Case #

07.29.14

Researcher

Indeed

Ten years ago, before zombies were legend, I sat down and began a journey that would eventually bring some of you with me down the long, post-apocalyptic road of armageddon.  Day by Day Armageddon, for some, was a brief escapist reprieve from a cubicle or other such devilry.  For others, it was the heart and soul of a lone survivor poured onto the pages of a ten dollar paperback.  For me, it was a humble contribution to a zeitgeist defining genre.

Fast forward to now, and we’ve seen the zombie genre explode into every medium you’ll pay money for.  As an ardent gamer since the days you needed a flathead screwdriver to connect your console to your TV, I’ve played my share of zombie games.  In all my years of blistered thumbs, I hadn’t run across a title that I thought did the genre justice—until a year ago.  I had recently transferred from an arduous tour of duty and had a little free time on my hands.  I decided to boot up my Xbox 360 to see what I’d been missing.  After an eon of system updates, I scanned the Xbox Marketplace and noticed a game titled State of Decay.

In the hours of gameplay that followed, I got that familiar feeling again.  The same feeling I’d felt ten years prior when beginning to construct the Day by Day Armageddon universe.  The game I had discovered a year ago was built from the same DNA that made Day by Day Armageddon possible.  You can’t fake heart, and that’s exactly what went into the making of State of Decay.  Hands down, it was the most addictive and fun zombie survival simulator I’d played.

A year went by before I stumbled across an Xbox Wire interview with Undead Labs Founder, Jeff Strain.  When I saw that Jeff mentioned my work as a small inspiration for State of Decay, I had to reach out.  After all, I love playing quality video games as much as I love writing about surviving a zombie apocalypse (hmmm?).

Three words started it all.

JLfromJeff

The next thing I knew I was in Seattle talking with a group of professionals that shared my love for cool stuff; it didn’t take long to feel right at home at Undead Labs.  I can’t go into specifics as to what I’m doing, but I can say that I’m excited to be a part of the future of State of Decay.  Check those rifles and food stores, but first…

Lock your doors,

J.L. Bourne

 

[For more background, check out Jeff's post about how we met J.L. located here.]

Please give J.L. a warm welcome over on our forum by clicking the green tape down and to the right.

Case #

07.29.14

Researcher

Let’s Chat

In the fall of 2009 I went on a zombie bender. Zombieland had just been released, and I saw it four times. It wasn’t the best zombie flick I’d ever seen, but I loved the road-trip aspect of it, and the focus on how each person needs to decide whether they’ll work together, or alone, in the apocalypse. Mostly, it just rekindled my love of the zombie-survival genre, so it was back to Day, Dawn (classic, and the 2004 remake, which was a damn fine movie), the 28s, a ton of obscure hipster zombie stuff, and a fantastic dive into the Walking Dead comics. And books, too. Brooks of course — more the Guide than WWZ.

Fun stuff for sure, but none of it was really scratching my survival-fantasy itch. The great thing about zombie books and movies is that they make you think about what you’d do if the apocalypse hit tomorrow. Hanging out with your friends and comparing survival plans is truly one of life’s great pleasures.

But then a friend (known around here as Brant) turned me on to the Day by Day Armageddon series by J.L. Bourne. The author was an active duty military officer, and it really showed in his work. The story was personal and gripping, but also logical and well structured. It was believable. It was impossible not to cast myself in the role of the narrator, relying on my wits and whatever equipment I could find to survive every day. I consumed it in a day, read it again, then read the sequel.

And then it was time to build a studio that could make the ultimate zombie survival-fantasy game.

A few months later, Undead Labs was formed, and I found myself joyfully working with some of the most talented and passionate developers in the industry. As we started laying down the design for what would become State of Decay, numerous copies of Day by Day Armageddon (DbDA) were purchased and passed around. In those early days every developer on the game read the books. Of all the movies, books, comics, epic poems in iambic pentameter, and folk songs about zombies, DbDA stands apart in its contribution to our design and development culture.

Fast forward to January 2014. State of Decay is a huge success — thanks everyone! —  and we’re announcing a multi-year, multi-title relationship with Microsoft to build on State of Decay and take it to greater heights. (Yeah I know that’s vague… damn gag…) I did an interview for Xbox Wire, and while I couldn’t give them any details, we did talk about influences, and I mentioned DbDA and the strong impact it had on State of Decay.

