By Andrew Dodson on August 9, 2013 at 1:38am
Zombies have infiltrated modern day popular culture and taken over so many different aspects of it that it's hard to remember a time when they weren't already everywhere. One of the most popular shows on television right now is about zombies. Every couple of months, another zombie movie is churned out and devoured by undead-hungry fans. Some of the most popular books recently have zombies as a main, central theme. But video games ... video games are something that zombies have completely taken over. Even if you take out the games that deal with a straight-on zombie setting, you still have DLC being whipped out to satisfy players' zombie-killing urges in games that don't even really need zombies to begin with.
Yeah, the games don't need the zombies ... but we want them there.
"7 Days to Die" is another zombie game in a long list of zombies games coming out in the near future, but the people over at Fun Pimps seem to taken the zombie genre and doing something a little bit different with it. They are giving the player a world - well, "world" might be a strong word. They are giving the players a county in Arizona, peppering it with zombie threats, making everything destructible and gatherable, and then letting go of the reigns. All the player has to do is survive.
Utilizing a gorgeous, voxel-constructed world and pieced together with real block physics, it looks as though "7 Days to Die" is the zombie-survival game that we've been waiting for. The player is able to mine the earth for resources, cut down trees, build structures, create traps, and fortify whatever area they happen to be living in ... because the dead are coming.
They are always coming.
Without even being out yet, its hard to ignore "7 Days To Die's" popularity. After being on Steam GreenLight for two weeks, they were rated first out of 1,500 other games. It has been greenlit by Valve. The game met its $200,000 Kickstarter goal within three weeks of starting. Now, with less than a week to go on the already successful Kickstarter, I got a hold of Ryan Raner, one of the artists involved with "7 Days To Die" and got to ask him some questions about this amazing game they're creating.
PT: I'd like to start the actual interview off by pointing out that you have collected quite a team for this project - all with experience in just about everything. What brought you all together to start The Fun Pimps and "7 Days To Die?"
RR: For my part, I've been friends with one of the founders for some years now. Joel was owner of an indie game company, and I was fortunate enough to get to work with him on multiple projects.
Many years ago, we had announced a game in the early stages which had a theme of a zombie survival game where the player began inside a maximum security prison. The project was later abandoned as being an indie developer in the days pre-dating digital distribution [which was] was extremely difficult.
But these days with the advent of online distribution such as Steam, their great Greenlight program, as well as Kickstarter as a funding option, it provided a chance to team up again when the industry is far more forgiving toward independent developers.
PT: Is there an origin story for the name of your company The Fun Pimps?
RR: The official word on this was that we were making a serious game and we wanted a company name that wasn't so serious, something that sounded fun.
PT: Navezgane County, Arizona. Why did you choose this area as the location for the game? Are you basing the game map off any real area in Arizona?
RR: Navezgane itself is a fictional place, but it is loosely based on one of the few regions in Arizona which features access to higher elevation, as well as more moisture and plant life than people typically associate with Arizona. Some of my personal implements so far included a few visual cues that curious players could use to estimate a general area within the state.
PT: You mention in your Kickstarter video that everything will be open, and there will be tons of places to explore. How big will the actual game map be? How long would it take to get from one side of the map to the other on foot?
RR: Nailing down an exact time to run across is a bit tricky, because you'd have to factor in possible zombie encounters, rough terrain, obstacles, and whether or not you are sprinting and depleting stamina. If you were to just do a straight point A to point B run trying to get from one side to the other as fast as you could, and you never were delayed to fight anything or search any buildings or items, then you could probably run it in 10 minutes at the current size of the alpha state of the map. It will probably be quite a while before we could have an idea what the final map size of Navezgane will be.
The world size may expand over time as it already has in the past, but so far our goal is to focus on making the current explorable area fun and interesting before expanding it further.
Personally, I don't believe it does players any favors if we were to expand the world size carelessly and inflate the size just for the sake of a bullet point on a feature list. So the idea is to make the current space interesting before continuing to expand outward.
PT: I love the hunting, farming, and gathering aspect that you're adding to the game - especially with the purity level idea, it seems very unique. How important will food and water be to the game? Is starving and dehydration going to be a very real threat to the players? I imagine growing food will be somewhat accelerated just for the game's sake - how complicated will farming be? Will fishing ever be a thing?
RR: Food and water is important to survival, but I think we'll be aiming for balance with the fun factor so the entire game isn't basically a munchies simulator where the only interesting or important thing to do for survival is to run wild through the hills searching for baked beans.
Generally, we're looking at cause and effect situations as well, which you brought up when you mentioned purity levels of items. In the short term, maybe you chow down on a dead rabbit you found laying by the road in the Arizona sun and fill your food bar, but then again maybe a bit later, the whole rotten meat thing doesn't work out as well for you.
Because we are in alpha, which is a prototype stage, many things are going to be refined over time. But in the case of growing food, it will be slower than magically conjuring it, but at the same time players won't be forced to wait weeks for their vegetable garden to grow or that berry bush out in the forest to grow new fruit.
Fishing is a serious possibility that we want to do, as we already have game hunting existing in alpha. The exact time in development this would be implemented is currently unknown, however.
PT: There was also talk of animal domestication in the video. How will that work in game? Will I be able to domesticate a bear (please say "yes")?
