We started with a simple idea: simulate the zombie apocalypse. We sketched out our plan for State of Decay in big, bold strokes. We would focus on survival. We’d have meaningful choices. We’d have fast, sweet action. We’d provide the tools to develop unique survival strategies. Above all else, we would have the apocalypse simulator we all dreamed of every time the credits rolled on a great zombie flick.
“Simulator.” That’s a deceptively simple word. The world of State of Decay had to feel real, and as players, we needed to feel we had choices. Not just options, but the choices available to us here in the real world. That meant abandoning the usual game designer tools of scripts and triggers, and instead simulating behaviors and responses. Noise, echos, light, motion, resource depletion, morale, energy — all of those things needed to be modeled, and the inhabitants of the world designed to react and respond to them naturally. It was a daunting challenge, but one we thought was essential to creating a true survival experience.
No focus groups or game-market analysts were involved.No focus groups or game-market analysts were involved. That rarely works, and even when it does, as passionate gamers, we often wish it hadn’t. Great games, like works of art, well designed gadgets, or even a great recipe, come from people who are passionate about not only what they do, but also what they make.
We frequently pushed up against the boundaries of traditional design wisdom. What if death was really…death?Instead, we focused on creating the survival sandbox game we all wanted to play, and that never led us astray. Along the way, we frequently pushed up against the boundaries of traditional game design wisdom. What if death was really…death? Suddenly the zombie threat becomes meaningful. Then you want stealth, distraction, sneaky tactics, and home base fortifications. Fortifications? That implies guard towers, barricades, perimeter defense, and land mines. Land mines? They don’t have those at the sporting goods store, and besides, that store would be looted bare within days of the outbreak, so we’d have learn how to build our own. Looting? Well, looting (or more politely, “scavenging”) is an inevitable part of the apocalypse. But it has to be realistic. A looted store needs to stay looted, and food, ammo, and building materials need to be found in locations that make logical sense.
Back to land mines. Having land mines implies you need to make them, since the apocalypse puts a dent in manufacturing. What would making land mines require? Well, a machine shop, and expertise. Needing good old fashioned know-how brings us to a system of skills and abilities. Being good at something feels good, and being able to save the lives of your friends is good for morale. Ah right, morale. Wouldn’t mental health be an enormous issue, after the apocalypse?
People need a goal, something beyond just surviving another day.One thing that’s good for morale is keeping busy. People would feel better if they could accomplish missions, if there were stories to be told and other survivors to rescue and a goal to shoot for, something beyond just surviving another day. So we brought in the best story teller we knew and got to work.
All the tiny elements filled out the original broad strokes until we had a clear picture of what State of Decay could be. We’re making a game, but we’ve also balanced that with reality. The real world isn’t a shooter, where you just kill everything that moves with effectively unlimited ammo. When a real disaster strikes, you worry about food, health, exhaustion, and morale. In reality, an apocalypse would mean no more factories making weapons and vehicles, and we’d all have to live by the old song: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” And out here, you don’t take stupid chances every other minute because more than anything else, you want to live to fight another day.
We just think that fun doesn’t have to be meaningless.That’s what we’ve built. Oh, we’ve had to make some tough choices along the way to stay within a reasonable development timeframe (believe me, we could add “just one more thing” forever if we let ourselves), and we also had to keep in mind that this is supposed to be a fun game, rather than a strict simulation of reality. We just think that fun doesn’t have to be meaningless or without consequence, and if anything, being deeply engaged is the most fun you can have.
Over the next two months, we’re going to explore the two main pillars holding up State of Decay in articles, images, and videos on this website. Richard Foge is going to take you into the world of the tactical game. Fighting, with weapons or without. With an assault rifle, or up close and personal with a hatchet. How vehicles can be your salvation in the apocalypse, and how they can quickly turn into a metal coffin. Stealth. Reaction time. Distraction and evasion. It’s all important to a game that isn’t just about running and gunning the undead, but instead requires you to think like a survivor. After that, James Phinney is going to dive into strategy and simulation. Base fortification and customization, along with outposts. Resource gathering and stockpiles. Survivor management, and the role morale plays in survival. Planning ahead, and long-term thinking.
Thanks.Yesterday we delivered a massive Content Complete milestone to Microsoft, which means the focus from here is polish, bug fixing, tuning, and balancing. The end of the road is in sight. We’re incredibly excited to get State of Decay into your hands. Thanks for being with us so far.
Last Friday we dropped the loot for the first Survivor Cell Challenge. As Sanya explains in Friends Will Help You Survive the Wait, Survivor Cells are groups of friends and fellow State of Decay community members living in the same location.
The prize for the Survivor Cell Scavenger Hunt Challenge was exclusive early access to a video clip showing a never-before-seen aspect of State of Decay — in this case, building a garden in one of the game’s starting Home sites.
