Undead Labs' Jeff Strain • Page 2

On his new console-only zombie MMO.

Eurogamer: Would you kill a zombie in real life then?

Jeff Strain: Well you have to! That's what's beautiful about it, right - because if you don't he's going to eat your brains and so there's absolutely no guilt! Ha.

Eurogamer: Of course you can always have two together and make Nazi zombies a la Call of Duty: World at War.

Jeff Strain: Which was a brilliant masterstroke, I have to say.

Eurogamer: It looks like some other people also like zombies and have made games about them, notably Dead Rising and the immense Left 4 Dead. How does your vision compare to theirs?

Jeff Strain: First of all, MMOs are just a different beast. Those games are both very high-quality games and I personally love both of them. They fulfil a need as far as your basic shooter goes that makes a very fun game. An MMO, though, wraps the societal and communal element around that. If you look at a modern zombie movie like Zombieland, the whole point of that is not about killing zombies: the whole point of that is, "What would the world look like in this post-zombie apocalypse world - what are your motivations at this point, how do you interact with other people, what are you trying to do?" The motivation that you get with an in-depth MMO you just don't get with a corridor shooter.

Eurogamer: When you sat at a table with your team and outlined the road ahead, what were the main mission statements for your game - can you share those with us?

Jeff Strain: Beyond the general outline, no. We're very early in the process and not really talking about a lot of game details. Beyond the genre and these core concepts of going beyond zombie shooting and zombie killing and into restarting society and recapturing your home town and working with your fellow surviving humans - that's the flavour we're trying to accomplish.


Dead Rising has lots of comedy zombies.

Eurogamer: The two unique selling points so far are it being a zombie MMO and it being made by Jeff Strain. I'm not convinced zombies are enough - what can your game do that no-one else's can?

Jeff Strain: The third big point is that this is a game that is breaking with tradition in terms of the platform it's on. This is a game that's designed from the ground up for console gamers. It's not a game that's being designed for PC and console or a game that's being designed for PC and being ported to console. Every MMO developer out there is dipping their toes in that water and finding it to be very, very chilly water, because console gamers have a very different set of expectations for how a game plays and how they interact with a game.

One of the things we'll have going for us is that we're going to be the first company, to my knowledge, that's really trying to define what a console MMO is. The analogy I use is what Bungie and Rare did with the first-person shooter: they were the first ones to really go out there and say, "Look, first-person shooter is a PC genre, that's where all the players are, but we believe we can make a fantastic first-person shooter for console gamers and essentially define what that genre looks like." And they did that. They did not saddle themselves with trying to make a hybrid game. The MMO genre is ready for that. The console gamers are ready for that. I don't want a game that's taking all the template mechanics from what we expect in PC MMOs and trying to somehow graft that onto consoles, I want an MMO that takes all the cool stuff about MMOs and really puts it in a console-specific experience that the gamers are going to resonate with. That is going to be one of the larger selling points.

Eurogamer: One of the reasons we've not seen many console MMOs is red tape caused by Microsoft's and Sony's online services. Has that been a problem for you?


Resident Evil 4 has fast and slow zombies. Tricksy.

Jeff Strain: That's right, and we're concentrating left, right and centre on that whole issue. I've been sitting in rooms with Sony and Microsoft for years and years and years talking about bringing MMOs to console. The reason you have not seen it yet... It's a little bit misleading to say that there's too much red tape. You have to look at it from the viewpoint of... every MMO developer out there by definition is a PC developer. That's where their business is and that's where their customers are. If you contemplate taking your business onto console you have to do it from a standpoint from, "How do I make a console version of my game and still maintain my PC user-base and the structure I built around that?" That's what makes it complicated.

We're fundamentally in this mindset where we've created this entire infrastructure around how we interact with our customers and how the game mechanics work and how we expect the backend of a structure to work. If you just scrap all that and say, "Look I'm going to sit down with Microsoft and Sony and I'm going to roll up my sleeves and tell them right-up I'm making a console MMO and we can jettison 50 per cent of all this business red tape that we've been struggling with for years and years," then I really think we're going to get tremendous traction with that.

Eurogamer: I'm assuming PS3 and 360 are the platforms you're targeting even if you can't confirm that here today. Have you sat down with Microsoft and Sony already and told them that?

Jeff Strain: Unfortunately I can't make any comments about that. I'm sorry.

Eurogamer: What's your game called, by the way?

Jeff Strain: That's something [where] normally I would tell you that I'm not talking about the name because I didn't have one this early, but I'm not talking about the name because I'm just not ready to announce it yet. Ha.

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