A Matter of Character

A good story isn’t about characters as unchanging archetypes. It does explore innate potential and expectations, but it’s also about choices and change (or refusal to change). A good survival story in particular puts its characters to the test, but not just as individuals. A crisis is both a test of the individuals and of the dynamics between them. In designing the character and skill systems for State of Decay, we’ve tried to capture all of these elements.

We’ve talked before about the fact that you don’t get to tailor-make your characters. Instead you encounter a wide variety of survivors with vastly different personalities and skill sets and then you decide who to bring into your group and who to leave out on their own.

So that’s the high level. If you’ve been following State of Decay closely, you’ve heard that before. Today we’re going to going into more depth about exactly how characters and skills work.

Let’s dive right in.

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Day By Day

A new game starts with a lot of ideas and ambitions. Then, day by day, you work to make those ideas a reality, while being true to those ambitions. Along the way, you find that no matter how many times you’ve done it before, every project is a learning experience.

With State of Decay we started with several ambitious goals, but the central challenge was to create a dynamic world where there was no single right answer or right path, where all your actions had real and lasting consequences, and the choices were yours to make. We wanted to do this not just with a scripted, branching approach. Instead we intended to let you take on the zombie apocalypse in a much more freeform and real way.

As Jeff mentioned in an earlier article, we knew this meant managing the game world with an extensive simulation. We had to develop an ecosystem of resources, survivors, and zombies that evolved naturally over time. And then we had to give you a variety of tools for taking on the challenges you’d encounter. Everything would have costs and trade-offs and every problem would have more than one solution.

So what does that really mean? What kind of choices do you have in State of Decay? It might be best to get the answer from the survivors themselves…

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Who Do You Think You Are?

It strikes out of the blue.

You’re at home on the sofa. You promised you’d watch this one tonight, but you’re choosing the movie next time for sure. You grab another handful of popcorn and shake your head involuntarily. You’re at the store late at night, not entirely remembering what you came to buy. The day is a blur of exhaustion, but you still wonder where the hours all went. You’re headed down the highway, music cranked, singing along to a song you haven’t heard in years. Reminds you of a better time.

It catches you off guard.

You’re mowing the lawn. It’s way too damn hot, but when there’s shit to get done, you do it. You’re drinking some coffee and updating your status on Facebook. Was that a glance from two tables over? You hesitate before saying hello. You’re out for a little target practice. Just fired off the last round of .45 ACP. Needed to blow off some steam.

Ultimately, you don’t choose the moment. You don’t choose the situation. You don’t even choose yourself.

The apocalypse doesn’t wait for you grab your Go Bag, and the world doesn’t freeze while you reconsider your height or hair color. You don’t get to min-max your attributes to game the situation. When everything goes to hell, you are who you are; you have what you have. And once the crisis hits, it waits for no one.

This is how it would happen in the real world. This is how it will happen in Class3.

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Everyone Dies

The zombie apocalypse is coming. You want to know how everything works. How dangerous is it? How can you protect yourself? We have the answers, but how much can we really say?

Mystery and uncertainty are a big part of the zombie canon. You shouldn’t go in knowing all the ins and outs. You shouldn’t feel like everything is perfectly understood. The unknown is part of the drama, and the seeking answers is part of the challenge.

So today, we’ll share what we can. It’s not a catalogue of spoilers from the dev team. Instead, what follows are the thoughts and observations of a fellow survivor in McMillanville.

It starts with a single, stark fact of life: Everyone dies.

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No World Order

The setting is our world. The time is now, except everything’s completely gone to shit and it’s happened fast. You don’t know why or how any of this happened. The only thing you know is that dead people are up and walking and that, if you’re not careful, they will kill you too. Is the crisis worldwide or isolated? It’s hard to say. You’re cut off from the outside world and everything around you is in total chaos.

This is the starting point for our open world zombie survival game, code named ‘Class3’. If you’re a zombie fan, you’ve thought about this scenario before. There are three big elements. The first is the zombies themselves. You have to figure out how you’ll kill them, how to escape them, and how to avoid them in the future. The second is other people. They may want to help you. They may want to harm you. That’s where things start to get really interesting.

And then there’s that third element: the world around you. Maybe you’ve never thought of it in those terms before, but odds are the environment plays a key role every time you picture the zombie apocalypse. It’s not just a backdrop. It’s a place full of buildings to explore and loot, abandoned cars for making a quick escape, firearms to collect and use, food stockpiles to raid, hiding places to duck into, and propane tanks to turn into the world’s brightest and most short-lived zombie welcome signs. It’s a world of endless possibilities.

Today, I want to share our vision for the world of Class3.

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