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Recently we were given the opportunity to interview the CEO and lead designer at Kerberos, Martin Cirulis, about their upcoming PC game Fort Zombie. Of course, because I love all things zombies, I jumped at the opportunity to shoot them some questions and pick their brains a bit.
Diehard GameFAN: What is your take on the recent surge of zombie killing games and do you think there is enough fans to support all of these games?
Martin Cirulis: The great thing about zombies, and thus zombie games, is that they never die! But seriously, people gripe from time to time that they are seeing too many driving games or too many WW2 games or what have you, but I find what they are really saying is that they are tired of generic, uninspired games of whatever genre happens to be bothering them that day, and I think that is a fair complaint sometimes.
On the other hand, there is always room in the world for another clever, innovative and rewarding game of any topic, and that is what Kerberos banks on for every single product we make.
DHGF: What made you decide to do a zombie genre game after being pretty exclusive to your space strategy game, Sword of the Stars?
MC: We have not been “exclusive”Â except in the sense that SotS was our first game and we have been working on it through the course of its lifespan of two expansions and a ship pack, as well as continually supporting it with updates of fixes, additions and free content here and there. Those familiar with our plans are aware we always have a couple things on the go at any given moment and FZ actually derives from a larger RPG project, NorthStar, which will combine both character-based and ship-based action and story.
FZ is a small action game based on our Chimera RPG engine and grew out of various character-based, testbed versions that took on a life of their own.
DHGF: Is there a certain zombie movie or movies that influenced your game? Can we expect Romero style zombies (slow & staggering) or 28 days style (fast & rabid)? Are there multiple types of zombies with different attacks the players will have to protect themselves from?
MC: We know a lot of zombie movies, from true classics like, “Night of the Living Dead”Â all the way down to “palate cleansers” like “Zombies of Moru Tau.” While we have a couple zombie types that can move at a pretty good clip, I would have to say that at heart, FZ is a tribute to the lurching, inexorable walking death of Romero’s first vision.
Yes, there are indeed multiple types of zombies, some with special attacks like the Zombie Police and Army with their guns, other with special movement modes like the Zombie Jogger and then others that function in a support role like Zombie Doctors and Paramedics who can bring destroyed zombies back to unlife by stitching various scattered parts back together again.
DHGF: What will Fort Zombie bring to the gamer that is unique from other zombie games like Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising and Resident Evil?
MC: While you mention some excellent action/survival based titles there that we love playing ourselves, you do also bring out the aspect of gameplay we felt was lacking in all of those….”The Plan”Â. Part of what we love about the “Zombie War”Â experience, is the part where our heroes have had enough and just aren’t going to take it, and that’s about more than just running and gunning; it’s about starting to take our world back from the shambling horror that has nearly overwhelmed it.
FZ lets you experience what it’s like to take the first steps towards reclaiming this world and saving the people who are helpless when scattered, but a force to be reckoned with when gathered, protected and led. And that, we feel, is a zombie game feeling that is not all that common in today’s array of undead titles.
DHGF: Can you elaborate on your mix and match tile system and how much will vary from each replay of Fort Zombie? Does it only affect the maps or the spawning of enemies and items?
MC: As anyone who has played SotS knows, we are big fans of delivering up surprises and variations every time you start a new session of one of our games. FZ achieves this by building the world around you as you need it out of components that, while basically static, have enough variations built into them that you can only count for sure on very basic concepts.
So while I may have learned that the Food Library grocery store has a side door that leads out on to the loading dock and then the alley, in one mission that path may be clear while next time there could be a useful crate of food or a pack of Zombie Clerks along that run.
DHGF: How large are the maps and fort locations within Fort Zombie?
MC: The standard terrain unit in FZ is the “Property”Â and they are 40 X 40 meters square. A “Block”Â is 4 X 2 properties with a street running down the middle. A Mission Map, as you would find when going to investigate rumors of Food, Survivors or Weapons is 2 X 2 blocks. I will leave it up to you to calculate what that comes out to in raw surface area!
