An open-world zombie survival-horror title from a small, indie studio. Sound ambitious enough? Undead Labs partnered with Microsoft Games Studios to release their title State Of Decay on the Xbox 360, though there is a PC port scheduled, as well. This probably means that they won’t be partnering with Microsoft again, if Indie Game: The Movie is to be trusted in terms of how much of a pain Microsoft is to work with in terms of publishing.

I was lucky enough to score an interview with Sanya Weathers, Community Director at Undead Labs. I’ve been looking forward to their title for a long time, since it was announced a few years back. Look for CHUD’s review when the game drops in early 2013.

Rob: What are your personal zombie survival scenarios?

Sanya Weathers: Our producer is planning to fill the bathtub with water and barricade her door – she’s on top of a building, so as long as the water holds out, she’s safe. One of our designers, on the other hand, is hyper-prepared with go-bags, weapons, a remote cabin on an island, and extra fuel for the car.

Rob: What are some of the influences for State of Decay?

SW: We can’t list them all. I think everyone on the team has their favorites, so I don’t want to claim one batch has primacy over another. It’s safe to say we’re coming at SoD with a deep passion for the zombie genre as a whole.

Rob: How big is the actual world of the game?

SW: 16 square kilometers, half of it playable. It feels enormous.

Rob: The game is taking the concept of an open world and extending it a bit further by allowing players to pillage a grocery store or police station. To what level can we expect the world to remain persistent? As a player, if we pillage an area or destroy something, does that thing remain destroyed?

SW: It’s a persistent world. Once a crate is looted, it stays looted. If you wreck a car past your mechanic’s ability to repair it, there’s one less car in the world. After you eat all the food at the quickie mart, you’ll have to grow more or starve. Ammo is also finite unless you build a machine shop. And of course, if a survivor dies, he stays dead.

Rob: How has Day Z impacted development? Players seem to thrive in that game’s “grounded in reality” approach to the zombie apocalypse.

SW: We have been in development for several years, so our only reaction to seeing another realistic zombie game was delight. This isn’t a zero sum thing, so the more great games, the more players there are.

We’re going for something pretty unique, anyway. In State of Decay, you play as and manage a whole community of civilian survivors in an open world apocalyptic simulator. You’ll build and upgrade your base, and decide strategy in a game where there are multiple right answers to the question of “how do you survive?” As Jeff says, there’s a great mix of stealth, action, and long-term strategy that’s unlike anything else out there.

Rob: The multiplayer portion of the game was recently cut. How will other survivors factor into a player’s experience? Will they be able to use weapons and defend a safe haven from the undead?

SW: We certainly hope to offer a coop mode after launch. The whole concept of other survivors is entirely intact, and the answers to your questions are “the other survivors are the experience” and “yes.”

Rob: Are there any secret weapons in the game? Anything on the Dead Island or Dead Rising scale of ridiculous?

SW: We’re going for a more realistic vibe. The craziest we get is on some acrobatic “finishing” moves in hand to hand combat. As for secrets… if I tell you, they won’t be secrets!

Rob: Xcom: Enemy Unknown creates an all-new experience for players, not following a particular storyline, generating the scenario and situation as the game progresses. State of Decay seems to be doing something similar. Are there any “tentpole” missions or anything like that in State of Decay?

SW: We have two types of missions. Story missions, and dynamic missions that are generated based on your choices and actions.

The story stuff is 10-15 hours of gameplay, and takes you from the beginning of the outbreak to the end of the valley. Some of those stories will trigger irreversible world events. It’s a terrific, engaging plot, but I expect most of our core fans will be more interested in the sandbox gameplay.

Rob: You guys have all worked so hard on the game, how rewarding was the PAX experience?

SW: Dude. It was AWESOME. And stories from the event are still being published. We feel fortunate and inspired.

Rob: Are there any additional content packages planned for release? DLC?

SW: Let us get State of Decay out the door first! We hope there’s a demand from our community for more State of Decay goodness post launch.

Rob: State of Decay is apparently a stepping stone to something called Class4. Can you expound on what that is, and what players can expect down the line?

SW: Easy. Class4 is the code name for our massive online game using the same mechanics, systems, and story. We’re going to be taking feedback on our concepts from our community in order to build a kickass world.

There you have it! State of Decay launches in early 2013, so keep your eyes on CHUD for the review! Thanks again to Sanya Weathers and Undead Labs for taking the time to spread the word about State of Decay!

*All images courtesy of Undead Labs

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