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Zombies, Horror, Survival, OH MY!

Ripper X Posted:
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Recently I had the opportunity to visit The War Z dev team and ask them some questions about their upcoming zombie survival horror MMO. They were kind enough to let me playtest the alpha and go over some of the features that will be in place when the game is released.

There are going to be three areas of gameplay in The War Z: the first being exploration. Players will be able to explore a map roughly 160 kilometers wide, everything from forests, to small towns, to big cities are scattered across the land. Colorado is their first map, but more maps are also in store.

The second of these key components are the players themselves. There will be PvP in the game, but it will also depend on how folks decide to play - some might band together and fight, or some (like myself) will hunt other players for the pure sake of spreading chaos and real life tears. More details about the PvP system and how it affects player death will be covered later in this article but for now let’s get to the third part of the gameplay: Strongholds.

Strongholds are user-created maps, much smaller than the big map, but tailored for a user-fueled experience. For example, in the alpha there’s a player created a stronghold called “The Pit of Death”: an arena where players can battle zombies and each other. Another player created a stronghold called “Hunger Games” in which players hunt other players. Once the Beta is released, it’s going to be fun to see what everyone will create on a customized level.

There is also something called “Safe Settlements,” a place where you are safe from zombies… but not from players. While in the settlement you can check your inventory, post messages, trade with players and buy things from the general store. Speaking of inventories, there will be a “Global Inventory” that ties in with all of your characters. As of now you are able to create five characters and no, there’s no perma-death here… unless you want there to be.  But we’ll get to that soon.

With regard to getting attacked by players, in the alpha, a player climbed on top of the settlement to check things out, maybe to smell the air, maybe to get some relaxation on top of the safe haven. A sniper off in the distance was scoping the settlement and shot the poor guy from what had to be a record distance. Apparently this was also caught on video.

Now, while we’re at it, let’s talk about death in The War Z. There will be a “Normal Mode” and a “Hardcore Mode.” In Hardcore Mode if your character dies, it’s gone. When your character dies in Normal Mode, whether it’s to a zombie or player, that character cannot be played for 24-48 hours. This isn’t perma-death, but rather death on a timer, a long timer. This will make players play the game a bit more cautiously and should also keep it interesting. That said you do have five character slots in the game. So what if you play all five characters, and they die within a short period of time? You will not be playing The War Z for 24-48 hours (there’s no subscription so don’t get angry just yet).  There is also full corpse-loot in the game - if your character dies, everything on that character will be dropped. That said, a smart player will make use of their global inventory and stash good items, gear and weapons as a backup for when they inevitably die and need to start from scratch.

Speaking of death, there is another system in the game that will bring some fun, excitement and rage to The War Z…The Bounty System. Players can put bounties on other players’ heads! For example, if a player is griefing another, or a player keeps getting killed by a certain bugger, or even if a player doesn’t like another player for some simple reason, that player can put a bounty on them. Now I’m not sure if the bounty is cash only, or if they give you the ability to give cash and items, gear, weapons, etc.  The devs couldn’t say just yet either.  Either way, it’ll make for some interesting alliances and rivalries. 

Beyond the Bounty System is the Questing system. There won’t be quests from the game’s NPCs, like your traditional MMORPG, but rather from players. You can create custom quests and have other players help and aid you in your needs. That said? Be wary, in the Alpha a player took a highly prized custom quest from another player and when he landed on location the other player was there with an axe, killed the player who took his quest and looted everything on him.  Sounds like the perfect example of someone needing a bounty placed on their head.  The War Z definitely expects players to police themselves. 

So what’s after the Bounty System and Questing? Well, that would be the Reputation System. Players start out neutral in the game-world and can either get a good rep, or eventually turn into a bandit by having a bad rep. Once you are a bandit you can still improve your reputation by killing zombies and doing other things in the game-world that doesn’t warrant chaos. I’m not 100% sure if there are any penalties for being a bandit, as I’m sure a lot of us would like to solely have bandit characters and vise versa.  We’ll get more on that as we learn more about the game in coming months.

Now, let’s talk about weapons. Weapons are pretty rare in TWZ. Obviously players will run into the lower-end weapons like handguns, shotguns, etc., but finding the sniper rifles and military grade weapons will be harder and will take some exploring, which is dangerous in and of itself. There are 30+ types of weapons in the game and all spawns are completely randomized. Beyond weapons are weapon attachments: these will be highly prized and will include such things as high-powered scopes, silencers, and so forth. These will be very rare and hard to find.  Though there will be incentive to trade, so there could be a viable black-market in the game down the road. Or again, players can explore and get lucky with loot drops. Personally the best loot drops in my opinion are off a well-geared player (insert evil laugh).

One thing that made me happy to hear about was the “Logout Timer.” Players will not be able to ALT-F4 or quit too quickly. I believe the timer will be around 10 seconds, but the developers don’t have it nailed down just yet.   

Before we wrap this article up, let’s go over the price of the game, the max amount of players per server, and when the closed beta will start…oh, and did I mention the game engine is custom built by the team and is proprietary?

The War Z will be around $30 and won’t have a monthly fee. There will be in-game micro-transactions, but mainly for cosmetic purposes. Servers in The War Z will support up to 200 players per server, but the optimal range is 80-120 players right now. One cool thing is that players will be able to host War Z servers directly from the game, and won’t have to deal with third party hosting providers.  The closed beta will start around October, so keep an eye out here at MMORPG or on their site.

The fine lads over at Hammerpoint Interactive have invited me back for another game session in October, so if you guys have any questions you would like me to ask, please shoot me an email: ripperx at mmorpg dot com.



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Ripper X