The ground is fairly littered with zombie games of some sort these days. That isn't meant as a mark against Undead Labs' State of Decay, but it does raise questions of focus. How do you make a zombie game more unique? According to the studio's Jeff Strain at this year's PAX East, you focus upon building at the community level rather than individual survival. While games like DayZ focus on the personal, State of Decay is much more focused on the idea of putting society as a whole back together and trying to accumulate resources and structures for survivors as a whole.
Of course, most of our readers are more interested in what comes next, specifically Class4. That's the proposed sequel to State of Decay, previously codenamed Class3; it's meant to be a full MMO according to previous statements, a game in which you can worry about rebuilding not just a local community but the world as a whole. And Undead Labs certainly isn't hurting for talent that's familiar with online games, especially with the acquisition of ArenaNet co-founder Patrick Wyatt in January. So what's happening?
As Strain explained, what the team wants to do is less about building a straightforward MMO and more about adding on community features and putting in more support for group play over time. While it's broadly accurate to say that State of Decay is a template for an eventual MMO, the game has stood on its own and served as a very successful title, and any MMO outgrowth would need to proceed naturally from that rather than be the next logical step.
Does that mean it's never going to happen? Of course not; there's a lot of talent accustomed to building mechanics and systems for working online, and there's a team in place on the game working on just that. But the addition can't simply be a matter of tossing more players onto a server and telling everyone to go to town; there's a distinct need to keep the game's focus on community building.
Class4 will correspondingly be focused less upon the open PvP rules that make the DayZ experience compelling for many; while survivors can (and should) clash from time to time, the primary antagonist is meant to be zombies, not other players. After all, if zombies have overrun the world but your biggest enemy is just other people, the zombies are almost a perfunctory addition, or worse, a distraction.
When we'll see Class4 actually move toward release is still very ambiguous; as it stands, the focus is overwhelmingly upon the newest State of Decay DLC. But it does seem to be focusing on a very different aspect of gameplay than much of the existing zombie survival market.
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