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 – 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

snow

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.