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PAX East Is Going To Be Amazing

We’re putting the final touches on our plans for PAX East! Here is what you can expect if you are planning to go to the show this weekend:

State of Decay will be there in all its Year One Survival Edition glory. Check out the beautifully remastered game, with its new weapons, newly playable characters (helloooo, Sasquatch), new vehicles, and lovely redone mechanics. And more. We’re coming out on April 28 on XB1 and Steam.

If you already own State of Decay, and you buy it on the Xbox One/Steam with the same gamer tag/account you used to buy the original, you will get 33% off and an exclusive hero, Gurubani.

If you get the game the first week of launch, you’ll get a special Prepper Pack. The exclusives in there are a new folding axe weapon, a new modified SKS firearm…it has a grenade launcher, for crying out loud…and the Prepper SUV.

Please note that if you get the disk version, you won’t be able to get the thank you discount and Gurubani, because the retail systems are completely different. The disk doesn’t have those files. But the first print run will have the Prepper Pack, so as long as you grab a copy as soon as you see it on the shelf, you should be good to go.

I’m told you’ll be able to see the lead designer of SOD on the official show Twitch stream on Saturday at 2:30, so check it out.

Microsoft will also be hosting YOSE in the big Xbox booth, where they’ll be doing pre-order giveaways. Some of us will be in that booth making sure you enjoy yourselves, so be sure to ask your demo person what he does at the Lab!

And if you just want to come hang out with us at PAX? Awesome! We love meeting you guys, it’s a real honor and privilege for us. We’ll be doing our live action form-a-survivor-enclave game for players waiting in the line to play YOSE, there’s a sick new trailer to watch, and the special fan demo – no waiting in line required – is on Saturday. Check our forum post for the details.

- Moonrise. We’ve got some big news coming very soon, so come check the site tomorrow, but for right now I can tell you that we’ve made a ton of progress on our creature battler. We will be giving out the second Moonrise Pinny Arcade pin (of a series of three) to each person who does the demo.
Here it is fresh from the printer! Coming soon to a Moonrise tower near you.

Here it is fresh from the printer! Coming soon to a Moonrise tower near you.

Our PVP tournament will happen daily starting at three, and all you need to enter is a Moonrise pin. One winner each day will walk away with a brand new iPad Air 2. And it’s going to be super fun to watch, too. We’ll be shoutcasting the games so everyone will know what’s going on.

If you can’t make it to PAX, tune in to the tournament live stream on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3:00 PM EST/noon PST:

There’s probably a ton more stuff I’m forgetting, but I’m just way excited right now. Come by, or send your friends, to Booth 3092!


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News, State of Decay

London Calling For YOSE

Our friends at Microsoft hosted a media event in London at the end of last week, and the press embargo was lifted this morning. I can’t wait to see what the attendees had to say, but in the meantime, here are the new details from the release that went out on the Xbox Wire:

If you grab Year One: Survival Edition on the first day we’re out, you’ll get the Prepper’s Pack, which includes:

– New super cool folding axe weapon

– New modified SKS firearm…it has a grenade launcher

– The Prepper SUV

We also clarified that the digital release (on XB1 and Steam) will be worldwide on April 28. In many places, the physical disk copy for XB1 will be on sale April 28 as well. (If you live in a region — mostly in the EU — whose retailers only puts new games on shelves on Fridays, you may to wait until May 1.)

And, just a reminder: If you already own the game and you feel inclined to upgrade, we want to thank you with a 33% discount and an exclusive hero named Gurubani Kaur. You have to upgrade with the account you used to buy the original, but the discount will then be automatic.

If you’re excited about what you’re reading, and you’ll be at PAX East, be sure to hit me for an appointment. sanya at undeadlabs dot com is the address!


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All the News From PAXSouth

We had a great time in San Antonio, thanks to all of you! We sure appreciate how patient everyone was with the lines. That’s the (only) downside to developers doing demos: We are really freaking proud of our games, and we all want to show you every detail. Keeping to ten minutes is the hardest thing about the show, hands down.

Media demos are longer, fortunately. The reporters get twenty minutes to explore, shoot footage, and ask questions so that everyone not at PAX can get all the juicy details. If you weren’t there to get your own hands-on time…or either of the epic collectible Pinny Arcade Pins…check out the following!

APGNation came by and recorded a nice long State of Decay interview with SOD Lead Designer Geoffrey Card.

Bitch Team Alpha declared Moonrise her top game for casual players: “After playing it once, I couldn’t stop talking about it.”

