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April 26, 2021

Mod Spotlight: Boats

The Zomboid mod scene is currently in full bloom, and as such we started to feel a bit bad that the last official modding content on the PZ website was from a long time ago indeed. And so, Mod Spotlight is back! At the writing helm this month, and hopefully months ahead too, is writer and zed fan Patrick Brennan. Over to you @Pat_Bren_Writer

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Aquatsar Yacht Club

Ahoy, mateys! With cars now a well established part of PZ’s world, you may be wondering when other forms of transport, like boats, will follow. While large bodies of water play only a minor part in our base map, acting as a border to keep you inside the game world, many custom maps feature areas of water and even open sea that, without boats, remain a mostly useless big blue blob. Until now, that is!

Riding high in the Steam workshop is a mod that adds two types of boats, a motorboat and a larger yacht. On top of this there are also boat trailers you can find throughout the world and tow over land with your car, and the ability to move through the water yourself too.

Man the crow’s nest and unfurl the mainsail, we’ve sighted Aquatsar Yacht Club!

The founders of the club (or, to put it in more boring terms, the primary authors of the mod) are Aiteron, Kukrapok, and iBrRus, and their mod is not for mere landlubbers. The cars of PZ inspired the authors to take a realistic and non-arcade approach.

Along with the challenge of finding a boat trailer and getting it to the water in the first place, players have to contend with the new danger of drowning and the impact of PZ’s realistic wind simulation system on both their sails and the waves.

Don’t have a crowbar? Then you won’t be able to get into the yacht’s cabin and find an oven, fridge and enough storage to keep you afloat for weeks. Head overboard for a swim during a storm? Uh oh, your boat’s drifted away and you’re stranded in the middle of the ocean. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard don’t seem to be around for some reason. Oh, and remember to dry yourself off after your swim if you don’t want to catch a nasty cold.

The mod came together over the course of hundreds of hours. Kukrapok, a Frenchman, worked alongside the Russians iBrRus and Aiteron with the help of Google Translate and several helpings of divine maritime inspiration. (Kukrapok outside of this, also created the massive Cherbourg map, and has recently been hired by the team to work on the official PZ map.)

What plans do the authors have for the mod’s future? As refreshingly simple as a sea breeze: more and different boats, including smaller ones for river gameplay. We spoke to the three authors and found out more about their backgrounds and how this in-depth mod came together.

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Aiteron

Who are you in real life?

I am a student in an IT related specialty. I’m really fond of game development and take part in game dev competitions, and would one day love to get a job in the industry.

What aspects of the boat mod are yours?

I made the initial prototype that showed it was possible to create transportation on water. After that, I helped with various features like the swimming.

How did you first discover PZ? Why do you like it?

I saw PZ videos on Youtube, loved it, bought it, and here I am… It is very interesting to survive in a harsh world. I also like that the game is constantly updated and has an active community of like-minded modders. I advise everyone to start creating their own mods and to not be afraid! We’re a friendly community ready to help you create what you want.

What made you want to play around with physics?

At one point, I wanted to collect a fleet of cars, but realised that in order to do so you need to walk across the entire map for new cars. So I decided to add towing to the game. I love when mods add things to the game that increase realism. At first I thought it was impossible, but I love doing impossible things! Step by step, after several weeks of planning and then development, I implemented towing with a flexible hitch, and then a rigid one, all based on real physics.

What were the biggest challenges in creating the boat mod?

Making the boat move with the force of the wind in a realistic way, I think. There were also many bugs that had to be dealt with, such as the spawn of vehicles on water, strong undulations on waves and much more besides.

What do you hope for in life outside of the wonderful world of PZ modding?

Get a job in a game development company and give people joy with my work!

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iBrRus

Who are you in real life?

I was born and live in Bryansk, a provincial city in Russia. I work as an APCS [Ed. Note: Automated Process Control Systems] engineer. In my spare time I love to take apart and fix cars, and also do lots of 3D printing and programming.

How would you best describe the boat mod?

This is a mod that will make you suffer! It adds new features to the game (boats, sailing), introduces a new way to die (drowning), does not give any clues and wants players to think and google if necessary – for example, to learn how to operate real sailboats.

