I know some of ya might just want the links and maybe not so much on the reading:
Trailer: WATCH THE TRAILER
Link to download the game: NOW AVAILABLE ON APPLE ARCADE
Hello fellow Polycount pixel junkies. I'm super excited to share our new project from Ember Entertainment coming soon to Apple Arcade! It's SurvivalZ! One part action, one part tower defense, rouge-lite. I've been making games for various studios for over 20 years, and this will be my first release with Ember Entertainment as well as my first Art Director credit. We would love to hear your feedback on the game, as well as impressions post launch! For now let's check out some art!
The art team for SurvivalZ was very small, about 4 artists on the project, I took on environments, VFX, lighting, managing outsourcing, and principle asset creation, while the other artists handled concept art, animation, and UI . We outsourced some, but a lot of stuff was built in-house. I wanted to further evolve a style I explored while at King working on Paradise Bay; I wanted to take it and modernize it somewhat. It's a mix of old school techniques with some newness for speed of production, and a slight PBR methodology touch on top. I think overall we landed in a good spot visually, but also being very performant across many devices (hitting 60fps on mid to high end mobile devices).
To get things rolling here is some Key Art.
I created these images near the end of production. Once we had a lot of levels and enemies we posed some of them out and then had assets we could place in editor within environments already created or with assets used in a specific theme (forest, neighborhood, town, city). These images mainly serve as backdrops for splash screens and marketing images.
The levels themselves were constructed in Unity; The levels were super fun to assemble and provided a lot of opportunity to explore different times of day and types of atmosphere. The game is pretty non-linear and maps are loaded in randomly per zone, so it meant I could have a lot of flexibility on the location and overall vibe of the area.
I decided not to share all of our levels, as we have over 50+!!! The environments for SurvivalZ were SUPER fun to assemble, as it reminded me greatly of putting together really intricate lego sets. A few years ago Lego started making the "modular building collection" with a bunch of interlocking city themed buildings and areas. We were inspired and took that theme and applied it to a little darker tone, and obviously shaved off the block nubs to save on frame-rate. Another inspiration was model train dioramas. Pinterest was a goldmine of inspiration.
I worked on a few of the early buildings for SurvivalZ to establish our target poly-count, scale and modularity, also worked out our AO baking process since I didn’t want to use real-time AO, and for our lighting I didn’t want to be waiting on lightmaps to bake in Unity (also that means larger download bundle sizes depending on your lightmap resolutions)....so we baked out the AO in Maya/Arnold, authored some shaders for vertex lighting, and almost all of the assets in SurvivalZ share four to five texture sheets. Our download size is less than 200mb. During preproduction I was focused on direction, mood boards and crafting a visual benchmark for the other artists and outsourcing. I wish I could have made a lot more of these unique buildings, but the few I did get the opportunity to craft were a blast to create.
The player’s character in the game gets access to this boss truck at the beginning of the game, the thought was that over time and future updates/releases we'd allow the player to beef up the truck, and thus allow the player to get to more "extreme" places in terms of distance away from home base and withstanding harsher weather/environments.
I made a few of the other vehicles in the game to further establish the style and proportions. The night market truck was super fun, as it's a retrofitted RV kitted out with a survival shop. A used car salesman character is featured at the night market as he sells ya goods and upgrades.
At one point in the design we played with the mechanic of capturing enemy survivors from other towns. You'd be able to keep them at your base and then interrogate them in order to gather info on new locations, zombie types, secret supply caches and given enough time...they'd convert to your clan and you'd be able to welcome them to your party.
We also had a light resource mechanic where you could harvest and grow food at your hub so eventually you'd be able to grow your stamina bar, and also pack extra supplies when you headed out to explore levels.
Have to have a workbench to upgrade those weapons. Fully upgradeable.
Most of the terrain in survivalZ is flat so we didn't have to worry about a lot of height variations for combat, as well as going this route meant it’d ease the complexity of level assembly. Knowing we wanted a TON of levels, going this route meant we could generate a variety of levels quickly. It had it’s advantages, but we did sacrifice visuals somewhat by not allowing for stairs, drop down cliffs, or true shorelines. Most players probably won't even notice anyway. It also made AI navmesh creation a breeze.
As part of the economy we explored gathering resources while out in the wild, finding cloth, wood, plastic, glass, or metal meant you could craft new items once you returned back to camp.
Lots of random little props and do-dads to add life into the game. At one point we were thinking you'd salvage these items from the environments to then turn into resources to protect your camp/base. This turned into feature creep and sadly the idea was shelved, but we got a ton of fun little assets out of it.
Your home base could be retrofitted with defenses, sadly this too was scrapped as the mechanics were never really fleshed out, and we didn't have the team size needed to pull this feature off. Project scope always needs to be a part of the development process; and so this is as far as we got, we had a ton of great ideas for making the buildings a weapon you could use to fight off the hordes of zombies. Starting with barriers, and then moving towards upgraded barriers that did damage to attacking foes.
Another part of the economy that got cut, you could raise chickens!!! We also had a zombie chicken at some point, but didn't have bandwidth to animate him. Maybe for a later update! Fingers crossed.
These are a few of the traps you can place in the game, it's part of our tower defense gameplay where you setup defenses before zombie waves come into attack.
Got to collect those power-ups! The jelly bomb and jumbo jelly are faves, when they explode they make a large pool of goop that slow the zombies down....
That's it for now, I've got more images I'm working on that I'll probably share next week or closer to launch. In the meantime, hit that like button and please consider downloading Apple Arcade (or the free trial) to check out SurvivalZ when we launch later this month!
- Thanks for dropping by, happy hunting!