DHGF: What weapons are available for your character and how limited will the player’s supplies be? Will I get to use a chainsaw in Fort Zombie?
MC: There will be a fairly large variety of ranged weapons, from revolvers to machine guns and then on the melee side of things, you can go from fists to a Katana. Currently I am mulling over the chainsaw, not because it’s too hard or anything, but just because it has been literally done to death and, having grown up using one, I can’t imagine a more unwieldy, exhausting and more dangerous to the user tool than the target kind of weapon. So who knows? Perhaps the silliness of it will get the best of me in the end, but for now I am firmly in the Max Brooks camp when it comes to power tools as useful weapons.
FZ will also allow you to craft some homemade weapons/traps but here we are trying to slip away somewhat from yet more done to death FPS fare like pipe bombs and instead give it a more small town MacGyver feel.
And yes, supplies will be critical at any given moment. Not just ammunition but food and raw materials.
DHGF: Being that Fort Zombie is a casual RPG, how much character development can we expect from the title? Will we be able to control the appearance of our character or will we just see stat bonuses with character progression?
MC: FZ is meant to be a fast, light action-RPG and not particularly a fashion accessory kind of experience. In trying to survive and move fast, you don’t have a lot of time to be trying on different hats or new shoes. On the other hand, what you do during a day counts and you and the other survivors will learn by doing and hopefully gain the skills needed to build your base and defend it during the final night.
DHGF: Can you tell us more about some of the special abilities the NPCs will provide in Fort Zombie?
MC: Rescuing and leading people is one of the keystones of FZ. Not only is your success at the end of the game judged based on how many you have saved but each NPC will bring useful skills to your growing tribe as well. It may be tempting to only go out scavenging with the hardest of the hard you can find, but there may come a day close to the end, when the darkness doesn’t even flee from day itself, that you might be served well by bringing along that lil kid with a great sense of shortcuts and alleyways with you.
Other survivors may bring you critical ideas of how to build traps or even more exotic forms of information to aid in your battle. And then, of course, there are the mysterious archetypes of humanity, activated by this assault on our world. No one knows if they are real or just rumors spread in the last desperate moments of the internet but perhaps you will find out.
DHGF: How did the team approach the gameplay pacing of the title – Will Fort Zombie scare the crap out of us and force us to cower and avoid fights or make us laugh out loud as we splatter zombies left and right?
MC: The laughing and the running and the gunning has been done in some very big and fine products and I don’t think anyone will argue too hard with our opinion that that territory is well covered. Between the physics engine and the various Zombie behaviors FZ has a lot of emergent behavior that can be darkly humorous from time to time but there will be no mistaking the feeling that you are a hunted being with limited resources. Often I find myself looking down streets and between buildings trying to pick a path that won’t land me knee deep in zombies or sweating blowing one away because I know the noise of the shot will attract others and I am low on ammo and the sun is going down. Other times, even though I have a couple boxes of ammo on me, the slow reload speed of a revolver forces me to squeeze off a couple shots and then duck behind a dumpster and pray the more distant zombies who looked my way at the sound of the shots, lost track of me.
And, of course, as I have inferred, there are the terribly moments when you are caught out on the streets after dark and that’s when cowering and then darting across the road to cower again behind a smoldering wreck seems like a very, very good way to make it to the light of a new day.
DHGF: With the suitable price point, are there any plans on bringing Fort Zombie to consoles such as on the PSN and XBLA services?
MC: Well since Chimera, the FZ engine, was developed in the XNA environment, one would probably be very safe to assume that it would most likely be a matter of demand.
DHGF: Thanks for the interview!
Fort Zombie comes to the PC this fall, so if zombies are your thing as they are mine stay tuned to DHGF for more details on this game. Bbbbrrraaiiinnnnssss