Capii Media wasn’t media. They were the guys who ran the photo booth where Moonrise players could “picture themselves in the game,” but in between green screen shenanigans, they shot this fun highlight reel. Includes shots from both SOD and Moonrise!

Our forum crew that attended got their own State of Decay media demo, and ThatChristmasKid brought a legal pad with pages of questions from our regular players. Don’t miss the resulting Q&A!

Gamespot gave us our favorite headline to date about Moonrise, and this awesome quote: “The mobile creature collecting-and-battling RPG takes some of the series more prominent elements and turns them on their heads, making for an enjoyable, refreshing take on the genre.”

One of the guys from Geek Avengers wrote up his experience on his personal blog, explaining why people should care about YOSE. “What I want to tell you about right now is what I think was the game of the show…I’m not a tech jargon expert, but it looked fantastic and plays beautifully. Zombie heads pop like melons in beautifully rendered HD. Running over the undead is just as satisfying as ever.” He also got a bit of the story from how the original game came to be.

As the site name would suggest, Hardcore Gamer was all about the PVP in Moonrise, with lots of detail about the fighting system. They also saw State of Decay, of course: “When games were trying to emulate the lightning-in-a-bottle co-op experience…Undead Labs released a solely single-player, story-driven experience devoted to depicting survival in a zombie wasteland.”

Before Massively disappears forever (BOO! HISS!), check out their double feature on both Moonrise and State of Decay: “It was a little jarring to go from adorable pet battles to being torn in half by a zombie, but the two-for-one session provided a nice glimpse of where Undead Labs has been and where it intends to go.” swung by, and they were pleasantly surprised by Moonrise: “It…could be ideal for someone looking for a little more depth in their mobile gaming than what’s generally available now.”

PixelDynamo gives us the tagline “Reanimated for a new generation” and gets into all the YOSE details.

Windows Central did a solid overview of State of Decay: “If you haven’t played the game, prepare for a fairly realistic depiction of human life after a zombie apocalypse.”


This list is really a work in progress. We had plenty of other interviews at the show, and I’ll update this list as I get the links.

So…who’s going to PAX East in a month? Contact me at sanya at undeadlabs dot com if you’ve got a website, YouTube channel, or Twitch stream.

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News, State of Decay

Year One Survival Edition: April 28 and May 1

If you were online yesterday, you may have seen a couple posts here and there, on a few little-known sites like IGN and Polygon and Kinda Funny. What’s up?

We announced the release date for the Year One Survival Edition. We’ll be coming to Xbox One, Steam, and retail outlets on April 28 in the USA and around the world on May 1. (That’s right, retail – YOSE is being released on disk. Woo! Tell your friends!) If you missed our announcement last summer, here’s what it is:

- The original game and both DLC packs remastered in 1080p. Lighting, textures, the works.
– New animations and overhauled combat mechanics.
– New weapons, new vehicles, new mission type.
– New playable characters (BRING IT ON, SASQUATCH).
– 30 minutes of new music from Jesper Kyd.
– The facility goodness from Lifeline is now available game-wide.
– Xbox One only: New achievements and game DVR.

What does this mean for you, our players that have already bought the game and thus made this awesomeness possible? You’ll be able to bring your save games with you from the 360 over to the One, for sure. If you buy it on One using the same LIVE profile you had on the 360, you’ll automatically get 33% off the cost of YOSE. (Steam players: We’re still working out the details of your discount, and hoping to give you the same deal. Our publisher, uh, knew some people at Xbox, so that arrangement got finalized in time for this announcement.) On both Steam and Xbox, we have an exclusive hero just for you guys who’ve already gotten on this train – the sword-wielding Gurubani Kaur.

Basically, it’s a gorgeous dream come true, y’all. Thank you for all your help. We hope to see everybody back for the party in April and May.

The first hands-on for our commmunity happens starting THIS FRIDAY at PAX South! We are going to be in Booth 1059, giving out Pinny Arcade pins for both State of Decay and our other baby, Moonrise. All you have to do to get the pin is play the game demo, no random crap required. We’ll have some merchandise to sell, a Moonrise tournament with an iPad Air 2 as a prize every day… and our friends at Microsoft sent me a crate of Snacks of Decay to give away when the line gets long and people get hungry.

There are still one day passes available for Friday and Sunday, so if you can make it, we’d love to shake your hands and thank you for being part of the Undead family. If you can’t make it… come celebrate with us in the forum!

