Case #




News, Research, Studio

Capping Off The Week

This week, Phinney, Reid, Kevin, and Scott (who you’ll get to meet soon) piled into a car and took a trip to Vancouver, Canada. Their destination? Animatrik, a company that specializes in motion capture animation. If you’ve ever seen behind the scenes footage of people running around in tights with little reflective balls all over them, that’s mocap, and it’s been used in movies for years. As it’s evolved over the past fifteen or so years, though, it’s also become an important tool for game developers.

To give you guys some insight into what motion capture is, how it works, and how it’s going to apply to Class3, I sat down with Reid to learn more about what our recent session was like. Read on to see what he had to say!

What is mocap and how is it different than traditional animation?

Motion capture records the movements of a live actor onto a set of controls called a rig. The rig controls the movement of the character model. You know those tight suits the actors wear, covered with a series of markers? The markers are what actually gets recorded and through a lot of crazy math, gets translated on to the rig.

Mocap is a great way to get realistic motion in a short amount of time. While hand-created keyframe animation can create realistic movement, the process is really consuming, and you still wouldn’t capture all the subtleties that you can get from mocap.

Traditional keyframe animation is very good for stylized movement and stylized characters, and for the “realistic” motion of fantastic creatures like dragons. Obviously, you can’t mocap something that doesn’t exist!

A lot of people recognize the mocap suits that actors wear, but how does the process actually work?

A bunch of cameras track the position of the little white markers on the actors’ mocap suits, which are used to triangulate the position of the actor’s actual joints. The data is then converted into rotational joint information that’s put on the skeleton. (A lot of markers and a lot of math are involved because they haven’t figured out a way to put the markers inside the actors yet. :) ) Once this  motion is on the skeleton, we translate it again to the character’s animation controls (which we refer to as the “rig”).

In the end, the animation ends up on the character in the same format as it does when I keyframe it. The only difference is that mocap data puts a key on every frame (that’s 30 keys per second of animation), which requires different animation techniques and tools to edit the dense amount of data that motion capture gives you.

For cinematics, if you plan correctly, get a good performance from the actors, and get good motion from the mocap studio, the animator shouldn’t have to edit much. Gameplay motion is a whole different thing — that requires a lot of editing.

What do you look for in a motion capture actor?

Since we were shooting both cinematic and gameplay styles for this session, we were looking for people that were both good actors and had strong physical and athletic skills.

For our cinematic shoot, the actors just ran through the scenes like they would if they were on stage performing a play, and we captured their motion in large chunks. For these sequences we’re primarily looking for acting ability.

On the other hand, the gameplay part of the shoot required the actors to perform specific actions in small pieces, which can feel pretty counterintuitive or unnatural. For example, if a character picks up an object and then throws it, the acting sequence might be broken up like this: the character is standing still (one shot), the character picks up an object (second shot), the character stands with the object in their hands (third shot), the character throws the object (fourth shot), and finally, the characters returns to a casual standing state (fifth and final shot). For an actor who’s used to following typical stage directions to just pick something up and throw it, that can be a jarring experience!

It sounds like mocap is pretty specialized. How do you go about finding the right actors?

Well, in our case, one of the actors we used was highly recommended by Animatrik and the other was recommended to Animatrik by someone who had worked with him in the past. Most mocap studios will know talented local actors from past projects, and they’re usually happy to recommend them. When that approach doesn’t work, you can hold casting calls where actors and their agents can send you resumes, demo reels, and things like that.

Once you find someone that looks good, you typically hold auditions to make sure they’re a good fit for what you need. (Since our guys came highly recommended from people we trusted, we actually skipped this step.)

What’s a mocap session like? Tell us what you guys did when you were up there!

The session started out with breakfast provided by the studio. While we ate, we got acquainted with the team and the actors. We also went over some of the scripts for the acting portion and some of the action for the gameplay portion. Once the actors had their suits on and everything was calibrated, we had them go right into the acting.

Phinney and Kevin took turns directing the storyline scenes. Before each scene was recorded, they prepped the actors on things like where to be on stage, how the characters they were playing should behave, what their personality and state of mind should be during the scene, and how intense or subtle the scene should be. I chimed in a little bit on some logistical things, like the placement of the objects they were interacting with. The actors also had some great ideas and added a lot of personality on their own.

After the acting section of the session was complete, it was my turn to direct gameplay stuff. I coached the actors on the speed and strength in which they should perform an action, judging the motion on if I thought it I could easily make it loop or not. I also tried to get them to start out in an idle pose, do an action in place, and then end the motion in the same idle pose. That will make the animations blend much more smoothly when you actually put them in the game.

How long do mocap sessions usually take?

Our day consisted of two 3 to 4 hour blocks. In both cases, we started with cinematic scenes and moved on to action sequences.

The morning session started with breakfast, paperwork, and studio and actor set-up at 8:00 am. We started shooting at 9:30, then broke for lunch at 12:30. After talking zombie games, guns, and Skyrim with cast and crew, we went back into shooting at 1:30 and were scheduled to start wrapping up at 5:30. Things went quicker than we’d expected, though, so we finished our full list — plus some bonus recording — around 4:30.

