Indie Interview – Survivalist

Survivalist PC Version Screenshots

Well, I seem to like zombie survival RPGs a lot. Heck, I’m making one. Anyway, today I talked with the creator of Survivalist, and it was an interesting talk with an interesting guy. The game’s taking an interesting approach to combining open-world gameplay and story. Check it out!

Q: Do you mind introducing yourself, bob_the_pr_bot?

A: Bob the PR Bot was originally a highly advanced AI developed by the NSA to spy on Europeans.  Sadly, Bob the PR Bot’s contract with the NSA was terminated abruptly after that bastard Edward Snowden revealed what they were up to.  Now Bob the PR Bot works for the private sector, advertising video games.

Q: Interesting…? What is Survivalist, in a nutshell?

A: Survivalist is a story-driven RPG/RTS set in the zombie apocalypse, about a wealthy asshole named Joe Wheeler who emerges from his bunker looking for food. You have to find other survivors, gain their respect, get them to join you and build a community.  Once they’ve joined you, you can play as them. Different characters have different abilities and personalities. The aim was to combine storytelling and characters with open-world gameplay and choices as much as possible.

Q: How have reviews been so far? Any feedback you’ve gotten and learned from?

A:  Reviews have been good: 5/5 at theindiemine.com, 4.5/5 at indiegamereviewer.com, top 10 in thexblig.com leaderboard.  I’ve had a lot of feedback which has been very helpful, in allowing me to fix bugs and provide more explanation for things that were confusing.

The biggest things were:
– Don’t use small fonts in a console game!
– A lot of people found the mechanic where you have to keep getting insulin for Alice quite taxing.  I responded by making the insulin cheaper, and last longer, so it’s easier – but I didn’t want to change it too much as it’s one of the main themes of the game.
– Apparently, lots of people would like a version of the game that has multiplayer, melee weapons and vehicles.

Q: Is there any features in particular that you hope will help the game stand out?

A: What I like most about my favourite games is when you have the combination of story, action, and long-term strategy all working together and I hope that’s where Survivalist stands out.

There are some more specific features that people have commented on as being quite unique:
– The zombies are fast and leap at you like animals instead of shambling towards you, so the combat has a different feel to most zombie games.
– The game has two viewports – a main window with a top-down third-person perspective and a smaller window in the top-right and shows your character’s face, or the face of whoever you are talking to, or various other things depending on context.  It makes it easier to tell the characters apart and shows their personality.
– The dialogue system is quite unusual – when you face a character you get a list of speech options that you can cycle through with the d-pad or mouse-wheel, but you can walk away from it at any time, even during conversation.  There isn’t a “conversation mode” as there is in most games that feature dialogue choices.
– Characters have memories of the things you’ve done – e.g. if you’ve done a quest for them, given them a gift, or mugged them.  These memories are added together to form two metrics: Approval and Respect.  Approval means they like you, Respect means they know you mean business.  If someone respects you but doesn’t approve of you, that means they’re afraid of of you – conversely if they approve of you but don’t respect you that means they pity you.

More Survivalist Screenies

Q: Do you have any interesting or amusing stories involving the game’s development?

A: When I started the game I was going to call it “Zombie Apocalypse” but had to change it because another game was released with that name.  I originally intended to make the agent of zombie infection a fungus, after watching the zombie ants video that went viral way back when – a bit later a little game called The Last of Us was announced and I decided not to do that. Much later during development I played Telltale’s The Walking Dead and there’s a story in there about getting insulin for someone with diabetes, and I thought fuck it, I’m not changing anything. Later still I found out about a game called State of Decay, which was an open-world game about building a community of survivors in the zombie apocalypse.  Oh, and another one called Project Zomboid, and another called Dead State…  The moral of the story is, don’t make a zombie game!

Q: I know the feeling. I’m making one. What in your mind is the most important thing you need to make a great game?

A: Money!  Actually no… a computer!  No, wait, it’s probably talent.  A team of talented and hard-working individuals.  Who need to be paid with money… yeah, it is money after all isn’t it?

Q: On a quick side-note, any good games you’re playing right now?

A: I’m between games at the moment, waiting for Dragon Age: Inquisition.  The most recent game I played was The Last of Us: Remastered, which was brilliant of course, one of the best games ever made in my opinion.  Having the option to use stealth in most of the combat, for me really improved it over Uncharted, which tends to degenerate into a linear shoot-fest.  And if you turn the difficulty up as high as it’ll go it makes it very tense hiding behind a wall listening to bandits or infected wander past and trying to figure out your next move.

