Zafehouse 1.5: DIY Under Extreme Conditions

By Kieron Gillen on August 25th, 2008 at 2:18 pm.

Logan Booker of Kotaku Australia isn’t just a pretty face (I’m presuming he’s a pretty face, as most games journalists are hotties. No, really). He’s made a game in one (count it!) week, and has lobbed up a second version. Zafehouse is – to quote Sean Garland quoting the RPS chatroom - “like dead rising, but with next-gen graphics”. This is an example of irony. Or perhaps sarcasm, which is the poor man’s irony, and nearly as good.

In short: Zombie-survival management game and a cute distraction. In less short, beneath the cut.

Like most of the recent PC-freeware zombie games, it’s looking more at the zombie-survivalist angle rather than the swell-explored Resident Evil-esque part. That is, it’s a game about gathering supplies (while avoiding being eaten by zombies) to spend on killing zombies. In other words, it’s about deciding what you want to spend your resources on. You have – say – ten people. In an hour by hour basis, you have to decide what you want them to do. Either send them on patrol or – er – don’t, leaving them to defend any of the buildings you’ve secured. In other words, you work out a risk/reward situation – what are the chances of a building being attacked in any given hour? When one of the buildings falls, is it worth actually trying to reclaim it to recapture its bonuses (most buildings dribble out a small amount of a given resource every turn, meaning that it’s your only definite source of more ammunition, say)? And is that guy who’s feverish going to turn into a zombie soon? And can I get enough water before night falls and I can’t go and get some more?

It’s simple, and it’s unlikely you’ll play it too many times – but it does throw hard decisions on you (Each building has a set limit of how many people it can house, leading to the possibility of having more survivors than places to house them). The cycle of daytime scavenging and night-time sieges works well – though I suspect the escalation at the end of the game with more daylight attacks is where most people will trip up first time through by under-estimating incoming waves. My two main reservations are the RPG-esque gaining of bonus traits, as the window that pops up doesn’t tell you where the person is, thus making it hard for you to remember what you were trying to specialise as. Also, you’re only able to send in a number of people to a building’s housing limit to reclear it – which can be as little as three or so. In the end-game, when there can be a couple of zombies inside a building, the inability to send in a proper army to kick those fuckers out is a little grating.

But within its limited aims, it generally succeeds admirably. And if larger developers aren’t looking at these wave of indie games on the topic and thinking that perhaps they could make something a little more definitive and rake it in, they’re being terribly unimaginative. That goes for the indie people too. What about Zombie Kudos, Cliffski, eh? Winner!

Play Zafehouse here.

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26 Comments »

  1. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    Took me three run throughs to complete it, but then us lot in the RPS chatroom have been playing it on and off for a few days. Here is a screenshot of my success!

    http://img218.imageshack.us/my.php?image=survivedsc3.jpg

    On the topic of a fully financed version of this sort of game, I could imagine it being incredibly fun to play, something very 30 Days of Night mixed with Freedom Fighters maybe? I don’t know, it’d had to involve hands on zombie bashing, and not just RTS watching, in my mind.

  2. Rosti says:

    Or perhaps sarcasm, which is the poor man’s recursion, and nearly as good.

    Gillen-isms aside, this is a cute little game. So I won’t be painting any more little dudes for a while…

  3. Sum0 says:

    Sounds like someone stole my awesome idea for a tycoon/management-esque zombie game, except it would be more like the Sims: you’d have your little isometric house, and survivors, and you could set up traps and tend to the wounded and stuff in the day before the nightly zombie attacks, when you’d run around in a simple action mode, ala Jagged Alliance or something. It would be awesome, if it ever got made. Anyway, I’ll try this.

  4. Optimaximal says:

    Next up:

    Zombie Manager… 2009!

  5. Onkel Mengele says:

    This is an all too uncanny coincidence to ignore. Thanks Mr G.

  6. wcaypahwat says:

    Mr Booker is most definatly an attractive man. I once saw his photo in one of those newfangled magazines.

    Im sure anyone stumbling into our steam chatroom the other night would have been convinced we were living out a Real Life zombie apocolipse.

  7. Briosafreak says:

    Logan rocks

  8. wcaypahwat says:

    Gotta wonder how many people were sucked in the my ‘next gen graphics’ quip though :D

  9. Cooper says:

    Nice little game. I managed to survive the first time, but with only three – but they were my original three at least…

    And, yes, bring on the development of more games like this. One day I will have my zombie survival sandbox game…

  10. David says:

    Logan Booker from Kotaku AU? Try Logan Booker, just recently hired by Aussie dev Tantalus as a game designer. That’s what happens you can code a game in a week…

  11. Richard Jones says:

    A game written in a week? Why, I run that challenge every six months and the next one is in less than 2 weeks http://www.pyweek.org/7/ :)

  12. Quirk says:

    On my first successful run through, I realised at the end of the second day that I had too many people. Way too many people. All the older hands holed up in the buildings, but the rest of the survivors were forced out into the streets to face zombie peril.