Since we have a lot to do back at the Lab, we drove back to Seattle the same night. We were a bunch of zombies the next day, but hey. It fits, I guess. 😉

When we get back mocap data, what format is it in?  How do you get the finished characters into the game?

We get video first so we can choose the takes we like best. Once we’ve picked these, we send the details back to Animatrik, who  cleans up the files we requested and sends them to us as skeletons with the motion attached to them.

The animations we get back are in a lot of different pieces, so to get them ready to use, Scott translates the motion from the skeleton to the rig. When he’s done, he sends them to me to do the necessary edits and get the pieces organized and exported. Once we’re finished, they are usable for the designers to put into the game.

Thanks for giving details about your trip, Reid!

I hope you guys liked this inside view of how our characters are being built! Next week, we have more game information coming your way — Phinney is preparing a design article on multiplayer in Class3 to close out 2011, so be sure to check back in on Friday.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Case #




News, Wallpapers

The Feasting

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving — the time when we look back at all the things that we’re grateful for in our lives and, of course, gorge ourselves on tasty, tasty brains turkey, stuffing, and all sorts of traditional holiday stuff (I want to eat ALL the sweet potatoes…). Since it’s also a time to be with friends and family, we’ll be closing down the Lab tomorrow and Friday, which means that we won’t be posting an article at the end of this week.

Don’t worry, though. Doug’s cooked up a new wallpaper to tide you over, and this one’s pretty freaking awesome. Read on to check it out.


Sweet! It’s about time turkeys got their revenge… 😉

Now, here’s a puzzler for you: If a turkey snacked on a zombie pilgrim, and you ate the turkey, would you become a zombie? Post a comment and let us know what you think!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!


PS: Don’t forget that it’s Black Friday this week, so keep an eye out for awesome game deals. If you’re going to be hibernating at home to avoid the crowds (and any potential zombies), I know that Amazon and Steam always have great discounts.

Case #




News, Studio

Can’t Look Away

A little over a month ago, we completed our final pre-production milestone for Class3. To celebrate, we took an afternoon adventure to Seattle’s iconic Experience Music Project (EMP) to check out an exhibit that was right up our alley — “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of the Horror Movie”.

Read on to learn what it’s all about and to see some awesome shots from our trip!

The first thing that hits you about EMP is just how big the place is. It’s huge. Like, 140,000 square feet of music and pop-culture goodness huge. Appropriately, our destination was in the basement of the museum. Another nice touch: the stairwells featured wallpaper consisting of screaming faces (which we’d later recognize as shots from the scream booth, but more on that later).

Once we got down into the basement proper, the ambiance just kept on delivering. The entire room was bathed in red light, which gave a nice, eerie cast to the replica sculpts of classic Roger Corman monsters on the walls (“It Conquered the World”, anyone?). Even the ceiling got in on the act with some creepy, octopus-looking sculptures – made entirely out of Hannibal Lecter masks!

These guys obviously put a lot of love into crafting this exhibit, and it was great to see that passion on display. You want some more highlights? Here you go!

Movie Memorabilia

I’m a prop and makeup geek, so getting to see famous pieces from some of my favorite horror movies was pretty amazing. The most impressive was definitely the xenomorph from Alien, but there was one of the original facehuggers on display, which was cool too.

They also had one of the original zombie suits from Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, Freddy’s glove from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jason’s mask from Friday the 13th, one of the critters from Critters, and, for a real blast from the past, the creature mask from Creature From the Black Lagoon.

When I asked the team what their most memorable moments were from the trip, Gronk mentioned Jeff’s… intense… expression when he was standing by the axe from The Shining. See for yourself. 😉

Classic Horror Timeline

One wall had a massive timeline of horror movies, cataloging decades of films, complete with replicas of a ton of movie posters.

We walked down the line, pointing out which movies we’d seen, and since I’ve spent years of my life watching horror movies, I was at the top of the pile.

Doug was up there, too, though. He loves him some classics…

Horror Movie Pods

A bunch of “pods” scattered around the center of the room were showing clips from some horror classics, along with commentary from various famous directors. For me, the best thing about this part of the exhibit was watching people get their first taste of movies like Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Takashi Miike’s Audition.

The Scream Booth

The last thing we checked out was the interactive scream booth. You’d step inside this little soundproof room, and you’d be prompted to scream — either a “terrified” scream or an “angry” scream.

As an added bonus, when you were finished screaming, your face would pop up on a wall outside the booth for everyone to see. For some reason, I just looked angry all the time, but Jeff’s “Jack Nicholson in The Shining” impression definitely came in first. Unless you count Brant’s “eek” face…

After we’d checked out “Can’t Look Away,” some of us went to see the other two exhibits hosted at the museum: Avatar and Battlestar Galactica.

I’m not a huge fan of Avatar, but I have to admit that the full-scale AMP suit and the creature models were pretty cool. I also liked the interactive tree spirit display.

