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Organize Before They Rise!

Dave Bonnewell Posted:
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Behind the Online: Organize Before They Rise!

Weekly Column by Dave Bonnewell

Editor's Note: This is a weekly column by Staff Writer Dave Bonnewell. The column is called "Behind the Online" and will look at different events from around the world of MMOs. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

    'The Zombie-Themed MMOs.'
    (sung to the tune of the 'Adams Family Theme')

    They're creepy and they're kooky.
    Ya know what's kinda spooky?
    Necropheliactic nookie!
    The zombie-themed MMOs.

    Their house is a mausoleum
    Where people get eaten by 'em
    They really are a scream
    The zombie-themed MMOs.


    So get your zombie bash on
    A boomstick you can count on
    We're gonna pay a call on
    The zombie-themed MMOs.

Greetings fellow gamers and welcome to what's on my mind lately.

Allow me, if you will, a little of your time to pick your brain. Love them or hate them, zombies (in voodoo - the bodies of dead people given semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose) have become engraved not only into our psyche, but into our very entertainment sub culture as well. The sheer volume of books, games, and especially movies on the subject of zombies is testament to the frightfully loveable, nauseatingly charismatic, rotting, flesh 'n brain scoffing scoundrels' formidable effect on the world at large. I have my personal favorites in the categories of book, game, and movie, of course: Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, Night of the Living Dead (original 1968 version), and Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse.

With all that is available in the world on the theme of zombies, there remains at least one facet of our multimedia-verse (to coin a term) in which the appearance of our walking corpse friends has been largely deadened. The MMOG. Still, I did come across a simple, yet addictive zombie survival horror MMO which is absolutely free to play and which tens of thousands of people are currently inhabiting (I myself have recently been counted among them), yet so many more have never heard of. There is another such game in development which looks intriguing, and though not free, does make full use of 3D rendered graphics. If you are an avid MMO gamer who happens to also possess either a secret or unabashed fetish (no, not that kind of fetish) about those brain biting baddies, then you will agree that the two pop culture icons go together like chocolate and peanut butter, like Cheetos and Red Bull, and yes, even like those crazy Kazakhs Borat and Azamat. So, stick 'round guys and ghouls and learn a little more about a couple of MZOGs (Massively Zombified Online Games).

Urban Dead - www.urbandead.com
Urban Dead is a free to play web browser text-based (so there's nothing to download!) little gem from the infinitely clever mind of Kevan Davis, creator of many such great free web browser games. In just a single year since this MMORPG went live in July 2005, over 600,000 players had already registered. This is largely due to the game's casual-friendly "action point" (AP) system which limit's the number of actions (such as moving around the map, scrounging goods from abandoned buildings or employing certain class-specific skills) a player can take in a single day. These AP are regained at the rate of one point every half hour, but only a maximum of 50 AP can be accumulated. In Urban Dead, the more a character's skills are utilized successfully, the more experience points are gained, which can be used at any time to purchase new skills.

From the start, I found myself in the midst of a quarantined section of the fictional city of Malton dealing with the immediate aftermath of a zombie outbreak. New players can choose to begin their adventure as a full-blown zombie or a human striving to survive. Zombies possess natural defenses and strengths, while humans possess unique starting equipment and skills based on their class (Military, Science or Civilian). I like big boomsticks of zombie-kick-assedness, so I chose a military dude. I like to imagine him as a Vietnam vet marching around saying, "This is my rifle. This is my gun. This is for fighting. This is for fun. HOO-RAH!" Watch Full Metal Jacket sometime and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Though there are glaring differences between the sprinting alive and the shambling undead, there is often a unique sort of symbiosis concerning the two in Urban Dead. Humans, as it rightly should be, turn into zombies if they die. Likewise, zombies can be re-animated with syringes, and thus become human. Also, humans can use various weapons and tools, communicate with each other, barricade buildings for protection and move at twice the speed of their undead counterparts. On the other hand, zombies can easily come back to life - or "unlife" as it were - when put down, making them essentially immortal. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this MMO is that it's possible to switch sides during the human-zombie struggle and it's not and uncommon practice for human players to act as "zombie spies" by reporting on human positions and defenses to groups of zombie players.

Exanimus - www.exanimusthegame.com
Exanimus (translated roughly as "without life" from Latin) is currently still in the pre-production phase, but it is the first - though hopefully won't be the only - game of its kind in that it is a fully 3D, zombie horror genre-themed, competitively priced subscription based, MMOG. It is being developed by the newly formed Rotten Corpse team (I still love that name!) from TMSGames, a division of Thinking Man Studios, Inc. The official Exanimus website lists no dev bios, so I can only say for certain that the game's Head Zombie (a. k. a. Senior Producer) goes by the forum name Relics. Obviously, being in the pre-production phase little is known about the game, but I can share with all you fellow zombie devotees out there at least a few tantalizing tidbits:

  1. Exanimus is not meant to be played by anyone under the age of 18 as it is an extremely intense and graphic game.
  2. The Rotten Corpse team intends to publish this game in-house through TMSGames unless they find an outside publisher that suites their needs.
  3. Exanimus is being developed for Windows PCs only, though the developers are open to expanding to Mac PCs and next-gen consoles.
  4. Direct download is being looked into as the means of getting the game, but the dev team would like to see it on store shelves someday.
  5. Exanimus should play fine on an average PC, however a broadband connection is recommended.
  6. When the beta stage is finally reached (no date on that yet), it will be open to everyone.
  7. Exanimus is set in a very apocalyptic world and features an intricate storyline for players to fully immerse themselves in.
  8. Players can take on the role of either the living or the undead.
  9. Solo play, partying and PvP will all be available as well as guilds (for both zombies and humans) and crafting.
When asked how the Rotten Corpse team plans to integrate the community into the Exanimus' development, here's what they had to say: "We hope to do something that has not been done yet. We are going to give everyone a backstage pass during the development of the game. When production starts, we will be picking elements from the production team to post on. Players will then be able to view the artist progression day by day. So for instance, you will be able to log in and see the progression of a Zombie character from concept all the way to game engine integration. We also have several other plans that will allow players to get directly involved inside the game even before Beta. So we highly recommend everyone keep checking in on the site during production."

I know I'll be keeping one eye on the development of this game, and the other on my front lawn. You never know when the dead will rise again and come for you! Brainzzz...

I'm Dave "Kawika" Bonnewell and that's the way I see it.


Dave Bonnewell