If you’ve been online in the last year, you’ve probably read a Kickstarter success story. In particular, crowd funding has been a great way for talented developers to make a game that fans want, but publishers aren’t likely to fund. Such was the case with DoubleBear Productions, who raised more than double their goal to develop the zombie RPG Dead State.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of Dead State or you donated to the project, you may find it interesting to learn more about DoubleBear founder Brian Mitsoda, who previously worked on such games as Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. He tells us about his start in the gaming industry, why he went the indie route for Dead State, and what we can expect from the zombie RPG:
Our readers may not instantly be familiar with DoubleBear Productions, but they are familiar with the games you’ve worked on. Can you tell us a bit about your experience in the gaming industry with Black Isle, Troika, and Obsidian?
Brian Mitsoda: I started out in Interplay QA, went on to design at Black Isle, landed a job at Troika shortly after that, and worked at Obsidian for a few years after Troika closed. Every game I’ve ever worked on has either been an RPG or had an RPG aspect to the gameplay, as well as a strong branching story/dialogue component. DoubleBear’s first game, Dead State, is built on that decade of experience and the experience/love of RPGs by the team.
After working on so many popular publisher-backed RPG’s what made you decide to go the indie route?
Brian Mitsoda: Really short answer – it was the only way to make the game we wanted to make. It’s just not viable to do a modern day RPG with mature content and a branching narrative. You just never know what your game is going to end up like when working with a publisher, especially when you’re a new studio.
Did you know that this was going to be a crowd funded game from the beginning? Had you pitched this to big game publishers originally?
Brian Mitsoda: No, we never pitched this game to publishers. We wanted to do it on our own, and Kickstarting the game really helped speed up the production process. We always wanted to have control over our own work and own the rights.
I love the idea of a true zombie RPG, because it hasn’t really been done before. Personally, I’m getting worn out with the same fantasy settings being used in so many RPG’s. Was that part of the reason you wanted to go with Dead State as the first DoubleBear game?
Brian Mitsoda: I’m not a huge fan of fantasy, or to clarify, not a huge fan of the “look it’s elves, dragons, and magic again” games of the last twenty years. There’s a lack of RPGs set in modern day, and the zombie apocalypse/survival setting lends itself well to looting and difficult story decisions. You’re still taking everything in sight and getting into combat, but because of the theme, your character doesn’t come off as a psychotic kleptomaniac. Horror isn’t really used as a basis for many RPGs either, so that was also a strong reason to do Dead State.
Not only did you meet your fund raising goal, but you more than doubled it. How will this extra funds be used?
Brian Mitsoda: The funds will be used exactly how we said they would – more weapons, post-release support, animals, and extra areas. We’ve hired on an additional programmer already and will be staffing up further in the near future.
The game is planned to be open-ended. Does that also include alternate endings? How many alternate outcomes do you have planned?
Brian Mitsoda: Endings all depend on where you go, who’s in the shelter, how you’ve interacted with other groups, and your own skills. There are quite a few ways the game can end. And it even can end earlier as a result of your failures to keep your shelter together.
The game is said to take a serious look at surviving a zombie outbreak. What gameplay mechanics are unique to Dead State or that you think will help separate it from other RPG’s? How will zombie bites and searching for food/resources be handled?
Brian Mitsoda: For one, our companion characters can permanently die or leave. There’s a strong leadership aspect of the game, which means providing for the needs of your allies and making decisions that will shape the way your shelter approaches major issues like crime, starvation, infection, or defense. We simulate a small society of normal people under extreme pressure rather than a band of adventurers – it’s going to feel a lot different than the relationships and conversations in most RPGs.
How long do you think it will take the average person to complete the game? Are you planning on this to be a 60+ hr game?
Brian Mitsoda: We’re saying 50+ hours right now, but for those that try to experience every bit of gameplay, I’m pretty sure it will be higher. We want the player to be able to replay the game and have new experiences/content, so we don’t want it to be unbearably long.
Currently the game is only listed for the PC. With the extra funding, do you think an Xbox 360/PSN port is likely?
Brian Mitsoda: I don’t think so. It would be a whole different project and from what I can see, the cost is probably not worth it. Let’s see what happens with the next-gen consoles.
We’ve already seen an early look of the game. How much work has been completed already and when do you expect the game will be released?
Brian Mitsoda: What you’ve seen is pre-alpha and is still being worked on. For example, the shelter in the video has already seen a lot of detail go into making it a bit more functional and prettier. We’re still working on improving combat, finishing up a dialogue first pass, and working on character models and props. We’re still aiming for a December 2013 release.
With the Kickstarter campaign wrapped up, how can our readers help support the game? Will you be looking for feedback on game design/options?
Brian Mitsoda: Enthusiasm is great – we love reading the boards and hearing from our fans. We should be opening a pre-order site at some point for those that missed the Kickstarter. As far as feedback goes, we’ve already received a lot of it on our forum and will solicit it from our beta-testers when we start testing the game.
When did your love of zombies begin? What are some of your favorite zombie movies/books?
Brian Mitsoda: I’m not a complete fan of the genre, but the original Romero trilogy had a huge influence on me, especially Dawn of the Dead. Since I started working on the game, I’ve read and enjoyed Max Brooks’ World War Z. Unfortunately, the zombie apocalypse genre hasn’t always lent itself to the strongest movies, books, and games. We want to be one of those projects that get it right.