Over on the Battlestar side, they had three massive replica ships: the Cylon Raider, the Viper Mark II, and the Viper Mark VII. Pretty freaking awesome!

If you’re a Seattle native, or if you have the chance to take a trip to our rainy city, I definitely recommend taking an afternoon to swing by the EMP. If you do, post a comment and let us know what your favorite part was!


PS: I’ve added a bunch of photos from the trip to our Flickr gallery, so head over and check them out!

Case #




News, Studio

Top Gun

I first met Erik Schmidt during our trip to the firing range last summer. He was our instructor, the guy who stood next to us in our firing stalls and taught us gun safety, proper stance, and all of those other things we needed to actually hit our targets while not shooting ourselves in the foot. You know those times when you meet someone and you’re immediately amazed by how much they know and how much they genuinely love what they do? This was one of them.

As it turns out, Erik loves zombies almost as much as he loves guns, and he’s put as much thought into his own hypothetical survival plan as any of us. So much thought, in fact, that he’s become Brant’s unofficial firearms consultant (and personal training instructor).

In celebration of Veteran’s Day, I sat down with this bad-ass former Marine to learn a little more about his career and to get his thoughts on everything zombie — from his opinion on which caliber is best for taking out zeds to how he’ll be contributing to Class3.

Read on to see what he had to say!

First off, tell me about yourself! What’s your background?

Well, my professional history with weapons goes back to the eight years I served in the Marine Corps, where I was a combat engineer, a rifleman, and a machine gunner. During my time as a Marine, I participated in the first Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield/Storm).

After the military, I went to college for criminal justice and was hired as a Federal K9 Enforcement Officer soon after I graduated. A few years later, I moved into local law enforcement with specialty assignments such as mountain bike officer, riot squad member, firearms instructor, defensive tactics instructor, and more.

Currently, I’m working in the private sector as a contractor for maritime security (specifically anti-piracy and counter-terror operations) off the Horn of Africa. I also do firearms and defensive tactics training, consultation, private investigations, and executive protection for Fortune 500 clientele, heads of state, and media personalities. I was the Firearms Training Director for a local firearms range for the last several years, and I also teach martial arts at a local karate school. (I’ve been a martial artist for 25 years and still really enjoy it.)

I met you wonderful folks at Undead Labs when you came in to our range to learn about guns, and now here I am!

What made you want to work as a law enforcement officer?

As cliche as it sounds, I wanted to do something about the violence in our communities. I was watching TV one Saturday morning and saw a news story about a woman that was kidnapped, horribly abused, and left for dead. She was paralyzed as a result of the attack. I thought to myself, “Things like this are going on out there and I’m sitting in here on the couch eating Corn Flakes doing nothing about it.” It bothered me so much that I went out that same day and bought several books on passing the law enforcement entrance exams. Then, I went to college to study criminal justice. Two years later, I was running with a narcotic detector dog and participating in middle-of-the-night raids on drug dealers, smugglers, and gun runners. From that point on, I was hooked.

What’s your favorite firearm?

Wow…that’s a tough question. It’s kind of like asking who your favorite kid is, especially since I’ve been collecting firearms for decades. All of my firearms have their own charms and I love them all, but if my house was on fire and I could only pick one weapon before jumping out the window, it would have to be my newest “baby” —  the FN SCAR16 with all the goodies on it.

I’d be really bothered about losing all the others, but at the end of the day, I really dig this monster. I mean seriously. Even Dracula got nuthin’ on my SCAR. 😉

What’s the strangest or most unique weapon you’ve ever shot?

Strange and unique? One weapon stands out in my mind — the Grim Reaper’s Pit Bull, an MK 19, Mod 3 40MM belt fed grenade launcher. It’s a machine gun that hurls grenades out past 2000 yards at an approximate cyclic firing rate of +/- 350 grenades per minute. Fun fact: Each one of those little jewels digs a 15 foot crater on impact.

Nothing quite says “home defense” like a belt fed grenade launcher. 😉

Why zombies? What do you like about them?

They get to me at a real, visceral level. When I was working on the street, I’d encounter all kinds of living people ACTING like zombies, whether it was caused by mental illness or chemically induced insanity. I’ve even seen people in such a degraded state due to their drug habits or other health conditions that they LOOKED like zombies.

I’ve also encountered large-scale riots like the WTO ones in Seattle. Imagine HUGE throngs of people — what felt like the entire city — coming after you in non-stop waves for five days, hurling everything from water bottles filled with urine to marbles and ball bearings. They were even rolling manhole covers down the hill. It was terrifying.

With the very real issues of our world, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine something like a zombie apocalypse actually happening. We look at zombie movies or games and know that they’re  just make believe, but deep down I think zombies are something we can all relate to and fear in some way. We don’t have to survive a riot to get the picture.