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Fans, News, Studio, Wallpapers

From the Lab: Merry and Bright

Man. What a ride we had in 2014! We went from our State of Decay announcement in January, to the XB1 announcement, to the limited release of Moonrise without stopping for air. Behind the scenes, we went from a tiny group working on one project to a full-sized team or three hard at work on great things both known and unannounced. And the thing that has made it all happen (and all worthwhile) was you. Each one of you made a real, measurable difference to us – and we hope our games in 2015 and beyond make a difference to you. Thank you for your feedback, your encouragement, your teasing, your private messages and public comments. All of it is the rocket fuel that launches us forward every day.

From all of us at the Lab to all of you, we hope for the most merry holiday season and the brightest future. And just to let you know we’re always going to be Undead, here is this year’s wallpaper:


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Moonrise, News, Research

Welcome, To Another Edition Of Thunderdome! Or…

…Solari Arena Mode, One Of The Two

by Richard Foge

One of our main goals with Moonrise has been to create a robust platform for a huge variety of different gameplay modes, especially for PvP. Our first foray into the realm of custom gameplay types produced Solari Arena, which is inspired by Sealed Deck formats popular in many CCGs…but with mechanics that helps create more balanced teams.


Solari Arena doesn’t use the team of Solari that you’ve built and upgraded over the course of the main game. Instead, when you enter Arena Mode you get a semi-randomized set of 10 Solari (more on that later) from which you set up your team of 6. You also get 4 relics (2 minor and 2 major) to kit out your Warden.

These Solari and Relics are only used in this instance of Solari Draft. The next time you enter the mode you’ll get a whole new set of stuff to try out. And while you don’t get to keep the Solari and Relics that you’re competing with, you can try out some crazy builds and get previews of what your Solari are going to feel like when they hit level 50.

All Solari used in Arena Mode are level 50, and come with a preselected complement of skills. This means that everyone playing in Solari Draft is on a level playing field. Your success depends on how well you build your team and how well you use them in combat.

In between combat rounds you can make adjustments to your build by swapping Solari in your lineup or switching up your combat skills. I personally love sideboard mechanics where you are able to tweak and adapt your build based on discoveries that you make while playing, and I wanted to make sure we got a bit of that feel in Solari Draft (even though sideboarding is traditionally a mechanic that is used in constructed formats).


A Roll Of The Dice. A Flip Of The Coin. A Turn… Of The Wheel

What the heck do I mean when I say, “semi-randomized”?

Completely random sets of Solari would be too chaotic to be consistently fun. Sometimes you would get a bunch of guys with no synergy or completely conflicting skillsets. Sometimes you would get an amazing dream team full of legendaries and be completely unstoppable, making the game less fun for everyone that you stomped on. What we really want is to hit the perfect middle ground, where everyone gets an array of Solari and relics that have one (or more!) viable strategy.

In order to avoid degenerate situations and hit that sweet middle ground, we’ve built out a system that guarantees that you’ll pull a couple of high-value Solari, a couple of tanks, a couple of healers, and then 4 more Solari from a more truly random pool of choices.

This means that you’ll have a fairly well-rounded set of Solari to build your team from, but also keeps every team from having the same structure. Your tanks could be heal tanks, mitigation tanks, or armor tanks. You could roll some really nice damage-focused Solari and decide that a Warden “Spike” build is your best bet.

There are so many different ways to compose a team… The trick is identifying a fun and competitive build before you hit the big, shiny button that says “Find Opponent”. Speaking of which, maybe we should chat a bit about finding that special someone…

Congratulations! You’re The First To Survive The Audition!

Matchmaking for Solari Arena Mode is pretty straightforward since the mode itself is self-contained. We look at the total number of wins that you currently have and try to match you against another player with a similar number of wins. Arena Mode is always active—you don’t have to wait for a new round or tournament to start.

At first we thought it might be too easy and that the mode would need some additional fancy logic to get good matches, but the matches that we were getting after the first couple of wins felt really well-balanced with just the win count pushing the matchmaking. As you climb higher in wins the competition becomes naturally more difficult since you’re facing off against builds that have also seen some success.


Sounds Like A Bargain

The rewards that you get for competing in Solari Draft mode get better the more wins you stack up. If you hit the cap of 10 wins for the mode, you automatically get the best prize pool that we have available, which (at the moment) includes: a bunch of Gold, a bunch of Essences, some Warden Keys, and some Gems, as well as some tokens for the Fashion and Solari chance spins.

