Running Out Of Fingers: How To Survive

By Jim Rossignol on May 31st, 2013 at 10:00 am.


The real issue with the deluge of zombie games isn’t that there are now too many to play, but that it’s impossible for us to write an intro blurb without some kind of eye-rolling “zombies, eh?” going on. Anyway, EKO and 505 Games send word of the informatively-titled How To Survive, which will once again pit you against the apocalypse, only this time in a real-time third-person action game with multiplayer modes. The press blurb says: “In order to survive, you must fulfill the most basic of needs – seeking out food, water and shelter, as well as crafting dozens of tools and weapons from fishing rods to Molotov cocktails. Players can also team up with other survivors in local and online multiplayer story and challenge modes to take on a growing array of the infected.” How To Survive sounds a bit too much like Dead Island for my liking, with it stranding on “a remote archipelago off the coast of Colombia in the aftermath of an unexplained accident.” Hmm.

Anyway.

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33 Comments »

  1. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    The basic needs list doesn’t cover the most proper way to cover up “human droppings”? That shit smells.

  2. MuscleHorse says:

    How to survive? Don’t Starve.

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    golem09 says:

    The definitive zombie game hasn’t been made yet, nothing comes even close so far.
    So I encourage more trials.

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      cpt_freakout says:

      I, too, approve of this. We need all the zombie games we can get, like Snoopy.

    • RobinOttens says:

      So what aspects are missing from the current crop of zombie games that make them fall short of being definitive?

      I for one could do without the zombies for a while. They’re horribly boring, uncharismatic and uninteresting enemies to pin your post-apocalypse survival games on.

      • aepervius says:

        A zombie game where not only you can make your own weapon a-la-dead island, a better way to use firearm than dead island, location limb cutting (necessary for special zombie), and a minecraft style building game for your base, tower defense, and so forth, multiplayer, with loot randomly laced a la dayZ.

        We get a bit of this and a bit of that, but every zombie game is a bit lacking. I guess that’s because it would be too expansive to have all feature.

        • Shuck says:

          Also it’d be nice to see Romero-style slow zombies in a game with those features, so the real threat comes from huge masses of the dead and the game takes on a slower strategic element where it’s about avoiding getting trapped, circumventing the masses, or gathering the resources to plow through them when necessary.

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        golem09 says:

        And that is exactly the problem with most zombie games so far.

      • Kaira- says:

        Dead State so far seems to be the only zombie-game shaping up to the form of the medium. The thing most zombie-games forget is that zombies aren’t the primary antagonist, but rather a catalyst for a situation where to examine how humans interact with each other under the pressure of survival. The Walking Dead managed to do this rather well in a tight narrative-driven game.

        • plugmonkey says:

          Indeed.

          As a simple start, and to create an immediate departure from pretty much every zombie game I’ve ever played so far, I would suggest the following as rule #1 for any ’2nd generation’ zombie game:

          1. You are NOT immune.

          There. Fix that, and everything else will follow. Zombies are bound to get a bit dull if you remove their only threat.

          • Chris D says:

            That would probably make it more interesting from a narrative standpoint, but mechanically haven’t you really just replaced hit-points with instadeath?

          • plugmonkey says:

            I have. I’ve given you 1 hit-point. A relatively benign enemy, but the slightest lapse results in (eventual) death. Like Demon’s Souls, only more so.

            It might seem harsh, but that’s zombies for you! If you’re not going to take that and find a way to turn it into engaging gameplay then you might as well pick a different antagonist. It’s like toothless vampires. Aliens with a technology far behind our own.

            Wouldn’t playing by the proper rules be more interesting to explore than crafting ridiculous weapons to massacre 100s of things that pose no threat at all? I think so. The novelty wore off that about an hour into Dead Rising 2.

          • Chris D says:

            I think the issue there is that not many games have managed to make interesting and engaging gameplay out of just one hitpoint. It was more common for games descended from the old arcade machines and there’s a reason hardly any modern games use it.

