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News & Dev
April 13, 2023

Crafting RamblZ

Hey all! So we’re still not at the point of being able to show anything substantial from the crafting overhaul, however we thought we’d talk about a few topics that are relevant to our current work and give people a bit of insight into where we’re going, our ultimate goals and the design challenges we’re facing. This will be very much a stream of consciousness post, taken from a chat within the crafting team, so forgive if it lacks direction but we hope it’ll be interesting!


One of our biggest inspirations in terms of what we’d like to accomplish with Zomboid ultimately in terms of crafting freedom and possibility, is to provide similar creative and community experiences found playing the extensive tech progression modpacks for Minecraft. Several of the core crafting dev team have periodically dived into Minecraft modpacks for a good chunk of Zomboid’s development, and spend many hours grinding away decorating our bases, building wonderfully cool machines, laying down pipes, wires and conveyor belts and whatnot to double our ore output or finally get that new power system to power our base. The possibilities we could bring to zomboid have tickled at our brains for many years in this area, and we’re excited to be finally exploring them.

Obviously though, Zomboid is a post apocalypse survival game and it would be rather silly to say the least if some zombie apocalypse survivor was building a nuclear reactor or casting rituals to open portals, so this shouldn’t be taken as a literal 1 to 1 inspiration. What we’ve taken away from our experiences is more the overall spirit of building, of expanding, of obtaining materials, of navigating a very tall tech tree formed from the availability of resources, that will finally allow you to explore a new tree and open up new areas of gameplay to the player, rather than the literal experiences of making ore crushing machines, nuclear reactors or ender teleporters. As much as we feel Zomboid is an extremely deep game, it’s never hit the bar we’ve wanted in terms of this area of gameplay.

Mixed in with that is the heavy focus on roleplaying, especially with multiplayer or later with NPCs, our ultimate vision is somewhat parallel but different to the experiences in Minecraft, with more of a focus on realism and plausibility, as well as leveraging skills, professions and learning to make the experience more cooperative and interesting in a roleplay environment (though solo players need not worry, as NPCs will fill this gap too, and before them we’ll make sure to adequately provide sandbox options, and likely the builder main menu mode, to not lock this stuff out of the single player experience)

Extensivity vs Believability

As we stated a while back, our aim with the crafting overhaul is to provide a framework for us to expand the crafting possibilities within the game massively, to allow for a long post-apocalyptic settlement to create everything they need without relying on looting, to alleviate the need for players to ever need to reset their worlds unless they want to, while crucially gating all these extra possibilities in a way that makes sense — so you don’t get the odd situation where your burger flipper has wacky esoteric crafting recipes involving bee’s wax or crushed limestone popping up in their crafting panel that seem odd or ridiculous within the context of a zombie survival story.

The best example of this would be for example using metalworking to make a spoon. If you’re a metal worker then you should be able to make a spoon. This is a thing that makes sense in terms of what someone with metalworking skills could produce should they wish to. But a spoon is a weird thing to see pop up as a crafting possibility in an urban environment filled with spoons.

We’re currently planning on how recipes and crafting possibilities will be presented to the player, how to lock them intelligently behind professions and traits, and more crucially nest them away sensibly within a better interface, while providing enough opportunities to learn them to the player so they don’t end up doing generator manual style hunts around the map for many hours. This is not yet set in stone but ideas are forming on a new interface for crafting and building that would provide this stuff to the player in a much more natural way, where we can provide a huge amount of options without drowning the player in recipes that seem completely useless or weird within their current situation.

Grind vs interesting multi-stage crafting

Another challenge we’re still nailing down is finding the best balance between extensive and interesting crafting of items, involving multiple stages, potentially multiple methods, multiple skills, maybe multiple characters, but not crossing that line where crafting becomes tedious or frustrating, or you get that sinking feeling looking at the steps you have to complete that disincentivises you from undergoing it. It’s a hard balance to hit, and in our first ‘more zomboid / realistic’ pass of the tech tree, we’ve probably gone a little far over the tedium line in our desire to honour zomboid’s realism.

We’re currently in the process of consolidating some of these steps, still retaining multi-profession or multi-skill or multi-step processes to keep crafting interesting, while removing a few steps that may make for frustrating or repetitive gameplay. It’s for this reason we’ve been a little sheepish about providing a look at our current crafting trees at this time, as we want to make sure we strike this balance first lest we worry people that crafting is going to be an unforgiving grind.

A portion of the crafting trees. Eek.

Learning/Skill Grind

Another area we’re looking into heavily is the process of learning new skills. While we want to retain the process of a player ‘doing’ stuff to level up in that skill, with the vastly expanded skill list that 42 will be introducing, we want to come up with other ways a player can level up that don’t involve building 1000 things after reading a skill book. For one – a skill book may not exist if you’re generations after the apocalypse, or if you’re playing on a blank wilderness map instead (something we’d really like to be a possibility, and our test case to make sure our crafting overhaul is comprehensive will be making sure the player literally cannot rely on looted items).

