Grave Days - Zombie Apocalypse Survival

edited in Projects
I've started working on Grave Days again about 4 weeks ago - making it the 3rd time I am trying to make the game from scratch and also the 3rd time sharing it here. I've at least reused some assets, but the code is all from scratch. This might not always be the best idea but I feel that in this case it was the right thing to do to just start it over.

For the records, here is the first version: http://makegamessa.com/discussion/76/grave-days-game-prototype
And the second version: http://makegamessa.com/discussion/2194/grave-days-alpha

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Summary
Briefly, the game is set in a Zombie Apocalypse. The core game-play element is about avoiding zombies, primarily as stealth, but also as running away and trying to get back into a stealthy position. Elements of combat are also tied into stealth. If you shoot and make a lot of noise, you will attract a horde. This forces you to make quick decisions and try to keep your finger off the trigger unless you feel it is necessary (or perhaps until you have enough ammo to take care of an entire horde).

Positions Available
- We are currently looking for a Pixel Artist: makegamessa.com/discussion/5379/pixel-artist-looking-for-a-pixel-artist-to-work-on-grave-days-semi-paid#latest

Feedback Wanted
If you'd like to give it a shot and give me feedback, you can download the game here: https://denzilb55.itch.io/grave-days

I'm open to any and all feedback - and my feelings recover at twice the rate of a normal human's - so don't hold back. Specific feedback I am looking for right now:
- Do the mouse and keyboard controls feel clunky? If so, plz halp. Currently you can use WASD to move in cardinal directions (which is most useful for combat), you can hold right click to move towards the cursor (which is most useful for running around) and as an optional bonus to confuse everybody, you can hold Q (remappable) to keep going in your current direction - which is pretty useful for fending off zombies on your ass without needing to stop or change direction.

- Does the stealth feel effective? I mean, does it actually feel like you are winning at the game when you are staying stealthy? PS, you can tell you are stealthy by the lack of zombies chasing you, OR by looking at your aura. If its blue, you are good!

Some Gameplay Footage




Background
If you are interested in what I am trying to make, a more in depth description follows.

There is of course no short supply of zombies games, or survival games. Yet I am trying to make this survival zombie game and I am trying to make it feel unique. I think the most similar game for comparison would be project zomboid, though I would like to make this a bit more fast paced (though I have not actually played zomboid enough, so I might be wrong) and with some Roguelite features to set it apart. Over the next few iterations I'd like to start focusing on survivors, their role in the world and how you interact with them, which will hopefully always be unique in how the mechanics work (trading, recruiting, betraying, etc)

After watching this episode of extra credits I became inspired to start working on Grave Days again. I think how he describes it is how I want my Post Apocalyptic zombie world to feel like. The zombies themselves are weak, slow and unintelligent. They are pretty good at following you through a door way but can't really even navigate it themselves if they haven't been watching you.

So in fact, zombies are a pretty underwhelming and inferior opponent. Though what makes them terrifying is is the persistent threat that they present. Their numbers can quickly become overwhelming if you don't deal with them properly. When dealing with them, if you don't take care, your situation can soon get worse. Either by drawing in more zombies or a longer, more persistent threat. You could get infected which triggers random bouts of fever that get worse over time, that makes a challenging situation even worse.

The last threat that they give, and perhaps the most noteworthy, is the threat of society collapsing. Survivors are quick to turn on each other and you don't know who to trust. This makes it even harder to deal with the threat. I am hoping to bring all these ideas in.

Finally, I'd like to set Grave Days apart by introducing some Roguelike elements with some unlocks and persistent world changes that carry on through playthroughs. Though of course, Death Road to Canada is another Roguelite zombie game - but it is pretty amazing in my opinion so I'd love to work on something similar

It's ambitious, but I think I can get far. At the very least, the game has 2 fans. My girlfriend and I :)

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Comments

  • Haven't played it yet, but just looking at the trailer, I like the ambience you've got there, with the creepy background music, and the limited vision/line of sight to add to the survival/fear factor. :)

    I think your grass is a too green and too saturated. (It's currently a saturated grass that you'd use in a kid's fantasy). I imagine a browner/yellower, less saturated variant would fit your theme and lighting better.

