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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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Events, Fans, News, Studio

Will We See You At PAX Prime?

PAX Prime is a special show for us. It’s the show where we first revealed State of Decay, AND it’s our “home” convention. You can in fact walk from the convention center where PAX is happening to our office, even if you should probably change out of formal shoes and into sneakers before you try it. Oh, well, live and learn. The point is, we love PAX Prime, and our absolute favorite part of it is meeting as many of you as possible.

And we have some one day passes to give away to make that happen, if you can get yourself to Seattle, courtesy of the gang at  Microsoft. Here are our plans for next week:

Thursday, August 28: Media event at the Lab. We’re going to be unveiling the next thing for State of Decay (but the news is embargoed until Friday morning), and doing a hands-on with our new game, Moonrise. We still have seats available for this event, but because we’re doing dinner and drinks for the attendees, there’s a limit. If you are a reporter and in town for PAX in time for this party, drop me a line! sanya at undeadlabs dot com

Friday, August 29: PAX opens! Come find us in TWO places:

State of Decay Fan Booth: N5. We’re behind the escalator in one of the fourth floor lobbies. We were there accidentally last year and loved being able to talk to you without screaming. We loved it so much we requested the spot for this year! Come and play State of Decay, meet the developers and the designers, get swag, buy Undead Labs or State of Decay gear if you’re so inclined, and participate in some fun contests (the hashtag is going to be #snacksofdecay). Look for the green and brown balloons.

Moonrise Booth: 6103. Walk into the sixth floor expo hall and look for the tower with the moon on it. What can I tell you, we try to make it easy. Ten minute time limit while there’s a line waiting, but if you make us your first stop, you’ll get plenty of time to be the first to play our lovely new RPG.

Saturday, August 30: J.L. Bourne, author of the Day By Day Armageddon series that so inspired us during the development of State of Decay, is now part of our team…and will be in the Undead Labs booth signing autographs and talking survival between 1 and 3 PM. That’s between 1300 and 1400 hours to some of you. Please come by and give JL a big Decayed welcome to the community.

Sunday, August 31: Our own Drew Hobson will be hanging out in the booth, telling stories and making us laugh, from 1 to 3 PM. For those of you new to the community, Drew was the voice of Marcus… and he also played a big role in one of our expansions. Come by and ask him which one it was.

Monday, September 1: Last day. We’re always a little bit burnt and a little bit punchy by the fourth day. This is the perfect time to ask us questions.

The only question now is… will you win one of these passes I have burning a hole in my pocket? I’ll do more contests on Monday (one on Facebook and one on our forum), but here’s the first one:

Share this post on Twitter, with the hashtag #UndeadLabsPaxPrime — and let me know what day you want to attend. I’ll pick one sharing and caring person at random on Sunday, 11 AM EDT/2 PM PDT. Annnnnnd…go.



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Events, Fans, News, Studio

Are You a Superfan?

If you are Undead for life, we’d like to meet you. Without what we call our Superfans, we wouldn’t be where we are today. You don’t just like our links — you share them. You don’t just play our games — you tell people about them. You don’t just consume our games — you make them better with feedback and saves and constructive criticism. You don’t just hang out in our community — you’re the soul of it.

So, yeah. We want to shake your hand and thank you in person. Tragically, not everyone can get out to PAX Prime at the end of August, but we’re going to do what we can for two of you. How does plane fare, a hotel room, a PAX badge, and an invitation to our Thursday night media event (where we’ll unveil the latest news for State of Decay and go hands on with Moonrise) sound?

We’ll choose one Superfan based on their total participation and contribution to the community over a long period of time. (Being a Superfan is a whole lot more than your post count.) We’re going to ask you to choose one of your own in the Second State of Decay Superfan Contest.

Here’s how to enter:

Before 11:59 PM (23:59) PDT on Monday, August 11, 2014, you must make a post in the forum with two parts.

Part One: In one paragraph, tell us why you are a superfan. (For legal reasons, you must enter to be considered.)

Part Two: In one paragraph, nominate another member of the community, either by forum handle or Facebook name, and tell us why he or she is a superfan.

(The fine print is all here.)

