11.11.10
News Review 77

There’s Just No Way To Fake It

In his introduction last week, Foge talked about our ambitions for this project as an action game. The kind of immediate, responsive, action-oriented gameplay he described is one of the core design pillars guiding us. Judging from the response, I think that post gave many of you a much clearer picture of the kind of moment-to-moment gameplay we hope to achieve.

But for some of you, it also raised some questions. Does this mean we’re making an action game with some thin veneer of multiplayer connectivity?

Hell no.

We’re talking about a true persistent-world game. There’s just no way to fake that. There’s nothing quite like exploring an expansive persistent world that has a player population to match. A world full of friends and strangers. A world full of moments that you can’t experience any other way — like when you save the life of a perfect stranger and know it was a real person, not some NPC in some canned sequence everyone sees eventually. When that same person returns the favor and you get to talking. When you and a few other players decide to organize yourselves and become a force in the world and start gaining notoriety with other real human beings. When you and your friends get together and decide to stage an event or contest or celebration that the game developers never planned. Or when you discover that your sense of humor or your command of Zombieland quotes actually matters. When you become famous for your actions and see people reacting to your reputation. Not just the one the game tracks, but the one you’ve actually developed.

Suddenly, everything you do takes on new meaning, because it’s affecting other real human beings.

There’s a reason that people spend so much time in persistent world games. Some of it has to do with the gameplay, but a lot of it is just the other people. We are social creatures by nature, and a persistent world gives us the opportunity to exercise our social side (or even not-so-social side) in a real way. Lone wolf. Jokester. Achiever. Group leader. Explorer. Guide for noobs… How you play and who you are is up to you, and it’s a choice you get to make again every day.

But there’s often a disappointing side to the persistent world: Overall, the world is static, and players have no real impact on it. It’s a big theme park full of predefined rides for you to try out in a particular order.

That’s not for us. We believe a persistent world should be living, dynamic, and evolving. We believe your decisions should affect the state of the world and the state of the world should matter to you. We believe you should get to be the hero; not because you were able grind your way to some artificial achievement that everyone else will eventually grind for too, but instead because you achieved something unique and heroic — something that people actually care about because it has an impact on the world.

Sound ambitious? Maybe a little crazy? Well, it’s ambitious, but it’s hardly crazy. There are already persistent-world games that have started to push the boundaries, giving players more control over the world. It’s not the standard, cookie-cutter model, but on some level, it’s been proven to work. The common thread in persistent worlds where players have a real impact is the ability –- and the need -– to build. The more you have room to be the source of order in a chaotic world, the easier it is to let you have an actual impact. If the world has all these huge, existing kingdoms, then designers need to constrain your actions a little more to ensure you don’t change the nature of the world. If the world is defined by unclaimed territory and chaos, it’s really easy to give you free rein and let you define how the world takes shape with your choices and your actions.

Which brings me to the zombie apocalypse. It’s in vogue right now to slap zombies into just about everything. And that’s fine, but make no mistake: that’s not why our game is about zombie survival. Survival is the heart of the game we envision. It’s not just a cool mechanic or setting; it’s about making an amazing persistent world.

Society has collapsed. The government response has failed. The medical response has failed. The military response has failed. The majority of humans have succumbed. Survival is in your hands.

Where will you sleep? How will you feed yourself? Will you go it alone or will you team up with others? These are real decisions you get to make and of course they all have consequences for you. But that’s not all. These decisions have consequences for the world. Is the local school your stronghold? Is it controlled by a group of human raiders? Or is it still overrun by the zombie masses who were once human refugees? Have you secured a supply of gasoline? Are you generating bio-diesel? Are you hoarding fuel or sharing it or trading food for it? Is there enough electricity for emergencies? None at all? Do you dare try to reactivate a nuclear power plant? Are you farming or scavenging for food? How much have players collectively researched and figured out about the nature and cause of the zombie plague? Have you and your friends developed a hydroponic farm? Will you share that technology? Where are the safe zones, danger areas, supply lines and trade routes? You bring order to the chaos. Your actions shape the world.

