State of Decay: Year One

Exactly one year ago today, one year ago from this very moment as I write this, I was in bed. Not sleeping — oh no, that wasn’t going to happen for at least a few more days — but finally, actually, truly in bed. After a final, all-in push to get things wrapped up, the hours were ticking down to the worldwide release of State of Decay, a game we’d been working on for two-and-a-half years; a game we’d poured our hearts and souls into, bled over, fought for, and pulled kicking and screaming into existence despite its design breaking almost every game design rule in the book.

On that Tuesday night, June 4, 2013, I was in bed waiting for Judgement Day. The game would start rolling out on the Xbox Life network at 2:00 AM local time. Scarier still, the review embargo lifted at midnight, so reviews could start hitting within the hour.

I, and my colleagues at Undead Labs, had no idea what was to happen over the next 24 hours. We knew we’d built something unique: a game that broke rules about permadeath, multiple avatars, and offline progression; a game that blended RPG, third-person action, and survival simulation in a manner that caused our publisher to scratch their head through most of its development (and kudos to them for standing by it). We were proud that we’d built something new, and grateful we’d had the opportunity to do so; but there’s a difference between being proud of what you make, and making something people actually want. We’d soon find out whether people wanted a zombie-survival simulation in which your starting character was very likely to die in the first hour of play. (Ah, Marcus, we loved you, man…)

I distracted myself for a few hours by watching Zombieland for the fifth or sixth time. Not really genre canon, but still a great movie. Zombieland came out in fall 2009, exactly 12 days before the foundation of Undead Labs. At that point the seeds of ‘Class3’, the codename for the game that became State of Decay, were well planted, but Zombieland focused on human relationships over a period of weeks and months, and really made me think about how survival is not just about food, water, and shelter (and bullets), but also about your emotional health. Having good friends may not be more important than avoiding being eaten, but it’s definitely up there somewhere around ‘sanitation’ and ‘tooth brushing’ on the long-term survival priority list.

Anyway, the movie ended, and midnight hit. Judgement Day was upon us. I waited. I felt like my whole life was on the line, and in some ways, it was. At about 12:15, Sanya sent an IM with a link, that simply read, “IGN review is in”. I stared at it for a long time. IGN is one of the big guns, and if their reviewer got his Marcus killed and rage quit an hour in, we’d be toast.

I finally mustered the courage to click the link, scroll to the bottom, and open my eyes.

8.9 — Great. “For many, State of the Decay is the zombie game they’ve always wanted.”

I couldn’t believe it. I read the entire article, and they loved what we loved. They understood how permadeath made your decisions meaningful, how playing multiple characters made your community your primary investment, and how other risky decisions were made in service to our goal of creating a true survival simulation. I was floating — although that was probably more from lack of sleep than anything, but the combination was awesome.

The next day was like a waking dream. The game rolled out across the world starting at 2:00 AM as planned, and by the time I went into the office at 6:00 AM, we’d surpassed 25,000 paid downloads. By noon we hit 50,000, by the start of our release party at 4:00 we’d passed 100,000, and by the end of the day we settled in at around 135,000. It was a record-breaking release (only Minecraft, a game with a huge existing fan base, had sold faster), and would set the pace for the 500K and 1M thresholds to come over the next few months. State of Decay went on to become the fastest selling original game in Xbox Live Arcade history, and is now among the top sellers of all time.

Over the next year we released numerous free updates and two DLC expansions to the game: State of Decay: Breakdown, which focuses on the simulation mechanics of the game to offer an ever increasing survival challenge, and the just-released State of Decay: Lifeline, which returns to the narrative focus of State of Decay and offers a new map, new mission types, and a whole new military-themed story to experience.

State of Decay continues to sell well a year after release, but we’re just getting started. In January we announced a multi-year, multi-title partnership with Microsoft Studios to continue development of the State of Decay franchise. State of Decay was a great first step, but our ambitions for where we take it from here are much higher, and Microsoft is ready to step up and work with us to make those ambitions a reality.

Those of you who have followed Undead Labs from our early days probably know where all this is going, and I won’t disappoint you. The success of State of Decay, and the opportunity we have to take it even further, is 100% because of you. Not just because you’re customers, but because you’re gamers. Real gamers. Not just casual fans of the latest big-budget shooter or pre-scripted action adventure (although those can be awfully fun too), but gamers who are passionate enough to try something new. You met the unexpected with a smile rather than a frown. Your Marcus died, but you didn’t rage quit (or if you did, you came back the next day after you cooled off), because you were willing to embrace a game with real consequences. You enabled us to take risks and push the boundaries of game design in the pursuit of new gameplay experiences.

