SOE shows H1Z1, its new zombie MMO [Update: monetization and game map discussed]

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Update: SOE president John Smedley has provided fresh details over on the H1Z1 subreddit . Speaking about monetization (you'd hope that word wouldn't have survived the zombie apocalypse, but oh well), Smedley revealed that nothing has been set in stone yet, other than that the game will be free-to-play when it launches for real, and that it will be available in advance as part of an early access program for $19.99. He's left the question of paying for stuff open for discussion, and to that end he's asking the community for its input. SOE are "not interested" in selling weapons or power, or in selling anything that will make the process of survival easier, but he describes purchaseable wearables as "an obvious 'heck yes' kind of thing". He also provided this fairly reassuring sentence: "If this game is too hard for you play another one. We don't want to give shortcuts for our core mechanic."

As for the question of map size , the early access version of H1Z1 will feature a "massive" map, but expect the game world to get even, er, massiver over time. It seems they'd rather plonk some players in the world first and see how they react to the game before they make it ginormous, but it sounds like their map editor is pretty flexible when it comes to size, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

"When we open up the Early Access there will be a massive map for players to enjoy," Smedley noted. "Over time (very quickly) they'll magically just be able to keep going further than they've gone before. It's a very unique way of doing it, but we actually think this is a better way to go.

"So not to worry. Zombie Apocalypse isn't going to be any fun if it's like Disneyland on Spring Break and super crowded. We want remote.. haunting... being scared when you see someone. Your first instinct needs to be to hide. If there are 20 players in your view it's not a very convincing Apocalypse."

Original story - written by Tim Clark

Well, isn't this always the way? You wait years for a massively-multiplayer, post-apocalyptic, zombie survival sandbox to come along, then several hundred come staggering over the horizon at once. Next to join their rotting ranks is H1Z1, the new free-to-play MMO from Sony Online Entertainment. The game has just been revealed on today's Game Talk Live show, during which SOE president John Smedley played a section.

“The H1Z1 virus devastated mankind and left nothing but death and destruction in its wake and a world nearly empty of human life where the remnants of humanity are in a fight against extinction against those infected with the virus,” he says, one imagines cheerfully. “Everyday life in the Apocalypse means dealing with all kinds of wild animals and the brutality of other survivors, as well as finding your next meal and a safe place to sleep. It also means scavenging or crafting anything that can help you live just one more day.”

Sounds familiar, right? What's abundantly clear is that SOE is now targeting the hugely popular online survival sim genre which has been carved out by the likes of DayZ and Rust. (Interestingly, in February Rust developer Facepunch decided to swap the undead for bears and wolves.)  But it sounds like H1Z1 will have some interesting features to help make it stand out among the other shamblers.

“Our focus is building a sandbox style of gameplay where players can build shelters out of resources in the world,” he says. “They can even work together to make amazing fortresses complete with weaponry to help defend against both the Infected and other players. Players also have access to a very deep crafting system that can let players make a huge variety of awesome stuff, including weapons (I made a 1911 the other day) and things like Molotov cocktails, explosives… and other fun surprises.”

Smedley also answers the obvious question of how H1Z1 will differ from it's close competitors: “First off, it's a persistent MMO that can hold thousands of players on servers we host (yes there will be multiple servers with very different rule sets). Why is that a good thing? It means a thriving economy (oh yes… there's trading). It also means you have potential allies in the all-out war on the Infected... and many an enemy as well. It uses our proprietary next-gen Forgelight engine and that means we've had a lot of really cool technology to work with to make the game we wanted to make.”

He also mentions that, as with PlanetSide 2, players will eventually be able to submit their own creations for inclusion in the game. “The main thing that differentiates H1Z1 from the other great games in the genre is the emphasis we are putting on player ownership and building,” says Smedley. “We want you to be able to form roving gangs that are headquartered out of an abandoned warehouse that you've taken over... or a house you've built from scratch after having cut trees down and secured the resources to make it. We are giving players the tools to make their own towns, camps and defenses, and they can decide how to set up their base (which is in the world, by the way, not instanced). We're building in all the social features you've come to expect from an SOE game (grouping, proximity voice chat, voice chat for your gang, and many other cool social features).”

Intriguingly, in his interview Smedley also revealed: "There are no skills in this game. There is no levelling in this game." You can read more of his thoughts over at H1Z1's fresh new subreddit . Other notable gameplay inclusions are vehicles (aircraft are still to be decided, apparently) and fire, which can be used either for light during nighttime or as a weapon to torch the infected. The game will launch first on the PC, with early access for around $20. As for what sort of system you'll need, Smedley says: "If it can run Planetside 2, it can run H1Z1." You can expect more information to appear on H1Z1's official site, and of course right here.

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