INTERVIEW: ‘Survivalist’ Developer

It’s been awhile since I promised to get my shit together and build up my rusty interviewing skills, so I figured a good place to return would be with one of the best survival-based (I mean, it has ‘survival’ in the title; it’d better focus on surviving) games— also featuring zombies— available on the indie channel. Don’t believe me, then read the review. Also by me, which won’t help matters if you already don’t believe me, I guess.

Anyway, with a game of this size and scope, I’m always curious to get the inside scoop on the work and events that lead up to the finished product. What follows is my best attempt at questioning (and humor), talking dead with the creator of Survivalist, lolznoob, AKA Bob the PR Bot.


So, ah… Zombies, huh?

I always liked the zombie genre ever since watching the Romero movies.  When I started this project, it seemed like there weren’t a lot of games that properly expressed what I liked about the zombie movies. State of Decay, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, The Last of Us and DayZ either hadn’t been announced or at least I hadn’t heard of them yet.  Now, of course, we’re living in a sort of zombie golden age…

Survivalist - InterviewScreen

Gotta love that backpack.

That’s true. As much as some wish zombies would go down— and stay down— they keep getting back up for more. Survivalist is a massive game. Hours could be spent just foraging and building up your home base, besides venturing out into the world and taking on missions. How did the game come about? Was it always this big in scope, and how did you manage it? I’m tired just thinking about the amount of hours you must have put into this.

Somewhat arbitrarily I decided to make it use 1 square kilometre of land (actually 1024×1024 metres).  I thought it would need to be quite big in order to give you time to build a base and give you a variety of other communities to recruit from and so on.  I think now I might have been able to get away with a quarter of the size…  The feature-set was as small as I could make it while still (hopefully) being cohesive.  There’s lots of things I would have liked to have but didn’t, such as melee weapons and stealth.

Melee weapons would have helped me with my crap aim, that’s for sure. Good thing my version of the apocalypse had plenty of bullets to go around.

The game is certainly harder than most, managing yourself and others, keeping the home tidy, contending with the undead and those always pissed-off wasteland looters. Are there any tips you can give players just starting out, or perhaps hints on tackling the tougher parts later on in the game? Any secrets or easter eggs we should know about?

Once you’ve got a well, and planted crops and assigned people to farm them, and they’ve ripened, the food / water situation pretty much takes care of itself— you don’t have to spend the whole game worrying about that.  To deal with looters, bullet-resistant vests help (and saving the game before you attack).  Secrets: well it’s not really a secret, as some of the quests will lead you to it, but there’s a brain scanner somewhere out there that’s pretty useful for understanding people’s opinions of you.

Survivalist - InterviewScreen3

Really? Then again, I doubt I’d need science to tell me when someone’s ticked off at me. Dragging them a mile out into the desert, then telling them their services are no longer required back at camp… probably not the way you should fire someone. Poor guy didn’t have any water either… Let’s not dwell on it.

Obviously the game is out now on XBLIG / Xbox 360, and I’m sure PC is in the cards, but do you have additional plans for the game beyond that? Any new content or added features, or a sequel perhaps? All after a well-deserved vacation, of course.

I think I should try to bring it to different platforms, but I don’t know which ones yet.  Right now it turns out there’s still a few bugs to fix, so that’s the focus.

Fair enough. I’d rather keep the ‘Only for XBLIG’ tagline on the box anyway. Looks better that way.

Though it’s not news that Xbox Live Indie Games as we know it are coming to a close. Still plenty of games yet to come, but what do you think your nostalgic look back at XBLIG will be like? Also, any thoughts on Xbox One as it relates to indies? Hopes? Dreams?

I didn’t really get involved with XBLIG for most of the time while I was making Survivalist.  I was just concentrating on making it.  It’s just in the last few months that I’ve been putting it through playtesting that I’ve been playing other peoples games as well, and it turns out there’s a lot of good games on there.  You should do a review of Steam and Metal, btw (very polished shoot-em-up).

For XBox One and PS4, it would be nice if we could self-publish, ideally using c++.  But I kind of doubt that will happen, feels like they’re going for a more curated approach this time round where you have to be a proper company with a track record.  I hope I’m wrong. ….Actually, after writing that I had a look at the ID@XBox program and it looks a bit more positive for self-publishing.  It sort of implies they might be going to do it in the future.  So that’s nice.

Anything that gets good games in the hands of consumers should be their motto, so I don’t see why not. In the meantime, we’ve got a pretty solid lineup already, people… hint, hint (points at indie marketplace). Oh well. Thanks again for taking the time, Bob.

You’re welcome.


Survivalist is available now. Keep up with the game at the official site here.

15 thoughts on “INTERVIEW: ‘Survivalist’ Developer”

  1. I got my first few hours into the game last night, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it (even though I think I’m doing terribly at it). It really does feel like there is loads to do in it.
    I do have one burning question though, the main character’s name: is that a reference to Yu-Gi-Oh?

    1. “is that a reference to Yu-Gi-Oh”
      Ah, no, I never heard of that before. Just googled it now and I see what you’re getting at but no. Most of the character names are jumbled up surnames and first names of characters from the old west. A few of them are not jumbled, so Joe Wheeler for example is named after an old Confederate general.

    2. Ah, you see, now that’s an interesting anecdote about the game’s development. All this time, I’ve been furthering the Rebel cause!

