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World Zombination - Prototype #1

This is a mini-post mortem for the very first prototype of World Zombination.

This is cross-posted from the Proletariat Inc. Blog!

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Click on the image above or click this link to play the prototype.

When we first started discussing World Zombination, we knew two things:

  1. We wanted to make a simulation strategy game
  2. We wanted the gameplay fun to watch

Gameplay that is fun to watch tends to feel deeper than abstract gameplay. We wanted the game to feel full with every unit on screen doing something interesting and where players could still be surprised by the behaviors and reactions of the characters.

To help understand this space, the team played games like Plague Inc. and Atom Zombie Smasher. We discussed what made these games compelling and what we could learn from them. I decided to make this prototype to give us a starting point to talk about zombie behavior.

History

I have always been interested in artificial intelligence and swarm intelligence and thought that flocking behaviors could be a great starting mechanic for a game. Flocking caught my eye when I first read about Boids many years ago and I knew of some resources written in Actionscript that I had previously messed around with.

In about a day, I was able to get the first version of the prototype up and running. It just so happened that the same week, the trailer for World War Z came out and we were all able to use that to support some of the ideas we had about the way the zombies should move.

Lessons Learned

This prototype taught us several things:

  • When I sent this around one of the members of the team started to give commentary as to what was happening on screen, it was at this point that I felt we had something we could use.
  • This prototype became more interesting the more units that are on screen, so we wanted to have hordes of zombies.
  • Boids move like fish or birds, it was not until we put in some perching behaviors that they started to feel like humanoids.
  • Even with no goals or gameplay, it was interesting to watch.

For several weeks, we would pull this prototype out and look at it and remember the feeling we wanted to achieve. This sort of process has been helpful to give us all a gut-check periodically to make sure the game we are making is still living up to the ideas that spawned it in the first place.

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