We’re happy to finally be able to announce that the v3.0 update for Zombie Panic! Source will be released on the 8th of December, this year! Look to pass the time when the air is cold and the days are short? We've got you covered! A tiny bit past Fall, but not nearly during Winter!
The Challenge In Creating the Update
Understandably, many of you have been eager to know when the update will release. Many of you have also been disappointed in our refrain from giving a decisive release date. We've done this to allow ourselves to focus as much as possible on ensuring a top quality update, without having to worry too much about the large string of problems that occur and delay development.
To begin with we branded the update as an “engine-port” that seeked to fix exploits and instability, creating a solid base for us to build upon in later updates. The plan was to use the old code as the base, fix its flaws, and build new code on top. We eventually realised that this would not work as the old code present from v2.4 was incredibly broken and nearly impossible to work with on the new engine. After having already rewritten most of the old code, our lead programmer JonnyBoy0719, with the assistance of our second programmer, Shepard62fr, then had to completely reconstruct the code for the game. This caused a big delay but was entirely necessary for us to be able to implement the things we wanted, as well as expand upon the game in the future.
These continuous hiccups let to a few halts in code development, and the rest of the team sought to work on maps, models etc. while the code was being reviewed and fixed. However, there were two things which we couldn’t accurately prepare for; The headache of trying to string old code together with new, and the massive amount of attention and hype that has surrounded this update.
The v3.0 Update
As we continued work on the update, expectations grew. Former players, server owners and content creators kept expressing their excitement and hopes of this update bringing the game back to life. When issues with salvaging the original code let to temporary breaks in development, we started coming up with ideas on how to make the game look, sound and feel more modern – While still maintaining its game design that we believe is not found in many of today’s games.
At times, this led us to develop new content which was not exactly part of the original plan for the update, but that we felt needed to be in the update to make it a success, even if it slowed development down at times. It’s safe to say that we were treating the update as a one-shot-opportunity to reinstate the game. An ambition which ironically led us to become sidetracked when the schedule was affected by code issues. It sadly means that we aren't able to give everything the close attention it needs, but we have plans for more updates after v3.0. So, we do apologize but we still think you'll find the update worth the wait.
Many of the levels were introduced on the release of ZPS in 2007, or not much longer after, and haven't been changed too much since then. At the time they looked great and were very fun to play, but naturally that isn't the case anymore. Some haven't aged too well and have become unbalanced in some ways, or come to look old and outdated.
It would be better for us to completely remake the levels from scratch, but that would take too much time to prepare the levels than we had for the v3.0 release. Instead, we decided it would be best to give the levels updates, and adjust whatever necessary. This way we could improve upon the level's issues and provide levels that are more balanced and play better for the v3.0 update.
Unfortunately we haven't been able to polish every level up to the standard we'd like to, because there are so many. Although, we believe you'll be more satisfied with the changes we're making. The levels will receive more improvements in the future as we experience and learn what works and what doesn't, as well as receive your feedback on them.
Our new level designer, Dr. Vodker, has given zps_deadend a much needed facelift. The graveyard behind the church now feels incredibly immersive. A large number of detail and design changes have been made to make it look more like a graveyard, while creating space for zombies spawns outside of the map.
NeoAssasin has devoted a lot of time to remastering zpo_biotec. By adding a ton of more detail to the environment, the map now feels like a state-of-the-art facility that has been overrun by the undead.
As most of you probably remember, we announced that ZPH would be receiving its first official map. The working title is zph_pithole, and our level designer Xufe has been hard at work to ensure that the map is a good mix of regular survival and the deathrun-based gameplay which we've all come to know and love through community maps!
In order for players to feel immersed, it's important that they aren't pulled away from that when the last hope of humanity is defeated by zombies spawning on top of their head, or when the experience of the zombie apocalypse is reduced to camping the exit of a bathroom!
We have touched upon the big overhaul we felt the game needed in regards to balance in various announcements. The most substantial change you'll find in-game is the removal, or inaccessibility of, most of the zombie spawns from the playable area. We have touched upon this before, yet we have not shown you what it looks like in-game.
Dr. Vodker has also put in a lot work to make zps_haunted truly feel, well, haunted! All zombie spawns have now been moved outside of the map, while still allowing direct access to the playable area. The map is now darker and the environment is more overgrown to give zombies more cover when outside of the house.
On zpo_biotec, zombies are no longer subject to spawn-camping when spawning between the helipad and lab. The zombie spawn has been moved up into a newly-crafted conference room that overlooks the courtyard where the old spawn used to be.
Siggy Wiggy Woo has made a number of design changes to zps_asylum to accommodate new spawns for the zombies. This is one of them, located behind the cells and above the small park. This room can't be accessed by survivors, and the zombies have 2 exits; One leading to a high-traffic area and infamous camping spot, and the other leading to a more quiet area to allow zombies to flank the survivors unnoticed.
The outside has also been given new visual details that both serve the immersion but also act as cover for the zombies when dealing with survivors camping the outside area.
The infamous camping spot on zps_nightmare's roof has been significantly nerfed with the addition of a new zombie spawn located inside the building, next to the chimney. This way survivors can still utilize the spot, but zombies won't be at such a big disadvantage when trying to approach the area. The additional boxes work both as cover for the zombies, but also as objects to block the zombies now shortened path to the survivors.
zps_thrillvile has had all of the zombie spawns moved out into the surrounding water. This area is off-limits to the survivors, and has direct access to both the ferris wheel, workshop and sewers.
