H1Z1 designer claims engine supports "more zombies than you can kill in a lifetime"

H1Z1 is SOE's next game, and the confluence of the Planetside 2 engine and the zombie survival setting has a shot of adding an interesting amount of depth to the walking-dead genre. Jimmy Whisenhunt, senior designer on H1Z1, came by the live Twitch stream show at E3 to talk more about the game's goals and SOE's devotion to involving the community in the development process.

The big question surrounding H1Z1 is how it will be different from the massively successful mod-turned-standalone project DayZ . “It's a survival MMO,” Whisenhunt says immediately. “It's an MMO in a way that's persistent. It's huge, it's massive. We're starting with 64 square kilometers and we'll be growing from that. We're starting in an area that is kind of middle America, looks kind of Northwesternish with trees and rolling hills.”

SOE has earned a lot of praise for their open development style, and Whisenhunt reiterated that it is a conscious, deliberate choice. The team checks the H1Z1 subreddit daily, and many feature requests and design decisions are influenced directly from the community. A free-look system, for example, was a widely requested feature, and Whisenhunt just got word that free-look was implemented after he started traveling to Los Angeles for the show.

“We're on the forgelight engine, and we're leveraging a lot of what we learned on Planetside 2,” he says. “We have a lot of ability to do whatever we want with vehicles, but right now we're starting with a four-door, four-wheel drive offroader.”

H1Z1 will also distinguish itself by the behavior and quantity of its titular undead.

“We're leveraging our world in a new way,” he says. “We've shown a little bit of the hoards, and we can support more zombies than a player could kill in his entire life… Zombies are attracted to not just sight, but they can smell you. As you move around the world and change what you're doing, you're going to change where the zombies are. We also have livestock, as you can see, and the animals aren't just for food—though they are for that. We had an instance down at the booth where you saw a deer come busting out of the wood, and when they're running like that they're spooked. Behind the deer come twenty zombies, and they're chasing the deer.”

Like Planetside 2 before it, H1Z1 will be a free-to-play game with microtransactions, but Whisenhunt insists that nothing you can buy with real money will have an affect on gameplay. Evan got a chance to spend some time with the game a couple of weeks ago, and you can read his impressions here . As always, catch up on all of our E3 coverage by visiting this page.