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April 9, 2013

In the Guts of the Sandbox

Welcome to this week’s Monday blog post! Lemmy here this time, and yes, we have a video! Though probably not one you’d ever expect. As we continue to beat the meta-game into submission, perfect the skill system, expand the map, add all the missing animations, and do numerous fixes to the game to bring it toward RC3, we thought we’d give you a look into a part of the game we have kept under wraps for a while, but one that should have a huge impact on the game.

One thing about the zomboid community is it’s a diverse bunch. Whenever we’ve released versions in the past, we’ve had requests to lower the zombie populations. We then lower them and some people wish for higher zombie populations. Some want more weapons, some want less. Some want harder zombies, some want easier ones. Trying to find a balance where everyone or even most people are happy is a massive challenge. Some people may love it when they are hounded by zombies and want every last moment to be manic panic with short action packed survival times, where others may want to be left to build in relative safety. There isn’t a fit-all balance that would please everyone isn’t really possible.

Of course this left us with a bit of a dilemma, because since starting this game we’ve had very specific goals of making Zomboid not only as realistic as possible, but also the core premise of the game is that you are going to die and the game should try to do that at every opportunity.

Particularly with building, farming and numerous other features going into the game, it’s important that the official ‘You survived for’ main game mode should make it extremely difficult to survive for long periods of time, and doing so should be a massive achievement,, and the game should be balanced not only to be realistic and to conform to our borderline obsessive idea of what ‘proper zombies’ should be.

As such we decided to split what was Sandbox into two game modes. Survival being what Sandbox is in current versions, the standard and ‘official’ way to play the game, which is the same as the settings for the Story mode. This is canon Zomboid and balanced in similar ways to 0.1.5d. After dying you will get the ‘you survived for’ message in the recognizable font.

Sandbox mode however, is now freed up to have additional options, allowing those players looking for different experiences, or with different tastes or skill levels, the option of customizing the gameplay in a multitude of ways. These options are cheap and quick to add, as well as being fully moddable, but potentially open up a multitude of community challenges and varying game styles. These can be added to over time in the future ultimately giving a huge amount of variety to how you can play. This is what a sandbox is all about.

The beauty of this is that we can give people the ability to change the game to fit their personal preferences without compromising the story / survival modes or our original goals about what the game should be. Sandbox’s death message will be in a different, smaller font, post RC3 possibly with additional information about the sandbox settings.

Here is the Sandbox options screen (with an annoying typo noticed a millionth of a nano-second after posting):

Oh yes, we went there! We have a ‘proper zombies’ tick-box. You need to untick the ‘proper zombies’ tickbox before you’re allowed to edit anything, just so you know that you’re delving into ‘non-proper zombies’ territory!

And with he Survival/Sandbox split along with the 3D sprite system meaning the required sprites could be spat out in minutes, it means we could justify going there…

Oh noes!

The Sandbox being a truly customizable experience, just with a few drop-down box changes you can change the zombie lore to most popular zombie fiction. Running and instant infection, to ‘everyone’s infected’ shamblers, to non-infectious weak runners, to anywhere in between. Huge amounts of zombies or not many, lots of NPCs or no NPCs, 1 hour days or play the game in complete real-time. The choice is yours. Although some of these options would be something we’d never ever want for the main game, it opens up many more options for players if they want a different experience depending on their mood or tastes in zombies and gameplay. Players who want to build a huge zombie fortress can be left in relative peace, or those who want to be hunted can ramp up the zombie threat.

We can imagine forum / youtube challenges for survival times with ‘Insane’ numbers of ‘Sprinting’, ‘Superhuman’, ‘Bloodhound’ zombies as the results are frightening and entertaining to behold:

Thanks everyone for their continued patience and we’ll get you RC3 as soon as we can!

Why not discuss this on our forums? And check out Mondoid when it appears!




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