Dev Blog Diary: 3/24/2023

For the update this week, I'd like to discuss music. For a game like Survivor that relies almost entirely on story telling, music can be critical to setting the tone for the player; it can add an additional narrative that moves the player along, and in this new version, we'd like to elevate how the audio is used throughout the game.

The original game only had 4 audio tracks: one during combat, one during the stories, one before you logged into the game, and one when you died. We've heard repeatedly from players though, that they really enjoyed these tracks, which is wonderful. But quite honestly, this doesn't constitute a large amount of content. We feel like we can do a lot more.

For the reboot, we have been actively sourcing and planning how we want the audio to work in the game. We have plans to offer a significantly larger amount of variety of tracks, and we hope that players will enjoy the new music and choose to keep the audio turned on while they play. If the audio is compelling, it will simply make the game that much more enjoyable.

Most modern games feature "soundtracks" for the game, and that's how we are approaching it as well. As we get closer to launch, we might even start doing some sneak previews of what will be on the playlist. That being said, we will probably be working on the audio features all the way up until launch, so some things will definitely be in flux. Regardless, though, we are excited for you to see and hear what we've been working on!

Dev Blog Diary: 3/17/2023

If you were to ask any previous player of the game what the worst or most confusing aspect of Survivor Z was, they would more than likely respond with something about the combat system. And honestly, they'd be right. The old combat system was slowly evolved over time and most of the changes made the interface more confusing. If you dropped a new player into the old combat system, they would have no idea why some zombies appeared large, while others appeared small. They wouldn't have any idea what the "initiative bar" did. More than likely they would just start tapping on things and eventually the fight would be over. And they wouldn't have fun. We'd like to change that.

We have been prototyping a number of different combat systems and feel like we have settled on one that we think is intuitive, understandable and most importantly, fun. To that end, we have decided to take a page out of table top gaming; the new combat system will feature a hexagonal battle system and expanded fighting options and choices.

While we are still figuring some aspects of it out, we have implemented enough that we are confident that not only is this a huge improvement, but it's also quite enjoyable. And in certain scenarios, it can be downright scary. It now feels a lot more real when waves of zombie hordes are starting to surround you!

That being said, we understand we need to be careful with the system. A lot of a player's success in the game obviously is centered around their choices and how they choose to equip their character. Every single item in the game already has a set of fairly balanced and fine-tuned statistics, and the last thing we want to do is to ruin that.

Our goal with these changes is not only to improve the existing game play aspects, but we want to expand them as well. In this new world, you will encounter types of enemies that you've never seen before. You will encounter combat scenarios where movement is just as important as fighting. You will find that certain weapons operate differently in different scenarios. There will be so much to explore and uncover, and we are incredibly excited about what all of this means. We are very excited for players to become immersed in this. More details to come!

Dev Blog Diary: 3/10/2023

When the original Survivor Z launched, there were only a couple of different screen sizes and as such the interface was designed around what we would now consider to be very small screens. As we are looking at what this new platform can be, we are trying to re-imagine and improve wherever we can, and one of those areas is around screen real estate.

One of the big things that we've been working on this week is trying to imagine an interface that can still provide the richness and simplicity of the original while also taking advantage of the ability to display more information and controls to the user. One of the primary ways we are looking is centered around dynamic resizing of options, buttons and text. If we can create an intelligent renderer, players can see more of the text without obscuring imagery. An intelligent renderer leaves more room for bigger buttons and more controls. In short, smarter layouts are better.

Of course this doesn't mean that we don't still have to be smart about what we are building. One of the big paradigms that we are trying to embrace is bottom oriented controls. Because phones are larger now, people's fingers and thumbs tend to be located at the very bottom of the device. Trying to drive user input to the lower portion of the screen makes life simpler and easier for people because they don't have to reach for commonly used buttons. The original version of the game did actually embrace a version of this, but as time went on, the buttons migrated further up towards the center of the screen. In short, we want to reclaim the bottom of the phone for most of these inputs as well as create an intelligent layout renderer. We feel this will simply make the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Dev Blog Diary: 3/03/2023

One thing about writing a weekly developer blog is that there is an inherent sense of wanting to express that progress is being made. However, one of the drawbacks is that sometimes things get worked on that don't necessarily feel like progress. This was one of those weeks.

