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…
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.
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.