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Author Topic: Zombie Settings/Features  (Read 13958 times)
Vince
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« on: May 27, 2009, 12:16:18 pm »

Amongst some of the other settings I would adore are...
* Zombie Wasteland: Somewhat akin to George A. Romero's work in the Dead Series, the game would focus on survival in a truly hostile world. What with the recent slew of successful zombie-centric titles (Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, Resident Evil 4/5) I figure it's time a RPG was made.

A proper zombie survival RPG would be heaven for me. I'm torn between a sandbox approach and a more fixed storyline, though. As with any 'apocalyptic' scenario most of the drama will come from the desperation of humanity, but trying to fit that in with a true open world might be difficult and not turn out very well. I was thinking maybe a more short-term game would do the trick, where the goal is to reach an evacuation point, or escape from an infested city. Watching Resident Evil 3 gave me an idea, the game could have a more 'cross-country' approach to a storyline. You start off in a city, escape with whatever cars, weapons, ammunition, food rations, and people that you can salvage. This determines the game's starting characters, the rest of the game is you and your band of survivors trying to travel across the continent to reach an army base that might not even be there. The 'dungeons' and combat areas could be pit stops along the way, where you are forced to scavenge for food and equipment or slowly die out. Interaction between characters could take place on the road, during the pit stops, or any other time you see fit.

The only problem I can really foresee with this formula is a distinct lack of focus. Keeping the plot moving along will be difficult if you also have to balance resource management and diplomacy between survivors. It could also become cramped and redundant unless new survivors are introduced every once and a while (as well as killed off) and that feels unrealistic. A possible solution to this is to give the game a more realistic version of a zombie outbreak; zombies are slow. It makes no sense that a sizable amount of people wouldn't be able to escape the major cities and especially the towns before everything went belly-up. Roaming bands of traders, bandits, military, and just plain refugees could spice things up a little and add more variety.

I would like to see three kind of CRPG:

- Horror: a zombie/survival CRPG with a setting on the like of World War Z by Max Brooks
Yep, a zombie survival RPG would sure be nice. What kind of features would you expect and why?

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Samurai Jack
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« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2009, 02:28:43 pm »

Getting the survival part right is the most important. When a survival game turns into a dumb shoot 'em up, it loses its core and becomes just another action game.
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FireStomp
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« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2009, 04:41:39 pm »

Getting the survival part right is the most important. When a survival game turns into a dumb shoot 'em up, it loses its core and becomes just another action game.

This is the big part for me. I want a game wherein everything, from base materials, clothing, and ammunition to terrain, tactics, and party opinion must be analyzed, synthesized, and evaluated in order to survive. If I am in a game where I have to choose between using a plank of wood to prop up a barrier, putting it overhead to provide shelter from the rain, or cut it into clubs to fend off the horde, where keeping the group sane, healthy, and in good humor is almost as important, or moreso, than finding bullets, and where finding a half-full tank of gas and a lighter is like a +5 Sword of Awesomeness that you can only use once, then I am playing a good survival game. I'm thinking an RPG equivalent of a fusion between Left 4 Dead, Dwarf Fortress, Oregon Trail, and a good zombie movie.
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DefJam101
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« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2009, 08:36:22 pm »

Yep, a zombie survival RPG would sure be nice. What kind of features would you expect and why?

Difficult to know where to start. A few, err... features I think would be integral to this type of game would be:

1. A well designed 'needs' system. Something like what you find in The Sims, that lets you know how your character is doing bodily and even mentally.

People in zombie movies can get themselves into stupid situations because it furthers the plot and it's more interesting to see people being gruesomely murdered than sitting in a corner fretting about how scared they are. However, in a videogame, where the (main) characters are controlled by sensible human beings, you need something to create tension and 'fill' the gameplay. When I say 'fill' I mean providing the player with things to do and keep track of during periods of downtime. You should never have a break, but turning the volume up to 10 constantly also becomes boring.  To solve this, you need gameplay elements that promote planning, constant awareness, and sometimes desperation, even when nothing askshuney is happening. Otherwise you end up with the "Left 4 Dead" problem of an entire game being condensed into a few moments of panic.

The idea is to have the player balancing multiple facets of gameplay at the same time. If the player character never gets hungry then I would say you have a poor zombie survival game, but if the PC can safely pick up and eat every single piece of food he or she comes across then the hunger system adds virtually nothing to the experience. Foods need to have weight, shape, a shelf life, the potential to do more harm than good if not properly cooked, and so on. Some other needs and the uses they might serve during gameplay:

Cooking: Promotes a stationary life style, which compels the PC to fortify or find another food source. Forces the PC to make choices between being healthy and safe, or being efficient and.. well, not hungry. You might not always have time to stop and cook some meat, but eating it on the run might make you sick. Culinary knowledge could be a potential line of skills. Knowing what is safe to eat and what isn't could be connected to outdoorsman skills (the mushrooms, man... the mushrooms..).

Body temperature regulation AKA it's fucking cold out here: Promotes planning by forcing the PC to have a supply of useful, dry clothes. Also might force the PC to seek shelter, which could lead to more difficult situations. Could provide a basic plot, like The Road (where the Man and the Boy have to travel south).