    I enjoy seeing people recreating their previous games, largely because I like seeing what changes they make each time around (and why they think those were the problems), and how their scope changes each time. :P
  • @Elyaradine Thanks!

    @Timothy is possibly going to help out with all or some of the art and his colors are a bit less saturated which I agree suits the theme better

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    I would've expected my scope to contract a bit - and I suppose I've toned back my grandiose ideas in my head - but the scope for the most part is more or less the same, perhaps even inflated a bit. Though at least I have a pretty clear plan about how to go ahead, and I've structured it in a way that even if I fall short it won't matter, because the essential parts of the game play in my opinion is done already and everything I add now are just extras.

    I've learnt a lot about scoping from Control Shift. I guess the reason I'm not taking all those lessons to heart is because I made Control Shift to try and make a finished game. I'm just working on Grave Days to the point where I get bored I suppose, which I don't expect to be soon because I just love making this game :) Also, I can see my skills have improved because some challenges that seemed insurmountable previous are either trivial now or in some cases no more than a day's work, so the progress is much better too. Also helped that Control Shift taught me how to really use Unity much better and I'm pretty fond of it now.
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  • What intrigues me the most about this project is the tactical decisions of survival constantly interrupted by reactive decisions.

    So I am thinking about this survival game called The Long Dark where you constantly need to make these tactical decisions in order to survive but with your setup you can have these essential tactical thoughts interrupted with constant reactive decisions. Which adds an extra edge, its almost like playing a survival game while being intoxicated. Which I personally find interesting because normally you would be free to make those tactical decisions within a limited time frame and that adds some mental challenge but having your line of thought interrupted adds this new layer of mental discipline which could force you to have to plan a few steps ahead?

  • @Asriele Yeah that's exactly the feel I am going for. Eventually I'd like to give the player a bit of a break because I think it can get quite taxing playing like that for a long time, but I do find it quite engaging and watching other people play it I am feeling positive that I'm hitting the right notes. My ideas for a "break" would be some light base building and crafting. But I don't want it to detract from the core idea of scavenging and dealing with what you described.
    Thanked by 1Asriele
  • I've uploaded a new update which introduces chests and an inventory, and a few other things too: https://denzilb55.itch.io/grave-days/devlog/28788/grave-days-chests-inventory-update-is-here

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    The UI is still a bit clunky. I used the Inventory Pro plugin from the Unity asset store. I half regret buying that instead of just writing my own from scratch, but I suppose I wouldn't have been able to get something functional and decent looking so fast. Just had to deal with some annoying bugs, in particular with the controller support - which made me feel like I could've rather spent time on my own solution. But hey the full source available (all 400 mb of it :( ) and it is indeed quite modifiable. Definitely recommended if you want to make a very generic RPG-like inventory system and will only use mouse and keyboard.

    I also integrated the Rewired from the asset store. This is an absolute yes! I think I had a grin on my face all the way while integrating this. Especially if you plan to have controller support. It allows you to remap controls from different input sources with different input maps, layouts and categories. It's simple to integrate and just works.

    From here on, I'll start adding more items to the game and work on improving the level generation.
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  • edited
    I'm trying out some of the early access features on itch. Probably too soon for real early access but just experimenting. But I don't want to limit anyone that might actually want to test the game on channels that I am part of, so here's a download key for anyone here that might want to try it out:

    https://denzilb55.itch.io/grave-days/download/lrZs6qUiNh7WpKSZkFhS_4uymbVqmwbvvALGy_If
  • Hey, I played a little, some of my thoughts are below.

    [-]I spawned close to a house and started picking up crates, but kept wondering why am I doing that, there seemed to be no connection between the crates and my situation. Maybe start the player injured in a house with a med-crate in the same room as him, so he has to use it.
    [-]I didn't see a zombie and had no idea this was a zombie game for the first few moments and actually approached one in order to speak to him, thinking it was an NPC. Maybe put a zombie in an adjacent room to the player at the starting point.
    [-]Loved the key-mapping screen, had no idea i could run or what I was consuming with the 1-3 keys before checking that.
    [-]Still have no idea what the blue pick-ups are for, guessing its' batteries for the flashlight.
    [-]Being able to reach the edge of the map was really surprising, it changed my perception of the game as open world to an arena, which promptly made me go back and explore the already visited area in search of some additional gameplay that would allow me to survive longer, a bunker or something.
    [-]I felt the default light that is around the player should have been double the radius.
    [-]You have what looks like a zombie counter that indicated how many are after you, makes me wonder is having 1.6k zombies chasing you the goal?
    [-]Control scheme was ok, but still confusing for muscle memory when using the [WASD] keys, I ended up using the RMB to walk.
    [-]Would be nice if something was mapped to the LMB by default, maybe 'punch'.
    [-]There were crates that couldn't be picked up, it looked like ammunition.
    [-]Would be nice to have a gun or some other basic survival tool/concept.
    [-]Once I got infected and started bleeding, there seemed no way to stop the inevitable death.
    [-]Seems like consecutive bandage use doesn't do anything.

