Hey Everyone! Getting right into it…
When we first starting paper prototyping for Zomz, we were working on our original idea, which if you read last weeks blog post, is the sequel to the game we are making now. If you haven’t read the other post, you can find it here. Anyway, that game was an entirely different game than what we have now.
That original game was going to be an isometric, RTS-like, RPG game where the player could control multiple zombies at the same time. That game, (the first iteration, which is now our sequel)had multiple design problems. I’ll name a few below specifically about controlling zombies.
1. How would the player control multiple zombies at the same time?
2. What would happen to the player when they are controlling zombies?
3. What could controlling zombies do to benefit the player?
The aforementioned are not all of the problems that we faced, obviously, but the most crucial ones.
After much digging, prototyping, and internally play-testing we looked at two games. The first was transistor. Aside from the outstanding beauty and wonderful world building embellishments, we took inspiration for our combat from their combat system. To us, it was basically a time stop mode which allowed the player time to think about what they wanted to do and choose moves based on the amount of “mana” they had left.
So we added a ‘Zomz Mode’ which is activated by the player and acts a time-stop. In this mode, the player can choose zombies to attack or move and each action cost a certain amount of mana. What we liked about this idea was that the players could control multiple zombies at the same time but that came with it’s own set of problems.
- Zombie actions happened in successive order, not all at once. Because this happened, if you controlled one zombie to attack another different zombie, and then another zombie to attack the first controlled zombie, the second controlled zombie wouldn’t start moving until after the other zombie had moved already, which made the succession of events null and void. So we decided to change it so that everything happens at the same time.
- When zombie attacks happen at the same time. The same problems occur where you can’t control two zombies and have one zombie attack another at the same time. Also, zombies would clump up together and become and unstoppable force after they had completed what you asked them to do.
So we were running into some issues and thus we put that on hold as we looked at another game for inspiration…
The second game was Xcom 2. We knew that one of our design problems was how the player was going to control multiple characters at the same time so we looked at the turn-based combat in Xcom 2 for inspiration. Xcom 2 is a great example of a polished and optimized, calculated and turn-based combat system. Which is exactly how they were able to allow the players to control so many characters at once; because it was turn-based.
After looking at both of these games, we decided to pivot to only controlling one zombie at a time, but instead of telling it what to do, the player becomes the zombie. We did this for a few reasons…
1. It helped minimize the amount of overhead work by solving the design problems that existed in controlling many zombies at the same time.
2. It stopped the combat from being turn based and instead more action oriented with the only pauses being when the player activated Zomz mode.
3. It’s more fun to become the zombie and make it do what you want, as opposed to just tell it what to do and then run away as the player. Also, when the player becomes the zombie they’ve selected, their player character becomes obsolete but can still be targeted. This added a layer of strategy involved in choosing which zombies to control, what to use them for, and how long to use them.
We are happy with the new direction that we’ve decided to pivot to. We believe that it opens up meaningful game play opportunities for us as designers but also for the players as problem solvers because it makes things more action dependent and fast paced. However, in the future we are still looking for ways to solve the original design problems for controlling multiple zombies at the same time. We are interested in adding this feature into the Zomz sequel, so keep a look out for that!
Thank you so much for reading our blog post about some of our design decisions behind Zomz! We look to you all for your feedback because we hope that we can connect with you in deep and meaningful ways and thus feedback as to what we could do better is always welcome. Please feel free to comment on anything in the blog post and if you have any requests for any information please don’t hesitate to let us know!
Thanks again and until next time!