Injuries: Injuries should be long-term and have a line of skills devoted to their management, treatment, and prevention. The possibility of crippling injuries encourages the PC to be careful, which creates tension in the face of other factors like approaching zombies or ravenous hunger.

Sleep/rest: Promotes fortification. Penalizes poor planning because the PC may find him/herself in places where taking a rest is a bad idea or not an option. In a party-oriented game, it could force the PC to rely on other party members to keep watch while he/she sleeps.

Tension: Something, anything, to prevent the PC from becoming a mindless action hero cyborg. The PC should care about their life in some way that doesn't allow them to do things that no normal human being could do. You can't sit in a closet for six hours gunning down zombies with an mp5 as they shuffle in through the chokepoint. You would snap, go crazy, lose your nerve, or make a mistake. This does not mean that anti-zombie traps and chokepoints should be discouraged, it just means that unrealistic feats of bravery and, well, 'coolness' should be penalized in some way because unlike the player, the PC does not know that their life is not in imminent danger.



2. A well designed series of starting scenarios and character templates that ground your character in the world. It's no use pulling the age-old "you wake up in an abandoned lot and don't hear anyone" bullshit because it carries no meaning to the player. Where the fuck am I? What am I good at? Why am I still alive when very few other people are? What do I have to use? What do I need more of? What do I know about the surrounding area?

It is, in my opinion, important for a survival game to provide the player with as much information as possible, otherwise you feel like you are stumbling around in the dark. We aren't there to know that the local shopping mall is down the street, and we are hungry as hell, and the TV stopped working ten days ago, and the car is out of gas. We need to be told these things so we can think about what to do next, and have an idea of what went wrong if everything goes to hell and we end up dead within the first 15 minutes. Here's a few examples:

The cabin
You were on the highway back from a stay at your lakeside cabin out at XAmbiguousLocationPossiblyInTheUnitedStates when you got a frantic call from your sister/brother/friend telling you that everything had gone to hell back in Happyville and they are coming to your cabin for shelter, so you turn around and head back. They stop answering your calls, and in a day or two the phones are all out anyways. Wait a few days and no one comes. You board up the house after seeing what's going on on the TV. X number of days later, you've heard nothing from the outside world and you're all out of food. Game start.

Additional skills/traits/perks: None.
Starting equipment: A house. A car with X amount of gas. No weapons. Little food. Fishing gear, cooking gear, a radio, clothes, map of the area.


The apartment
One of the more actiony and simple starting scenarios. You had decided to stay in your apartment to wait out the crisis, but the reports on TV compel you to flee the city. You leave your apartment complex and try to escape the city during the collapse of societal order. In this scenario your main enemies at the start will probably be human looters, rioters, jumpy policemen and military types, etc.

Additional skills/traits/perks: Knowledge of the city.
Starting equipment: Basic clothing. Basic foodstuffs. Basic weapon (perhaps).


Overrun shelter
You were taken by traing to a military safehouse which has, as of loading up the game, been overrun with infected. The first few minutes of the game will be you trying to scavenge supplies from the base in the chaos, and make your escape into the countryside.

Additional skills/traits/perks: Little to no knowledge of surrounding area. More knowledge of the crisis, particularly the nature of the infected, resulting in increased anti-infected combat skills.
Starting equipment: Basic clothing. Variable amount of foodstuffs. Variable amount of weapons.


Cave diver
You and a couple of buddies went cave diving out in the wilderness for a week or so. When you head back toward civilization you find that things are more or less fucked up.

Additional skills/traits/perks: Accustomed to caves; low lighting and cramped spaces do not create significant tension in the PC. Outdoorsman skills. Climbing skills. Physically fit.
Equipment: A full complement of NPCs to survive with or part with. Climbing gear. Reasonable amounts of food.


Deserter
You were part of a National Guard unit sent into an infected city to 'preserve order'. Being a life-long survivalist, you analyze the situation and decide that the infection has grown too large to combat and the only way to survive is to run. You desert your unit and attempt to escape the city.

Additional skills/traits/perks: Combat skills. Physically fit.
Equipment: Rifle and ammunition. No food. Basic clothing. A radio.


And so on and so on... Note that these scenarios only determine how your game starts. Most every game will result in travel to a less zombie-infested area, possibly fortifying a stronghold, and searching for other survivors.



Getting kind of late. Will post some more thoughts tomorrow.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2009, 08:51:12 pm by DefJam101 » Logged
DefJam101
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« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2009, 09:38:00 pm »

Some potential ideas for skills in a zombie survival RPG:

Fortification: Determines how well you can use materials at your disposal to fortify doors, hatches, windows, etc. Effects how easy it is for zombies to bash down your fortifications, how often they will require maintenance, and how much material is required to construct a fortification of a certain strength. Higher-skilled fortifiers might also be able to build fortifications that facilitate zombie defense; having a small, evenly-carved slit in the middle that you can effectively fire a rifle through, for instance. The skill might also help the PC identify structural weaknesses and the best places to build barricades.

Silent movement: Determines how skilled the PC is at not being noticed while traveling. Reduces the chance of zombies becoming alerted to the PC's presence when walking. Reduces the chance of dropping items while traveling, causing a racket. Makes the PC better at controlling their breathing when winded, allowing them to hide more effectively from pursuers.

