© Composite picture made using fotor
Welcome back undead fans. Today is a massive day for The Dead Times - most definitely the most ridiculously groovy day since the site's conception way back when. Today I can bring you something I've always wanted to get onto The Dead Times - truly exclusive, "can't see it anywhere else" content. That's right, read on for a written interview with The Fun Pimps, passionate indie developers behind the kickstarted Zombie survival adventure 7 Days to Die.
I've written about the game before in the kickstarter & the kickstarted category (available here) but, to sum it up in as few words as possible, 7 Days to Die is a survival game set in a Zombie apocalypse with Minecraft level construction and destruction, item durability and a bit of crafting thrown in for good measure. If that sounds like your thing, head over to the Steam store page and grab yourself a copy of the game - it's definitely worth it in my opinion.
This interview has been in the works for a long time, something you'll know if you have been active on the 7 Days to Die forum. The biggest stumbling block was just getting the devs to stop working on the game for even a few hours. I'm serious, The Fun Pimps are really going all out to make the Zombie game that the community deserves after raising a whopping half a million dollars in kickstarter and having already sold over one million copies of the game in early access - a superb achievement for such a small team.
Enough blurb, onto the questions...
© They are coming to get you | Infected PVP - 7 Days to Die
ZombieTom: Let's get the important question out the way first. You're in the office working on the game - it's a normal day. You look out the window and there are Zombies - actual walking dead - stumbling down the street, moving randomly without intelligence. The horrors could find you at any minute. What do you do - hunker down and wait for help or head out, ready for combat?
The Fun Pimps: Lock the doors, close the blinds, grab the shotgun and go raid the neighbors houses for supplies.
ZT: All right now that's done, cast your mind back, if you can, to when the Kickstarter ended. How did you feel when the project soared past the funding goal and, within an impossibly short time, smashed through every stretch goal?
TFP: It was awesome! It felt very surreal that night, watching the numbers climb like a Jerry Lewis telethon. We were chatting back and forth constantly as various milestones were smashed. It was like wow the world really loves this idea!
ZT: Zombie games, particularly open-world ones, present a awkward trade-off between realism and gameplay. How are the team attacking this - do you want 7 Days to Die to be a very real, hardcore survival simulator set in an undead world such as DayZ or a slightly faster, gameplay focused game like Dying Light?
TFP: I tried DayZ for less than half an hour and rage quit, and I haven't tried Dying Light yet. That said our main inspiration is the television series The Walking Dead and we love Bethesda's Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. Our elevator pitch was always "Imagine The Walking Dead meets Minecraft and Fallout 3". We want the game to be as realistic as possible, but not at the expense of being so real that it feels tedious to do things. The zombies are always coming to get you in 7 Days to Die, so there is a constant urgency to do things, and those things need to be easy to do. We redesigned the gui and all the stations to make survival more intuitive to new users, but it's still very advanced the deeper you get into it.
ZT: Adding to that last question, the Zombies in 7 Days to Die are clearly more dangerous at night. Is their going to be any advantage to going out at night versus going out during the day? Dying Light, as an example, boosts experience point gain for night survival. Do you want the same kind of thing in 7 Days to Die? Or is the concept of building up a fortress capable of housing the player through an incredibly dangerous night the primary focus?
TFP: I would say the latter, but we aim to provide enough character growth so you can go out at night once you are advanced enough.
ZT: Zombies are - and I'm really, really excited by this - becoming more and more common in games. We've got Dying Light, DayZ, H1Z1 and the Resident Evil HD remakes forming big-budget triple A titles and countless indie games as well. How do you think 7 Days to Die stands in the horde - what makes it unique, what would make players play your game over all others?
TFP: I would say the depth of our game, and the real zombie threat will attract players. Not to mention it's a true sandbox zombie survival game with a destroyable world where you can mine, craft, build, upgrade. Our game has quality ranges on items, the amount of detail and depth we are adding is unmatched.
© Build amazing forts to keep the dead at bay | GameReplays - 7 Days to Die Screenshot Competition
ZT: I'm really into single-player games with deep stories and, judging from the 7 Days to Die forums, I am not alone. Most of 7 Days we have seen so far is very multiplayer oriented, minimal story with basically sandbox survivalism in a world overrun by flesh-eating Zombies. The Kickstarter did mention a Duke of Navezgane and NPCs (in a stretch goal) but it was not really clear (or I cannot remember) what role they would play in the released game. Could you expand on this?
TFP: The Duke is a Casino owner who had enough firepower, food and security to withstand the outbreak. He quickly took control of most the wasteland and secured several outposts. Basically he's the godfather of the apocalypse. His casino tokens are the new currency and the law is whatever he says it is.
