Zombie Mod is the most played server mod for CounterStrike: Source and has quite the reputation among PC gamers. With a new version of their mod on the horizon, I got a chance to chat with project leader Jay about the upcoming release.
Can you please tell me about your mod?
Well, it's a plug-in for retail CounterStrike: Source, which can be installed on any vanilla Source Dedicated Server installation. The beauty of this is that clients don't need to install anything before connecting to a server. It's a--yet another--Zombie based game, but it has been around the longest of all the current ones available.
It's a survival game from the outset: the map starts dark and you can only buy a small amount of weapons. Your job is to pick somewhere to try and hold out while building barricades and the like. Then, one random player is turned into a zombie. Playing as a zombie, you can only use your knife, you can run faster, can see in the dark and have a wider field of vision. You "zombify" other players by slashing them once with your 'claws of death' and then they too become a zombie. The round ends either with the annihilation of the humans or when the humans kill all of the zombies.
How big is your team and how long have you guys been working on the mod?
I am the only member of the development team, but I have a web admin and PR rep named James. When I say I'm the only member of the dev team, that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot of development involved. The first few months were 12 hour days, three times a week, with a lot of progress. I started the mod in December, about a year ago. I released the first beta to the public by about March. A lot of development went until August last year and then it went dormant 'till Christmas. Since then, I've had a beta of 2.0 going around privately and it's like a completely new mod with all of the new additions.
There have been a number of different zombie games released over the years. What distinguishes Zombie Mod from the crowd?
Well, first off, Zombie Mod was the first and only Zombie modification for CounterStrike: Source way before I took over the development. Fysh was the original creator and after a while he posted the source online and just disappeared. Secondly, the amount of configuration available to each server admin makes a significant difference. No two servers are ever the same experience to play on. And lastly, the end user experience is one of the best by far, as players will confirm. I've spent a lot of time perfecting the project, and seeing as I'm the sole developer, architect, designer and release manager, the project is a lot tidier than most. It might have taken me over a year to come this far, but in the words of a great D.J., "We've come a long way, baby."
How long was it until you took over the Zombie Mod project? What are the most notable changes since Fysh's version?
I took over in December, 20 months ago. It had minimal functionality, 95 percent of the functionality now is my own. It had to be completely rewritten from the ground up once I'd taken over. A lot of Fysh's methods had been disabled by Valve, via updates, since its initial release. I think he decided to stop development because of the headaches each CounterStrike: Source update brought. Even the models in the original Zombie Mod didn't have animations!
What has been changed with the CounterStrike: Source weapons? Are there any additional guns or equipment?
The only modification so far to the weapons is unlimited ammo. Version 2.0 will have additional weapon types for humans, such as inflammatory grenades--but I don't want to give too much away yet.
Tell us about the abilities zombies have...Does it play similar to knife fights in CounterStrike: Source?
With 2.0, there are multiple types of zombies, fully configurable by the server admin. The things that vary between them are speed, jump height, knock back and health. Generally, these are all better than humans, but some classes are a lot slower, with very low jump height and a lot of health. So, it's zombies using their "claws" against humans with unlimited ammo. Most of the time, you are just trying to avoid being shot to pieces by the humans who generally bunch together in hopes of repelling the advancing hordes of zombies.
Are all the classes set by the server admin only or does the zombie player have any way of gaining experience to unlock these abilities?
In the final 2.0 release there will be extra additional abilities for zombies to earn, but at the moment, it's all set by the server admin. I'm hoping to add a couple of weapons for the zombies also. However, they will not be too powerful--just enough to give them an edge.
Can you give us some hints about the weapons?
I don't think I should discuss them until they are finalized, in case some don't make it to the final cut.
I will give some hints, though: I'm thinking concussion, fire and stun.
Do all the maps originate from CounterStrike: Source or are there original Zombie Mod maps?
That's the beauty of the Zombie Mod community: we have a very large amount of map makers and currently there are over 65 additional maps. All the Zombie Mod maps are identified with a "zm_" prefix. Most have no objective as the mod does all that for them. It also strips the hostages and bombs from regular CounterStrike: Source maps so that the round doesn't end prematurely.
With the amount of custom Zombie Mod maps, will there be any that are officially bundled with the mod files?
There will be a couple, but the selection hasn't even started. I think a competition will be the order of the day. The package is already nearing 10mb and one of the things I've tried to do is keep it small and simple. If I add some maps, the more inexperienced server admins may get lost.
So what else can we expect in this upcoming release?
So far, I've given server admins the ability to completely change the gameplay to their own liking. There are now zombie classes, where the admin can define variables for a variety of zombie types which can then be chosen via a client menu, all with different abilities and special traits. We have a new overlay for zombies, so it now gives an even better feeling of immersion for the player. There is health regeneration for the zombies and a built in stats system as well. In the old versions, your health was never displayed because it can be as high as 5000hp--that's now fixed. There are also a lot of bug fixes and new models, too.
Were you surprised to see that the community supported your mod so much?
Yes and no. I mean, I personally don't play it ever and if I do it's only to test on my own machine against bots. I actually started it as a paid for project, as a guy from the CSSMC clan paid me to start it and I had it as a private project for about a month. He then decided it was good enough for the community and we released it to phenomenal support. So seeing as I don't like the game personally, yes, it was surprising. Listening to what the community had to say for the duration of the project was something I knew would help it on its way.
How close is the latest version to being released?
It has a current stable release that's been available for about eight months now, but the beta I'm hoping could be finished by the end of the month, provided that all things go well. One thing I've learned from the past is to avoid giving solid deadlines for a release, because if you miss it the community feels betrayed.
What are your plans for after Zombie Mod 2.0 is released?
I'm going to see about creating more optional components: power-ups in module format so they can be downloaded separately and used to create a few different flavors of the game. Hopefully there will be additional models as well.
Thank you for your time.