Zombie Studios: Shining light on the PS4
So how do you go from developing a military free-to-play FPS to a rather ambitious, procedurally generated survival horror game on PS4? Jared Gerritzen, studio director at Zombie Studios, just needed to tap the right friend who just so happens to be a horror writer that's into exploring abandoned and creepy places as a hobby. You might have heard of current host of the Nerdist News, Jessica Chobot. A conversation sparked an idea, and the next thing you know, Zombie and Chobot are collaborating on a survival horror game. “We partnered with Jessica Chobot, who is a writer in love with the horror genre, to give our environment a storyline and the design really took off from there.”
Zombie had no fear in blazing the trail of development with UE4 on PS4. “You don’t have the opportunity to learn from what other people have done before you. However, you do get to spend a lot of time exploring cool new features and tools long before anyone else has,” says Dull. The recent “Don’t Look Back” trailer not only shows off Daylight’s impressive graphics, but also gives a small taste of its psychological intensity. Daylight takes cues from previous survival horror games that emphasize survival over action and throws a wrench into the works by randomizing the levels in every playthrough. “We knew we had something special with Unreal Engine 4 and the ability to procedurally generate levels, so creating a horror game was a natural choice for us."
Survival horror is on a comeback thanks to recent PC hits like Amnesia, Slender, and Outlast, so hopefully Daylight can fill the survival horror void on consoles. All of those games feature a similar premise -- the player is stuck in a darkened environment with only a light source as your weapon against the shadows of the unknown. Zombie’s intent was to limit player resources in order to create that same immersive atmosphere and environment that preys on players’ fears. In other words, the team wants the horror in Daylight to get in your head. “You wake up in an abandoned hospital as Sarah, with obvious connections to your surroundings, but it’s up to you to figure out what those connections are and get out safely.” The unpredictability of each playthrough will showcase the game’s strength, which is fear of what awaits you around every corner.
What’s in store for Zombie Studios after Blacklight and Daylight? The company is teaming up with SG North on a stylized third-person F2P shooter called Phantom Army. The announcement trailer shows footage that looks something like a cross between Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2. Dull says Zombie has been hard at work on Phantom Army and more news is forthcoming later in the year -- as well as other projects in the works that just aren’t ready to be talked about yet.
I’m looking forward to a full retail rollout of Blacklight: Retribution and to be scared out of my wits by Daylight. Zombie Studios is set to celebrate their 20th anniversary in a big way on the PlayStation 4. Whether it was by design or not, the studio is an important piece of the PS4’s young development.
“2014 is shaping up to be an exciting year for our studio,” says Dull.
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