That’s a lot of stuff…and all you have to do is be the best!

Of course, even if you don’t max out your wins, you still earn awesome prizes based on how many wins you accrue before that third loss (each win increases the quality of your loot)…and then you can jump back in and try again with a brand-new set of Solari and relics!


And There Ain’t Nobody Knows Where It’s Gonna Lead

As we continue to develop the Arena there are many potential paths we can take. The way the system is built we can (and plan to) continually update the semi-randomized lists as we get new Solari, skills, and Relics online. We can also spin up themed variations of Solari Arena that only draft from specific Solari and Relics, such as particular affinity combos or even wacky themes (“Only Birds and Bugs” or “Everybody is Green”).

Much of how this mode evolves is going to be down to how players respond to the systems that we’ve built. When you get a chance to play, definitely give Solari Arena mode a try and tell us what you think on the Moonrise forum!

Case #




Moonrise, News, Research


by Brian Giaime (gee-AHH-mee)

Hello! This is Brian Giaime, System Designer on Moonrise. Today we’re going to nerd out about dungeons: challenging, high-stakes combat endeavors that stand between players and sweet, sweet loot.

What’s a dungeon?

A dungeon represents a location overrun with hostile Lunari and considered exceptionally dangerous for regular folks to enter. Within lie many powerful creatures, but also treasures and rarities lost since the time the dungeon was last inhabited.


Each dungeon is composed of floors, each floor full of explorable rooms.  Some rooms are simply filled with treasure, but most lead to encounters with enemy Lunari. Each room cleared has a chance to help open the “boss door”, revealing the final encounter for the floor against a particularly challenging configuration of Lunari.Each floor has stronger Lunari than the last, but also contains better and more plentiful loot.

Combat in dungeons has a special twist: The health of your Warden and your team of Solari does not recover automatically. In addition to the normal challenges of battle, you’ll now have to consider the longer-term health of your team. You’ll find that dismissing injured Solari and sneaking in healing skills when able will do a lot to keep your team in fighting shape.That being said, between fights you’ll have access to your dungeon bag, full of health crystals you can use to restore your team.


What do I get out of dungeons?

Many of Moonrise’s toughest challenges and best rewards are found in dungeons,especially as you reach the deeper floors and the final bosses on each floor.

Dungeons are the primary source of relics, gear, and skill items, excluding those bought with gold at shops in town. New relics and skill items grant you and your team access to rare and powerful tactics in combat, while new gear provides you the stats you’ll need to make the most of each skill used.


Dungeons also feature Lunari not encountered before, including elusive creatures with rare traits or unusually specialized stats. Dungeons are also the only place to find many evo materials, the items necessary to evolve your Solari into new and stronger forms.

Changing things up

Dungeons also feature floor modifiers: unique features that affect all fights on a given floor. You’ll see floors that frequently poison everyone in battle, floors that grant regeneration to those in battle, and as you progress through the game, many more insidious ways to empower or restrain participants in combat (and by doing so, change up your normal play patterns in interesting ways).

Some examples:

Menagerie Spire Zero


We knew from the start that we needed primo “longform” combat that gave you something challenging and rewarding to do during longer sessions. Something more for the couch than for the bus. Dungeons serve that purpose for Moonrise.

Originally, dungeons were much grindier. You’d start from the first floor and play continuously straight to the final floor, occasionally unlocking checkpoints along the way. Bonus loot was earned for having run through more contiguous floors in one run, effectively incentivizing the player to start at earlier levels. Once we realized that dungeons should escalate in difficulty with each floor (this wasn’t originally true), it became clear that the current design was flawed, incentivizing players to do boring stuff in order to get good rewards.

With that in mind, we effectively made every floor a “checkpoint” and moved towards the current design: Each floor unlocks the next and is a self-contained challenge with loot and rewards. This simplification meant that dungeons, while still fun in long sessions, could also be broken down into floors, which can generally be completed in 5-10 minutes.

Most importantly, this meant that “entering a dungeon” was no longer a big commitment that locked you out from the rest of the game. Once we felt the difference to the overall experience from that change, we knew we had made the right call.


All things considered, dungeons are the place to be if you’re looking for something more challenging. They’re built to be a higher-test kind of fun, and to reward you for your hard-won victory. That doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in a round between classes, but it does mean that you’ll have challenges worthy of your attention waiting for you when the day is done.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for our next article, a piece on Solari Draft by none other than Design Director Richard Foge.

