Interview with Ubisoft's Gabrielle Shrager (ZombiU)Kastle - 18.09.2012
KonsoliFIN interviewed Gabrielle Shrager from Ubisoft Montpellier, who was kind to answer the questions we had in mind about ZombiU - probably the most anticipated Wii U game at the time!
We haven’t heard too much from the story yet, and if you can’t tell much about it just now, can you give a clue what has been an influence to it (books, movies, etc.)
It is 2012, the year of the apocalypse for the Mayans and many other cultures both old and new…London is falling in the wake of a terrifying Blight, an outbreak of a new form of virus of plague-like proportions. This the second time a great plague has decimated the city; the first Great Plague of London happened centuries ago, in 1665, and only the Great Fire of London was able to wipe out the infection in the end.
Both of these apocalyptic events and the fire that follows has been foreseen by England’s 16th century Nostradamus--Dr. John Dee. Dee was quite literally the Royal Magus or ‘Wizard’ to Queen Elizabeth the First. He is one of England’s most reputed historical figures, at once revered and reviled in his lifetime as a brilliant mathematician, philosopher, spy and "sorcerer". It is Dee’s "Black Prophecy" (Dee is Welsh and means 'black'), which heralds this Last Great Blight in the fall of 2012 and the Second Great Fire of London that must follow…
The origin of this plague is in dispute—but it is Dr. Dee’s research (on plague victims he had treated across Europe) and his quite literal conversations with God’s angels, which may allow the player to discover the fabled Panacea and save humanity.
I was (lead writer and story designer, Gabrielle Shrager) particularly inspired by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s grim and uncompromising depiction of London in "From Hell", and chose to write ZombiU with acclaimed British comics book author Antony Johnston (and writer of Dead Space and Dead Space Extraction) in order to create a unique and authentic backstory that could only take place in London.
How big role the ZombiU’s survival kit plays in this game? From what I have seen, I guess calling the game as FPS is an understatement.
You said it! I guess you could call it a ‘Survival Horror FPS Thriller’ thanks to the components of ZombiU that reinvigorate one of our industry’s most loved genres, plus its unique and compelling story. ZombiU invites players to live a credible and terrifying survival experience in zombie territory. By transforming the GamePad into the ultimate survival kit, we had the possibility of offering creative controls that augment the sensations of fear and the rewarding feeling of surpassing oneself constantly. Co-Creative Director, Jean-Philippe Caro likes to think of ZombiU as "a zombie apocalypse simulator"! The new console is a perfect fit for Survival Horror, because--for the first time in video games--we can divide your attention between two screens; just like in real life, you have to LOOK DOWN to rummage through your bug-out bag and manipulate gear you actually hold in your hands, while keeping an eye to the surrounding dangers in real-time.
The Pad-cum-survival-kit offers players the possibility to prepare and plan their survival moment-by-agonizing-moment, heightening their situational awareness and mastering environments by scanning enemies and areas for vital supplies, sniping silently from a distance, visualizing Infected on the radar and progressively upgrading their smart-map, weapons and skills in the hopes of surviving this apocalypse—all the while being guided by the mysterious voice of the Prepper, who speaks to players over the radio on the GamePad. These and other features will truly showcase what the Nintendo Wii U has to offer, offering an unparalleled level of immersion and emotion—the holy grail of great gaming experiences.
Are there multiple or alternative endings, since we have learned that NPC characters affect to the game plot?
I’m afraid I’d spoil the fun if I answer that one...
What can you tell about Miiverse features? When you die or become a zombie in the online game, does your zombie character appear in your friend’s games?
Our online app offers a ton of sweeet features for you and your Nintendo friends to feel a little less alone in the merciless world of ZombiU (although it is not directly linked to the Miiverse). When playing online, players will receive alerts onscreen in real-time that tell you when your friends’ survivors have been Infected and where they are likely to be roaming if you want to go and mercy-kill them and loot their gear. Plus you can follow stats about your own former Infected survivor characters, like how many of your friends have encounter, killed or been Infected by them. Also, you’ll find leaderboards to compare your Survivors’ Scores against your friends and see who the most successful survivors are.
ZombiU features the messages from other gamers to find. What if the mean gamers write some dirty words in them?
