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

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

Evan Lahti at

Are you using your own engine technology?

ST: Yes, the game is using our own online game engine called Eclipse. It’s been in development for a while and has been tested by millions of players worldwide, so we’re pretty happy with what we have.

About the skill system: will it feature any active abilities? In the IGN interview, you described them as enhancements—unlocks that boost your stamina or the health restored by bandages.

ST: Haha. I’ve actually been criticized over last few days for calling our system a “Skill Tree.” Turns out it resonates well with traditional WoW style MMO players, but everybody else is thinking—okay this must be an MMO with quests, raids, level ups, grinding and a skill tree that will mold you into one of the “professions” available in the game.

This is as far from the truth as The War Z is far from being a traditional MMO RPG game. What we have in the game is a set of “training skills” available and as you progress through the game, you will decide what you want to train. Do you want to spend more on physical training to be able to carry slightly more weight, sprint for a longer time, etc. Or do you want to do more gun training, allowing you to aim better, reload your gun faster, etc. The point is—this is something you would expect from people in this situation in a real world—that they would train themselves to improve certain skills. So in the game, you accumulate “experience points” that you can spend on learning those different skills.

How are you handling maps and navigation within the world?

ST: From the start you will have access to the world map and be able to mark waypoints to assist with navigating. Other than that—it’s up to you to find the best route to your destination wherever that may be.

Will The War Z feature proximity-based voice chat?

ST: As of now, we don’t have solid plans for VOIP communication built into the game. This may change based on feedback we get from the closed beta test, but so far universal feedback we’re getting is “don’t worry, we’d love our teamspeak, we don’t need anything else.”

What do you see as The War Z’s endgame? This is arguably one of the shortcomings of DayZ currently: once you get gear, killing other players for sport is the natural thing to do.

ST: Ultimately we hope that there won’t be an endgame. Our DNA as a company is not to produce “packaged” games. What we’re making is a sandbox service for our players. We create the toolset and set the theme for players to use and build their own individual game experiences. We don’t have a goal like “okay unlock all achievements” or “find all guns.” We’re saying, here’s a world that just survived a viral outbreak that took the lives of most of the population and left a world full of brain-hungry zombies. This is also why we’re allowing players to rent their own servers and create their own private worlds with their own rules. Some will do just that—building their own virtual “strongholds” so to say and inviting other people to join as long as they are going to follow their rules. Some will band together into clans and will fight other clans—either on public or private servers.

So, with that focus on PvE, how are you going to promote something that doesn’t feel like a conventional FPS deathmatch in an open world? What are you doing to build opportunities for cover and concealment, for example?

ST: Find Ghillie suit. Hide in bushes. I think that two things will affect this most—your posture, how you move and lighting conditions. I don’t want to say we’ll be the first game that’s doing this right, but we’ve spent the last couple months perfecting our light adaptation system to mimic how the human eye works in real life. For example, unlike traditional “gaming” implementation of this feature (often called “HDR lighting”) we’re not just making things brighter or darker instantly based on how well the scene is lit. Depending on what’s happening, we simulate real human eye response. So for example if you get out of a dark space into sunny bright day, you’ll only be blinded for a second or so. Yet if you get into a really pitch black dark space—it’ll take up to 10-15 minutes for your eyes to adapt so you can see what’s going on around you. This can give you some advantage at night. Yet if somebody blinds you with a flashlight or flare—you’ll pretty much be a sitting duck…

Bulldozer hijinks unconfirmed.

Tell me more about the significance of the stem cell-carrying zombies mentioned in your first interview.

ST: Oh, they’re pretty special to me and we’re going to uncover more about them in the coming weeks, but let’s just say for now that they hold a key to what happened to the world. More importantly for the player, though, they hold the key to the cure for the virus that nearly destroyed civilization. Visually they’ll look very different from other infected, they’re much more aggressive, fast and agile. They’re rare, they hunt only at night, so the best place to find them will be larger cities at night time.

Gameplay-wise, you can hunt them down, kill them and extract their stem cells, which can then be used to create an antivirus for the zombie virus. This so called vaccine is used to heal you in case you are bitten during a zombie attack. This is why those cells are really worth a lot—and effectively your best, yet super dangerous way to get gold coins. It probably will require a team effort, so the whole thing alone will create lots of interesting interactions between players.
At the same time—finding these zombies will not be your primary goal. As I mentioned before—this is just one of the tools we give you to build your own game experience. Players will decide if they want to go this route or not—it’s totally up to you.

How do you feel about Dean Hall’s comments about The War Z, specifically that you might be making a lot of promises about features that aren’t necessarily developed yet?

ST: Over the last week, since we announced the game, thousands of players have posted comments on various forums, blogs, and gaming websites as to why they think the game will be great or not. We love to read the comments, but in the end it really doesn’t affect our development in any way. When we announced certain features publicly, it was not a wish list that we thought would sound cool in a press release; it was an action list for us. These are things that we are working on and that are concrete enough today that we feel comfortable saying, “Yes this will be part of the game release.” Most of our team members come from very large projects and companies with very strict policies about the announcement of features—so that carries over into how we talk about features for The War Z.

Thanks for your time, Sergey.