The War Z makes it easy to tell your own story

The War Z will not generate any quests for you. Any quests you wish to participate in will come directly from the community. Maybe somebody will need a bodyguard while they look to scrounge up supplies in a deadly metropolitan center. Maybe someone will pay you to fight to the death in their gladiator pit, set up on a remote farm. Maybe somebody just wants to pay you for a sniper rifle scope.

There are a lot of opportunities for players to come up with their own narrative in The War Z – and that's exactly what developer Hammerpoint Interactive hopes players will do.%Gallery-166296% The quest system itself is nothing more than a glorified message board, where players in need can put up a post and wait to see what happens. But with no governing body in the game, no system in place to protect you from your peers, the underlying danger of the survivors quickly becomes apparent. At any time, somebody can just kill you and steal your stuff.

I posited a scenario of my own to executive producer Sergey Titov: I was a devout priest before the zombie apocalypse, did what I could to survive for five years, but am finding it increasingly more difficult to go on, physically and mentally. I still believe, but every day my faith is being eroded by the events of the game. So I want someone to kill me – can't go to heaven if you kill yourself, of course. Can I create this quest? "Yep," Titov responds. It's just one example of what players can come up with in The War Z's sandbox.

There's currently an alpha beta going on right now and Titov was quick to share some anecdotes of other player's stories. In-game, you can rent your own server and you'll get a plot of land – it will cost between $2 and $5 a month, Titov explains. With this land, you can build your own structures and do what you want. Titov equates it to Minecraft, but on paper it sounds a lot more like renting land in Second Life to me.

Titov told me a story about a husband and wife duo who weren't interested in killing zombies or even exploring. Instead, they wanted to be farmers. The wife would stay on their land and tend to the crops, which the husband would then take into towns and trade with people. As you may have guessed, they both like FarmVille quite a bit.

One quest involved a man's invitation to his "pit of death," which is less a pit and more of a gladiatorial combat zone. This man invites people to come and compete in his ring, awarding the winners cash prizes. Spectators may also join and watch the fights, but they must pay – a bottle of clean drinking water or maybe some canned goods. This is an honest-to-god enterprise existing within the framework of a zombie MMO, and completely fascinating.

Titov also told me about a kind of non-violent hippy commune being run by other players, what he called "a glorified 3D chat room" where people could come and hang out. At night, the folks go out and place lanterns to light up the area and treat the place like home. Of course, nothing's stopping some evil person from mowing everyone down with an assault rifle.

And that's the ever-existing danger: other people. You could die at any time, by anyone's hands. Titov told me a story about an angry player who sent an email to the team complaining about a man who killed him. This man had posted a quest looking for a bodyguard, but was very specific about what the bodyguard had to bring: a sniper rifle, an assault rifle, a pistol, bandages and painkillers and all that jazz. The man posting the quest only had a hatchet.

So the two head off into the woods together and only one man returned. The guy who posted the quest had killed the quest-taker with his hatchet and stolen all of his gear. On one hand, it's a complete back-stabbing (perhaps literally, in this case) but on the other hand, you have to give it up to hatchet guy. That's a smart play and if somebody is gullible enough to fall for it, there are no laws or police to protect them in The War Z.

There's also a very interesting notes system built into The War Z. At any time you can leave custom messages in the environment, which stay there on the server for all the players on the same map to see. Hypothetically you could lead survivors on a goose chase or even create a complex quest line or story like in-game fan fiction. Or you could use the notes to lead a player to a particular cave so you can kill and rob them, or you could warn of a potential ne'er-do-well in the vicinity. That's a very powerful and interesting tool.

Hypothetically you could lead survivors on a goose chase or even create a complex quest line or story like in-game fan fiction.

A morality system will play into The War Z, though it's only cosmetic for the most part. If you kill bad people, your profile in The War Z will increase and you'll be seen as a more favorable, moral person; killing nice people has the opposite effect. And if you're extremely evil, the game will eventually generate a bounty for your head. Or maybe just another player who was slighted will create a quest asking someone else to kill you.

I really like that idea of repercussions for your actions and affecting a game world on a deeper, player-centric level. It sounds like you'll be able to develop a reputation in The War Z and in a world that has collapsed under the gnashing teeth and guttural moans of the undead, all we have is our word. And maybe a dead fool's sniper rifle.

The War Z launches on Windows PC later this year.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.