Silent actions: Determines how skilled the PC is at not being noticed while completing tasks. I.E. reduces the noise one makes when creating fortifications, repairing a bicycle, or searching for supplies. Reduces the chance of making noisy mistakes, like dropping a crowbar, falling over, accidentally firing off a pistol round, or yelling out in pain.

Inventory management: Allows the PC to carry more items through effective organization. Allows the PC to access his/her inventory faster, as well as unpack/pack supplies more efficiently.

Scavenging: Assists PC in determining where food and supplies might be located. Increases the speed at which PC can extract supplies from buildings and overrun safehouses. Helps PC determine (IE perception checks) whether or not it may be safe to search for supplies inside of a building. Helps PC determine what is safe to eat and what isn't.

Close combat: Allows the PC to utilize equipment bonuses against zombies (and humans), like scoring a hit on a zombie head with a fire axe, or crippling a zombie with a sledgehammer to the knee. Also helps the PC avoid being bitten when engaging in close combat with zombies.

Ranged combat: Makes it easier to score headshots against zombies. Helps the PC count his/her shots so they know how much is left in the clip. Higher skill levels allow accurate counting/shooting even when under extreme stress.

Mechanics: A general skill that helps the PC keep cars/bikes/weapons/machinery in good repair. Also influences how often the PC will make mistakes, causing injuries and noise.

Infected knowledge: A 'lore' skill of sorts. Helps the PC identify symptoms of infection, methods of prevention, stages of zombie infection, and behavioral patterns.

Persuation: Helps the PC to convince NPCs to follow him/her. Allows the PC to circumvent that "the police told me to stay inside and that's what I'm going to do" bullshit and get people to act. Makes robbing other survivors go smoother. Helps the PC convince military personnel to take you with them (on a transport out of the city, for instance).

Diplomacy: Helps the PC lessen conflicts between other survivors, recruit companions, talk their way out of sticky situations, and calm panicked survivors.





 
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Bobrikov
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« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2009, 08:14:44 am »

Gameplay wise in a zombie survival RPG, noise should have a rather big part for gameplay too? Not just bits of noise for zombie / enemy detection or ambient background despair but something to be afraid of.

Those familiar with Brooks will understand what I mean, for the unwashed masses here's some background.

The zombie moan works as a signal flare for every other undead in hearing range and with functional ears. Thus a single zombie letting out a moan when it spots prey can easily sentence you to death. The moan is heard by another zombie, which then lets out moan and proceeds to home towards the original moan. More zombies hear the previous moan, home towards it and at the same alert more zombies in range, causing more moans and more zombies homing towards the previous moans. At best the original moan does nothing since there are no other zombies in hearing range. At worst you have a moaning telegraph network of zombies that spans beyond the horizon, all homing towards the source of noise.

Zombies are slow, yes. But can you afford to change locations after every moan in your vicinity? One lucky shambler found his way to your hideout and managed to let out a moan before getting lobotomized. The place is a real paradise but sticking around it is now a gamble, you might wake up to a zombie free region the next day or you might have some +1,000 ghouls banging up the gate, all thanks to the national moan network.

Unnatural noises would cause the zombies to "spot" you and thus moan too. 12-gauge going off, aforementioned events in silent actions skill. Anything that doesn't belong to the ambience of zombified world. Hence making noise can also act as an blessing. You got a party of people stuck in a nice place but running out of supplies, time to for an exodus then. The problem comes from the endless supply of undead outside the fort, you know you could make the run alone but for some sadistic reason you want to take rest of the people with you (romance quest plot coupons, loot mules). You have no means to kill off all the zombies and melee combat against the horde is no-no. Time for a diversion then. If the world generator was smiling upon you, there is a abandoned, still full, fuel derrick just a few block away from your location. Thus begins the epic journey to the derrick to blow it up and making it back alive and hopefully distracting most of the horde towards the noise and away from the fort, facilitating the great escape towards the next pit-stop of certain death (Well bit of an overkill but you really would need a loud boom to overcome the noise made by the infinite horde of zombies for them to notice a new source of noise and thus home towards it).

Ought to start a seperate topic for this one? Seems there is enough of brainstorming on the subject atleast.

And for more settings I would like to see. Something like Deadlands, a bastard child of spagethi-western, horror and occult. Confederacy is still alive and kicking, Manitou are possesing dead people to have some wicked fun on the living (think Pet Sematary), and steampunk is ripe. Weird West to put it in simple terms.
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Vince
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« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2009, 11:29:43 am »

If the player character never gets hungry then I would say you have a poor zombie survival game, but if the PC can safely pick up and eat every single piece of food he or she comes across then the hunger system adds virtually nothing to the experience. Foods need to have weight, shape, a shelf life, the potential to do more harm than good if not properly cooked, and so on.
I think that hunger is an important "survival" element, but in a zombie game where supermarkets and homes are filled with food and water, it's not really an issue. 20 years later it's a real problem, but shortly after the "zombie-apocalypse", it's hardly a priority. Or am I missing something?

Overall, here is my list of priorities:

- shelter - must find and fortify an easy-to-defend shelter. Anything with narrow entrance points, metal gates, and alternative escape routes.