            ARMA is the recent example I can think of that comes closest, and that has a reputation as being particularly harsh and unforgiving. Alternatively there are larger scale strategy games like Warhammer but that’s a different kettle of fish, and the concept of “you” doesn’t really apply there any way. The reasons hitpoints are so ubiquitous is that, despite there issues they do solve a problem quite well and that problem is that instadeath isn’t really all that much fun.

            If someone can come up with genuinely interesting gameplay I’ll take it, whether that uses one hitpoint or many, zombies or no zombies. Mostly, though, unless a developer has a genuinely original idea of what to do with them I’d rather they go with the “pick another antagonist” option.

          • plugmonkey says:

            Well, you can have only one hitpoint without a game turning into something quite as abrupt and hardcore as Arma. In that not only do you have just one hitpoint, your enemies have rifles…

            Zombies are slow and clumsy. They’re going to struggle to hit you. Even if they do, they might not get the ‘critical hit’ that kills you right away. I suppose the point is to create the right feel for the fiction. Basically, if there’s a zombie in front of you, you’re probably OK. If there’s also one behind you, then you’re in trouble. If you’re surrounded by the things, then you’re screwed. That’s the feel I want in a game.

            Most games that feature zombies start off by surrounding you with them, and then go from there.

          • Chris D says:

            I see where you’re coming from, although once you’ve established a critical hit system you’ve effectively said “You have a 1 in X chance of dying when hit” at which point the player assumes they will usually survive X hits and will feel cheated when they die from the first one. Really at that point you might as well just give them X hitpoints and have done with it.

            I think Dead Rising did the whole slow zombies thing quite well. One or two weren’t a threat but if you got careless and let yourself get surrounded you were in trouble. Admittedly at that point you pulled out a lightsaber you’d crafted from a flashlight, which might not have been quite the gritty feel you were after.

          • plugmonkey says:

            Yup. Or rather than having a random roll, you could have “it takes you this long in range to be compromised”, in which case you are essentially giving a rapidly recharging pool of hit points again.

            But the semantics – how many hit points, or whether you don’t have hit points, or whether you do have hit points but handle them differently, or call them something else – while a fun design discussion isn’t really the point. That’s the means rather than the ends.

            The point is that the fundamental nature of zombies is that they are deadly, deadly poisonous. That’s the fantasy you’re setting out to recreate. I really want to see a game that plays by those rules. It probably means it can’t be a single character, narrative driven experience, but that’s really no bad thing.

            I think it’s a more interesting game, and a more interesting design discussion, if you leave the poisonous nature in than if you take it out. Potentially more challenging on both counts, but still more interesting; and if you don’t want to solve that conundrum then why pick zombies?

            (The usual answer being that you’re allowed to brutally dismember them as much as you like without anyone calling the police.)

          • Chris D says:

            Alrighty then. In that case I reckon we’re looking at something like a small scale tactics game or party-based RPG. Multiple characters would remove some of the sting of instadeath, and also if you’re alone then turning is just another way to die, seeing a friend turn on you is where the true horror lies. We want death to sting a bit of course so we’ll add a customisation/xp system so that it’s not just another faceless grunt you’re losing.

            I’d perhaps take some liberties with zombie lore and say rather than simply becoming another faceless member of the horde they retain some of their skills and perhaps instead of attacking immediately sometimes they’ll retreat and reappear at the head of another group later on, so that as the campaign progresses you’ll be haunted by the faces of those you lost along the way. We’ll also dangle the possibility of a cure in front of the player so it won’t be quite so easy a decision just to use a bullet to the head every time someone is bitten.

            Might also say that not every bite is infectious but some just take a while to take effect, say two or three battles down the line. Maybe you got lucky but you can’t know for sure.

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      soulblur says:

      I would be fine to see something like zombies, but perhaps a little more weird. Mutant rabbits, for example, but sharp, pointy teeth. They hunger for carrots … and flesh! Or perhaps it’s time for vampires, via I Am Legend, to make a return.

      I rather liked Dead Island. I found it irritating as well. But the idea was sort of interesting, even if the execution was a bit off (and the plot ridiculous. And the ending frustrating). But the meleeing was fun, and I liked trying to rebuild bases so survivors could survive.