In the last year or so I’ve had some pretty intense conversations with captains of industry, celebrities, and regular folks about what they would do if “the zombies” came. These discussions are awesome because the topic is so engaging — especially if it inspires people to think about how they’d take care of themselves if there’s an emergency. Very frequently, these conversations segue into things like earthquake preparedness or civil disturbances. Just watch some of the videos out there and tell me it doesn’t look like something from a zombie movie — throngs of hungry, frazzled, angry people freaking out. Government thugs putting the smack down on helpless civilians. How many zombie apocalypses have aired on the nightly news in the last 15 years? I lost count.

So I guess the thing that makes the zombie genre appealing to me is that it has a certain amount of plausibility. Any one of us could become a zombie in the right (or wrong) circumstances.

Isn’t THAT a thought?

What’s your zombie-killing weapon of choice and why?

Well that’s another great question, but I can’t stop at just one!

I really like the utilitarian nature of tomahawks and kukris. Cold Steel is currently making a kukri blade on the end of an axe handle (no joke). This.might seem a little weird, but something like that would definitely take care of someone’s Excedrin headache…if you catch my drift. I love my SOG tactical tomahawks too,  so if I had to go all ninja-sneaky, I’d use one of those two weapons.

In close quarters, I’m a HUGE fan of the .45 ACP cartridge. And while I loves me my 1911’s, I’d want more rounds in the weapon than just 8 +1, so I’d be inclined to use a Springfield XD as a sidearm. The typical loadout with a 1911 would be 25 rounds, but my.XD gets me 40 rounds of crowd-pleasing forty five on my belt and in the weapon. Also, because the .45 is such a big, slow bullet, it’s among the best rounds to suppress. I guess a threaded barrel and a quality suppressor would also be on the menu.

From my own inventory, I would prefer to run my SCAR 16 (along with it’s AAC suppressor) and play whack-a-mole with the zeds from 300 to 500 yards out. (Yes folks. Marines QUALIFY in boot camp with .223’s at 500 yards…with IRON SIGHTS.)

Of course, I couldn’t run a can on it* and still get that kind of accuracy at distance —  the bullet has a lot to do with it. Personally, I prefer Hornady TAP hollowpoint rounds in 75 grain. Shooting those through wet phone books and paint cans filled with mud leaves cantaloupe-sized holes coming out of the test media…

That’s good to go. :)

For long distance dedications, again from my personal inventory, I’d have to go with my HK91 with the PSG-1 aftermarket goodies on it. With that weapon, I can hit targets at 800 yards with confidence, but I’d probably have to walk the rounds in a bit beyond that. The scope I have on it is SICK — you can see into the future with that thing. I call it the “Eye of Sauron.” No hobbits want to be in the eye. Evar.

Anyway, the .308 cartridge is my very favorite as an all-around heavy lifter. When that round grabs you, it’s got you, and the ballistics are really constant and easy to work with. That HK91 would be a great weapon as a perimeter or watch rifle, especially when it comes to reliability. The weapon platform is really over-engineered and I have NEVER had a malfunction in 15 years.

Did I come even come CLOSE to answering your question? 😉

* “Running a can” is gun lingo for adding a silencer. -Emily

If you were facing a lone zed, what weapon would you use? What if you were up against a big horde? Would you want to use something different?

One zombie by itself? A tactical tomahawk or a kukri…. or that Filthy McNasty kukri on the axe handle dealio. (Ok, to be honest, I really just want to try that thing.)

I wouldn’t want to make excessive noise to draw out other zeds. I’ve seen the movies…you know there’s never…juuuuuust …one.

If I was up against a big horde of zombies? (cringe) Can I bring that automatic belt fed grenade launcher? If not, I’d go with my SCAR. It’s suppressed, so I would hope it wouldn’t attract ANOTHER horde. (Because that’s just a bad day at the office, ya know?) It’s also pinpoint accurate from 0 to 200 yards, and is just so adaptable I can do anything with it.

Well, almost. I would really like a bayonet on it, but they don’t make ’em. It’s a Marine thing… I LIKE bayonets.

How did you meet Brant? What are you doing to advise him?

I met Brant when you guys came down to the range several months ago. He had some follow-up questions about different guns, and filled me in on what you were doing with your game. After your trip, he came back to the range a few times and I showed him several different “common” and exotic weapons. Then we got to talking about different dynamics of how bullets function, human anatomy when in close proximity to said bullets, and even different techniques of shooting different weapons. (Yes, it IS possible to accurately shoot Mozambiques, on the move one handed…if you do it right.)

We’ve spent many hours on the range firing different handguns, submachine guns (full auto, baby!), and rifles. We’ve also spent many more hours discussing things like tactical lights, lasers, optics, and everything under the sun when it comes to real firearms and the firearms you find in the gaming world.

Brant really wants to introduce some firearm realism, which is a breath of fresh air to me. The article you wrote after the company day at the range was VERY insightful and accurate! Shooting a real weapon is a very real, perishable skill, and.the people who have that skill are really something to see. Anybody that’s ever watched Jerry Miculek fire a revolver like a machine gun can see that.