- weapons and ammo

- medical supplies - bandages, antibiotics, painkillers, etc. Medical supplies are priceless because unlike food and weapons, you can't produce more. In post-apocalypse communities, antibiotics will be more valuable than weapons.

- people - that's a very complex matter and a lot can revolve around it.

There are three categories of people in a zombie world: weak and useless (unskilled, young, elderly); somewhat skilled and useful (the foundation of any group), and rare commodities (doctors, survival experts, mechanics, rangers, soldiers, people with specific knowledge (someone who knows a safe place, like a well-stocked hunting house in some mountains; a pilot if there is a plane somewhere; etc).

I'd say that a party size should definitely be linked to your Leadership abilities. There is only so many people you can control before your party becomes a crowd. So, you'd have to make decisions on whom to take. Do you take soldiers for the superior weapon handling and accuracy or do you include a useless-in-combat doctor and someone with a specific knowledge? Would you attack another group of survivors and kill them all just to get your hands on a doctor, who will have no choice but to go with you?

- tools

- vehicles and fuel

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Alizar
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« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2009, 12:33:38 pm »

Gameplay wise in a zombie survival RPG, noise should have a rather big part for gameplay too? Not just bits of noise for zombie / enemy detection or ambient background despair but something to be afraid of.

Those familiar with Brooks will understand what I mean, for the unwashed masses here's some background.

The zombie moan works as a signal flare for every other undead in hearing range and with functional ears. Thus a single zombie letting out a moan when it spots prey can easily sentence you to death. The moan is heard by another zombie, which then lets out moan and proceeds to home towards the original moan. More zombies hear the previous moan, home towards it and at the same alert more zombies in range, causing more moans and more zombies homing towards the previous moans. At best the original moan does nothing since there are no other zombies in hearing range. At worst you have a moaning telegraph network of zombies that spans beyond the horizon, all homing towards the source of noise.

Zombies are slow, yes. But can you afford to change locations after every moan in your vicinity? One lucky shambler found his way to your hideout and managed to let out a moan before getting lobotomized. The place is a real paradise but sticking around it is now a gamble, you might wake up to a zombie free region the next day or you might have some +1,000 ghouls banging up the gate, all thanks to the national moan network.
That's an excellent idea. If zombies are too powerful in numbers and cannot be killed, then moving silently is the only option. This will prevent the game from becoming a shooter and add depth and tactical considerations. Firearms will be last resort weapons.
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Anonxeuix
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« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2009, 01:53:57 pm »

I too would love an RPG with this zombie/post-apocalyptic setting. If done properly you could pull off an amazing game.
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« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2009, 02:00:37 pm »

I too would love an RPG with this zombie/post-apocalyptic setting. If done properly you could pull off an amazing game.

Yeah, it would be pretty cool.
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Fryjar
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« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2009, 02:34:51 pm »

If the player character never gets hungry then I would say you have a poor zombie survival game, but if the PC can safely pick up and eat every single piece of food he or she comes across then the hunger system adds virtually nothing to the experience. Foods need to have weight, shape, a shelf life, the potential to do more harm than good if not properly cooked, and so on.
I think that hunger is an important "survival" element, but in a zombie game where supermarkets and homes are filled with food and water, it's not really an issue. 20 years later it's a real problem, but shortly after the "zombie-apocalypse", it's hardly a priority. Or am I missing something?

Well, but going into a supermarket to gather supplies could easily be like taking honey from a bee hive. After the first week(s) most unprepared people will have to restock their supplies. Now, plundering the houses in your vicinity might at first not always appear to be the best idea for all survivors, as a significant proportion of the food will most likely be past its expiration date, so that you will most likely have to break into a couple of apartments to restock properly. But depending on your scenario, encountering a zombie in the narrow corridors of a house will not be an unrealistic incident and could easily amount to suicide (if the zombies are quick) for many of the weaker or unarmed citizens. Thus, for those people, going to a supermarket might appear natural to them. Now, all the zombies have to do, is wait there, as there will be a large instream of survivors every couple of days. Therefore, the amount of zombies roaming through the supermarket will most likely be significant and after a while, completely block this source of supplies, so that you are once again stuck with collecting the scarce supplies in other houses.

You see, its not unrealistic to come up with a scenario where food is a valuable good as well. Especially, as your long term goal will most likely be to travel to a less populated area (and hence less sources of food).Therefore, you are forced to collect a significant amount of durable supplies for your travels and the time you plan to spend at your hideout anyway.

Normally, food management is annoying in rpgs, but when you make it a centerpiece of your game and come up with useful skills that revolve around it, as Defjam101 suggested, then it could be a very fun element of your game.

But an important question that I have is a different one: I reckon, that you would make an isometric turn based rpg out of it. But in case of zombie games or movies, a lot of the appeal when you are actually faced with the zombies, seems to come from hectic retreats and quick reactions to the appearance of the undead, as regular combat doesn't seem to be a viable strategy in most cases (at least long term wise, as your ammo will be scarce). Don't you think that these limitations would at least in this case warrant a system like in bloodlines (i.e. skill based but a first or third person view and real time combat) ? Also, the scares that come with the genre, would imho work here far better than with an isometric view. An isometric view is capable to set the right mood for a game, but when it comes to modeling surprise elements, it really is inferior. Finally, a sneaking system in a 3rd person environment (like in thief or bloodlines) works with a functioning physics engine better than with an isometric view. Interactivity with your environment could be far more elaborate and thus would give the system more diversity. An engine like Torque 3d should be able to handle it, so I don't think that the engine would be the limitation.

