Another update on our plans.
We started making Project Zomboid with the intent of it being completely unscripted, and the idea for Kate to act as a ‘tutorial’ of sorts came much later as we started to panic that there was no direction to the tech demo. At that point we found ourselves with the amazing The Will Porter who wrote us some fantastic dialogue and contributed many ideas to the game, and Zach Beever writing us (amongst many others) some heart wrenching piano music that added so much to the tutorial.
Now the tech demo is out there we’ve discovered something we never for a moment expected, which is that this scripted story has given Project Zomboid this emotional weight that goes way beyond the pixelly cartoonish graphics and Monkey Island text. We never expected this at all.
Truth be told, the amount of work involved to get this emotion and connection to unscripted NPC characters will mean that it will be a long while before we can rely on the AI and personalities of unscripted characters to make you feel happiness, sadness, guilt or anger. However this goal is massively important to us. At its heart Project Zomboid is a sandbox game, and as such having random and unscripted game-play experiences is paramount to its ethos.
We can’t ignore the fact that clearly our method of story-telling in Project Zomboid has gone down extremely well, and we’d be fools not to explore it further. Thankfully we’ve got a way to do this that won’t sacrifice the sandbox ethos, will aid in focusing our development of the sandbox elements, and also give those who prefer a stronger and more controlled narrative a way to enjoy the game. It’s also important to us to keep Kate and Baldspot as defining characters for the game, since they have struck a chord with the community, and we don’t want them to get lost forever in the fog of character customization or relegated to a tutorial mode you’ll play for 10 minutes when first playing the game then leave forever.
They deserve more than that.
So… our plan is to expand Kate and Baldspot’s story into a more meaty tutorial come story mode. Project Zomboid Stories, if you will.
This will be an alternate game mode selected from the main menu, which will remove the random start position and character creation elements and thrust you into the role of Baldspot (and maybe one day Kate, who knows? Even co-op 2 player?) The tutorial as it stands now will be expanded into a more substantial story, introducing other characters and quests to give these two the adventure they deserve.
People may worry that by doing this we will lose our focus on emergent story telling that sandbox games thrive on, however:
a) The backdrop of the Adventures of K&B will be the same sandbox world, and while some characters may be purpose scripted for this story, there will be a multitude of random NPCs and other unscripted events surrounding them that behave with the most up-to-date AI at the time. It will be the same sandbox world, just with a thread of story running through it.
b) The development of the Adventures of K&B will be used as both a tutorial and a development testbed for the very features that will be used by the unscripted gameplay elements. Without spoiling the surprise, we have plans for a new NPC who will be purpose built for a role within the K/B story. But along with them come a whole bunch of AI and NPC interaction features, inventory items and other stuff that will then boost the non-scripted portions of the game dramatically.
c) It opens up the possibility for modders to script their own stories within the PZ world.
This means we can add content to the sandbox, and at the same time develop an emotional story for those who want that narrative experience, and at the same time create a tutorial that covers all elements of the game as they are added. Supposing we add a bit to the story that involves bartering with a story NPC, and suddenly we have trading with all NPCs, as well as a tutorial that teaches players to do it. All at once.
We can have our cake in our inventory and use it on our face.Survive