So as Brant and I got to know each other, he came down and took a few of my classes and learned about the ancillary equipment too, like different holsters and slings and how to clear the weapon from them and still get shots on target quickly and efficiently. He also learned how to do reloads under stress without hurting himself or others, which is actually a pretty tough thing to do. During his training, Brant evolved from a good shot to a GREAT shot, even under under stress, which is cool. But then comes the task of how to translate this “real world” firearms handling into a gaming experience. As I’m learning, it’s not as easy as one might think.

While I’m not sure if any gun nuances will make it into the game, it IS something we’ve talked about a lot. I’ve been helping him try to vet the different kinds of weapons that would be realistically found in the gun lockers and closets of the average small town American, discuss their differences, and try to whittle down every bloody gun in the world into a list of things that can be realistically expected.

As an example, let’s look at that SCAR 16 of mine. I know maybe three people in all of Western Washington that own one. Since I worked at a gun range for three years, that says something about the availability of finding one of those, especially equipped with a suppressor and night vision. But what you WILL find are AR-15’s, hunting rifles, and shotguns everywhere. While my circle of friends is probably a lot different from most other people, nearly every guy (and even a few gals) I know own and operate an AR-15 variant of some kind.

As another example, I think I read somewhere that someone wanted a Dragunov in the game. That’s something you definitely won’t find in some farmer’s closet, and you probably wouldn’t find one at a typical gun store either. Never mind trying to get a hold of 7.62 X 54R ammunition — it’s as highly specialized as that SCAR of mine. (That’s not to say that exotics won’t find their way into the game of course, but they just won’t be easy to find.)

Does this level of details even matter in a video game? I’m not sure, but I do know that the Undead Labs team is putting a lot of effort into finding the right mix of the funky nuances that exist with guns and making sure the game is just plain fun.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun to be able to consult on a project like this because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever been involved with! Most of my family is like: “There goes Uncle Erik blabbing about the war again.” They don’t really want to hear it. Then along comes Brant, and he’s throwing me curve ball questions about guns that make me have to go back and read the technical manuals. I really DIG that!

What are you looking forward to the most in Class3?

Well, I’m starting to get on in the years, and watching my nephews play video games just feels like a constant kill/die/kill/die kind of deal. There are no tactics, no thought, and no finesse…it’s just runnin’ and gunnin’, which gets kinda boring and frustrating for me because when I play I actually do stuff like pie corners,  use cover and concealment, and daisy chain explosives together. They’re always like “Uncle Errriiiikkkk…. Just SHOOT him!”

Kids these days. Where’s the ambience? 😉

I guess what makes video games fun for me is the ability to do things that I otherwise couldn’t, shouldn’t, or can’t do in real life. I’m such a geek about this stuff that I actually use movies and games and books as visualization for real world scenarios — I view them as opportunities to train and have fun.

As an “old guy” I really like story content, and I like open ended options with more than one way to approach things. I’m looking forward to Class3 because it’s going to give me a way to visualize a scenario that challenges me to think on my feet or react to something. I’m also looking forward to being able to interact with other survivors and solve problems. And, of course, I’m also excited about a good amount of running and gunning.

Of course, you fine folks don’t share all the game goodies with me, so I don’t fully know what to expect or what the story arcs will be about. The suspense is KILLING me, but that’s part of the fun!

What’s the best all-around zombie killing caliber and why?

There’s really no delicate way to say this — the way bullets work is that they make holes in bodies.

If we’re talking handguns, I’d want to use something that throws trash can lids at the bad guys, so I’d go with some kind of .45 (be it a 1911 or a Glock or a Thompson). These firearms are more likely to deliver because of their size, weight, and moderate velocity.

I think another gun that would open up a can of serious whup-a$$ is the KRISS Vector SMG. That thing hits all the high notes out to 100 yards — maybe farther in the right hands. But at typical handgun distance…yeeesh. That’s a wee bit too close for my tastes, and I would prefer to hit ’em far enough away that the icky-sticky doesn’t get all over me. In Western Washington, a .223 of some kind would be just ducky (25 to 200 yards), but in Eastern Washington (where it’s more wide open), I’d prefer a .308 to keep the zeds well away from the perimeter. Preferably, I’d like to keep them out past 300 yards or so.

From a gunfighter’s perspective, the edge always goes to the bigger bullet, and I always want to stack the deck in my favor. A larger bullet is more likely to sever blood-carrying vessels and damage or destroy vital organs (many times, several of them). Then there’s velocity. The large bullet should be of sufficient velocity to, for example, penetrate the natural body armors of the skull and sternum. The downside of these kinds of bullets (like my crowd pleasing .45’s), are that they’re bigger and they take up more space, so you can’t carry as many as smaller caliber bullets. They’re also consequently heavy, so it’s a burden on the operator.

While I like the .40 and 10MM a lot, firing them suppressed and/or finding the bullets to feed them could be a problem. If sound and ammo resupply isn’t the big driver of what to use… the 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, 10MM and .45ACP’s would all work just great.

