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May 19, 2022

Mod Spotlight: Dylan and PlentyT

Welcome back to the mod blog for a road trip through four separate maps. Brothers Dylan and PlentyT have made a quartet of popular, well-designed maps with new custom tiles: Grapeseed, Blackwood, Pitstop, and Ekron. Each of the maps features different design philosophies, and each has a mind boggling number of subscribers, with Grapeseed approaching a quarter of a million!

Located to the west of Rosewood, Grapeseed, their earliest map, was made so PlentyT and Dylan could learn the mapping tools, but this map is far from an amateur effort. Dense with detail and packed with custom tiles by Dylan (and quite a few references to a certain animated ’90s show), Grapeseed is also a lesson in design for other beginning mappers. Stores are filled with unique objects to make each feel special, and colourful posters and signs make each of the storefronts memorable. Despite being only a single cell in size, Grapeseed is jam-packed with sights to see and interesting buildings to loot.

Blackwood, located north of Rosewood, is a map with a somewhat different design philosophy, namely “looking like absolute crap”. Filled with junk barricades, rubbish, old furniture and general messiness, Blackwood is intentionally almost impossible to find your way around. Definitely a map for those looking for a challenge.

Pitstop is almost the complete opposite to Blackwood. A town built as a “gate” between Muldraugh and Rosewood on the long east-west road between them, Pitstop is designed to fit in with the style of our base map, with wide streets and well-spaced, clean buildings. So successful is it that most screenshots of it are indistinguishable from those of our base game! But that doesn’t mean it lacks sights to see, with a junkyard, a used car lot, and a sprawling apartment building to explore.

Finally, Ekron is a replacement for the unnamed small town to the northwest of Muldraugh in our map. Ekron is the name of the actual Kentucky town in the same location (with a massive population of 175), and the brothers’ goal was to recreate the real town as closely as possible. Using Google maps to ensure accuracy, it’s like you’re really there! Assuming the real-life town is also filled with zombies, of course.

We clambered over the junk barricades, admiring the custom tiles as we did so, and managed to make it to the authors’ safehouse, where they were kind enough to answer our questions!

DYLAN AND PLENTYT

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

PlentyT: “My name is Tristan, I’m 25, from the UK, and am the father of two amazing daughters. I go by ‘PlentyT’ as my nickname is T and there’s plenty of me! I previously ran a business and now I regularly stream PZ on Twitch as part of the PZ stream team known as Deep Fried Brainz.”

Dylan: “I’m 27 and am currently unemployed while developing skills to change career paths. I have worked in graphic design, retail and have been a full time carer. I like to stream a little bit of map making sometimes as well as, as Myers260 on Twitch.”

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

Dylan: “I discovered PZ a long time ago when I only had a potato laptop. At the time I was a fan of DayZ but couldn’t afford a PC to play it, so I scoured the market for zombie games that were easy to run. I’ve played PZ on and off in the years since, but with cars and the new character animations, I’ve found it severely difficult to put the game down!”

PlentyT: “I was first introduced to PZ by Dylan many years ago as the original demo was the only thing that worked on his laptop, as he said. I started properly playing back in 2013 and loved it because I could play out any undead scenario I could imagine.”

Which of you had the idea to get into PZ mapping? Have you made maps for other games?

Dylan: “I initially wanted to make a map when I discovered it didn’t require a lot of Lua. Originally I was making a map just for me and some friends and our other brother, so we could have oddly specific base locations when multiplayer came out. PlentyT said since it had custom easter eggs people would probably enjoy it so I was swayed into making it public, and it was the best decision we made.”

Which of you does what while making your maps? Do you get along well? Have you had any fights or falling outs over your maps?

Dylan: “I do everything apart from large scale buildings. Anything that needs a lot more detail or is bigger in scale is usually done by PlentyT. I usually don’t find that fun, though I’ve been making some bigger buildings myself lately too. We have had zero falling outs over maps. If we have a disagreement we usually combine our ideas or scrap them. 95% of the time, we are on the same page.”

PlentyT: “Dylan is the real brains behind the maps! He does the custom tiles and map layout and my focus is making the buildings. When the maps became popular I also did the promotional material such as trailers. We actually work smoothly together as we understand the vision we have for each map.”

You have collaborated on four maps now. Could you tell us a little more about each of them? Do you have a favourite of the four and if so, for what reasons?

