Sandswept Studios, creators of the tower defense game DETOUR, have recently taken on creating a first-person zombie survival game titled The Dead Linger. The game is set to feature a randomly generated world that will span 25,000 km and support at least 16 players per server. It’s an incredibly ambitious game, but can it really survive in a market already saturated with first-person zombie shooters? I prepared my questions and interviewed Sandswept Studio’s CEO Geoff Keene to find out what’s going to set The Dead Linger apart.
Gather Your Party: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Geoff!
The video game market has become very saturated with zombie games over the past few years. What makes you feel that The Dead Linger will stand out?
Geoff: The defining attribute, above all other zombie games out there today, is that The Dead Linger is a true zombie survival, in every sense. The game is about surviving in the apocalyptic world, with zombies. Most “zombie games” are run and gun, gore-fests, mowing down hordes of the undead as if they were no real threat at all. A game is not a survival game simply because your character can die. There’s so much more to it than that, and that’s the kind of game people are asking for. That’s the kind of game we’re delivering.
What influenced your team and yourself to create this game? Movies, games, TV?
I was personally influenced the most by Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide, back about 5 year ago. From the week I read that onward, I had zombies on my mind. I wrote down everything I wanted to do in the zombie apocalypse. Of course, along the way, I’ve been inspired by many works, from the classic and newer Dawn of the Dead movies — survivors holding out in the malls — to other works, such as 28 Days/Weeks later, some of my favorite “zombie” movies (more the survival aspect, it’s arguable that those are really “zombies” at all.) The Walking Dead graphic novel was a large inspiration for me as well. I spent far too many days wrapped in that story.
Is there anything that you want The Dead Linger to do differently than most zombie movies and games?
We are avoiding the “mutant special infected” you find in many of the modern zombie games. We feel they detract from the real threat — the zombies. If your base zombies aren’t a threat, is it really a zombie game? If you’re wading through zombies, and only concerning yourselves with the tough, special guys, is it really a zombie game? We do have some fun plans for some very terrifying infected animals (though probably optional server setting, as we’ve gotten a lot of mixed feedback on this idea.)
The size planned for The Dead Linger’s randomly generated worlds is incredibly ambitious. How do you and your team plan on having these randomly generated worlds give players the desire to explore outside of the necessity for supplies?
It’s all about variety, finding the next cool thing, raiding the next building, checking what’s down the next street. There’s a whole world out there to see, and the player is the one to guide themselves there. People are generally much more adventurous and ambitious than most developers give them credit for. They’ll discover the world all on their own, we’re just the ones providing it.
What kinds of options are you going to give to players to fortify and defend their safe houses? Is it going to go beyond boarding up windows and moving furniture? Player crafted traps?
We are definitely looking into some trap systems. We’re currently tossing around a design idea involving a very free-form rope and pulley systems you can tie to objects. That opens up a huge door of possibilities, literally and figuratively speaking.
Will characters be persistent overall, or will a character be limited to the server he or she was created on? Can you transfer a character from singleplayer to multiplayer?
Characters will be persistent. You will carry all your gear over to different servers. We are planning at the moment that food is the main item you don’t carry over, and you drop your food when you are killed. We’re still working out the best balance, though. Food is becoming a currency, in many ways.
When multiplayer characters die, will it be permanent? Can you revive your fallen friends?
When you die, you will respawn a few blocks away. We don’t feel as though ‘reviving’ allies is a very convincing or realistic apocalypse. It makes the penalty for being injured and killed far less severe. We’re considering a perma-death hardcore mode later on as well.
You incorporated some RPG elements into your game. Would you mind sharing these elements and explain how one player’s character will differ from another?
The main way players will differentiate in an RPG sense is through equipment, and system we’re calling “Survivor Attributes”. These attributes (up to 3, currently) can be selected by players. By mixing and matching attributes, the player can really customize their character for their playstyle. For example, a player who prefers being a melee bruiser might take 3 attributes that give them better melee damage, and increased health. But for choosing those, they won’t be a very good marksmen, and they might move a bit slower. Those are just some examples of attributes player’s will be able to have.
Seeing as this game has dedicated servers and is currently a PC only game, are you considering keeping the game open to third party mod support and/or releasing a development kit to the public?
We would love to support modding later on in development, but only after we’ve made the game we want to make.
You’re currently planning to release the game in alpha like Minecraft did. Minecraft isn’t nearly as complex or large in scope as The Dead Linger. With this in mind, do you think that the inevitable bugs during the alpha phase could cause bad press or turn potential buyers off?
We’re going to be yelling from the hilltops (on the logo, in the menus, everywhere!) that the game is in Alpha. When you play it in Alpha, it will be in development, and there will be problems. We also plan to address any potential problems more or less immediately in order to keep the experience fun and smooth as possible. Along with our weekly or bi-weekly updates, we will be rolling out hotfixes for any game-stopping issues in a given release version. We listen to our community, and we’ll know and work to fix things right away when something is wrong.
What kind of mechanics or features will your PVP mode have that will draw gamers away from games like Left 4 Dead 2, Operation Raccoon City or other online multiplayer shooters?
We want everyone to be able to play TDL the way they want. If they’re interested in playing against other players or other teams of players with zombies running amock in the streets, then we want to be there to support that. If you’re competitive, other competitive players will certainly be running lots of fun PvP servers. When you’re playing coop, there will be plenty of servers where everyone is generally much more friendly to eachother. We’re also taking into account griefing (killing players on a coop server) through team damage reduction and various things like that.
Long story short, we’ll be adding lots of server options for stylizing how people want to play. That includes supporting a very competitive and very cooperative apocalypse, for those who want them. And let’s not forget about the lone wolves out there. The apocalypse is in your hands.
Will your singleplayer mode provide some kind of narrative or story to make it different than the multiplayer mode?
Currently the singleplayer will simply be the multiplayer game, without anyone else. They will feature the same amount of over-arching storyline, and other story tid-bits to discover. The story is yours to create.
Thank you so much for your time, Geoff. We at GatherYourParty.com are very grateful to have this opportunity!
Thanks for the interview!
The Dead Linger truly has the potential to be an incredible game. With the amount of community support behind the game and the amount of interaction the developer has with their community, it could be a zombiephile’s wet dream. The Kickstarter campaign ended on the 30th of April, but you can still donate here and receive the same rewards. Get your wallets ready!