Fort Zombie as the seed of an epic ZRPG?

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Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:46 am

Fort Zombie as the seed of an epic ZRPG?

Post by Imgran » Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:47 am

Hear me out.

You've got the skeleton of a fantastic game here -- I love the map generation and the fact that every mission has its own character. I love the buildup to the final battle. I love the characters and the writing in the backstories is superb.

My problem is that ultimately the game tends to end just as it's getting good. Fort Zombie as it is right now reads like Chapter 1, a sample reader for a grander plot, if you take my meaning. I want Chapters 2 thru 21. You've got my appetite whetted for them and I think it's within your creative potential to develop the epic plot I see buried in the strands.

What you have are set pieces, characters, a powerful villain, and a surprisingly visceral setting. The building blocks of the epic zombie RPG series is in there -- but the villain never shows up as more than "why are there zombies" and doesn't even really need to exist as such for the current setting. A lot of very good writing is going unusued other than as easter eggs, hanging on the wall as Chekov's guns that never actually fire.

What I see here is, quite frankly, the first chapter of an epic series of the quest of humanity to survive and ultimately rout the unseen villain, Fam La. I see the cornerstone of a larger construct that could, I think, be created without sacrificing the spirit of the original game.

As for how to segue from the fort itself to a greater epic series? Simplicity itself. You have two easy options here without even exploring the really creative ones.

1: If Piety Indiana is the setting for the entire story, then the segue is simple: Fam La is not particularly pleased with the defiance of the Pietites, and will use its control to bring disaster, chaos and destruction wherever it can -- along with many, many zombies. The Indianapolis wave has been quelled through the valor of the Pietites, but it's simple enough in principle to introduce a much larger "Chicago wave" for which Reilly must unite all the surviving Pietites, along with anyone he can from surrounding towns as well, just to stand a chance. Any and all means to build, construct, and implement communications, supplies and additional weapons and inspire the survivors need to be explored to their fullest or the flame kindled by Fort Piety will quickly gutter and die. The same mission formats as before, with perhaps new supplies to gather, a steady trickle of new survivors inspired by Ben's radio signal to find, rescue, and put to use, possibly even new equipment to create and a more robust set of traps as the emboldened but still grimly pressed Pietites begin preparing for the greater war they know will come...

2: If you don't mind moving from place to place then possibly a wagon train format might work -- possibly based on the Costly Victory -- Reilly's faction scrounging a few vehicles, scoring fuel when they can, and moving on when the tanks are full, holding off wave after wave in makeshift forts as they seek a place of safety that will permit humanity to endure and survive. Set up your base, gather rumors, and run missions where you are until you have the supplies to move further, perhaps even following a rumor of other places where humanity may have made a stand. Or, alternatively, seek to strike out by stages and find a way to cut this menace off at the head and defeat Fam La in open battle. Either way, perhaps a small group of determined people could slip through where armies failed, and if you can get some answers, through science, through mystical forces, or through the subtle but powerful influence the Lord of Light still holds in the world, perhaps a permanent solution can still be found.

And in the meantime, the obvious question of ongoing creation of supplies, particularly food, awaits an answer along either path. One can't live on looting picked-over gas stations forever, and Theodosius Ashton's backstory suggests that that answer is not a particularly easy one. Certainly not as easy as planting seeds in the soil of Piety and expecting them to grow as they always have. To ensure the survival of humanity, the first postapocalyptic crop must be planted and harvested -- and must, therefore, be protected both from the depredations of the zombies themselves, and from the curses of Fam La. Whether the solution is mystical (the Witch/The Seer), religious (the Holy Man) or scientific (The Healer/The Scientist), or a combination of all three? Could easily be a matter for exploring within a larger framework. Preferably openended, with victory conditions opening up on any point of the axis, although I fully recognize the developmental nightmare that could create, and just how much dead weight it could add to a simple, pleasurable game if done wrong.

This leaves a greater game with several possible standards of victory, depending on where the creators want to take the tale. Any of the following victory conditions for a larger story would make a clearer victory than the simple defeat of the Indianapolis wave.

I could suggest that a purely Pietite greater story could be based on three victory conditions

1: A completed crop of grown food, sufficient to feed the fort, in soil protected from Fam La by some permanent means -- either mystical (a ritual appeasing Fam La?), religious (a process of sanctification?) or scientific/technical (hydroponic technology perhaps?).
2: Contact with survivors from the world outside Piety, Indiana, through the construction and use of the radio. Whoever is out there, you are not alone.
3: The defeat of a Chicago wave announcing that Fort Piety is not a fluke.

Perhaps the more freeroving quest could be less keyed on longterm survival in a place, and more on finding the rest of humanity and possibly a more active contest with the influence of Fam La. On the move supplies might be easier to come by, as some regions would have fallen by storm and been completely abandoned, but morale is a much bigger concern, the old get tired and the young get depressed much more easily, and Fam La stalks in the mind of all, waiting to pounce on the despairing and the despondent. And the more survivors Fam La claims, the more vulnerabilities it finds to exploit in the remainder. Here I would expect an active story to be told, through scripted events, clues, conversations, etc, rather than a more Sim City exxque ZRPG environment with victory conditions reached by whatever means possible. Here the objective is either to get to a place (a Zionic quest, or an El Dorado quest, depending on whether the intent be that such a stronghold actually be found) or a series of endgame missions culminating in a boss fight with Fam La and the destruction of whatever locus or phylactery binds it to this world.

Either way, the epic potential at the end of the story that Fort Zombie begins is very much there to be seen, and I hope that someday, budget permitting, time permitting, artistic inspiration permitting, it can be told.

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