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Introducing URDead Online

Interviews By William Murphy on January 29, 2013

MMORPG: Can you start by giving us an overview of the game? How does URDead Online differentiate itself from the throng of zombie MMOs out there?

URDEAD Online (UDO) is something we’re half-jokingly calling a SMORPHS: Small-Scale Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Horror Survival (the “Game” is silent.) As our tidy acronym implies, UDO won’t release with the scale of bigger MMOs. We just don’t have the manpower to create dozens of areas; instead, we’ll release new areas as we polish them and feel they are ready for players to be eaten in. Second, UDO is a survival game.  When out in the world, players will want to stay aware of their character. They’ll need to eat and drink whatever they can find to stay effective, scouring for weapons, ammo, crafting materials, and other necessities – while fighting to stay alive. Banding together will have big advantages in certain situations.

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We want UDO to push the zombie apocalypse setting in some new directions. Our zombies are really a side effect of a larger event that is altering the balance of life on Earth. Players will see the full effects of this disaster as they discover new areas and enemies. The zombies themselves will come in a variety of shapes, sizes (and smells). We’re having fun trying to differentiate them from the zombies you’ve seen before, and how the actual zombie infection works in UDO is something we feel is fairly unique. We’re really trying to balance our own spin on a zombie apocalypse with our affection for the history of the genre.

Finally, players are not immune to Infection! If you’re on the business end of our fancy Bite mechanic, you will become Infected and continue playing as a zombie. Although Infection is avoidable, we expect many players to become zombified at one point or another. Infection is reversible, and you’ll be able to restore your character to its pre-zombie state – with some effort. Unique Undead classes will unlock for players who choose to abandon their human character and permanently play as a zombie. We’re experimenting with the finer points of how this will work, but we want Undead characters to be a viable alternative for players with a love for the gruesome. Most of UDO’s player-versus-player content will center around the Human and Undead factions. Lately we’ve been playing with some cool Undead character customization options and PvP mechanics that we hope will make UDO a lot more interesting than a typical zombie shoot ‘em up. We’re really excited about this aspect of the game, but we don’t want to give away too much of it yet!

MMORPG: What Engine is the game using? How many people will it be able to support on a single server?

We are using Hero Engine. Each Hero Engine server can reportedly accommodate up to 100k players, but this is dependent on how efficient you can make your game. Our team has experience in making MMOs, and we are doing all we can to get the highest frame-rate possible.

MMORPG: Is it a shooter, like DayZ, or a more traditional MMO?

URDEAD’s combat is based around skills and abilities, and your position in relation to the target while using targeted and area effect abilities. Although some classes will use guns and other ranged weapons, you won’t be aiming like in a shooter – instead, you will be using the skills on your hotbar to Whack, Swing Away, Bash and Kneecap your way through enemies. For classes with ranged abilities: shooting will be a targeted ability with a chance to miss, but UDO’s combat is not heavily based on gunning down enemies from afar. Much of the combat will be up close and personal.

MMORPG: What will a typical day be like in the life of a player, from login to logout?

New players will begin in a class-specific starting area. You’ll play through a tutorial level that introduces game mechanics and explains why your character is there to begin with. After finishing the starting area, players will join the general population.

We’re really staying fairly traditional with the types of MMO content we offer, with the important caveat that players need not stick to running one type of content to progress their character. For instance, although URDEAD Online will have plenty of quests, you won’t be required to grind mobs to earn experience and gear (we’re also aiming to keep grindy quests to a minimum.) After capturing a sewage treatment plant from the opposing faction (hey, priorities!) you could team up with a group of players to take down a roaming open-world boss, or enter an instanced area (what’s an RPG without dungeons?) to fight multiple bosses. Big progressions in UDO’s main storyline will be delivered through quest chains that grant experience, gear, and currency; after doing an instance, you might follow a quest into an unexplored area of forest to find a research facility with some nasty clues about the Infection. If you’re in the mood for a fight, a good chunk of UDO’s original content will be based around open-world PvP. Human and Undead players will battle in non-instanced areas to complete objectives and capture strategic points. None of these avenues of play need take precedence; they are all effective ways to level, make money, and gear up.

