Hello there, apocalyptic explorers! This time we turn our mod spotlight on a mapper and modder called Woldren. Many of Woldren’s maps – Hashima Island, Fort Knox, The Walking Dead Project – have become classics, with their beloved Over the River map having almost 800,000 subscribers on the Steam Workshop. Over the River adds a town, obviously enough, across the Ohio river, on the other side of a new bridge from West Point.
Rather than making a simple bridge to walk or drive over, however, Woldren’s map provides more of a challenge. The new bridge is covered with the remains of Fallout-style hastily constructed metal shacks, and you’ll have to fight through quite a few ex-survivors just to cross it. Once you reach the end of the bridge, you’ll have to clamber through the rusting hulk of a beached cargo ship until you reach dry land, providing an imaginative and unique challenge. In the new town, you’ll find a military base with a hospital and an underground bunker, the remnants of a survivor settlement in a soccer stadium, a logging factory, and dozens and dozens of houses and buildings to loot, barricade, burn down, and get bitten in.
We fought our way across the bridge, battling both zombies and vertigo, and found Woldren making maps in a cosy little metal shack, where they were kind enough to answer some questions about themselves and their map!
Who are you in real life? Tell us a little about yourself.
“I’m an Italian medical student, and I live in Calabria, in southern Italy. My hobbies include reading books and manga, and obviously playing video games! I have around 180 games in my Steam library, but Project Zomboid is the one I play the most.”
How did you first discover Project Zomboid? Why do you like it?
“I’ve been a gamer for many years now, and gradually, my interest became increasingly focused on survival games. I was looking for more and more of a challenge. I wanted to test myself. I could never imagine I would come to play Zomboid for more than 1600 hours!”
“When I watched the third season of The Walking Dead, I told my friend I wanted to experience events similar to the show but in a game, so they recommended Project Zomboid. When I first played it, I was blown away. The game (and also its mods and maps, thanks to the community on the Steam Workshop) has the perfect level of depth, exactly what I was looking for, and so I instantly fell in love with it.”
How did you get into mapping for PZ? Have you made maps or mods for other games before?
“The friend I mentioned earlier came to me with an idea: “Let’s make a server based on The Walking Dead. There’s even a mapping tool, you should try it!” So my very first map was The Walking Dead Project that you can still find on the Workshop.”
“I made several mods before (and after) Project Zomboid, including some for my old DayZ server, which added stronger zombies, more crafting recipes etc. More recently, I did a translation for Crusader Kings 3 into my native Italian, along with some gameplay mods.”
Tell us about Over the River. What sort of locations can players expect to find, and which might make a good base? What sort of player will most enjoy the map?
“Over the River has evolved over the years. You’ll find a long bridge leading across the Ohio at West Point with several post-apocalyptic buildings. The bridge is connected to a huge cargo ship, inside which are numerous secret corridors and passages that lead to equally secret rooms containing loot. On land you’ll find a stadium (also containing a base made by survivors), Walter White’s house from Breaking Bad (made by observing many scenes from the TV show), Grove Street from GTA: San Andreas, and a military base containing various hangars and buildings.”
“There is also a sub-mod, Secondary Road, so that vehicles can access my map. In my opinion, however, it’s more fun to challenge yourself by trying to cross the bridge and the ship on-foot, as this is what makes my map really fun and unique.”
What were the inspirations behind Over the River (whether it’s other PZ maps, real life locations etc.)? How long did your map take to make, in total? What was the most difficult part?
“At the time I made Over the River, the vanilla game map consisted only of Muldraugh and West Point. My explorer’s nature led me to imagine what places across the river from West Point could look like. Years earlier I played Fallout 3, and in that game a small community was living right on a bridge, Bridge Town. I also wanted to build my base on a bridge, and I had the ability to create it myself, so I did!”
“Then I needed a way to be able to get the characters down from the bridge, and stairs wouldn’t work. That’s when I thought to put a ship there. At first it was only supposed to be a short passageway, but the more I shaped its corridors and cabins, the more I imagined players venturing inside. I imagined communities in the roleplaying servers conquering the bridge and later the ship, then occupying its cabins, infirmary, etc. It was like writing a fantasy book, there was no limit. Inside the ship there’s even a wall that says “Jump!” and on the floor below there’s a bed! I know that the bed doesn’t reduce the impact, but since the ship is full of zombies and jumping from the first floor can’t be fatal, I thought it was a fun alternative to being eaten!”
