A Blood Red State: Dead State Revealed

By Kieron Gillen on August 25th, 2010 at 4:00 pm.

Only Steers and Zombies come from Texas
When the Obsidian/Troika veterans Doublebear announced that they were making a Zombie-themed RPG, there was an immediate response in our comment thread. Namely, posting comments. It was then codenamed ZRPG. Now, it has a real name. It’s going to be called Dead State and we’ve got the first hard information, screenshots and an interview with head Doublebearer Brian Mitsoda.

Dead State is set in Texas in the fictional town of Splendid, in the middle of nowhere. The idea being to create a landlocked place with few large cities and a distance between towns – and, metaphorically, a dying area in real life too. The game is predominantly rural and suburban in design, with the major cities basically forming a natural border for the map area. Because, frankly, due to the disaster, the cities aren’t where you go.

You’re in charge of the local shelter – a school – which works as your base of operation. The basic mission is survival. You go out, gathering food and finding allies – and every person who can join you is a defined personality. You stay in, improving your defences and upgrading equipment. The sort of elements of the game are discussed further in the FAQ but the key element is freedom. The game doesn’t have any defined enemies. Yes, it has people who you’ll likely end up hostile to, but other groups of survivors will like or dislike you based upon your actions to each other.

Zombies, of course, won’t like you at all. It’s a zombie purist game, concentrating on shambling brain-eaters rather than any manner of super-sprinting-zombie. Alone, they’re not really much to worry about. In large mobs, attracted by gunfire – like, for example, you may engage in when fighting other survivors for precious supplies – they’re rather more troublesome.

In short, with its freedom to explore and lack of a classical arc, this seems to draw heavily from the Fallout well. Marrying that to an unexplored (in this particular genre) theme, and we’ve got something that’s terribly exciting for anyone who cares about RPGs. We talked to Brian Mitsoda (ex-Troika, ex-Obsidian) about what’s waiting out there in the desert…

No zombies around

RPS: Can you elaborate on your vision of zombies? What are you trying to evoke in the game? What kind of things have influenced you?

Brian Mitsoda: On paper, our zombies are really not supposed to be threatening. They’re dumb, they’re slow, they’re unorganized – your very basic shambling corpse. They’re only dangerous when you forget about them. Make too much noise, get cornered, ignore them – that’s when they get dangerous. Most games deal with a Night of the Living Dead scenario where you have to survive one night, one wave, one map. We’re dealing with a long-term zombie threat, where you have to worry about keeping people fed, friends getting bit and infected while scavenging, and the desperation of other human beings. Honestly, the game is not about the zombies, but about how people react to a crisis and what they are willing to do to other human beings and even members of their group to stay alive or protect their own. The zombies are just a cause, like economic collapse or a massive earthquake, and it’s really the human self-preservation instinct and the survivor mentality that we’re interested in portraying.

I think the interesting thing about a disaster is this mentality that everything is going to be okay – that “someone” is going to come in and save me, of course. This idea that as long as you aren’t in immediate danger, you can keep your head down and hope the problem will go away. We’re short-term thinking creatures and we don’t like to think of the big picture implications of our actions – global warming, borrowing money, cutting education/space spending. I think rationally we want to believe the governments of the world would mobilize quick enough to stop a zombie plague (only infected people rise from the dead in our game) but I think that generally we’re only mobilized when we are directly threatened. By the time people start to notice the dead walking in their neck of the woods, the problem has spread beyond containment. The zombies in Dead State are a faceless (sometimes literally) force and dealing with the zombie problem is a lot like waging a war on an ideal.

Still no zombies

RPS: You’ve said that you don’t want to have “The bad guys” and can find ways of working with or pissing off anyone. Care to elaborate on that?

Brian Mitsoda: Allies in the game are people who have asked to join or have been convinced to join your group. We did this because we wanted a large pool of unique survivors and also because we wanted some randomness in the makeup of your group. You probably won’t be able to find everyone in one game, and your dealings with many of the survivors may be different depending on how you govern the group, how much they get along with some of the others, their mood/morale, and when you bring them in. Morale tracks the overall mood of the Shelter – if it’s positive, mostly people are happy, if not, you need to start raising mood and accomplishing goals that will make people forget about the horror outside. Allies won’t be 100% loyal to you once they are in the Shelter, so you’ll have to throw them a bone every so often or impress them to make them stay. In a way it’s like being a real leader – you can’t make decisions that please all of the people all of the time.

When we say we don’t have bad guys, what we mean is, we want to leave the moral judgement up to the player. There’s a very specific type of person or organization that might survive a major catastrophe, as you can imagine. We have some other groups in the game, and a few that had a head start over the player’s ragtag bunch. For example, we have a group that is primarily made up of members of a militia. They’re pretty much the kind of people you think you’d find in a Texas militia group, but they were quite prepared for a social disaster to hit the area. You may not like them, but you might be able to come to an arrangement with them (especially if one of your allies knows them), though they may not be keen on it if you’re aiding a group they hate. It’s more likely the militia doesn’t want anything to do with you.

