IGSDublin: Save The Zombies!
Posted by: Owen, 17 Mar 2011 05:35
Last month I attended the first of what is hoped to be a series of monthly indie game developer events in Dublin called Indie Games Space, organised by gamedevelopers.ie and held in Film Base in Temple Bar. It is a chance for independent developers to get together, show off their work, listen to a talk and work on a monthly design challenge (and get free t-shirts from the guys at havok! Thanks!).

Last month, Paul Conway showed and talked about the development process of his great Dragon Age addon Craggy Island.
For the challenge you could work in groups or solo (and being the unsocial hermit that I am, I went solo, naturally) to design and implement a game based on two themes. For this first challenge the themes were disease pandemic and failure. An extra 'unofficial' condition was then tagged on... "no zombies"! Blatant discrimination!

Seeing as how there are already pandemic games dealing with the global scale, I started thinking on a more local scale, but still involving infection vectors in populations (yeah, so not really pandemic at all).
I had originally been thinking of having a virus trying to spread throughout a group, but being combated by a genetic 'cure' that was also spreading through the population. I was going along the lines of having single gene recessive/dominant phenotype resistance to the virus, so that there could be simple varying degrees of protection. This ended up getting a bit too complicated, including the need for a reproducing population and that would have just gotten messy, in more ways than one. It was also becoming more of a simulation and less of a game.

So I ended up slightly reworking it so that it became VvV... Virus verses Virus. It is a two-player game where each player has to create a virus that infects and kills the fewest amount of people. The virus with the lowest score wins (the failure theme).

So I made it...

Ah... yeah, zombies.
I only used them as I was going to use the isometric engine I had been making last year (and promptly ignored) and the only avatar spritesheets I had to hand were Brookes Metaplace zombies, so I decided to use them. Otherwise it would have had to be squirrels!

Players change a simple set of sliders to alter the attributes of the viruses, which effect how they spread and survive.

  • Range: is simply how close another zombie has to be before it possibly be infected by a contagious zombie.
  • Incubation: determines how soon a zombie becomes contagious after being infected (the smaller the bar the sooner)
  • Infectiousness: is how aggressively a virus will try to infect
  • Lethality: is how easily the virus will kill (this also plays a role with incubation time)
  • Durability: is how well the virus can survive in the host zombie
Making one attribute less effective made others more effective.

Each zombie gets both a random generic health and immunity values to help fight off the viruses, so there are differences from one zombie to the next on how they will cope.

Another degree of randomness is the fact that zombies are constantly wandering around the map.

"all we wanna do is infect your brains"

Your initially infected zombie could walk into a corner and never spread its virus before it manages to get rid of it itself.
The game starts by randomly infecting one zombie for each virus. I probably should have allowed players to examine the initial state of the map and then select their preferred zombie to infect.

Each infection scores one point, each death three. Each game takes a couple of minutes, although sometimes it can drag on when those damn brain eaters refuse to just die; the game ends when their are either no zombies left 'alive' or there are no current infections. Otherwise you can just end it prematurely.

Infected and contagious zombies... poor little things

So there it is. It's not at all balanced and there are probably some show-stopping bugs in there somewhere, but it works for the most part for me. Any feedback would be welcome. Comment below!

I should probably get back to working on something that might make some money now. Speaking of which, I must post about how Trinhex and Blockdown have done since my last post.
Tags: Games, Programming, Flash, Metaplace, Trinhex, Blockdown, gamedevelopers.ie, IGSDublin, Save the Zombies
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