’t live on them forever, even if you have an endless supply. In order to grow and thrive, you’ll need renewable clean water, seeds for gardens, perhaps even electricity eventually; and all of those needs will drive you back out into the world, ranging further afield to find needed supplies. In short, back out into the shit storm.
How much of the RPG element, if any, do you bring into the game? Is there armor and weapons to be collected? Leveling up? Skills and abilities? Classes?
We’re not ready to discuss details of character progression at this point. As a survival game there will certainly be a heavy emphasis on finding gear, including weapons, protective clothing, vehicles, shelter materials, and the natural and human resources necessary to sustain and grow your base. I can also tell you that roleplaying, in the true sense of your character having a unique identity and role to play in your community and in the field, is a key focus of the game. We’ll be revealing more details on this when we’re ready to start talking about concrete play mechanics.
What about the game has you the most excited, personally?
I’m a huge zombie fan, and I’ve always wanted to play a game that let me answer the inevitable “what would you do” question that always comes up after watching a zombie flick with friends. What would I do? Head to Costco and board up the windows? Commandeer a Washington State Ferry and take it out into Puget Sound? Set up a base next to Lake Washington to ensure a clean water supply? Head to Alaska?
There have been some great zombie games over the past few years that really nailed the horror aspect of the genre. There have been many great open-world sandbox games that give the player a true sense of freedom and agency in the world. There have certainly been some great PC MMOs in the past decade that really showed how much fun it is to play with your friends in a vast online world. But no game has really tied all of these genres together into a true simulation that let me test my own zombie-survival plan with my friends in an open, dynamic virtual world.
That’s the game everyone at the Lab dreams of making. And I can tell you that right now, it’s looking pretty damn good. ;)
While we're working on our survival plan (we're thinking of something involving either Shawn of the Dead-style vinyl LPs... maybe a Flowbee), Ten Ton Hammer would like to thank Jeff Strain for clearing up Undead Labs' take on the zombie apocalypse in Class3 and Class4.