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Zenless Zone Zero's Producer Talks Multiplayer, Healing Characters, Console Releases And More | Interview

Steven Weber Updated: Posted:
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Earlier this week, several media outlets were invited to visit Hoyoverse in Singapore to test the upcoming urban action RPG Zenless Zone Zero. While you’ll have to wait just a bit longer for our full impressions, we’ve compiled our notes from the roundtable interview with producer Zhenyu Li. With Zenless Zone Zero launching on July 4th, 2024, you’re not going to want to miss this interview that details post-launch content and explains what makes ZZZ so different from anything Hoyoverse has done before.

During our group interview about ZZZ with producer Zhenyu Li, our questions and his answers were filtered through a translator. Despite the language barrier, Li’s enthusiasm was palpable. It was clear that he was passionate about the game that his team of more than 400 members had been working on for several years. However, with 5 live-service games from Hoyoverse running concurrently, and a slew of similar games from their competitors bombarding the market, my first question needled Li on how the team aims to launch yet another gacha hero collector in a market that is quickly becoming saturated.

“When we started ZZZ production in the early stages. We had no idea whether the market would be saturated,” Li stated. “What I focus on is to produce an interesting and fun game and to let the players make their choice. They can try it, and I think that is sufficient. I don’t think genres matter personally. I think as long as I produce a fun product, it doesn’t matter which genre it is – as long as it’s a fun game.” He explained. The sentiment felt well received, especially during a follow-up question relating to some of the negative feedback the team received about their Hollow Deep Dive system.

“During the closed beta test previously, we realized there were some users that did not like the Hollow Board because they could not find the combat in it. In contrast, a certain group of users found the board very fun and that sets the (development) team in a conflict. ‘Who do we satisfy?’,” Li began.

For those unfamiliar, Zenless Zone Zero utilizes a “game board” style exploration system, where you’ll find combat scenarios, rewards and even some puzzles scattered about. In previous closed beta tests, it was possible for players to wander through this game board world and miss encounters and rewards.

The team worked on several ways to appease both sides and came to a solution where players that just wanted to battle have a combat feature, while others that enjoy the nature of game board exploration will also have their preferences satisfied. “I aim to allow players the freedom to choose the way they want to play.” Li concluded.

With incredibly popular games like Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail, Hoyoverse has their work cut out for them where Zenless Zone Zero is concerned. Expectations are high for Hoyoverse’s next game. However, Li states that ZZZ is a stark departure from the other games as there’s an undercurrent of real life built within it. Nostalgic media and retro designs give a different structural feel to the world.

“New Eridu's nostalgic, retro elements are closely related to our own childhood memories, such as playing in arcades with friends, discussing films at VHS stores, or sharing music in CD shops. Many of these things are hard to come by nowadays, so I wanted to share these joyous, formative experiences with today's players by incorporating retro elements like arcade machines and old radios into the game. So far, I am glad to see some players love this idea, but I am keen to learn what more players think about it when the game officially launches,” Li told me.

As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s, the retro feel resonates with me, though there are parts of the world that have a distinct Eastern feel. On launch, the game will have 6th street and Lumina Square, which will have their own shops and community, but the world won’t stop at a few small urban settings. “We will introduce new content as the storyline moves forward,” Li said, alluding to the inclusion of new urban settings that have distinctly different cultural backgrounds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get any specifics, but it seems like players can expect a wide range of multicultural urban locales as the game progresses.

Another stark departure is that Li wanted to specifically balance the way that players approach the story. In previous games like Genshin Impact, the player character and the friends you meet along the way are often inherently heroic by nature. “We deliberately avoided trying to emphasize any one core value during the production of Zenless Zone Zero, we chose to showcase a group of ‘ordinary’ people caught up in a post-apocalyptic era.” He told me.

“It's not like other post-apocalyptic worlds packed with heavy themes and questions of right versus wrong. Here, nobody has to try and save the world. Put simply, we hope to explore the value of ‘ordinary’ people through the narrative of this quirky urban story.”

As a high-octane action RPG with a cast of kooky characters, there is no lack of damage dealers in the roster. That only accentuated what was missing, support and healing characters. When asked why the current character list is devoid of healing or broader support characters Li stated that they didn’t specifically omit a healing character, but that the team hasn’t found a way to weave that character in with the other effects both visually and mechanically. “Maybe in the future, moving forward, we will have such a character,” Li teased.

One curious piece of Zenless Zone Zero is that it is a live service game that fundamentally feels like a single-player experience. There are some multiplayer aspects in the Arcade, with group multiplayer for mini-games like Soul Hounds III, but it felt strange for a game to allow multiplayer via minigames, but not as a main component. “The multiplayer battle mode is already under development.” Li said. “I hope players can look forward to this mode in the future version updates.”

Finally, I ended my portion of the interview inquiring as to the current roster. The latest roster showed off 15 characters, whereas Genshin and Star Rail both had upwards of 20 characters on launch. Li said that the number of characters will eventually rival Hoyoverses other games, but right now the team is working on refining each of the characters currently on the roster. “We are after quality and not quantity,” Li said.

During the interview, Li was asked whether ZZZ will be available on Xbox and Switch, to which he replied that he intends for the game to eventually release on all platforms. Until that time, you can look forward to Zenless Zone Zero to release on July 4th, 2024 on PlayStation 5, Android, iOS, and PC.


Steven Weber

Steven has been a writer at MMORPG.COM since 2017. A lover of many different genres, he finds he spends most of his game time in action RPGs, and talking about himself in 3rd person on his biography page.