It seems the world of gaming has been pretty focused on consoles since the advent of the newest generation, but PC gaming might be quietly going through a golden age. With fresh new ideas being developed by smaller impassioned teams, it’s a good time to be a PC gamer. One such game, 7 Days to Die, is achieving great acclaim despite still being in early development. We chatted with Rick Huenink, co-creator and developer, about the title.
For those of you who haven’t heard of 7 Days to Die, Huenink describes the title as “a true survival game mixing the best elements of Left 4 Dead, Minecraft, and Fallout, with our own unique twist”. An adventurous goal, but one the team has made leaps and bounds towards in a small period of time.
7 Days to Die follows similar recent trends in popular indie game development coming from a small but ambitious beginning. In summary of the titles genesis Rick tell us “Joel [Huenink, co-creator] and I are brother and worked together under 4D Rulers, but we hadn’t worked on a project together for about 7 years. About two years ago after Thanksgiving dinner we’re eating our Mom’s awesome peach pie and had this idea about making a hardcore zombie survival game with sexier voxel technology and better looking characters. Five weeks later we had a five page Google Doc for a game called Thirty Days to Die. Joel found Christian, who wanted to make his own voxel game. We convinced him to partner with us to make a lighter version of Thirty Days to Die. Six months later we’re an LLC with two more 4D Ruler alumni, and we’re selling many pre-orders much to our surprise!”.
The early interest and support from gamers led the team to set up a Kickstarter for the title. Rick describes the success of this crowd funding – which raised over $500, 000 – as integral to the development of 7 Days to Die. “Make no mistake, Kickstarter allowed this game to be more than a small indie dream and become the feature rich, groundbreaking, genre defining game that we dreamed of making. The Kickstarter folks who helped us are really the ones to thanks”. The whopping success of the project, which more than doubled the initial crowdfunding target, showed the team they were really onto something special.
Huenink’s description of a ‘feature rich’ game is no exaggeration. The core tower defense elements of play, with fortification building and scavenging by day and zombie attacks by night, motivated a dynamic range of game modes. “All those game modes [Solo/PvE/PvP] were part of the individual gamer’s choice: do you want to work together or against one another? The zombies make the choice easier”. The game difficulty can also be manipulated in a substantial way to produce varied game experiences. “We realised quickly that the customer range was really diverse, from a casual Minecraft fan to a hardcore Counterstrike player and everyone in between. That included husbands and wives, guys and their girlfriends, fathers and sons. This diverse audience has different tastes in what kind of zombie experience they wanted. The game options grew organically from that.”
What really makes 7 Days to Die special is arguably the hyper developed voxel-based physics system. “Physics seemed like a natural evolution to a world where you can destroy everything and build it back up however you like. The system is really a structural integrity system, where every block has a strength; how well it can hold up horizontally and mass or weight. Imagine if you built a bridge of various materials. Which bridge could span the widest river? In our game, from weakest to strongest material, we have: sand, dirt, wood, stone, and metal. You have to think like an engineer when you build. This means interesting things can happen with our physics, like zombies tearing down structures or players digging under other players forts to bring entire buildings down”. He’s not kidding. That really happens, and needs to be seen to be believed.
The crafting system is similarly complex but approachable. “We wanted a deep crafting system that was more intuitive and required no wiki. The recipes you can make from current materials appear at the top of your list. That does take away the fun of guessing how to make stuff like in Minecraft, but we don’t really feel that that was what made Minecraft fun in the first place”.
A game with realistic physics or a deeply developed crafting system is always going to draw comparison with games like Minecraft or Rust, but the team behind 7 Days to Die have a very different vision in mind. “Our focus is on zombies, which promotes more PvE. We also can craft hundreds of items and can build whatever your mind can come up with. The player isn’t limited to a really small set of premade fort pieces. Beyond that were planning on introducing quests to every mode, and skill trees with a range of categories to choose from”.
And it’s working. 7 Days to Die is already generating a lot of attention. “We’ve had so many customers tell us ‘You’re making my dream game’ ‘I’ve always wanted something like this’. We already have a game that you can do almost anything you can imagine in, and we’re only in alpha. We’re going to keep thinking big and make that ambitious game people have always wanted, and we’ve always wanted.”
We couldn’t pass on the opportunity to get the inside scoop on what’s next for the title. “Well we’ve just wrapped up on random Gen and a new GUI which have been big hits and are now focussing on Alpha 10 features including: a new Character Creation System which will include lots of wearable and craft-able clothing items, a new zombie combat system with full motion capture on all zombies which will react to specific areas of limb damage, a dormant/waking system for zombies, new buildings, better zombie spawning, and a whole lot more!”.
So what’s on the horizon for 7 Days to Die? The team don’t appear to lack ambition. “We won’t stop till we’ve made the best damn zombie game on the market”. Well Rick, we can certainly believe it.
Many thanks to Rick Huenink for his time. We at Gamer UK are very excited to see what becomes of this already ground shattering game that’s still only in alpha! You can purchase 7 Days to Die on Steam.
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Rory McDonald is a writer and researcher who types words with a keyboard that you then read. You can follow him on Twitter.