    The zombies didn’t swarm my street survivors every hour in vast numbers. They attacked them at roughly the same rate as those in the fortified positions, and there were enough of them that the zombies repeatedly got a kicking. I was edgy about sparing medicine and ammo to those outside, but I did – and got through the night.

    Come sunrise, every building was well-defended, and I had a raiding party of about eight street survivors. They went out to find water. They weren’t very good at it, and they were taking a regular beating off the zombies, but they were just good enough. Once the water situation was somewhat resolved, I turned my attention to ammo and fortifications, rebuilding the zombie depredations. It was with something of a shock that I realised I only had a couple of hours left to go. The final zombie rush was a slow-motion, shambling Charge of the Light Brigade into prepared positions and overwhelming numbers of well-armed enemies.

    (29 survivors, 7 lost, 996 zombies dead. 1168 survivor hours, score 5222).

  13. Sum0 says:

    What would be awesome in 2.0 would be a psychological simulation: your survivors would all have different levels of morale and different psychologies, so seeing your best friend reanimate as a zombie would send them batshit insane (others might refuse to shoot them, or maybe curl up in a ball and give up) and if you left them out on the street with no weapons, the angrier types might burst into your buildings and try to redress the balance by force.

  14. Weylund says:

    @David: Most skilled programmers can code a game in a week (or much less). The games just might not be this good, or this much fun.

    It also got served out through Kotaku… I can’t imagine how an indie dev could possibly get a better jump-start.

    Congrats, Logan, wherever you are. Fantastic game. I played it about six times last night. Hope you like the new job!

  15. Mike says:

    I have a horrendous hack of the source code that lets you specify your own player names. Good if you’ve ever wondered how the British Olympic Team would fare if they were faced with a village of zombies.

    http://sekritforum.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=1167

  16. Weylund says:

    I’ve made some changes to the source, mostly fiddling with combat and gameplay, plus some annoyance-reduction.

    Changes I’ve made:
    - increased time limit to 240 hours

    - randomized weapon damage (using original as a base of course)

    - allowed multiple zombies to be killed at once

    - randomized ammo usage

    - allowed melee users to defend barricaded buildings at reduced ability

    - randomized building bonuses

    - increased building capacities

    - increased initial resources

    - given building bonuses for inhabited buildings only

    - implemented “courage” — more courageous survivors will do bonus damage; killing zombies and surviving fights will increase courage, losing friends or getting hurt will decrease it, survivors with courage <= 0 will refuse to fight

    - survivor perks are automatically given based on courage / weapon at time of promotion

    - allow reinforcement for inhabited buildings only

    Being worked on:
    - increase sizes of zombie attacks at all times
    - reduce chance of zombie-less evening hours

  17. Weylund says:

    Oh, and I forgot to add: “…and it’s way cool. Hope you’re all having fun with the source code.”

  18. James says:

    Brilliant little game. Vanilla sucked me in for far longer than I expected, though I’ve yet to actually win a round. Personal best was being overrun with nine hours left on the clock. That was painful.

    Also, those changes seem like they could be interesting, Weylund. Any chance of releasing it publicly for us coding-illiterate folks? It seems like they might throw the (Relative) simplicity of the vanilla version around a bit, but I’ll try anything once.

  19. Ian says:

    YAS! I beat it for the first time. Sadly, it looks like most of my tactics which got me through won’t be possible with the changes. :p

    If we re-download the game will those changes be in the new version, then?

  20. Ginger Yellow says:

    My first successful run saw me get a pretty low score – 14 survivors, 2988 points. I think I was trying to man too many buildings – I kept running out of supplies. Now that I realise that survivors outside aren’t going to be overwhelmed (if there are lots of them), I won’t be so fetishistic about keeping all the buildings with full barricades, which killed me at the end. I reckon focusing on a few buildings during the night might work better.

  21. Weylund says:

    @James and Ian: I might release it somewhere. The changes do make things more interesting — what used to be “oh shit” moments now become “holy crap, this guy might make it!” moments. And resource management is really intensified — I had a five-day run where all I was doing was searching for water to try and keep alive my ever-growing tribe (people survive quite a bit longer in my version, but this is not inherently a good thing, especially over 240 hours — I’m considering chopping that back a bit, or removing “church” survivors altogether, since the game mechanics just can’t handle the massive numbers of survivors + long periods of time).

    Overall my version is a little less “gamey”, but the 240-hour timeline really makes things plod, and the much stricter and easier to understand outcomes of the original game are pretty much thrown out the window. The guy who designed it knew what he was doing, definitely.

    I am considering greatly increasing the number of zombies that are attracted by people outside at night… zombies’ll attack buildings, but unprotected fresh meat should send droves of them into a frenzy.

  22. Carra says:

    Loved it :)

    Bit too easy though, tried again after a first try of 20 rounds. Beaten without loosing a single survivor and 6125 score.

  23. The Shed says:

    Sounds extremely like Urban Dead, if a bit more focused. Will try shortly.

  24. Logan Booker says:

    I know this is an old post, but for anyone reading, Zafehouse: Diaries, the sequel, was released recently.

    All the details can be found at the website: http://www.zafehouse.com.