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.

Boom.

BOOM.

BOOM.

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!

Mini Lifeline Q&A

Things are really hopping around here, behind the scenes. Not only are we cranking on Things That Cannot Be Named as well as Lifeline (the next DLC, in case you’ve forgotten or missed one or the other design articles to date), but we also packed up all our earthly peripherals and set ourselves up in our new office. Apparently, artists and programmers don’t do their best work when they’re sitting on the floor under the microwave, so we had to move to bigger digs with enough desk space for everyone.

We put together a quick and dirty Q&A to answer your questions while we count down to the first live stream (second week in April!) and PAX (first hands on with our players!). Join us in the forum for the Q&A and the cake and pie party that will follow.

Duty Roster

GREYHOUND ONE

One of the interesting things about the military is the way it brings people together from every part of life, and puts them in the same boat (or tank, or helo, or humvee).

Greyhound One, the unit you control in State of Decay: Lifeline, includes a wide range of different characters with their own personalities and attitudes. Which ones will you try the hardest to keep alive?

Major Alicia Hawkes
Hawkes is the Marcus of State of Decay: Lifeline — the leader whose confidence and strength sees everyone else through the crisis, as long as she keeps breathing.Hawkes

Hawkes grew up all over the world, following her military father from one assignment to the next. She grew up with a passion for military service, and is a true believer in the Army, and in the values of a soldier.

She served multiple tours throughout the war in Afghanistan, before returning stateside as the war drew down. Her unit looks up to her with the kind of real respect that can only be earned by a good leader in the field.

Sergeant Kilohana “Kilo” Young
Kilo’s father is Korean and his mother is Hawaiian, so he considers himself the ultimate expression of the American dream — people from different cultures coming together to make something new.

KiloAs a child, he was a little hellion, but his parents helped him channel his energy into meditation and introspection, focusing him into the serene, compassionate man that you see today.

Kilo places a huge amount of value on his family — his parents, his grandparents, his cousins, and especially his wife and three daughters. His bunk is covered with pictures and letters and drawings, and though he doesn’t talk all that much, when he does, his favorite subject is his kids.

Kilo has served with Hawkes since she was a new lieutenant in Afghanistan, and they have come to really trust and understand each other.

Private Royell “Vince” Vincent
Vince joined the Army for a second chance. He completely bombed his way through high school — not because he couldn’t do the work, but because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He has a deep-rooted disregard for authority, and does and says pretty much whatever he wants, without anything like a filter.

VinceAnd so he joined the Army? Yeah, he’s starting to wonder about that, too.

But despite all the discipline problems, Vince has become sort of the voice of the unit, saying the things that everybody’s thinking, but that nobody else wants to speak out loud.

Kilo and Hawkes give him a hard time for his attitude, but they’ve learned that the same devil-may-care attitude that makes him a discipline problem also makes him a fearless warrior. They wouldn’t trade him for anyone else.

Sergeant Kelly “Sasquatch” Eldridge
SasquatchEldridge grew up in backwoods Kentucky, where he got tired of being smarter than all of his brothers. He went to a top university, graduated with honors, and then went into the only line of work he ever had any interest in — special operations, deep behind enemy lines.

As a hardcore operator, he’s been down range so long, he no longer fits into civilian life, or even regular Army life. He’s a new kind of beast, and he knows it. He has a level of comfort with danger and death that would make even most veterans shudder.

And now he’s very quickly become one of the military’s foremost experts on killing zombies…which means he’s stuck in this unit of grunts who have no idea what he’s seen, or what he’s capable of.

OTHER CHARACTERS

Lost Soldiers
Major Hawkes’s squad isn’t the only unit in the field. It is, however, the only unit that has survived this long intact. Throughout the operation, Greyhound One receives distress calls from stranded soldiers, giving them an opportunity to bolster their ranks with interesting new characters with their own unique backgrounds and talents.

Colonel Peel
Using the call sign “Doghouse Actual”, Colonel Peel commands this operation from behind a desk at HQ. It’s no cushy assignment, however — Hawkes can hear it in his voice. He’s cracking under the pressure as the zombie horde destroys every unit he sends into the city. At this point, Greyhound One may be his only hope.