We wanted to present a fully developed Hardcore Mode, but sadly we have been unable to dedicate time to develop the mode fully. However, we have made good changes to the gameplay of the mode. What has changed is that zombies are no longer bullet spunges; Headshots do close to the regular damage of zps and zpo, but bodyshots are as futile as they've ever been.
This allows us to play around with the gamemode more since survivors now actually have a chance at holding out an area from the buffed undead. These changes make the gamemode feel more like an actual "hardcore" version of regular gameplay. We want to add more depth to the gamemode but are forced to wait until later updates.
We have also worked on expanding upon the sound design of the game to streamline certain events in the game and make players feel more immersed. Our Sound Designer, KaempeLaeske, has produced sound cues and sound effects for the various in-game events, as well as 3 new soundtracks for the game's OST - Each one dedicated to the 3 new maps in the update to help set the tone of the levels and give you some new tunes to enjoy while fighting for, or against, the undead.
We want to make it easier for new players to understand what's going on when playing zombie. We don't necessarily think that the solution is found in buffing the stats of the zombies, but by streamlining communication between them. It's easy to miss the glowing Carrier or the highlighted survivors on the screen if you're not looking in that exact direction. However, with a sound cue you'll be able to know when these events are taking place. This way new players are more easily guided towards the main action.
Our programmer, JonnyBoy0719, has worked hard on making the game look like a standalone game. Everything from the booting of the game to the game's scoreboard has been updated and given a unique design. One of the steps to achieving this is through updated loading screens that fit and explain the game to players; Every official map now has their own dedicated loading screen, giving players a taste of what to expect as well as accounting for the map's name and dedicated gamemode - along with randomly generated gameplay tips to read while waiting for the map to load.
Through our new game menu, we've streamlined a lot of the actions a player might take when playing and/or interacting with the community on the game; The new game menu allows players to access their achievements, character selection and bios, as well as the community hub and workshop by a simple click of the mouse. On top of this, options specifically related to Zombie Panic! are now easily accessable from the main menu and not hidden away in the advanced options - with the addition of the console being available by pressing on its own dedicated button.
Did we mention that the menu now includes animated backgrounds? Because it does! Character bios have been brought back and put into the main menu. Our level designer, Casei Magnus, has rewritten them, borrowing from the old bios of Zombie Panic! Source and Contagion.
We've dedicated time to fixing and improving a lot of the already existing textures, as well as adding a lot of new ones.
Our new Texture Artist, Desty, has overhauled the textures of many different things to fit better with the improved visuals and atmosphere of the game in general.
The textures for the ammo boxes have been improved, and they have been slightly resized.
The iconic frying pan has been re-textured to look more battle damaged. The old look simply didn't justify the amount of zombie skulls this thing has bashed in!
Desty has also given the Revolver a slick, new texture for you to enjoy with the new update.
"Larry's Diner", the place where it all began. In the official comic by Hential Gerpies, this specific diner is established as being the point where the original group of survivors find themselves together, by chance, against what appears to be the early stages of the outbreak. On the current 2.4 version of zps_town, this diner is not named correctly. v3.0 changes that.
Our team were all big fans of the lore that used to be in the game. Years ago, the character bios vanished as a result of the website not being maintained. The comic was never written with any dialogue, and with the established lore in the game's levels being so inconsitent, naturally a big chunk of the lore was lost with the character bios.
A significant focus for us was to reestablish the pre-existing lore, as well as expand upon it. However, just like the comic's narrative, the details are left unclear and up to the individual to interpret.
A lot of incosistencies in the game's levels makes it hard to get a feel for the story. Because of this, the map bios have all been written to account for the journey of the survivors as well as give each level a real-life location. For example, zps_policestation is now set in Boulder City, as the logo in the lobby suggests.
We've included a number of easter eggs that hint at how the survivors get from one location to the next. We have indeed mapped out their journey on a map of the United States, and put thought into considering how the survivors get from a small diner in an infested small town to the deck of a torn-in-half tanker. However, as we know a number of players like to dig into the story of the game, we are letting these to be discovered by you!
There's so much more we would have liked to improve upon or include in v3.0, but we unfortunately didn't have the time to begin working on them, or even continue working on them in some cases. It would have required more time for us to develop than we wanted to take, so we decided it would be best for these things to wait for future updates.
Just know that we have many more exciting things planned to come!
Finally, we want to thank you all for the massive support - not to mention the ton of really great suggestions for how we can improve the game. The backpack, penetrating bullets, Explore Mode, Human Spotting, among others, are all ideas that we've come up with from either listening to your suggestions or talking with players about random ideas when we occasionally jump on to play the game with you.
We failed to acknowledge this in the last announcement which was the result of us being forgetful in the midst of a ton of work. We apologize, and we are thankful for having such an incredibly supportive and engaging community! We are by no means a professional team, and some of us have been out of touch with the game for years. Having dedicated players giving us feedback and suggestions is a luxury which we could not afford to lose.
Now that the update is nearing completion, we are going to start dropping trailers as we inch closer to the release date.
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- Zombie Panic! Source Development Team