H1Z1's wide world of zombies is just beginning to take shape, with Sony Online Entertainment continuing to look into what will best help their game standout in a rapidly growing field of zombie survival games. One thing is certain, though. They aren't about to release the game without a heavy amount of polish.
To learn more about how the development team is working to reach their goal of a playable early access build, Shacknews had the opportunity to speak to producer Adam Clegg and technical director Tom Schenck during last week's SOE Live event. Schenck was the first to address what would need to happen before H1Z1 would be ready for public consumption.
"Stability, performance, basically making sure it works well and reliably... that's what we're trying to work on right now," Schenck told Shacknews. "We're just getting some large-scale playtests together and testing that way. Tuning the big environment we have is really complicated and making sure that everything works well... getting 100, 200 players on a server, turning on the AI, and dragging a zombie train through the world to see if that works properly. All these things are being worked on."
Clegg adds that the team is working on several items behind the scenes that are pivotal to making sure the team is prepared for early access. Among the items they're dealing with are plans to deal with any server outages that may occur early on. Fine tuning the game will also mean opening servers of different capacities.
"We'll have a lot of servers set up," Clegg added. "Maybe this one has 100 people or this one has 1,000 people. How do they interact with each other? How does the game get better or worse?"
One of the major features revealed during the SOE Live keynote was the Airdrop, which would see plans drop down care packages filled with varying contents that are essentially up for grabs. This is where things got somewhat interesting, as Clegg implied that there would be some purchase involved with this feature, though he added that this wouldn't always be the case. One thing's for sure, though. Even if you buy the Airdrop, you might not end up with it.
"Calling in an Airdrop does not guarantee you the Airdrop," Clegg explained. "That's the cognizant choice that you're making. You're basically triggering an event. You're triggering some type of entertaining thing to happen to you. It's kind of a different school of thought. Most people are like 'I'm buying this thing! I get it now!' But there's a completely different side of that where I'm paying for entertainment. I'm buying this thing, I'm creating this thing on the server, now all of the people on the server are going to see it, and I've just created this crazy event."
With Airdrops finding their way to the mountaintops, there's a good chance that players will need to compete with the growing number of wildlife. In addition to deer and wolves, the team just finished adding bears, the most dangerous of the wild animals to date.
"The bears are going to run faster than you," Clegg said. "They're very territorial, so they'll be in a smaller area. If you get too close to it and piss it off, it'll aggro you and go up on its hind legs and roar. Once you have a bear on you, you have to fight it, because you can't outrun it. They're definitely a big threat, but if you see a bear, as long as you don't mess with it, you'll be fine."
Clegg and Schenck are playing with other aspects of the bear, musing over whether leaving bait for the large animal in the middle of a zombie horde would cause the bear to clear out those zombies. Wildlife behavior is a big part of the H1Z1 experience, so it's no surprise that the team is looking into adding more animals in the future. They've already added ravens that can be shot down for food. Next up will be rabbits and bucks.
The team has also made some significant strides with dynamic weather, a feature that Shacknews previously discussed with them back in July. Schenck notes that weather is in a much better state since that interview, stating that volumetric clouds among other weather-related items have made their way into the game.
"The graphics programmer actually has it set up right now to have seasons," Clegg added. "It'll be quick seasons, but it'll do the full loop of autumn to winter, winter to spring, spring to summer."
The H1Z1 development team has a full plate on their way to an early access build, including a neverending list of player-requested features from Reddit and from their forums. Schenck and Clegg noted that some of the more common ones include weapon crafting and limb dismemberment, while there are even some obtuse requests, like cannibalism. There's a lot that the team has to sort out before H1Z1 can make its way to a playable state, but the team is optimistic that they'll make it there soon.
For more on H1Z1, be sure to check out our video interview below.