Vienna Cho
ViennaNot every character in Lifeline is a soldier. Calling herself the last voice of Danforth, radio host Vienna Cho has taken to the airwaves, standing up for the civilians who are still hiding out in the city — left behind by the Army during its tactical retreat.

Vienna is no fan of the military. The time Hawkes spent on deployment, Vienna spent at anti-war rallies. But as sarcastic as she gets, what Vienna really values is people who put other people first. If you want to make a difference to the people of Danforth, and save as many as you can, then Vienna will be on your side.

TRUE COLORS

Remember that in State of Decay, the characters are only a starting point. We had fun deciding who they were before the outbreak — but during it, all bets are off. It’s up to you to pick up their story from here, and decide who they really are.

Comments? Click the green tape to join the discussion in our forum.

Rucks In Trucks. And Cars.

The second most requested feature for State of Decay has just been roughed out, and is now in testing. That’s right. One of the features of the fifth free Title Update (TU5) will allow you to toss a bag full of stuff into the back of your vehicle and drive it away. I spoke to Programmer Chris to get the details. (Our Steam players might recognize the name as one of the two people who did the PC version, but Chris works on all things State of Decay.) Here is the plan:

Chris says: “We have added a trunk interaction to the back of all vehicles. This means you can take your favorite car with you on a supply run and load it up before the long trek home. You have to be careful, however, as vehicles are vulnerable; our plan right now is that a destroyed vehicle takes with it everything that it was carrying. You can still interact with the inventories on vehicles that have been flipped – allowing you to rescue your precious resources before they go kaput. Finally, in lieu of having to ‘unload the groceries’ by making individual trips back and forth between the vehicle and community storage when you reach a base, you can instead drive the vehicle into a parking spot (indicated when you’re driving up) to automatically turn in rucksacks. All other inventory remains in the vehicle.”

Wait. What? “Other inventory”?

Basically, each vehicle now has an inventory with a limited number of slots, same as any container. A rucksack is considered one item and takes up one slot, even if that rucksack is full. If you drive a vehicle up to a parking spot, the rucks will be automatically unloaded, but anything NOT a rucksack will stay in the vehicle until you move it.

My hoarders reading this should not get too excited. There are some game limitations we’re dealing with, here, so you won’t be able to fill up every trunk in every car on the entire map. Chris says “there are a limited number of vehicles that you can maintain inventory in at a time.” We don’t yet know exactly how many loaded vehicles we can get away with, but we’ll let you know when we know.

We are still determining how many slots there will be in a vehicle, so I can’t answer that yet, either.

This feature will be free, of course, and appear in the original game, Breakdown, and Lifeline.

So…what do you think? Let us know in the comments…

In the Army Now

One major goal of our DLC is to explore new perspectives — to find interesting people in the world of State of Decay whose lives we haven’t experienced yet, and see what it’s like to face the crisis from where they stand.

This is what led us to create State of Decay: Lifeline — an expansion that explores the military side of the zombie apocalypse.

Taking Command
Few people have a greater opportunity to make life-altering choices than soldiers.In zombie fiction, the military is often the go-to badguy. They’re the hammer to which every problem is a nail, blindly mowing everything down to serve some unknown goal.

But this view is fairly one-sided and naïve. On the State of Decay team, we have a different perspective (some of us firsthand) — the military is made up of many good men and women who stand on the line that divides safety and civilization from chaos and war.

Few people have a greater opportunity to make life-altering choices than soldiers. They’ve played that role as side characters in the original State of Decay...but now we are adding a new story, in which you take on that responsibility yourself.

Losing Ground
At the height of the initial crisis, you still have support, but things are rapidly breaking down.You control Greyhound One — a small surviving unit that has been sent to the fallen city of Danforth to rescue scientists whose research is critical to fighting the outbreak.

This is at the height of the initial crisis. You still have a chain of command and access to off-map support, but the voices over the radio are making it clear that things are rapidly breaking down.

So what you end up with is the inverse of the usual progression. Instead of starting with nothing, and slowly building yourself up into a post-apocalyptic powerhouse, you start the game as a well-equipped, well-supported military unit, and then must learn to improvise as one resource after another is depleted…and isn’t coming back.

