Project Zomboid's new roadmap includes ambitious plans for NPCs

Project Zomboid - A player in swim shorts holds a broom while standing at one end of an indoor pool while a crowd of zombies approches through a smashed window.
(Image credit: The Indie Stone)

Long-running zombie survival game Project Zomboid has recently seen a remarkable explosion in popularity after an Early Access update overhauled everything from multiplayer to combat. Player numbers soared in the 11-year-old crafting survival game last month, and The Indie Stone is now taking a look forward with a fresh roadmap to explain what comes next. The studio is far from done with Project Zomboid, with plans for NPCs, pets, and more all in the works.

In a new blog post, The Indie Stone says that human NPCs have long been the most requested feature for the Early Access game. Adding new humans will be the priority stretching across the next several updates. Though it doesn't have date commitments, the new PZ roadmap below illustrates how the team will be rolling out the next few versions of the game.

Project Zomboid roadmap from January 2022 showing updates 42 through 48 with various stages of NPC development.

(Image credit: The Indie Stone)

"We’ll be running a second dev team exclusively on a quicker, less risky yet still super cool content patch before the NPC work is complete, and then ongoing alternately between the other NPC patches to keep the content train going," The Indie Stone says.

As for what's actually coming in those NPC updates, The Indie Stone hasn't decided yet. "It could include autonomous NPCs that the player can group with, it could primarily include the reintroduction of the story mode, it could have NPC animals, or that could come later," the team says.

"We’ve got a LOT of NPC code, lots of cool systems, from Rimworld style priority and jobs system, personality systems, procedural story event systems, combat systems, autonomous survival behaviours, advanced group behaviour systems, vehicle driving systems, and a whole bunch more," the blog post says. But those bits of code "need some time to be reintroduced to the most current build and made MP compatible." The Indie Stone will be evaluating the possibilities to make sure the NPC update is one that players will feel was worth the wait. 

Further down the road, the developers have ambitions for beefing up the crafting system so players can continue the same worlds for years by crafting items that can currently only be obtained by looting. The team hopes to give players more endgame goals like building communities over time instead of constantly wiping a world to start fresh.

"The hope is to allow for a much greater level of community building, and facilitate trade and potentially years of stories and rich history from within a single world, be it NPC populated or an MP server, spanning numerous player lives," it says. Importantly, all those late-game ambitions will be optional, The Indie Stone says. Players who still want to die, die again in the early dangerous days of the apocalypse will be welcome to.

You can catch the rest of The Indie Stone's development update in its blog post. In the meantime, Project Zomboid is still pulling in an impressive 54,000 concurrent players today thanks to update 41. 

Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.