Alert! Alert! OMG-Z! The City of Redfield has been hit by an outbreak of exploding zombies! For cool and unimportant reasons these suckers literally explode when shot, showering their zombie brethren with gore and causing chain reactions of showering zombie gibs with just a single bullet!
Staff member, Clint Ritchie, caught up with game developer, Alasdair Evans, to talk about OMG-Z.
Horror News Network: Where did the idea for 'OMG-Z' come from?
Alasdair Evans: We’d got to a point with our minis where we’d done a few that were critically successful, but wanted to take things further and really build on what we’d achieved so far. That meant better UI, better long-term replayability, etc. We had also taken on board feedback that a lot of our previous minis were too difficult. OMG-Z was born out of the idea of creating a game where skill with the controls and fast reactions were totally unnecessary to enjoy the game, while still creating a game with lots of replay appeal.
Making a game that was so open to all skill levels meant that some form of one-touch or one-button gameplay was a must. A chain reaction game was a natural fit for that.
The next step was thinking how we could tailor the chain reaction genre to allow for long-lasting appeal. Upgrades were an obvious fit so we thought about how upgrades could be achieved – e.g. larger explosions, greater damage, more damaging shots from the player, different enemy types, etc. At that point I thought of Outrun and its branching structure, where the route to success means you necessarily miss out a huge amount of the game’s levels. It’s not just upgrading that draws you back – it’s trying different levels and different zombie formations, and hopefully trying to get a platinum medal on each one.
The last piece of the puzzle was to choose a theme for the game. Our first thought was setting it inside the human body and killing viruses and other things via chain reactions set off by antibodies. Then we thought was that a bit too specialised for a genre that can be a hard sell. The next thought was ‘What do people like to shoot?’ From there we didn’t have to go far to get to ‘Zombies!’
Horror News Network: The look of the game seems to come straight from a comic book. Any plans on making a comic about the game?
Alasdair Evans: Jake, our artist, was the one who came up with the look of the game. With the PSP’s display you’re quite limited to size, but we still wanted lots of detail in the gore – seeing as it’s the thing that makes you want to keep playing, at least IMO – so Jake made the decision to keep the game black and white and make the blood vivid red throughout.
With the amount of gore that’s capable of being generated, sometimes it feels like you’re painting over the level, but that’s cool – it worked out really well.
Jake’s main influence was the Walking Dead comics. He’s a huge fan and wanted to get that across in the game as well. It’d be great to do the same thing again at 1080p, the detail Jake could go into would be so much greater. And he’s a guy who loves to draw in a huge amount of detail when we let him. ;)
Unfortunately there are no plans to make a comic of the game. If it’s something that turns into a franchise down the line then who knows, but for now any OMG-Z related activity needs to be focused on building on what we have with a sequel or an iOS version, or both. Watch this space I guess!
Horror News Network: The three-shot domino effect is a very cool and interesting way to play. How did that idea come about?
Alasdair Evans: This was something that came out of the desire to add an upgrades system into the game in order to keep the replayability high.
Horror News Network: Is there any back story about the character we are playing as?
Alasdair Evans: Sure. Our turnaround times for Minis projects are – by necessity – pretty lean so story telling in this type of game is usually kept to a minimum, plus we have to consider the potential difficulties of localisation. However, I did write a back story for the game, which I’ve lifted from the GDD for your reading pleasure. Here goes:
The player is a lone surviving member of a SWAT team which has been issued with an experimental weapon to attempt to turn the tide of an imminent zombie holocaust which is, for now, contained in a small area of Redfield City only a few blocks across. The infected area has been locked down by the authorities to be cleared by SWAT teams on a block-by-block basis.
Initially the outbreak was confined to a couple of office buildings owned by a giant pharmaceutical company (Sowester Industries), but was quickly contained by the Army’s deployment of sheer prefabricated concrete walls at all exits and entrances to city blocks. The Army’s subsequent Zombie Clearance Plan failed however – conventional tactics simply didn’t work against the zombies and the soldiers were soon turned themselves.
During the chaos of the Army attack an alternative plan was devised following the discovery of an powerful experimental necrotic poison called ‘Zombie-Inhibiting-Toxin’ (or ZIT for short), which was found in an outlying Sowester office impounded by the Police after the initial outbreak.
At the beginning of the game, the player is put in control of a lone ZIT equipped SWAT operative, tasked with making his way through the infected blocks and clearing them of the undead. As he goes he’ll meet with civilians as well as Police Officers and Army Riflemen who, having already met with a violent and gory end, now roam the streets as zombies themselves. These zombies still carry their weapons and appear to have some ghost of their previous memories, causing them to occasionally fire off random un-aimed shots and destroying a few of their undead brethren here and there.