    The game is well executed for what you have, but it's comes across as empty, would be nice to have survival techniques included, starting a post-apocalyptic bunker of some sort, scavenging for materials, building some hope that survival is possible. Right now, I knew I was doomed after raiding the first house, since there was no long term loot anywhere.
    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • @critic Thanks for trying it out and giving the thoughtful feedback. I fully agree with pretty much most of your feedback, and it also made me realise how the current presentation is lacking. I knew it was - I've not yet put any time into putting in any work towards helping the player get started so I can see how lots of it could be confusing if you haven't had someone explain it to you or watched a video.

    Some things to note, you can find a gun in a chest, which you can open with the open inventory / open chest key (default i ), when you are near a chest. It's purely functional at this stage and I might as well start the player off with a gun. Once you have a gun in your inventory you can shoot. Though there's no visual / audio feedback on this yet so left clicking just does nothing, where its normally mapped to shoot, as long as you have a gun.
    Being able to reach the edge of the map was really surprising, it changed my perception of the game as open world to an arena, which promptly made me go back and explore the already visited area in search of some additional gameplay that would allow me to survive longer, a bunker or something.
    Work in progress :) The world will always stay bounded but I might make it much bigger. I think to start off with I'll just add some ocean around to give the feeling that you are trapped on an island. Some base building, crafting, more looting options and recruiting of survivors will hopefully make the world feel a bit less empty. That's my hope at least, but I agree that it currently feels empty and arbitrary.
    I felt the default light that is around the player should have been double the radius.
    Noted.
    You have what looks like a zombie counter that indicated how many are after you, makes me wonder is having 1.6k zombies chasing you the goal?
    The zombie counter is just a debug tool that I'll keep visible throughout my alpha builds. It basically tells you how many zombies exist in the playable area, and in brackets next to it is how many zombies are currently active and simulated (more or less) - ie how many zombies are quite nearby you.
    Once I got infected and started bleeding, there seemed no way to stop the inevitable death.
    There are limited cures in the game that you can find in chests. I wonder if the chests are what you thought is ammo. The blue crates are ammo. I am getting some help from @Timothy and also switching to fully grid / tile based so hopefully that will improve the presentation a bit and clear up some confusion.

    In the end though there will mostly be a feeling of despair. I guess I'm not really trying to make a game that feels all that "fun" but mostly one that makes you want to try and play again and try to live a bit longer. Eventually I will start adding roguelite elements. During each game play you will unlock certain things and make some changes to the world you are playing in to make consecutive play-throughs just a bit easier and to add more options. Perhaps I will add an end objective but for now it's just open-ended.

    Thanks again for playing and giving me juicy feedback. I hope to address your feedback in an update or two!

    Thanked by 1critic
  • I got some more pixel art in from @Timothy . Thoughts?

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  • Grave Days story art dump. These will be used with some text to either introduce game mechanics or just to tag some special events and add some flavour to the game. I might save the sequence in which you got these so you can view them as a kind of story book at the end of a game.

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  • Hi everyone. I am looking for some simple art feedback. Which character style do you think is better and what are the things I need to consider when actually choosing myself?

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  • It's a bit of an apples and oranges comparison not seeing sprite #1 in context like sprite #2. As an example, watching the actual gameplay video, the character is really small on screen, and the less chunky detail of #1 might get lost in actual gameplay. Maybe provide a full screenshot mockup for comparison?

