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Strain's Undead Labs Reveals XBLA Open-World Zombie Game

ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain's new Undead Labs will bring an open-world zombie apocalypse title to Xbox Live Arcade -- and Strain explains why he's stopped using the word "MMO" to describe it.
Undead Labs, the studio founded by ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain, has announced that its first product, an "open world zombie-survival game," will be coming to Xbox Live Arcade in partnership with Microsoft Game Studios. Strain has said that his studio was founded with a focus on bringing definitive online worlds to console gamers. "We love the PC, and we've had the good fortune to work on some fantastic PC games," he explains on the company's official site. "But we also love console gaming, and it's past time for a great online world game to be brought to the console platform," he adds. When Strain founded his Seattle-based studio, he announced that he'd be creating a massively-multiplayer zombie MMO -- or "MMOZ," as he called it -- that focused on action and humor elements. Today's announcement doesn't describe an MMO per se, but in a Q&A on Undead Labs' site, Strain explains the decision not to use that term anymore. "We feel that 'MMO' has become highly associated with a specific game design template, and we don't want people to assume that's the kind of game we are making," he says. "If you think of an MMO as a game that allows thousands of gamers to play together in a persistent online world that evolves and reacts over time to player actions, then we're still making that game," Strain adds. "If you think of an MMO as an online fantasy RPG with elves and dragons and EPIC QUESTS involving gremlin ears and dudes standing around town with bobbing exclamation marks over their heads, then we're not -- and never have been -- making that game," he concludes. Microsoft describes the upcoming XBLA game, codenamed Class3, as a survival-based third-person action title in a "zombie apocalypse" setting: "Players will need to form their battlements and settlements, raid for food and ammo, and rescue other playable survivors. Its open-world environment is described as "developing in real-time, shaped by player actions." However, Strain says the team is already thinking beyond the XBLA game itself into brand-building: "Class3 is the codename for the ambitious zombie-survival open world game currently under development at Undead Labs for release as an Xbox Live Arcade title," he says. "Class4 is the codename for the subsequent zombie-survival online world game that we will develop by building on the Class3 platform." "In other words, Class3 runs on your Xbox 360 and supports 1-2 players via Xbox LIVE or on the same screen, while Class4 will provide a much larger server-hosted world for thousands of simultaneous players." No release date was given for the project.

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