      • Caiman says:

        Agreed, these days I view zombie-focused games as an indicator of a lack of imagination. If they can’t innovate the setting, what faith do I have in the rest of the gameplay? The concept sounds suspiciously like picking popular gaming tropes and combining them into one that hasn’t been tried yet. In this case, Z stands for Zzzzzz.

      • Shuck says:

        “Or perhaps it’s time for vampires, via I Am Legend, to make a return.”
        I agree, though that’s basically a zombie game*. That book was the basis for the modern zombie movie, after all – “Night of the Living Dead” being an unlicensed film adaptation.

        *But with the added dynamic that the zombies all go away during the daytime, and you have to keep an eye on the clock as you don’t want to be caught outside a fortification at night. Playing MInecraft for the first time, my initial thought was, “This is a pretty good game version of ‘I am Legend.’”

    • CrispinFister says:

      The definitive zombie game will never be made because “zombies” is a lame novelty fad that went out of fashion about 20 years ago. It’s like waiting for a bunch of hipsters to come out with a great new rock album, it will never happen because they are misguided and talentless retards who live in the past with nostalgia glasses that warp reality completely until the past is unrecognisable to anyone that actually lived through it.

      People who make zombie games are like hipsters but even less cool (which is pretty uncool). They can’t think of new ideas, they can’t draw, they can’t act, they can’t do anything right because they have nothing going for them. They think that having zombies in a game should be enough to make it GOTY material when it takes everything BUT zombies to make a great game.

  4. Chris says:

    This zombie survival bandwagon is overloaded to the point of breaking an axle, not to mention the horse pulling it is so exhausted that it lies in the street whilst the driver of the cart whips it fruitlessly.

    • plugmonkey says:

      It’s really not. Scroll back through RPS and see how the zombie “deluge” compares to sword ‘n’ sorcery, or war, or space. As others have said, we’re still waiting for someone to really do the scenario some justice.

      The only creaking bandwagon is the one journalists jump on for an easy ‘in’ into whatever article they’re writing. A game featuring zombies, eh? I know! I’ll start by perpetuating the myth that there’s nothing but zombie games these days! That’ll get the ball rolling!

      I suppose there’s more than there used to be, and they’ve also become a bit too present everywhere else in life. That new GiffGaff advert is profoundly cringeworthy, for a start.

  5. Grey Poupon says:

    The problem with zombie games is that there’s a gazillion bad ones and a few good ones and they all look the same. I can rarely be bothered to even try them out unless there’s a lot of the right kind of hype.

    • staberas says:

      No amount of right hype will make me play a zombie game, Srsly ITS A ZOMBIE GAME

      • benkc says:

        Then don’t click on the article. Seriously, just don’t click on the article. I know you have it in you.

  6. Little_Crow says:

    The ultimate survival game has already been done, it was ‘Robinson’s Requiem’. It’s really a ‘stave off death just a little bit more each time’ simulator – but that amounts to the same thing.

  7. ostrich160 says:

    Cmon now, we can do a survival game thats isnt zombies. Minecraft and dont starve are two examples, and they can be made serious, you just need to use your imagination

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Are you playing Minecraft on peaceful?

      • ostrich160 says:

        Well it have more zombies. It have spiders and skeletons, and endermen and endermen in dragon form. It has zombie pig people, and flying squid things that shoot fireballs. It has slimes and fire slimes, it has little insects that hide in rocks, and flying fire monsters. And we havent even got to the creepers yet.

  8. Dachannien says:

    For a second there, I read, “in the aftermath of an unexplained accent.”

  9. NotToBeLiked says:

    I’ll most likely try this game if doesn’t come up with ‘special’ zombies to make fighting them more interesting. I want a zombie survival game that uses zombies more as an environmental threat with a more realistic approach (ala X of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead), and doesn’t keep throwing spitting, superstrong or exploding zombies at me. I hope Nation Dead gets it right, but it doesn’t hurt if another title is going for that vibe.