Q: Do you have any parting thoughts? Thanks so much for your time!

A: My cat’s name is Mittens.

IndieDB Link: http://www.indiedb.com/games/survivalist

Another batch of screenshots!

Game Update – October 5th, 2014

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Well, after last month sucking, and the surgery before that I had for a hernia and wisdom teeth removal, I am finally back in the game, quite literally.

It turns out the engine (Engine 001) I’m using and the new Dell computer I have aren’t exactly buddies. This is as far as me and Mike, the creator of the engine, could figure out. Unfortunately there isn’t much I can do there though, and this is a workaround. To fix that issue I mentioned last time, I simply had to disable the new lighting system and use the engine’s old one. No big loss there that I’ve seen. In fact, I can’t tell the difference, so that can be considered fixed.

I don’t know if I’m an idiot and didn’t notice before or if this computer handles the game even worse, because the performance was awful when I testing the game a couple weeks ago… like 5 FPS awful in some cases. It isn’t exactly a graphically-intense game, and I of course want it to work on as many (Windows – Engine 001 doesn’t yet support Linux or Mac) computers as possible. This led me to spending some time splitting the world map up into five parts. From a gameplay standpoint, the original single, huge map was pretty cool, but terribly running. From my standpoint, it performs better this new way and is easier to work on. I can also put more things in the maps without worrying so much about frame rate.

I’ve also started work on the magic system (of which there will be more than spells for combat), but I don’t have much to show since it’s basically a prototype for a single spell – Fire Missile, which is very much what it sounds like. You learn spells from reading scrolls, and of course you have to watch your MP. I can’t decide whether I want the MP to regenerate over time, how fast if it does, or if you need to carry some potions around. I’ll let you know when I decide.

I did tinker with the general combat system a bit, and the results are hilariously flawed, and will need more tinkering. Basically, combat didn’t have any weight to it before. You smacked your enemy and they stood as stiff as a board with their health tickering down. That isn’t any fun. Now you smack your enemy and they go flying literally miles away like they’re sliding on ice. Like I said, it needs more tinker.

On top of all this, I’ve done a few fixes to old scripts that didn’t work and worked on some other systems (of which they’re so insignificant I might as well not waste your time rambling about them). A lot of it was simply getting back the work I did that didn’t get backed up. It’s been decently productive, but I don’t have much time anymore for the game so don’t expect it any time soon. Thanks for your continued support and interest, and feedback is of course encouraged!

Game Update – September 14th, 2014

Oh boy, what a month-ish.

-So like you might have heard me say, IndieGraph (the indie games blog I wrote and worked for) recently fell apart. There goes my last ties to the site. It was dying anyway, but I’m sad to see it go. I guess it was hacked.

-Not long after that, my cat got shaved. Doom and gloom. Poor thing’s so skinny now, but she was so knotted up, it really had to be done. Why does that matter? It doesn’t really, but what happened after did.

-When I got back from the vet, I went on to enjoy some League of Legends, and halfway through my computer crashed. Like, just froze up, died and restarted. When it came on, it gave a message telling me my hard drive crapped out. After some investigation, it didn’t seem like a particularly easy fix, especially after seeing that none of the files on it were readable, so I ditched it and ordered a new one off of Dell Canada.

NOTE: I had my game backed-up on USBs. I’m not that nooby!

-The new computer was a good deal, with the price, graphics card (well, it’s integrated, but it’s a lot better than my old Windows 7 one!) and everything being great. Only downside was it came with Windows 8.1. Anyways, it took a couple weeks to arrive, and I then got all my old Steam stuff and whatever loaded on again. Back to game development again? Not quite!

-High school was once again back in and things were super busy, and I didn’t have the time to play around with my new computer much after that, and…

-When I finally did get to mess around with my new computer more, I soon found out that A: my Twitter account was hacked and I had to fix that, and B: Windows 8.1 and my game I’m developing don’t mix well together I guess…:

(Compare the screenshot below to the other screenshots I have posted – this doesn’t look right!)

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So, what does all this mean for the game? Well, I have to sort this issue out first, and then find some time to work on it. So, in other words, progress has slowed down quite a bit, and all this homework isn’t helping. Thanks again for your interest and support.

Indie Interviews – Roguelands

ITEMS !