I didn’t think much about it afterward, until a few weeks later when my phone chirped with a Twitter notification:

JLtoJeff

After I privately worked through my fanboy freakout, I contacted J.L., and we started talking. About zombies. About Day by Day Armageddon. About survival fantasy. About the future of State of Decay.

We flew him out to visit the studio, meet the team (including Brant, who is still working through his fanboy freakout, although not quite as privately), and talk some more. He liked what we had to say, and we liked what he had to say. There was a real meeting of the minds going on, and everyone could feel it.

So, we decided to work together.

I’m very excited to announce that J.L. Bourne will be collaborating with Undead Labs on the future of State of Decay. I can’t talk about any potential future titles right now (mmph mmmmmmph mmmph), but on the road we’re now traveling, we have the benefit of J.L.’s powerful narrative voice and intimate knowledge of the skills, tactics, weapons, and daily realities of the zombie apocalypse.

When we said the future of State of Decay is bright back in January, we meant it.

Welcome to State of Decay, J.L.!

Jeff

(OMG JL BOURNE!!!)

(sorry…)

 

[Read J.L.’s welcome to the State of Decay community here, and please welcome J.L. yourself by clicking on the comment tape.]

Case #

07.21.14

Researcher

Belated Title Update #6 Celebration on Twitch

What with one thing and another, we did not properly celebrate TU6, even though it was filled with great fixes that we knocked out thanks to lots of help from you. So, let’s rectify that, shall we? Join us tomorrow, Tuesday (July 22) at 2 PM EDT / 11 AM PDT / 6 PM GMT for the Twitch with the usual suspects for an hour of merriment and shenanigans. We’ll show off the changes, answer questions, and probably embarrass ourselves more than once. Our host will be our friend Alex at Xbox: http://www.twitch.tv/xbox

Tell your friends. We might throw down some prize codes, so if you haven’t been able to get your hands on Lifeline…be there!

Case #

06.18.14

Researcher

Subject

News, State of Decay

State of Decay Skin Pack For Minecraft

If your guess last week, in response to my teasing on Twitter and Facebook, was “totally a skin pack,” pat yourself on the back. State of Decay is featured in Skin Pack 6, coming “soon” (don’t worry, it really is soon, not gaming-industry soon) to Minecraft for Xbox. I don’t know the cost, myself. But I want it just because they went with SHARK HOODIE GUY as one of the five characters! Check out the screenshot after the jump.

MC_SkinPack6_Render_StateOfDecay

I’ll update this post as soon as the release date for this little treat is announced. If any of you get it and use it, be sure to tweet a picture to me :P

Case #

06.5.14

Researcher

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.

Jeff

Case #

06.2.14

Researcher

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!

Case #

05.30.14

Researcher

Lifeline is LIVE

We are now live on both the Xbox 360 and Steam, and so far, it looks like everyone who knows about it is enjoying it. Thank you so much for your good wishes and good cheer all over the internet. It means everything to us.

Some of us are trying to be all chill about your reviews and tweets and posts. Some of us don’t have a cool bone in our bodies and we’re running around the internet like methed up ferrets, reading every word and watching every video.

Er… was that TMI?

But seriously, keeping cool when you’ve been waiting for this day for months is hard, and the best feeling in the world is when real people actually play it and LIKE it. These were the first four reviews to come in. Not cherry picked. Just the first four in my spreadsheet:

Lifeline feels like a natural high level expansion to an RPG, and it’s an interesting design philosophy when applied to an open-world action game. Exploring a whole new location within the still incredibly fun State of Decay engine is a blast.”

Rather than adding a few hours onto the existing State of Decay narrative, the Lifeline expansion offers an entirely new campaign; one which is likely to take you more than one attempt (and quite a few hours) to complete successfully…I’m not sure there’s a zombie-survival game on the market (single or multiplayer) that currently holds a candle to the State of Decay franchise, and the Lifeline expansion only extends Undead Labs’ lead over its competitors.”

What you can get in this DLC exceeds the price tag as it is intense, replayable, and overall a blast to play. If you were expecting just another version of Breakdown, you were wrong. What Lifeline feels like to me is the opposite of Breakdown and that isn’t even close to a flaw.”