  2. You know, I looked at this game on the marketplace and didn’t try it for two reasons: 1) it wasn’t clear what the game’s intended selling points are; 2) the dev’s name is listed as lolznoob, which immediately made me think 10 year old who probably didn’t even make an effort.

    Put thought into your developer name, people! Details matter.

    1. Even though I love the game and the developer is a hell of a nice guy, I do have to agree with you on that. I was questioning whether or not to take a chance on it. The trial doesn’t really let you get into the swing of things, and yeah, the name won’t create any kind of trust.

      I suppose he’s letting the work and the game speak for itself, for now, along with any reviews and favorable mentions by others, but that’s a risky tactic to take. I know he’s planning on a heavier promotional push after squashing some bugs and such. He’d do well to create a more traditional branding at that point, or just use his name.

    2. Can you elaborate on “it wasn’t clear what the game’s intended selling points are”? I could probably stand to write some more in the game’s Description section?

      lolznoob is just my joke gamertag, I chose it because I suck at Call of Duty and the like. Didn’t know it would be visible to everyone when I published a game. Then again I guess I’ve grown kind of fond of it.

    3. There are a lot of games on the XBLIG service that are about surviving a zombie apocalypse in one form or another. A LOT. The description does mention this particular game’s distinctive features – trading with communities, moral dilemmas – but that’s almost a throwaway remark at the end after what looks to a jaded XBLIG player’s eye like “more zombie stuff, more zombie stuff”. A zombie game on XBLIG has to do something really special to stand out and, though this game does, it doesn’t SOUND like it does when you skim the description. I’m browsing. Hit me with something up front that says “this isn’t the 10,000 other zombie games”.

      As to your account name, that’s your business and I’m not criticising you for it. I just thought it was worth pointing out that this was my experience. On a service that is disproportionately afflicted with bilge like Try Not To Fart, a username like yours, intentionally or otherwise, sounds like the wrong sort of game is heading my way. Again, that’s just my personal experience as someone who has played more XBLIGs than the average person.

    4. Actually, how about an illustration?

      Imagine I’m at one of those outlet malls where there are dozens of booths and stalls for different retailers, all clamouring for a bit of your business as you stroll by. I’m browsing, walking past toothpaste stall after toothpaste stall, some decent functional toothpastes, others grubby amateurish efforts that shouldn’t be on the shelves. I’m just asking myself “for pity’s sake, people, what’s with all the toothpaste? Sell some other stuff!” when I see a really nicely presented stall.

      The toothpaste on display is packaged well and it seems like a lot of effort has gone into the stall but I’m concerned that if I take a chance on buying a tube, go home, put it on my brush and stick it in my mouth it’ll turn out to be exactly the same as a hundred other toothpastes I’ve used and I’ll just have wasted my time and money yet again.

      As I’m standing there teetering on the fence about giving it a try, I glance over at the stall’s proprietor and he’s sitting on a heap of old newspapers, wearing nothing but stained boxers, belching and picking his nose with the handle of a plastic fork. I think “are you shitting me? How good can this guy’s product be?” and walk away.

    5. @Bob: For my part, I guess I should have made it more clear that I’m fine with the description. It’d be hard to write anything more ‘catching’, although if you do, stressing that it’s a ‘large open-world game’ could help, as well as saying something along the lines of ‘dozens of hours of gameplay’, to also give people an impression of the size of the game. Like Alan said, XBLIG is full of zombie games. Making yours sound larger and more involved might help convert some reluctant players.

      Sometimes it feels like a total crapshoot, too, regardless of the effort you make. The $1 Zombie Game is consistently near the top of the best sellers list, and it’s one of the more ‘meh’ zombie examples on the service. You just can’t account for some people’s taste and what they’ll respond to.

      As for the developer name, I can understand that. I see plenty of stuff like yours listed on game’s descriptions, but then they use a studio name or their full name once you boot up the game. For XBLIG, it’s probably fine. XBLIGers are more concerned about price than names. From a marketing standpoint, though, you’d stand a much better chance of being taken seriously by other websites and publications if you adopt a studio name, or opt to use your actual name in correspondence.

      In that regard, Alan’s point about the toothpaste is both hilarious and spot-on. I’m easy-going, so getting a contact email from someone calling themselves ‘lolznoob’ wouldn’t bother me. Would it fly in an article by a bigger site? Maybe, maybe not, but with first impressions and all that, it might send the wrong signal to readers.


      @Alan: Zombie games and toothpaste? Never thought I’d see that comparison, and put so eloquently, to boot. You sir, win the internet tonight.

  3. I tried the demo of Proxy Blade Zero: the graphics are amazing, beautiful 3d levels and models. The battle (blade) system is little bit “Zelda OoT” and a bit “Metal Gear Rising” too with a Jet Pack like “Burning Rangers” to avoid the enemies. The music is very cool, a kind of Futuristc Techno. This game is very promissor !

    1. Burning Rangers? Man, I’ve never heard anyone reference that game before. Still sad I never owned a Saturn to play it. Really can’t wait to try this one now.

      Sure, I’m supposed to be writing a review, but maybe… just to take a peek…

  4. Wonderful to see “big games” on XBLIG in the end of generation. Another 3d game that deserves attention is Proxy Blade Zero.

    1. Not just big, but unexpected. Still a few others coming. I’m going to contact a Dev this week to see about previewing their game. It looks suitably-epic for FPS.

      Anxious to try Proxy Blade out. Have you downloaded the trial and / or bought it? How does it handle and play?

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