Prizes (2 total): One round-trip plane ticket to Seattle from the nearest major airport to your home, four nights in a Seattle hotel room, one badge admitting you to PAX, one admittance to our private media event on Thursday, August 28th, and dinner with Jeff Strain and J.L. Bourne on August 30th. (And whoever else can convince Jeff we should be included, COUGH COUGH AHEM.)

Yes. This is basically the coolest prize pack we could put together, and we only have two regrets. One, we could only two prize packs instead of fifty. And two… and this is the hardest one… for legal reasons, you must be a resident of the USA.

I know. It’s the worst. Someday we are going to have an Undead World Tour, and we’re going to do something to make it up to you guys who can’t enter this contest. This I swear.

But for all of you who ARE eligible, and are willing and able to hop a plane on the morning of Thursday, August 28? Get going! The comment thread IS the official contest thread, so just click the green tape.

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Moonrise, News, Press, Studio


Today it’s my great pleasure to announce our new game, Moonrise.

Moonrise is a multiplayer creature-collection RPG for mobile devices, conceived and developed here at the Lab and published by Kabam. It’s a fun romp through a gorgeous 3D world of ancient ruins and magical creatures, with deep, real-time strategic combat, full character and creature customization, and real-time online play with your friends.

You can read more about Moonrise and our partnership with Kabam in the Moonrise announcement press release, and at the game website at We’ll also be showing the beta build of Moonrise off at PAX Prime in Seattle at the end of this month, so look for more information about the game and release details then.

Like everyone at the Lab, I’m intensely excited about Moonrise. It’s a game that embodies the same passion and spirit we poured into our first game, State of Decay. But alongside that excitement, I’m also very aware that this is a surprise to everyone who has been following the Lab for the last few years. What does it mean for us to be releasing a game that isn’t State of Decay?

First, our commitment to State of Decay is stronger than ever. Survival fantasy is in our DNA, and always will be. While I can’t talk specifics yet (and believe me when I tell you how hard that is), the long-term partnership with State of Decay publisher Microsoft we announced in January, and collaboration with author J.L. Bourne we announced last week, are all in service to something. Or perhaps I should say some things. And I think it’s safe to say those things will be exciting to State of Decay fans.

But those things — particularly when they’re big things — require time; for planning and design, for R&D and new technologies, for business and contract discussions, for new platforms to mature, and for a whole host of things that need to get done before you can unleash a full, chomping-at-the-bit game development team. So while the core State of Decay team continued to work on those things after the release of the game last summer, we built another team to take on a new project we’d been thinking about, which became Moonrise.

I’ve used the phrase ‘gaming omnivores’ to describe our personal gaming tastes at the Lab. You’ll find fans of every genre and platform here, and most of us love it all, provided it’s made with passion and respect for us as gamers. As game developers, we’re the same — omnivores. But just as we wanted to create a fresh take on the zombie genre with State of Decay, we wanted to create a fresh take on the creature RPG with Moonrise. As we’ll discuss in the coming weeks and months, Moonrise builds on the core foundation of collecting creature companions, with deeper team mechanics, real-time combat, a strong multiplayer core, and console-quality art and animation. And, of course, it’s playable on a device that most of us already have in our pockets or backpacks.

Moonrise is of course very different from State of Decay in many ways. It’s bright and colorful, it’s fantastical, and it’s on mobile. But despite those notable differences, you’ll also find that it’s very much an Undead Labs game, with a focus on systems-driven content, sophisticated progression mechanics, and a few bold design choices — such as strategic real-time combat — we think will result in a fresh gameplay experience. And, like every game we will ever make, Moonrise is a gamer-focused game, meaning it’s developed for people like us — passionate gamers who expect our time and money to be treated with respect. It’s also fully an Undead Labs game in terms of our complete commitment to the player community and long term support for the game. Moonrise is as much our baby as State of Decay, and babies needs lots of love and attention…

In my State of Decay: Year One anniversary post, I said:

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.

As we prepare to release Moonrise and continue development on the future of State of Decay, this is more true than ever. It’s been a pleasure building games for you so far, and I can’t wait to show you what we have in store for the future. On behalf of all of us at Undead Labs, thank you.


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News, Studio

What Do You See?

