Stubbs the Zombie Interview

Stubbs the Zombie Interview

Written by The GN Staff on 10/18/2005 for

One of the most original games I saw at E3 this year was Stubbs the Zombie from Wideload games.  Wideload games was founded by a group of ex-Bungine employees so it wasn't too much of a surprise to see that the game was using a heavily modified version of the Halo engine.  What was a surprise was that there was actually a new, original idea out there and that it was actually quite a bit of fun to play. 

We got a chance to submit some questions to Matt Soell, the lead writer at Wideload Games about the inpiration behind the game and what gamers can expect when it hits shelves on October 18th.

GamingNexus: How did the idea of being the zombie instead of killing the zombie come about?
Matt Soelll:
We were consciously trying to come up with ideas that were different but not completely abstract – something we could explain in a simple sentence.  We knew we wanted it to be an action game with a sense of humor and so, while we were all off brainstorming separately, I tried to imagine the wildest, most chaotic scene I could because I knew that would lend itself to both action and comedy.  So I've got this picture in my mind of a city in chaos – people running around screaming, bodies in the streets, buildings on fire, explosions and gunfire everywhere – and when I took it as far as it could go naturally, I thought "...and that's when the dead come back to life and things really go nuts."  At that point it seemed obvious that what we wanted was a game where the player could create that chaos and destroy Rome in a day, so to speak.  Games are full of zombies, but they're always the bad guys – so obviously a game from the zombie's point of view was long overdue.  Everyone is familiar with the idea of zombies – how they act, what they do – but they've never been in the position of thinking like a zombie.  So it was a way of doing something that was different without being a totally foreign concept.

GamingNexus: How long as the game been in development?
Matt Soelll:
About two years.

GamingNexus: The game is being developed for both the Xbox and PC, will there be any differences between platforms?
Matt Soell
l:
I think the only difference is that the Xbox version will have two-player co-op.

GamingNexus: Zombies are generally not interesting characters; they rarely have anything to say, they are usually pretty two dimensional when it comes to character development, and they tend to be on the slow side.  Did you view this as a concern going in to the development of this game?
Matt Soelll:
Not really, because we decided at the outset that it was more important to make a fun game than to adhere slavishly to zombie conventions.  We knew that Stubbs would have to exude more character than most zombies to be successful as a protagonist; otherwise he'd just be this hideous, brain-eating, farting monster.

GamingNexus: Can you describe the plot of the game and what gamers can expect?
Matt Soelll:
The game begins in 1959, when the city of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania is first revealed to the world.   Punchbowl is the brainchild of Andrew Monday, a billionaire playboy who uses his considerable wealth to make Punchbowl the most technologically advanced city of its time.  Monday unveils Punchbowl to the world one sunny summer morning, and the streets are filled with curious tourists and happy Punchbowl citizens.  Unfortunately for them, Stubbs the Zombie crawls out of the ground in the middle of downtown Punchbowl, which was built directly over his grave.  Stubbs was a traveling salesman back when he was alive, so he knows what it's like to be pushed around and insulted by people...and now that he's a zombie, he decides he doesn't have to take that kind of abuse any more.  The game follows Stubbs as he cuts a swath of destruction through Punchbowl, searching for answers, vengeance, true love, and tasty brains.  Not necessarily in that order.

GamingNexus: Why set the game in Pennsylvania?
Matt Soelll:
Maybe Pennsylvania seemed like a good place to build a retro-futurist city.  They've got all that land, you know.  And maybe it's a little nod to a famous zombie movie that was filmed in that state.

GamingNexus: Zombies to fall into two categories, slow zombies and fast zombies.  Stubbs to be one of the slower, more classical zombies…was there ever any consideration for going with the faster zombie route?
Matt Soelll:
We definitely used the classical zombies as a template, but we always had the goal of a fun action game foremost in our minds.  We spent a lot of time tweaking Stubbs' running speed until we found a sweet spot.  Stubbs will actually break into a sprint if he's running for a prolonged stretch, but he probably won't win any Olympic medals.

GamingNexus: We have seen a number of impressive tricks Stubbs is capable of performing, will you gain new abilities as you progress through the game?  Or are you able to perform all of your skills at the start of the game?
Matt Soelll:
Stubbs can eat brains and cut loose with some unholy flatulence at the very beginning, but everything else is introduced gradually over the course of the game.

GamingNexus: How many levels will be in the final game?
Matt Soelll:
I believe we have twelve separate segments, last time I checked.

GamingNexus: We know that it uses the Halo engine, but will fans of Halo’s fast action and chaotic battles be interested in Stubbs?  Are these gamers your target audience, or are you going after gamers who might normally shy away from first person shooters?
Matt Soelll:
There's plenty of fast action and chaotic battle in Stubbs.  I think our target audience consists of people who enjoy action games and want something a little different from the norm.  That certainly includes many Halo fans as well as people who might not be into first person shooters as a rule.  It also includes zombie fans (and fans of horror-themed games in general), third-person shooter fans, and anyone who enjoys games with a sense of humor.

GamingNexus: The demo showed at E3 was very reminiscent of “Night of the Living Dead”, will there be other homage’s in the final game?
Matt Soelll:
Sure.  We didn't limit ourselves to zombie movies though.

GamingNexus: Stubbs is an extremely unique concept, the type you rarely see in modern day video games.  Do you feel that the major companies are ignoring these types of interesting concepts, and do you envision a future where more bizarre concepts come to fruition?
Matt Soelll:
There's no question that a lot of big publishers are afraid of any game that isn't a sequel to an established franchise or a licensed property.  At the same time, you have games like Katamari Damacy that come straight out of left field and end up being sleeper hits.  I think there is a market for unusual games but I think for the most part they will remain the province of independent developers like Wideload.

GamingNexus: Does the game offer any form of multiplayer options?  If so can you expand on what we can expect, and whether or not it will be strictly competitive rather than co-operative?
Matt Soelll:
There is a two-player co-op option in the Xbox version – you and a friend can lay waste to Punchbowl as Stubbs and his fellow zombie, Grubbs.

GamingNexus: I noticed in the E3 demo of Stubbs that there appeared to be more than one way to complete the goals.  Is this amount of depth something you are striving for on all missions, or will some be straight-forward and linear?
Matt Soelll:
We tried to build encounters that allow for a great deal of freedom; most of the time, Stubbs has several different options at his disposal.  There are a few situations where you have to do things a certain way – for example, you can't win the dance battle by possessing the other guy, you've gotta get out there and strut your stuff – but those are the exceptions to the rule.

GamingNexus: Was there anything that you came up with in development that you thought was a little too over the top/gruesome and had to cut from the game?
Matt Soelll:
In a word, no.  We were trying to make a humorous game, so the more over-the-top it became, the better we liked it.

GamingNexus: Could you talk about the multiplayer support in the game? Will you be able to play it online or is it strictly a split screen experience.
Matt Soell
l:
We didn't build an online multiplayer component for this game.  Xbox Live doesn't feel right for Stubbs; we're waiting for Xbox Undead.

We’d like to thank Matt for taking the time to talk to us and we’re looking forward to munching some brains when the game hits store shelves on October 18th.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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