Last month, we had the chance to sit down with Geoff Keene, design director at Sandswept Studios to chat about the studios' upcoming game The Dead Linger. In that interview, we focused in on what motivates the development team, discussing where their envisioning of a 'zombie' came from and what forms of zombie media they like to consume (presumably once it is properly dead and prepared to health regulations).
This time around, we're talking about the game itself, discussing some of the features to come in The Dead Linger. The game is at a very early stage and, as such, it's a lot of fun to see what the thought process is like at this point in development.
Without further preamble, the interview!
During development, have you run into any major road blocks? What were they? How did you overcome them?
The largest hurdle we've had in development so far was simply getting the funding to continue doing what we love, hence, the Kickstarter. Kickstarter was the perfect opportunity for us to pitch our game (in early development) to the world, and the response was fantastic, and has helped fund us for the remainder of this year.
What feature are you most excited about adding? Why?
I'm personally most excited for the world generation we have planned -- all the other features I'm excited for are getting added pretty soon, and many of them in 004. After 004, we've got some huge plans for overhauling the way we generate the world, and really start adding some variety to the scenery, from rolling hills, to forests, to small towns, to farmland, to huge cities, and the list goes on and on.
Building a zombie sandbox game is pretty ambitious. Obviously the Minecraft development/sales model worked well for them, what led you to implement this type of model?
We're basically running on the money we have -- a very limited amount -- and we have to have an early, playable, purchasable product in order to keep development going. The amount of people checking out the game and buying it directly influences how long we can continue.
If we waited 2 or 3 years to release, like many titles, we simply wouldn't be able to continue working on it full time.
Keep reading for more on The Dead Linger with Sandswept Studios' Design Director Geoff Keene.
How far ahead is there certain to be continued development on the game? How long until you think the game will be in a more polished, beta state?
As I mentioned in the last question, development continues as long as we're receiving revenue from the game. If people like our game and want to see if continue into beta, and a final release, we will continue developing as long as we can keep food on our table. We have years of TDL updates and improvements planned before us, the only question we're facing at this time if whether or not enough people think the game is awesome enough to support. (Hint: It definitely is!)
Everyone, especially skeptics, can be content knowing that the feature they've always wanted in a zombie sandbox survival is on our list for development. We've been designing this game for years, and developing for almost a full year thus far. The Alpha as it is currently is a testament to our speed of development, ability to listen to the community on what they want to see, and a small taste of what is to come throughout 2013.
"The Dead Linger is my brainchild, and every moment I can spend immersed in it are some of the greatest moments of my life."
You’re both the CEO and a developer at Sandswept, how difficult is it to split time between both of these positions? How hands on are you with development? What would you say takes up the majority of your time?
I would have to say I like being the design director more than I like being the CEO. The business stuff is boring, but mandatory. The design portion is where I'm free to move about, poke, tweak, and write. The Dead Linger is my brainchild, and every moment I can spend immersed in it are some of the greatest moments of my life.
What is your internal development division of labor like, do you have specific teams working on specific aspects of the game?
We have 15 people, myself included, working on their specific portions of the project. They're mainly separated into "Art team", "Programming Team", "Sound Team", and "Management." Various team members within each group are dedicated to their own thing. For example, we have an artist who is mainly doing environment props, where another is doing weapons, or a programmer who is doing inventory, while another is doing the gameplay itself.
We've got a full team hitting almost every part of the project simultaneously, and the progress is pretty clear between our bi-weekly game content updates.
Build 004 is up next, can you talk a little bit about what players can expect in that update?
I could talk about a ton of things to expect, as 004 is our biggest content update yet, but for me personally, the main improvements to be found in 004 are the ammo and gun systems, aim-down-sights, and zombie behavior. Guns are now using ammunition found in the world, so you'll need to be more careful with what you shoot, and what you attract when you do.
Along with that, we've added a more tactical "aim down sights" mode, requiring some patience to pull off a clean headshot, and zombies now bash down doors to buildings when they know you're behind them. It causes the game to be much harder, and much scarier. We're keeping survival in The Dead Linger dangerous, difficult, and wicked fun. I would challenge players to survive for more than a day after 004 comes out. I think that's going to be a real contest now.
Thanks again to Geoff Keene and Sandswept Studios! Check out The Dead Linger at http://www.thedeadlinger.com/ to get into the early alpha testing stage. Brand new builds are going out on a regular basis, so make sure you get in early and help shape the game into what you hope it would be.
These questions have been put together by our wiki manager, Smokie, who is very much living although he does have a particular affinity for the shambling, bloodthirsty undead (sorry ladies, he's taken!).
So, thanks to Smokie and Geoff Keene of Sandswept for taking the time to sort through these questions!