Case #




Moonrise, News, Research

Quest-Quest: The Quest for the Best Quest System Ever

By Ian Adams, Age 32

Hello again, folks, this is Ian Adams, Content Designer and Writer on Moonrise. I’ve already introduced myself in a previous article, so today I’ll just give you a fun fact: I can say “toy boat” ten or more times in a row, quickly. I can do any other tongue twister as well, but that’s the one I’m proudest of. I challenge all of you to do it even four times. If you can, maybe Sanya will give you a prize. I don’t know, I didn’t ask her about this.*

When discussing story, we’ve mentioned “quests” off-handedly a few times, but we haven’t really gone into detail on what that means. By the time this article is over, we will no longer live in a universe where that is true. We’ll talk about quests, what they have to do with story, how we make them, what our goals are and other things that I’m going to leave out of this list. To find out what they are, keep reading!

Before we jump into the specifics of quests, let’s ask the kind of question Game Designers have to remember to ask themselves: why do we even want quests? I mean, we could have told our story with dialog outside of quests, if we’d wanted. We could have just had an open world that you played around in, slowly gaining strength. We could have gated plot reveals by player level, or number of battles fought, or any number of other things. So why quests?

First, the dirtiest, most mercenary reason: games (and players) generally benefit from having a list of stuff to do. Having a sense of direction, of what needs to get done next, gives players focus and motivation, and helps create momentum. Even games that SEEM super open, like SimCity or Minecraft, have implicit early goals (build roads/power/zoning, craft tools and find a safe place to spend the night, respectively). A good quest system functions as an engine to move players through various gameplay loops, making sure they’ve been exposed to the breadth of what the game has to offer, and hopefully ensuring varied and engaging play.


Quests are also an incredibly great fit for delivering story. You can have story explain why you need to do something, then have story explain what the results were. Instead of the story telling you a boss is powerful, we can give you a quest to defeat him. When the story wants you to feel powerful, we can give you a rematch with a fight that was challenging 15 levels ago. Quests and story can exist separately, but together they become definitely more than the sum of their parts.

Tying quests so tightly to story is a double-edged sword though. Designers often talk about their player’s “verbs”, the list of stuff you can ACTUALLY do in the game. If we want to tell a story that ends with you racing dramatically back to the Gateway Guildhall, well, the verbs for that are to tap on the map icon, tap Gateway, tap confirm, then tap on the Guildhall. Do it in twenty seconds, or two days, it completes the quest. Not really the best use of your time. Similarly, we have to avoid the ending where you sabotage the giant doomsday bomb, unless we want to make a 3D model of that bomb for one fight, then figure out what the combat looks like. (Do we treat the bomb like an enemy Warden?)

We’ve got verbs like “buy a relic from the store” or “equip a piece of defensive gear”, and those can work in quests here and there, but they’re definitely not as dramatic as, say, “finish the Haunted Mines** dungeon” or even “evolve your Emberjaw”. Functionally, this means we need to find good ways to write a wide variety of stories that generally have the climax of “the player fights someone.” Lots of good stories end with someone fighting someone else, so this isn’t incredibly difficult, but it’s really important to keep in mind.


So, we’ve decided we want quests, we’re excited to tie them into our story, and we have our eyes open in terms of how our quest system is going to impact the kinds of stories we can tell. Well, now we have a bunch of other decisions, which I’ll illustrate as binaries, even though that’s an oversimplification:

  • Linear vs. Branching
  • Optional vs. Compulsory
  • Locks or restricts content vs. Content always accessible
  • Repeatable vs. Single-Use
  • Random vs. Crafted
  • Foregrounded vs. Backgrounded
  • Complex vs. Simple
  • General Goals vs. Specific Goals
  • Automatic vs. Optional

Essentially, what kind of quest system do we want? In the case of Moonrise, our guiding pillars were a desire to tell an interesting story with a nod to classic JRPG feel, to make the game world feel big and alive, and to make sure it felt good on a phone or tablet. In what is very unlikely to be a shocking twist, we resolved most of the choices above with “something in the middle.”

Our quests fall into two categories (there’s a third category but it’s a secret) Story and Side.

Story Quests

Story quests are where we work our hardest to introduce mechanics, reinforce techniques, explain strategy, and exhibit the different things we think are fun to do in Moonrise. They start when you finish the opening combat tutorial, and they stop when you’ve completed the very last one of them. Then we’ll do a story update, and you’ll get a new story quest, and the cycle will continue, until the end of humankind. Even so, our story quests aren’t strictly linear. You’ll regularly branch into two (or more) threads of story quest, which the player can take on in their preferred order. However, these branches always converge at some point, and the story proceeds from there.


