Zombie Appocalypse is a horror-survival game where the player has to survive in any way that he seems fit. The main feature of the game should be zombies that are quite stupid. They aren't very fast or intelligent but they carry an illness with them. When the player is attacked, he has to find a cure. If he cannot, he will die and lose the game. What I want to accomplish with this game is to create a gameplay that doesn't dictate anything upon the player. Rather than forcing player into following certain actions, he should be able to decide what is the best choice. Go in head first and emptying round after round into a zombie or create a distraction and sneak past zombies. Whatever the player chooses though, the feel should be the same: the suppressing feeling that something is watching and ready to strike should always be present. This is a little optimistic for the few weeks that I have to work on the game but I am willing to make sacrifices on other levels to get this part of the game done.
What went well?
The feel of the game has succeeded in almost every way: the gloomy overall mood, the suppressing atmosphere and the dark (but somehow soothing) music go hand in hand and create a gameplay experience that plays out in the players mind as well as on screen. More often than not, when the player is not chased by any zombies, the anxiety is higher than when he is. This was exactly what I wanted to reach with my game and so it worked out very well.
What went wrong?
Sadly however, I did not have enough time to implement my idea for having more than a single way to evade zombies – other than having more than one route per level – since I spent all my time getting the feel of the gameplay just right. Once a player notices a zombie, it notices the player as well and starts chasing. The zombies are way slower than the player and if he plays his cards right they will never catch him. Also, once a zombie is on the trail of the player, he will never lose that trail again, which is not only very frustrating but also unrealistic. When this assignment is over, I definitely want to re-design these flaws.
During play-tests that I have held with multiple people, the thing that came out most is that people weren't able to evade zombies well enough. They died once, twice, three times before reaching even the second level, while I ran through the maze without a single effort. I had fallen into one of the most frequently dug pitfalls in the game design world: I had become a pro at my own game. What I did to tackle this problem was to re-design the levels and give the player much more space to explore the level and then more room to run away once a zombie had been encountered. Secondly, I added sort of a learning curve in the game. The game now started with a single, slow and weak zombie and as the game progressed, the zombies became more and more challenging to avoid, they became faster and harder to kill. After I play-tested again, the general experience was a lot higher although some testers still had trouble with the game in the early stage. Sadly for them, it's a horror-survival game. Go play The Sims, you noobs!