Infestation: Survivor Stories (formerly "The War Z")

The War Z new screenshots, interview on weapons, game systems, ambition

Evan Lahti at

Rare, stem cell-carrying zombies will only appear at night.

The War Z is giving me mood swings. I feel like I have a pair of contradictory spirits on my shoulders; Yes, I would like another open-world, PC-exclusive survival game, Shoulder Ghost #1. Duh. But the promises made by the game's creators (who are so newly-established that they don't have a website) invite arm-crossing and skepticism. Can these guys really execute the tremendous list of features they’ve laid-out? 250-player capacity, PvE/PvP, unrestrictive-but-accessible gameplay, multiple open worlds that will rival or exceed the size of DayZ’s, free content updates, player-owned servers, and stuff like bounties and vaccination?

I got Executive Producer Sergey Titov talking about his studio's lofty promises for The War Z, and poked him for hard details on its systems and what sort of shooter it’ll be.

PCG: The War Z seems an extraordinarily ambitious type of game to design so quickly. Is it accurate to say—from start to the planned release later this fall—The War Z will have taken about a year to make?

Sergey Titov, Executive Producer: Well, actually there is a little more to it. It’s true that The War Z specific features, characters, art, animations, etc. have come about over the past year, however the evolution of the game has really been in process for quite some time. We’ve actually been thinking about and drafting the design for a large, open world, zombie-survival game for the last couple of years. We also already had the technology, solutions and expertise that had been developed over the last few years with our game engine, licensing that engine, and developing/operating War Inc. Battle Zone. So we literally spent several years prepping ourselves for this production cycle.

Is The War Z more of a shooter or more of an MMO?

ST: The War Z is first and foremost a game of survival. Your goal is not necessarily to hunt zombies, or unlock achievements, or shoot anyone. Your goal is to explore the world and survive. It’s up to you if you want to work to rebuild society or destroy it and we really don’t set hardcore goals for you to achieve. As for the game controls and the game feel, it’s more of a shooter. You have a choice between first-person or third-person perspective and you’ll have very tight and direct control over your character and actions. The MMO aspect comes into play because the world will be persistent and populated with many other players besides you.

Will The War Z have traditional quests?

ST: There are no quests or missions in the traditional gaming industry sense of the word. We’re not building an objective based game, but instead building a sandbox with lots of tools that will allow players to create their own experiences. We took a basic theme that we love—the zombie apocalypse/survival genre—and asked ourselves what the world would look like in this scenario? What means of interacting with the world or other players would be available? What would the world economy look like? We built the game design around that. If you think about our feature set with that perspective it makes more sense. For example, we have what we call “safe settlements,” that are really not completely safe at all. They are built by people that survived the infestation and are working to rebuild civilization, so they are taking precautions to make sure that their home remains safe. If you obey the rules, there’s no danger for you, but it’s not a place that you can go anytime and expect you’ll be 100 percent invincible.

The same thing goes for currency. We’ve seen some comments that “gold coins” takes away from the realism. But, if you think about it—gold has been around for ages and, until very recently, it was the ultimate measure of wealth. In the game, Wall Street and other financial institutions have collapsed so we’ve reinstated gold’s value as a universal currency. That said, it is not the only currency in the world and, more importantly, we’re not forcing it on the players. We’re not saying “you either look for gold or you can’t buy anything.” Nothing prevents you from taking ammo for guns and using it as currency when bartering with other players. I don’t even actually remember using gold in the alpha version of the game. I think I used M16 ammo more often as a way to barter with other players for food

One thing that’s unclear to me is how much of—and what sort of—shooter The War Z will be. What will your guns feel like?

ST: Think of Battlefield 3 and think of War Inc. Battle Zone. I think those two examples best depict what the shooting and gun handling experience will be.It’s taking the reloading realism of War Inc., for example, where if you drop a half emptied clip and put in a new one, you effectively just lost all the bullets that were left inside the old magazine. Firing will have similar ballistic characteristics as you see in Battlefield—that is, if you shoot at longer distances, you’ll have to take distance and bullet drop into account.

One thing that I think is quite different is weapons stats. In most games (including our own War Inc.), you have to compromise between reality and gameplay fun. That is, your guns should feel different and fun, even though it doesn’t make much sense in the real world—after all you don’t really expect that two guns built on the same platform and using the same bullets will do dramatically different damage. So this is what’s different between War Z and other shooters—weapons stats are much more in line with the real world. It’s more simulation than just a fun shooter.

That’s pretty ambitious. What weapons specifically are you putting in the game?

ST: All sorts of things you can expect to see in a real world. Starting with “classics” like baseball bats, knives and crossbows and going up to light machine guns and grenade launchers. Yet—gun availability will depend on how hard it is to obtain them in the real world. For example, you can’t expect just to go into any house nearby and find an M16 lying there. You may be lucky and get your hands on a shotgun or handgun there, but stuff that is military grade can only be found near military installations, police stations, military roadblocks, etc.

Same goes for gun attachments—grips, silencers, different types of options—there are dozens of real world modifications available for your gun. Some will be relatively easy to find (forward grip for M4 for example or flashlight), but some—like high quality military grade optics—will be really rare.

Also just to clear any doubts—unlike the War Inc. attachment system, we’re not going to modify weapons stats for “gamification” purposes (i.e., a scope won’t improve a gun’s spread or anything like that). Some attachments like silencers and grips will affect stats: a silencer will slow down your bullet, grip will help you control recoil. Like they do in real life.