You are indeed seeing things. What you’re specifically seeing at the top of the website is our new logo (and some cleaner new fonts and other assorted tweaks). Just because you’re Undead for life doesn’t mean you don’t want to grow and improve, and what you’re seeing on this page is our sleeker, leaner, new logo for the Lab. We’ll be changing over Twitter and Facebook and the forums as our web team* gets around to them.

All of you with shirts featuring the old logo? You now own a collector’s item 😉

*The web team is still just Jeff. (And me, if he’s willing to trust me again after the regrettable LinkedIn avatar incident of 2012.) There are some things about the Lab that will never change.

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News, Studio, Team Zed

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!

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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!


“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:

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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!

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News, Studio, Team Zed

‘Bout Damn Time

“Did you write the code that spits out an empty page at the end of every print job?”

It was June 1996, and I was on a pay phone in the cafeteria at Hewlett-Packard interviewing for a job at Blizzard Entertainment. The guy on the other end of the line was Patrick Wyatt, their VP of R&D.

It wasn’t going well.

“Uh, no, I don’t think so. It probably…”

“Well, I think you probably did it because it makes HP a ton of money on paper sales. What do you know about device independent bitmaps? Are you familiar with CreateDIBSection()? What is the make and model of the video card in your gaming PC? What are the pros and cons of object oriented programming?”

Object oriented programming was still a pretty new concept at the time, and I had just finished a few training courses in it at HP, so I talked about that and my sweet new video card (a Diamond Stealth3D 2000 OMG 3D!) to try to cover for the fact that I had absolutely no clue what a DIB section was, much less how to create one.

Somehow, I got the job; and while getting to work on some of the definitive online games of that era was great, working alongside Patrick Wyatt on them was even better.

Patrick was a programmer and designer on Blizzard’s early console titles such as Rock & Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings. Great games, but ultimately mere warmups for his next efforts: Warcraft, Warcraft II, and StarCraft, for which he was the principal programmer and producer. As VP of R&D for Blizzard, Pat also made major contributions to Diablo and Blizzard’s gaming network.

Patrick left Blizzard in 2000 to co-found ArenaNet, where, in addition to his business, design, and production roles, he developed the core server and network platform technology for the hit MMO Guild Wars.

So yeah, the guy has some serious game development chops.

Prior to starting Undead Labs, I worked alongside Pat for almost 14 years. He’s been a tremendous mentor, colleague, and friend during that time, and we’ve made some damn fine games together. It’s true that he once called me at 5:00 AM because he hit the wrong speed-dial button when he was trying to get the surf report, but I forgave him when he took me to Carl’s Junior for a Western Bacon Cheeseburger while my wife was in labor with our first child.

Jeff and Pat living the healthy California lifestyle.

Jeff and Pat living the healthy California lifestyle, circa 1996

Today, I’m very happy to announce that Patrick has joined Undead Labs, and will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with Team Zed as we dive into the development of… well, what’s next, and beyond.

Patrick has written some thoughts on joining the Lab, which you can read here.

Welcome to the Lab, amigo. ‘Bout damn time.


PS: Patrick still insists I’m responsible for the extra blank page at the end of every print job. Of course, he’s also always insisted that every person has an NSA agent assigned to spy on them from birth, and it turns out he was right about that, so…

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News, Studio

The Road Ahead

Hola fellow survivors,

I wanted to let you know we’ve signed a multi-year, multi-title agreement to extend our development relationship with Microsoft Studios. We’ll be able to share details later this year, but as with State of Decay, we think it’s best if we just keep our heads down and build some prototypes before we talk too much. For now, suffice it to say there are big things going on with State of Decay.

If this were a press release, we’d have a carefully vetted quote from Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios, expressing Microsoft’s excitement as well. But pictures speak louder than words, and we think Phil spoke pretty loudly during the keynote at E3 last year:


Thanks to Phil and everyone on our hard working team at Microsoft Studios for believing in State of Decay!

And most of all, thanks to all of you for your ongoing support, encouragement, and enthusiasm for State of Decay. We know how far we’d have gotten if it hadn’t been for your spreading the word, and it definitely wouldn’t be here. You made this happen.

It’s been a long haul from the original vision to this point, and the road ahead of us will take years to travel. We hope you’re up for the trip, because we can’t do it without you.