Don't get me wrong, usally I prefer turn based combat and an isometric view myself, but in this setting, a lot of interesting features would be wasted this way.

Edit: Looking at one of the topics at the codex, I guess I have an idea, who your yet to be revealed AAA developer might be Wink.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2009, 02:42:19 pm by Fryjar » Logged
DefJam101
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« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2009, 03:45:18 pm »

But an important question that I have is a different one: I reckon, that you would make an isometric turn based rpg out of it. But in case of zombie games or movies, a lot of the appeal when you are actually faced with the zombies, seems to come from hectic retreats and quick reactions to the appearance of the undead, as regular combat doesn't seem to be a viable strategy in most cases (at least long term wise, as your ammo will be scarce).

I think it would be important for a turn-based RPG to focus on offering the player choices in these situations that make them seem 'hectic' even though you can think about them all you want before you act. Not to shoehorn in the obligatory C&C, but to cause the player to think, weigh his options, and ultimately experience feelings of doubt concerning their chosen course of action.

Like, if zombies suddenly bash through your front door, kill your buddy, and start knocking down your 'buffer' barricade, the player should be given options with long term effects. You can try and gather up all of your stuff, but the zombies might break in and kill/seriously injure you if you take too long. So you decide that you don't have enough time to gather all of your supplies. What do you take? You could take the gun (presumably disassembled) and your bag of ammunition and make a run for it. You could throw all of your food into a bag and bolt. Or you could, for whatever reason, decide to take nothing at all. Maybe the extra minute will let you reach the car outside, get it started, and drive away from the safehouse.  After you leave, you have to decide which route to take. Left hallway or right hallway? Run into the woods or go for the car? Etc.


Quote
Don't you think that these limitations would at least in this case warrant a system like in bloodlines (i.e. skill based but a first or third person view and real time combat) ? Also, the scares that come with the genre, would imho work here far better than with an isometric view. An isometric view is capable to set the right mood for a game, but when it comes to modeling surprise elements, it really is inferior.

Depends on the style of game. A more short-term zombie survival game would benefit from a more personal perspective because the game will be considerably more dense than an open-ended survival RPG. Something like 'escape from the city!' or 'cross the bridge into X military safe zone!' would work well in a first or third person view.

However, I don't think a zombie survival RPG on a larger scale would benefit from this, because the more you narrow down the perspective the more difficult it becomes to provide the player with information. It may be somewhat scary and atmospheric to sit inside your cramped safehouse, watching zombies shuffle by outside, but when everything goes wrong and you find yourself staring at a GAME OVER screen it feels less fulfilling. In a short term game, this is not a problem because the effects of the choices you make are felt almost immediately. You go left, you're surrounded by zombies. You go right, jump out the window, and you're home free. It may not be readily apparent that you died because you got sick from eating uncooked beef, which caused you to have to stop in a roadside building, which caused you to waste all of your ammo killing zombies, which caused a gang of looters to come and kill you after 2 days.

Again it depends on the style of game. Do you want to scare the player through limited information, or cause doubt in the player's mind by forcing him to make difficult decisions based on what he already knows?
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Plalito
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« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2009, 07:12:17 pm »

Not sure if anyone here has read this book but The Zombie Survival Guide is written as if zombie outbreaks are possible. The book outlines how to battle the living dead and what are the best ways to survive. Surprisingly comprehensive and very much gets you in the right mindset to develop a coherent zombie survival game.

http://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Survival-Guide-Complete-Protection/dp/1400049628

For example the best mode of transportation is a bicycle. A relativity useless weapon is a chainsaw since fuel has to be considered as well as the noise it produces. A good way to barricade yourself is to occupy a 2nd or higher story building and destroy the staircase leading to you. Etc...
« Last Edit: May 29, 2009, 07:15:44 pm by Plalito » Logged
DefJam101
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« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2009, 08:27:44 pm »

Very funny book. I've heard that World War Z is better, but I've never read it.
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royen
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« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2009, 05:27:47 am »

I listened to the World War Z audio book a while ago, it's really ambitious with a complete cast incluing Luke Skyw-... sorry, Mark Hamill, John Turturro and Henry Rollins among others. It consists of a number of personal narratives of different peoples experiences during a global zombie outbreak and details several different scenarios. It's basically required reading if you're into zombies =)
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Samurai Jack
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« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2009, 08:51:30 am »

Since we're talking about features, I have 2 in mind.

First, a zombie survival game is a perfect setting for an "improve skill by using them" system. Here is why. Most people are unskilled. They are not mighty adventurers, they are regular Joes and Janes trying to survive. So, killing 10 zombies, gaining 5 skill points, and suddenly becoming a really good doctor doesn't fit the survival focus of the game.