Most of the groups either don’t want to deal with you or they just want your stuff, so convincing them to work with you or teaching them to fear you will take some doing. Not everybody wants to be found and most people will see you as a potential threat. NPC groups will act against each other, so sometimes your help or inaction can have an effect on other groups. We let the player choose their allies and their enemies – there is no ultimate bad guy threat to all the groups, well, I guess unless the player manages that.

ZOMBIES!

RPS: The Combat system will be turn-based, without full party control – though with room for you to equip characters – and heavy on psychological modelling. What are you trying to evoke with the system?

Brian Mitsoda: As I was mentioning earlier, we wanted to make our allies feel as though they were individuals rather than extensions of the player. They can be ordered around by the player, but as to whether they will follow that order or not depends on their ability, their aversion to the task, and their respect for the player’s commands. That might make it sound like they will NEVER do anything you say, but really what it means is if your ally is scared of zombies and you tell him to run into a pack of zombies, he’s most likely going to ignore the order or do it and possibly start panicking as the zombies start to mob him. Each ally has different perks and personalities, and most of these can be altered by your interaction with them. Through dialogue/time they might grow to respect you and be more likely to put themselves in danger to protect you or your encouragement might make them fearlessly aggressive – there’s quite a few ways you can shape their behavior, and not always in healthy, feel-good back-patting.

The big difference in our group and something like Jagged Alliance is these are normal people with little to no combat experience, not a veteran squad of commandos, so they handle like you’d expect them to. It’s best to think of them as intelligent Gradius options – they’re there to assist and absorb damage. They make combat much easier than going it alone, but they can die and you’re really going to have to work at it to bring everyone home all the time. Sometimes you may have to let someone go to get the rest of your group out safely. If everyone else is at the rally point and one ally is still in that house surrounded by ten zombies, let ‘em go, ‘cause they’re gone.

RPS: Care to talk a little about the difference between human and zombie opponents, in terms of how they work in game? I especially like a the genre-staple of a firefight against humans where the gun-shots attract zombies.

Brian Mitsoda: Assuming you’re not hitting a human hideout, humans you meet out in the field are likely to be in small groups, ready to confront you for the same resources or just because. Some of them were working in a frozen yogurt shop up to a few weeks ago, and others might have been hardcore gang-bangers with access to heavy weaponry. Humans are faster than zombies, better armored, and a lot more likely to kill you one-on-one. They might actively seek you out or they might try to stay hidden. Just like our allies, they have their own overriding combat imperatives. They’re unpredictable, which makes them dangerous.

Zombies, on the other hand, are unorganized. They could be anywhere, but their behavior is predictable – they are attracted to noise and will attack the first human they see. They don’t care about sides, so if your opponents are using loud guns, the zombies will go after them. If you can use the zombies to your advantage, you might be able to take on a larger force – and there are some items/strategies that can help with this – but it’s a gamble. It’s generally never a good idea to invite zombies into an area you want to explore. And don’t forget – enemies (and allies) killed by zombies will get back up!

One thing we really wanted to capture with the gameplay was that feeling of dread that was a big part of X-Com. You only have line of sight to what you and your allies see. It’s very easy to be in a situation where you turn the corner and there are five zombies waiting there or a case where you fail to properly sweep a bedroom and one lunges out of the walk-in closet while you’re about to search the dresser. I think that’s a big part of the zombie genre, that experience where your friend gets bit that one time you weren’t careful. It makes the zombies in the game scary and the exploration very tense, rather than just consisting of killing all the enemies in the area and opening all the containers, repeat ad nauseam.

Zombies nearby, probably

RPS: I suppose leads to another question – what sort of AI does the zombies have?

Brian Mitsoda: Well, we only have one type of zombie – three if you count crawling zombies and zombies that have been set on fire. Zombies are attracted to sound – in fact, you can even make noise to try and lure them out of a building, If you’re unsure how many there are. There’s a noise meter in the combat interface to let you know how much noise has been made. Make noise, local ones will come to investigate. Make a lot of noise and distant ones will start looking for you. Make enough noise and zombies will be lured to that map. It’s okay to be loud once in awhile, but if you sustain noise for too long, they’ll be coming from all over. Stay quiet for a few rounds and they will forget about you if you haven’t been spotted.

Zombies will attack the closest human target that they can see. It may look like they are intelligently mobbing someone, but it’s most likely that the NPC had the unfortunate luck of being the closest or loudest thing in the area. It’s hard to predict where or when they will show up, since they might just be randomly walking around the map. On their own they’re pretty weak and slow. They really gain the upper hand when people get isolated or occupied with another task.

Unfortunately, zombies that see humans will often start moaning, which increases the noise in the area. If a character gets surrounded, generally they won’t have enough action points to destroy all of the attackers in one round. Zombies will frequently lunge to try and knock down humans, to gain better access to the squishy parts. And if an NPC is already weak or wounded they are susceptible to being infected, which is a permanent status, assuming they survive. Infected NPCs will become zombies if they die in combat or stop receiving antibiotics, which is the primary way to control the infection in our game.

RPS: The Shelter is a school. Why did you decide on that – and also, could you elaborate how it leads to interaction. The game ends if it’s taken, I believe, and it’s the place for the whole hotbed of internal interactions, yes?

