Insurgent adds new clothes, traits, and professions and sees you parachuted into the Exclusion Zone on a top secret mission. So top secret in fact, it’s up to you to decide what your mission is! The mod also works with many popular weapon mods, and optional add-ons include an airdropped vehicle and more government laboratories filled with secrets.
Notloc’s solo mods tend to tweak and modify our user interface, allowing players to reorder the hotbar and the container interface, adding free drawing on the map, and a “paper doll” screen for player equipment.
Notloc’s piece de resistance, however, is their Inventory Tetris mod. Taking inspiration from Escape from Tarkov, the mod fundamentally changes how inventories work. Each item is given a size, and the player moves items by dragging and dropping them onto a container’s grid, and is able to rearrange items to optimise space. Optionally, containers can also have to be “searched” before items appear in them.
We tracked down Notloc to a research lab deep in the forest, where they took time out from rearranging top secret documents in their backpack to answer a few questions for us!
Who are you in real life? Tell us a little about yourself.
“My name is Colton. I’m a 27-year-old software developer from Canada. My day job involves coding work on automated reporting and business management software – truly gripping stuff! My real passions are in gaming, so I hope to move into the games industry someday.”
How did you first discover Project Zomboid? Why do you like it?
“I first heard about Zomboid years ago in high school. My friend was telling me about what they described as “the perfect zombie game”. This was the early days of early access games, so I bought the game shortly after that, directly from the website. I had a lot of fun running around the old map with Baldspot. I drifted away somewhat after that, but when Build 41 was released, I started to get into the game for real.”
“There’s a lot to love about Project Zomboid. I’ve got a soft spot for the old graphics and sprites, even if the gameplay improvements of the 3D models are undeniable. I’ve always loved how the game does big hordes and the overall “doomed” vibe of the setting. Other than that, I just love running around exploring the map and being a loot goblin! I’m not particularly good at the game; I rarely make it past a month, let alone get to building a base, but I still have fun trying to last just a bit longer each time.”
How did you get into modding for PZ? Have you made mods for other games before?
“It’s a little silly. I was watching Ambiguous Amphibian‘s video where he tried to do a playthrough using only the mouse. This inspired me to create Left Click Redux, a mod that brings a huge amount of movement and gameplay control to the left mouse button. After that, I just kept modding because it was fun and I felt fairly unrestricted in what I could achieve, thanks to so much of the game being in Lua.”
“When it comes to modding other games, I’ve dabbled over the years, but I’ve never released anything. I’ve spent a lot of time messing around with game development in the Unity engine, though. I suppose I used to hop from project to project without really finishing anything, a habit I’ve been trying to get away from recently.”
Give us a quick overview of your mods. How do they change the game? Also tell us about the mods’ co-creators.
“Most of my solo mods are quality of life changes for the interface. Things like making dark containers easier to see, reordering your bags and the hotbar, and a dedicated interface for your worn equipment. None of these mods really change the core game itself, it’s mostly just a bit of refinement for existing features.”
“My more impactful modes include Adrenaline, Draw on the Map, and Inventory Tetris. Adrenaline is fairly simple: it just removes a bit of fatigue from the player when they get panicked until they calm down. Draw on the Map lets you freely draw on the map with your mouse, and Inventory Tetris overhauls the inventory system to be grid based.”
“For collaboration mods, I’ve worked on both Insurgent and Susceptible with the lovely Mr Sunshine. Insurgent essentially adds the ability to build a soldier during character creation for a quick over-powered start. Susceptible, a personal favourite, makes the player character susceptible to the airborne strain of the zombie virus, requiring protective masks to be worn near zombies in order to survive. Susceptible originally started as a trait in Spyjack’s Facility-7 mod, which Mr Sunshine got permission to port as a stand-alone mod. I joined up shortly after to help with the coding after submitting an overly detailed bug report about the airborne infection travelling through walls.”
Tell us more about your Insurgent mod. What inspired it? Also tell us about some other mods it interacts well with.
“Insurgent was created by Mr Sunshine, so I got a bit of help from him to answer this one.”
“The original idea for Insurgent was to spawn in to the game as an overpowered soldier with an objective to complete – think someone like Hunk from Resident Evil. There’s no set objective quite yet, but we’ve got some mysterious (i.e. useless) story items in a few locations. The name of the mod is a reference to the soldiers from the Facility-7 mod by Spyjack and visually, the new gear available in character creation was inspired by the Black Ops soldiers from Half-Life.”
“My role in Insurgent thus far has mainly been limited to bug fixing and code quality, improving co-op and multiplayer support, making the mod more modular, that kind of stuff. As a result of some of these changes Mr Sunshine and I we’re easily able to create add-ons to support some popular weapon mods. One modder, Panopticon, actually figured out the add-on format and created a mod that allows Insurgents to spawn with an airdropped vehicle!
The “Susceptible” mod is definitely for hardcore players. Have any cool player stories arisen from it? Do people enjoy the extreme challenge?
“Susceptible is not an easy game mode, that’s for sure! I usually get infected a few days in when I play it. The players I’ve talked to definitely seem to like the mod. It provides a much slower, more methodical type of play, where you need to carefully consider where you’re going and how long your protection will last for. I think the players enjoy that, having to plan a bit more thoroughly to succeed in scenarios that would essentially be routine in the vanilla game.”
“Players do occasionally share some stories in the comments – but it’s usually not stories where things are going their way! One time a player told me how they gathered an air tank and a hazmat suit for a big loot run into the Louisville mall. They arrived at the mall and suited up to head inside… only to run out of air almost immediately. The hazmat suit they had brought was at low condition and torn up, which caused it to leak air extremely fast! That sounds perfectly sensible written out, but they didn’t realize the mod would consider those things before they entered the mall.”