If you want to be a group doctor, start taking care of the wounded. Clean wounds, apply bandages, use blood packs. Healed 10 people - learned something. Here is a trick though. Medical supplies are limited, so you can't give them to everyone to play with and waste.  You give them to one guy and he becomes the group's healer. Maybe yesterday he was an accountant, but today he's the best damn doctor around.

I think that all activities in a survival game can be measured - zombies killed, humans killed, shots fired, HP healed, items scavenged, fortifications HP repaired, items created, items bartered, locks picked, people convinced, so it should be easy to implement.

Second, the focus should be on the humans. Zombies are the background, the dumb annoyance. They get the unprepared, the stupid, the weak. A good group that managed to find a good shelter should be reasonably safe from zombies, at least for as long as they have ammo and walls aren't breached. Other groups ranging from gangs to religious nuts (The Mist) are the real danger and the odds of being killed by them should be higher than the odds of being eaten by the zombies.

What do you think?

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« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2009, 10:24:55 am »

Books are good enough to learn some very basic skills as well. Depending how far the zombie apocalypse has gone finding any worthy reading is either damm easy or next to impossible. Raiding a public libary or a bookstore is no good when they have been burnt down by a wildfire once the infrastructure falls appart. Becoming expert by just reading a book is pretty much impossible but you should be able to get a basic foundation for the skill in question. Further experience is gained from learning by doing or getting tutored by more experienced person. Something like Jagged Alliance had, learning takes time so no indepth studies during combat and experienced people who can actually teach are priced in gold (reading books and other learning activities should also have some sort of stress reliving value if you bunker up in a safe location, human mind starts to go haywire fast when you run out of things to do during isolation).

And the people of post zombie world. World War Z has Quislings, regular, living people acting like zombies due to mental breakdown (zombies will eat them though), political secessionists who saw the apocalypse as a good time to flip the bird to the old system, actual survivors who got taken along the goverment when each nation went to execute their own versions of the Redeker Plan (a retooled Apartheid contingency plan incase of revolt by native population) and then those who were left behind in the infested zones in acordance to the Rederk Plan (involves leaving people behind so they "attract" zombies away from the actual evacuation zones), religious nuts who see the zombie epidemic as the will of the heavens and thus embrace it, naturalist nuts who see the zombie epidemic as will of the nature (zombies only eat humans, not animals!) and thus going about doing minor acts of terror (poisoning water with pesticide for starters).

Having the remains of actual goverments around would bring in some polarity with the world. In WWZ it's quite deep in gray and grey morality with the Redeker Plan, people are left behind on purpose to keep zombies busy and away from the "safe zones" so the rescued survivors can prepare for the offensive. And once the actual offensive to purge the zombies begins it goes worse with tank brigades sent to "remove" secessionists in USA and Russia turning into a theocratic empire due to Orthodox priests acting as commissars (North Koreans pull a Cleve as well, vanishing from the face of the earth as they go hiding in their megavault).

For those without the book, bugger over to Zombiepedia at http://zombie.wikia.com/wiki/World_War_Z for an indepth glance on things.

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« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2009, 09:19:17 pm »

Agreed on all points, Jack.  That said, I feel that characters should start with some skills, probably bought mostly in packets rather than individually.  For example, someone who was a scout as a kid would know a thing or two about outdoors survival, first aid and such with limited supplies.  Depending on the scout leader and the country, he might even know how to use a rifle or a bow and arrow.  Other skill packets could include diplomatic skills, or even bartering.
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« Reply #18 on: May 31, 2009, 10:00:48 am »

Came across Mouse Guard the other day, and I totally thought that something like that would make for a pretty cool setting for an RPG.
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« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2009, 07:23:18 pm »

I wood like to wake up in the hospital/ battlefield.
On a totally alien world no humans elves dwarfs orcs ect.  With amnesia the world is has no earth flora and fauna. Social and political structures that bear has little resemblance to earth has possible. A true game of exploration. Problem is it wood not make for good replay. 
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« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2009, 07:59:39 pm »

That depends; the different factions would most likely tell you different things about themselves and their rivals.  Also, some things may not surprise you second time around, but that doesn't necessarily spoil the gameplay.  Oh, and it should be would, not wood Wink.
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« Reply #21 on: July 02, 2009, 10:43:21 am »

This appears to be the appropriate thread. There is a thread about settings on the Codex which I posted in, mentioning the for ideas/settings I will be working on in the future. I'll mirror it here, since ITS is the mothership and people might be interested. I'll just repeat my Codex post :

SoW is fantasy but the next few games I work on won't be. Quite frankly, short of expansions, SoW is the only pure fantsy setting I will do for the next decade or two.

The next game I work on will be a Shadowrun-like cyberpunk fantasy.

After that I will decide based on what I most feel like, but the pool of concepts so far are :

- mystery/survival pure sci-fi
- Steampunk.
- PA scavenger/survival RPG.
- Zombie apocolypse/I am Legend style RPG.
- Messiah figure RPG. Basically, you, a peasant, are chosen as a divine savior figure who will determine the fate of the world. From the outset you have miraculous powers and invulnerability, it isn't difficult to convince people or make dramatic changes. The interesting gameplay will be exploring what that would be really like, with every person on the planet looking to you to save them or fix every problem. To make it more difficult, your ascendance coincides with the start of the Apocalypse.