Brian Mitsoda: We chose a school as a shelter because American schools are frequently used as emergency shelters for many communities and modern school designs resemble prisons more than schools. They’re designed not only to keep kids in, but to keep out people who aren’t supposed to be there – security windows and doors, metal detectors, perimeter fences. We worked off a couple of actual school layouts – it was fortunate or maybe sad that these schools were built like fortresses.

The shelter is where all the allies can be found – and it might seem like a pretty safe place to be, but once the danger of zombies and starving humans is escaped, you have the petty bickering and power struggle of the allies to contend with. Your player is the leader of the group – there’s going to be a lot of people sniping at them and expecting the player to give them special treatment. You’ll have to gain the trust of allies, raise the general morale of the shelter, and make deals with other authority figures to try and keep everyone loyal. Allies will come to you with their problems or requests and they’re going to expect you to help them – sometimes this means favoring one over another or bribing them with an extra ration. Dialogue skills will help, but they usually open up alternate solutions rather than just bypassing the decision. If you make a promise to someone, they will expect you to follow through, and within a certain amount of time too.

We have certain situations – crisis events – that require the player to make especially difficult decisions. These decisions affect the law or policies of the shelter’s inhabitants, and most every ally will lose or gain confidence in you when you make these decisions. If you have authority figures in the school, they will want to recommend a course of action and depending on how well they respect you or if you consider their advice, they may be able to persuade other allies that you made the right choice.

For example, one crisis involves the supply of antibiotics running low and dealing with the school’s infected allies. You might want to make finding antibiotics a priority or give them to a few key people, or kick the infected out, but it’s not an easy decision and some people are going to die, some will hate you, and some will think you run a tight ship. This is the political side of being a leader, and I think it’s one of the more exciting parts of the game’s story mechanics.

The day night cycle. They mostly come at night. Mostly. That's what Newt said about the aliens. Fuck knows about zombies. I'm just riffing here.

RPS: It’ s a survival game. Hence, food matters and such things. Care to elaborate how you see the game working here?

Brian Mitsoda: We definitely wanted Dead State to be about survival, and we needed a resource to reinforce this. Allies need food every day. If they start to starve, it causes morale problems, which can start to impact the ability of the shelter to function. Having to go out for food is risky, but necessary. For gameplay mechanics, it prevents the player from just turtling in their shelter. It also organically raises the difficulty of the game – more allies, more food needed, more (and farther) locations need to be reached to gain access to food (and the chance of running into more hostile groups). Then you factor in luxury items to help with morale and fuel for generators and parts for shelter upgrades and there’s an awful lot of reason to go out and search for more people to help. The more you have, the more you need, and so on. Also, food and other items can disappear over time due to the looting efforts of other groups, so the game gets a bit harder as it goes on, and forces you to start taking risks, like trying to loot riskier areas or take on larger groups for their supplies.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Dead State will be released “Not in 2010″. We’ll be following it as it lurches towards release. You’ll find further information at Dead State’s site.

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192 Comments »

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  1. bleeters says:

    This sounds wonderfully interesting. Colour me intrigued.

    On the other hand, zombies again. Zombies again. For the love of God make it stop.

    • Kryopsis says:

      I don’t see what the moaning (heh) is all about.
      Yes this game has zombies but it is treating the subject matter like very few games in the past. Here:

      “The zombies are just a cause, like economic collapse or a massive earthquake, and it’s really the human self-preservation instinct and the survivor mentality that we’re interested in portraying.”

      When was the last time you played a zombie game where the design philosophy wasn’t “let’s kick zombie ass and chew bubble gum and we’re all out of bubble gum”?

    • Alexander Norris says:

      It’s worth noting that “zombies are just an excuse to look at how people perform in a crisis” was basically the original philosophy of the zombie film genre, and pretty much every single game to feature zombies has instead been about shooting them in the head.

      This is a real, actual zombie game.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      @Bleeters: I’m patiently awaiting the declaration of “Dead Genre”.

    • elyscape says:

      @l1ddl3monkey: Yeah, but then it’ll rise up as an undead genre.

      Sorry.

    • pagad says:

      To be honest, I fail to see how zombie shooters saturate the market. You have Left 4 Dead, obviously, but beyond that? :/

    • Premium User Badge

      El_MUERkO says:

      Zombies are awesome, because lots of crap games and movies are being made containing zombies that does not mean we should ditch the genre.

      This looks awesome, sign me up!

    • TariqOne says:

      @Alexander Norris

      Yes. A thousand times yes.

      Zombie games and (the great) zombie films are fundamentally different and unequal animals. In the former, zombies are little more than non-controversial human-shaped gunfodder you meet in the corridor you’re running down. In the latter, zombies tend to be little more than a massed flesh-eating MacGuffin, driving the claustrophobic and ultimately destructive conflict among the survivors.

      What makes great zombie movies great is, in my view, the way they tear societal fabric to shreds, toss together bunch of people of varying demographics who weren’t very pleasant or well-adjusted even BEFORE the PTSD set in, and then tell them to get to work creating a functional humane society in a farmhouse or mall somewhere. Oh yeah, that should work out well. Oh wait, it never does.