Now that our dedicated fellow survivors have dissected every second of the clip in brain-exploding detail (Nice work Capt.C.Baker!), it’s time to roll it out officially.
So, for those of you who have not seen it yet (what, you’re not lurking on our forums all weekend hitting “refresh” every minute?), here’s a brief ALPHA-build glimpse of one of the building mechanics in State of Decay.
On August 11, 2010, I wrote an article for our website titled, “And Now A Word From Our Team,” in which I said I’d be introducing the individual developers of Team Zed over the upcoming months. There were a small number of us who’d been working on some design and tech ideas up to that point, but that summer in 2010 is when we really started coming together as a team. It’s accurate to say that’s when work on the game we’d codenamed Class3 truly began.
Two years have passed. It sometimes feels like forever, but the truth is that’s not a large amount of time in game development years. What can you do in two years? What can a team of veteran developers and passionate gamers who are on a mission to chart a new course through the zombie apocalypse do in two years?
As it turns out, a metric shit ton.
For those of you who’ve stuck with us from the beginning — when those two years seemed like forever — today is for you. Today, Team Zed is proud to reveal the first look at State of Decay.
Thanks for hanging in there with us. It’s going to be a wild ride from here!
We are (very) excited to announce that Class3 will be available on the PC.
It’s tempting to leave it at that. Read on for more:
Almost since the moment we announced, we’ve been seeing threads, emails, posts, and carrier pigeons begging for us to consider a PC version of Class3.
Now that we’ve got the basic development done and are into the polish phase of production, we took a look at our options. Our main priority (besides making you a kickass game) was not delaying the XBLA launch. We determined that we could launch a PC version shortly after the Xbox version without affecting our development schedule. Microsoft was into the idea as well, and offered us their full support.
We are doing our development on the Xbox. The interface is designed for the Xbox, and we assume you’ll be playing Class3 on the couch with your feet up. Making a PC version available just turns out to be simple enough to make it worthwhile.
Really, it was a no brainer. Doesn’t set us back, and makes a few million people happy? Bring it on!
Today it’s my great pleasure to announce the end of our search for the ultimate community director. After months of resume reviews, phone discussions, and all-day interviews at the Lab, we’ve finally welcomed the inestimable Sanya Weathers to Team Zed.
Sanya has excellent credentials in the online community field, including six years as Director of Community for Mythic Entertainment (if you’ve ever played Dark Age of Camelot, you probably know her as Sanya Thomas) and a regular contributor to MMORPG.com. But we were looking for more than that; we were looking for someone who genuinely likes people; who radiates positive energy; and who views building and nurturing a great game community as a simple matter of communicating in an honest, no-bullshit manner and treating people well. I know those sound like obvious qualities for anyone choosing to build a career working with online communities, but that’s surprisingly not always the case. As you’ll discover over the next few months, it’s the only way Sanya knows how to operate.
Does this mean you can expect regular updates and more information about Class3? Oh hell yeah. You don’t hire a kickass community director if you have nothing to say…
Be sure to check out Sanya’s introductory post to find out more.
Welcome to Team Zed, Sanya!
Last month in our Q&A Ragdolls, Land Mines, and Tentacles, we promised to reveal the composer for Class3.
Today we’re excited to announce we’ve signed BAFTA award-winning composer Jesper Kyd to the project. Jesper is perhaps best known for scoring the Hitman and Assassin’s Creed series, both of which earned him numerous industry awards. Now Jesper’s capturing the Faded Americana style of Class3 in a dark cinematic score mixing live acoustic performances.
Undead Labs Audio Director Kevin Patzelt has been working closely with Jesper over the past few months. Kevin shares his thoughts on the musical goals for Class3, and why Jesper is the ideal composer for the project, in the article Scoring the Apocalypse.
Welcome to our world, Jesper!
In January we posted a spy-cam video of the Lab that included some footage of the in-development version of Class3. You responded with a massive amount of comments and questions, so today we’re going to tackle some of them in a new Q&A.
Read on for fresh new details about Class3!
Question from ‘Sorryaboutmyverbaldiarreah’: Will there be load screens when entering different regions (ex: a house) and will we be able to enter all buildings?
Class3 is a true open-world game, so conveying a sense of freedom and the joy of exploration is a core pillar of the game. We don’t want you debating whether the load time is a price worth paying for entering a building, so we’ve invested in the technology to allow the world to be seamless with no loading screens.
Whether all buildings could be entered was a significant debate early in the project. It takes a substantial amount of time to model the interiors of every building, of course, but more importantly, we don’t want to create a game that forces you to enter hundreds of mostly empty buildings to find the cool stuff. Ultimately we were able to solve both of these issues, so yes, you will be able to enter every building in the game, unless there is some visible reason why you shouldn’t be able to (e.g. it is collapsed, or burned out).