Where YOU Come In:
A single SWAT team (now equipped with ZIT-treated bullets) is now poised at the entrance to the blockade, all other combat units having been already destroyed before the ZIT was discovered. As this last remaining hope arrives at the entrance of the blockaded city, their vehicle spins after hitting a pool of gore and is smashed violently into the concrete barrier at the entrance. Only one team member survives the crash; the player (surprised you, right?).
Now it’s up to you to work your way through the zombie infestation one block at a time. Depending on how you progress mission control will direct you to move on to various blocks. The better your performance the hotter the next block they’ll direct you to. There are ten blocks between you and the end of the infected zone but where you end up depends on how many zombies you can kill. Get a great performance every time and you’ll reach the ‘best’ ending, finding some way of remotely destroying all the zombies. Perform poorly but complete the stages and may not survive, plus the zombies will break their confinement and a national (or possibly even global) outbreak will begin.
How ZIT Works
Once the zombie outbreak was initially contained it emerged that a solution to the problem had already been developed by Sowester, the pharmaceutical company responsible for the zombie bacillus’ creation. A synthesised necrotic toxin christened Zombie-Inhibiting-Toxin (or ZIT, for short) was created as an insurance policy. ZIT is a virulently necrotic agent that causes a violent reaction in the bacillus that spreads the zombie infection.
Once ZIT enters the bloodstream of a zombie, it attaches itself to the bacillus, which begins to mutate and destroy any surrounding necrotic flesh, all the while multiplying at an exponential rate.
This reaction takes place with remarkable speed; even more so when ZIT-carrying bacilli are exposed to fresh air. When this occurs, oxygenation causes the reaction to massively increase in pace, the result of which is literally explosive.
As luck would have it, simply coating bullets, or later on filling the hollowed out heads of bullets, with ZIT and then firing at zombies typically exposes the wound to open air as a matter of course. This means that a relatively trivial wound can have catastrophic effects on a zombie, even if it hits their hand, foot or other typically non-threatening areas. They literally BURST APART, showering their fellow zombies in ZIT-infected matter. If the recipient has any open wounds (and hey, they’re zombies, they’re gonna have open wounds) then the reaction continues getting ever more violent as more and more explosions take place.
So, there you have it. A quick explanation of why the zombies explode. I owe the story to a variety of sources. Richard Matheson’s ‘I Am Legend’ was useful when thinking about bacteria and how the ZIT might work, while other inspirations from the gaming world should be obvious enough that I don’t need to bore you with them. J
Horror News Network: Any ideas for a sequel or DLC for 'OMG-Z'?
Alasdair Evans: Funnily enough I’m working on that next. I have lots of ideas scribbled on a notepad, that we’d love to put into a sequel. Given the positive response (critically, it’s been really well-loved and is currently the fourth best rated PSP game of all time on Metacritic) we’d love to put the game out on a superior platform, e.g. a true PS3 game, or on Vita. Other platforms are also a possibility. I’d love to do the game – or a sequel! – on iOS, for example.
Horror News Network: The Zombie game theme seems to be very popular right now. What sets 'OMG-Z' apart from its undead competition?
Alasdair Evans: I think it’s the game’s open nature. Anyone can play OMG-Z. Plus it’s kind of a puzzle game. I doubt that many people who like horror have played something like this before. It’s pretty unique.
Most zombie-themed games rely on fast reactions and impulsive decision making. OMG-Z couldn’t be more different. You can sit and watch the level with no threat to you and no time limit on the level. You can also finish a level in seconds, so it’s a game where you can play for one minute at the bus stop and still achieve something, while it also suits sitting on the couch for a few hours in front of the PS3 and trying to platinum all those levels.
We’re pretty proud to have a game that’s different from the rest and that suits all kinds of skill levels and gaming conditions.
Horror News Network: Where can our readers find out more about OMG-Z?
Alasdair Evans: The game has more info – including review testimonials and screens/video – at our website: http://www.laughingjackal.co.uk/games/omg-z
There are also reviews of the game all over the web and some cool video reviews on Youtube.
Horror News Network: In closing, what would you like to say about OMG-Z?
Alasdair Evans: Please buy it! ;)
Seriously, we hope people give the game a try and enjoy what they experience. I think OMG-Z is a game that offers a great experience over the long term and in short bursts. More importantly, it’s a game that anyone or any skill level can play and get somewhere with. Reflexes and controller mastery are irrelevant. Come one come all! (provided you’re older than the age rating requirements, naturally.)
We were really happy with how the game turned out. OMG-Z has that special something that keeps drawing people back.
I’m sure you’ll see OMG-Z in some form again. It’s easily our most successful game in terms of both critical and fan feedback, so we’d be crazy not to try and build on that.
Horror News Network: Thank you for your time, Alasdair. Good luck with the OMG-Z game. Comment on this article here.