The challenge wouldn't be acquiring power or surviving combat, it would be using your power correctly. Your success would be measured in how the world is faring. The whole "it's hard to be a God" style concept.

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« Reply #22 on: July 02, 2009, 01:09:15 pm »

I rather like the messiah idea.  I suppose the question would be whether one could deliberately screw everyone over or not.
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« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2009, 01:11:12 pm »

I vote for pure sci-fi. To my knowledge that hasn't been done yet.
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« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2009, 01:16:15 pm »

I dont like it. (mesiah idea) It aims too much at basic egoism.
I would rather have a game where im playing a character that goes around trying to kill different messiahs because of the long term shit they cause. False or true ones, doesnt matter.
And there would be a lot of their followers to take care off.
Now that i think about it... the true ones could have some strange various different powers and after all... it all comes from their gods so i would have to take care of them too ... yes... thats much better. Gareth, get on it. And make it snapy!
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« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2009, 01:24:52 pm »

I dont like it. (mesiah idea) It aims too much at basic egoism.
I would rather have a game where im playing a character that goes around trying to kill different messiahs because of the long term shit they cause. False or true ones, doesnt matter.
And there would be a lot of their followers to take care off.
Now that i think about it... the true ones could have some strange various different powers and after all... it all comes from their gods so i would have to take care of them too ... yes... thats much better. Gareth, get on it. And make it snapy!

Even better.  Actually, I wouldn't mind a game in which killing one's enemies directly is rarely an option, and thus screwing them over in other, more imaginative ways becomes the priority.
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« Reply #26 on: July 03, 2009, 12:46:51 am »

I think that the messiah concept is really quite interesting, but I can't help thinking of the "Default to Destruction" thread and the idea of a character being the avatar or champion of the god of death... Perhaps the PC could be granted godlike abilities and the capacity to choose what sort of messiah he wishes to be, which gods (if there be gods plural) or alignments (if not) to which he wishes to adhere, and how to structure his followers and resultant religion. Depending on how you choose to lean, whether along standard axes of good versus evil, law versus chaos, nature versus technology, or with regards to other, more complex ones, you would gain different... shall we say aspects, since "abilities" denotes gaining power, and the whole point is that you are already ludicrously powerful? Very well, different aspects. As the game moves along, the primary opposition, the obstacle of the game, changes dependent on your character's aspects and those of his cult and teachings.

For instance, say you begin as a neutral being, just your Average Joe messiah: invulnerable, strong, possessing healing hands and hurting hands, able to pray to your personal higher power for better stuff, and so on. Once given this power, and after having scavenged a few straggly peasants to be your Average Joe followers, you start to act in a stereotypically evil, death-oriented manner, killing people and teaching the killing of people to your disciples, preaching of life-after-death in terms of the circle of life and the freedom of ghosthood, or whatever. Your powers begin to become necromantic in nature, healing being replaced by, or shifted towards, resurrection (partial or total) in undead form, hurting becoming decaying into muck, and so on. Your circle of life bits, however, make you more natural, let's say, giving the undead healing a green tinge, such as replacing missing limbs with wolf's paws, bird's wings, or growths of woody vines. You teach your followers, who have recently begun forming human sacrifice collectives down in the bogs and drawing the notice of the suddenly attentive (and dwindling) town watch, to kill only those who interfere with nature, causing them to become semi-peaceful (un)holy warriors, killing off loggers and remaking them as tree-zombies to stand guard around the enclave while crafting hypnotic potions and healing poultices from blood and herbs. You change even more, to a "good" messiah whose afterlife is like standard, boring Heaven and who detests zombies and such, and your tree-hugging, animal-limbed killing machines become kindly, selling crafts and aid to villagers and slowly gaining followers that way (though the town watch is still wary), while you lose your undead powers and... see where I'm going? Whatever you act as, your followers learn, you become, the world responds to, and so on.

Okay, I basically just combined Black and White, Overlord, and Dungeons and Dragons. Off-topic and off-track. I'm out.
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« Reply #27 on: July 04, 2009, 07:31:53 pm »

One setting that came to me not long ago was something inspired by Star Trek Voyager: the main character is the captain of a space ship that gets stranded far from Earth.  The PC then has to get his ship, and its crew, back home.  This will likely involve working with the local powers, trading favours and quite possibly getting involved in the internal politics of a given power.  There would be both space and ground based combat, characters would gradually improve in their skills, which in turn would make their actions aboard the ship more efficient.  This would have to be handled automatically for all but a small selection of characters, or else things would get somewhat tedious.  Done right, I reckon this setting could work very well.
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« Reply #28 on: July 06, 2009, 01:02:37 am »

I had an idea for a Neverwinter Nights campaign a while back which I was rather fond with. The basic premise was taking a bog standard, Gygax copy-paste fantasy world and forcing reality upon it. Sort of like Pleasantville with swords. Whilst the NPCs would begin the world with cardboard cut-out personalities, 'reality' would soon begin to seep through in numerous unpleasant ways. Legendary goblin-slayers would die to a hail of arrows before they even near enemy hosts- local evil wizards who had been terrorising the town for years would find themselves hung, drawn and quartered publicly by militant knights. The local Priestesses of Love would all catch syphilis and die horribly, only to be replaced by toothless prostitutes.