What aspects of the boat mod are yours?

I was mainly engaged in programming and improving the interfaces and functions on the boats themselves, writing new templates for spare parts and interior items, working out physics, and introducing controller support, as well as adjustments to models and sound conversions.

In addition, I tried to coordinate the work of our team members, mainly by asking them boring questions: “What did you do today? When will it be ready? I have an idea. Do it a little differently. Here, you need to redo this!”

How did you first discover PZ? Why do you like it?

I first learned about PZ in college when I downloaded an early version with a very small map and no multiplayer. I deleted it after playing a little, but pleasant memories remained. I returned to the game on June 22, 2014, the day that we, with our large company, purchased several 4-packs on Steam.

From that day my real adventures in the world of PZ began. This game has the best realism of any zombie game, and the most possibilities. Even after 1000 hours, I still haven’t learned everything. That’s why I love this game!

What aspects of PZ game code does the mod use, and improve upon for its gameplay?

The most important aspect of the PZ game code that we utilized was the weather, namely – the wind. It’s amazing how well-developed this part of the game turned out to be on the inside. To be honest, at first I did not plan to implement the reaction of the sail to the wind but one day it was done by Aiteron, when he simply wrote to me: “I’ve added wind physics.” Although the physics required some work, overall it worked! To make it easier to understand how to set up the physics correctly, we’ve created the first “wind clock” and after that we were able to choose the necessary formulas and set the logic of the sail.

What do you think people like about having boats in PZ?

What I like and, perhaps someone will agree with me, is that boats and sailing add another drop of realism for PZ as well as several new ways to develop character stories. As for the players, I think that some of them still have not been able to find a boat, others have not been able to get into the cockpit… and yet some more have not figured out how to operate a sailing yacht. As I said above: at the beginning pain is in store for all players, and pleasure comes later!

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Kukrapok

Who are you in real life?

My name is Ayrton Orio, and I’m from France though I’ve lived most of my life abroad. I work in the film industry, doing VFX for music clips, documentaries, and short movies. I also direct, edit and write, and am currently writing a feature film and in pre-production for two short movies. Doing the 3D models for the boat mod was a breath of fresh air as I normally focus on photorealistic VFX which can be a very tedious process. Trying to copy PZ’s style is really fun.

What aspects of the boat mod are yours?

The 3D modelling and texturing of both boats, and most of the artwork on the boat interfaces. I also took care of most of the new sound effects and coordinated the music development with David Ree, the composer.

What do you think is most alluring for players when it comes to boats being part of PZ via the Aquatsar mod?

Like any good simulation, the pleasure you get from playing it in PZ comes from the difficulty to run something that would be made much more accessible and arcade in another game.

Cars are a good example, you need to get good enough to hotwire it, fix the cars after finding the parts and reading the proper manuals, find gas and… drive it. Until you break a wheel by driving too much on zombie corpses.

The same design idea led to the creation of the boat mod, so I think the players are enjoying all the minutiae that is required to make the boat work, to understand how to sail it etc.

Once it all works, there is a feeling of freedom that is quite fantastic. Also, sailing a boat for the first time is both a breather in the hectic survival journey you take, and also a promise for a new adventure.

What was it like adapting to the PZ look?

Actually a bit tough because it’s far from my experience in doing photorealistic effects. I had to limit the amount of tools I normally use and focus on a more pixel-per-pixel approach. For instance, I reused existing wood assets from the vanilla tiles to do the boats’ teak deck which was very straightforward. I was also able to use advanced tools for some effects, such as substance painter to bake lights and ambient occlusion onto the model, as well as rust leaks.

Lastly I wanted to give a shout out to David Ree, the very talented musical composer who wrote and recorded the music you hear the first time you set sail. I have worked with him several times on other projects and he had a lot of fun composing for a video game for the first time!

Thanks to our modding friends for taking time to answer our questions. You can become a member of the Aquastar Yacht Club by subscribing to the mod here! Our thanks too to Sasha M for all her help with translations for this blog.

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