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  1. #1
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    Jun 2011

    Zafehouse: Diaries (turn-based survival horror / post-apocalyptic strategy)

    Some of you might remember the original Zafehouse, released way back in 2008 and reviewed (sort of) on Rock, Paper, Shotgun by the vivacious Kieron Gillen. It was coded in seven days and wasn't a very complex game, but people really seemed to love the zombie simulation angle. With that motivation, I started hammering away at a sequel.

    Three prototypes later, I wasn't making a lot of progress. Working full-time didn't afford me the hours I needed to build the game I wanted so, in late 2011, I quit my job at Firemint and dived head long into what would become Zafehouse: Diaries. A friend and I started a business to make the endeavour official and together we journeyed into the maddening world of indie development.

    After much teeth-gnashing, we released the game in late September of this year. Now we're on Greenlight, doing our best to get onto Steam.

    In a nutshell, Zafehouse: Diaries is a turn-based strategy game set in a zombie-infested town. The player has to manage a group of five survivors, each with their own backgrounds, prejudices and motivations. If you want to try the demo, please go right ahead!

    Almost everything is procedurally generated, from the town's construction and the placement of items, to your group of survivors and their occupations and idiosyncrasies. In fact, managing your survivors' relationships is a core part of the game. You can spread rumours about the survivors to try and influence their opinions but, mostly, your control is exerted by making good decisions about who works with who on what tasks.

    If you let the relationships crumble, your survivors will fight each other, have arguments and fail to work together. Relationships permeate every system of the game -- if Sally hates Bob, she might not come to his aid when zombies bust in, disagree with his plan of attack and separate, or the pair might argue on the way to the police station, creating unwanted noise and attracting the undead.

    Speaking of noise -- zombies act like actual genre zombies. If you leave them alone and stay quiet, they won't have much interest in you. But, if you exchange your cricket bats and golf clubs for handguns and shotguns, or decide to barricade a location using power tools instead of hammers, you'll quickly get their attention. Good thing then, you can set bonfires or bang pans together to create distractions, or enlist the help of the mysterious Pied Piper to lead the walking dead away.

    It's a difficult game, where dying is a common occurrence. Instead of hit points, your survivors will take injuries, from simple lacerations to broken limbs or internal bleeding. You can use medical supplies -- bandages, splints, painkillers, etc -- to manage these injuries, but for the most part, a broken leg is a massive problem that you can't get rid of with a glowing medikit. Again, relationships are important here -- try to move that survivor to another location with others that don't like him and, chances are, they'll just leave him behind.

    Of course, survivors can get infected and yes, you'll have to make some tough decisions about their future.

    You have to deal with various dilemmas that can radically change the dynamics of the group. For example, one dilemma requires you to handle a situation where a survivor has stolen some painkillers for "chronic pain". You can leave it be, or take the painkillers away. Resources, or relationships? The choice is yours.

    Probably the best comparison would be King of Dragon pass with zombies. KoDP is a much larger game, but we've been adding content over the past several months and Z:D now features a lot of variety and replayability. And we're still adding content now and will continue to do so.

    The game was designed to be extremely customisable, either using the built-in custom content manager to add yourself into the game, defining your age, education, wealth, occupation and name, or via C# to generate new items, orders and gameplay logic.

    When we initially released Z:D, we thought people would latch onto the diary-sharing mechanic; when a game ends -- in victory or defeat -- you can export a log of everything that happened and upload it or send it around, as the game supports loading the diaries of others. We even included an external diary editor, so you could tweak the entries.

    However, that hasn't quite taken off. Instead, players have been customising the crap out of the game, adding photos of themselves, creating new survivor occupations and crafting imaginative post-apocalyptic adventures, using Z:D as a base. Here are some examples:

    On the Dwarf Fortress forums (the amount of detail in this is amazing)

    Over on RPG Codex (where it is shown that librarians would be next to useless in a zombie apocalypse... or not)

    A series of YouTube videos (Not a bad way to learn how the game works)

    I won't mince words -- the game involves reading text. Quite a bit of it. The diary entries contain a lot of important information and keeping abreast of those entries can foreshadow breakdowns in the group, hints about supply caches and awareness of zombie movement.

    As for Greenlight, we're currently sitting at 69%, so any thumbs-up would be greatly appreciated. I'll be sure to update you guys on our progress, whichever way it goes (yes, these percentages do go down).

    Any questions, please fire away. For the curious, Screwfly Studios is a small indie studio made up of two Australians -- one based in Sydney and the other (me) in Melbourne. Australia has a reputation for making popular mobile titles, but we're dedicated to hardcore PC stuff, because, well, that's what we like to play.

    Finally, you can purchase the game directly from us. Alternatively, the game is available on Desura and GamersGate, though naturally they take a cut so direct is preferred.

    Zafehouse (official site)
    Last edited by Cabs; 15-01-2013 at 07:46 AM.

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