The brunt of the narrative would begin with the consequences of this ill-defined 'reality'- the King overthrown by coup, a right wing and quasi-fascist organisation replacing it- in addition to truly great hosts of monsters assembling with the intent of overthrowing this kingdom. The mid-endgame would eventually move towards the cause of this supposed apocalypse- with the ultimate moral choice lying in their hands whether to return the world to its innocent and fictitious state, or allow the tides of reality to finish wholly, moving it to a setting much like our own.

An idea I'd like to explore in a game like this is events happening independantly of the player dependant upon a timeframe, and whether they were in a certain place or not. Sort of like the Hub falling under Super Mutant attack upon a certain date, and the outcome depending upon the player's presence- but hopefully without the obvious "choose this person to live or this person to live!" of Mass Effect.

At any rate, I've rambled enough.
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« Reply #29 on: July 10, 2009, 04:38:51 am »

I like that very much.

On the whole i think atleast some gaming studios should move away from simplistic fantasy cliches and start to produce more... "realistic" (for lack of better word), satirical and... damn... "political" - social themed games.

How about a game based on "Brave new world" ?
Where you actually play the Savage colliding with new world order but with several different main choice-consequence paths and -preferably- a lot of smaller ones.

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« Reply #30 on: July 16, 2009, 07:18:38 pm »

Someone has recently revived this old thread: http://www.rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=1072&start=25&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=joe+clerk over at the Codex.
Jokes aside, most ideas there are actually cool (the name-picking dialogue seriously beats anything of the sort I've seen in a game so far). With a correct dose of tongue-in-cheek humour, serious focus on character development and story, I can't see how this could end up not being great fun to play.
Also, I'd definitely vote for the FedEx package as the game's ultimate McGuffin. Smile
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« Reply #31 on: August 07, 2009, 04:16:08 pm »

With a correct dose of tongue-in-cheek humour

Speaking of tounge in cheek, what's the expected tone of this game?
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« Reply #32 on: August 07, 2009, 04:47:18 pm »

With a correct dose of tongue-in-cheek humour

Speaking of tounge in cheek, what's the expected tone of this game?

The less "lulz" (colloquially speaking) makes it into the game, the better. 
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« Reply #33 on: August 07, 2009, 07:09:05 pm »

Subtle satire and in-setting humor are welcome in any genre as far as I'm concerned,  and there's no way to completely separate the humor inherent in munching on brains from the zombie genre.  

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« Reply #34 on: August 08, 2009, 12:33:27 am »

As said, serious, but if someone uses the term "dark and gritty" I will seriously facepalm, as that's become the catchphrase for overly grim tone where any humor is about as jarring as someone's wet fart during a wedding.  Moments of levity are possible - as you run into any even in the most dire of situations - but it's more about asking what we do if we CAN'T laugh.  That'll drive you crazy quicker than anything.

But as a simple answer?  It WON'T be campy, it WON'T be goofy, and no jokes about BRAAAAAAAAINS (unless it's BRIAAAAANS which always make me snicker) as a major element since that's Return of the Living Dead and aforementionedly campy.
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« Reply #35 on: August 08, 2009, 03:13:30 pm »

With a correct dose of tongue-in-cheek humour

Speaking of tounge in cheek, what's the expected tone of this game?

Horror. The realization that things aren't going to get better. The understanding that people you become attached to could die anytime you leave the shelter. Unlike classic monsters like vampires, aliens, and Teen Wolf, there is no way to kill the monster and restore a sense of safety. With zombies, there are too many and they just keep coming, growing in number all the time. All you can do is adapt to that kind of threat.

Of course, I subscribe to the Hitchcock method of horror, in that you have to have some humor/high points to really terrify people when you hit them with the low ones. Otherwise horror is just a droning, relentless downer and that's depressing.

Not everyone deals with a crisis in the same way, and while some might get stronger as time goes on, some of the dependable types can start to lose their nerve. Sometimes when things seem to be going well, events can arise that challenge any perceived safety. One of the goals we set going in was to keep the atmosphere tense, for the survivors to feel like they're living in that perpetual state of being really tired but never able to settle into a deep sleep without being woken up. To keep the game from being linear, we've got a method of ensuring that some problem or problems will continually challenge the player and their group, internally and externally. We'll be explaining this system in future updates.

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« Reply #36 on: August 09, 2009, 04:44:31 am »

How much of a dive into philosophy should we expect? I'm hoping for lots of moments where I'm challenged in that area, just like with a good book, I enjoy games that make me take a moment to sit back and think, which I think your setting has the ability to offer a lot of. Can you provide any examples/descriptions of what you plan to do?
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« Reply #37 on: August 09, 2009, 05:41:22 pm »

It would be nice if the player, depending on how (s)he played and what (s)he learned during his travels, would occasionally given false hope, maybe about a cure vaccine to be resistant or even immune to zombie bites, about rumoured survivor camps with lots of resources, about a reconstructing army helping people etc. things to give player hope and motivation, and crush it later on. The tone of 28 Days Later was great in this aspect.
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