If I HAD to pick my personal favorite caliber, it would be the .45 ACP, just like in real life. Options like penetrating natural body armors, accuracy, low muzzle climb, the ability to easily suppress the noise, and plentiful ammunition to tear Mister Zeddie McNasty a new one makes the .45ACP my best “all around” zombie killing caliber.

Of course, we’re talking about the undead here. As a rule, you have to put one in the snot locker and blow out the back-side of his melon to give that zombie a permanent dirt nap. All you have to be able to do is penetrate the skull. In that aspect, virtually any bullet in modern defensive handguns will do the job, methinks.

What are your thoughts on handguns versus rifles?

A rifle is far more powerful than a pistol, but it takes two hands to use.That’s difficult if you’re trying to do things like grabbing or pushing people out of the way, opening doors, or even using a flashlight. Personally, I prefer handguns for clearing rooms and rifles for outdoor activities.

What are your thoughts on the importance of using different weapon types for different situations?

It’s all about the finding right tool for the job. I usually come down on the side of accuracy and heavy hitting firepower over other options, but as a Marine, I believe in the concept of “One Mind, Any Weapon.” I’ll fight by throwing an angry cat on your face if I have to.

Do you have any tips for people looking to try out shooting for the first time?

A lot depends on the state or country where people are from, of course. Here in Washington, we still have a bit of the frontier mentality, so gun ranges are plentiful, safe, and fun.

I’m a strong advocate for training. If you can’t find a local range, there are lots of awesome schools that provide weapons for rent. Thunder Ranch, Yavapai Firearms Academy, The Lethal Force Institute, Valhalla, and Gunsite are some of the big names. I’m a big fan of the Insights guys here locally. The NRA is also an excellent resource. You can say what you like about the politics or the organization, but at the end of the day, nobody does gun safety like them.

Thanks for chatting with us, Erik! It’s great to hear your thoughts on this stuff.

Any time! Thanks again for the chance to offer my two cents on the project. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to meet everyone and see this cool game come to life.

I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about Erik! We’re thrilled to have someone with his expertise giving us advice, and I’ll tell you what — if the shit ever goes down, I’m really hoping it happens on a day when he’s paying us a visit. 😉

All of us here at the Lab would like to extend our sincere gratitude to every single current and former member of our armed forces. Happy Veteran’s Day, and thank you for your service.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


PS: The images in this article are in no particular order, so if the guns don’t match with the stuff around them, you can blame me. 😉

Case #




News, Studio, Wallpapers

This Is Halloween

Halloween is finally here and, as you can probably guess, it’s our favorite holiday! People cruising around in sweet costumes, horror movie marathons on TV, carving pumpkins, stocking up on copious amounts of candy (mmm…peanut butter cups)…

Best time of year? Yeah, pretty much.

While we can’t be there to give you a hand with the zombie makeup you should be rocking this weekend, Doug did whip up a new wallpaper to help you get in the spirit. Check it out!

Enjoy, and have an awesome and safe Halloween weekend!


PS: If you end up dressing up like a zombie this weekend, we’d love to see your costume! Post a comment and show us what you came up with. :)

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News, Studio

Hoodie Heads-Up

Howdy, everyone! I wanted to give you a heads-up that this is the final week to pick up a Lab hoodie. Because we had some technical issues when the store first re-opened, we’ll continue to take orders until Friday. If any of you have been meaning to grab one, be sure to do it before then!

We’ll send our final tally to the printer next Monday morning. When the shirts are finished, I’ll start packing them up and mailing them out, so you can expect to have yours a few weeks after that.

Thanks again for rocking the Lab colors with us!

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News, Q&A

Q&A: Healing, Death, And More

Last week, we posted a new design article from Phinney that provided an in-game survivor’s take on what it takes to stay alive in the world of Class3. This week, we’ll answer a bunch of questions that you guys have asked on our website and on fan forums.

Read on to see the topics we’ve covered!

Shawn of the Dead from our website asks: “Phinney mentions that these ideas are the heart of Class 3. Can we expect the same from Class 4?”

Absolutely! In fact, we’ll be expanding on them for Class4, adding more diverse locations, vehicles, weapons, and survival options.

Jakesawesome  from our website asks: “In a real zombie apocalypse there are no health bars, damage meters, or levels. Will there be any in Class3?”

Yes and no. You’ll have a health bar so you won’t have to guess how much health you have, but zombies won’t. While we could have opted to have no health bar for you too, we wanted to emphasize the survival aspect of the game by having the damage you take stick with you until you can heal up. A health bar is a really clear way to show that and to give you clear choices to make about when to retreat or when to heal yourself.

As far as zombies go, the only way to kill one is to take out its head, so they’re not going to lose health from other damage — you’ll either kill them or you won’t. Of course, you can dismember them to give yourself an advantage, too. 😉

Several folks from our website ask: “Is there a fatigue/stamina system that ties into inventory weight and the possibility of becoming encumbered? Does this system apply to weapons, too?”

Yes. Like in a real survival situation, weight matters. If you’re carrying too much stuff, you’re going to get tired much faster than if you’re traveling light. It’s up to you to decide what balance you’ll want to maintain.

