So, what can you expect in Tier 1? Without giving out too many spoilers, you’ll get to rescue your master mechanic, Reginald Owen, from the highway Gas Station where he tried to start his own fake Second Chance church only to become a slave of biker warlord Snitch. You can do it nicely, by helping Snitch liberate a nearby motel and start a proper bar and brothel like any respectable biker baron. Or you can side with his archenemy, Father California, the man who stuffed the hotel full of zombie cultists and refugees just to keep the bikers out.
Then you’ll meet the Saint family and their ability to “sing” to the undead to manipulate them. From their Village On Top Of The World (a rather pompous name for a camp on a supermarket rooftop, true) they set out to spread the love for the dead in Urban. Much to the disgust of the true owner of the supermarket, Judge Jenny. As a response to their actions, the honorable judge has proceeded to condemn the Saint brothers in her radio broadcasted trials and has put a large bounty on their head.
But if you’re all about the biker life and Snitch doesn’t inspire you, how about meeting the Devilson clan? They make their bikes out of parts they source from stolen Army APCs, how’s that for badass? They proved a nut too tough to crack even for the feds and now they hold prisoner the FBI agent who failed to infiltrate their camp. So no wonder the local bureau chief, Special Agent Smith, will very much like to get rid of the whole Devilson clan. But are the feds offering an honest helping hand to your Sheriff’s Department or just trying to infiltrate the Shelter? That’s for you to decide.
Although you’re free to roam around and approach the game however you want to, we have an internal naming system for the maps based on their proximity to the Shelter and the closest are named “Tier 1” maps. These are designed to be of light-moderate difficulty combat wise, giving you time to get equipped properly before tackling more dangerous foes. As a rule, the farther you get from your own base, the more difficult the battles will be (since you will get closer to factional HQs where the big bad boys live). Also in the late game you’ll also need to factor in the emergence of the roaming herds of zombies. In your glorious march to save the world and humanity you are bound to leave behind a trail of dead bodies, like every other brave conqueror there was. These will come back to bite you (literally) and add a bit of fun to any long late game road trips. And to top that, you will most likely be at war with two of the three main factions by then.
We spoke of the dangers of exploring mid and late game and that brings us to another topic – your car. It’s entirely up to you if you want to save the ozone layer while there’s a zombie apocalypse raging on and just go exploring on foot, but expect walking to be slow and dangerous. Instead do it like a true American, just use a gas guzzler of a car to haul your team and your loot. Yea, you’ll take precious gas away from your base, but if you want to go far and do it in style, you need a ride. You can use the old beat up police sedan former Sheriff Rogers drove, but except the large trunk space, there’s little you’ll love about that hunk of metal. It belongs in a museum, it will eat up petrol like crazy and will go from 0 to 60 mph in two days. And yes, the siren doesn’t work either.
Option B is repurposing one of the caravans left behind by the refugees flocking toward cult camps. Most of them are complete wrecks, but with a bit of luck you could find one that is still drivable. Its advantages over the old police cruiser aren’t that many, except storage space – that you will have in abundance.
If you fancy a bit more protection in your road trips, then you should see about befriending a faction that has actual mechanics, not zombie herders. The bikers can provide you with a custom made truck with both the spiky hardware upgrades and the engine power to smash through an incoming horde of zombies. It takes some tweaking, greasing and welding, but the result is devastating to the undead population.
Finally, you can choose to drive an Army tactical behemoth that was designed to take a lot more punishment than rotting zombies can dish out. No upgrades needed there, Uncle Sam has them prebuilt for you.
In order to keep things ok at home, you will need to keep your people fed, healthy and entertained. Of course, running out of gas for the generator before you build the alternative power sources (wind, hydro or solar) would be equally bad, but that’s a story for a different time. Your base can’t fail, because at the point in time when your story unfolds, it’s about the only safe place on Earth for you so it would be game over. Thankfully, your people won’t just sit idle and demand you to feed them. Mayor Adams will start organizing them, they just need a bit of hope and support. Once they get rolling, they’ll start scavenging too and leave you to mind the fun parts: exploring, diplomacy and combat.
A large proportion of the “trash” loot will be destined for the needs of the shelter, in order to keep those three main meters in the happy zone. There will be special NPCs where you’ll be able to unload the food, health or morale items and one that will even take random scrap to be recycled as construction materials (wood, metal, chemicals and components). Beside taking the weight off your back, literally, these NPCs will also inform you about the potential effect of your donations. This way if you want to keep a stash of booze for a bit of trading, you’ll be able to calculate exactly how much you can keep for yourself.
In the previous dev update we have explained that we are transitioning to a new loot distribution system, based on defined areas. Well, that has happened and we’ve wiped clean all the loot tables in the suburbs then went and redid everything based on the new loot generation rules. Now two major changes happened: first the amount of loot available in the Prologue is mathematically sane and will fit the scope of the campaign and the story, giving the players enough time to do battle, but also pushing them toward new territories (you need to have slim pickings otherwise where’s the survival angle, right?); second, we can set a “theme” even for random loot so when you’ll walk into a zone that looks like a car factory, you won’t get to loot condoms and nudie magazines.
A good example of the advantages of the new system is the Little Italy suburb. This place has five lootable houses. Each house used to have random loot containers with various items. The results were almost impossible to balance since all these items had random drop chances. Now these five houses share a Loot Area (split into subdivisions for Food, Health, Morale for easier editing), so they pull items from the same repository and randomly spread them inside all their containers. The containers themselves have a filter too and if a house gets lucky and pulls a can of spam, you won’t find it in the bathroom cabinet, but in the kitchen somewhere.
Most of the campaign code has now been ported from classic UE blueprints to the new USG Scripting Editor that will be the core of our Modding SDK. While at first glance it looks just like a tame dialog/rpg editor, this tool is way more powerful. With its library of functions it allows writing advanced game scripts so the modders will be able to create new quests, factions and enemies, alter maps through hidden level layers, design their custom event cutscenes, etc. We’ll reveal more details as the modding package and the documentation will be prepared for release.