“Another time, a player was upset because they thought they had been wrongly infected due to a bug with the mod, as they never took their mask off but had become sick. Thankfully it wasn’t the zombie infection. They had cleaned their medical mask with bleach to restore its condition, but they were wearing the mask when they did so. Essentially, they were breathing bleach fumes! Susceptible considers that scenario and makes your character a little ill if you do it. Thankfully, it’s not deadly unless you do it repeatedly.”
Another typical story, word for word: “Mask filter ran out after [only] 2 seconds while fighting a horde and immediately got sick the next morning and then died. I ******* hate this mod. 10/10”.”
“I suppose these stories are examples of why it’s important to read a mod’s description (although, I can’t entirely blame them, it’s a really long description!)”
Tell us about your Inventory Tetris mod. What inspired it? How does it change the game?
“Inventory Tetris completely overhauls the game’s inventory to use a grid-based system; items now have size and containers have volume. This creates a more gamified and tactile inventory where the player must arrange their items to maximize space. The mod has large balance implications as it is very restrictive as to what the player can carry early on. Bags are now essential as the player can carry very little without one. Large furniture is almost guaranteed not to fit inside of bags; instead it needs to be carried in your hands. Worn, held, and hotbarred items take up no space. This lets players decide how they want to use these slots other than simply optimizing for combat. To make up for the time spent having to arrange iitems, moving items between containers has been made instant.”
“Inventory Tetris also has several fun sandbox options. You can choose to enable container searching, which means you have to spend a few seconds searching containers to reveal its contents, one by one. There’s also gravity mode, which makes items fall to the bottom of containers and “bury” the items beneath them. Providing more sandbox options to customize the balance is a priority for me.”
“The biggest inspiration was definitely Escape from Tarkov. Its grid inventory has always stood out to me as one of the best to interact with. Grabbing an item with the mouse, moving it around and seeing the inventory visually respond. The responsive and snappy controls as well as the hotkeys and shortcuts to speed things up as you become more familiar with the system. And last, but certainly not least, the audio; it’s so satisfying to simply move a bottle of water back and forth!”
Do you have any tips for new modders? Is there anything you’d do differently if you were starting again?
“I have more modding tips than can be listed, but here are a few: Make the mods you yourself want to play. Work your way up; do smaller mods ideas before you tackle your bigger mod ideas. Get help if you get stuck: YouTube tutorials, the Zomboid wiki and java docs, or asking questions on the official Discord’s modding channels are all good ways to get a little push when you get stuck. Don’t be afraid to experiment. And finally, make sure to have fun with it!”
“Before you release your mod, spend some time on your mod’s “promo” materials so that it stands out from the crowd. Try to make an eye catching image that, if possible, visually communicates what your mod does. Name your mod in a way that helps people find it. A lot of people will find mods by searching for the feature they want. (I like to “double dip” here by giving my mods a title and a subtitle.) Expect bug reports – people will almost certainly break things in ways you never imagined. Try not to let mean comments get you down; they take 10 seconds to write, so that’s the most time you should give them. And DON’T try to please everyone – these are your mods, you should welcome feedback of course, but ultimately it’s up to you to choose what your mods will be.”
“If I got to start over at modding, there are only two things that I would change. First would be to make Left Click Redux later. It’s currently unlisted as it can be quite buggy. I didn’t work my way to up to it, just jumped in and made a sizable mod for my first attempt and the result was that, while it was a great learning experience, it is fairly messy, hard to work with all this time later, and not really up to my standards.”
“Second, I would keep Inventory Tetris in the oven for an extra month. It’s in an excellent spot now, but the original launch version of the mod had a large number of compatibility issues with various other mods. In retrospect I would’ve liked to have spent a session or two testing it in the broader mod ecosystem. Obviously not every mod can be perfectly compatible with every other mod, but I find a lot of enjoyment in trying, it’s like a puzzle game to me.”
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?
“Shout-out to Mr Sunshine of course, it’s been a blast working on mods with him! Shout-out also to dhert, who has helped me a few times with my Equipment UI. In particular, when I was asking about equipment body slots, dhert just happened to have a text file on hand that listed all the game’s vanilla body slots plus a bunch from popular mods. Saved me a lot of time!”
“Other than that, a general shout-out to the people answering questions in the #mod_development channel of the official Discord. Everyone over there has been endlessly helpful and supportive every time I visit.”
“I use only a few mods usually simple UI features or quality of life, my favourites being XP Drops, Weapon Condition Indicator, Clean Dirt, and Clear Description for Moodles. For multiplayer with friends, I also use Players on Map, and They Knew.”
What’s next in your modding plans? What’s the dream?
“I’d say Inventory Tetris is the dream for me! So I expect to keep updating it for the foreseeable future.
“Other than that, I’ve got plans for a big update for Susceptible. I’m calling it the Contamination update. It will bring some new sandbox options, including the ability to have the virus build-up indoors. There’s a screen overlay of swirling particles that fades in when you enter a contaminated building, which I think looks really cool. The contamination is all calculated based on the zombies and corpses inside a building and how long they’ve been there. Even after you’ve cleared out a building and dragged out all the zombie corpses, it can take an a few in-game weeks for the contamination to fully clear out of some of the most infested buildings. The update is almost done, but it needs performance improvements, especially for Louisville.”
“Lastly, I need to fix Left Click Redux. This is something I feel I’ve already put off for too long, so sooner the better for this one!”
Thanks to Notloc for answering our questions in such detail! You can find all their mods here.