Welcome to a new edition of Alce Analyzes, where I take something I like or dislike and analyze why it’s good or bad.
A long, long time ago, before I made games, I played a CS 1.6 mod called Zombie Plague. It was a basic zombie infection game; one player starts as a zombie and can infect the others, so the objective is to survive as a human, or to infect everybody you can as a zombie. It was awesome. I just stumbled upon it by chance, but it quickly became the game I played the most. That is, until they shut down the server which I played on. I looked for other servers, but while they had the same base mod, they just weren’t the same thing. In the beginning I blamed the superfluous mods most servers had, but now I’ve realized that that isn’t really the case. In this article I hope to look back at what made that server so special, and analyze it.
The Main Differences
Zombie Plague is a battle between players and zombies, but at first it looks like if zombies are at a great disadvantage. Zombies are slow and can only use melee attacks, while humans use long range guns and are quick. How do the zombies manage to compete with humans, then? The answer is simple: night vision.
It was a simple, but wonderful dynamic. Being fast and having guns is useless if you can’t see your enemy. And as you can guess, this made the game much more exciting. It’s basically a very elegant way of fulfilling one of the basic principles of horror games: to feel scared, you must feel inferior to the enemy to some degree, because if not, you have no reason to fear it. The other fun aspect of this mechanic was resource management that came with it. Humans have two ways to generate light: light grenades and a flashlight. These are both limited; you only have two grenades, and they turn off after a certain amount of time, while the flashlight has a battery that can run out but it recharges automatically if you don’t use it. Managing to see zombies wasn’t only a matter of using your light, it was also a matter knowing when to use it. And, camping forever never worked, because your light would eventually run out.
So, at what am I trying to get to with this? The picture below sums it up pretty well:
As you can see, there is no darkness. And most zombie servers are like this; some lighter and some darker, but always bright enough to spot a zombie without using any item. This ruins all the points I mentioned before, and makes the game… boring.
This one might sound a tad strange at first, but bear with me. In Counter Strike there’s various game modes, and thus different types of maps. There’s a separate category of maps just for zombie mods, and as you can guess they should make the mod more enjoyable to play… not really. Most of the classic defuse maps, like de_dust2, de_nuke, and de_inferno don’t really destroy the atmosphere, and actually work much better mechanically than most of the zombie maps. Why does this happen? I can’t say I’ve studied zombie maps as much as I should have, but I can sum up my main gripe in one picture:
You could call them camping areas. Not to say that you don’t camp in the other maps (it actually happened a lot), but most zombie maps have places specifically made for camping; they’re small, slow to enter, and only have one entrance/exit. This obviously makes it a perfect place for humans… but it’s so boring! It’s basically impossible to get to humans in these rooms as a zombie unless you charge en masse, which really just works because humans have to reload and have limited ammo, not really anything skill related. Most of the maps I mentioned before mostly avoid having these kinds of areas, so wherever you go there will be at least two or three routes through which a zombie can reach the humans. Besides avoiding camping areas, this clean map structure manages to balance the game for both zombies and humans; humans do not have to constantly worry about many directions when looking for a zombie, while zombies have more than one option when trying to infect camping groups.
Zombie Shooting Game
To be honest, I haven’t played many zombie games because they’re not really my thing (I gotta play The Walking Dead at some point though…), but one game I know a bit more about is Left 4 Dead. And really, I feel like that kind of gameplay is what many of these servers try to emulate. The Zombie Plague I’ve been talking about is a kind of zombie survival game; humans have to work together to hunt zombies or simply survive because trying to do it alone is suicide, while zombies have to use their cunning to avoid being detected and shot while still managing to infect people. The Zombie Plague you will find in most servers is a zombie shooting game; humans just have to run around, find zombies and shoot them, while zombies don’t have much more choice than to charge at humans. This gameplay doesn’t make sense in this kind of game, because the zombies are actually human and not just AI controlled enemies. But, it’s what most people like, and thus what most servers have…
Hmm… This got me thinking…
What if I made my own server someday?