Dead State Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:DoubleBear Productions
Release Date:2014-12-04
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
GB: Tell us a bit about the zombies themselves. Are they basically all identical in type or have you introduced a little extra creativity (such as, to make a tired comparison, the different "boss" types in Left 4 Dead)?

Brian: Zombies are always statistically the same. The only time they might be more resilient or deadly is if they were wearing armor when they died or if they attack while on fire.

GB: What have you done to make our battles with zombies interesting and different each time we encounter them? Given the fact that there isn't a wide range of enemy types, are you at all concerned that combat will become tedious or monotonous by the end of the game?

Brian: Not at all. While zombie behavior is consistent (close in, bite human), the zombies could be anywhere and will always keep the player on their toes. Human behavior is harder to predict - they might be defending a location, scavenging (like you), looking for other survivors, ambushing the weak, killing for fun - you never know. We've developed different AI traits so that every AI may behave differently, even within the same group. Some groups have their own specialties and tactics, which can make them more dangerous. And, of course, we have our Noise mechanic that always keeps things tense - firing weapons, bashing doors, throwing explosives, these are all things that will attract attention from zombies or other humans, so you never know where and when someone or something's going to show up and make an easy get in/get out plan into a really bad situation.

GB: Take us through a typical combat situation. What tactical options are at our disposal during each turn? Will the battlefield itself be important in terms of cover and environmental hazards (a propane tank becomes a potential bomb, striking a window or setting off an alarm attracts more enemies, etc.)?

Brian: So, you start out on the area map and let's say you enter a small map with a few houses on it. You have three allies with you. You're just stumbled upon the place and you have no idea what you'll find inside. You order your allies to stay close and walk (in real time) to the back of the first house, looking in the windows as you go to see if there are any people inside. You want to go in the back door (since it's more secluded) but it's locked. You could bash it, but you realize you have the skill to pick it, so you do. You don't think there's anyone inside, so you order two of your allies to stand watch outside and one of them to come with you. You walk into the kitchen and search through the cupboards and drawers, finding some canned food and a few parts you can use back at the shelter. You check the living room next, but there's nothing really of use. You go upstairs and start searching the master bedroom. Here you find a gun and ammo in the bedside table. Suddenly, a zombie shambles into the room from the hallway - you should have checked out the other rooms. Your ally is closest and gets grappled. Time-based combat begins. You walk over and critically hit the zombie with a wrench, it goes down. Combat ends.

You sweep the rest of the house, not finding much. On to the next house. This backdoor is locked too. You can't pick it, so you bash it - the noise meter goes up every time it's bashed. Finally, the door breaks. Unfortunately, there's a survivor there waiting with a shotgun. Already having decided they don't want to talk, combat begins as they fire at you. You're not hit, but your friend behind you is. It's a pretty nasty wound, so they're going to need medical assistance as soon as possible. Another ally has higher initiative than you. They begin retuning fire. Then another ally goes and does the same. The noise meter is getting higher from the bashing and shooting. The enemy flees upstairs. It's your turn - you could go upstairs after the guy or you could order everyone to rally at the map's exit. You choose to go in, because if this guy has survived for so long, maybe he has food, ammo, and other items and you're still pissed about being shot at. Your ally has a medic kit and begins stitching themselves up on their turn. It's the zombies turn - you hear a moan, and then another. Your noise has attracted zombies from the yard next door. Now they're a threat... if there are a lot of them in the area, there might be a bunch still coming, or these are the last two in the area - you don't know. What do you do next?

GB: Dead State is an open world game with shelters and scavenging as core gameplay concepts. Does this mean this is comparable to rogue-likes or is there also a drive from an overspanning plot, or personal plots from the NPCs?

Brian: More scripted than rogue-likes - definitely not a completely random game or a simulator. The plot is completely dependent on who you have. One ally might know of locations that others won't. One might be able to reason with another group. Some might be open to killing non-hostile groups to take their stuff while others will think less of you for even suggesting it. You've got other leaders who might be great for advice or a threat to your leadership. Allies may not get along well with everyone, while some might have entirely different types of personalities if certain other allies are around. A lot of the game's story depends on who you meet and what you do with them. There's a bit of randomness in there and we hope that players will be able to play the game multiple times and always get a different experience out of it.

GB: If Dead State does pretty well, what's next for DoubleBear? Is your plan to make Dead State into a series of RPGs, or do you have other game ideas that you'd like to pursue?

Brian: If Dead State does well - and we really hope it does - we'll probably do at least one more game or expansion for it. Hard to say right now. We love working in the setting, but like anything, too much can lead to burn out. It's definitely been a priority to use the engine/tools to make another RPG or two to reduce the time between projects. We've got several dream projects we'd love to do after (the) Dead State (series) but until we have the time to devote time to them, we're going to work on making Dead State good enough that people are looking forward to more projects from us.