Holding the Line
You have defenses, artillery to call in, well-trained soldiers, and military-grade weaponry. But in the end, it’s down to fighting tooth versus blade.One of your first imperatives is to secure the Landing Zone where you can receive supply drops and extract civilians. This location becomes your base, which you must defend at all costs against the zombie horde.

Since this is a military story, we have the perfect opportunity to expand on the concept of defending that base. The people you are here to rescue are extremely important — and extremely tasty. If you let zombies overrun your gates, these helpless civilians will be among the first to feed the horde. Lose too many, and your mission is over.

You have minefields and defenses to build and upgrade. Off-map artillery to call in. Well-trained soldiers who will guard weak points and respond to zombie threats. A stock of military-grade weaponry to use from several commanding positions. But in the end, when the zeds get into the heart of your base, it’s down to fighting tooth versus blade.

Distributing Intel
In the coming weeks, we’re going to expand on more of these topics. We’ll introduce our all-new cast of characters, investigate our new military facilities and defenses, explore the map of Danforth, break down the military hardware…and add a few more surprises.

Leave a comment by clicking the green tape down and to the right, and tell us what you’re most excited to hear about!

Пережить Апокалипсис …по-русски

This announcement is for our Russian-speaking players on Steam, in case “Survive the Apocalypse…in Russian” written in Russian wasn’t clear. We wanted to let you know that a translation is in progress right now for the Steam version of State of Decay, and that you should have it sometime in the spring.

Because of the memory limits we’ve already hit on the Xbox, we can’t squeeze in the Cyrillic font set over there, so this will only be for PC players. That different alphabet is also why it will be spring before you’ll have it – the process is more complex than it is for languages that use the Roman alphabet.

But together with Microsoft we looked at where our players lived, we saw a lot of game reviews and watched a lot of YouTube videos in Russian, we listened to feedback (especially from our Steam community), and we think our Russian community is big enough that we really should offer the game in that language. The plan is to launch the original game and Breakdown in Russian at the same time, and going forward, future expansions will be translated at the same time as our other languages.

We are really looking forward to seeing what our Russian community will do. So, tell your friends to watch out for a real aпокалипсис coming this spring!

Throw Me a Lifeline

We are super excited to unveil the name and logo of our second expansion pack. It’s called “State of Decay: Lifeline.” Judging from the chatter on Twitter and Facebook, this may be relevant to your interests, as the saying goes.

No, there is no final release date. We are just now digging into the internal playtest process (which is how our favorite stalkers players on Steam found out about the title a couple of days ago – with PC testing, we are playing using Steam, so we can experience it the way you do). We’re not yet ready to discuss features or make promises. All we can tell you is that it will offer you a new way to play your favorite survival game, that we intend to launch on PC and the Xbox 360 at the same time, and that yes, it will broaden your horizons by a few kilometers.

Fine, I’ll say it straight up: There’s a new map, okay? ;)

We’re hard at work, though, and we’re close to having everything nailed down. Look for Geoffrey’s design article before the end of the month. Meanwhile, check out Lifeline’s snazzy new logo:

lifelineLogoFinal_WhiteLettering

If you love the idea of a new map, be sure to let us know in the comment thread!

Anything That Needs Doing

I’ve always loved games.  I got my start playing Crystal Quest and Dark Castle on a Mac SE and never looked back.

I’d love to say that when I was 10, I wrote my first game in some ancient language that no one uses anymore, but the truth is that it didn’t even occur to me that I could make games until I was in high school.  Some other students and I had to petition the school to have a programming course. When the petition succeeded, we started learning “Turbo Pascal,” with which I made my first game.

Lewis It was a Bomberman clone, but since I was new at this, I didn’t have any idea how to process input.  My solution was simple: wait for someone to press a key, then perform that action and advance time by one frame.  This resulted in some interesting strategies; one player would place a bomb, and the other player would mash the keyboard as fast as they could, trying to advance time enough for the bomb to explode before the first player could move away.  In other words, I had created one of the most frantic turn-based games ever.  The game spread like wildfire. At one point the entire computer lab was filled with people playing this game.  The librarians in charge of the computer lab were less than impressed, and I was instructed to never distribute any of my programs ever again.

A short time later, I discovered a new local school that specialized in video game programming, or, as they called it at the time, “Real-Time Interactive Simulation”.  I applied and was accepted into the DigiPen Institute of Technology.  Diablo 2 came out about this time, and would vie with my classes for my attention over the next four years, but I managed to graduate.