We’re doing everything we can to fill URDEAD Online with a modest variety of PvE and PvP content. We want to be very candid about this; there is a reason we call UDO a small-scale game. Our continued focus will be on producing concentrated batches of meaningful content, heavily based on player feedback.

MMORPG: How does the combat work, then? Hotbar, abilities, etc?  Will players be able to avoid zombies, dodge their attacks, and so forth? 

Combat is ability-based, and abilities work within a certain range of the target. Abilities are displayed on your hotbar, similar to other MMOs. Different classes will have different abilities to help get them out of range (or within range) of enemies, although some of our zombies are at their most dangerous when far away. Standard dodging and blocking mechanics will apply for physical attacks. Right now we’re sticking with the familiar class roles such as healers, tanks, damage dealers, crowd control, etc. with some hybridization.

MMORPG: What about PVP? In games like War Z, it often comes down to players killing players and not caring about zombies.  How will URDead be different?

First of all, players of the same faction will be able to kill each other. This gives Human players in particular the opportunity to put a teammate out of their misery if they suspect they’re Infected, and with good reason – newly Infected players will have a greatly increased chance to Infect nearby players before being killed for the first time and re-spawning in an Undead faction area. However, there will be no way to guarantee whether another player is Infected; you’ll have to rely on their word, and their actions. We want that quality of trust and paranoia to factor in to player decisions. That being said, URDEAD Online will have a strict penalty system designed to discourage players from killing each other with impunity. For instance, killing a player who is not Infected will flag NPCs of your faction to attack you on sight. We are also working on a Bounty system of some kind that will encourage players to hunt down team-killers for a reward. Some hardcore players may wish to play as outlaws, and this will be permitted – but it will take a high level of patience and resourcefulness to survive without the use of NPC vendors and safe areas. The vast majority of UDO’s PvP will be Human vs. Undead.

MMORPG: What about player-run villages and towns… will they be supported as well, or will there pre-made areas for players to stay safe? 

There will be plenty of safe areas in the world; camps, power plants, small towns etc. that are bastions against the undead. We do not currently have plans to allow players to build their own structures. That said, we know that functionality is possible and it is definitely something we would like to add in the future. More than likely, it would consist of players building and upgrading their own small defensible camps as they’re out and about. There are SO many things we want to do, but we are keeping it simple for now.

MMORPG: Will there be crafting or any of those other typical MMO features?

There will be crafting, and plenty of it! We are working on ironing out our profession system before we get into Beta. While every class in UDO will have the ability to craft, certain classes will have advantages in certain professions.  Some sample professions include First Aid, Foraging, and Ammo Salvage.

MMORPG: What are the chief goals as you work towards alpha, and when will players be able to sign up to participate?

Functionality is our main focus right now. We are testing internally every day, creating and tinkering with stuff. For Alpha, we plan to have the Base Classes and a few Advanced Classes in game, as well as an early version of the Bite/Infection mechanic.  Basic functionality like combat, abilities, items, and inventory will be up and running in Alpha. Other tech, such as instancing, will come as we progress.

MMORPG: Do you know what the revenue model will be like?

URDEAD Online will be free to play, with an online store for specialty items. Items acquired through micro-transactions will not give players a competitive advantage, but they will provide cool cosmetic upgrades for your character. Although some items will be exclusive to the store, certain in-game items will also be purchasable for players who want to save themselves some time played. But again, we have no intention of allowing players to “buy power.”

MMORPG: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers before we let you get back to work?

We’re aiming to deliver a fun multiplayer survival game, with engaging gameplay and a cool story, for both casual and hardcore players. If any of the above makes you go “GRRR!” (in a good way), please head to our forums so we can hear from you! Getting your opinions and your participation is what’s going to make URDEAD Online a great game.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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