World of the Living Dead Resurrection, interview with Wil Tolan
QUESTION: Thanks for giving us the opportunity to interview you about World of the Living Dead: Resurrection (previously known as World of the Living Dead). First of all, could you introduce yourself to our readers?
Answer: Sure, thanks for your interest in our game! I'm Wil Tolan, and I'm with Scraggly Dog Games, the Dublin-based publishers of World of the Living Dead: Resurrection . I'm working with developers Dave and Kulpreet in Ballardia on many areas of the game as it evolves over the coming months and years, including playtesting, managing feedback from our beta testers, community management and whatever comes up during the week! Busy times, but lots of fun to be a part of a brand new gaming universe from the start!
QUESTION: How would you describe World of the Living Dead: Resurrection to someone who has never heard of it before?
Answer: It’s not a zombie shooty face game for a start. It has a classic strategy game feel that some games had back in the late 90's. WotLD is a massively multiplayer strategic zombie survival game set in a present day, post-apocalyptic 16,000 km2 of Los Angeles County. It has elements of role playing, strategy, co-operative gameplay as well as Player v Player (PvP) interaction. You are part of a government branch known as NECRA (the National Emergency Control and Relief Agency) and must manage a group of survivors and navigate them through the zombie infested landscape of LA County, USA. As you play, the story will unfold so I don't want to give too much away, but role play is a huge part of our game, and if you look through our forums there is a huge amount of backstory to help you understand what’s going on in the game world.
QUESTION: Why did you decide to shut down WotLD and launch a completely redesigned game?
Answer: The main reason for the re-design was to allow for more simultaneous players. We encountered a number of issues in the old game. Turned out our sandbox approach for an open zombocalypse resulted in a lack of an overall goal for our players. We also had issues that the universe as designed was too small for the kind of number of players we wanted to see in the game. Plus, on top of it all, our implementation had severe performance limitations too. In all, we learnt a lot of really hard lessons and wanted to fix this and create a game that stayed true to what we wanted to do at the outset and yet was able to sustain the numbers that would make this an economically viable project.
With the old version based on Google Maps, any sudden rise in popularity (i.e. from a nice interview like this ;P ) caused waves of sign-ups that the game engine couldn’t handle and performance dropped under the pressure of so many players. So we had a game that a tonne of people wanted to play, but it wouldn’t support them. So the devs had to rebuild the entire game, while improving the old game, and in June we stopped that to focus fully on the new build. But we’re back up and running in four months, and we hope our old players missed us.
QUESTION: In your opinion, is this what players want? What feelings do you think players have?
Answer: Yes. The players want a stable game that can support the massive amount of interactions that are possible. The more populated the game world, the more enjoyment the players will get from it. We are grateful that the community saw the big picture and supported the developers decision for the re-design. We know this first version isn’t perfect, but we are listening to our players, and are in regular communication with those playing our game. This is why we are taking a really staged approach to our beta testing. We started from 2 people to 6 people on the server in September, and since 11th October we’ve added 150 people, plus about double that again waiting on beta keys. We'd like to polish and streamline the game a bit more before allowing more people in though.
QUESTION: How much has players’ feedback helped to improve the game?
Answer: Player feedback has been and continues to be vital to the development of the game. We have pretty much had to rebuild every game mechanic around the new OpenMaps engine, allowing us to really deepen the gameplay, while decluttering the game’s already minimalist UI. We’re taking constant feedback from our players, and our beta testers are really helping us refine the quality of the game, as well as testing the mechanics, such as faction gameplay, movement, inventory management, stories, etc.
QUESTION: What can we expect from the World of the Living Dead: Resurrection? Give us a sneak peek on the most interesting additions.
Answer: I could go on for a very long time here. Everyone has their own favourite additions. I think the Workbench is probably the most intriguing to me. I really like the idea of being able to repair the gear I have salvaged and also apply modifications to them. For example adding an extra clip to your assault rifle by duct taping it on, or fixing a scope to your weapon. These are very practical and believable things that could happen in zombie infested environment. Items and equipment can be damaged through use, and you never know when you'll be able to find more gear. Keeping the stuff you have in good condition is vital to any apocalypse survivor.
QUESTION: What’s going to happen with the old accounts?
Answer: Everything is being reset. We will still have records of all of our players accomplishments which we may use in the future, but the server will be starting from scratch, everyone will be at ground zero so to speak. We had some players who still had currency on their accounts, and we will be transferring their NECRA Credits (in-game currency) into their accounts for Open Beta. All of our old players will also get an exclusive pack as a thank you for sticking with us.
QUESTION: Release date?
Answer: It's currently in closed beta testing, and going into open beta before the new year. Official release is yet to be announced. But our second wave of CBT will be going out to all of our players signed up to our newsletter over at www.worldofthelivingdead.com , and we might have a few over at @WotLD or www.facebook.com/wotld for anyone eager to play. And of course, you’ll have some beta keys for the public round for your readers!
QUESTION: From your point of view, what will make this game more fun than others?
Answer: From my personal point of view, it is the challenge. I have played games for roughly 20 years, and in that time I have seen the challenge in games slowly but surely disappear. Games in general have been getting easier, and in my opinion that is not a good thing. People need to be challenged, and that's something that WotLD gets right where so few these days do. It respects a person’s ability to overcome obstacles and doesn't coddle them. Once you get over the fact that there’s pretty much no UI, and understand what the point of the game is, you’ll get on just fine.
WotLD is hard. You’ll kill ten survivors before you get to grips with the game, but once you get into it and look past the modest graphics, there are so many gameplay opportunities there to explore. Game designers talk about 'emergence', the unforeseen elements of gameplay that players discover, things that hadn't been planned but exist in the game, it is what makes a sandbox game. This game will have it, as it's previous incarnation did.
We have a fantastic community across the world from the old game, and they’re eager to have a brand new wave of players to discover the game they’re going to help make awesome.
QUESTION: Would you like to add something?
Answer: Yep, this game has been a huge three-year development project form when Dave and Kulpreet were in Jolt. Dave’s old project was Lead Designer of Legends of Zork. But with this game they have had to overcome so many challenges, and have documented so much in the blog. So if there’s any readers who are making games themselves, there’s a really tough lesson here about the ups and down of game development, and how two guys stuck with it because of their motivation and the strength of the community behind them. And we hope to welcome millions of zombie fans like us. Remember! We’re not a zombie shooty face game! We’re the thinking gamer’s zombie survival strategy game!
The people in Scraggly Dog Games, the publishers of the game, have worked in gPotato, Blizzard and Goa. We know that a good game has both great gameplay, as well as customer support, and we’re doing our best to translate all of our feedback to help make this happen quickly and effecively. WotLD is unlike any of the games we have worked on before - Dragonica, Warhammer, Allods Online, World of Warcraft, Age of Wulin, Starcraft 2. 45,000 people played the original WotLD, so there’s certainly an interest in this kind of game!