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Combat Renovations

May 9, 2019

Given as we’re starting from a slightly blanker slate with Build 41 than we usually do, and combat by necessity is changing to match the improved visuals, this week we’ve been making some experimental balance changes to the game.

The primary goal of this is to bring Zomboid further into line with the fantasy of living in a zombie apocalypse – and making the zed threat as real and as valid as those you’d see in a Romero movie or The Walking Dead.

So, for example, one of our intentions has been to make sure that combat adheres to the more classic zombie philosophy of threats coming not from the front, but from behind – with zeds more likely to take a nice chunk out of your neck or shoulder.

Here’s a quick video with explanatory subtitles, but once you’ve viewed it please check out the extra-explanatory text below too.

(We think you’ll also agree with us that Mister Beever has excelled himself with the new music here too).

Soo… here comes our current thinking on this.

Although PLEASE NOTE this is very much our current thinking and NOT the final product. Some content will settle during transit. Player feedback, both within and without, will be sought when the time is right.

  • We’ve currently got it so one-on-one combat (from the front) feels much easier. One single, solo zombie will be unlikely to cause you too much of an issue if you’re armed with an effective weapon – and even without you should be able to deal with the situation.
  • We’re not going to be that kind to you though. In the new build difficulty will come from two sources: unseen zombies which get close to you, and groups of zombies. Zombies to the side, and even moreso behind, will have a much greater chance of getting hold of you –  and from that a much increased chance of landing a bite. From the front you’ll always have options to knock zombies back, push them and generally defend yourself with your arms. From the back, however, you’re much more likely to ‘get got’.
  • Zombies currently go for the neck a lot more, as from the back it’s a much easier target for them. Neck bites have been much increased in severity of blood loss, and someone with a big chunk torn out of their neck is unlikely to survive longer than 10-20 seconds at most, perhaps even less. (We plan on some clothing to mitigate this risk once protective stats on clothing are working.)
  • In real life (kinda) a group of zombies all attacking at the same time will divert your attention in many different ways – and compromise your ability to avoid them or push them away. To simulate this, each zombie attacking you now gets a boosted chance of laying a scratch or bite on you if there are a bunch of them attacking, and this boost goes up per zombie. So if you’re surrounded, don’t expect to be stood there 15 seconds, get lucky and run away with just a scratch.
  • It’s not implemented yet, nor has Martin made us the anims for it yet, but it’s worth saying that we plan on having an ‘upper limit’ of zombies surrounding and attacking you that will trigger them to pull you to the ground and start to feast on you. There comes a point at which you’re simply overrun and overpowered, and the game currently does not allow for this. We may include multiplayer ways for a player to be saved from this fate before the bites start coming, and sandbox options, but for all intents and purposes we don’t think we can be considered a valid zombie survival simulator if there are 8 zombies pulling at you from every direction and you’re walking out of there alive.
  • It’s not perfect yet in the build, and should be considered as ultra-experimental, but we’ve now got it so that swings at zombies on the floor do a hit test between the end of your weapon and the zed’s head. This means that you can no longer stomp or swing at a zombie’s pinky toe and the game will understand it as smashing its brains in. This has long been an irritation in a game where aiming for the head should be of paramount importance. As such, the player will need to position themselves so their bat will (approximately) aim at the zed head – with a hitbox that’s hopefully generous enough to compensate for inaccuracy of the viewpoint and controls.
  • Due to feedback from the community on anims vids, and our own internal testing, we’ve also upped movement and combat speeds a tad to try make things a little less sluggish. This may get toned down depending on how it affects long term difficulty – and also overloaded, unfit and tired characters will clearly move more slowly


  • Polish for zeds eating, them noticing and rising to attack you – and the ability to attack them properly while they feed.
  • As part of the gameplay balance mission we’ve been messing around with stomp damage, (barefoot vs. shoe-wearing etc) and fixed zeds staggering back and sliding after attacks too. We’ve also done stuff like increase knockdowns chance when pushing a zombie – which is a lot more dependent on character strength now.
  • Martin has added animation so zeds can bite seated player characters, and better bite reactions from the bitten. Likewise he’s made zombie head hit reactions whilst they lie on the floor, whether on their front or on their back.
  • Tim has fixed a prevalent issue with footsteps – in that they weren’t playing and needed tying to the new animation system whether you’re sneaking, walking or running. He’s also fixed loads of issues around melee attacks in vehicles, reloading and flipping corpses.
  • Zac has been working on fixing blending issues, and done super-well with it to the extent that the first video above runs without a single one – bar a minor one that’s rooted in data rather than the anim system itself. (Boring to read, but a big ‘yay’ for us.)
  • ChrisW has committed a bunch of improvements to the new cutaway system – which is working well, but needs a fair amount of polish work and gremlin chasing. It’s already working really well in-game though, and complements the new animations nicely.

Thanks all! Cheers for coming to our little Thursdoid info-nugget.

This week’s misty moment from Computerheadguy. A general list of stuff added to PZ, and vids of features being worked on, is kept here –so you don’t have to plough through endless dev blogs for info. The Centralized Block of Italicised Text would like to direct your attention to the PZWiki should you feel like editing or amending something, and the PZ Mailing List that can send blogs like this and patch notes direct to your mailbox. We also live on Twitter right hereOur Discord is open for chat and hijinks too!

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