View Full Version : A short game of Zafehouse: Diaries with the RPS crew (plus special guest)

Logan Booker
27-09-2012, 04:19 PM
You might remember a small game called Zafehouse (http://www.zafehouse.com). If you don't, that's OK -- it was released all the way back in 2008. As far as games go, it wasn't the most graphically spry, but it did get the attention of the fine folks at this very site, who were kind enough to write words about it (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/08/25/zafehouse-15-diy-under-extreme-conditions/).

I'd been meaning to code a successor for a long, long time, but I was never entirely satisfied with the ideas I came up with. I made about three prototypes over the course of four years, before settling on what you're about to see. But fleshing it out wasn't something I could commit to, working full time, so I made the decision to quit my job and go indie for real.

That was 12 months ago.

Now we're almost ready to release Zafehouse: Diaries, the sequel. Though in all honesty it's more of a spiritual successor. The idea behind Diaries is not to kill waves of zombies -- though you can do that -- it's about managing the relationships, motivations and prejudices of your survivors, getting them to work together, in the hopes that you'll last long enough to be rescued.

These relationships affect everything in the game, from how well the survivors perform at different tasks, to the types of events that occur, to who gets used as bait when the undead swell around you're makeshift fortress. You can check out more of the features here: http://www.zafehouse.com/about

We're also on Greenlight (http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=97230840), so if the game intrigues you, grab the demo (http://zafehouse.com/try-the-demo) and try it yourself. It's a little buggy, but we're a two-man team and our focus is on making sure the retail version is a good as it can be.

Now, for the game. I couldn't think of a better way to introduce it to you than to throw RPS' writers -- Jim, Alec, Adam and John -- into our post-apocalyptic world, along with everyone's favourite and completely insane AI, SHODAN.

For laughs, obviously.

Here's a shot of the custom content manager in the game:

http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/custom_01_small.jpg (http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/custom_01.jpg)

As you can see, I've already placed our protagonists into the manager. The interface for doing so is pretty straightforward: http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/custom_02.jpg

You can get larger versions of these images by clicking on them!

You can import popular image formats, scale and crop them to get the ideal photo. Then you just tweak the character's vital statistics to be as real or fantastical as you want. Of course, for balance purposes, we don't let you do anything extreme.

That's what the C#-coded mods are for (http://www.zafehouse.com/2012/08/choose-your-own-apocalypse-custom-survivors-modding-and-diary-editing/).

I've made everyone aged 30 (sorry guys if you're younger / older), except for SHODAN, who I'll make a wise 65. Alec, I decided, would make the perfectly librarian, so I selected that as his occupation. We can also change his background, education and other statistics. These values are used to determine the prejudices in the group.

I'll leave the choices I made for the others as a surprise. For now, let's jump into the game.

http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0000_small.jpg (http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0000.jpg)

This is the opening scene of Zafehouse: Diaries. We see a nice Polaroid of our starting location, along with some information about our rag tag group. SHODAN, her name capitalised, sticks out oddly, but that's because she thrives on attention.

The intro mentions that SHODAN isn't getting along that well with the RPS guys, so why don't we find out why...

http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0001_small.jpg (http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0001.jpg)

This is the relationship screen. It shows us the state of the relationships between the survivors, including any prejudices they might have towards each other. SHODAN, being a bit posh, isn't a fan of the middle-class.

Sucks to be you, Adam.

Let's try and inject a bit of realism into SHODAN's background. Let's spread a rumour that she committed a crime, a serious one, against a male foreigner. I think that's about as close as we're going to get to the storylines of System Shock 1 and 2.

With that sorted, we end the turn to see what carnage this rumour will cause in the group: http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0002.jpg

That didn't go down well... at all. But SHODAN makes up for all this new-found hate by searching like, well, a super-intelligent AI. She tracks down a carving knife and some snacks while Jim cooks up a storm. Turns out I made him a chef, so I shouldn't be surprised he's making pasta in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

So I know I ballsed-up my group's relationships with that crime rumour, but let's see just how bad the damage is: http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0004.jpg

SHODAN doesn't have a friend in the world, and Jim and Alec aren't exactly on great terms. I can only spread one rumour per day, so I'm just going to have to watch this play out.