      Even the best zombie games have yet to produce a moment like that in 28 Weeks Later ( a middling zombie film overall), when Robert Carlyle, all but trapped in a farmhouse with his wife and a strange child they found, closes them in a room full of zombies and hightails it outta there, leaving her to scream and desperately pound away at a window while watching him flee. It’s clear who the bad guy is there (though really, wouldn’t we all be a little tested). And it ain’t the dead guy chewing on the kid’s face.

      This game has the potential to get to the core of what makes the zombie canon so compelling. If it succeeds, it’ll makes all the meh zombie games and mods almost worth it.

    • Jad says:

      @pagad

      While I agree with you that the zombie genre is not particularly over-saturated, you’ve missed a few: Dead Rising (DR 2 is coming to PC), Killing Floor, Resident Evil games (sorta), Zombie Nazis in COD:W@W’s multiplayer, then all of the zombie-themed indie games like Zombie Driver, Burn Zombie Burn, Nation Red, etc.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I wonder Romero will think of this, after mentioning that he wasn’t sure if the core of his zombie films could translate into a game.

  2. Ian says:

    Will it have a zombie mod? Every game has to have a zombie mod.

  3. dalziel86 says:

    So it’s pretty much ‘Walking Dead: The Game’?

    If so, I am gonna play the shit out of this game.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Having just watched the trailer for the TV series, that’s totally what I was thinking about.

      KG

    • Davie says:

      Exact same thing comes to mind. In which case, this should be pretty interesting.

    • Kadayi says:

      I kind of think the comics run it’s course now (it jumped the shark for me some time back), but I must admit the TV series looks like it could be pretty interesting.

    • Muzman says:

      Yeah, if it’s a lot like the comic it’ll avoid all the tough stuff in preference to exploitation cheese. Here’s hoping not.

      Lookinglass had a vague design plan for a game called ‘Better Red than Dead’ back in the day, which was all about leadership, factions and survival in a zombie apocalypse (as the title suggests, Communism makes an appearance). It seemed way too ambitious for its time and I’m sure marketing probably told them you could never sell a game that’s both depressing and not expressedly anti communist to Americans.

    • Po0py says:

      Holy Sh!t. The Walking Dead has a TV series! WHY WASN’T I INFORMED OF THIS!?!?

    • Snall says:

      Frankly I’ve been following this game since its announcement (And I go over to Irontower a lot to check some other games) but I didn’t expect it to look so pretty.

  4. Ian says:

    Also, this sounds sort of how I imagined a dream version of Zafehouse could be.

    *goes to check on Zafehouse 2 news*

  5. DigitalSignalX says:

    Level of excitement rising. Just finished World War Zombie and I need some sort of fix. The features sound awesome, but the turn based combat needs to be clarified some. There’s time though.

  6. bwion says:

    I’m not really a zombie fan, but the descriptions of this game sound fantastic and I want it yesterday.

    (Pleasedon’tbeabrokenmesspleasedon’tbeabrokenmess, etc.)

  7. Seras says:

    looks awesome!

    maybe this will replace what i hoped Fort Zombie would become.

  8. 18Rabbit says:

    I’m always tickled to he about another turn based strategy game and this one looks like it could be pretty awesome. :)

  9. R. says:

    Troika and Obsidian veterans? Awesome, it will be the best written, least playable game in history. William Hill are probably already offering evens on it having more bugs than your local zoo’s insect house.

    On a more serious note, I loved everything I read there apart from it being turn-based.

  10. Jakkar says:

    Excellent little interview, very glad to see ZRPG finally open up to the public eye a little more. I’ve been wandering their forums since announcement, and it’s a nice community. Please don’t troll it now D:

    .. Dead State.

    Woo.

    Sounds a little more locked down/less free than I hoped, but we don’t need another Fort Zombie I guess. I love that game to bits, but fuck, it’s a mess.

  11. linfosoma says:

    “Honestly, the game is not about the zombies, but about how people react to a crisis and what they are willing to do to other human beings and even members of their group to stay alive or protect their own.”

    Sold! Im tried of zombie game,s but that right there is a winner.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      This; this is completely what the zombie genre is about. Zombies represent our fear of death (they’re slow, they’re inexorable and they get everyone in the end) and in a good zombie movie/game/book (whatever) they should only be a backdrop of gradually increasing dread against which the deeds of the survivors are measured.

      The way the genre is supposed to work; being eaten or turned by zombies is the punishment for either being too trusting of the wrong people or failing to preserve enough of your own humanity. They’re a harsh judgement on the selfish and the weak, basically.

  12. ClownBaby says:

    So it’s ‘The Walking Dead: The Game’ then?

  13. Premium User Badge

    Flimgoblin says:

    ooooooooooooh

  14. Garg says:

    The “Obsidian veterans” and the description of the game make me think of a much more in depth version of the Crossroad Keep stuff in NWN 2. Which is a good thing.

  15. Premium User Badge

    JB says:

    Oh good gods, I was looking forward to ZRPG anyway, but that right there sounds magic.

    I’ll start hoarding bottled water and hammering nails into my baseball bat now so I’m ready for the release.

  16. Davie says:

    In terms of overall concept, this sounds really amazing. However, the turn-based combat is a real turn-off. I have yet to find a genre that actually benefits from turn-based combat. I always thought it had the opposite effect of what they’re intending–it kills the tension and sense of dread, because you know you have as much time as you want to plan.

