95: Omega Man: The Out of Hell Mod

"'A lot of my time ... was spent self-teaching,' he says, 'reading tutorials and building things from scratch. Because I began to develop better techniques for doing things and my art improved, I couldn't help but go back and overhaul what I had done previously, a habit that eventually attributed to the delays.'
"And by delays, Long means 'years.' Four of them, to be precise. Over that time the game has gone through several iterations and acquired something of a cult following, with over 9,000 registered users at the mod's official web forum and over 25,000 downloads of the game's demo, representing tens of thousands of fans all clamoring, like the undead at the door, to know when they can get their hands on the product of Nguyen's brains. If Nguyen has anything to say about it, they won't be waiting for long."

Omega Man: The Out of Hell Mod

About zombie games and FPSs. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine and I, as fans of FPSs (we're just so looking for for Crysis and Quake Wars), we were talking about how certain genres were rarely exploited in the video game industry. Underused. Not necessarily as a whole, but left out of a very specific kind of games which would obviously suit them perfectly.

We were sitting fat, in front of the telly, going through Dawn of the Dead. The latest one with those people homing full throttle on the nearest piece of walking fresh meat. Zombies. Now they have to run. I have a kind of mixed feeling about that. It's scary as hell in a way, but I also like Romero's explanation about how the bodies keep rotting over, and as such, they're just getting weaker and weaker. Well, anyway...
After digesting the final clips from that nice and dismaying flick, while there were those NIN and, I think, Disturbed scores playing in the background, I turned towards my pal, and told him how I'd love to play a FPS full of zombies, really. In a supermarket, if possible. Or a castle. Or a ferry. Some place. I don't know. A bank? A lab! :-)
Needless to say, we couldn't agree more!

I had Stubbs and Dead Rising in mind, when it comes to recent zombie centric games, but as I said previously, they're not First Person Shooters. Serious FPSs above all.
The question was, where are those games? While I had in mind the ol' sort of zombies from Quake, we could only think about the grunts of Doom 3. Or eventually, a few happy targets in Half-Life 2.
A miserable constation. They're always minor mobs.
City of the Dead? Talk about a game that was already dead before being given birth.
It made us remember a nice guy we knew some time ago, who joined a team to devlop a zombie mod for Unreal Tournament, called Zombie Hunter.
I can't say the mod's design was full of good ideas back then, and the mod's probably dead now, but it was good to see people agreeing on the same unfortunate conclusions, and it was also already clear that there was room for more, and potential to find an audience.
Now, years later, that incredible void seems as dark and empty as ever.
On the other hand, the video game industry is crawling with futuristic or WWII shooters.
So unless we've been linving under rocks for all these years and missed a huge FPS hit, we just couldn't find any proper zombies games. A genre that is largely underexploited.

I'm not asking for a tame exploitation of a style about how zombies are the first meat targets before being replaced by cacodemons and whatever other mutants, like copycats of uncle Nemesis.
I'm talking about a FPS where it's all about zombies. Plain and simple.

The only genuine vanilla game I played to ever match the feeling of being cornered, and fighting against hordes of creatures coming in by every single fraking hole, was... AVP.
On the same hand, the only mod I can remember which provided such emotions was Invasion, if I recall the name correctly, for Unreal Tournament (can't remember the edition, unfortunately).
The principle was relatively simple: we were thrown into a deathmatch map, with the simple mission of having at least one last man standing until all the flooding waves of respawning demons picked from the solo game would be anihilated.
We were trying to cover every possible angle, moving in a hurry from one position to another when one of our mates was down. It was a frenzy! I personally never thought mowing down entire packs of mindless swarming monsters guided by a stupid AI would be such a source of fun.

The technology nowadays offers plenty of forms of interaction. Physics, reactive and competent AI, large crowds, breakable decor, incredible realtime lighting and moods.

What about the general mechanics in the zombie films which could be used in game?

- The establishment of a team to exploit people's aptitudes and compensate for others' weaknesses.
- Cooperation. When there's a group to form, of course.
- Protect the weak and fight for the survival of the group.
- Betrayal.
- Solve a dilemna at some point, which is related to survival. She's infected. Shoot her or accept her help as long as she can fight? If she's dead, you could grab her weapon and medic pack after all.
- Defend, escape from, or reach a place at all costs, when legions of zombies are growling all around. Those places... they all have leaks by the way.
- Use tactics to lure the dumber, but tougher, more numerous and relentless hungry enemies.
- Build something out of spare parts, like weapons, shields or traps, customize vehicles to make them meaner, etc.
- Find guns.
- Manage your ammo.
- Shoot.
- Shoot.
- Shoot again. In the head. If possible. (May I suggest the knees?)

It's basically a call for the glorious old days of Doom (they're zombies!), supported by a balanced mix of global linearity (simple objectives) solved through the multiple combinations of point to point solutions (Deux Ex, Hitman).
Blend in cooperation and headset communication features.
Have lots of destruction, and the now must have ragdolls and mesh destruction, for more blood splattering and rotten limb busting.
As for the weaponry, say you can carry only a limited amount of firearms, blades and other forms of pointy clubs, depending on their weight/size, so you have to stack them next to you, built your own fort Alamo, take risks and make difficult choices.
Introduce a couple of minor melee functions, to fight zombies face to face, and eventually code in a "zombie bite" factor, just for the sake of suspicion.
Add some moderate vehicle driving (sort of serious Carmageddon mixed to Test Drive), still in the first person view.
Coat this with a bit of RPG, drops of crafting and an icing of several contextual interactions, and that's a good receipe I'd like to try if correctly handled.

One of the mods could be about securing districts, establishing outposts, rescuing people, preparing a zone for the arrival of reinforcements, blow up huge nests, and eventually try to survive in a final mission until a rescue party arrives in helicopter, if everything goes really bad. In a way very similar to Urban Dead, players would choose their "class", form teams, get an overview of a big or small cities, islands or more rural regions, choose a district or sector, and try to complete the mission.
Supervised in realtime by the server, and depending on the efficiency of the players, more or less zombies might be generated during a mission, literally adjusting the level of difficulty, and teams could loose the control of zones they previously cleansed if they really suck.

You could even oppose teams, with different objectives.
- Survivors. Cops, medics, firefighters and other mere civilians.
- The army guys. Sent to sanitize the zone before all hope is lost and the mother of all bombs gets dropped on some zombies' heads.
- Corporates. Mercenaries and scientists.
- Terrorists. They came there to grad zombie samples, only to use them for future fear campaigns.

Spawn points, mission scenarii and chains of events would be so cleverly thought out, during the level design process, that one team could actually enter a map minutes after another team has already stepped in, all that seamlessly.
If I had to find an analogy, the first game's name that would pop in my head - and sorry in advance for the lack of anything freshier than this vintage gem - I'd cite Carrier Command.

So, to conclude that rather enthusiastic post, I'd say this:
I clearly believe that zombie centric FPSs should be made.
There's plenty of room for them. Zombie flicks have returned, people love them, and now is certainly the best time to surf on the zombie wave and exploit the genre.

By the way, I wish M. Nguyen a good luck in his projects.

PS : sorry for the long post.

 

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