Over a decade after its release, Project Zomboid attracts an amazing horde of gamers

Project Zomboid first came out as a tech demo in April 2011, before hitting Steam in November 2013. It had something of a rough ride in those early years, with the game leaking and, an infamous story at the time, the theft of two laptops containing a bunch of code that had not been saved: developers The Indie Stone would go on, rather winningly, to give an industry talk titled ” How (not) to play ”.

Now it looks like Indie Stone will have to write another presentation: How to Turn Your Passion Project into a Viral Success ten and a half years after its release. As everyone laughed at the turkey and leftovers, Project Zomboid’s player numbers exploded. The cause is a major update that overhauls the game from the ground up.

We cannot stress enough how much Build 41 improved Project Zomboid. Among other things, it introduced a new animation and movement system, significantly improved multiplayer functionality, a new city, a new combat system, a bunch of new systems for things like injuries and foraging, and too many other things to list. It almost feels like the developer could have just stuck a 2 at the end and sold it as the sequel.

The increase in player numbers coincides with the release of the version: in November 2021 there were on average around 7,000 players per day, a very respectable number for an indie game anyway, but as of early December, the number of players starts to skyrocket. Zomboid had never broken five digits before, but on December 9 the test branch for this new update was released and it was successful.

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The full update was released on December 20: Project Zomboid at the time of writing has just under 48,000 players and three days ago hit its all-time high of 65,505 players.

I asked Chris Simpson, programmer and general manager of The Indie Stone, about this crazy turn of events. Does everything revolve around build 41?

“We knew we had something special to prepare with build 41,” writes Simpson. “The response from our community during the long beta has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of improving the game over previous versions, and knowing what multiplayer would add to it has convinced us that if we can keep the game going. landing and providing uninterrupted internet, that would get us a bigger peak of interest in what we’re used to.

“We were hoping for a big spike in interest of course, but hoping and waiting are two completely different things, and the ridiculous magnitude of that was impossible to anticipate. The game competing in the top ten during the winter sales looks frankly. be science fiction. “

PC Game Diary: Project Zomboid

Screenshot of zombies attacking a player in Project Zomboid

(Image credit: The Indie Stone)

Jacob Ridley, Senior Material Editor: Last year I spent quite a bit of time watching my good friend play Project Zomboid on Discord. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to play, especially since this Build 41, which at the time was only half finished in beta, was already so good that we didn’t want to deactivate it for To play online. We could have played Steam Remote Play, but found that going solo was itchy for now. That and we were pretty lazy. Gone to today and we both play Zomboid together and it’s better than ever. It’s not just its new multiplayer simplicity, the combat has increased tenfold and it helps to better expose the immense depth that Zomboid has to offer.

Project Zomboid has always had a certain degree of popularity among streamers, with its multiplayer survival mechanics particularly suited to fun role-playing.

“Gamers love to get together on RP servers and take on the role of characters from the zombie apocalypse, experience their own Walking Dead,” says Simpson. “We’ve seen a huge spike in interest in watching this stuff on Twitch, with GTA RP being a huge thing where people like to watch their favorite streamers play characters in server-wide stories etc. Ma woman has been heavily involved in this scene for quite a while and it was evident with all the survival and crafting that our game is a perfect platform for that kind of fun, so it’s something that we tried to lean over.

“I think the most important thing with Build 41 having more appeal than the B40, other than obviously a lot more solid multiplayer, is the character customization, animation and battle overhaul that makes a huge difference. in the quality of the game. the game a little more accessible and visually appealing for players who tended to avoid us in favor of more immersive FPS experiences. “

As of this writing, 31,000 people are watching Project Zomboid streams on Twitch – not bad for a game that is still in Early Access. One of the things that comes out clearly when you read The Indie Stone’s blogs and forum posts is that this is a studio and a collective with a passionate project. You don’t spend that much time on a game unless there’s a lot of love there.

Nonetheless, I find it strange that the “early access” label remains. I asked Simpson about the team’s passion for the game: Will Project Zomboid ever achieve the Platonic ideal of a zombie multiplayer survival simulation, will it ever be over?

“Well, we won’t stop until we consider it ‘done,’ and we love the game a lot, but it’s been a decade,” Simpson writes. “There is obviously a burning desire to work on something new that any game developer gets after probably a year or two – we’ve been removing this a lot longer!” , it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be something that we come back to without thinking “we never got to do X.” There is a very clear list of what would be those things we’d regret Once it hits version 1.0 I think a good chunk of us will be done, and I can’t wait to try something new after spending a good chunk of our time. life to devote to Zomboid. “

Even then, Simpson adds that 1.0 “wouldn’t be the end” of support for the game and, as the studio has always done, avoids giving it a hard deadline. “We’re turtles, not hares, and we’ve always made sure to win the race when our builds come out,” writes Simpson. “So basically that will be done when the features that we have on our internal checklist are built in, solid and when all of the more archaic and craziest elements of our game have been replaced. And in the meantime, we’ll continue to add fillable items. the other elements of the game. “

How remarkable the sudden explosion in popularity of Project Zomboid cannot be overstated. This is an 11-year-old indie game that has received constant support and updates during this time, and suddenly found a much larger audience: this is a testament to both the dedication of its developers, but also from the community that has supported and enabled the studio to make this long stretch. And, undoubtedly, a justification – it is clearly a game with something special.

Project Zomboid is currently on sale for a third party on Steam, should you wish to join the horde.

About Johanna Gooding

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