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Home » Featured, News

Zombie MMO to infect consoles

Submitted by on Tuesday, 24 November 2009No Comment

Zombie MMOAs if you needed another sign of the approaching MMO apocalypse, look no further than Undead Lab’s recent announcement that a MMO featuring everybody’s favourite member of the non-living genus – Bella be damned, we’re talking zombies here – is currently in development. And, furthermore, it’s just for consoles.

The brainchild of MMO luminary Jeff Strain, the currently untitled zombie MMO plans to turn the massively online world on its head by shunning the staple traits of current MMOs and create a new and fresh approach to persistent online gaming. In other words, less level grinding and more a “I need to go out and find some food before I starve” approach.

If you’re not familiar with Jeff, you probably haven’t been round the MMO table for long. Reading like a veritable roll-call of MMO history, Jeff’s resume lists such online greats as World of Warcraft (where he acted as lead programmer) and Guild Wars. He’s also turned his hand at some non-MMO classics such as Starcraft and Diablo.

Jeff Strain - knows his zombies

Jeff Strain - knows his zombies

Forming Undead Labs in the summer of 2008 after leaving NCSoft, Jeff decided to broach a topic we’ve all talked about at one point or another (usually under various degrees of intoxication) and turn it into a reality. Jeff says:

“Every time I see a good zombie movie with friends, we spend days debating our strategies for surviving the zombie apocalypse. The police station or the supermarket? Garden rake or staple gun? Bach or The White Stripes? I’m a game developer, so I’d probably be useless for anything other than ghoul bait, but I’m excited to have the opportunity to build an MMOZ that lets us put those strategies to the test and find out for sure.”

Jeff’s approach to bringing an MMO to the console arena is different than how other companies (such as SOE) are tackling the conundrum. While others attempt to create some sort of console/PC hybrid — making the game available for the massive and untapped console market yet still pandering to the genre’s historical userbase, PC gamers — Jeff believes this tactic to be flawed.

Speaking to Destructoid on the topic, Jeff explains his rationale:

“ […] most of the people who are making console MMOs are doing it in the context of taking an existing PC MMO, and porting it to consoles or developing a hybrid design that is going to supposedly appeal equally to PC and console gamers. I’ve been in the MMO business for over a decade and I absolutely do not believe that you have to make a game that supports both PC and console in order for it to be successful.”

So, built from the ground up to cater for consoles, just how does a MMO zombie game work? As mentioned above, Jeff stresses that the age-old mechanics surrounding MMOs’ incessant levelling up objective will be replaced with a more character building design.

The world of a zombie MMO is also inherently different than your typical fantasy or space-faring RPG. Expect immediate goals to be basic survival, finding weapons, opening up channels of communication with fellow survivors of zombiegeddon, along with the obligatory mall-runs and attempts to build a base where you and your commune can feel safe. You’ll have to protect this base of operations, however, and expect the horde of brain-eating critters to congregate and assault your compound in the dead of night.

The biggest question on everyone’s lips, of course, has to be “fast or slow zombies?” Jeff explains that, despite hailing from the new school of zombies that move just as fast as humans, capable of climbing and other feats the living would consider a nuisance, Jeff admits that the ongoing debate of fast versus slow is almost sacrosanct to some people. Noticing a good design opportunity when they see one, Undead Labs are planning to incorporating both zombie types into the game.

You can find out more about Undead Labs and their upcoming MMOZ over at their web-site.