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March 24, 2022

Mod Spotlight: Azakaela

Greetings, zombesties! The mod blog returns with a look at the varied and incredibly jam-packed mods of Azakaela, creator of the popular Survivor Radio mod which adds multiple new radio stations feature voice acting and real music, the dusty, desert-set Coyote County Araxas map, and many more besides.

As well as answering our questions below, Azakaela has kindly listed five of her mods for us to take an in-depth look at.

Survivor Radio

An incredibly stuffed mod, Survivor Radio adds ten new radio and four new TV stations to the world of PZ. It includes not just thousands of words of new content, but a large amount of voice acting and real music too. Some stations provide new lore, others a mix of DJ dialogue and music, and there’s even a channel that will play your own custom music.

You can listen to a sermon by Reverend Dan, hear a tarot reader give your day’s prediction, “watch” fictional movies or extracts from real ones on television, and listen to real music by the author themselves or recorded by other local bands.

Coyote County Araxas

A work-in-progress map with a unique visual style and clever use of terrain tiles, Coyote County Araxas brings wonderful dusty, run-down vibes to PZ. Looking almost post-apocalyptic even before all the zombies, Coyote County contains trailer parks and desolate, graffiti-and-trash-covered small towns, rocky red elevated terrain, sandy desert terrain, custom plants including cacti and wildflowers, and even a cave system.

Get your cowboy hat, your six-shooter and your Playable Guitar for those authentic Wild West (or New Vegas) vibes. Just don’t get lost in that huge desert. You can’t make soup from sand.

Playable Guitar

Exactly what it sounds like, Playable Guitar makes our Acoustic Guitar item playable using your keyboard. Belt out your favourite ballad, write a song to capture the horror and sadness of the apocalypse, or simply pluck a few strings to make those lonely nights go by quicker.

Aza’s Posters

Aza’s Posters adds over a hundred, you guessed it, posters to decorate your base with. It includes some appropriate for our game period (Nirvana and X-Files), others which are less time-appropriate but still entertaining (internet references, memes, and even some Rickrolling), references to the author herself, movie posters, and at least one featuring a beautiful pupper named Batman.

Project Voice

Another mod of Azakaela’s which adds voices to our text-based characters, Project Voice focuses on the gameplay itself. You can choose from five voice sets including spoiled Valley girl Vallie Kallie, the bumpkin Good Ole Boy, and the downbeat Whatever Wilma, with each giving you a different flavour of dialogue barks to use as you play our game.

By holding Q to open a radial menu, you’ll be able to hear your character say hello or curse, call out enemies or supplies, or even say sorry to all those innocent zombies you’re mindlessly murdering. The apocalypse is no reason to lose your manners.

And now we head to Azakaela’s fortified and heavily defended recording studio to ask the author herself a few questions!


Who are you in real life? Tell us a little about yourself.

“In real life? Or just fantasy? [Pat_Bren note: Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality…] I’m a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, bass, keys, vocals and composes music digitally under my artist/middle name ‘Azakaela’ which means ‘the crown of poison flowers’.”

“I also play in two bands, a punk/grunge one named Halley’s Return, and a stoner-doom-metal band named Kannabyss. I adore writing and any form of creative expression I can get my hands on. On the weekends I volunteer my time running lights at the The Gallatin Underground and I also co-host a Youtube show there where we interview local musicians to help promote them.”

“I’m happily married and I have a nice life in Montana with my pets, Bunny the cat and Batman the Corgi. I’m usually spending all my time working on my own game these days.”

How did you first discover Project Zomboid? Why do you like it?

“I remember when it was just the short story of Bob and Kate, and I thought: “Damn! This game is awesome and dark as hell”. And then I thought “This is how I died…””

“I got distracted with life but got back into the game a few years later. I played on roleplaying multiplayer servers like Gateway Roleplay (I think it was called New Dawn back then). Really, the experience of playing a long-lasting character there kinda changed my life a bit, at least in the way that it helped me come to terms with my identity. I even took my first name Erin after the name of a character I had played. I don’t think any other video game I had ever played before gave you so much power to create a story for yourself that could be so impactful.”

“Hands down, what I like most about Zomboid is that it’s something that’s constantly being improved, it’s a labor of love. You really feel that when you play the game, that there’s so much that has been thought through. It became a ritual for me to check the most recent Thursdoid to see what’s new with my favorite game. As of right now I have nearly 4K hours in the game, and another 2K-ish in the mapping tools alone.”

How did you get into PZ modding/mapping? Have you made mods or maps for other games?

“I think it kinda happened gradually. Back when I used to parade around on the TIS Forums as CzarUltra I would occasionally post mod ideas (eg. “what if the zombies were filled with bees?!”), and then quickly realized the fastest way to get something made is to do it yourself.”

“I learned it bit by bit over the course of a few years, studying the file structure of the game and making tweaks where I could without breaking the game. I made silly mods that replaced the color of the blood, or made all the zombies sound like Macho Man Randy Savage. But where I really got into modding was when I learned how to use WordZed. From there things just fell into place. I took an interest in mapping as well and made several really bad maps after Envy Demongave me a hands-on tutorial on how the mapping tools worked! (Thanks Envy!)”

