Now that the George Romero Riptide V8 Survival Horror Edition mod has been released for the PC version of Dead Island Riptide, Adeno discusses the features of the mod and shares his thoughts on how he originally started this project, what his influences are, and what the future might bring.
Posted by Adeno on May 5th, 2013
Latest George Romero Riptide V8 Survival Horror Edition Mod, May 4, 2013 video:
Greetings everyone! I am Adeno, the maker of the George Romero mod for both the original Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide games on the PC. I'm glad that the feedback has been so positive, so I thank everyone who has given my mod a chance throughout the years. Let me share with you the journey of how the George Romero mod came to be and then discuss features of the George Romero mod.
The first thing people usually ask me is "What is the George Romero mod?" and then followed by "Who the heck is George Romero?". Answering the question of who George Romero is first will give you an idea about what my mod is all about.
Rising From the Grave
George Romero is considered to be the "Father of the Zombie Genre". In other words, he's the man who popularized the idea of zombies in the movies and pop culture. He is most well known for making "Night of the Living Dead", "Dawn of the Dead", and "Day of the Dead" movies back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. According to George Romero's vision, zombies are dead people who come back to life to eat the flesh of the living. Although they look like your loved ones, they have lost all humanity in them and their only concern is to feast on any flesh that they encounter. Zombies are also very slow, but they are almost impossible to kill. They don't seem to really need to eat in order to survive, but they just do so. They don't need to breathe and zombies have even been known to rest underwater for long periods of time, only to grab the unsuspecting feet of a swimmer. The only real way to kill a zombie is by destroying the brain.
When the first Dead Island was released, I was so excited because I thought it was the closest thing to a zombie apocalypse simulation a game could get. As a lover of all things zombie, the thought of running around an island overtaken by zombies was such a thrilling idea! As I played the game though, I found out that zombies would punch you, something that I particularly didn't like because growing up watching classic zombie films, I've been accustomed to seeing my beloved undead to be incapable of intelligent martial arts and only relied on grabbing and biting. I wanted to change this aspect of the game.
I started digging into the game's files and I found out that a lot of the files in Dead Island could be opened by using Notepad, I immediately thought that it would be possible to mod this game. After some tinkering, I was able to get success, but with limited information, it was so hard to try out everything! Fortunately, the Steam Forum had many interested people who wanted to mod Dead Island, so we started sharing information and learning from each others findings. This sharing and learning of information allowed me and other modders to change the way Dead Island how we visualized it to be.
Dead Island 1: The George Romero Mod
The original Dead Island 1 George Romero Mod from October 2011:
The very first reason I created the George Romero mod was that I didn't like how the default zombies behaved. They ran after me and chased me. Then they beat me up like an angry mob. I could also kill them by beating them up or shooting them. These were not the zombies I grew up with. I wanted the zombies who would try their best to grab you in order to sink their teeth into your delicious flesh. I wanted them to only die from a headshot. The first thing I modified was the zombie's speed. Making them behave was quite a challenge, especially since there were a lot of properties that handled their way of attacking.
My first few attempts produced weird results. Although the zombies were already moving slow, they wouldn't attack me until I got closer to them! Eventually I found out through experimentation and digging through the files that I could also change their attack distance. There were many variables that was related to attack distance, and so I spent countless hours adjusting values just to get the behaviour I wanted. Fortunately I succeeded.
I then continued on to adjusting other values relating to damage. The good thing about Dead Island is that most of the variables and properties are named in such a way that you can easily understand what they do, for example, walk_speed_calm and others. In the end, I was able to make it so that only the head took damage.
After numerous iterations to the mod, I decided to include optional files for players to enjoy, like variations of what they can buy from shops and extra features like the removal of the hud (thanks in particular to Blinkstar, I learned this from him), and the ability to collect food and drinks. As the George Romero mod grew bigger and more features were added, instead of making separate mod releases, I just packaged them into something I call an "All In One" pack, where players can easily choose whatever feature they want on their own. I prepared the rar file in such a way that all they needed to do was extract whatever they wanted and they can immediately play. This is something that a lot of users love and often wrote pms or e-mails to me about, so packaging my mods in a configurable way has become my norm.
Dead Island Riptide: George Romero Survival Horror Edition
When Dead Island Riptide was released, I immediately checked the files to see if they were still the same as the original Dead Island. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the files still looked very similar to the original, only with minor changes and additions. I immediately tried to re-make the George Romero mod for Riptide.
The very first thing I found out was that my old settings from the 2011 version of the George Romero mod wouldn't properly work. It was not a simple "copy and paste EVERYTHING" job. For example, the very first thing I modified was the speed of the zombies' movements and to make them grab me all the time. Using the old settings, the zombies would just stand around and sometimes follow the player around and would rarely grab. I immediately knew that I needed to review each file again to understand the changes and how I could alter them to get my desire effect. After investigating the ai files, I found out that there's a property called can_only_grab, something that I don't remember seeing in the original Dead Island. I tried this on and yes, the zombies could only grab me, but along with it came problems where zombies wouldn't attack at all or they'd just stand lazily around. In the end, I was able to solve the challenge of making zombies move slow by changing their physical attack distance to very close and adjusting the grab range to a little further. The idea behind it was, as long as the zombie is within a certain distance from me, he would attempt to grab and bite me. He would have no chance to perform a normal punch because his grabbing logic would be the first to be triggered all the time. My idea finally succeeded and the zombies started acting the way I wanted them to.