PlentyT: “The first map we made was Grapeseed which was very much a passion project as we wanted to reference ourselves and things from our childhood on the map, and have cool custom base locations. The idea to put in references to content creators came later as a good excuse for Dylan to practice his tile making and show our favourite streamers some love in-game. Grapeseed remains my personal favourite of all the maps we’ve made. Dylan’s favourite is Pitstop as that is his passion project.”

“Blackwood was a more serious project for us. We wanted to see what we could do in PZ and to make a challenging experience for veteran players by having to navigate through tight spaces packed with zombies. We had also become known for our references thanks to Grapeseed, so we doubled down and packed the map with references to our favourite movies such as the pub from Shaun of the Dead, along with nods to our friends and favourite content creators.”

“Pitstop has been the map we’ve changed and updated the most, and we see it as an evolving project. Originally only two cells, it has expanded to fill eleven. Dylan wanted to use the map to learn more about modding the game in ways he hadn’t done before such as adding custom weapons, clothing and items. We are currently about to completely rework the map and I think people will enjoy how far we’ve come.”

“Ekron is based on the real world location. Funnily enough, we fell into the common misconception that the little town in vanilla was called Ekron, so our initial goal was to make a more accurate representation of the real place. We ultimately created a war between the Lickskillet gang and the Ekron gang and we apologise for that. We are considering renaming the location Town to end the war (only joking!)”

How long did it take you to make each map? Has the process become easier with experience? Are there any specific parts in making them that you struggle with?

“Usually it will depend on the building density. One cell varies from a day to a few weeks. We do this completely for fun and we do take regular breaks. Our longest map to make was Blackwood as we were still learning the tools at that time, but we know the tools well now and find them extremely intuitive. We used to struggle to match the vanilla map but this past few months we’ve managed to do it, and we’ll be able to showcase that in the Pitstop rework.”

You made a tile pack used in all of the maps, Dylan. Can you talk us through how you did that? How many have you made in total?

Dylan: “I use Affinity Designer to draw the tile/object and then add minor details such as grime in Photoshop. I don’t know the total count but I’ve done so many different ones from junk piles to garden goods, and some in the pack are placeholders.”

You have to choose one spot on each map to survive in. Which areas or buildings would you choose as your bases, and why?

PlentyT: “In a word, the tool shops! In every map we have made apart from Ekron I have a tool shop: Tristan’s Tools in Grapeseed, Plenty’s Tools in Blackwood, Tristan’s Building tools in Pitstop.”

Dylan: “In Grapeseed, I would base up in Tristan’s Tools. In Blackwood, I’d use the Mayor’s House. And in Pitstop I would base up at the Black Coffee Hideout. The main reason I would choose those locations is because I know the zombie heat map.”

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

PlentyT: “Firstly, I would like to shout out the members of the PZ stream team Deep Fried Brainz, all truly amazing people, many of whom are close friends. I’d specifically like to mention Djackzz who brought us all together in an outstanding community! Thanks also to RoyaleWithCheeseTV for all the support for our maps, it’s gone a long way. For other maps, I recommend St. Bernard’s Hill by Fantasiado. Sorry if I’ve left anyone out, I’ve met so many great people and made many friends.”

Dylan: “I would like to shout out AuthenticPeach! You’ve given hundreds of hours of your time to teach me how to 3D model in Blender, help with zombie spawns and distro, the list goes on. I would also like to shout out Commander, Shark, Blair, Dirkie and Throttlekitty. You guys have taught me so much and given me so much of your time it is truly appreciated. I would also like to shout out Klean, another great dude who has given me some great ideas, feedback and criticisms and helped us make Pitstop behind the scenes. A big giant thank you to The Indie Stone for making such an amazing game that has given me great moments and greater friends and for that reason, is cemented as my number one game of all time. And finally, thank you to all and everyone who has tried our maps!”

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

“Currently we are reworking Pitstop. We are also creating a building pool and have extended our inner circle with other map modders to create our next project (which doesn’t have a name yet). After our next map we will probably be sticking to updating our existing maps. We do want to move on from map making at some point but we keep finding excuses to continue so who knows, we might not be going anywhere!”

“The dream has already been achieved. We made some maps for fun and people have enjoyed them, which is all we could ever ask for. Other than that, it would be a dream to see Dylan and PlentyT graffiti somewhere in the base game!”

Thanks to Dylan and PlentyT for taking the time to answer our questions! You can find their maps here.

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