We’re still coming up with ideas of how to approach this, but certainly the idea of learning recipes for items or buildable tiles as well as gaining skill xp from observing other players craft them is something we’re exploring heavily. Again, NPCs will fill this gap for single player, and in the meantime we’ll ensure that builder mode and sandbox provide the tools necessary for solo players to get access to this content without other characters to learn from.

Another aspect of this is that with much more expanded profession and trait possibilities, we hope to provide much meatier skill bonuses from professions, allowing players to come into the game a lot more capable than before at these specific areas of the game, given that there will be many more they are not capable at.

In addition, we’re exploring the possibility of linking recipes and professions that share common skills or concepts together, allowing characters a head start at performing crafting when they have picked up relevant experience in similar areas elsewhere.


So here’s where we can have our cake and have eaten it. Making a nuclear reactor seems a very silly thing to have in zomboid, but where the modding scene is concerned, hopefully people can go wild here. If a wilderness map becomes a viable way to play, the game no longer reliant on looted items nor a zombie threat to make it interesting (particularly in a multiplayer setting), then modders aren’t really constrained by the zombie survival theme of the game any more, and could extend our tech tree way beyond what we provide to allow for a much more abstract ‘tech em up’ survival sim providing factorio and minecraft style experiences along with multiplayer or NPC driven roleplay. We’ve kept all the power of crafting within the familiar scripts and lua that people are used to, expanded with item properties and traits based on crafting skills, multi-tile constructions for crafting stations or machines, fluid, item or power transmission for doing logistical networks, and can only imagine the possibilities will balloon dramatically as soon as our incredible modders get their hands on it.

This is where we imagine zomboid could become an even more exciting modding platform, and in no way a small aspect of why we want this framework to exist in the game as we’d be extremely excited to see what modders will bring to the table (as we always are).

So what will you be crafting?

Lots of stuff. While it may not be relevant for a player running around in Muldraugh in the 1990s, and while a burger flipper may not have this knowledge, there’ll be professions that emerge in the years following the apocalypse to cover crafting the majority of non electrical items in the game currently (though with perhaps a more homemade aesthetic), tanning leather, making glue or soap, spinning wool, or making cloth to make clothing, dyes to dye that clothing, bowyers to make bows for the hunters, growing hemp to make ropes, glass-makers, stone masonry to finally make those zombie proof walls (again, we need to think further on the design here to not make this too OP), thatched roofs. Basically everything to make a thriving post-apocalypse town, provide much more opportunities for creative and aesthetic building mechanics, building paths, fences, walls, and the production of goods to keep that town ticking over and potentially trade with others.

In case anyone is not familiar with our plans regarding post-apocalypse professions, this is the concept that in the years after society collapses, we would slowly retire pre-apocalypse professions that have ceased to be relevant in the new world, and bring in new ones that represent professions one would like to have in a more savage and technically regressed post-apocalypse. Single player and multiplayer alike will allow for a player to start much further into the Knox timeline than ‘six months later’ and provide a vastly different experience, though those who want the current zomboid experience will not be impacted beyond a larger selection of crafting opportunities. Obviously we’d be looking to give the world a much more eroded aesthetic if you were playing 100 years after the Knox event, for those hoping for a more Last of Us style degradation of the world over longer time spans, but it’s unlikely we’ll address this before 42’s release as we have a lot on our plate already.

Hopefully this gives an insight into why this has taken so long to get the systems in place, and the design challenge of making all this work within the game.

It’s not clear whether we’ll have literally everything we’ve designed in come first unstable release of build 42, its very possible we’ll get the base stuff in there, and then fill it out over numerous releases during a long unstable b42 release cycle, as there will be a lot of tile and item artwork required, but we want to get the core systems in place and enough crafting potential to elevate the late game dramatically before we get it out there. We need to make sure the foundations are in place first however, as we’re walking into unfamiliar territory and are as always ever mindful not to disrupt the things that make zomboid what it is.

A changelist of all our pre-release and post-release patches since the 41 beta began can be found here. The Centralized Block of Italicised Text would like to direct your attention to the PZ Wiki should you feel like editing or amending something, and the PZ Mailing List that can send you update notifications once builds get released. We also live on Twitter right here! Our Discord is open for chat and hijinks too. Experienced games industry gameplay coder and want to join Team Awesome? Jobs page here. Title image taken from Abby on Steam


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Stable Build: 41.78.16 | IWBUMS Beta: 41.78.16 | Version history | Wiki
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