Of course I brought back in the essential zombie characteristics, like only dying from headshots, following you around until something blocks them, and being alerted when other zombies start coming for the player.
Dread and the Survivalist's Mind
After I was happy with the zombie's behaviour, I started implementing other features from the 2011 version and improved them. The first one I worked on was to bring back the ability to collect food and drinks instead of consuming them right away. The reason for why I made a feature like this is that in a "realistic" zombie apocalypse, people are more likely to save food for when they truly need it. After some changes, I was able to make apples, chips, chocolate, and drinks collectable. Now you can use them anytime anywhere in the game. This makes finding these important nourishing resources more important for someone trying to play the game as a survivalist.
Although slow zombies alone are creepy, one mod user wrote me an e-mail saying that although he loved the mod so much because he's also a fan of the classic zombie, he felt that the game needed an increased sense of dread. From another gamer, he requested to have fast zombies in the mod because he loved both slow and fast zombies, and since I already got the Romero zombies covered, I might as well replicate the more modern Dawn of the Dead 2004 Remake version of the undead. I started digging through my old modding notes, research material, and experiments, failing from time to time. One experiment led me to have super fast zombies who seem to be teleporting all over the place while doing jerky movements, similar to how Sadako/Samara from the movie called The Ring moved. Although this was a hilarious and disturbing result, I continued experimenting until I finally figured out that if you literally copied a running zombies' properties into a normal one's, they would actually run!
When I tested the game with my new fast modern zombies, I immediately felt that it's a vastly different experience from the classic version. Now, collecting food and drinks has become more important because zombies will be coming right at you from almost every direction, and they're even smart enough to find other ways to get to you!
After succeeding in making modern zombies, I thought about ways on how to make my slow Romero zombies more threatening. By default, even if zombies grab and bite you, they'll only take a chunk out of your health. Thinking back to a lot of zombie movies, being bit in the neck should be fatal! I made changes to the zombies again and this time, you only need to be bitten once to become their food! Slow zombies alone might not be initially scary, but if you think about the fact that they are always coming for you and all you need to do is make one mistake, you start to realize that you can't idle around often because at anytime you might get grabbed and bitten. For how long can you maintain focus and not slip up?
Choices and Bonuses
Old George Romero Riptide V6 with optional Matrix Mode Video:
When I started working on version 6 of the George Romero Riptide Mod and I felt that I was getting closer to a more evolved version of the mod, I decided that it's time to give the players some new stuff to have fun with. As a gamer who grew up in the 80s and 90s where almost every game had cheat codes or easter eggs, I was inspired to make something similar for Dead Island Riptide. I always dreamed that if someday I were to make my own game, I'd definitely include cheat codes and other wacky stuff for players to enjoy! If I have to go the extra mile to add some entertainment value for the players, then why not? Bringing fun and excitement is part of why games are made, and in this case, the reason why the George Romero mod exists!
At the time I just finished my break, which involved watching The Matrix on the internet. I thought it might be fun to gain the powers of Keeanu Reeves and uppercut zombies to another island, and so I made the bonus Matrix Mode option.
Since then, I've been adding extra features to the mod like extra shop versions designed for dealing with the challenges of fast zombies, and even an Athletic Mode which lets players regenerate stamina fast so that they'll be able to run all they want while being chased by the modern zombies.
Also, since not every gamer likes going through the hassle of configuring everything themselves and would rather prefer a "One Step Play Now!" kind of experience, I always included a few pre-configured Easy Installation Paks. From the input that I've been receiving, I'm glad to know that a lot of gamers appreciate this.
Next for the George Romero Riptide Survival Horror Edition Mod
When I finished making V8 of the George Romero Mod, I started to describe it as "Survival Horror Edition" (not Super Hyper Turbo Championship Edition!) because a lot of the features I've developed so far have really evolved into something that leans more towards surviving against horrific odds. A bite from a zombie is now fatal, and although you can collect food, you never know if you'll actually have the time to use them when you're being attacked by lots of modern zombies. Even when playing with slow zombies, gunfire would just bring more of them towards you. It's definitely worse when you're dealing with modern zombies. Killing them is very easy, no matter what you have, just smash their head. The question is, will you be able to handle all of them at once? Do you fight or do you run? Where do you run to, where do you hide? I believe that the George Romero Mod has succeeded in bringing back the dread factor which is the main reason people usually love watching zombie movies.
As for what's next for the George Romero Mod, I'll be continuing looking for things that can be improved on or fixed. Being just one person, it's really hard to find all of the bugs hiding in the deepest corners of the mod. Fortunately, whenever an issue is found, the players who use the mod usually let me know, and so I'm thankful for that. Feedback from the gamers really help a lot in the development of the mod, and their findings also helped shape V8 Survival Horror Edition in its current form. Thanks to Jack Meyer from youtube because he encouraged me and provided insight as to the things he found in the previous versions! Aside from that, I'll be making more variations in shops, skills, and maybe play around with gun settings. I'm thinking of making "serious" and "just for fun" options for the players.
Thanks again for everyone's support and I'm glad that you all enjoy my George Romero Riptide Survival Horror Edition mod! Feel free to make requests or report any issues that you find via pm, have fun!