If there was a zombie outbreak, do you think you could survive long enough or do you think your time being alive would be short-lived? Would you gather whatever weapon you could in hopes that it just may buy you a little more time or would you have a more strategic outlook on things? I am sure many of us think that we could be alright for the most part, but then other things you have to start to think about such as food, shelter, new ways of protection, and even trusting any others might turn out to be a big mistake. So when I heard that developer, Nichevo Games, was making a zombie game, I wanted to know more. So I reached out and Pete was happy to talk about his game and about Virtual Reality.
Interview with sole developer at Nichevo Games, Pete
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and tell us what you do at Nichevo Games?
“Hello, and thank you for having me! My name is Pete, I’m from London, UK and I am the sole developer at Nichevo Games. So like most indie developers, this means I wear multiple hats.”
Growing up, what was some of your favorite genres of games, and what was the magical VR moment that made you really want to work with VR?
“I grew up starting with the Commodore 64 and then the Amiga, which I loved. Honestly, I liked most genres but I’ve always particularly liked games with some kind of surreal or adventurous element. A good example of this would be the “Frankie Goes To Hollywood” game on the C64, which was a murder mystery game on the surface but had many dreamlike mini-games as well. I spent a lot of time programming small (mostly unfinished) games and tools when I was a teenager. When I later moved onto PC and consoles, I got heavily into games like Quake 2, The Last Of Us, and many others, but I stopped creating my own stuff for a really long time. It wasn’t until I got a VR headset and put it on for the first time that I really thought, “wow, I have to create something for this”. I was blown away, it was so much more immersive than I’d expected. I was excited at the idea of standing inside something I’d created. I soon discovered VRChat and I wanted to make some content there, which resulted in me learning Unity. Things kind of snowballed from there. The thing I like most about making games is getting to tie together multiple creative aspects: the action, a story, music, sometimes film, and with VR it’s happening around you instead of just seeing it on a screen.”
Your newest game, Zombies just released on Steam. What can you tell us about the game and what has the feedback been like for you?
“Zombies is my first “proper” released game. It’s a fairly short but fun game with melee and gun combat, and story elements with voice actors. Being my first game, it’s admittedly a little rough around the edges but I think people will enjoy it! The initial feedback upon release was… let’s say “mixed”, due to a bug or two and a high level of difficulty. It was a little disheartening at first, but I’ve since released some patches and tweaked things, and things have been much more positive since then. I can definitely say I learned a lot with the release of this game, and I’m super confident that my next game will be bigger and better!”
What can you tell us about some of the weapons in the game?
“You begin the game with an ax, which is a little challenging as you’re more easily attacked in close range. You soon move onto a gun, which becomes very handy as the number of zombies increases. There are the standard ammo pickups, but if you run out then you can find more axes around. I do plan to add more variety of weapons in an update fairly soon.”
About how many levels are in the game?
“There are three levels with varying lengths. The first level is intentionally tough as you aren’t spoon-fed directions, you have to explore and search.”
So there really is a secret that the players will learn about how the zombies came to be?
“There is indeed! But I can’t tell you what it is, because then it wouldn’t be a secret.”
Are there any future DLC planned for Zombies?
“There won’t be any DLC. The release of this game was partly for a learning experience for myself, so at this point, I want to take the things I’ve learned and move onto a new project. But I will be updating Zombies a little here and there, like with the extra weapons I mentioned. As it’s a partly open-world game, it is definitely possible to expand on the core game some more, but I want to see how things go.”
What has been the most challenging when making Zombies for VR?
“Time was the most challenging thing overall! As I work full-time, it was extremely difficult to fit in development time as well. But as for VR specifically? Well, there things you can get away with in a desktop game that you can’t in VR. As a small example, on desktop, if you press a button and your character performs a hitting movement, that’s that. But in VR, you’re able to do anything. Your arms could be flailing around all over the place, hitting things with varying force, and things can feel very “off” if they aren’t reacting appropriately.”
Is there anything that has surprised you when trying to work with different control schemes for the game?
“Not with the controller types (it supports Valve Index, Oculus Touch and Vive Wands). But after asking friends, I was surprised how many prefer snap-turning over smooth turning. That is, turning in 30 degree increments instead of turning smoothly. To me it feels a bit jarring, I definitely prefer smooth turning for this kind of game in particular. But each to their own!”
What type of fun did you have when creating the graphics for the game that the player may not be aware of?
“Haha, well one thing that immediately comes to mind is that not all the NPCs have facial animations. So the solution? Give them a face mask! It seemed fitting for current times. Another thing is that I like to incorporate real-world elements, so I hunted down some public domain movies which play within the game. You can watch the whole of “Night Of The Living Dead” in the cinema if you want.
Is standing really the best option for the game or is there a seated option for those that prefer to sit versus standing?
“I didn’t add a seated option, the game uses your real height. After thinking about the VR games I’ve played, I found myself mostly standing while playing games in this genre because it seemed more natural. In hindsight though, it may have been a good idea to add a seated option for those unable to stand, so it’s something I would do in the future.”
Are there any plans to bring Zombies to other VR platforms such as the Oculus Store, PlayStation VR, and/or Viveport in the future?
“It’s very unlikely to come to PlayStation VR, but I am considering the Oculus Store and Viveport – I will need to look into any potential compatibility issues etc. Right now it’s only on Steam, but it will also be available on Itch.io pretty soon.”
Now that Zombies is complete and out on Steam, what would you say would be the top three things that you learned that you will implement with your next project?
“As I mentioned before, fitting it in with my day job was tricky, I would say it was a major issue. So next time I may look into doing a Kickstarter campaign so that I’m able to spend more time working on it and deliver a more fleshed-out, polished game. Second thing is testing! Although I did have beta testers, the initial feedback on release highlighted how differently people were playing the game. So yeah, more extensive testing. And lastly, marketing. As this was my first game, I was almost scared of showing it off at times, which obviously led to few people even knowing about the game. But I feel a lot more prepared for next time, and I guess that’s what a first game is all about, from a developers point of view I mean.”
If you entered a door and it opened a world filled with zombies, how do you think you would do and what would be the best weapon for your survival?
“I think I’d do pretty well. After many nights of staying up until 3AM coding, I’m brain-dead anyway… they wouldn’t be interested! But no, I think I’d go for a lawnmower… if you’ve seen the movie Braindead/Dead Alive, that has to be one of the most effective weapons ever!”
With the library of VR continuing to grow, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Zombies?
“We all know that there are plenty of zombie games out there. But I think mine has some pretty original aspects, a fun story and if you’re just looking for a short enjoyable game then I think Zombies delivers!”
I really want to thank Pete for taking the time out of his busy schedule and to give us a closer look at Zombies as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
Zombies is out now on Steam.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.