However, story quests are inherently limited in how difficult or time-consuming they can be. A frustrating story quest blocks access to ALL future story quests, so it’s not the place for a two-month-long hunt to catch the rare version of the boss enemy that only shows up 1/2000 times at the bottom of a dungeon.

That’s what side quests are for.

Side Quests

Side quests are our “everything else” category. Anything that isn’t part of the main story thread goes into this bucket. Side quests let us play with the world, expand the background on our characters and regions, and make it something you decide to do, rather than something you have to do in order to get to the next town and start recruiting new Solari.


We also use side quests as the place we can ask you to do something a little more hardcore. The quest isn’t necessarily blocking anything (and certainly not blocking everything), so it’s a good way to give those looking for a little extra challenge something special to work toward.

Unlike story quests, side quests don’t just start automatically. You find side quests by checking out the building no one told you to look in, or by returning to a previous area and poking around, only to discover an old NPC needs your help. Once you stumble upon a side quest, it gets added to your quest log. Some are one-offs, some have a small chain, but none block progress.

Anatomy of a Quest

Both story quests and side quests are similar in structure. You get some dialog up front discussing the reason for the quest, then you get your objective(s). Upon completion of the objective(s), you see wrap-up dialog text, and any new quests that you’ve triggered start up. We generally keep the number of objectives per quest to 1 or 2, in no small part because we’re on mobile. We know full well that people will be 60% of the way through something, and their bus will come, the commercial will end, or their boss will show up. We made a game that plays beautifully if you sit down and play it for an extended period, but we have to accommodate the reality that working well on mobile means breaking your epic adventure into bite-sized chunks.


While working on Moonrise, I’ve also occasionally pitched ideas for Other Projects, which would have quest systems of their own. It’s been really edifying to see how, with similar goals overall, this other system looks utterly and completely different from what we’re doing in Moonrise. If it sounds strange that I’m happy we’re building wildly different systems, understand that what it means to me is that we’re creating the right system each time, customized to the game and experience at hand. One of the single most important things a designer can do is not take things for granted. Don’t just build a quest system that looks like some other quest system because it worked pretty well in that game. Build the system you need for the experience you want to create.


* Sanya here: I totally will…put all the people who do it into a drawing for one of you to win some Moonrise swag. Post a video/Vine/YouTube to our Toy Boat contest thread of you saying “Hello, Undead Labs! Hello, Moonrise! TOY BOAT TOY BOAT TOY BOAT TOY BOAT.” I’ll pick a winner on 12/12.

** Ian again: As of this writing, I have not been able to get a haunted anything into the game. I’ll keep you guys posted.

Case #




Moonrise, News, Q&A

Moonrise Community Q&A

Thanks to all our friends on Facebook, Twitter, and the forums for the great questions! We’ll definitely do more of these, so if there’s something dear to your heart that we skipped, please click on the comment tape below. On to the Qs:

Q: Brian mentioned in one of the articles that some Solari have multiple affinities. How do you know which one to choose?

A: No single Solari has multiple affinities. In certain rare cases, a Solari might have two different evolution paths, one of which changes that Solari’s affinity. Sleeslugg, for example, can evolve into A: Sleespark, another Solari with a water affinity, or into B: Blastropod, a Solari with a Fire affinity.

Decisions, decisions.

Decisions, decisions.

Q: Other than traits how do your solari differ from mine if we have the same?

A: Applying Essences to Solari increases their XP, which in turn, raises their level, raising all of their stats. When you upgrade a Solari, the types of essences consumed award bonus points based on the type of essence used. Different wild Solari of the same type will have different distributions of these bonus points when you first recruit them.

In addition, Solari have a wide range of skills that they learn naturally. You and I probably picked different skills as our Solari grew, leading to a potentially very different set of skills that Solari can use. Each Solari can also be taught skills it doesn’t learn naturally, though the set of skills it can be taught is still limited.

Finally, in rare and special circumstances, one can recruit Solari with skills that they can’t normally learn or be taught. These are precious indeed!

Q: Can we trade Solari with our friends?

A: Not at launch.

Q: Pokemon had IV breeding/training, is this gameplay that players should expect?