I first met Jeff about 10 years ago, when he hired me for a programming position at ArenaNet.  At the time, I was fresh out of college and was willing to work on anything, so I started out sitting next to John Zipperer, fixing bugs in the sound code.  In the following years, I worked on everything from installers to CD-Keys to billing infrastructure to server administration.  At times, working on all of this critical-path code was terrifying, because no matter how much you test your code, you can never really be sure that there won’t be a bug that will break everything for everyone forever.  Luckily, that never happened to me, but it was an amazing learning experience.

When Jeff asked me if I wanted to work at Undead Labs, it was a no-brainer (did I mention I love puns?).  I was ready to work on something new and fresh, so I started a few weeks later, sitting next to John Zipperer, fixing bugs in the sound code.  Wait, what?  I thought this was supposed to be new!  Well, one of the neat things about a small studio is that you get to work on a wide variety of tasks.  Since then, I’ve worked on outposts, music, the world map, user interface, localization; pretty much anything that needed doing, and that’s what I love to do.  So whatever we are working on next, I’ll be there, getting my grubby programmer fingers into everything.

 

Check out Jeff’s introduction of Lewis, and then tell a Lewis joke on our forum by clicking the comment tape!

02.6.14
News, Studio, Team Zed

Lewis Fixed It

One day, everything blew up.

This was back in 2007 or so. I was at ArenaNet at the time, and we had just published an live update for our big MMO Guild Wars. Something had gone wrong, and nobody could login to the game. Our community forums were exploding with angry players, our customer service team was calling us frantically wanting to know what they should tell people, the server programmers were snapping at anyone who even walked into their field of view (“If I knew what the frakking problem was don’t you think I would have told you by now?!”), and everyone was tense and worried.

Well, except for this one guy. We’d hired this kid out of DigiPen about a few years earlier, and he’d turned out to be a damn fine programmer. So much so that we now had him working on core server code, which is basically the lifeblood of any MMO. The Big Scary Stuff. Lewis was kind of quiet, had a terrible sense of humor (in the sense that he had a strong sense of humor, but loved bad puns and daily joke calendar kinds of things), was super smart, and completely unflappable. While everyone else was batting away the swarming management types, Lewis was quietly coding amidst the chaos.

I remember thinking, “Damn, doesn’t he realize what’s going on here? We have several hundred thousand players who can’t login right now, and he’s just sitting there coding without a care in the world.”

And then, without turning around, he simply says, “Fixed it.”

It took a few minutes for it to sink in, but yeah, he’d found the issue, fixed it, and published a build. Everyone was logging in and happily playing.

So this is the kind of guy you want on your side, whether you’re programming the zombie apocalypse, or actually trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Calm, cool, competent, and, when called upon, a real ass kicker. Of course, the bad jokes would get him killed on the second day, but my god, how awesome would he be on the first day?

Lewis is a great addition to Team Zed, and he’ll be helping drive a lot of the awesomeness to come. Welcome aboard, Lewis!

Jeff

“Did you hear about the kidnapping at school?”
“No! What happened?”
“He woke up.”

(Actual joke Lewis told me yesterday.)

Check out Lewis’s own article here: http://undeadlabs.com/2014/02/studio/anything-that-needs-doing/

01.30.14
News, Studio, Team Zed

Something Like That

If you’re reading this article, odds are you’re a State of Decay fan looking for news about your favorite new game.

You’d like to hear all about what’s coming in the months ahead — the sequels, the movies, the Rotting Meat™ Christmas toys (“Biologically Degradable! Easy to Wash Out! Not Safe for Eating!”), and the studio’s contract with the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to “flesh out” their guidelines for surviving a full-scale zombie apocalypse. All that stuff.

Yeah, this article isn’t going to be that much fun, sorry. The studio is contractually obligated not to talk about … anything interesting right now. So you’ll just have to read between the lines instead.

(cue blurry “back in time” effect with sound effects)

This simple game also had a profound impact on my life, though I was not to know it for a number of years.In 1972 a heretofore unknown company named Atari released Pong, the world’s first massively successful videogame. The launch of this digital tennis simulator spawned a multi-billion dollar industry and fundamentally changed the way people play games, incidentally helping to kick off the Silicon Valley technological revolution that has altered our lives so dramatically with the introduction of … smart phones and social networking. This simple game also had a profound impact on my life, though I was not to know it for a number of years.