The size of the weapon you choose to carry makes a difference, too. Larger guns are definitely heavier, so you’ll want to be strategic about selecting your equipment, making sure that what you’ve equipped fits the situation you’re heading into.

Rob from our website asks: “How deep are the characters you rescue along the way? If they die, are you balling your eyes out in front of the screen yelling, ‘Why didn’t you take me!’ or are you more upset that you lost a gun and some armor?”

One of our goals is to have a deep storyline and rich setting, so it’s quite possible that you’ll get attached to characters you meet. It probably depends on how sentimental you are. 😉

Reidlos Dog from our website asks: “You talk about duct taping a structure together because hammering is loud. Does this mean that building structures will make noise and attract zombies?”

Fortifying an area is noisy business. You don’t have to try to set up a stronghold, but if you do, you should expect that zombies will find you, so do a good job setting up your defenses.

GhostMARINE from our website asks: “Are you hinting at being able to use different materials in creating structures? And if so, would we be able to use substandard material at the benefit of less noise in the construction, but at the cost of functionality/durability?”

Not exactly. The line about duct tape was mostly there for comedic effect. We don’t currently have any options for building fortifications with substandard materials, and we weren’t planning to add any. On the other hand, having people around who know something about construction is something the game takes into account.

Construction is an important part of the game, but we’ve tried not to keep the mechanics straightforward. So building structures will require resources, but as we’ve mentioned in one of our previous Q&As, we’re not making a Minecraft-style game. There will be a lot of options, but it won’t be 100% free-form.

We’ll be covering more details about how building things will work in a future design article, so keep an eye out for that.

Sean from our website asks: “Is there some kind of respawn system that causes you to wake up at your shelter when you are ‘overwhelmed’ by zombies?”

Yes. If you’re defeated by zombies, you have a chance of being “rescued” and waking up somewhere safe. Since zombification isn’t an instant thing, they’ll take you back to a safe place to allow you to regroup before you go out into the world again.

As Phinney implied in the article, though, you wouldn’t want to keep putting this to test over and over. They won’t always get to you in time.

Rob from our website asks: “Will other human settlements start to pop up in Class3?”

Zombies definitely outnumber living people, but you’re not the only survivor of the outbreak. As you explore the world, you’ll probably run across other characters who are trying to make it, too. For example, folks like the Wilson brothers, who our author mentions in his journal.

I’m a Zombie. Rawr! from our website asks: “If you die and become zombified, can you control a zombie version of yourself?”  

“We’ve seen how they act, more instinct than thought. And we’ve all seen that look. We’ve seen it in their eyes. Just hatred and hunger. Not one ounce of humanity left. Better that way anyway. It’s not your friend. It’s just a shell.”

As our author observes, zombies are husks — soulless shadows of people that used to be alive. They’re no longer human, and retain no characteristics that would make them controllable.

Lucien from our website asks: “How complex will NPC AI be? Will you need to order them around, or will they act intelligently on their own?”

We’re making an action game, so we don’t think it’s acceptable for you to have to issue orders in order to play the game. Our goal is to build NPCs that behave in the ways that you’d expect them to.

ShoelaceManiac from our website asks: “Will meeting other survivors be random, or will they be scripted story moments like car crashes?”

We plan to tell a story, and developing a wide variety of interesting characters is a big part of that. Like you’d expect in a real apocalypse, the ways you meet people will vary.

Ragnaroktheevil from our website asks: “Will there be specializations for the survivors? You mention a doctor, so can a player BE a doctor, an engineer, soldier etc.?”

Yes — proficiency with different skills will definitely be an important aspect of the game. We’ll be giving more details about how this will work in a future design article about characters.

ShoelaceManiac from our website asks: “Is there a delay between a person’s death and their resurrection as a zombie?”

That’s for you to find out. 😉

And there you have it! Thanks for all of your questions and comments about Phinney’s most recent post. If your question wasn’t answered, don’t worry — we probably have a design article coming that’s going to cover your topic. Over the next few months, you’ll be hearing more from us about stuff like base building, characters, and everyone’s favorite topic: guns.

Even though we’re done with Q&As for now, keep sharing your thoughts, opinions, and questions with us! We may not be able to respond to everyone, but we do read every comment that’s posted. Hearing what you guys think is really helpful.

Have an awesome weekend, everyone!


PS: If any of you Seattle natives are headed to ZomBcon this weekend, I’ll be there too. If you see me, say hey!

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News, Press, Studio

The Future Is Now

‘Class3’ has gone into production, and that means that we’re going to need a ton of art to fully flesh out the world. That’s why we’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with the talented team at  FUTUREPOLY Studios for our art production needs.

Headed up by Jason Stokes and Levi Hopkins, two of our good friends and former colleagues, the FUTUREPOLY Studios crew will be working side-by-side with our artists to create all of the visual details that we’ll need to bring Class3 to life.

Read on for more details!