    Still, it should be worth checking out.

    • Sporknight says:

      @Davie:
      The thing about the real-time combat in this game is that it’s semi-unpredictable. There was a war game (I dont remember the name) that was semi-turn based, in that you gave orders for how you wanted the next minute to play out, and then your men would try to execute those commands to the best of their abilities. Then, you’d assign orders for the next minute. I’m guessing this is going to play out similarly, in that you gain it being turn based, but sacrifice complete control over their actions.

      Remember, the plan is always the first casualty against the enemy. You can think you have it all worked out, only for one of your men to turn tail at the worst possible moment and ruin everything.

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      @ Sporknight.

      Combat Mission is probably what you were thinking of. Also see Frozen Synapse.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Is there actual confirmation that this will use WEGO? Because yeah, IGOUGO just sucks all the suspense out of everything, but more games need to use WEGO.

    • Davie says:

      Ah, in that case, it’s not a problem. I have limited experience with that sort of combat style (all I can really think of are the squad orders in Mass Effect) but it’s far more interesting that way. Basically, I don’t just want to end up dying because I moved forward, and then a zombie came around a corner and bit my head off while I stood there twiddling my thumbs. That sort of situation is what makes turn-based combat so annoyingly unrealistic.

  17. Kieron Gillen says:

    I do like how this thread is basically the equal and opposite of the XCOM threads.

    KG

    • Metalfish says:

      This is exactly the sort of game that the sort of people who (sort of) read RPS have been sort..*ahem* asking for. Sort of.

    • Neut says:

      I reckon this game would work better as an FPS with AI squadmates where you have to investigate maps for food and loot and then escape when the going gets too tough. :P

    • Baboonanza says:

      I think it would work better as a MMOTBSRPG.

      Actually….

    • golden_worm says:

      Someone should set VDweller loose on this thread.

      BTW where is Age of Decadence?

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      Last I heard, Age of Decadence had all its content created, and they are going through the final testing-bugfixing iterations.

  18. Some Dude says:

    Turn-based Sims with zombies?

    Doesn’t sound very appealing.

  19. RagingLion says:

    This sounds absolutely awesome. I really does sound perfect with the only caveat for me being turn-based combat reducing the immersiveness and real-ness of the scenario, but I’ll wait and see how that plays out in the game. All the social interaction stuff sounds great. Only other game this reminds me of a bit is what some of ‘I am alive’ was promising, but that could be anything at this stage.

    More games like this please. More!

  20. Bluepixie says:

    Where players control super zombies?
    Joking aside, ex-Troika, ex-Obsidian? I’m excited? Are you excited? Yup.

    Myself and a friend of mine have always thought a game like this could be done (thought about making it) but with the Terminator licence.
    Think about it, how awesome?

  21. Matt says:

    The initial description of “zombie RPG” didn’t sound too interesting to me. But after reading about the long term perspective, the social dynamics, the balance between defense and foraging for resources, etc… I’m incredibly intrigued. This sounds like it has the potential to be a top notch game.

  22. Xercies says:

    Wow i was just thinking i wanted a great zombie game like this and here it has come. This is pretty close to my perfect zombie game. Though i wish you could change where your based. And also if you wanted to..go into the cities like in walking dead but you have to be very very careful so you would only go in there once or twice if you were desperate.

  23. Web Cole says:

    The fact that he mentioned both X-COM and Jagged Alliance makes me vair, vair excited for this one.

  24. Alexander Norris says:

    Slow zombies, turn-based RPG, detailed characters and a focus on psychology, politics and survival?

    This just made me go “Yessssssssssssssssssss.”

    • Web Cole says:

      My thoughts zigactly.

    • Kryopsis says:

      My own thoughts are a combination of the above posts along with “wow, some people are really bad at reading comprehension” with regards to some of the comments here.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I should add: the prospect of not controlling party members’ actions and of them instead being individuals with their own behaviour is a massive plus point for the game.

    • Robin says:

      Yeeessssssssss

  25. Army of None says:

    CONSIDER THIS BOUGHT!

  26. Alexander says:

    Was it just me, or was the RPS front page down for about half an hour before this story appeared? By-the-by, the game looks superb. The inclusion of the shelter is pleasingly reminiscent of UFO’s upgradable-invadable-defendable bases. The premise and mechanics also echo the excellent board game Last Night On Earth.

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      Last Night on Earth looks great, watched a video tutorial of it not long ago. Gotta get me some of that.

    • Alexander says:

      It can take a little time to get going, but otherwise it’s pitch perfect. Production values are much higher than in the Zombies! series, and the inclusion of a soundtrack CD was a nice touch.

  27. Little Billy says:

    Why must it be turn-based? WHYYYYY?!

    Turn-based is ALWAYS terrible in video games. ALWAYS.

    • Alexander says:

      One word: Civilization

    • Alexander says:

      One acronym: UFO

    • Alexander says:

      A bunch more words: Masters of Orion; Fallout; Alpha Centauri; GalCiv2; Advance Wars; Front Mission; Hearts of Iron; Combat Mission…

      You, sir, are wrong.

