Kotaku AU’s Game A Week 2: Zafehouse, The Zombie Survival Simulator

zafehouse_v1.jpgUpdate: Zafehouse now has its very own website, zafehouse.com.

Game A Week 2 is done. Done I say! Zafehouse is ready to be played by all.

As I said earlier in the week, this thing almost killed me. I had an idea that just exploded. I think the end result is quite awesome. Zafehouse has strategy, survival horror and, best of all, zombies. I love shufflers, I just love them to death, and I’m glad I got to put them into a completed game.

I have yet more plans for a version 2, which I’ll release when it’s done. For now, I have to get started on Game A Week 3. If you’d like to check out Game A Week 1, Wizkill, hit up this post.

Hit the jump for a development breakdown, hints and tips and unimplemented features, or download the game and give it a spin.Update: If you’re running Vista, you’re ready to go. If you’re running Windows XP, or get the error “App failed to initialize properly (0xc0000135)”, you will need to download the .NET Framework 2.0.

Update 2: Small bug with the raiding code’s been fixed. Please download the game again to get the updated executable!

Update 3: New version, v1.2. Here’s the info:

-Clarified help rules on buildings and resources
-Reduced the amount of meds found in a raid from 4 to 3
-Fixed the “Hours since.”.. label on the GUI so its value is never hidden
-Pressing “~” while a person is selected will heal them

Zafehouse began as a random name generator. I wanted to make something different to Wizkill, which involved one character (you), into a strategy game that had many. They needed a little personality, so I started by entering about 100 first names and 50 last names into two arrays.

Zombies had to be in there as well. I’m a fan of games that demand you manage tight resources and make important decisions on a minute-by-minute basis, and these concepts turned into the idea of holding off a bunch of zombies for days on end until help arrives.

Coding began mostly with the interface. A good UI was very important. Players would need to be able to assess resources at a glance, assign weapons and ammunition easily, and move survivors around quickly. I tinkered with about ten different designs, until I came up with the one in the picture above. The graphical resource counters were added last night.

About a day into the proceedings, I realised 120 days was too much. I reduced it to 72, which gives a good balance of longevity, and allows the gamplay to “develop”. Shortly after this change was made, I found I didn’t like the idea of days, as the intensity wasn’t there. So I changed it to hours.

The game is turn-based, with the actions of each hour affecting the encounters you have. I made a risky moving forcing the player to watch the results of their planning rather than being able to directly affect combat and raiding. It puts more weight on making good decisions beforehand, and makes your mouse hover over the “Advance one hour” button in tense contemplation.

Gameplay involves raiding for supplies, securing buildings for cover and resource bonuses and allocating weapons, barricades and ammo in an intelligent fashion. It seems basic at face value, but as the game progresses you’ll find yourself keeping careful check of who has your only shotgun, or if David has enough ammo to last the hour.

The amount of zombies you encounter and the chances of encountering them is determined by something I like to call the “Zombie Mass Index”. The ZMI is increased by two every hour, and reduced by one every time you win a fight. This way it regulates itself, and puts pressure on the player to be offensive. Sure, you can hold up in the House with two guys, but eventually you’ll have 50 zombies banging at your door.

A late addition was the “promotion” system. I wanted to give the player more control, and make them assign importance to some survivors over others. So, for every 9, 18 and 27 hours a survivor lives, they can take a bonus, such as more damage or lower ammo usage.

I almost put in a “goal” system, but the promotion system overtook it. Essentially it would let you trade resources for permanent bonuses, such as a few hours off your rescue time and higher resource generation from certain buildings.

Some other features that didn’t go in due to time were grenades, reclaiming weapons, a morale mechanic and zombie culling as a raid priority. While these would enhance the game, it’s very fun and playable without them. If I could implement one right now into the version here, it’d be zombie culling, as it gives you more control over events in the planning stage.

If you’re having trouble surviving, try only to hold onto one or two buildings during the day, focusing on those that give you resources you’re in need of. At night, don’t spread yourself out if you don’t have to. I’ve found the Mansion and the Warehouse are a good choice, as the former can hold six people (more guns means more downed zombies) and the Warehouse (a constant stream of supplies during the night means you can reinforce your buildings).

Again, if you want the source, drop me an email. Otherwise, give it a go and post your scores!


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