This is why we’re so excited. Bringing together amazing moment-to-moment action with a living, dynamic, evolving persistent world… how could we not be? And that’s why I’m writing about it now. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you if it makes sense for us to talk about our game so much at this stage. It’s not a calculated PR strategy to stir up controversy or manufacture hype. We’ve brought together a team of veteran developers — gamers who love the vision for this game — and we’re pouring every bit of experience and passion we have into creating it.

And there’s no way to fake that, either.

Phinney

  1. Researcher: John

    I love this idea. I think that if this game is going to be a persistant mmo, there cannot be a respawn…well, your character either takes a swan dive, gets the coup de grace, or comes back as one of the undead.

    How odd will it be to see your former character shambling about? It adds a needed sense to this game, I think.

    If there is a need for some ‘perk’ for the long time player, perhaps your new character has access to your last one’s stash of goodies.

    • I was saying the almost exact same thing in another post.

      Also, giving a “bitten” player an amount of time before they “turn” could have emotional impact on other team members who have “known” this character for a period of time.

      It might also be neat to have the super rare random player turn out to be immune. if THAT player discovers they are immune, then hooks up with another player with scientific knowledge or whatnot…and play out a scenario attempting a cure…that could also potentially be MEGA-dope.

  2. Researcher: Oliver Bell

    another land mark post from you guys, i wish there was some way to join with you guys in any way shape or form, i would love to be a official UndeadLabs team member.

  3. Researcher: diphen

    There are things about this post that remind me of EVE’s promo videos, which I think is a good thing. The most compelling thing about a virtual world is the ability to to make a difference to those who inhabit it with you. It doesn’t matter if you are revered or hated, but if you or your group are known, its just the coolest thing. I could care less about meaningless “fetch me an X” quests. I want to stake my claim. I want people to know I’m the guy who can get things, or I’m the guy you don’t mess with. I want to help my group supply and defend our turf, or go take what we need from someone else. I want to be able to make a difference.

    I like where you guys are headed :)

  4. Researcher: H1ROSHIM4

    The more I read about you vision, the more my excitement grows. Your painting a broad picture that is going to be difficult to fill with color, but your passion assures me that this one will be one to remember.

  5. Researcher: Darren Centinello

    Hire me, I will give my input on gameplay/world design but really I just want to sit at these round table discussions that have to be occuring so I can be around people that care about what they are making and want to deliver something to gamers as gamers.

    I have a year and a half of college to go until my bachelors and I hope to God that I can find a place to work even half as much as driven as Undead Labs.

  6. Researcher: Kyall Davis

    I feel that we need a forum for Undead labs, discussion, news dissemination, FAQ etc.

    So keen for this guys, keep up the good work.

  7. Researcher: George

    Inspiring.

  8. Researcher: George

    And the decal walls idea is pretty awesome. Make it REALLY unique, unlike APB which was semi-unique. “I was here: killed 56 of the wretched things!”.

  9. Researcher: frankichiro

    This sounds awesome! I have one question though: How will you handle dialogue between players? I mean, this won’t be played with a keyboard, so I guess you’ll need a headset? It seems like communication would be a very essential part of the game, so what are your planned features for such a system?

  10. Researcher: T-King-667

    wow you guys should get a award just for comeing up with the ideas that your shareing with us now. and i love the silo exploration picture. it really shows that you can go wherever and whenever you want. i mean who would go explore a silo? i sure as hell would, althogh i dont know if there would be anything in there but screw it why not? if you guys really are makeing a full open explorable city thats huge and full of detail and your able to go inside any building or house. then even for the ps3 you might need a heavy duty disk to hold all of this on it because i plan to spend at least 1000 hours in this game in the first few months of its release and i wanna search out at least 25% of houses/buildings. if i dont search that much then thats a damn big city :D oh and for the huge buildings please put a map somewhere in there on floor or even up on a wall, because if i dont have a map i might end up spending the 1000 hours in there and that would be pretty harsh. i would probly die of starvation actually whathappens to you if you die of starvation? or just die? will you return to your own strongpoint or a camp full of npc’s? in other words an automatic safepoint. but i guess ill never find out cuz i aent dieing >:D well with overconfidence aside it would be nice if you can restart at your own safepoint instead of an automatic one all the time.

