We’re big fans of ZA/UM’s brilliant narrative RPG Disco Elysium here at the towering headquarters of TIS, and were delighted to learn a user named Gabester has recreated much of DE’s world in a custom Project Zomboid map called Elysium Island. Other than the isometric perspective, there aren’t a lot of obvious similarities between the two games. DE goes deep into the psyche of the main character, alcoholic detective Harry Du Bois, as he investigates a murder with his long-suffering partner, Kim Kitsuragi. Harry’s investigation takes him not just through the seedy district of Martinaise in Revachol, but on a journey through his own mind, as disparate parts of Harry’s inner self have conversations with each other and with Harry. It’s a bit like if PZ’s moodles could talk.
And yet, despite the differences, DE’s map looks and works surprisingly well in PZ, especially if you have the complementary clothing pack, also by Gabester. Loot the Whirling-in-Rags for booze to disinfect your wounds (or chase the blues away in the spirit of Harry), hole up in a run-down apartment, and pick your way through the shipping containers of the harbour without that pesky Measurehead to stop you. Both games have a similar mood of despair and decay though admittedly, even on Harry’s most destructive benders, he probably never caved in a zombie’s head with a frying pan.
We put on our talking necktie, plastered a frozen grin on our face, and stumbled our way through [EASY] skill checks as we spoke to the map’s creator Gabester about his creation and himself!
Who are you in real life? Tell us a little about yourself.
“[PRESS Q BY ACCIDENT: Success] HEY! I’m Gabe and my secret plan to survive the zombie apocalypse is to move to a lighthouse… although I can’t fish and don’t have a boat so there are a few small issues that’ll need to be worked out on the day.”
“Aside from making plans about hypothetical situations, I work in the graphics industry, enjoy long walks, chill Attenborough documentaries and (it seems) video games about reanimated corpses.”
How did you first discover Project Zomboid? Why do you like it?
“I bought Project Zomboid in 2014 after seeing it on the Youtube channel Node, and also I was a big fan of The Walking Dead at the time. I remember not surviving very long, and the height of my achievements was building a wall to secure the isolated house in Muldraugh.”
“The multiplayer update has really transformed the game for me. The freedom and stories that the game encourages, combined with other people wandering the world, make it a very unique game compared to anything else out there.”
How did you get into mapping for PZ? Have you made mods or maps for other games before?
“I’d never created mods for other games before but I was really impressed with the Steam workshop for PZ! Like others I ended up downloading a few hundred mods and eventually came across Daddy Dirkie Dirk’s mapping tutorials on Youtube and thought, why not!”
“The first map mod I made was a recreation of Howard’s bunker from the film 12 Cloverfield Lane. It’s a great film and I thought it’d be the perfect small scale map that would fit into Kentucky.”
“Overfield Lane got a really positive response from the community and that helped encourage me to create a second map mod: McCoy’s Bunker, a fictional bunker that the CEO of the McCoy Logging Company had built in preparation for nuclear annihilation (or perhaps a zombie outbreak).”
Tell us about your experiences with Disco Elysium. How would you describe it to someone who hasn’t played it? What do you like about it? Are there any similarities between it and PZ?
“Disco Elysium is a masterpiece with an amazing soundtrack and unique story. In short you’re a detective who has to solve a murder. It’s a game that focuses on character interaction as opposed to conflict and action. You also have a kickass partner in Kim Kitsuragi. Seriously, who doesn’t like Kim?”
“They’re both isometric in visual style and both Zomboid and Disco Elysium are games that focus on the human experience, from small moments to the grandiose, in different ways.”
How long did your map take to make, in total? What was the most difficult part of translating Disco Elysium’s world into a PZ map? Was it hard to make PZ’s tiles fit into the look of DE’s world?
“I’d finished playing Disco Elysium about a year earlier, and it had really stuck with me. I was curious whether I could recreate one of the main locations – a hostel called the ‘Whirling-in-Rags’. It turned out really well and I was able to add extra details using custom tile packs created by other members of the modding community (TK, Dylan, Dirkie & ExtraNoise).”
“It gave me confidence to continue recreating more of the map from Disco Elysium, which eventually ended with creating Elysium Island. The map was made over the duration of a month, adding to it a few evenings a week. I’ve always been someone who listens to music I really like (such as Antonello Venditti’s Grazie Roma) on repeat. Time flew by!”
What do Disco Elysium fans think of the map? Has your map inspired anyone to take a look at DE who hadn’t before?
“I don’t know if there’s been a huge impact on PZ people checking out Disco Elysium, but I know they’ll enjoy it if they do! Also, it was a fun surprise to see PC Gamer write an article about the mod. So thanks to them for that!”
Where would you like to take your map in the future (additional locations, features etc.)?
“I feel Elysium Island has a good blend of both Disco Elysium and Project Zomboid and I think players who don’t know about Disco Elysium can still enjoy the mod as just another addition to the vanilla map. But for now Elysium Island is finished. Plus I’m working on a few new maps at the moment…”
What other locations do you think would be interesting to see the community create in PZ?
“When the height limit is extended I’d love to see skyscrapers, and a colosseum when animals are implemented. Also great would be a nuclear bunker with a war room, botanical gardens, a Kowloon City map, and a Spiffo theme park!”
Is there anyone 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?
“There are a few really exciting maps being made by fellow map creators such as a Cyberpunk City, Liberty City, Park Rangers Outpost and Dirkville. The Zomboid community has a lot to look forward to in the near future, map-wise.”
“Firstly, shout out to Dylan! A great guy and mod creator who’s stepping back at the moment from modding, but who’s been a real credit to the modding community!”
“Shoutout also to Zlobenia, Bendy, Dirkie, Perto, Moeki, Try Honesty, Dive, Myl0o… (Oscar exit music begins to play)… TK, Spongie, BigZombieMonkey, Skizot, Aza, Mereel, Jonhalo and everyone else in the Zomboid Discord.”
What’s next in your modding plans? What’s the dream?
“I just finished creating a mod which adds Twinkies into the game, a reference to the film Zombieland. I had help from some other members of the modding community, so thanks to Dogy and Konijima! I’d also like to make a waxwork museum in Zomboid, similar to Madame Tussaud’s, which would be a really creepy and surreal location.”
“Currently I’m working on a museum map mod. It’s got quite a way to go till release. If anyone wants to collaborate, come find me in the Zomboid mapping Discord channel! In the meantime, here are a few work-in-progress screenshots. The entrance hall is inspired by the Natural History Museum in London, and there’s a World War 1 exhibit with custom waxwork figures.”
Thanks to Gabester for answering our questions! You can find the Elysium Island map here.