ZT: On the subject of, not really just single-player, but more of NPC interaction and the "game-world" in general, are The Fun Pimps planning a STALKER-style environment where everything exists at once and everything has needs to fulfil? For example, will the Duke of Navezgane have a persistent presence in the world as the head of an enemy base? If so, will these enemies go out in the game-world, being attacked by Zombies, hunting animals for food and so on? Will weather affect the behaviour of such NPCs at all, both friendly and hostile?
TFP: Yes there will be patrols from various factions and their behavior towards the player will be determined by the players own relationships with these factions.
ZT: What, in your opinion and just in general terms (regardless of whether it will be in the game), is a Zombie? What does it need to be and do?
TFP: A zombie is infected with a virus nobody really knows anything about other than it may have been a biological attack. They have lost any reasoning abilities and simply want to eat living flesh. We will expand on that later, with lore as to how the feral zombies have come into existence.
ZT: Obviously being a small development team, I imagine finance and planning are quite a major concern. Do you have a fixed "road map" of features that need to be developed before the game is officially "complete" or does the community have some say in the product? For example, if some avid player has a really awesome feature concept and, after discussing it on the forums, many similar players share their enthusiasm, will you fold this into the game's design? Conversely, and I'm referring to the controversy surrounding the mutated Hornet enemies here, if something The Fun Pimps implements which is not well liked, do you remove or redesign that feature?
TFP: We've shown adaptability to player concerns on many occasions, tweaking things and removing them entirely. But it needs to hit home with us too, we're not changing anything we feel is an improvement to the game over some knee jerking about unfinished features. That is one of the drawbacks to alpha, you put in one feature that might not play correctly until a couple of other features are fully implemented, yet players expect each version to play like a finished game.
© Beware the undead beard! | [ALPHA] 7 Days to Die
ZT: Coming off the back of that question, from watching the preview videos of Alpha 13, I noticed that the harvesting system has changed quite substantially from the very basic "hit something, a resource falls on the ground and you pick it up" mechanic. Why was this change made? Was it part of a planned progression, a decision made in response to player feedback or just something the creative talent at The Fun Pimps thought would work better?
TFP: It had been planned since the beginning. We started this game with a Minecraft type engine so we inherited that mining system. It was never ideal. I played the game with some new players and I was trying to tell them how to get started and I found myself feeling like a professor lecturing on the basics of survival in a boring and convoluted speech. I'm supposed to be an awesome game designer, how did our game end up so klunky? How you did things was different in each system and we took a long hard look at things and bit the bullet on a new gui and a unification of all systems so there are familiar mechanics to everything, that are easy to learn and intuitive.
It all started with the first thing you do, which is almost always "craft a stone axe". You had to punch a small tree and there was no indication that you were doing any damage to get any wood. Then the stick fell on the ground and half the time it was lost in the world. It also caused more network traffic and overhead to drop an item on the ground. So we decided a health bar was needed and to just put the resource in the player's inventory was cleaner, and we put a pop up of the item's icon and a quantity to indicate you were gathering a resource. Finally we went more granular with the item counts so you could see on the first hit usually, that you were gathering a resource. This plays so much smoother than the old way and I don't miss picking up resources off the ground at all. I can focus on gathering and building now, not looking for lost resources. I can tell new players just punch stuff and get resources.
ZT: What element of the game are particular favourites of The Fun Pimps team and why, be it art, design, efficient coding or otherwise?
TFP: We really like the new gui and all the stations. The game just flows great now. An interface should allow you to do things, not get in your way. The new zombie knockdown, crippling and limb removal system is a huge new favorite thing to do as well.
ZT: I don't know if you read about the grilling Peter Molyneux got about him saying he was not going to be able to fulfil all the promises he made for his Kickstarter project, Godus. Are you worried that you may not be able to get everything done you promised you would get done over a year ago or perhaps nervous that you may not deliver the game experience that people thought they would be getting when they backed the project?
TFP: No not at all. We've already done all the hard stuff. That will be evident in A13. The game is more polished and better than ever, and what I would say, the first true glimpse at what this game will be like when it's finished. Not to mention we've sold over a million copies, so we have plenty of capital and are fully confident we will complete all the kickstarter goals.
ZT: Finally, and I think readers would crucify me if I did not ask this, is there any expected release date for the finished game?
TFP: We're hoping by Christmas 2016.
ZT: Ok, that's all from me, thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. Have you got anything you want to add in closing?
TFP: Thanks for the interview, and oh, the spider zombie we modeled after your own likeness is no longer "the scout zombie", he's back where he belongs, with the general masses climbing up your walls every night and included in hordes, causing problems for players with insecure forts.
ZT: That sounds super-awesome guys. I can't say how much I love there being a Zombie of me in this ground-breaking game!
In the first of, hopefully many, truly exclusive The Dead Times articles, I document the recent interview I had with The Fun Pimps, revealing some insider information on their landmark Zombie survival game, 7 Days to Die.