DoubleBear Productions’ Project Lead Brian Mitsoda and writer/Game Designer Annie Mitsoda showed off their upcoming zombie-survival-role-playing-game Dead State at PAX 2014.
The quickest and easiest way to describe Dead State might be “Baldur’s Gate-style RPG in the Zombie-apocalypse”. Your passenger jet crashes, and when you and various survivors awaken the zombie apocalypse has erupted. (At least you survived the crash, right?)
But comparing Dead State to Baldur’s Gate isn’t entirely accurate. In Dead State you’re not leading around a band of ‘adventurers’ in zombie land, looking for wrongs to right, stuff to kill, and loot—at least not in the fantasy RPG sense that the comparison to Baldur’s Gate implies.
It's all about the base
Instead, base management and relationship management represent significant aspects of the experience. You are the leader of a band of survivors who ultimately create a safe house in an old school. Your job is to manage your safe zone, acquire supplies, strengthen your defenses—and perhaps most of all, manage a myriad of relationships with all the various survivors within your care.
Within your safe zone are numerous sub-leaders, each representing a small group of survivors loyal to them—the factions/families within your “kingdom” so to speak. Each game day begins with a gathering of these leaders, and they will present various problems that need to be addressed.
This essentially serves as the “quest” mechanism for the game, as well as the relationship management metagame.
In addition, other shelter members can approach you as well with problems of their own. This basically means you won’t be wandering the world in search of ‘quest givers’, although you may encounter and recruit additional survivors. You’ll also need to assign various shelter members to different jobs, such as bolstering defenses, growing food creating a well, and much more.
Your decisions directly affect everything within the game as well as the morale, loyalty, and relationships of the sub-leaders and the groups of people loyal to them. You can’t please everyone all of the time. And, according to Brian, you could potentially “dick your way” to a total loss end game if you decide The Walking Dead’s “Governor” is a role model for leadership.
But Dead State is still a role-playing game with a driving single-player narrative; not just an open world, endless strategy game. Many story elements are “seasoned” with dynamic, random events called Crisis Events that guarantee every play through will be different. “Everyone who plays Dead State should have a different experience, and we have roughly 70 or more hours of game play,” Brian Mitsoda explains.
Zombies are environmental
So what about the zombies? The zombies in Dead State are “traditional” zombies. They are slow. They are attracted to noise. There are no mutant zombies, variants, or a zombie bestiary. There are no boss zombies.
“The zombies are more of an environmental hazard in the game that you will have to navigate as you scavenge for resources and food,” Brian explains. “Like traditional zombies, they are attracted to noise, and you can use that tactically because they will attack enemies as well. You could, for example, do something to make a lot of noise and attract the zombies to your enemies.”
The human factions in the game are as (or more) dangerous than the zombies, and you’ll be competing with them for resources. And you can raid other factions of humans for resources.
Still about character
Like typical role-playing games, character advancement plays a big part, but is based more upon meeting objectives (i.e. completing quests) than killing enemies. There are a large number of skills and abilities for every character. In addition, characters back at your shelter need to be assigned jobs (finding food, fortifying defenses, tending wounded, etc.), so assigning jobs that fit a character’s skills is helpful.
The team at DoubleBear is hard at work fixing bugs and incorporating community feedback courtesy of Steam Early Access. Dead State is a single-player only game release is planned for Fall 2014.