303: How Games Get Zombies Wrong

Rect Pola

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May 19, 2009
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Anybody ever read "World War Z"? I strongly recommend it as a realistic (as far as one can be asked to go) take on the subject. They suggest that zombies eventually re-die as their bodies rot apart and that ONLY taking out the brain is effective.
 

Nenad

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I really like a custom map in Warcraft III about zombies: Night of the Dead: Aftermath. It is more survival and looking for supplies while doing story missions that just killing zombies (but you have to do that too). Oh, how I wish some-one made a full game of it. A mod for Left 4 Dead or Alien Swarm at least?
 

deutschbag

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Jun 12, 2010
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This is a very well-written article. I feel the need to point out one thing though. I realize this will probably come across as nitpicking, but it's something that people get wrong so often, it drives me nuts. The electric shocks from the car battery are not an example of negative reinforcement, they are an example of presentation punishment.

Negative reinforcement is when you remove something that is undesirable to elicit desired behaviour, such as saying, "If you clean your room, you don't have to go with us to visit Aunt Judy." (Just to be clear, this example is envisioned with a kid who really hates visiting Aunt Judy.) The other two possibilities are positive reinforcement and removal punishment.

An example of positive reinforcement (the most effective) is, "If you clean your room, you can go to your friend's house this evening." An example of removal punishment is, "If you don't clean your room, I will take away your 360 for a week."

The negative in negative reinforcement doesn't mean bad, it refers to a lack of something as opposed to the positive existence of something.
 

Roxor

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The mention of Pinball is actually a good idea. Make a Zombie Apocalypse pinball game. How long can you survive?
 

Mackinator

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The comparison to pinball was clever, but people would just get depressed if everyone died at the end of every zombie game. At least when theres "hope" of some sort people have an objective. In pinball the objective is to get points but I don't really see how living the longest on a "hell on earth" scenario is a real objective because its not fun in a zombie apocalypse whereas in pinball you get points and it fun :)
 

ZZoMBiE13

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Oct 10, 2007
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Chuck Wendig said:
How Games Get Zombies Wrong

Oh, dear, game industry ... you seem to have failed your Zombie Aptitude Test. Let's review where you went wrong.

Read Full Article
This was a great article. I love zombies. Games, TV, films, whatever. I love zombie stories. Maybe because they are so nihlistic as you pointed out. When done right, a good zombie story is rich with narrative and usually a good story can be told.

One point I have to say though, You can't call zombies cannibals. As you pointed out, they are no longer human. So eating humans does not make them cannibals. Eating other zombies would make them cannibals, and they don't do that. Surely you saw the original Dawn of the Dead... they covered this. But your article was good enough to forgive the faux pas. ;)
 

mikespoff

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Oct 29, 2009
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Great article - excellent points.

It certainly seems that zombies are just the current trendy totally-interchangeable monsters du jour, and the games as a rule never really move to what makes them interesting.

One mod which managed to stay true to the "try to survive but inevitably get eaten by zombies" concept was the nazi zombie survival mode in Call of Duty: World at War. It was horrible, and only playable as a brief extension to a core game, but it stayed true to the zombie concept pretty well.

I'm not convinced that it's possible to make a good game about zombies, but that's not a reason to make bad games about them - it's a reason to make good games about other things.
 

omega 616

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Chocolate Source said:
THANK GOD someone wrote this. While shooting zombies with guns is fun - why else do we do it, I can't wait for the game that is based on surviving and staying away from the zombies and most importantly - other humans.
Good news dead rising! I have only played the second one but there are alive people who hunt you with snipers, a crazy mayor, a crazy guy who lives in a toilet, a crazy army guy, a crazy mail man, an insane chef and a guy with a pet tiger ... oh and two evil twins, as well as the 10,000 zombies per area.

On topic, Why did it take the article half a page to get to the point? I think a dead rising meets GTA4 would be a great idea and would sell billions but it would mean a PS3 doing the 360 trick of multiple multi layer BR disks to play on a console and I reckon it would take up a lot of PC space and power.

That's why it is the way it is, zombies are just a re-skinned enemy X. Just something to shoot at, they could be made to look like pirates (the ones with boats, not computers), ninja's or werewolves.
 

kidd25

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making a movie or a comic or even a show is more or less easier than a game, because someone else is doing everything someone else is fighting for their life without in inch of trust for the others. making a game like that would seem on paper that it would be a great mmorpg, you know if you can make it work but their would have to be a lot of tweaking and changing with the mmorpg mechanics to keep people playing. there was a game that came out that was top down and worked with other people on the forums.
 