“As for other games, I haven’t done much, only a map or two for Hotline Miami 2. (I think the best one was Hospice, which takes place in a hospital hostage situation).”

In the description of your guitar mod, you say your grandfather taught you how to play, and your Survivor Radio mod features some of your own songs. Can you tell us more about your interest in music?

“I’ve loved music ever since I was a little kid. My grandpa had several acoustic guitars and stuff like tape recorders lying around and I used to visit him all the time. I remember one time he gave me a Casio keyboard and I fell in love with it. It wasn’t until I was around 14 that I decided I wanted him to teach me how to play guitar because my cousin was learning and, out of spite, I wanted to be better than him!”

“I played the guitar till my fingers bled and eventually joined a band in high school. Without music in my life, I wouldn’t have met any of the people that I currently know and love, and I think without it, I wouldn’t have anything interesting going on! I seriously owe a huge gratitude to music, because I basically think in music – everything always starts with a melody for me.”

Your Survivor Radio and Project Voice mods feature significant amounts of writing and voice acting. How much new text does your Survivor Radio mod add? Did you write all the text yourself? How difficult was it to find and cast voice actors and get their audio in-game?

“I’ve never measured it as it would drive me insane but it’s literally thousands and thousands of words. I had some help with the writing, especially the station Classical for the Dead, entirely written by the fabulous Mumbler. Whenever I listen to that station’s end broadcast I get goosebumps. Additionally, the KBS channel and a myriad of other writing in the mod was done by Fie, Jade and Goosesalesman of Hamburg. There used to be even more, but unfortunately I had a falling out with some people and their work was removed from the mod on request.”

“But all that being said, I did do a shit ton of writing myself. At times it was a very lonely experience, wondering if anyone would ever get to experience the broadcasts I was spending all of my time perfecting – but I think it was worth it.”

“Finding cast for some of the stations was an arduous process, but other times it was just as simple as putting out a call and receiving auditions. Scarlet, the voice of Erin Fontaine in Naturally Mortal radio, I met when I first thought about adding voices, and she’s stuck around to help ever since.”

“Now, getting the audio in the game was seemingly an easy enough process, but ensuring that the text lined up with the audio was a nightmare! Basically for every 5 seconds the text would have to be split up with something called duration codes that look like this: ${t:5.00}. I’d spend literally days getting just one five-minute broadcast in! Duration codes are the bane of my existence.”

“When it comes to the voice actors on Project Voice, I basically told Udo, a fellow modder of mine, and he brought his army of experienced and talented voice actors to come in and just have fun with it. I think Project Voice is gonna be great because of everyone bringing their unique voices to it.”

Coyote County Araxas has a unique look and feel – a dusty desert filled with run-down towns, but also some beautiful nature like wildflowers and cacti. What inspired the map? How long have you spent making it?

“A long time ago I took a trip out through the Arizona desert and I was enamored by its beauty. I thought deserts were just sand and empty space, but I realized there was so much more to them. What really inspired it was my wish to make a different experience entirely to Kentucky. Someone asked me if I could replicate a place called Mentone, Texas, which I wound up building by looking at screenshots from Google Maps and Street View at first, and then just spent forever tweaking the vegetation. I realized that since the vegetation was based on the Sonoran desert that it didn’t make sense to put the map in Texas, so I made a fictional state called Araxas, which exists between Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.”

“I’ve spent a great deal of time working on it by myself at first (about six months), and I thought I was never going to finish it because of how large it was – but I have some help with it now so I can focus on building the mountains and other unique areas while the town of Garden City and other building projects is now being done by Fantasiado, another mapper and good friend of mine. Now that we’re working on it together, we hope we can get it to a complete state sometime before the end of summer.”

Is there anyone else in the PZ community (or beyond) you would like to give a shout-out to? Which maps or mods by other users do you enjoy or find interesting?

“I’d like to give a shout out to the following PZ peeps: Authentic Peach, Shark, Fantasiado, Browser8, Jade, Mindgate, EnvyDemon, Mumbler, Udo and Buffy. If I missed anyone sorry. Also, gotta thank my wife, Brooke for being amazing and putting up with me.”

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to plug my friend’s company I do work for on the weekends, The Gallatin Underground!”

“In fact, as a celebration for this Mod Spotlight, “I’ve gotten about 700 royalty free tracks that we recorded at the studio that I’m going to be making a new radio mod similar to Survivor Radio with – so keep an eye out for that, especially if you’re a streamer and want to avoid DMCA stuff and listen to real life indie music while you play!”

“Other mods I like? I gotta say, hands down, the Dancing Mod is one of my favorites, along with Authentic Z for all the cool clothes and zombies, and finally Fantasiado’s St Bernards Hill is epic.”

What’s next in your mapping and modding plans? What’s the dream?

“I’d really like to add more and more to Project Voice, as well as get Coyote County to a finished state. But beyond that? I think I’ve done everything that I ever wanted to do and I can’t believe I’m actually here right now! What I really wanna do is make a game of my own someday. I’ve even started a project already with the working title ‘Shadow Ocean’. Anyway, I think Project Zomboid will always have a special place in my heart and mind.”

Thanks to Azakaela for taking time to answer our questions! You can find all her mods here.

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