More than merely being thankful to you for making State of Decay a success, I want you to know that it’s a genuine pleasure to make games for you guys. You’ve fueled us up over the past year, and now we’re off building the future of State of Decay…and we sure as hell don’t intend to let you down.

On behalf of the entire team at Undead Labs, thank you.


Photo Call – Will You Share Your Happy Milestones?

The one year anniversary of State of Decay is this Thursday. Can you believe it? All of us have come so far in the last year, one day and one step at a time. We would like to celebrate your milestones as well as our own. If you’d like to contribute something to a project I have in mind, please click the green tape and let me know!

Events, Fans, News

8-Bit Salute For Those Who Serve

This weekend, there’s going to be an event called “8-Bit Salute,” and we at the Lab are the proud sponsor of a team. (If you watched our live Twitch a couple weeks ago, you may have noticed the logo for this event as an easter egg in Lifeline.) The purpose of the Salute is to raise funds for Operation Supply Drop, a charity that gets games into the hands of those serving in the armed forces, either deployed or recovering from injuries in military hospitals. If you’re so inclined, I would be grateful if you joined our team.

Here is the link to the Undead team page:

There are two ways to participate. One is to simply join our team and make a donation of any size. (If fifty players each donated two dollars, it would be 20% of our goal. It really is the thought that counts. Together, we can move mountains.)

The other is to join the team, and livestream State of Decay during the gameathon from your own Twitch channel. Send me the channel link ASAP, and I’ll promote your channels on our 8-Bit team page, as well as on Twitter and our forum. You ask your viewers to donate directly to you – your total contribution will count towards our total as long as you yourself are part of the Undead Labs team. (Edit to add: You can also join our team, and ask your friends and family to sponsor you during the gameathon – no livestream needed!)

Anyone contributing a hundred dollars or more to the team total will automatically get a Lifeline morale patch and two Lifeline codes (Steam or Xbox 360, your choice) on the day we launch. Yes, we’re still on track for early June, which is right around the corner! Either of those two codes could be given away during your live stream, as long as you warned your viewers that the prize would only happen if you hit the hundred dollar mark….

The person who contributes the most will get a special prize: A press copy of Lifeline. This Steam code will work before the game goes on sale, and you’ll get it the same day as our media friends get theirs. We’ll also throw in a State of Decay hat and that snazzy morale patch that was such a hit at PAX East.

Every single person who joins our team will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Lifeline.

All the winners will be notified next week, but of course, the real winners are the men and women who will get cool games in their care packages thanks to this event!

Our friends on the official forum (and a few people who saw us at PAX) have already gotten us 31% of the way to our modest goal. I secretly hope we’re going to blow that goal away. Thanks for reading this post, and if you are able to participate, thank you for supporting our gamers in uniform.

Click the comment tape to go to the forum conversation already in progress!



Catch a Lifeline at PAX East

On Friday, April 11, at the Boston Convention Center, we’d like to see as many State of Decay players as possible…because it’ll be the first time players besides us get their hands on an alpha build of Lifeline. We’ll also be announcing the release date.




The team at the show (which runs from the 11th through the 13th) consists of me, Jeff, Geoffrey, Chris, Brant, and Cale. For those of you new to Undead Labs (which includes Cale, actually), that translates as a ridiculous amount of fun.

I’m really sorry we had to bail on the live stream we were hoping to do before the show (and by the way, we’ve already rescheduled it for the end of the month). We’re still in the throes of bug testing, and we just ran out of time. We had to choose between making a build streamable, and making a build playable. We went with playable, because we always go with playable.

It’s not just an alpha build/first look at Lifeline. It’s not just the live action game we’ll be playing where survivors (of the demo) try to form survivor enclaves in order to win a copy of Lifeline. It’s not just the spectacle of our fearless leader and the DLC’s lead designer trying to outdo each other with entertaining presentations. It’s not even the morale patches we’ll be handing out. It’s the whole package. Please come and be a part of it at Booth 1039. Come down the right escalator, turn right at Twitch, and look for the sandbags.

See? Sandbags!

See? Sandbags!

* Do you write for a website? Podcast? Stream? Make cool YouTube videos? Email me – sanya at undeadlabs dot com – ASAP to get on our media schedule.

Click the green comment tape to leave questions for those of you who can make it, or to let me know to expect you!

Fans, News, Wallpapers

A Gift That Won’t Die. Or Stay Dead.