Ukomba

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This is why I was excited about Dead Island by the trailer, and supremely disappointed by the actual game.

I love left 4 dead, but being immune eliminates 99% of the fear.
 

Pahakeisari

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Oct 1, 2011
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When was the last time people who commented about the pinball analogy (about half a dozen) last played a pinball?

Score is certainly still a central tenet but since ~1989 many pinballs have progression, they're called "modes". You beat a pinball game by completing all the modes. Not so good analogy after all? :)

Of course playing for the wizard mode is pretty exclusive to people who own the game, as it'd cost way too much to try and get to a good level in an arcade.

Here's some homework: http://www.flippers.be/basics/101_deep_rules.html
 

Vigormortis

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czarevilsam said:
I believe that the in-development game Project Zomboid (http://www.projectzomboid.com/) will be more to the author's tastes.
Very much so. Project Zomboid is essentially everything the author of this article is looking for. A "you can't win", "hold out as long as you can", "worry about the threat of the zombies and the other humans" style survival game.

In fact, anyone who's a fan of the zombie mythos, old-school isometric games, or survival-horror should check that game out. It's fantastic.
 

Grey Day for Elcia

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Humans aren't the real threat; I'd take the possible chance of fighting with another 'survivor' for food and/or water, etc., over the zombie horde that will eat me alive.
 

The3rdEye

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You are arguing that someone has done something wrong in fiction based on reasoning grounded in reality. Things just don't work that way.
The3rdEye said:
Take any sci-fi or fantasy scenario and try to apply real world logic to it and you will always end up with a headache. Watch:

Zombies
If zombies are mindless, soul-less eating machines, why don't they attack each other?
If their goal is to spread the virus/entity that they are infected with, why do they so frequently end up mutilating a living victim beyond any hope of being a viable carrier?
...etc...
Suggesting or presenting ideas for future work and how you think they would appeal to an audience? Good.[footnote]As a small aside, minus the gratuitous fan service Highschool of the Dead is my favorite depiction of the zombie apocalypse to date. Even with a vast majority of humans turned zombies, it's the living breathing that end up screwing everyone else over.[/footnote][footnote]"You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.[/footnote]

Appointing yourself the Grande Poo-Bah of zombie culture and slapping people's wrists for how they misrepresented "your" zombies in their portrayal? *zap*
 

TJM8

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Jan 25, 2009
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I agree with a lot of this. I like the points on how most zombie games don't take advantage of the other threats zombies pose as an enemy, but the whole article just seems kinda arrogant in the way it was written. I mean I get the idea that its that you think MOST people don't understand how zombies work but anyone that is really into the zombie genre knows all this already. If you're speaking to the gun crazy players that just love to slam that game into their xbox and shoot wildly for kills, then I think you're writing for the wrong site cause I don't think many of those people are here.

I saw someone posted something bout a cracked article, and yes I read that one too. The article suggests that really its more about surviving the zombies until nature/climate kills them off. Like in 28 days later (at least in the movie I didnt read the book) which you mentioned, they survive by moving to a remote area until the infected (not zombies) starve.

I had a few other points but just reading the first page of comments they have been said multiple times haha so I'll stop here. This article a few years ago would've been good and well timed. now, zombies are so exposed. people have laid out zombie plans and argued it tireless with other dorks that did the same. There are books and books on it. countless websites/blogs. You underestimate the dorks my friend
 

Starik20X6

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Oct 28, 2009
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Right now here's a thought: take DayZ, and add this feature- when you get attacked, if you take a certain amount of damage but don't actually die, you should get infected.

Over the course of the next few in game minutes/hours, your control over your character gets progressively worse, and you start hallucinating, seeing zombies that aren't there and seeing other survivors as zombies. Eventually when you do succumb to the infection, your character becomes one of the NPC zombies, now a threat to anyone still living. Naturally, any armour you were wearing when you died is now being worn by the zombie, making it that much harder for a survivor to kill.

Maybe there should be a cure that can reverse the effect of the infection if you take it prior to falling, though it'd have to be rare.