    • bhlaab says:

      Counterpoint: You are terrible

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      That was a fairly good troll.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I’m not going to begrudge anyone a turn-based game, since there does seem to be a big lack of them lately, but personally I’m not a big fan. Turn-based combat is the surest way to get me to start looking for a “skip combat” option. Which is a shame, because otherwise this game sounds very cool. I’ll probably give it a look when it comes out, since if the stuff that isn’t turn-based is good enough I’m usually able to muddle through it. Fallout 1 and 2 for example. It’s just that with games like that the combat portion becomes me getting frustrated when I have to do anything more than repeatedly click an “I win” button.

      This may make me a terrible person, but I just can’t wrap my head around turn-based thinking. I also dislike board games, and am generally terrible at them. I often describe it as an experience in “slowly losing,” which isn’t much fun.

    • Ozzie says:

      I don’t like turn-based combat in most games either, but it just depends on how it is implemented, like always. For example, Fallout never allowed much tactical options, and the chances were always much lower than it said (if you had a 50% chance, you’ll hit every fifth time or so. Huh?). Also, save game cheating was possible. Save before the turn of the enemy and if you didn’t like the outcome, reload, try again.
      This wasn’t possible in Jagged Alliance 2, for example, and I think it’s also otherwise a really good example for turn-based combat. Having enough time to think everything through doesn’t make it easy or takes the tension away, especially when many enemies move and you see how your carefully thought out tactic crumbles with the actions of every foe.

  28. laikapants says:

    Oh my my, someone read part of my mind and made something out of it. Moderately frightening. Of course the game in my mind was UrbanDead + L4D + S.T.A.L.K.E.R. with online semi-multiplayer, but I’ll gladly take this. I’m gonna go sit in a corner with my 12 gauge and an axe until this comes out.

  29. roryok says:

    I just had a wonderful experience I simply must share.

    I went to the frontpage of RPS, clicked on a post about a zombie game I’d never heard of, and got all worked up about what DoubleBear might come up with. I even posted a comment about how good I hoped it might be. “It could be great” I thought “but this is just the first news of it. It’ll be years before its out”

    Then I realised the post I was reading was from August 2009 – I stupidly clicked through to the original announcement, which had somehow eluded me. So I’ve gone from feverish anticipation of a game thats years off to suddenly having details and screenshots in front of me in less than a minute!

    Yes, I’m a bit dozy today

  30. JohnArr says:

    Seems like I’ve been waiting for this game for 15 years

  31. moonkid says:

    Sounds fantastic, if it ends up playing the way they describe.

  32. Ignorant Texan says:

    From the vegetation, it looks as if it’s set somewhere between Austin and Dallas. Which is roughly a 220 mile trip. Means the area has to be fucking huge, if the ‘major’ cities are the game’s borders.

    Plus, I like the greeting on the site’s home page.

    • Nick says:

      wooo! texas! woo! zombies!

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Erm, yeah. Texas + zombies could cover most of this state. I just hope if the game’s voiced, they use actors who have at least visited. Although it’s a parochial concern, I am past fucking sick of hearing some generic ‘Southron’ accent with a twang overlay. The TDPS models give me hope, though.

  33. Rane says:

    For some reason I remembered it having full party control which would have been even better considering it’ll be turn based. Guess I’ll manage with PC control only though.

    I’m sold nonetheless.

    One huge pragmatic asshole of the zombie apocalypse coming right up.

  34. Dude says:

    Hooooly shit. I’m so psyyyyyched, you guys!

  35. Shadrach says:

    Oh yeah, this sounds very awesome indeed. Once I read about slow shambling zombies and how you have to think about survival in the long run I knew I had to check this out closer. Having read World War Z last year I’ve been wanting a game like this bad.

    Turn-based combat definitely adds a element of unpredictability to a game and if executed well will be fine. What would be even more awesome would be a “wego” mode like the Combat Mission games where you give orders and see them acted out in realtime outside your control, it would add a lot of suspense.

    Hope it models stuff like thousands of zombies outside a perimeter moaning 24/7 might even drive a poor defender insane even if fully supplied. Castle Mentality :)

  36. Serenegoose says:

    I’ve been wanting this game since forever.

    Or rather since I played stalker and L4D and thought “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a zombie game – the old school style of zombies – where you had to worry about food and ammo and shelter, where the ultimate goal was simply to survive?

    And now someone is making it. Hooray! (admittedly I envisioned it more as a ‘you are alone, you are in a large city, you have 12 rounds of ammo, and the safe zone is 12 miles —-> that way, good luck!’ but this sounds even BETTER.)

  37. Flint says:

    Wow, bizarre to see so many people complaining about turn-based combat here in RPS.

    Next you know there’ll be demands for cutscenes for the game.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Maybe it’s because the insane every-game-must-be-a-RTS phase has passed. Good! Feel our pain RTS fans!

    • Tuco says:

      To me its being turn-based is a major selling point for this game.

    • Urthman says:

      I was excited about the cutscenes until I found out that they’re skippable. ARGGH!