‘Seth, building a base’ queues us up to talk about something fun: I like how it looks except the zombies are a little too fast and that one fat-guy zombie broke right through the barricades which kind of disappointed me because I was hoping to camp out in a building for a couple of days, but then I thought, ”Maybe his construction skill is too low, or maybe he didn’t have very good supplies to build a barricade strong enough”.
The snippet of siege play you saw in the spy-cam video showed a dilapidated farmhouse under a massive, sustained siege from multiple hordes, including a particularly large zombie who was quite effective at smashing down the barricades. In general, barricades will last longer than you’d assume from the footage. While barricades are at best a temporary measure, they can be an effective means of slowing down a horde attack if you inadvertently give away your presence.
Listen, download, and enjoy!
A comment from the mysterious ‘M.’ states: Lots of cool things in the “Spy Cam” footage. The music theme was also really good… ominous, while not being overwhelming.
That music is a piece composed for the game by our audio director Kevin Patzelt. You can check out more of Kevin’s music on his band’s Facebook page.
We’ve received a ton of comments about the music, so as a special treat for our fans we’ve decided to release the track you heard playing in the video footage. Listen, download, and enjoy!
Kevin does great work, but he can’t personally do it all, so we recently selected the composer for Class3. We’ll be announcing who it is in the next few weeks, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to be excited when we do. No joke.
‘qwerty’ asks: Is Class3 still going to be split screen? I’m just wondering because most open-world-like games I know of don’t support it.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to include split-screen play in Class3. CryENGINE 3 does not natively support split-screen, and we’re already pushing the engine to its limits to create the open, seamless world of Class3. Rewriting major components of the engine to support split-screen would be a massive undertaking and cause substantial delay to the release of the game.
‘Pepe’ states: By the way, Zed Team, I would love to see some great (and freaking hard) achievements for this game. Like blowing up 50 zedheads with a grenade, or make 5 headshots with a single sniper rifle bullet…
Those are great ideas, Pepe. I’d also love to see achievements like launching a zombie over 30 yards by hitting it with a vehicle, or tossing it over 30 feet in the air with a land mine, or using a chain of land mines to blow up a zombie, or, killing X zombies with an exploding vehicle.
Just, you know, for example.
‘Joseph’ expresses his wishes: Hopefully there will be some sort of climbing in this, like jumping over gates, jumping to grab a ledge so on and so forth.
Climbing, jumping, grabbing, throwing, hanging, ducking, diving, and peeking — these are the sorts of things that make the world feel like a real place, rather than a stage set. This kind of organic interaction with the world has been one of our highest priorities from the start of development, and I can absolutely confirm that that you can do all these things.
‘Josh’ asks if we know what he means: This is just a hope, but I really hope cars are not totally disposable at every turn. Making it a real decision to leave the compound with a truck, for practical purposes of bring back larger pieces of salvage, or choosing to go on foot, for fear of losing your only vehicle. You know what I mean?
Vehicles are precious assets in Class3. Not only can they get you to remote areas quickly for rescue missions or resource runs, they also afford substantial protection as you drive through zed-infested areas. On the other hand, if you trash your truck, you’re not guaranteed to find a serviceable replacement around the next corner. In fact, you might be in real trouble; stranded out in the middle of nowhere, or in the midst of the town’s heavily infested industrial district, short on supplies and nowhere near a safe house.
Class3 tracks and remembers all the vehicles in the game, including where they are, who currently ‘owns’ them, and their damage state. If you destroy a vehicle—accidentally, by crashing it or trying to plow through one too many hordes, or intentionally, by making good use of its explosive potential—it will stay destroyed. If you park it out in the boonies somewhere, it’ll stay there. If you “borrow” it from another survivor group without permission, they probably won’t be too happy with you.
If you’re careless, you may eventually find yourself without a ride. However, sometimes you’ll discover new vehicles in places you’ve already explored, perhaps abandoned by other survivors who have now moved on. We want cars to be precious and meaningful, but we also won’t make your life a permanent hell if you have a little fun.
‘jakeawesome’ asks: Just out of curiosity, what physics engine are you using for the game, everything just looks so fluid, is it Euphoria?
We are using CryENGINE 3 for Class3. The physics you see in the spy-cam footage are driven by the in-engine physics package. One of the big benefits to using CryENGINE is that the physics implementation is tightly coupled to the engine and associated tools, which allows us to integrate physics-based interactions directly into the core game mechanics.
Rest assured, Class3 is, and always has been, an open-world zombie apocalypse simulation.