A: We had a lot of discussion about that particular system, and what it offered players – basically, a set of choices or optimizations to be made about what that character would be best at, and in turn, what skills and abilities would be the most useful to it. We like the inherent strategy that comes with this kind of customization, but wanted to avoid creating a particularly frustrating, grindy, or time consuming experience as the player earns the required resources and makes their optimizations.

Our answer to the desire for this gameplay is in how our upgrade system works. Every level your Solari gains carries both “fixed” stat growth, from gaining XP and leveling up, and “custom” or “bonus” stat growth, gained from using different types of essence. Each essence represents 1 of our 6 different stat types, increasing both the specified stat, and your overall XP towards the next level. These essences are gained by curing enemy Lunari; the essences yielded reflect the highest stats of the defeated Lunari.

A concrete example: You want to build a Solari with as much speed as possible, so you might cure a lot of wild Kitzapp in a location you know has a lot of them, to acquire a lot of Speed Essences, which you would then use to upgrade your Solari, ensuring that the bonus stats points gained on the way to the next level are all allocated to speed. In this way, you acquire the tools you need to customize your characters through normal gameplay, and changes are made in a deliberate and clear way.

Q: What do the in-app purchases look like?

A: We’re not making a pay-to-win game. Our intent is to make things available to people who want to spend time instead of money. That said, we also want to make sure people who choose to spend money get something of value out of it. We don’t want in-app purchases to be a waste.

We’ve also built modes like draft PvP to reward pure skill (with a touch of chance to keep things interesting). Grinding and spending have no impact on success here… it’s all about what you get, and what you make of it.

You can also use in-app purchases to acquire cosmetic items for your Warden (in addition to finding such items in dungeons).

The exact balance depends largely on the feedback we get during the limited release, and even afterwards. The Lab has a track record of making changes based on feedback.

Q: Could I spend time instead of money to get the same stuff? Or are there some things you can only get in the store?

A: Most of the time. There are ways of earning store currency (gems) by playing the game that you can use to buy many store items, but we may have items in the store that are only available for cash.

Q: Will there be a player marketplace for us to trade items between ourselves?

A: There are no plans for a marketplace at this time.

Q: How do we talk with each other when we are in the game world?

A: There is an in-game chat system that you can use to send whispers to specific friends as well as open and custom (private) chat channels.

Q: Will matchmaking be skill-based or random?

A: It depends on the game mode. Most modes use some kind of algorithm to determine a fun matchup as opposed to being completely random. Ranked game modes are going to use skill-based algorithms for matchups, probably based on some sort of MMR (Match Making Ranking).

Q: What kind of rewards could players expect from end-game PvP, aside from thrills?

A: We’re still working out the detail for the rewards, but we’re talking about ultra-rare (even one of a kind) cosmetic items and possibly even rare skins for your Solari. Gems. We’ve also talked about things to make sure you can show off your ranking when playing both PvE and PvP.

Q: Will there ever be any co-op gameplay, where a friend and I and our teams can take on other creatures?

A: Co-op is definitely on our list, but it’s a ways out, and we’re still thinking about what exactly it would look like.

Q: What happens if my internet connection sputters a little without totally disconnecting? Like if my bus goes under a bridge or something.

A: You should be fine.

Q: What happens if I get disconnected in the middle of a battle?

A: It depends on if you are playing PvP or not.

For single-player content we have tech in place to resume a battle you were in while you disconnected.

For PvP game modes, it is going to depend on the specific mode. We understand that disconnects can be incredibly frustrating when they count as a loss to ranked game modes, but we have no way of detecting if a disconnect is legit or intentional. Allowing players to purposely turn off wifi to avoid a loss would be exploited to the point where the game mode became unplayable.

Q: Is it going to be all touch or will there be keyboard support?

A: The releases on iOS, Kindle Fire and Android will be touch only. Any additional platforms will be supported with input devices that make sense.

Q: Will multiplayer perform across platforms (iOS to Droid)?

A: Yes! It does already and it’s awesome.

Q: What percentage of the game is pure exploration as opposed to quests and battles?

A:The game has an exploration component, but we’ve definitely streamlined things in favor of getting places quickly and focusing on (many different types of) battle. There are definitely rewards (such as side missions and hidden lore) for players who spend some time poking around.

Q: I’m a big Twitch streamer. Will you have embedded tools for us?

A: We want this too, and we’re looking into it.

Q: Are you guys going to do any Twitch broadcasts with the designers like you did with State of Decay?

A: Absolutely! Right now, we’re focusing on finishing the game, but we intend to free up some time for this in the coming months.

