Q: AbsolutePhenom: Can we play through the game as one character without having to play as other characters? (Assuming we don't die.)
A: Essentially, yes. There are moments early on where we have you try a second character so you can choose who you prefer as your starting character, but outside of that you’re not actually obligated to switch characters.
Overall, you’ll probably find the game easier if you do use multiple characters. Otherwise, you need to play very efficiently with an eye on your stamina and a focus on choices that boost your stamina overall (good food supply, medical care, a comfortable place to sleep, etc.) or on tools that don’t rely on stamina (cars, guns, explosives, etc.)
If you didn’t do those things, you would want to stop playing for a while when your character became exhausted. Nothing actually forces you to rest or switch off when you’re too tired to sprint, but you’d be at serious risk of death. It would be a very hardcore way to play.
EDIT TO ADD 3/25/2013: We have since the original publishing date come out more strongly against attempting it. Nothing in the game has been designed, tuned, or balanced with the lone wolf style in mind. Attempt at your own risk
Q: Multiple people: If I play Class 3 cautiously, do my characters have to die? Or does the game assume that you must regularly acquire new characters and shuffle between them?
A: Generally speaking, you will be able to play cautiously and avoid dying. But there’s a difference between what is possible and what is likely for most players. One of our goals, as we’ve balanced the game has been to make deaths always feel like they were deserved. You know you screwed up, and you know you could have done something differently.
Even so, I wasn’t kidding about nearly guaranteeing that you were going to die. I’d be shocked if the vast majority of people didn’t at least lose a character or two while learning the ropes, and I think a lot of players will lose more than that. Not constantly, not every time you play, but when it’s been a while, when you’ve gotten comfortable enough that overconfidence sneaks in. That’s when you’ll decide two bullets, a cracked two-by-four, and a molotov cocktail are going to be enough to clear out a completely infested building.
Q: Bx79: In the design, how many survivors makes the ideal group?
A. That’s really up to your play style. The story doesn’t really force you to rescue anyone in particular, so who you rescue is up to you. It’s a strategic (and moral) choice.
Having more people means having a more diverse set of skills and abilities and means your home is better able to fend off zombie attacks. On the other hand, more people means more mouths to feed and a higher burn rate for ammo and medicine. Recently, I’ve run with as few as three and as many as twelve, but we’re continuing to tune the experience, and these numbers are still very much subject to change.
Q: M: Will survivors (when you are not playing them) be able to decide for themselves to sacrifice themselves for the greater good?
A: That can happen. Your survivors, when not being played directly by you, have their own minds and motivations. When they are in extreme danger, they will make the best choice available. This may mean running away. It may mean going out in a blaze of glory if they think they’re going to die. If you want to keep them alive, you need to defend, protect, or fight alongside them.
Please note that while you are offline, your survivors will not die.
Q: Ryan A: Speaking of greater good, if you were to save someone slow and a bit lame would we possibly be able to shoot him in the leg and use him as bait for zombies if we’re caught in a tight spot?
A: Interesting idea, but no. You could sprint away and ditch him though, or you could throw a noisemaker like a firecracker or alarm clock his way and then crawl into a bush and hide while the zombie hordes are drawn to his location. (Note to self: Do not join Ryan’s survivor cell.)
Q: DarkForceLegend: What happens if you pick a survivor that meets your play style, but the survivor has a bad attitude, or a trait the other survivors don't like? Does (s)he radiate that same bad aura when you play them?
A: To a certain extent you’ll have conquered some of the psychological issues in order to play as the character. So the bad attitude will primarily be an obstacle to earning trust and building a friendship. Once you’ve got that survivor, you won’t tend to be excluded from content because of their personality, but having characters with traits like “Selfish Asshole” (actual in-game trait) does affect community morale and how eager others will be to share with you.
Q: DarkForceLegend: In regards to my community of survivors...Can I eventually set my community up to run on its own with little to no input from me, or do I have to babysit everyone? Will they eat if there is food and there hungry, will they defend themselves if a zombie trespasses, will they perform their job without me telling them to do so?
A: Even from the start, the community will attempt to manage itself when you aren’t intervening. There are limits to what they’ll do on their own (they won’t tear up a garden you planted or convert the last available space in the yard to a library, for example), but eating food and killing zombies are basic survival actions. They’ll handle that on their own.
Q: Multiple people: Will there be gear and clothes we can use to customize the appearances of our survivors? Will backpacks and guns display?
A: Backpacks do show and you can swap out your backpack (for reasons of aesthetics, weight, noise, or capacity). Unfortunately, stowed weapons do not show and you cannot change outfits. This was really just a matter of development focus. We think those are cool things and changing outfits is absolutely essential for Class4, but we were not willing to push back the overall schedule for this. Ultimately, working on the core mechanics took precedence.
Q: Multiple people: Do all skills start from zero, and characters can only strengthen skills they’re born with? Or can anyone eventually learn every skill?
A: Character progression (and community progression) is worth a whole article on its own. Characters are specialized to some degree; for example, most characters can never learn some of the special things physically strong characters can (e.g., additional combat techniques with a sledgehammer), but the majority of skills and bonuses can apply to anyone.
Q: Multiple people: If time passes when I’m offline, how can I make sure I still have a community/a base when I get back from vacation/deployment/boot camp/overseas work assignment/divorce/birth of a new child? I’m concerned that I won’t have much fun because my base will be overrun (or vanish) when I can’t play for days at a time.
A: We would suck at our jobs if that was the case. Seriously. Only playing once a week is pretty normal for some people. Taking a break for a month is something that happens sometimes, too. We are balancing the game with that in mind. (You may have heard rumors of the crazy hours that game developers work. Sad as it is, that means I don't have time to play games every day. So think of it this way: I'm not going to screw myself.)
We probably want to write a full article about how the world simulation works, but I can tell you some fundamental features of the system: The fact the world continues while you are logged out isn’t implemented as time pressure to force you to log in every day whether you have time or not. In practice, there’s no reason that being logged out for a week has to be all that different than being logged out for a day. These are balance factors we can tune.
The core point is that whenever you are away for a while, the state of the world will evolve based on how you left things. If things are basically in good shape, you will come back to find your survivors rested and some resources stockpiled (garden advanced, etc.). Invariably, the threat will ramp up a little too, with things like increased zombie activity in areas where survivors have been active, and maybe some new challenge like a disease outbreak, but these are meant to set the stage for how you play, not substitute for you having played.
And just to be clear: your home will NEVER be destroyed while you are not playing. No matter what shape you leave it in. What kind of game designer would have a moment like that happen when you can’t be traumatized by it in person? (Well, hopefully one who had some slick storytelling in mind. For this kind of game though, we want you to see and experience the trauma firsthand whenever possible.)
Q: It would be nice if there was a "normal" mode and an "easy" mode. This way the normal mode players can have their worlds continue even when they aren’t playing and the easy mode players can have the world stop when they log out.
A: A big thing to keep in mind is that the events that happen while you are logged out aren’t all negative. If the world simply froze, your characters would never rest or fully heal up. The game is really designed to be a balance between these two elements, set up the world state with your actions and then reap the benefits (or detriments) the when you return.
Part of what shaped our thinking is that Class3 is a precursor to an online world game. The world won't stop for you in Class4, so we have to make sure all of these mechanics are fun and well-balanced in Class3.