My goodness, what a few weeks. Ah well, IndieGraph (an indie games blog I wrote and once edited for) finally ended its run after getting hacked and basically temporarily shut down, and if you want to hear from the headman himself, here’s a great post from him that sums up our story. In any case, when it was closed, one interview never got finished and posted. It didn’t feel right to leave him hanging, and I thus had no choice but to post it here to fulfill said obligation and show this great game to the world. This inspired me. This blog needs more content, besides boring ol’ me rambling, so I decided to do this once or twice a month (depending on how I’m feeling), kind of like a recurring segment.

So without further ado, here I talk to SmashGames about his survival multiplayer platformer, Roguelands. It may be a bit out-of-date by now. Feedback, as always, is encouraged.

Q: Do you mind introducing yourself, SmashGames? Are you a team or one person?

A: My name is Sean Young, and I’m a senior at the University of Central Florida studying Computer Science. I founded SmashGames in January of this year, and so far it has been just me making games. I started out in the mobile scene with about 10 games but then decided to move to PC.

My very first PC game Magicite ended up being pretty successful after getting on Steam, so I definitely want to stick with PC for awhile and see what I can do better as a game designer and developer. 

Q: What is Roguelands, in a nutshell? Is it well known what the disaster is, or is that up to interpretation?

A: Roguelands has only been in development for about three weeks now (POSTER’S NOTE: This is out of date now since this interview was done weeks ago anyway), so nothing is really set in stone. What I do know is that it will be a multiplayer RPG that is highly influenced by DayZ and Fallout.

Players will be able to create a game or join another one from a lobby, making things much easier to play with friends instead of the need for port-forwarding. The world will be procedurally generated with cities, farmlands, underground sewers, and much more! Players can then explore this world and try to survive by finding gear and loot, all while watching out for monsters and other players.

Roguelands should be on Steam Early Access hopefully in 3 to 4 months. It will most likely be $9.99 for PC, MAC, and LINUX!

Q: There’s some obvious DayZ-esque inspirations here, but is there any others? What are you planning on standing out with?

A: I’ve kind of become obsessed with DayZ recently, because it is so much more than just a zombie survival game. It isn’t flashy, is has an insane amount of bugs, and it is a hassle to find your friends and play with them. So why is it amazing? Because no other game has made me feel more stressed out or nervous when I see another player, and no other game has provided me with the same amount of satisfaction upon getting a kill. Any wrong move could be the end of you. I really wanted to capture that post apocalyptic setting with players not knowing if they could trust each other. I’m also a big fan of Fallout 3, and would like to implement some of the RPG elements into Roguelands!

Vehicle

Q: How is Unity to work with? Any strengths and weaknesses that stick out at
you about the engine?

A: Unity is the only game engine I’ve worked with (aside from RPG Maker a long time ago) and it has been just amazing. There are so many tutorials online for everything and the community is very active. Since I haven’t tried any of the other big game engines I guess I can’t really provide comparisons. I don’t see myself changing engines anytime soon.

Q: How is coding the multiplayer aspect? Any problems? How do you plan to deal with hacking, cheating, etc.?

A: For Magicite, multiplayer made things really difficult. But now I have a lot more knowledge of how network coding works so things should be a lot smoother. Also, I’m using Photon for Roguelands so players will have an easy time finding a game in a lobby. As for cheating and stuff, I’ve got a few ideas for handling all of that but there definitely will be many testing phases before the official launch to prevent cheating as much as possible. 

Q: Just quickly switching gears, what other games have you made, or are down the pipeline (that you’d like to point out)?

A: My very first game was a mobile infinite runner called Backyard Zombies. It kinda sucks but I think it is okay for a first game. Then I continued to make a few crappy mobile games, and eventually created a cool lane defense game called Pixel Kingdom. That actually had a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $5000! After that is when I moved to PC and made
Magicite, which has been way more successful than all of my other games. I hope everyone loves Roguelands even more!

Q: Do you have any parting thoughts? Thanks!  

A: Thanks for having an interest in Roguelands. I will definitely keep the community updated on how the game is coming along with new pictures, gifs, and info! 

Game Update – August 24th, 2014

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NOTE: The clothing is placeholder in these pictures.

Work on the game (the last few weeks) has been steady. I thought I’d get more free-time to get more done this summer, but I guess not. Part of this is due to the busyness of summer in general, and some of it has to do with my surgery, in which I lost a bit of time. Ah, but enough excuses you say! Tell me what’s up!