Q: When does this come out? Can you be more specific than “early next year”?

A: It’ll be a Wednesday.

Thank you, Foge, Ian, Brian, and Andy for the answers!

Case #




Moonrise, News, Research

Meta-Gameplay In Moonrise PvP

by Richard Foge, Andy Collins, and Brian Giaime

From the very outset, we knew that we wanted PvP to be a huge part of Moonrise. In this article, we’re going to chat a bit about an important element of PvP in Moonrise. Specifically we’re going to dig into meta-gameplay.


Metagame is a term that is used by developers to refer to the layers of gameplay that exist outside the rules and environment of the game itself. In the simplest sense, it’s when you use out-of-game information to affect the decisions you make about playing the game. For example, when you use knowledge about the other players at your table to modify your strategy in a board game, you’re engaging in a metagame activity (because that knowledge lives entirely outside the rules of that game).

The metagame can have a drastic impact on how players interact with the game’s systems and engage with each other inside the game. It can change your strategy, suggest particular tactics, and even alter the play environment itself. A strong, vibrant metagame keeps your game compelling for players long after the initial excitement of “new and shiny” has worn off.


Design Influences

There are a many ways that the metagame can grow and evolve. One of these ways is design-influenced evolution. This occurs when new systems and mechanics are added to the game and the metagame adapts to incorporate those systems.

Take, for example, Solari Traits. Before these were a part of Moonrise (that is, early in our development cycle), skill & stat builds on each type of Solari were fairly consistent. Your Emberjaw looked pretty much like everyone else’s Emberjaw. Players felt this was a solved issue and didn’t spend time thinking about how to build their individual Solari.

Once we added Traits — such as Primal Health, which healed the Solari whenever it dealt Nature damage — players started building their Solari in ways that took advantage of these Traits. Sometimes players relied on Traits to remedy a weakness, while other times they used them to capitalize on a strength. Suddenly we saw more varieties of every Solari in play, and the set of viable builds blossomed to include a great deal more configurations and combinations of Solari.


Player Discoveries

Another way that the metagame can evolve is from the discoveries of players. When players find a particular strategy that is effective and share that knowledge, that strategy proliferates among other players. (This can occur in PvE or PvP gameplay, but it tends to move a bit faster in PvP.) But that discovered strategy in turn creates opportunities for new discoveries that react to the newly evolved metagame.

For example, players might discover a particular Solari team build that becomes very effective. (“Good old Stone, nothing beats Stone.”) Observant players adopt some or all of that build, and soon it becomes popular and widely used. At this point, the smart thing to do in PvP is to find a build that works effectively against this popular build. This creates a new effective and popular team build, which in turn leads cutting-edge players to devise yet another counter-strategy. In some situations, this process can even continue until the original build becomes effective again.

This evolution of metagaming can also occur in the tactical space, and we’ve definitely seen that playing Moonrise PvP internally. One area we’ve witnessed interesting tactical shifts is in the opening moves of combat. When a Moonrise PvP battle begins, neither you nor your opponent have any Solari on the battlefield. Because gameplay is affected by affinity matchups, some players start a match by waiting to see who their opponent would summon first, hoping to counter with an ideal affinity matchup. That led to players quickly summoning Solari that had massively damaging attacks with slow boot times so they could punish whichever Solari the other player brought out. Which led to folks immediately summoning one Solari as a counter to the heavy hitters and waiting to summon the second. And so on, and so on.


Building a Better Metagame

A strong metagame is crucial for ongoing commitment from players. If your game offers only a few optimal strategies, players will figure those out quickly, then come to the conclusion that your game is a solved problem. Since one of the critical attractions to games is the opportunity to solve the challenges provided by your systems, a solved game rarely holds people’s attention for long.

To design a game that supports a robust metagame, developers must create systems that are flexible and have massive possibility space. This is usually done by keeping your systems as simple and clean as you can and allowing interesting interactions between those systems (instead of adding layer upon layer of rules for how those systems can interact). For example, the Trait system described above is relatively simple in concept, but creates a large possibility space for small design tweaks that support different Solari builds and team strategies.


The best part of having a strong metagame is that active players in the community shape the game as much as the developers do, by exploring the bounds of the systems in ways that the designers may never have considered. A player-influenced metagame is a sign of a game with flexible systems that allow for a lot of creativity from players. This is something that we’ve put a lot of time and care into for Moonrise.

We’re looking forward to seeing where you take our meta!