One of our newest writers, Chris Smith interviewed some of the Developers working on Survivor Zero to get a first hand look at how this independent game is coming together. Join Chris as he explores how this subreddit idea has taken off and what direction it’s headed in.
With the recent launch of Dead Island, the success of the Left 4 Dead series, and the long history of survival horror games such as Resident Evil and House of the Dead; there is no mistaking the impact and enduring popularity of video games centered around the shambling hordes of the undead. However, it has always seemed to a sizable group of gamers that something was missing: namely, a sense of freedom. It had seemed to some that zombie games had always felt linear and over-directed. With this in mind, a group of gamers set out on a mission to craft the ultimate in open ended, non-linear, sandbox zombie game. That game is Survivor Zero.
For the past two months, a team of independent developers have been organizing through the popular news aggregate Reddit to exchange ideas and coordinate their talents to make what they feel is the best game that can be created on the subject. So far, the project has been shrouded in secrecy but recently, we managed to get in touch with the developers who have given us a wealth of information on this exciting project
As a whole, Survivor Zero seems geared towards exactly what its name implies: survival. Combat is, of course, going to be a part of the game, but scarce weapons and ammunition ensures that the player will be encouraged to move often and only fight when all other options have been exhausted. The scarcity of ammunition, in particular, has been stressed; so those with itchy trigger fingers will need to be very careful.
The team has stated that there will be “consequences” for combat, so attacking head on with run and gun tactics is to be avoided. For example, we were told that fear was going to be a large part of an engagement with the undead. Effects such as screen shaking, dimming, blurring, and other effects to simulate the adrenaline and fear of encountering the undead are going to be included. To quote one developer: “We’re going to have a lot of fear based nerfs.”
Gameplay is expected to be presented in first person, with controls in a format that will be familiar and imminently approachable to most FPS players. This means that W, A, S, and D will probably be used for movement, the number keys for weapons selection and so forth. Third person perspectives have been ruled out entirely, as the team believes that this would impart the unfair advantage of being to angle the perspective around corners and gain a leg up on their adversaries. Furthermore, vehicles, while not explicitly confirmed, have been strongly hinted to be a part of the game, with such options as dirt bikes, dune buggies and pickup trucks suggested as being usable by the player.
The game world itself is also an enigma for the most part, though the team has a volunteer listing for a ‘procedural generation’ programmer, lending credence to the theory that the world will be randomly generated on each playthrough and thus offer much variety and replayability. The team has stated that the game world would be “massive . . . You could probably take the GTA 4 city twice over and plunk it inside of what we’re aiming for.” Such a scale is very impressive, but the developer wants the player to be able to get lost in the world in order to better heighten the sense of danger. A massive game world just seems to make sense from this perspective.
Enemies in game have been confirmed to be slow moving zombies as seen in older, classic zombie movies such as the original Dawn of the Dead and the earlier Resident Evil games as opposed to the newer zombies favored by Hollywood and recent video games. The team has said that there will be “twists and turns” when it comes to enemy variety, but the team decided from day one that there wouldn’t be massive, tank-like zombies ripping through cars or monstrous, acid spewing abominations. The team has strongly hinted at headshot only gameplay, saying that it will be refined during playtesting; and that slowing zombies by hobbling their limbs will be essential to surviving in combat.
Aside from the main single player game; the team has implied that other game modes will be released post-production, with server based co-operative play being amongst their aims. While the exact number of players is indeterminate at this stage in development,it seems that the team is aiming for 4 players. To quote the developer: “It seemingly works.”
Other features to be included in the game include item crafting and exhaustive options for character and interface customization, hinting towards a very customizable experience that seems sure to suit a variety of tastes and gameplay styles.
On the technical side of things, the game will be running in the Unity engine and is being coded in C#. The fact that it is running in Unity is interesting for, while it will almost certainly start as a PC exclusive, the possibility exists that the game will be easily portable to other platforms and devices including Mac, Xbox 360 and even mobile platforms. Furthermore, Linux support is being developed by the Unity engine’s development team, hinting towards yet another platform on which the game could appear in the future.
As for the developers themselves, the size and disposition of the team is continuously fluctuating. At current, there are about 30 active developers, with volunteers coming and going as their schedules allow. Rather impressively, the concept artist for the project was the official concept artist for the Tarantino film ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and the art we’ve seen so far has been stellar. Musically, they even have a “mainstream composer” who is said to work for major motion picture studios. From what I have seen, the team seems quite able to bring these visions to fruition. There are vacancies in the team for various modelers, artists, animators, and programmers – especially for AI and procedural generation, as noted earlier. It is strictly a volunteer project and a link to contact the team may be found through their site and their subreddit.
No timetable for the game’s release has been made publicly available as of yet, but when it is; you can be sure that we will have it for you. A beta is strongly hinted by the team as being released at some point, and once it is we will have all the requisite links. Make sure to check back often for all the details on this project, as well as checking the provided links. This game has some challenges to overcome in its development – but it’s a great concept that is rarely tried and I, for one, can’t wait to play it. This is certainly a project to keep your eyes on, if only for its ambition and the great level of skill the developers are bringing to the table.