Class3 and Class4 are the codenames for two open-world zombie survival games being developed by Undead Labs exclusively for the Xbox 360. Class3 will support 2 player co-op and drop the player in a world where the zombie apocalypse has destroyed the world they once knew. Class4 will be the subsequent game to be released, and will be a complete online gaming world where thousands of players will live in the same world and be forced to combat the zombie outbreak together. The great thing about Class3 and Class4 is that escape is not possible, so it is not about killing zombies as much as it is about living among them and trying to survive. We caught up with the wonderful Emily Diehl, one of the producers at Undead Labs, to discuss Class3 and Class 4 in more detail.
PlanetXbox360.com: A quote from the official press release states, "The open world develops in real time, shaped by player actions, with content determined by their choices and the ever increasing zombie threat." Will the open world develop purely based on player choices or will Undead Labs intervene here and there?
Emily Diehl: Player choices will definitely play a huge role in the evolution of our world. For example, you’ll be doing things like establishing a base and defending it against roving hordes of zombies. Eventually, some bases may be over-run or abandoned -- just waiting for someone to clear them out and reclaim them. This cycle is just one basic example of a way that you’ll be able to change and evolve the world. We’ll also play a part in how Class4 develops -- especially where story lines and plot are concerned. Details about how this will work will be revealed at a later time, but rest assured that we’re not going to release the game and retire to a zombie-proof bunker somewhere.
PlanetXbox360: Are you just dropped into this world, without any explanation as to what has happened?
Diehl: You’ll know a few major things -- the world that you knew is gone, something really messed up is happening, and the dead are getting up, roaming around, and trying to kill you. Like in a majority of zombie movies (and what would probably happen in the case of a real-life outbreak), it’s really unlikely that any average joe would know what actually caused the dead to start walking. People may have their theories and may try to figure out what’s going on, but survival would come first.
PlanetXbox360: Will you be using the advantage of updating Class3 (using patches), both to make a better experience for Class3, but as well to serve as a sort of guideline for Class4?
Diehl: We think of Class3 as a complete, standalone game that should deliver an awesome play experience -- not as a test-bed to use for continual tinkering and revision. Similar to other games, we may discover important things that we’d like to fix in Class3 after it’s released, and patching would be the way we’d get those updates to you. In many cases, though, we’ll be taking player feedback and our own observations as lessons to apply to the open world of Class4. Decisions about items to update will be made on a case-by-case basis.
PlanetXbox360: It's been stated that Class3 takes place is a mostly rural environment. Is it safe to say that some of the more urban pieces of concept art were taken from Class4? Or will there be some of these types of locations in Class3 as well?
Diehl: There will be a mix of both rural and urban environments in both Class3 and Class4. Class4, of course, will be larger and have a more extensive set of locations to explore.
PlanetXbox360: Can you explain some of the advantages/disadvantages depending on environment? (rural vs. urban)
Diehl: A rural area will probably have fewer zombies than an urban area, but won’t have some of the really resource-rich sites like hospitals, police stations, and supermarkets that can be found in an urban area. It’s up to you to decide whether the risk of going into an urban area is worth the payoff of food, ammunition, and other supplies.
PlanetXbox360: With an online gaming world, there has to be components of trade and economics. What types of possible currencies have you discussed and have you landed on a definitive currency?
Diehl: Yes, making sure that players can trade and rely on some form of an economy is an important part of an online game. Our world is a little different since it’s taking place in a setting that’s been completely wrecked by the zombie apocalypse. After a full societal collapse, money probably isn’t going to be terribly useful. If I had to choose between a wad of hundreds and a can of baked beans, personally, I’d take the beans. Especially if they’re the kind with bacon.
PlanetXbox360: With Class4, people will be setting up alliances, clans, and communities. Is there going to be an organizational system that recognizes groups of players as clans (within the game), or is it going to be dependent on the players?
Diehl: Yes, active in-game player communities are one of the most important elements of an online world, so we do plan to support them. Our community influences the way we develop our games in a very real way. If you take a look at ways that players interact in online world games, you’ll see that creating in-game groups like guilds are just one part of a much bigger picture. In addition to in-game support, we’ll continue to interact with players and fans outside of the game, and work on ways to make fans feel connected to us, other players, and our world even when they’re not actively playing.
PlanetXbox360: How is your inventory system going to flow? I’ve played many games where the inventory system pauses the game entirely. It makes it easier to survive, but it also cuts my stress level in half. Will this approach be implemented into the Class games or are you playing around with different types of systems?
Diehl: Class4 will be an online world game, so it’s not going to be possible to pause. Persistent worlds play in real-time, changing and evolving even when you’re offline. Part of what makes them cool is that they don’t simply wait for you. They are these living, breathing ecosystems. We think it fits the theme of the game, too. Zombies never stop. They don’t care whether or not you really, really want to put together a Molotov cocktail right now. They’re just focused on ripping you apart. So even though we could have some big menu where you pause the game and go through your inventory in Class3, we don’t expect to do that. After all, we want to make learn as much as possible from Class3 so we can make Class4 as good as possible. That means that wherever we can, we’re trying to make core system behave the same way in both games.
PlanetXbox360: Lastly, What is going to keep players coming back to play this game?
Diehl: How you’d survive during a zombie apocalypse is a topic that really resonates with a lot of people, so we imagine that they’ll want to keep playing with their friends to act out the “what if” scenarios they’ve been talking about for years. That and the game will be fun. We’re hoping that this will keep coming back for a long time ;)
And there you have it. There will be a system supporting the in-game community, currency will be more related to food, and there will be Molotov cocktails to throw at the hungry zombie horde. Awesome.