Xt Interview With State of Decay’s Undead Labs

State of Decay 2

The State of Decay franchise needs no introduction given its impressive rise in popularity. That said, we took some time with Undead Labs’ Ocala Scott-Bellows, Geoffrey Card, Andy Collins, Brian Giaime, and Wonder Russell, to talk more about it.

Xt: For those that may be unaware, can you provide an overview of State of Decay 2?

UL: State of Decay 2 is an open-world survival fantasy that casts you as a community of survivors trying to build something permanent in the face of the zombie apocalypse. Up to four friends can work together, scavenging any building for supplies, training their combat and survival skills, and fighting to stay alive with the spectre of permanent character death hanging over their heads.

Xt: Millions of players and counting, that’s quite an impressive achievement. Did you ever expect to hit these numbers?

UL: The original State of Decay was a surprise hit on the Xbox 360, and later the Xbox One. We’re a small but ambitious team, so our goal was to build on that success, expanding the experience for people who already loved the original, while also welcoming a lot of new players into the community.

About a month after release, State of Decay 2 hit over 3 million players! (And the number continued to climb throughout the summer.) That milestone was monumental for us, showing that the game has continued to connect with the community of players.

Xt: State of Decay 2 allows players to make their own stories through a mixture of gameplay choices, general behavior and risk vs reward. What led to the decision to pursue this concept rather than that of an actual overarching story?

UL: State of Decay provides us with a unique opportunity to explore dynamic storytelling, because of its relentless insistence that the story keeps moving forward, even when you make mistakes and lose characters. The gameplay itself tells stories of suspense, fear, and loss, without requiring us to script those moments, predictably, for every player.

In the real world, every individual and community is unique, and our dynamic story allows us to make that true in the game as well. The challenges you face, the tragedies you endure, and the victories you achieve belong only to you.

Xt: One thing that I particularly enjoy about State of Decay 2 is its uncertainty. The survivors, for example, can be helpful one moment and then turn on you in the next. It makes for very tense experience. Was that sense of unease something that you were aiming for?

UL: Yes, exactly. That sense of anxiety about loss is what most of us imagine when we picture ourselves in a society-threatening scenario like the zombie apocalypse, and we wanted that emotional experience to come across in the game.

This isn’t a cartoonish apocalypse that is just about freedom and mayhem (though you can have both if you want them). It’s about investing in people, caring about them, and trying to keep them going, even when you know the risks.

Xt: Lets talk about those juggernauts. The towering bastards. So, many of the enemies in State of Decay 2 require specific strategies to overcome. Screamer? Shoot its head. Ferals? Under the car it goes. Bloaters? Easy work with a fine shot and some distance. Juggernauts, on the other hand, are much more formidable. What led to the design choice of making these foes particularly durable, strong and fierce?

UL: Most of the freaks are designed to counter certain kinds of gameplay, and therefore to reward players for using more appropriate methods. For example, bloaters discourage reliance on melee weapons or vehicles to kill them, encouraging players to improve their skill with firearms to drop them from a distance.

Juggernauts are a bit different. They are supposed to feel a bit like a boss fight, so they counter a lot of different tactics and function as a significant tax on the player’s resources (ammunition, explosives, etc.). We wanted to make sure this big guy was always a threat, so that players felt pressure to be well-equipped any time they are out in the world. You never know when a juggernaut might be waiting around the corner…

Xt: State of Decay 2’s Daybreak Pack has recently been released. Can you explain what this is all about and what players can get up to in this new content?

UL: Daybreak offers a very different way for players to engage with the world of State of Decay 2. It presents a siege scenario where players (in the role of highly skilled Red Talon operatives) work together to survive several waves of attacking zombies.

Each session of Daybreak offers the opportunity to unlock new weapons, facilities, and items. The longer the players can defend their position, the more rewards they get! Some of these rewards are useable in Daybreak mode, while others become available to the player’s home community. You can even unlock the option to recruit a Red Talon soldier to your community.

Of course, earning these rewards isn’t easy, In addition to familiar threats, Daybreak also introduces the nasty new plague juggernaut, which is just as terrifying as it sounds.

Xt: Will the new rewards and weaponry that players earn from the Daybreak Pack carry over to the core game?

UL: Yup! When you install Daybreak, we add a new section to your radio menu in the core game that allows you to spend prestige (the currency earned in Daybreak) on specialized equipment, and even to recruit elite survivors that feature overpowered skills you can’t get any other way.

Players have been going nuts, kitting out their communities with Daybreak characters and Daybreak gear, and the response has been really fun to watch.

Xt: Can fans expect to see continued support like this, later down the line?

UL: Absolutely! We’re all hard at work on different aspects of State of Decay 2, and you’ll be hearing a lot more from us down the line as we continue to update and support the game.

Xt: During E3 2018, Phil Spencer announced that Microsoft Studios had acquired Undead Labs. What does this mean for the future of Undead Labs and as a result, the State of Decay series?

UL: We take it as a huge vote of confidence in State of Decay as a franchise, and in our team’s ability to build something unique for Microsoft’s gaming platforms. It means that we get to invest even more time and energy, going forward, in making this experience truly fulfill its potential, which is a rare opportunity that not every team gets.

Xt: How has the fan reception for State of Decay 2 been so far?

UL: When you release a game, it’s not just yours anymore, it belongs to the fans. We’re lucky to have an amazing community! Just recently, about fifteen streamers teamed up to create “Decayfest,” a three-day, round the clock streaming extravaganza for State of Decay 2. That blew us away! The fans’ love for the game is real, and we take it seriously.

Xt: Finally, is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

UL: We’d actually love for them to share things with us! Every day, we see people on Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, and other platforms, sharing their favorite characters, experiences, and funny glitches, and it makes our job much easier, knowing how people out in the real world are playing the game — what they like, what they dislike, and where the game should expand and improve.

The best places to find us are on our Discord, on Twitter, and by following our weekly streams on Twitch and Mixer, where we take questions and respond to comments from the community (and give out some of the extra swag we have lying around the office).

Thanks a heap for your time here folks. Readers, if you’re interested in what you’ve read and you’re yet to dive into the deadly world of State of Decay 2, be sure to give it some extra thought – it’s well worth your time and attention.

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Written by
Howdy folks! Now, as of July 23rd, 2019, I no longer operate here at Xbox Tavern. It was one hell of a ride; creating this, building this, and operating it for several years, but, we all hit a proverbial point that encourages us to move on, and that's what I've done; handing the reigns to the very capable Jamie. Want to keep in touch? My Gamertag is Kaloudz Peace! Love to you all, Mark!

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