The new DLC seems more like a sequel built upon the same engine instead of just an add-on for State of Decay. Lifeline is a must for fans of Undead Lab’s zombie survival entry. Gamers who enjoy the genre and haven’t tried the game yet should really give it a shot as it remains one of last-gen’s best examples of zombie gaming.”

As with the original launch and Breakdown, the only advertising we have consists of these reviews, and more importantly, you telling your friends that the game was worth your time. If you like what you’ve seen so far, please spread the word that the game is out!

Case #

05.29.14

Researcher

Lifeline Release Time

We are ON for tomorrow, everybody! The cost is $6.99, or whatever the rough equivalent is in your local currency (the Xbox/Steam does the math, not me). Who will be joining us?!?

What time?

Very early in the morning, Pacific time.

But what EXACT time?

Okay, for Xbox players, it doesn’t work exactly like that. The process will begin at 2 AM PDT/5 AM EDT/10 AM GMT (and for my Australians, 5 PM WST and 7 PM EST). However, the exact time it hits your local marketplace will vary, because the files have to move from server to server all around the world. So it may not hit precisely on the hour. Try to be patient.

For Steam players, Microsoft is going to push the button at 10 AM PDT/1 PM EDT/6 PM GMT (Australians, that’ll be 1 AM Saturday WST and 3 AM Saturday EST). Again, it may take a bit for your personal computer to see it.

In the meantime, reviewers have been putting up streams and posts. Keep an eye on our Twitter feed. I’m sharing links as they come in: @undeadlabs is where the party is all day tomorrow!

Case #

05.26.14

Researcher

One Step Closer: Lifeline Trailer, Date, Price

Thanks to IGN for hosting! Head over to http://www.ign.com/videos/2014/05/26/state-of-decay-lifeline-dlc-trailer for the world debut of the trailer for State of Decay: Lifeline.

That’s right. May 30. $6.99. If all goes well this week, you’ll be playing Lifeline (and the accompanying free Title Update, featuring Rucks in Trucks) by this weekend. If all goes well, this may be the first time in gaming history that a game was released BEFORE the official public target. It’s a long story, best told over copious quantities of frosty beverages, but the short version is that both the Undead Labs team and the crew at Microsoft has been burning the midnight oil to make this happen before State of Decay celebrates its first birthday.

We are now in final certification. (If you’re really into learning How Things Work, check out this link from a year ago where we explain what that means.) If you believe that good wishes and good thoughts count for anything, please send some our way to help ensure we hit our target release date. As always, your support is everything to us.

Keep an eye on our Twitter feed, our Facebook page, or our forum, as we celebrate the launch with contests and games. (And if you’ve got a thriving website or YouTube channel, and you know you can get at least a “first look” review posted before the weekend, email me*!

Last but not least – join us for a live Twitch with Geoffrey, Brant, and introducing QA’s own ChrisP on Tuesday, where they will play Lifeline, answer questions, give away codes, and as always, die horribly because they’re squinting at the chat window instead of paying attention to the zombies. Our hosts, as always, are the Xbox gang (http://www.twitch.tv/xbox) and the party starts at 11 AM PDT/2 PM EDT/7 PM GMT. Hope to see you there!

We hope you enjoy the Lifeline trailer as much as we enjoyed pulling the footage for it. If you haven’t already, be sure to watch all the way to the very end.

BOOM**. See you in the comments.

*sanya at undeadlabs dot com
*No, we didn’t actually do that on purpose. Pure coincidence. Sometimes everything just…fires… on all cylinders, timing-wise, and we have to share the results with you. We’ve been dying to share that clip for WEEKS, seriously.

Case #

05.7.14

Researcher

Subject

News, Q&A, State of Decay

Another Lifeline Q&A

After the fun-filled Twitch and the last design article, a few questions came up multiple times. We (me, Geoffrey, and Foge) knocked them out for you all, and the result is posted on the forum. Click the green comment tape to head over and take a look.

But before you go, you might enjoy seeing what the gun workshop looks like:

Here is where the magic happens.

Here is where the magic happens.

There will be another Twitch before the end of the month. And then it’s June! Time sure flies while you’re fixing bugs…