  38. Nihileth says:

    I’m so over isotropic turn-based combat, but the premise of the game makes whatever direction this takes gameplay wise take second place. Games which are about survival and, to some extent, ‘make-your-own adventure’ type games are usually the ones where I really sink in the time as opposed to big epic storylines. I hope this doesn’t end up featuring some evil mastermind zombielord that needs to be killed!

  39. RedBaron says:

    Was getting really hyped …until I read that it’s turn-based.

    Damn.

  40. Baboonanza says:

    What is wrong with all you people? Every other bloody game is not-turn-based. You get Diablo 3 for christs-sake. Stop shitting on my parade!

  41. Vinraith says:

    I don’t care about zombies, but a turn based isometric RPG with psychological, political, and survival elements is just too good (and too rare) to pass up. Apologies to those that were hoping for something brainless, I guess you’ll just have to play virtually everything else on the market.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I don’t get the idea that if it’s real time it has to be brainless. I would love a game like this with slow, tactical combat. A game with complicated survival elements, where choosing to explore in a given situation is a resource cost that must be carefully weighed about expected resource gains, requiring decisions based on taking limited information into account. A game where you have, at best, half as many bullets as enemies.

      The fact that I’m constantly re-evaluating my situation second my second as opposed to turn by turn doesn’t mean that I’m not required to evaluate my situation. The fact that I’m not required to lock in my actions for a given arbitrary set of time regardless of what the enemy actually does in that time doesn’t mean that I don’t need foresight, or the ability to plan ahead. The fact that I’m required to aim at an enemy and fire at them in first person rather than select “attack” on them from an isometric view doesn’t mean that I put any less thought into target selection.

      As I mentioned earlier, I don’t begrudge anyone their turn-based game. There is definitely a huge lack of them, and if I was a turn-based fan I would be disappointed by this dearth, and consequently elated at the news of this game. But as someone who just can’t get behind turn-based (especially in any game that is supposed to be atmospheric or tense in anyway), I’m a little bit disappointed that this game, that otherwise sounds amazingly different, and exciting, and interesting, is going to be turn-based. I still may check it out, but turn-based is something I can endure in a game, if it’s otherwise good enough, it’s not something I have fun with. The idea that people that don’t like turn-based games can just go play one of the 100’s of other games like this one that are real-time is crazy because there AREN’T any other games like this (there are, as mentioned in other places on this thread, games that are sort of similar in some elements, but this game has a whole host of unique features and ideas) turn-based, real-time or otherwise. It would be like telling people complaining about XCOM to just go play Civ if they want turn-based. UFO and Civ are totally different games, the fact that they are both turn-based barely unites them at all.

      So yeah, congrats to turn-based fans for getting what sounds like a really cool game, though as someone who isn’t a fan of turn-based, I’m a little personally disappointed. Also, there are advantages and disadvantages to both turn-based and real-time, but calling all real-time games “brainless” isn’t a fair or accurate portrayal, just like calling turn-based games “boring” is neither fair nor accurate.

  42. Jim Rossignol says:

    Was there ever an Aliens game made along similar lines?

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Not that I know? There should damn well be, though.

    • Alexander says:

      Squaresoft supposedly released an RPG-lite Aliens tie-in for the MSX in 1987. I remember it getting a mention in an early issue of Retro Gamer. Can’t find any screen shots, or a description of the game that goes beyond confirming its existence.

  43. Freud says:

    Xcom meets I am legend. Sounds great.

  44. PipBoyXXL says:

    Gah, turn-based combat makes me fall asleep.

  45. Jad says:

    So, Fallout + Jagged Alliance + Majesty + The Sims + X-Com + zombies? One word: awesome.

    I now feel sort of dirty breaking it down that way, because it really doesn’t sound like a random collection of games but an organic extrapolation of the concept of a long-term group-based zombie survival game. I really hope it lives up to the premise and that one of those ambitious mechanics doesn’t turn out to be flawed and buggy.

    —-

    And what’s with all of the hate on turn-based games here? Didn’t we all go nuts that XCOM is an FPS now? Aren’t we all excited about Civ V? Didn’t people explode when the pseudo-turn-based pause-and-play of Dragon Age became Fable-esque crappy action?

    And I say this considering myself an action-games-first gamer. I love FPSes, particularly the highly arcadey ones, like Painkiller and L4D and Call of Duty and Unreal Tournament. I’ll even admit to playing MW2 multiplayer (I’m evil and I’m trying to take PC gaming down from the inside).

    But even I can get behind a really good, deep PC-centric turn-based game like Jagged Alliance 2 and Civ IV and various space 4X games. I think Dragon Age would have been improved if it had gone full-on turn-based tactical-strategy rather than the compromise it had.

    Anyway: for this game, turn-based sounds goddamn awesome

  46. Fault_and_Fracture says:

    Seriously people, if you have a problem with turn-based RPG’s, you are completely insane. Well-designed turn-based games can be much deeper, allow for much more planning and strategy, and really convey a sense of dread and foreboding that RT simply cannot. If this game was to be RT than the combat would likely be a boring, monotonous “click-fest” while also being a total clusterfuck with way too many NPC’s on screen at once to even have a chance to manage the combat.

