Alex Seropian, founder of Bungie and his new company Wideload Games discusses his new game, Stubbs the Zombie, a third-person action game that delivers a stirring take of one man’s hunger for love, justice and brainsWhat’s the plot of the game?The game follows the exploits of Stubbs, a Zombie, as he embarks on a quest for true love and brutal revenge in Punchbowl, Pennsylvania, a city of the future built in the 1950s.How did you come up with this idea?It was a collaborative effort by our small internal prototyping team. We started with a bunch of ideas and spent some time developing the most promising ones. Ultimately the team picked Stubbs the Zombie as the game that would become Wideload’s first project.How many prototypes did you create before deciding this was the game you were going to make?We created a couple dozen prototypes. We chose Stubbs the Zombie because of the gameplay potential and the depth of Stubbs as the main character. It helped that we had an opportunity to use the Halo engine and a lot of good ideas for building the game with that technology.We also liked it because it allowed us to do something new with a somewhat moribund genre. Zombies are popular adversaries because they’re easy to make as long as you adhere to the mythology: they’re slow, they’re dumb, they only attack by biting, etc. We kept the basic idea of a brain-eating dead guy but chose to not limit ourselves to what had been done before. That made it a lot more interesting.Why did you decide on a retro 50’s theme?It’s not just retro – it’s Retro-Futurist! Punchbowl exists in the 1950s, but it’s designed to be a model city – an example of the miracles that await humanity in the year 2000. Some elements of retro-futurism, like flying cars and personal robots, are now seen as amusingly naive; others are surprisingly accurate. Punchbowl incorporates all of these things – it’s connected to the familiar, but it gives our designers a tremendous amount of creative freedom.Why make the main character a zombie?When dead men crawl out of their graves and start gobbling the flesh of the living, you have to consider the possibility that everything you thought you knew is worthless. Nothing says “total breakdown of natural law” like zombies, and that sort of imminent chaos is an attractive starting point for a game. Besides, zombies have been painted as the enemy for far too long. We’re giving equal time to their side of the story.What makes the Stubbs character compelling to players?Stubbs has a lot of really cool abilities that evolve into interesting gameplay dynamics. Stubbs can tear off his own hand and send it into areas he can’t reach himself. The hand can also possess other characters, giving you access to their weapons and abilities. It really opens a lot of doors gameplay-wise. Personality-wise, he’s a good man who was wronged all his life; only in death does he gain the ability to turn his losing streak around. He’s the ultimate underdog, and everyone likes an underdog.What has been the most challenging part of developing this game?When you tread new ground, you often have to make up your own rules and hope they work out. We got lucky in that sense that our early design decisions held up quite well as we moved into production.How does this game take advantage of the Halo engine?We utilize all the technical majesty of the rendering engine, AI and core game systems, and then we crank them all to eleven.How are you finding working on the Halo engine for your game?The Halo engine is phenomenal, and the tools allow us to do some really cool things. The underlying technology is robust enough to power a game that is very different from Halo, and Wideload programmers have added their own special sauce where appropriate (to the graphics and AI systems, for example).How are you improving upon or changing the Halo engine for the game?AI is the most labor-intensive work. Getting a horde of zombies to go about their brain-eating business in a rewarding and enjoyable way is a tough task.What do you think players will most enjoy about the game?The combination of chaotic action, stealth gameplay, strategic use of Zombie hordes and a healthy dose of dark humor.What’s the game’s release date?Summer 2005
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