We recently had the chance to catch up with the developers of procedural zombie survival game, Project Zomboid, to discuss the extraordinary drama of the months following its release earlier this year. The team behind the game told us about how they struggled to meet the initial flood of orders, and how charitable acts from Steam, Desura and Fileplanet helped them to stay afloat.
Project Zomboid picked up widespread interest as soon as it was announced. When it eventually went on sale it became a victim of its own success. Initially, there was no automated system in place for taking payment and distributing keys. The two-man team were forced to process every purchase manually.
"Our brains were sort of leaking out of our ears," said dev Andy Hodgetts. "The worst thing was because we were taking shifts we'd be doing it together for a bit and then I'd grab a few hours sleep and Chris carries on doing it and then he gets the sleep and I take over.
"You'd go for a coffee or something and come back and there's thirty more to do. It felt like you couldn't ever leave your desk."
"At the back of your mind you realise it's really good," said Andy's partner in crime, Chris Simpson, "but it's like, “Oh God!” We don't want to sound like we weren't grateful obviously."
To add to The Indie Stone's problems, pirates developed a version of Project Zomboid that would auto-update, putting extra strain on distribution servers and potentially costing the team huge sums of money. The Indie Stone were forced to remove the paid-for version and replaced it with a free demo.
Thankfully, by then word had spread about Project Zomboid, and the team started receiving offers of support from Steam, indie and mod download portal Desura and digital distribution service, FilePlanet.
"In the case of Steam, we're getting all the perks of Steam apart from being on the store, and it's all via redeem code," said Chris. "We get to use their servers we get to update, we get to be in their library, we get all these things. As far as I can see they're not getting a penny from this, so perhaps it's in preparation for when we do get on Steam, but they're doing us a huge favour."
"Desura likewise have made, I'm not sure it's specifically for us, I'm sure they're using it on other games, but they've made a special API for donationware, alphaware development models. So people can opt in at any time and it'll squirt their email address to us so we can add them to our list and then they can get a Steam code. Because to this day we've not trusted PayPal, it gives us a way people can buy it on Desura, send it through to our servers, and then get a Steam code."
FilePlanet also gave the team a helping hand, providing The Indie Stone with extra features to help thwart the pirates. "Even though it's meant to be you can download files that you can use like mods, games, free stuff like demos, we're going to have a version on there that has a username and password so it's completely useless unless you've already bought the game. But they've allowed us to update it and everything."
If you'd like to support The Indie Stone, Project Zomboid can be pre-ordered for £5 , though The Indie Stone can't supply up to date alpha builds right now because of piracy issues explained here . Instead, the current version of the game is available as a free demo download now from the Project Zomboid site . For more, check out our preview .
We'll have more on the remarkable development of Project Zomboid, including news of car bomb scares and upcoming game features, very soon on PC Gamer.com.