Well, the HUD has changed again, probably not for the last time. You may notice a lot less clutter up top. This was actually a huge overhaul of a system, and while it will take some work, it will greatly improve the game in the end. My original idea was stupid and clumsy (and I forgot to talk about it earlier when it was in use, thank goodness). I intended you to equip things with the arrow keys in-game, thus, the clutter. This means that each equipment slot needed its own HUD section and button. Now I’m going to simply let you equip things in the menu screen as per usual. Imagine the awkwardness of hitting a key to scroll through dozens of pieces of equipment, only to accidentally go past it, etc.

Items now have weight (everything is currently one weight unit to keep it simple – that may or may not change as I haven’t decided) and you can only carry so much. Along with this, items can now be dropped, but due to the items system of the engine I am using, Engine 001, items dropped in the scaled world map and the towns, dungeons, etc. have to be the same size. That may be a good thing, as an immersion hit isn’t as bad as not having a clue what item is now on the ground. More items have been made as well.

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A lot of other smaller tweaks, features and systems were made or are in the process of being made. Sound is being added, both in sound effects, like a munch for when you eat, to orchestral music for exploring to. A help menu option is being worked on, where you can choose what you want to hear about. I think it’s best this way, as you can use it as you need it, instead of having a tutorial shoved down your throat, or having no help at all. You can now drink out of the sea and the lakes if you’re thirsty (but the seawater is salty and doesn’t help you much). Your survival skills automatically allow you to tame wild animals if that stat is high enough, but animals turn hostile if you attack them. Items and armor can now break. Along with all this, you can now eat human meat from corpses (cannibalism FTW!) but you’ll take a hit from your soul stat – more on that later.

That’s a summary of the biggest changes I’ve made in the past few weeks. I thank you for your continued interest and support, and encourage you to give feedback. Thanks!

Game Update – August 3rd, 2014

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NOTE: Updated HUD. Health bar will be changed/fixed.

Since I’ve been fairly busy travelling with family (Summer!), work on Dungeons & Zombies!!! has been progressing slowly (yet steadily). Still no release date yet (and there may never really be), but expect it to be free when it comes out. A number of things are being added or worked on.

Horses are being made, which you (and NPCs) can ride around the world to quicken your pace. I plan on making them available in different breeds (in terms of speed, look, etc.) to buy, steal, or tame in the wild.

I’ve worked on filling the world with foods to enjoy and survive off of. In certain parts of the world different types of foods will be available to scavenger, pick, hunt, etc. I may add the ability to cook and manipulate them, and combine them to create even better foods, like cake in Minecraft. Not only do they added plants make the game world a little less empty, and I hope to make it even less so in the days ahead.

I’m revamping my old skills system. The old one was going to have leveling skills through use, like in The Elder Scrolls. However, this has the problem of really unbalancing the game, because eventually you can become a super warrior god that one-hits everything, and I don’t want the game to be that easy. Thus, I’ve decided that you’ll instead distribute skill points before you start, which can then be upgraded through in-game equipment and scrolls, which can increase stats when read.

Along with this, the world is being expanded, items and monsters are being made, systems are being designed (more on that later!), etc. It’s still in the early stages and it’s a lot of promises right now, but eventually I hope it will turn out awesome! Please give feedback if you can. Thanks for your support.

Dungeons & Zombies!!! – Announced

I am proud to make an announcement…

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Zombies! Zombies have ravaged the magical lands of Dongard! You’re a survivor of this deadly disease that erupted out of nowhere just a few days prior, taking the lands by shock and surprise. Things got dark and deadly very fast, and nobody can be trusted any longer. How long will you live?

Choose a role! Part of the character creation process is the ability to choose a little background about your current situation (a bandit on the run in the desert, for example), and it gives you a different starting location and starting items. You can then play this role as you wish, any way you wish. No adventure should be the same.

Survive! Manage your food, water and rest, or you won’t last long! Good thing there’s fishing, scavenging, etc. to be done. Be careful, as your death is permanent.

Explore and quest! Travel across the large sandbox world of Dongard and help or hinder those who also live. Be a fantasy angel, or their worst nightmare!

Kick rotting butt! Use magic, swords and more to put down the zombie menace. Of course, zombies aren’t your only problem…

Essentially, take Project Zomboid and The Elder Scrolls and mash them together. This will be released when it is finished/I feel comfortable doing so (it is already well on its way), and I am confident it will be done (eventually). The below screenshots are for a game in development, and more are on the way.

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NOTE: THE RED EXCLAMATION POINTS ARE ENCOUNTERS YOU CAN RUN INTO. THE TREE ON THE PATHWAY IS A MISTAKE AND WILL BE DELETED!