RR: This is one of those features that is still being worked out internally, so describing it in detail such as the exact steps a player would go through to do this would be too premature. But if you wanted to domesticate a bear I'd probably suggest you get your hands on a hell of a lot of animal meat.
PT: You make the claim in the Kickstarter video that there will be hundreds of items that the player can craft, but there will be no need for a wiki to tell you recipes for things. How will crafting work in "7 Days To Die" in order to accomplish that?
RR: I suppose you could think MacGuyver when he empties his pockets on the table if 80s references are still allowed these days.
Your player isn't assumed to be witless by the game. So when you open your inventory you also have a crafting window that appears as a laid down mat. Based on what materials you have on hand at the time, the crafting window will display a list of items your player thinks you can make.
If you click on one of these items you'll see squares in the grid become active to give an idea of the quantity necessary material(s) needed. Since you know the list was made based on what you have on hand, you just need to provide the right materials from your inventory. Some guessing is involved, but it isn't too difficult.
However, once you've successfully made an item, your character remembers this, and the item in the list becomes highlighted. Highlighted items in this list can be clicked, which automatically moves all the necessary ingredients into the grid locations.
So this way your player's character doesn't seem witless because it tries to simulate you using intuition to build something for the first time, and doesn't make you jump through hoops of something that a person would remember after having done it before.
PT: Besides the acid-puking hulk that was mentioned in the video, can you hint at any other types of special infected that will make it into the game?
RR: There were rumors of a poor survivor who got attacked one night by a bear that seemed to have a peculiar lust for brains.
But the survivors haven't come up with any proof yet so we'll have to file this one with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
PT: How has your experience with Kickstarter been so far?
RR: The Kickstarter campaign has been great overall. It has been awesome seeing all the messages from people who aren't just making a casual purchase or pledge, but are actually really interested in what we have been doing so far. It's been very encouraging, because they seem so excited about the little bits of rough footage we have shown so far, and I just keep thinking the whole time that what they have seen of our prototype is still missing so much of what we plan to add moving into the future.
PT: Which of the stretch goals planned are you personally most excited to see potentially implemented into the final game?
RR: The top three stretch goals I'm looking forward to I think would be customizing characters/interchangeable clothes, zombie versions of wild animals, and Oculus Rift support.
Having a wild animal zombie come at you in the dark of a forest while wearing a 3D VR headset is something I'm dying to try. But I have a while to wait before development gets out of the alpha/prototype stage to where I expect to see it.
PT: You're in the final week or so of your Kickstarter, and you've reached your $200,000 goal, which is awesome. Do you have any advice to other game developers that want to use sites like Kickstarter to get their projects off the ground?
RR: The biggest piece of advice that I might give them is to try to develop your idea to the point of actually having some sort of working prototype for people to look at. An alpha doesn't have to be and will never be close to what a finished polished game can be, however having something functional goes a long way. Doing so has the benefit of helping get the idea across in ways that concept art and text cannot, as well as giving potential pledgers some confidence that you can do the work.
Another would be to make yourself accessible to everybody and ready to answer their questions and thank them for their contribution to the project. Our pledgers are just as much of a part of this thing as we are, and we've tried our best to make sure everybody knows that we feel that way.
PT: Are you feeling any competition from similar zombie-sandbox games that are coming out soon, such as "State of Decay," "Rust," and "Fortnite?" Or do you feel that "7 Days To Die" is unique enough to fill its own niche in the market?
RR: To use a butchered quote from YouTuber, you could put "Call of Duty," "Battlefield 3," and "ARMA" in the same category, but that doesn't mean that they are all the same game and attract the exact same people.
I think what all these games are doing are part of their own genre. Each creative group is going to have their own take on it, as well as their own goals and expectations for what they want their player experience to be.
From our perspective, we compare the existing games not with what you see of our game in preview videos but with our various ideas and private documentation of what we are building. So that being said, I'd say we will likely end up having our own unique flavor and it will be up to the personal tastes of players to decide which approach is the most fun for them, just as military FPS fans choose which franchise best suits their own personal style.
PT: Once "7 Days To Die" goes live, what is next for Fun Pimps? Any other projects being thought up, or is the company's main focus on "7 Days" right now?
RR: Our main focus right now is on development of 7 Days to Die and keeping up with our fans and early adopters. We still have a long road ahead of us and a lot of work to do.
Although we do frequently throw around cool ideas we have, and any of them which don't fit the scope of our current project could still see life later in future projects.
PT: Top three favorite zombie movies. Go!
RR: This is a hard one because I'm having to exclude other good movies to end up with three. But I think that I'd say that in no particular order I do have soft spots for "28 Days Later," the original "Dawn of the Dead," and "Shaun of the Dead."
As of this article, there are only six days left in the "7 Days To Die" Kickstarter, and they've managed to raise just over $250,000. There are some exciting stretch goals planned out if they're able to get some more supporters including weather effects, Oculus support, more animals and, potentially vehicles. If you've ever fantasized about getting some friends together (oh yes, the game is multiplayer) and constructing the perfect zombie-proof fortress but just can't find the supplies or zombie apocalypse to test it out, I highly recommend you check out "7 Days To Die."
And you should probably keep an out for zombie bears while you're at it.
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