July 30, 2012 7:30 AM | Konstantinos Dimopoulos / Gnome
Project Zomboid, the incredibly ambitious zombie survival RPG that pits gamers against loneliness, starvation, desperation, insanity and, yes, zombies, is about to get a brand new version, and Will Porter, Project Zomboid's writer and co-designer, is about to answer a few questions. So, uhm, read on!
So, Project Zomboid, a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested RPG by The Indie Stone is having indie and PC gamers all excited; then again, who are The Indie Stone?
The Indie Stone are Marina 'Mash' Siu-Chong, Andy 'Binky' Hodgetts, Chris 'Lemmy' Simpson and me Will Porter. I also have silly nicknames but don't like to refer to myself with one, as I find it a little bizarre. We're an Indie collective that's partly based in Newcastle, partly near to Brighton and partly close to Canada. Our game also has a bunch of lovely contributors from all over the world, who all share our adoration of the shambling dead.
And you've decided to tackle zombies in a most unique and, dare I say, spectacular way. So, why did you decide on creating a deep RPG-like offering? Seems like these days FPSs are all the rage...
Well, I guess the easiest answer is because at PZ's core the development team is only really four people - one coder, two arty types and a writer. We all share the same vision and we all make gameplay decisions, but asking Chris to code an FPS all on his own would be a bit of an issue. (Then again he did actually do that once, and it didn't end well for either the game or his sanity!)
Chris and Andy have a background in modding the Sims and Civilization, they're really interested in systems, moodles and evolving gameplay. I think it was quite a natural decision to go with a survival simulator like PZ.
How would you describe Project Zomboid?
It's an isometric zombie apocalypse simulator, albeit one that's still under construction. It asks you what you'd do in a desperate endtimes scenario. In our game you need to avoid the zombie hordes while you build barricades and forage for food - we're going for a full Romero-type experience.
From what I have already seen, this is an incredibly deep game filled with surprises, smart NPCs, crafting options and a ton of things to worry about. What were you aiming for?
Well, we're aiming for exactly that - but we're not quite there yet! We're currently running public test builds of our next (long overdue, but we're getting there) update. It's got new animations, lighting, crafting, carpentry, locations, music and the like - but I certainly wouldn't describe the NPCs as smart! NPCs are vital to the game, but they're also next on the list for improvement. Soon we'll be making the update official, and after that introducing more story content to the game - and I'm sure there'll be plenty of surprises in there.
What are the achievements of Project Zomboid you are the proudest of?
We're only a year into the project, and it's one that's had its share of own-foot-shooting as well as success. Thus far, however, I think we're all most proud of our modding community - who're making some truly amazing new systems and experiences for our game. We really want the work of these guys to flourish, and intend to give them as much support as we possibly can.
Would you consider Project Zomboid a new attempt for interactive and procedural storytelling?
That's certainly my personal aim. Whether or not we manage it is yet to be seen. In Sandbox we want to give you varied personal experiences that branch out from your actions and the actions of the world around you - the point of the game is that you are telling the story of how you, personally, died. In the PZ stories, meanwhile, we'll concentrate on emotive tales of real people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. In most games you have a hero who isn't real - they're a bullet sponge who can slow time. In PZ you're a regular, and very mortal, person.
How did you create the massive and detailed world of Project Zomboid, and exactly how massive is the thing?
Currently, in the public test builds, Muldraugh is four times the size of the demo map - formed of four quadrants that are residential, wilderness, urban and posh residential. Around that are large blank wilderness tiles, and a few surprises, that we'll expand out into. It's only going to get bigger as we build more of Knox County.
Oh, and I really have to congratulate you on going for the isometric style which does evoke memories of glorious 16-bit gaming. How come?
Well, now we're changing our character graphics and animations we probably look a little less 16-bit unfortunately! Nevertheless we're all of the right age to go misty-eyed about that era of gaming, and with a team as small as ours there's only so many sorts of games you can construct!
Any sources of inspiration you'd care to mention? Some favourite games per chance?
As mentioned before, The Sims is probably our biggest influence - that and every 'proper' zombie film, book and comic we've ever come across!
Now, despite the fact that the press has been rather excited with Project Zomboid, things haven't going well on every front. From nasty pirates to Paypal, some rather unusual problems did arise. Are they safely overcome?
Yeah, we've been through a lot over the past year - with some of our problems self-inflicted and some of them not. We're currently on an even-keel though, so fingers crossed everything is cool.
Project Zomboid is already available to grab in its constantly evolving pre-release form. When do you think the full, finished game will be available? Oh, and when can we accept more major updates? The new animation system is looking lovely, mind.
I really can't say - all that we can really underline is that we won't be downing tools until we've made the game that we promised, and that our community demands. We're hoping that once Public Test Build R becomes the full 0.2.0 release we'll be able to provide a far more regular conveyor belt of update-fun.
Will there be any modding tools? Do you want people to creatively expand the game?
Yup. Most definitely.
Oh, and to let you guys actually do some work, are there any non-PZ plans for the future just yet?
Only that when 0.2.x is released we're all going to get very drunk indeed, having made sure that we've barricaded all the doors.