    • It might be cool to have an option of “When I die I can either A) return to a save point or B) resurrect as a zombie.” Characters-to-zombies could then be cast off by the player, that zombie now part of the environment (until it’s eventually put down by another player) or actually controlled by the player, who can enjoy the experience of going around eating people.

      In the immersible environment, it might be intense to watch a team mate/good friend buy the farm, then turn, ala the original DAWN OF THE DEAD. Could potentially have a lot of emotional impact.

    • Researcher: ILHO KIM

      Yo, you know im getting goose bumps right now,…..wanna know why?, I was thinking about a very very similar concept of this game since like a year ago after playing grand theft auto, and i was thinking the exact same kinda Zombie survival game and keeping it real idea also, man this is some kinda telepath going on here between undeadlabs and me. I know you wont believe this, but i just came from looking at the grandtheft auto 5 trailer and then i wanted the check out if there was a new zombie game coming out soon and i found this trailer where some one speaks about your game in development class3, and he also gave your web address, thats how i got here……man…i dont know how to express how i feel right now. I think if this game comes out, id definitly be the first one to buy it. I have a lotta ideas for it also and maybe you would like to use some of my ideas, coz i was thinking of exactly the same thing, just all by myself since im not a developer like you guys. Lets me just share a couple of things i was thinking.
      First of all when i was just imagining a game like this a year ago i was thinking that it would be good to make it 3rd person and also first person with iron sights if they want it…..coz sometimes i like to play third person and first person also, depends on the situation of the game.
      I was thinking also of allowing your character to move all objects around the world, so that they could defend their bunker or house or room or whatever place they want with those objects, for example, i would go out with my jeep and look for woods and boxs and maybe barbwires or whatever to create a wall of some sort, which would take real time effort and maybe a friend could also help.
      I was also thinking of allowing the character to nail things on the wall in any shap they want, like gathering mdf woods from interiors or where ever you can get woods from ( wooden objects ) and allowing the character to nail them on the doors or the windows so that the zombies cant come across it.
      I was thinking that i should avoid using chacacter like how they did in killing floor or left4dead or dead island, like the boomers and the witches kind…itll make the game look like a copy of ideas which are so spread around, just keeping it reguler zombies is enough……remember, a world filled with zombies i think is enough…..mass creates fear.
      I was also thinking of allowing the character use anything as a weapon and also allowing mod to be ridiculouly massive in this game…coz thats realitiy, and the mods could also be updated as i get more ideas.
      Since the Character will get hungry, he has to find food some where or eat rats and insects if he is starving……its possible that canabalism will also arise in this situation….so it should be allowed for survival.
      The death of a character would be the end of the character, but just for gameplay lifes sake i think he has to be given 3 chances at least unless he finds a cure injection to bring back the chances he lost, and if he dies he should start a new character ( this will change how we view game play in history, making gameplay go to the side of more realism ).
      All houses should be accessable..even the one we tend to avoid, not like GTA where some house are accessible and some are not, i think i would every room and every house or every building and the rooms in it all accessible and so what ever you want in it.
      If the power generator is off, the electricity should also be a mod, like solar power and battery and home made electricty by using your creativity, coz thats also real stuff…….solar power mods can help you save up energy if you leave it out in the sun during the days.
      weapons should not be degraded over time, i think thats nonsense what they do in games, but weapons which as wood or plastic, could get degraded, so it means not all weapons get degraded…..thats also real stuff….
      And there is so much more…..i have written alot havent i?…..well im just so excited…. Good luck in your game development, i know itll be a success!!!!!!
      peace out….bye!.