Veteran Game Industry Artists to Help Realize ‘Faded Americana’ Setting of Zombie-Survival Game

SEATTLE – 20 October 2011 – Undead Labs, developer of online world games for console gamers, announced today that it had selected FUTUREPOLY Studios to provide art production services for its original zombie-survival franchise codenamed ‘Class3‘. Located in Seattle, Washington, FUTUREPOLY Studios is the game-production division of FUTUREPOLY, a digital-art school focusing on advanced training for professional video-game artists.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with our friends and long-time colleagues at FUTUREPOLY on Class3,” said Jeff Strain, founder of Undead Labs. “Many of the Team Zed artists have worked with the founders and principal instructors at FUTUREPOLY for close to a decade, and these guys are among the most talented and experienced artists in the business. They’ll also be bringing their elite students onto the project, so we get a team of great artists, and they get the chance to work with a veteran development team on a kickass zombie-survival game.”

Led by well-known game industry artists Jason Stokes and Levi Hopkins, FUTUREPOLY Studios will be working closely with Undead Labs Art Director Doug Williams to realize the beautiful post-apocalyptic world of Class3. Defining an artistic style Doug describes as ‘Faded Americana,’ Class3 avoids traditional urban and exotic game settings, and instead returns players to the heart of the zombie-surivival genre: small-town America.

“FUTUREPOLY has enjoyed great success with its core mission of offering video-game-art development courses taught by experienced industry professionals,” said Jason Stokes, founder of FUTUREPOLY. “Our instructors are some of the best known and most highly regarded game artists in the industry, and our students are universally talented game artists looking for the edge they need to be even better. With the launch of FUTUREPOLY Studios, we’re bringing that talent and experience together to offer superior game-art production services, and we can’t think of a better inaugural project than the ambitious zombie-survival franchise under development at Undead Labs.”

About Undead Labs

Undead Labs is a game development studio dedicated to creating a new class of online world games for console gamers. Founded in 2009 by MMO industry veteran Jeff Strain, Undead Labs is a creative studio built around the most talented—and zombie loving—developers in the industry. Based in Seattle, Washington, the studio’s singular focus is creating the definitive zombie-survival franchise for console gamers. The company’s inaugural game, currently in development, is an open world zombie-survival game for Xbox LIVE Arcade, published by Microsoft Studios. For more information, visit


FUTUREPOLY is a digital arts training studio specifically geared toward video game development. Sharing decades of professional experience, instructors offer a focused curriculum with an emphasis on real-world workflow solutions. FUTUREPOLY Studios is the game-production division of FUTUREPOLY, bringing together experienced industry game artists and selected students to provide game-art production services for top-tier video-games. For more information, visit

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Jeff Strain (for Undead Labs)
Jason Stokes (for FUTUREPOLY)

Some information relates to pre-released product which may be substantially modified before it’s commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here.
Microsoft, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, and the Xbox logos are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.
Undead Labs and the Undead Labs logo are trademarks of Undead Labs, LLC.
FUTUREPOLY, FUTUREPOLY Studios, and the FUTUREPOLY logo are trademarks of FUTUREPOLY, LLC.
All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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Fans, News

Fan Art Friday

It’s been a while since we’ve shown off new fan art, so we’ll be wrapping up this week with a bunch of awesome pieces you’ve sent us since our last update. In this latest batch, we’ve got sketches, paintings, and even an awesome zombie puppet to show off!

Read on to check them out and to learn how you can send in creations of your own.

Fan art by Luke the Duke

Fan art by Awesomedude360

Fan art by Bryan Crisostomo

Fan art by Fidel Salazar “Fideon”

Fan art by Dale Raymond Lerette

Fan art by Luke the Duke

Zombie puppet by Suburban Freak

Thanks to Luke, Awesomedude, Bryan, Fideon, Dale, and Suburban Freak for sending these our way. Keep them coming, guys — we really love getting fan art! :)

If you’re a creative type that loves to make zombie-related pieces, we’d love to see what you come up with! Go ahead and post a link to your art here, or send it to If you’d like your work to appear in a future website post and our Facebook fan art gallery, make sure you provide me with an email address where I can reach you.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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News, Studio

Hoodie Time!

October’s here, which means it’s time for Halloween, ZomBcon — and Lab hoodies! We’re making a new batch of the sweatshirts worn by the members of Team Zed, and offering them for sale in the Undead Labs Gear Store.

Want a hoodie of your own? Read on to find out how to get one!

The ordering process is really simple — just head over here, choose your size, and checkout.

We’ll be taking requests until October 24 October 28, then closing the store and sending all of your orders off to the printer. As soon as we get them back, we’ll pack ‘em up and ship ‘em out to you. Based on what we learned from our Lab tees this summer, the whole process generally takes about two weeks (plus shipping).

All hoodies are American Apparel’s California Fleece, and feature the Undead Labs logo prominently on the chest. They’re incredibly soft, light-weight, durable, and warm. Wear them with pride, knowing that you’re sporting the exact same sweatshirts that we all own and love!