As it turns out, you’re instinct is spot on on this issue, which we in our great wisdom thought we could get away with (loving the idea of letting players leave decipherable messages of their own choice). Unfortunately we had to reign in the system for this very reason, and so have limited the message vocabulary to signs and symbols.
What kind of multiplayer modes are there in ZombiU?
ZombiU offers a local Asymmetric Multiplayer mode rather than online modes. So you can play with your friends using the Wii U GamePad and the Pro Controller in your couch. What is the multiplayer mode about: The ‘King of Zombies’ has organized his own sadistic London games to entertain his bloodthirsty subjects… Play as King Boris on the WiiU tablet, crazed boss of a violent gang and self-proclaimed ‘King of the Zombies’, and beat all survivors…one by one! Or play as a Survivor and attempt to outwit the King of Zombies and his brain-dead 'gladiators'!
With SURVIVORS VS KING OF ZOMBIES, ZombiU features one-on-one competitive multiplayer modes, which tasks one player with controlling zombie hordes (Infected Units) using the Wii U GamePad, while the other player fights to survive in FPS view with either Wii controllers or the new Pro Controller. The multiplayer features 3 exhilirating game modes including assault, deathmatch and survival modes.
SURVIVORS VS KING OF ZOMBIES, is full-fledged multiplayer experience, with deep gameplay that will provide many hours of fun. The Wii U allowed us to create an exhilarating experience that can be shared by a hardcore gamer and a more casual player-friend or family member, without the latter becoming completely outmatched. Unlike the campaign, which offers a solo Survival Horror FPS experience, the ‘King of Zombies’ player uses the Wii U GamePad at a more relaxed pace. The gameplay is more about overall strategy than any gamer reflexes honed over years…so it’s more immediately accessible. Our multiplayer modes are also a bridge for new players to get into the game before they acquire the courage to face the Infected hordes alone, while offering a more traditional first-person shooter experience using the Wii U Pro Game Controller or Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Even survival-horror fans will love blowing off some steam with a little running and gunning!
Guillaume Brunier of Ubisoft Montpellier has said that game designers (you) have missed the old school survival games and wanted to bring same kind of atmosphere to ZombiU.
When Nintendo spoke to us about their new machine, we understood that this time that did not want to limit their audience to casual gamers, but also propose core gaming experiences—and we plunged headlong in this direction. We have listened to gamers who want to go back to the sources of survival horror and be truly put to the test in terms of gameplay challenges.
Our setting is utterly suited to the task...today for the first time in a zombie game, you will get just ONE CHANCE; one single bite will infect you and make you one of 'them'. This mechanic is incredibly motivating in terms of gameplay, and truly stimulated players to surpass themselves. We've seen its effect on players who have tested the game*; fear installs quickly and more than in other games, our survival instinct kicks in, making good the promise of activities involving the exploration and mastery of the environments.
What kind of reception has ZombiU received - it is, after all, a launch title of Wii U. What did “family-friendly” Nintendo say when you announced the game?
Based on the portfolio of content that Ubisoft is creating for the Wii U, it is clear that we are excited to see the potential of the Wii U system. The platform opens up tremendous new creative avenues, something all game developers dream of. We’re really excited about how well ZombiU synchs with the console to provide a uniquely scary and immersive experience.
The team in Ubisoft Montpellier has a lot of experiencing developing for new hardware, particularly the Wii. We’ve been working with to the Nintendo Wii U hardware for quite some time now and have tried to make the most of every creative aspect that this new hardware has to offer with respect to our game concept. The Nintendo Wii U delivers an opportunity to immerse players like no other console out there; allowing us to create a truly scary experience.
What does Wii U and ZombiU offer to hardcore gamers, who have played horror, survival and FPS games with their PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 for many years?
Anyone who is looking for a credible and intensely challenging, scary and rewarding survivor-horror experience will be won over by ZombiU on the Wii U—people who have had a chance to test the game say ZombiU has rescued one of the industry’s best-loved genres Thanks, for example, to our exclusive use of two screens with different displays in real-time, the experience on Nintendo’s new console, is quite simply twice as terrifying. (see above for details about use of GamePad as the ultimate swiss-knife of survival kits)
Anything more to add, that people do not know yet about ZombiU?
How long they will Survive?
Kirjoittanut: Kastle - 18.09.2012