Modder Bryan Henderson surprised us last fall when he released the demo of his mod, Zombie Slayer. It reintroduced a retro style of gameplay, resembling the old laserdisc games we have not seen very much of in the Mod DB. Though the concept is very unique, the mod did suffer from the lack of community interest and the project was almost canned. Fortunately, Henderson has picked up the project again just recently to finish the mod he started.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about the development of your recently released demo of Zombie Slayer?
Hi, I am Bryan Henderson, and I have been developing Zombie Slayer for the past six months. I decided to create the mod after I became dissatisfied with the current crop of games and mods that we have had lately where the emphasis has not been placed upon story. I wanted to create a game that was based upon the older style of games such as Dragon's Lair. The Doom3 engine provides enough flexibility to allow for seamless animation transitions. This allowed me to create a quick and unique gameplay experience that gives room for error.
So the mod has become more of an adventure game? How does it play (for those who are not familiar with Dragon's Lair)?
I would say it's a mixture between an arcade game and an adventure game. Dragon's Lair was an arcade game where you were this knight who had to save the princess from a Dragon, only the entire thing was basically a cartoon. At key action sections, a part of the screen would light up, and you would either have to move in the specified direction or hit the attack button. It was a very scattered game that was confusing in its control scheme. You would ask questions such as, "which way do I need to go? Do I need to move up or attack this guy?" Zombie Slayer is similar, yet evolved. You get specific key to press at certain key points in the action. You could get attacked by a zombie, and you could say to yourself, "Oh, I hit the left arrow key." After that, you get feedback that it was the correct move through a positive beep and your character performing the correct action. If you fail, you know it, but not through dying -- your character gets hurt. It goes into a separate failure animation entirely. If you die, it seamlessly transitions into a gruesome or hilarious death animation. If you beat the entire section, great, you get rewarded by getting to watch a cutscene unfold, and move the plot forward. It's an evolved experience from Dragon's Lair. I get excited just writing about it, because even though it's the same thing, it's unique at the same time.
What kind of moves can you perform? Is it different for each scenario the player faces?
That's correct; it's completely unique per event, since you are following a character through a cutscene. There are no precanned animations here.
How does the plot tie in with the gameplay?
Per chapter, you have both an action sequence and a storyline sequence. In each chapter, the characters come across some kind of conflict involving the zombies. It is mainly up to you to resolve these conflicts.
For instance, in chapter 2, after the survivors escape the zombies, they come across a maintenance tunnel that is littered with fire hazards and zombies. You have been "elected" to make it through the tunnel to shut off the valve so that the rest of the survivors can make it through. On your way, you must fend off zombies, and escape various environmental hazards.
In the demo, you propel the plot forward by escaping the zombies.
About how long is each chapter?
Each chapter is about 10 to 20 minutes long, depending on how good you are.
Are you the only one that has been developing this mod or do you have a dev team behind the scenes? How long has ZS been in development?
Unfortunately, I have created most of the content. In short, I did the animation, mapping, coding, writing, scripting, and sound editing. I needed the most help in the sound aspect of the mod, since the mod is basically an interactive cinematic. Thumpmonk (http://www.thumpmonks.com) created the amazing soundtrack, which is basically similar to Army of Darkness's soundtrack. I also had various voice actors help out as well -- Robert Murray, Kenny Zimmerman, Joe Goss, Jack Pattillo, and "Jizaboz".
The mod has been in production for around six months. The reason why it took so long to create was because of downtime such as school or learning how to create certain aspects of the mod (such as the code).
What was the reason for putting development on hold the last few months?
I was starting to think that the project wasn't worth my time. Doom 3 is an old engine after all, and not many people downloaded the mod after I released it. I didn't get a whole bunch of feedback from the community, and major Doom 3 sites would not release news of the mod's release. So I took a break to think about what works and what doesn't. I even put up a news posting on the Zombie Slayer Mod DB page that said the project was canceled. I felt like I put down my own dog or something; this news did not settle well with me at all. In the meantime, I decided to write a bit more. I penned the screenplay for Quake: Arenas, and continued with other writing side projects. While I was on this break period, several fans kept telling me that I should continue with the project. Then one day, a youtube user commented about Zombie Slayer, and said PC Gamer UK put up an article about it. Soon, I located the article, and I realized that, hey, people do care about the project. So I decided to continue.
Now that you're working full force with the mod again are there any differences as far as your goals go? How does development feel now as opposed to before?
Several things are different in development this time around:
- Gazz, who was the project lead on Classic Doom 3, is pumping out richly-detailed environments for the mod. Mystic Realmz is composing music that fits the mood of the cinematics. David Kosta is working on awesome drawings for the loading screens.
- Development speed is faster since the routine is set. I'm averaging about 1 to 2 minutes of cinematic footage per week.
- I'll be keeping the community up to speed on development. That was my flaw in the past and contributed to the lack of interest when I initially released the demo.
- I'm implementing some changes that the community has suggested, such as checkpoints and more distinguishable buttons.
What is the biggest challenge for you developing ZS?
Haha, it has actually been finding the time. I'm taking 15 hours of classes, and I am working 27 hours a week. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I feel too exhausted to do anything. I really have to push myself to get anything done. This constant struggle is something I could see all mod developers facing.
It's a struggle for me too! Whats your current view on the way mods are handled?
I feel that mod developers should release demos more often instead of waiting to release the final version. First, it brings about interest to a mod. Second, developers can receive feedback for players, which will allow for them to change up the gameplay accordingly, thereby making the final product that much more polished. This is partially the reason why I released the Zombie Slayer demo out to the public.
How long have you been a modder? What other projects have you worked on in the past?
I have been a modder for a while now. I started out creating cutscenes -- AKA "machinima" -- for games, starting with the Quake 2 engine. I would put custom content in, such as new models, skins, and animations. My past work before this project was with Classic Doom for Doom 3. I created the intro and end cinematics, created a few new models here and there, and balanced the gameplay.
Finally, when can we expect the community to get their hands on the full game?
6/2008 -- just a little behind. In the mean time grab the short demo.