    And can anyone actually name a real-time isometric RPG that actually had a good combat system? I’m thinking games like PS:T? Arcanum? NWN? They all had mediocre to bad combat systems. Now do the same with turn-based. Fallout? Jagged Alliance 2? TOEE? They all had decent to amazing combat systems. There simply is really no other way to make an intriguing, interesting and deep isometric combat system then to make it turn-based.

    I have a feeling most people who complain about games being turn-based have never played Jagged Alliance 2, and until you do you, your opinion on this matter is basically irrelevant.

    PS. Totally “stoked” for this game and the other Iron Tower Studio releases (AoD!).

    • Tuco says:

      I fucking agree with you. People complaining for turn based combat are just ignorant.

    • Garg says:

      NWN and PS:T did have turn based combat, it just didn’t pause at the end of each turn. They’re dungeons & dragons games, so they obviously are turn based. In fact I think it was an option to turn on autopause in NWN.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Arcanum had a turn based combat system. It had the option of realtime, but playing it like that is madness. It’s a poor example, however, as Arcanum’s combat system was horrifically poorly balanced. It was awful either way. I don’t recall PS:T being real time? But it’s been years since I played it, and it would certainly explain why I found combat so difficult.

    • Urthman says:

      There was an interesting interview with Ken Levine about Freedom Force on the Three Moves Ahead podcast in which he speculates that one of the reasons Freedom Force had trouble was that it was designed to be a pseudo-turn-based — the designers intended for the player to pause the game constantly to plan and execute tactics with each character individually — but that a lot of people tried to play it like an RTS, without pausing, making the combat unmanageable and unfun.

      http://flashofsteel.com/index.php/2010/07/20/three-moves-ahead-episode-74-classic-game-analysis-freedom-force-w-ken-levine/

    • bhlaab says:

      “NWN and PS:T did have turn based combat, it just didn’t pause at the end of each turn. They’re dungeons & dragons games, so they obviously are turn based. In fact I think it was an option to turn on autopause in NWN.”

      No. No.

    • Garg says:

      Yes, yes I’m afraid. I played KotOR and it definately has an option to turn on autopause. It’s the same engine and basic ruleset as used in NWN. Just because it doesn’t pause automatically after every turn doesn’t mean it’s not turn based.

      Man you get as many turn-based game facists as real-time it seems.

    • Premium User Badge

      oceanclub says:

      “There was an interesting interview with Ken Levine about Freedom Force…”

      Yeah; the first time I played the game I assumed that pausing was relatively unimportant (it being hard-corded to the rather inaccessible PAUSE key). Once I replayed it after mapping that key to a mouse button, I found it a lot easier going, queuing up complimentary superhero attacks and then unpausing to unleash them. Some of the heroes require a lot of micro-management (at the beginning, Diablo is a bit of a wimp).

      P.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      PS:T, Arcanum and NWN (and KOTOR) had no RT fights. Their devs tried to combine turn-based with RT, but instead of implementing true RT with active pause they used turns (6 seconds per turn in DnD based games) and also hidden initiative, which usually played rather minor part. And they had so called active pause, but it wasn’t working the way it should. So there were these awkward moments, when you ran off from evil guys, hid behind stone wall 10 meters away and got hit by his micro dagger and by his colleague’s fireball. Just because the first one was standing in your general proximity and the second one saw you across the corridor – 5 seconds ago. It was tedious. Also your character could run, but not shoot because it wasn’t his turn yet. The animations tried to comply so magical teleportations were not uncommon (especially NWN and KOTOR)

      I think that UFO 3 a.k.a. X-COM Apocalypse might have a *true* optional RT, but as much as I love this game I don’t remember trying that more than once, it was so unmanageable. And I don’t know anyone who played it RT style.

    • Rane says:

      Characters acted simultaneously in PS:T and NWN. So nope, they weren’t turn based. They might have been based on a PnP ruleset where combat obviously was turn based but the adaptation to a video game removed the turns. Now every character acts at once, performing the number of attacks they have available to them per round. Just a different way of having cool-down timers for your actions. But no turns involved in either game (outside of being a spell/ability duration in NWN equal to 10 rounds/1 minute).

      If you can’t see the difference then there’s nothing more to say.

  47. pkt-zer0 says:

    Hah, amusing Street Fighter reference.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      I noticed it too

      Awful pun in the promo screen shots = Good sign

  48. Binni says:

    Shaun of the Dead: The Turn Based Strategy RPG?

  49. CMaster says:

    I do like what they’re trying to do, in terms of NPCs with motivations, fairly emergent gameplay, genuine wealth of tasks to do. It will be hard to make work though.

    From my point of view however, I hope there are some goals to work towards, some (hopefully multiple) story threads to latch on to, other than just “survive until you lose”. Something to work towards, some aim, some end would be good. I’m also not overwhelmed by the descriptions of the turn-based combat. I think at small, squad level straight up turn based makes combat more of a chore and tedium than anything else. I liked Fallout etc but the fighting largley bored me. XCOM was excellent all around but honestly, I expect something more along the dull lines.

  50. Caleb367 says:

    Hivemind? I was thinking about The Walking Dead too. Three seconds after I thought “HELL YEAH”.
    I can’t honestly remember what other zombie game was bent on surviving rather than shooting everything that moves.
    Got this in my closely watched list.