Most of this week has been spent fixing, refining, tweaking and testing existing functionality. In particular, we have been spending a lot of time dealing with the inventory screens. While this might seem like it should be a straightforward feature to implement, it's important to note that the new platform doesn't treat all items identically like in the previous incarnation. For example, there are separate screens for NPCs versus vehicles versus equipment etc. We also are elevating the purpose and usage of pets. While you might have many pets available to you, only one of them can truly be your companion. So, it's important that your ability to see and manage your companion be a different experience and interaction from what armor you're wearing, for example.

And yet all of these different items that you can collect and use do need to work together in a coherent way. So, that's what a lot of this week has been spent doing. And we aren't done, either; it's very likely that the update next week might sound very similar to this one. But that's ok. We are committed to making this platform fun, intuitive and impactful. We want players to be able to make choices that will impact their experience, but as a result, that means we will be spending a lot of time on things that might seem mundane. Like inventory management.

Dev Blog Diary: 2/24/2023

One area in the new system that we plan to expand upon in the reboot is the concept of "achievements". In the original version, It was always fun whenever the animation would pop up to reward the user, but despite a large and sprawling world, the number of possible achievements remained static.

With the redesign, we want to not only expand on the existing achievement library, but also make it easily extensible from a development perspective as well as potentially add in a reward system for achievements. We are still batting around ideas and concepts for the reward system, but having a set of icons simply buried in the player profile seems inadequate given how difficult we hope some of them will be.

Another aspect related to achievements that we are debating is a system of goal "sets" with possible profile or user adornment rewards. For players that play regularly and often, we want to reward them in a way that they can show their status whenever interacting with other players once we open up the PVP aspects. While we haven't settled precisely on the how's and what's of this system, we think it will be a fun extension of the achievements. Hopefully more on this as we flesh out the details!

Dev Blog Diary: 2/17/2023

One area that has caused a lot of issues in the past is the account creation system. And while this isn't necessarily one of the more glamorous parts of the platform, we felt that it was critical to create a simple, email based account system with all the normal support that you would expect for resetting your password, password recovery, etc. (This means that we have removed all Facebook and other non "standard" ways to login.)
We don't want to make this process difficult so our initial plan is that you will be able to create an account with a unique user name and a unique email address and quickly get into the game without having to do any additional verification steps.

That being said, one thing that we absolutely want to be able to do is to reward the people who have continued to play the game by detecting when an email from the old game is used in the new game. To do that safely, we need to make sure that players can "verify" their email addresses because we wouldn't want someone to steal someone else's email address.

So, the current plan (still subject to change) is that you will be able to quickly create an email based account and during account creation, you will be given an option to "verify" that email address. At that point, if you prove to be the owner of that address, we will be able to confer whatever reward/rewards that should come along with that account. (Of course, if you don't opt to verify during account creation, you can still do so at a later point in the interface.)

So, that's the plan. We are trying to walk the tightrope of new and old, and hopefully we will be able to pull it off.

Dev Blog Diary: 2/10/2023

This past week we tried to wrap up a lot of work from the previous week around data and security, which is critical to the success of this going forward. We also have been working on doing some UI/UX testing around the map screen. While we don't want to change the heart and soul of the game, we do think there are a number of ways/places that things can be improved, both from the look of the game as well as with the usability. We also want to elevate some of the less utilized gameplay pieces as well. The screen here, while not final, hopefully gives a hint of the direction that we're taking things. Also, this is a screenshot from the Android build!

Dev Blog Diary: 2/3/2023

The past few weeks we have been focusing on upgrading the data model and the client/server interaction. One of the primary complaints about the original game was that the app's data could be "spoofed" and players could gain unfair advantages. The new system design prevents that and closes the holes that were exposed in the previous game. One of the results of this, unfortunately is that existing player's inventories and histories won't be able to be maintained. That being said, we are looking at ways of rewarding long time players for their loyalty, so stay tuned for more information on that!

ZDay: Survivor…Rebirth

The Survivor Z game has a long history, and Silverpine is excited to have entered into a licensing agreement with Mongadillo. We are in the middle of a complete rewrite of the platform, but are far enough along that we thought it would be fun to document our progress. To that end, we are starting a weekly developer blog here that folks can follow along. The reboot will absolutely stay true to the original, with some additional game play improvements, new content, and support for both iOS and Android. Stay tuned for updates here!