One of the reasons people play games is to answer questions about themselves. Am I quick enough to win a street fight or a gun battle? Am I clever enough to solve a mystery? If I had my own empire, could I conquer the world?
“Could I survive a zombie attack?” There are scores of games that raise this question, and some answer it very well. But State of Decay takes a different tack:
“Could I survive the zombie apocalypse?” — we’re not just talking about five minutes of pulse-pounding horror. The question is, could I build a community in the aftermath and survive for years?
That is the context of our upcoming Sandbox DLC. We want to create a setting where players can answer that question, not just until the story is exhausted, but indefinitely.
Infinity Versus Attrition
What do they always do? They find a new town…filled to the brim with zombies.Here is the core challenge that faces us: Surviving in the apocalypse is about attrition. You scavenge a house, and that house is scavenged. You lose a friend, and that friend is gone. Every loss is real, because nothing can be replaced.
How do you take a scenario like that, and make it last forever? Without fundamentally cheapening the experience with infinitely-respawning supplies?
Well, what do the characters in a zombie story always do when they exhaust their supplies in a town?
They find a new town. Fresh, unspoiled…because it’s filled to the brim with zombies.
Buying Longevity with Difficulty
You have to keep moving for as long as you can handle the challenge.Basically, you can survive as long as you want to in the zombie apocalypse, and you’ll never run out of resources…as long as you’re willing to move to places that kill everyone else who tries to move there.
As the world decays, and as supplies are gobbled up, you have to keep moving deeper into the most infected areas, facing bigger crowds of deadlier zombies, for as long as you can handle the challenge.
That is what we want to simulate with our Sandbox DLC — moving towards the danger, and stepping up your game, because in the long run, that is the only way to stay alive.
How it Works
There won’t be room for everyone. You’ll have to leave a lot behind. But at least you’ll have hope.You’ve survived for as long as you can in the valley. You’ve turned over every piece of furniture, in every house, looking for the last scraps of food. You’re pretty sure that the next zombie attack will use your last bullet…and then you’ll have no way out.
Except one — there is a broken-down RV at the edge of town. If you can get it running, you can pack up with a few of your closest friends and search for a new place to survive.
Fixing up an RV isn’t an easy task. You’ll need to scavenge for fuel and materials. You’ll need tools, and a decent workshop. You may run into setbacks, and have to risk your life to resolve them. And it will take time — time during which the zombie hordes are growing.
There won’t be room for everyone (we’re still working out the exact numbers). You’ll have to leave a lot behind, including some close friends. But at least you’ll have hope. That’s more than can be said for those who remain in the valley.
Now it’s a race to get everyone you can on board before the zombies overrun the valley.You turn the key, and the RV’s engine rumbles to life. Now it’s a race to get everyone you can on board before the zombies overrun the valley — taking control of each survivor you’ve chosen, traveling alone and in pairs, from wherever they are on the map. Your friends can still die, even a few short steps from the RV. But once they’re on board, there is nothing keeping you here. You floor it, leaving the dead in your dust.
After a harrowing journey (represented by a loading screen), you arrive at a new town very much like the one you left (actually, the same map) — one where the inhabitants weren’t as lucky as you were. The houses are still unscavenged, and the hordes have gone unchecked for ages, because most of the inhabitants are dead. The zombies are bolder, more numerous, and they’re hungry.
You know you can survive here…but for how long? That remains to be seen.
The Cost of Survival
As always, this is a game about making hard choices, and living with the consequences.
Survival means making sacrifices. If you do get out, it will be by the skin of your teeth.Survival means making sacrifices. Will you bring your best friend, or will the auto mechanic need his seat? Will you load your pack with ammunition, or with medicine? You can’t be sure what you’ll find in the new valley, and your entire community stash won’t fit in the RV.
In the end, the question of what you’ll bring might matter less than whether you can reach the RV at all. It’s like the zombies know you’re leaving — as the RV’s engine revs to life, they step up their attacks, and turn your own backyard into hostile territory. If you do get out, it will be by the skin of your teeth.
But hard choices have their rewards, too. In a later article, we’ll discuss the upside of playing the long game…the Achievements, the unlockables, and the struggle for Leaderboard dominance.