In 1972 I was seven years old. Unfortunately, I lived in a small town so benighted that Pong didn’t land there until a couple of years later. Prior to that my friends and I used to bang rocks together, or something … it’s hard to remember back that far. Ahem. Anyway, when when Pong did arrive I distinctly remember playing it for the first time with my younger brother, Alex, in the Walgreens drugstore arcade.

I discovered that the Pong machine would reset when zapped with static electricity.Quite by chance, my brother and I discovered that the Pong machine would reset when zapped with static electricity, conveniently starting a new game without requiring a quarter. By scraping our feet on the carpet we could build up an electric charge, then tap the metal plate fronting the coin slot to “discharge” a free play. Since I was a wee pup at the time and had no ready (that is, legal) source of income this newfound knowledge was a boon. And as you might imagine, my brother and I played the game … a lot. In due course we both became obsessed with arcade games in general.

At age 10 I was (finally) able to my land my first job as a paperboy. Not everyone knows, but residential newspaper delivery is a contract position, and so not subject to minimum wage laws. You can bet that any contract between a multinational media corporation and a 10-year old kid is probably pretty likely to favor the one whose shareholders get to stay up past 9 o’clock at night, so it’s no surprise that I averaged only 82 cents an hour. But while that doesn’t seem so much, those were the halcyon days of the nineteen-seventies when the dollar was worth more than a gallon of gas, arcade games cost a quarter (I know, can you believe it?!?), and evil quarter-sucking videogames had not yet been invented (Dragon’s Lair didn’t hit until ’83), so with practice I could play for hours on a single quarter. Almost nightly I played in the arcades with my friends until there were just a few minutes left to race home on our bicycles and avoid curfew.

I eventually began a career developing multiplayer games. And more to the point, I will be exercising those skills again at Undead Labs.By this point you’re probably wondering what the point of this personal story might be. And as an aside, why is it posted here instead of on my infrequently updated personal blog? Well, unbeknownst to me at the time, my career track was set by my formative experiences with Pong and those many arcade games, as I eventually began a career developing multiplayer games. And more to the point, I will be exercising those skills again at Undead Labs.

My self-aggrandizing personal blog notwithstanding, I’ve always been uncomfortable in the spotlight of publicity — I just like making games. But Sanya said I have to talk about my professional background too. *sigh*

PatpicI’ve spent my career making multiplayer games. I did a nine-year stint at Blizzard as a lead programmer, game designer, producer and vice president, and was one of the leads on Warcraft I & II, Diablo I & II and StarCraft. I co-founded ArenaNet with a couple of buddies (Jeff Strain was one of ‘em) and co-lead the development of Guild Wars, where I wrote most of the server backend. ArenaNet was acquired by NCsoft, so I ended up adding an additional year there at CTO of NCsoft West, where I helped publish (but not develop) Aion as well as relocate the headquarters to Seattle. And following that, I helped co-found En Masse Entertainment, a Seattle-based game publisher, to launch TERA; my contribution there was to oversee the design and development of the game publishing platform.

And so it is that here at Undead Labs, I am happy to be working with a great team of people I admire and respect.Incidentally, one thing that always burns me about interviews and articles about game development is that their authors have a tendency to glorify one or another individual. Apart from a very few indie titles and brilliant solo efforts like Another World, games are developed by teams. So while I contributed enormously to all of those games and projects, you should know that they each required the dedicated efforts of a team of people, many of them essential to the development process.

And so it is that here at Undead Labs, I am happy to be working with a great team of people I admire and respect. As it happens, more than half of them are folks I have worked with for many years on Guild Wars, so I know them quite well!

I guess maybe I’ll be working on something like that.So as per my instructions to introduce myself and provide some background, what else can I say? I can’t talk anything about what I’m working on here at Undead Labs … yet. … But … I specialize in developing really big multiplayer games. So I guess maybe I’ll be working on something like that, at least as soon as I get one of the cool lab coats everyone around here has.

***

Want to learn more about Pat? Check out Jeff’s introduction post.

Welcome Pat to the team by clicking the comment button!