Recently I had the privilege of talking to John Nash of Cedar Games, a new team developing their first game, Z-Alert! Z-Alert promises to be a surprisingly colorful zombie survival game packed with customizable elements to suit the play-style of just about any player. For more information on Z-Alert, head over and read my news piece on the game's announcement. If that's enough to spark your interest and you want to know more about Z-Alert, our interview covers more details on the game's story, multiplayer experience, and much more!
Hey guys, my name is Amber and I'm the games editor over at Cinelinx. Can you introduce yourselves for our readers?
Hello, Amber and hello, world! My name is John Nash, I’m chief designer and creator at Cedar Games. I’m also responsible for communications. There are four more people in our team: Max is a programmer, Natalie is an illustrator, Serge is a programmer and Julia is a designer. We have known each other for years but this is our first project in game creation and we all put a lot of passion into the work! :)
So Z-Alert is your first game coming out as Cedar Games, but what sort of past experience is the team packing?
We have been working in the IT industry for a long time, creating various programs for large companies and for ourselves. I have some experience of development, managing and implementing of software with a large number of subordinates, but I actually used to work in a bank! Our illustrator and designer have excellent portfolios, a unique style and a large number of completed projects. Our experience hasn’t been in the games industry and even now we’re continuing to work fulltime, but we’ve always loved games and want to create something special that will reflect our individuality and love of the medium.
How does it feel to unveil what you've been working on?
It is exciting, nerve-wracking, and awesome! Work on the game began about a year and a half ago from the concept creation – from there many of the ideas were formed into something understandable and logical. Then we began to recruit different experts. This is very complicated daily work accompanied by sleepless nights, problems and disappointments but it is well known that the main task is to believe in oneself and keep pushing! We are very glad that our project is shaping up to be a great one and we will do everything possible to share it with the world.
Zombie survival games are usually dark and gritty, but Z-Alert is super colorful and cartoony. Any insight on how you decided to go with such a charming art style?
As a rule: cliches and templates are not the way we do things :) . The search for the right graphical style took us more than three months; we didn’t expect that it would take so long. We understood perfectly that as a team without experience we could not cope with too serious a project with realistic graphics and in technical competition with the main players in the industry. We looked for a simple and bright solution that will attract attention, without a lot of semitones and small details. There are not so many reasons to make a game about zombies dark and scary: as our character spends all the time in the forest, there are ordinary summer days with its bright colors there. And all these leaves, flowers and rabbits do not care that there is a zombie apocalypse! ))
I'm curious about the online play in Z-Alert. Is it going to be co-op focused or will players be able to loot and survive off of PVP encounters?
First of all, I want to underscore that we’re not making the usual MMO: our game will be functional completely off-line and in single player. If the player wants, he or she can go online and play there with the same account. About PvP: we can say that this will be a full opportunity to look at society in a world without rules. Yes, you can attack and take away resources, rob other shelters, and you will also have to repel someone else’s attacks. But at the same time, it will be possible to support each other with resources and soldiers; it is not necessarily aggressive. I also want to talk separately about the possibility of permadeath option in online mode. If the player considers themselves bold enough, they can turn on this option and then will only meet the same brave players taking the same route. As you understand with this option residents will not be resurrected, but will die forever (there is a cemetery in the game).
I'm getting a sort of Fallout Shelter vibe from what I've seen from Z-Alert but with much more direct player interaction. What can players expect from Z-Alert's more customizable and RPG aspects?
It is true, Fallout Shelter is the game that inspired us on the creation of Z-Alert and we thought of it further.
RPG: in the game, the characters will have MAXIMUM 12 personal characteristics and 20 skills, level and experience. Why maximum? Because each player will be able to choose their acceptable depth of RPG mechanics. There will be a possibility of the simple way, where the character will have only health, strength, level and experience and no skills, and there will also be intermediate settings. RPG is our favorite genre and we know very well how difficult it is for two RPG fans to prove the superiority of their favorite game over another. We do not want to force people to make a choice in the complexity of the mechanics of the game, we are not looking for the ideal solution – we'll just let everyone choose their own option. Changes in all parameters depend on each other through formulas and therefore somehow health and strength in the simple version will still change if you fish or hunt!
Customization: this is our cornerstone – we offer not just a game, but a game with a huge number of difficulty settings: the strength of the enemies, the frequency of their appearance, the loot they have, the number of different places on the map, the prices in stores and so on. Let everyone enjoy and play the game that they want. If someone likes endless bullets for rifles – please, you’re welcome, and if someone wants to appreciate every shot – you’re welcome too. The same applies to the interface – it completely changes as the player wants – you can generally remove everything.
Z-Alert also has a story to tell through its characters and mysteries. Can you give me more details about the game's more story-driven elements?
I‘ll give you a vague answer: it became boring after some time in Fallout Shelter. Your vault did not cause strong emotions – it was ordinary day by day actions. Our idea is that there is a plot and if you want to follow it, leave your shelter to start a new one elsewhere! (Important: it's not necessary to follow the story, you may live in your shelter all the time in one place, but the plot will not progress). What is important for each of us is a family, so in our game, you have to find your family. It's not so simple in a world where cellular communications have stopped working and you can’t get into the city because it's full of zombies! Receiving information bit by bit, you can gradually move on the map for the discovery of your family. On this path, in addition to occasional meetings, there will also be main quest encounters, because you had friends and relatives in your past life, and some of them were lucky enough to survive. The big main super BOSS is not what our game is about though - there is a lot of evil and it is common in many living creatures (zombie bites are contagious), and the chance to run into evil is always there – the main thing is to fight!
Dialogue – yes we will have dialogue, but of course this will not be like the dialogue from inXile :) The plot dialogue will be somewhat more extensive, but still not complicated. I draw to your attention that we have such parameters as Charisma and Intellect that will fill in a lot of gaps.
Z-Alert sounds like a very ambitious title from this new studio, and it's my hope that Cedar Games succeeds in every one of their endeavors because the game sounds like a blast. I'm especially intrigued to see the level of customization at play in the game when it launches. I'll be sure to follow the game's development here at Cinelinx, and I hope to hear more about Z-Alert and Cedar Games soon.