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The War Z: Sergey Titov Talks Zombies, Open Worlds, MMOs & DayZ

Tom Hopkins


We speak to Sergey Titov, collaborator and backer of Hammerpoint's upcoming free-to-play, post-apocalyptic MMO - The War Z.

Published on Aug 28, 2012

The War Z won’t have set objectives, and is instead described as a sandbox MMO experience – what are the challenges in designing an open game for players without traditional sign-posting?

Segrgey Titov: Actually, once we settled on the concept of an open-world environment with emergent gameplay things got much easier.  We just asked ourselves what tools we needed to give to players in order for them to create their own ultimate endgame.  Then, we divided those into several stages, so we can introduce those tools as the game continues to grow in popularity.  So you start out with things that we’ve mostly already announced and as we go, we will add more and more complex tools that will allow players to engage in the world in new and different ways.  We really feel that this will keep players engaged and keep the gameplay fresh.


Zombies: expect a few of these chaps to pop up.

How do you avoid the sort of harsh difficulty curves or player griefing that DayZ has been criticised for?

ST: That’s a tough question to answer because I don’t really know how much of the DayZ design was intentional and what was just the legacy of using the Arma engine.  Arma is a very focused product for a very specific gaming audience and is not for everyone.  I think DayZ is amazing, but personally, I’m more of a Battlefield guy when it comes to controls for a shooter.  I also think tight, direct controls for things like inventory management, interacting with world objects, etc. are extremely important.  As for the survival aspect, I think that we are pretty hardcore, but our goal, once again, is to have players fighting for their life in the game world, and not have to struggle with the controls or UI.

What are the core mechanics in the War Z and might we see new mechanics added in future? Can we expect dynamic/on-the-fly PVE scenarios?

ST: There are really four main aspects to The War Z – Survival, Weapons Systems, Social Interactions and last but not least ZOMBIES!. First thing you need to do is to make sure that your character can survive in the world. You’ll need food and water. There’re different types of food and drinks in the world and, as in the real world, they’re not all the same when it comes to how effective they are. Most effective, yet most rare items are military MRE packs that basically provide calories, vitamins, etc for your body to function for the next 24hours. Least effective probably are things like potato chips, which decrease your hunger level only for a small amount of time, but they also increase your thirst – they’re salty you know.  Also, soda drinks are not as effective as electrolyte rich drinks in fighting thirst. You’ll need to stock up with bandages, medical emergency kits, zombie antivirus, painkillers and antibiotics.

Bodies: Shades of 28 Days Later?

Next are weapons. You can’t just go and buy guns – you need to find one in the world. You’ll be able to modify guns by using attachments that you’ll also need to find in the world – like silencers, optics, grips, lasers, flashlights, etc, etc.
 
Next are Social interactions or how you interact with other players. We have different mechanisms that will allow you to create pretty unique and interesting scenarios. You’ll be able to create missions for other players, you’ll be able to call for help and offer rewards for helping you (and nobody actually prevents you from cheating them ), you’ll be able to trade with other players, etc, etc.
 
Last but not least are zombies. Our zombies are slightly slower than players; our zombies can only be killed by headshots or blunt brain trauma. If you shoot them in the body, you can knock them out and this will slow them down, but that’s it. And when they attack you there’s a chance they’ll infect you. If you get infected, your blood toxicity level will start going up. Once it reaches a certain level you begin losing your Health Points and once they’re zero you’ll die.

How big is the game map, and what types of areas will players be surviving in?

ST: The first world that we will be launching with is called “Colorado” and is somewhere around 250 kilometres square.  We wanted to create an environment that had various types of terrain.  There are woods, country, streams, small towns and larger cities.

Players won't be lacking stuff to do in The War Z.

We’ve heard a little about the skills upgrade system – what types of attriubutes will players be able to level up, and how?

ST: Ok, so a skills upgrade system isn’t exactly right ☺ - what we have is an extensive tree of “training skills” that players can unlock.  Each “node” of the tree affects certain stats – and those stats are similar to what you would expect in the real world.  For example, physical training nodes will increase things like your stamina (how long you can sprint), and endurance and muscle mass (increasing the amount of weight you can carry).  Increasing survival skills will increase the effectiveness of bandages, slightly lower your food/water consumption rates, etc.  Lastly, weapons training will slightly lower recoil and increase your reload speed.

What do you hope to learn from the upcoming beta, and do you anticipate players finding ways to play that you haven’t even considered yet?

ST: During the closed beta we want to monitor feedback and determine if there are any tweaks that we can make to ensure the best possible experience.  We are also going to be looking at server load and determining how people are playing in the world.  We fully expect to see players doing things in the game that we never imagined, and that’s really exciting for us.

Finally, what do you see as the fundamental element to making a good post-apocalyptic zombie game? Can we expect to see a lot of AI zombies in the game?

ST: A main goal for us has been to create tension and really immerse players in the zombie apocalypse environment.  We completely designed the game world around a zombie apocalypse so that was one thing we felt was a necessity – visually.  Also, certain areas will be more likely to be infested with hordes of zombies versus other areas where there may only be a small number lurking about.  So depending on how an individual wants to play, they can either avoid dangerous situations, or venture into those areas in order to acquire more valuable gear and/or weapons.

The War Z will be availabe as a single-purchase download and is scheduled to launch this Autumn.

 

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