The group is done with the starting house, cleaning it out completely of sharp-edged utensils and carbohydrate-heavy consumables, so it's time to head out somewhere to get a few slightly more useful items.

To the store!


This is the equipment screen, where we can decide what our intrepid, yet doomed, crew should take with them. Turns out we have a fair few items, including a handgun with 6 rounds (I'm sure that will last). Seeing as Jim went to the trouble of cooking up those meals, we should bring them along because a) they're delicious and b) we don't want to hurt his feelings.

We also select the "Breach" order at the top of the screen, though if we were feeling oh... smarter... we might investigate and even assault the store, to reduce the number of zombies around the location. But that creates noise, which could bring in more zombies, so we're just going to kick the door down and hope for the best, action dude style.

We get inside, fight a few zombies and... John gets bashed up pretty bad. Being the pill-popping fiend that he is, John's going to try and steal our only bottle of painkillers.

But SHODAN sees everything.

http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0006_small.jpg (http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0006.jpg)

This is one of the game's many dilemmas, where you have to choose an action and live with the consequences. We decide that John can have the painkillers, because that's what friends facing imminent zombie death do for each other.

Oh, yes, the zombies.

Poor Jim.


I guess chefs don't make the best fighters. At least his memory will live on in this scrumptious creamy mushroom tortellini.

So, we lost Jim, John's high as a kite and the group's cohesion has taken a turn for the worse. Let's view the relationship pentagram (well, quadagram): http://assets.screwflystudios.com/rps/screenshot_0008.jpg

I'm happy to start taking bets on how this is going to end.

SHODAN's a bit beat up and we can see she has a few stat modifiers in the top-right corner. Negative ones, of course. Unfortunately, we don't have the supplies to treat her, but painkillers can temporarily reduce the impact of these modifiers.

Ah yes... painkillers. Should have thought that one through.

It's about now Adam comes up with a brilliant idea to raise everyone's spirit -- a trip to the library! He is a librarian after all. It'll be the perfect opportunity to show off his mad cataloguing skills. Women go weak at the knees hearing tales of his mastery of the Dewey Decimal system.



Now, this might seem like a mind-numbingly fantastic plan, except that these guys hate each other. They're going to argue on the way, causing noise and it's not like they're going next door. No, this is a cross-town trip.

Should be fun.

On the way, SHODAN gets left behind. This is because her injuries slow her down and well, everyone hates her, so they decide it's best just to let her make her own way as the rest continue on.


When she does finally rock up, the guys let her in, mainly because they realise that being on the bad side of the universe's most devious AI is not a good thing.

You may have noticed the screen has changed colour over the past few screenshots. This is because it's getting dark, so we have a flickering candle-light effect that slowly kicks in as night approaches, to remind you not to go outside.

Not that it's going to help.

How did our adventurers' jaunt to the library go?

Swimmingly. Except for the fact it's A DEATH TRAP.


Yes, everyone died. Turns out books aren't that great for slaying the undead with. Who'd have thought?

The game allows you to export the final diary and upload it. You can read the one from this particular session here: http://tome.zafehouse.com/w69swqch. It includes some statistics for that session at the end, including the most damaging survivor and the number / type of interactions your survivors had.

It's also possible to open diaries back up inside the game, which I did for the last screenshot, as I forgot to take one while everyone was being torn asunder.

And here ends a short game of Zafehouse: Diaries. I've barely scratched the surface of what you can do, from modifying items to make them better, to creating distractions, setting traps, barricading and more.

We also wanted it to be extremely customisable -- you can add photos and names of friends into the game, or fire up MonoDevelop or C# Express and code your own content. It also includes an external diary editor, which we plan to open source once the game is released.

The full release is crazy-close, we're just applying the finishing touches. As I mentioned, we're on Greenlight (http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=97230840), but we'll be selling the game directly from our site (http://zafehouse.com) too.

If you have any questions about the game, please let me know!