Case #

08.7.14

Researcher

Subject

Events, Moonrise, News

Pinny Arcade, Now Featuring Moonrise Pin

If you’re into pin trading, you’re in good company…if you think of the Lab as good company. We were lucky to be included in Pinny Arcade for PAX Prime 2014 at the end of this month. Each player who does the Moonrise demo at our booth in the 6th floor hall (#6103, can’t miss us, you’ll see the giant tower labeled MOONRISE from the entrance), will get one of these nifty keen collectible pins:

I need a home.

I need a home.

I’ll have more information about the Undead Labs booth (#N5, fourth floor, behind the escalator) coming soon.

Case #

08.6.14

Researcher

Subject

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.

Case #

08.4.14

Researcher

Subject

Moonrise, News, Press, Studio

Moonrise

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 moonrise-game.com. 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.

Jeff

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 #

07.25.14

Researcher

Subject

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.

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!