What a year. I mean…well, what I’m trying to say is…it’s just that…what a year. Thank you all for your support, your suggestions, your bug reports, and your enthusiasm for what the future might bring. In that spirit, we have some wallpaper!




Pardon the Dust, But…

The forum has returned! And there was much rejoicing! Oh, man, y’all, I can’t tell you how happy we are to be live again. We miss you when the forums are down.

Just a few notes before the party commences. One, you’ll note we’re on a new platform. We like the speed and technical support, and we think you will, too. Don’t get too attached to the visuals, though. We’ll be changing those over the next few days, time permitting. We just thought you would rather have the forum up as soon as we could put the “fun” in “functional,” instead of depriving you while we messed around with colors and icons.

Two, the less said about the last few days, the better. Someday, there will be a gathering of all of us State of Decay players, and I will tell stories of this week complete with what I’m told are very entertaining gestures. Until that day, let’s just focus on the good. But thank you, very much, for your reports, your encouraging words, and your support.

More stuff on the forum, if you click the comment button. Welcome home, everyone!


Other Social Channels

You may have notice our forums are down. They’ll be down until at least Monday. We’re just not a big team with tons of resources, and we depend on others for help with technical problems…people that aren’t always available on a Saturday during a holiday weekend :)

In the meantime! For news and information, please keep an eye on the only official social channels for Undead Labs and State of Decay:


Twitter: @undeadlabs

We always share our news with our community first!

Secret note to Steam people: We do lurk at the official Steam group for State of Decay and I post official news and announcements there whenever I have anything. We aren’t the moderators, however, and I am aware that their approach to threads about game mods/modding is different from ours. Just hang in there – we will be back as soon as we can.



Celebrate Halloween With a Twitch. And Costumes.

Our next live stream will be Thursday, October 31st, because you cannot make a zombie game and NOT stream on Halloween. It’s a rule. We’ll hand out a couple Breakdown codes…well, IOU’s for codes…to celebrate the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.

Please join us at at 11:00 AM PDT/2:00 PM EDT/7:00 PM London/20:00 CEST. Geoffrey will be there, ruling the channel with an iron fist, a cheerful smile, and possibly some high-pitched squealing when he gets overtaken by twelve bloaters and a feral.

Would you like to increase your odds of winning a code during the stream? Enter the costume contest, and follow the special directions for our Twitch friends. (Please note that pictures will be reposted to Facebook.)

See you Thursday!

Events, Fans, News

See You At Pax?

Will you be at PAX Prime in Seattle this weekend? If you are, and if you’re a fan of State of Decay, we want to shake your hand. Read on:

We aren’t spending money on a crazy multimedia booth, and we’re not in our publisher’s space either. We just wanted to meet with our players, so we’ve basically just reserved a table. We’ll have a single computer set up so you can see how the PC graphics are coming along. (The PC interface isn’t ready, so we’ll just have a controller there for anyone who wants to take it for a spin.) We’ll have a limited supply of our special hats, but tucked out of sight to save as many as possible for those of you who follow us most closely. You’ll need to ask. Also, if you’re a forum regular, or a regular on Facebook and Twitter, please identify yourself – you’ll get a gold star! And for everyone who walks by, we’ll have some pretty sweet temporary tattoos:

The skull eagle WOULD make an excellent tattoo, come to think of it...

The skull eagle WOULD make an excellent tattoo, come to think of it…

If you’re willing to wear it around the show, come back at the end of the day (or whenever you have to bail), show me the tattoo, and I’ll put your name into a hat. (Same goes for gold star players.) Twenty players from the pool will be invited to check out our Sandbox DLC when I hand out press copies. No, I still don’t know when that’ll be, and as of this writing, we have no plans to use PAX to announce any dates for either the DLC or the PC. But it’s not far now.

Honestly, we just want to shake your hand and thank you for playing. Please drop by and do us the honor! We are going to be in the north lobby. Come up, and go around behind the escalators. We’ll be there.

Events, Fans, News, Q&A

Twitching With Jeff and Brant

Tomorrow’s live Twitch stream (hosted as always by our friends at XBLA: features good ol’ Brant, of course, and this week’s special victim guest is Jeff Strain. That’s right, instead of frantic mid-show text messages telling us what to say, our founder and executive producer will be there himself to answer your questions. Me, I’ll be in the chat stream as usual.

We’ll be there at 11:00 AM PDT/2:00 PM EDT/20:00 CEST. See you then, everyone :)