‘regie jonosan’ laments: I’ve been following this game for aaaages, seems like the designers are straying from the original premise of an open world rpg zombie apocalypse ‘simulation’ into more of a normal game…
One of the reasons developers are hesitant to release early peeks at raw gameplay is because it’s impossible to convey the breadth of the play mechanics in small snippets. While our spy-cam footage showed some of our core combat and world-interaction mechanics, it did not show some of the more unique elements of Class3 like base building, survivor-community management, manning watch towers, interacting with other survivor communities, researching new technologies, vehicle mechanics, or complex zombie infestation and horde behaviors. Rest assured, Class3 is, and always has been, an open-world zombie apocalypse simulation.
‘ManicDxM’ asks: Will people be like ragdolls if they are hit or fall off a building? That would be cool if they are.
People will ragdoll, yes. And more importantly, so will zombies. We’re making good use of ragdoll physics to let you use your environment as a weapon. Glass windows, trash dumpsters, picket fences, the hood of your trusty pickup—all surfaces with great possibilities for taking out zeds with efficiency and panache.
You could say that the entire game is a perma-death, see-how-long-you-can-live-for experience, but on a large scale.
‘Griff’ asks the Big One: This is a zombie survival game at its core, so is there going to be some sort of perma-death, see-how-long-you-can-live-for survival mode? I just think an “ending” to this game isn’t required, but I know you guys want an epic story.
I’m handing this one over to our creative director James Phinney…
[JP] You could say that the entire game is a perma-death, see-how-long-you-can-live-for experience, but on a large scale. It includes not just the quick, pulse-pounding drama of extended sieges, but also the intense, life-or-death struggle to carve out and defend small pockets of safety in a world overrun by the undead. Will there be throwaway, repeatable survival modes? No. There are other games that do that quite well, and other games that do the zombie-corridor-shooter thing well. I love those kinds of games too, but we’re creating a simulated world.
‘Hartman’ expresses concern about fat zombies: I know obesity is becoming a common sight but those big zombies were a tad too big. it reminds me of Left 4 Dead and any other zombie game I can think of to be honest. Every time I see them its like why did they even put them into the game?
For anyone worried about the imminent arrival of Tentacle Zombie™ and Winged Zombie™: don’t be. This is a game about surviving the zombie apocalypse; not a horror game about mutants or demons or fungus creatures. Our goal is to ensure that Class3 zombies retain their humanity, because that’s a big part of what makes the genre powerful. They are us.
That said, we also want to inject some strategic variability into the game. Some zombies are faster, some slower, some stronger, some louder, some have keener senses, and the like. We will exaggerate the range of human variability (because, hey, that’s part of what makes games fun), but Class3 zeds will always be recognizably human. So sorry, no Tornado Spawning Zombies this time around.
‘Spencer’ wants to kick back with a cool beverage and have some fun with the apocalypse: Remember in Dawn of The Dead when there was a great horde outside the mall? and when the guy with the sniper rifle was holed up on the roof of his shop and taking headshots at zombies? I hope we get to do that.
Oh hell yes.
Here’s our art director Doug modeling the shirt he happened to be wearing today. If you recognize that, you’ll understand our intentions here.
Everyone asks: When the hell does the apocalypse begin?
We’re getting there, folks. We’ll tell you as soon as we can. I can tell you that we’re right on schedule, and that you’ll be learning much (much) more about Class3 this spring.
Stay tuned, fellow survivors!
Interested in a career as a game-industry artist? Nobody knows the ropes better than Jason Stokes and his colleagues at digital-art training studio FUTUREPOLY.
Jason was recently interviewed by Bonnie Boglioli-Randall for Animation Career Review, so make sure to check out his thoughts on how to land a sweet job as a game artist.
Happy 2012, fellow survivors!
After a well-earned break for the holidays, Team Zed is back in the Lab and pounding away at the code, art, sound, and design for ‘Class3′.
To celebrate the new year—and, okay, because we haven’t updated you in a few weeks—I took some “spy cam” footage in the Lab today with my trusty iPhone. We’re not quite ready to post official trailers at this point, but I snuck up on Foge as he was testing out some ambush functionality on the Lab TV, so you might catch a glimpse of some early-alpha Class3 gameplay goodness.
Or maybe more than a glimpse…
As we jump into the new year we also bid farewell to Emily, who took point on our website and kept in touch with our community and fansites such as MMOZed.com. Emily is off to new adventures, and we wish her well. Don’t worry—we’ll be keeping you up-to-date on our progress here on the Undead Labs website, and we’ll also be announcing plans for a more robust community site soon.
We had a tremendously productive year in 2011, and we’re anticipating an even better 2012. I’m happy to say that Class3 is on schedule and looking great. We’re excited to show it to you and the rest of the world officially—assuming I don’t get my ass kicked for leaking unofficial gameplay footage…
Update: It looks like our comment system is biffed. We’re working on it. For now you can leave comments for the dev team on the Lab Facebook page.
Update 2: Comments fixed. Thanks Liz!