“The oldest map file is dated March 18, 2017 and I released my map on May 16, so it initially took me two months, but over the years I’ve continued working on it. The most difficult part was the bridge. A few years after the release of my map, the developers changed how the player sees walls, so I had to change the structure entirely to show the walls how I wanted.”
“Also, the huge number of zombies that spawn on the bridge and inside the ship was not intended! But after playing and trying to survive, I thought “Wow!!! This is amazing!!” It wa challenge like the mall or prison, or Spy’s Facility-7 (which also inspired the ship’s secret passages).”
“I did balance the challenge by putting a container with good weapons near the start of the ship. Some new players complained about that, that it would make it too easy, but after a few attempts, all of them understand my decision to make it a little easier for them.”
Tell us about the stories you wanted to tell with your map. For example, what happened to the people living on the bridge? Are they the same group that ended up at the soccer stadium?
“Players, venturing on the bridge and then into the ship, are confronted with the failure of previous communities. Everything seems in order, and yet hope, like life, seems to have vanished. The zombies have won. The group in the stadium also failed. Our characters are walking through a story of how these people died. Did one of the survivor on the bridge die and turn and infect everyone else? What happened inside the ship and the stadium? They all seemed confident that solid walls would be enough to keep the zombies out, but all experienced players know that the greatest enemy is overconfidence. One wrong step and you end up bitten.”
You’ve been making maps for PZ for years. How have the tools and possibilities available to you changed over the years? How has the community changed? What advice would you give anyone who wants to start mapping?
“The mapping tools haven’t changed too much, but numerous new tiles have been added over the years, which helped me. For example, I was finally able to add gold bullion inside my “Fort Knox”. I don’t use modded tilepacks because I prefer the vanilla style for normal buildings like houses and stores, but I must admit, the modded tiles look awesome!”
“The community has always been supportive toward mappers, because they are probably aware that behind each map there is at least 100 hours of work. My advice for new mappers is to start with a small map, maybe two or three cells. There are numerous green areas in the vanilla map which you can be overwrite with your own. Give free rein to your imagination without feeling the burden of anyone else’s expectations. Creating maps is like playing one of those childhood games where you build villages and towns. Remember to keep your imagination alive!”
Tell us about your other maps. Which of them is your favourite? What’s unique about each of them?
“To make The Walking Dead Project map, I rewatched scenes from the TV show hundreds of times and placed the chairs, the pictures, the furniture in general, in the exact same spot as in the show. For the buildings outside, as in Woodbury, I used videos from tourists and images from Google maps. Even though it took a while it was fun, because if you do what you like, it’s never a burden.”
“I did the same for my Fort Knox map, at least how I used Google Maps for the exterior, although I had to use my imagination for the interior. I’ve spent so much time studying Fort Knox on Google that when they updated their maps recently, I could notice the differences. “Oh, that wasn’t there back in 2018!” When I saw that on the Workshop there was another map in the exact same spot, Eerie Country, I decided to make a twin map of Fort Knox, linking my map to Eerie, so that the community didn’t have to choose one over the other.”
“I also made two island maps “Midway Island” and “Hashima Island”. Hashima Island is my favorite, because even in real life it seems post-apocalyptic. Everyone should see the incredibly awesome pictures of the real island!”
“Medieval Zomboid was an idea for a roleplay server. It is obviously inspired by Attack on Titan. It was really fun to make but I never had the chance to play in it with my friends and be part of the medieval community I dreamed about. The same thing goes for Over the River, but I hope someone among those 780,000 subscribers made a roleplay community on the bridge. A man can dream!”
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 would like everyone to play the Taylorsville map made by Erika. The amount of detail inside and outside every building is incredibly inspiring to all the mappers out there.”
What’s next in your mapping or modding plans? What’s the dream?
“As you may have noticed, the Over the River map now extends northward, connecting to Louisville, but the route there consists mainly of forests. Over the past few months I’ve been making new locations there and hope to finish my work doing that.”
“I’ve also been working on a new map inspired by the video game STALKER. In my dream, the player would venture into the Zone in search of artifacts, returning to the merchant Sidorovich, in an environment in which resources would be very scarce. It would be the ideal map for an RP server.”
“I also made several locations identical to those in the STALKER games, but I realized it would take a very long time to finish the map doing that level of research, as I found out doing TWD, Hashima Island etc. At some point I realized that I was “working” to make the map, so I decided to use my imagination for the rest of the Zone, which makes mapping both more fun, and much easier to do. I hope everyone will like it!”
Thanks to Woldren for answering our questions! You can find the Over the River map here.