Quick and Dirty Q&A

I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to turn around a Q&A with less than a day’s notice. My newly-acquired expertise in pit traps paid off, though, and I caught a dev. I gathered up a few of your questions and threw them down. He answered what he could, and he gets the ladder if you’re satisfied.

As I warned you, I ducked the release date questions like boneless cat doing the limbo. If I commit a date to print this early, I’Il jinx it. I won’t have that blood on my hands.

Speaking of blood, read on to see if I should fetch Producer Jess’s ladder, and let Jeff out of the pit.

How many zombies can the game engine produce without crashing?

The question is not how many zombies the game can produce without crashing; it’s how many zombies can the game produce without becoming an interactive slideshow. This is especially challenging in an open-world game, where you have a huge map (~8 km2 playable) with zeds everywhere.

We’ve had to write a substantial amount of technology to maintain a decent frame rate while still making you feel like the world is full of your undead fellow citizens. Some of it is simple tricks, and some if it is quite sophisticated engineering. For example, we spawn zombies as you get close, but we choose spawn locations carefully, e.g. behind buildings, fences, and trees. You never even see them spawning, and the illusion is that they were there the entire time.

…which allows them to chase you, fight you, bite you, pull you into little pieces and eat you, jump out a house window at you, rip off the door and pull you out of your truck…Moving up the complexity scale, we have several tiers of AI, since running AI is expensive. It takes surprisingly smart AI to make zombie behaviors that are believably dumb. Zombies you see in the distance are running a very simple, dumbed-down AI that allows them to path around and investigate sounds, and not much else. As they get closer their AI is replaced with more sophisticated AI that lets them investigate sounds or lights, or interact with the world markup such as climbing fences. Finally, as you get very close to them, we give them the most sophisticated AI, which allows them to chase you, fight you, bite you, pull you into little pieces and eat you, jump out a house window at you, rip off the door and pull you out of your truck… You get the idea. The code manages the transition between these AI states so you don’t perceive the difference.

So the answer to the question is that the world has literally thousands of zombies. That’s not to say you can be surrounded by a thousand zombies at a time, but if you do stupid things, like starting a car close to a horde, or breaking into a house by shattering the window, you can expect to have a few football teams worth of visitors heading your way.

When will there be more gameplay footage/spycam video?

We’re working on it. Now that we are heading into the final stages of production it’s a bit harder to get away with the spycam footage. That said, we’d love to share some official footage, so that’s the plan from here. Stay tuned.

How much progress (and in what areas) has happened since we last heard from you?

Our focus over the past few months has been to reach the alpha stage of production, which means the game is playable from beginning to end. It may not be bug free (well, it’s not even remotely bug free), and some parts of it are merely roughed in, but you can by-god sit down and play it all the way through. To be clear, there is still a ton of work to do: animation polish, combat polish, simulation system tuning and balancing, fleshing out the tech tree, performance improvements, UI refinement, voiceover (VO) production, story tweaks, and the massive, massive effort of bug fixing and balance tuning the whole parade. So, we still have a lot of work to do, but we might just see the finish line coming up over the horizon.

Will the game be available on the new Xbox 720?

The what? Anyway, nope. The Xbox 360 is the exclusive console platform for Class3.

What kind of weapons will we be able to make?

You can build items in your Workshop, and as you upgrade the Workshop to a Machine Shop or Munitions Shop you can build more sophisticated weapons, including firecrackers, grenades, firebombs (Molotov cocktails), and various types of land mines.

Will we be able to kludge together barricades/defenses out of found objects? How exactly do you barricade a building?

You can’t build from found objects. Certain structures are available to build when you’ve obtained the requisite materials and have enough labor supply (i.e. your fellow survivors) to build them.

You can barricade a building after establishing it as an outpost (meaning it is a regular source of supplies for your base), and then choosing which windows/doors you want to barricade. We’re nice, because we don’t make you find the wood. We’re mean, because hammering in those nails makes a lot of racket, and, as you can probably guess, zombies like a good racket.

Do loud noises attract zombies? Could you distract a zombie by throwing a rock near it and then killing it while its head was turned?

Zombies are attracted to all kinds of noises. You have to be careful when moving through the world, and constantly make the tradeoff between noise and efficiency. You can jump in that awesome muscle car to go investigate possible survivors at the Swine & Bovine restaurant, but be prepared to draw unwanted attention from the locals. You can speed up your search for medicine in that house across the street from your base, but if you go too fast you’re going to make noise and risk getting penned in. And yes, you can throw a string of firecrackers off the roof to draw every zed in town while you make your stealthy getaway down the ladder at the back of the building.

What’s the Swine & Bovine? You’ve never heard of it? Only the best family restaurant in Trumbull Valley, where both pig and cow are the specialty. For our fellow fans of never having to make the terrible choice between the two, here are some wallpapers from our art director Doug to celebrate your freedom.

Can you tell us about the different kinds of zombies?

Our goal is to create a believable zombie apocalypse, where the zombies are undead humans, rather than reskinned demons or horrific tentacle beasts. That’s not to say all zombies are the same, because the source of the zombie infection (which remains for you to discover) can have varying effects depending on the morphology of the victim. We do have both fast and slow zombies (we like our Dawn and our 28 too…), which makes for some interesting tactical situations. And yes, we do have those special zombies, the likely result of victims who had “special” characteristics in life, that will make your life even more of a living hell when you stumble across them. I’m not going to spoil the surprise with too many details, but I will tell you that the pretty guy to the right is one of them…

What do you think, will these tidbits tide you over the weekend? If not, I’m already collecting questions for next week, so feel free to leave yours in the comments. See you next week — it’s going to be a busy summer…

— Sanya