t’s been a few weeks since we announced Project Zomboid now.
One thing that’s popped up more than a few times is the prospect of outliving the apocalypse, and siring children to carry on your duties of post-apocalyptic survival.
The first obvious problem to this is the prospect of adding children to the game. Unless we made them invincible, which goes completely against the point of the game we’re trying to make, then having zombies munching on a baby is a little much and exactly the sort of attention we don’t want for the game.
Ban This Sick Filth
Well okay, actually it’s perhaps the exact attention we want for the game, secretly.
However we’re not making a game for the intents of shock value and controversy, and really don’t want that to become ‘the thing’ the game is known for. (That said we’re sure to add modding support at some point, if others want to cross that line)
So… that’s one reason why living on generation after generation is a problem for our game.
Secondly, and more fundamentally, the long haul is not what this game is about. For a start, we recently calculated that with a 24 hour in-game day that feels the right length for the game, and taking into account the time spent sleeping (and therefore the game skipping hours), it will take approximately 6 hours of playing time to survive a month of in-game time.
As The Will Porter put it, that’s equivalent of a modern day FPS.
So is that a problem? Perhaps people want to survive for years?
Well the surviving for years isn’t really what this game is about. Here we’re telling the story of your death, not your triumphant survival against all odds.
The game starts with you within the confines of a quarantined city. The outside world still oblivious to the truth of what is happening, but this will change. Once they are hit by the apocalypse, those other people will be much more able to deal with the zombie threat. With time to prepare for the situation, or to flee for the frozen tundra where the Zomboids would merely freeze. They may survive. But you are inside the confines of a quarantine, squeezed in with a million zombies, and there’s no getting out. You’re fucked, if you pardon the language.
Like Dwarf Fortress, the community of which has a motto which is ‘It’s fun to lose’, what we’re offering here isn’t a game where your characters goal is to save the world, find a cure or flee to the promised land.
The goal here is purely to have the most unique and remarkable adventure leading up to your eventual and inevitable demise. One that you can tell your PZ playing mates about, or could chronicle in a blog diary, or record on youtube, or draw a web comic of. A unique and deep story of your final experiences that others will find engaging and enjoy hearing or reading about. So you’re destined to die. Pessimistic and bleak? Perhaps, but what we’re looking to accomplish here is to strip the formal ‘main quest chasing’ mentality of playing the game.
After all, to use Morrowind as an example, it’s the exploring and finding random quests to do that ultimately provides gamers with the most fulfilment of an RPG, to the point they usually end up forgoing or delaying the progression of the main quest until they have gotten what they want from the rest of the game. Worrying that the quest they are doing will turn out to be a main questy one and push them closer to the end of the game.
So we’re trying to provide a pure sandbox where the goals are inherent to the situation the player is in, or the character the player chooses to role-play.
Are you on a desperate bid to locate your missing wife so you can at least be together when the end comes? Perhaps you’ll make a run at the quarantine border and see if you can get away, before being ripped apart with gunfire? Maybe you’re using the situation to your advantage and hoarding weapons and recruiting thugs to establish dominance over the remaining survivors of the city?
You make your own goals, and hell, if you play a single game long enough and are lucky enough, then you may end up surviving for many months. But there are two other cities in the tristate area you are in, and once they fall, there will be a fresh sea of undead stumbling in your direction. There’s simply no end that doesn’t involve your death.
That all said, we want to provide plenty of rewards for the player who survives longer than you’d expect an average player to. As we stated in the original feature list, at about a month after the game begins, after the zombies go worldwide, the power station providing electricity to your city goes offline. And suddenly that’s a massive game changer.
That one thing suddenly shifts how you survive and changes the game-play in a quite significant way. No longer are you raiding fridges for fresh food, or using ovens to cook it. Plunged into darkness at night means torches and batteries become a prized commodity, and the value of different items suddenly change. Some become survival musts, some become completely redundant. Canned food become the most sought after item in the city, and can openers are worth more than gold.
We have some exciting ideas on how to provide a strong but optional narrative that the player can choose to follow, for as long as they survive, that will help a lot to tie together an otherwise completely sand boxy and story-less game.
That, along with randomized NPCs and quests, will hopefully ultimately provide an environment where players can have remarkable, funny, tragic, shocking things happen to them and their companions, stories worthy of telling others.
And if you have got 5,000 likes on youtube for your hilariously botched shopping mall looting excursion, that will probably be a more satisfying game reward than getting a YES YOU SURVIVED CONGRATS. THE END screen. Ammarite?