    That said, looking at the sample sheet above, those "stretched" sprites make for a more distinct feel that I think suits your theme well, provided they will be properly visible in actual gameplay. I like that you're potentially able to get some facial expression out of #1, though #2 has some good potential for interesting movement in the hair-that's something you could bring across to the newer style.

    Unrelated to the comparison, every time I see your concept sketches, I'm reminded of this amazing (and creepy) Lego minifig cosplay :)

    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • #1 - can see more detail in the face.
    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • mattbenic said:
    It's a bit of an apples and oranges comparison not seeing sprite #1 in context like sprite #2. As an example, watching the actual gameplay video, the character is really small on screen, and the less chunky detail of #1 might get lost in actual gameplay. Maybe provide a full screenshot mockup for comparison?
    Yeah details getting lost was a bit of a concern for me as well. Though I think there's some room to change the relative screen size of everything up to a point. I've got the sprites from 1 in the game now so I'll post a video soon. 2 doesn't have a sprite sequence yet, and it might not get any if we think 1 looks good enough in game.
    mattbenic said:
    Unrelated to the comparison, every time I see your concept sketches, I'm reminded of this amazing (and creepy) Lego minifig cosplay :)
    Haha thanks for ruining it for me :P That is very creepy!

  • What better to give a quick update of Grave Days than a short game-play clip?

    https://clips.twitch.tv/CautiousFlirtyOstrichKeyboardCat
    Thanked by 1Asriele
  • Those sounds are just the best.

    Fan art:
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  • edited
    Thought I'd post a video update as evidence that development on Grave Days is still ongoing and doing fairly well.



    A lot has changed, including some new traits / perks trees, many new craftable items and food types, some new things to scavenge and interact with in the environment and new equippable items.

    Here's a free download link for the latest version (0.9.0) if anyone is interested in giving it a shot and giving feedback. Excuse the menus, they are a bit of a mess:

    https://denzilb55.itch.io/grave-days/download/XaRdcHz_CS69_L0rVX9a_CveGXh4SBxRS7lCZEjP
    Thanked by 2konman mattbenic
  • Dumb question, but wouldn't there be two/combined light cones from doors between lit and unlit rooms? One stationary cone from the light in the lit room, one moving one from the player's light source. Falloff might be interesting as well :)
  • edited
    mattbenic said:
    Dumb question, but wouldn't there be two/combined light cones from doors between lit and unlit rooms? One stationary cone from the light in the lit room, one moving one from the player's light source. Falloff might be interesting as well :)
    There's 2 effects at play here. The first is actual light "fields" being cast with brightness and colour. The second is a "vision" field of what the player can and can't see. This causes 2 cones, as you can see here:

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    One cone goes outside - where the player is, the other inwards in line of sight with the player. I suspect this is not what you mean though, just thought I'd point it out. If there was another light source in the room at a "lower" position - more in line of sight with the player's starting position in the gif, you would've noticed another beam / cone going from the door towards the direction of the player. Which I think is what you are referring to. You'd get a similar effect if the player was standing in the room, looking outside and pointing towards the door as well. Though his line of sight would take preference and you would not see the full effect of the light being cast from the stationary source, because the visibility/vision field of the player basically blocks him from seeing where other light sources are cast. It's maybe a bit of a weird choice because the player can "see" daylight outside, though not other light sources. Also, the blending from multiple light sources doesn't always come out as expected yet.
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  • I think the confusion for me is that what I think you are saying is your vision cone (cast from the player through doors) also lights dark places. In the gif above though, just after he passes from the darker room on the left to the better lit one on the right, I can see a slightly lightening within the vision cone into the left room that I think is the light from the dark room.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, its just that the vision cone sort of moves like i'd expect light to if the light source was moving relative to the opening, which had me thinking that the vision area was actually just a lit area :)
  • Yeah I think you are right. There are 2 lighting effects directly coupled with your vision cone. The first is the bubble / aura around you, which is required for when its pitch black so you can still see if you are being attacked by a zombie or see things directly near you. This is my way for compensating for the missing sense of "feel" / touch that obviously can't be conveyed directly on PC. I don't think this is what you are referring to though. The other light is daylight, which is basically like a light source that follows the player around - and unlike real daylight, this also has fall-off that especially becomes noticeable during sunset / sunrise. This isn't really realistic but after some experimentation this is what I preferred, because as the sun sets you can see less far into the distance, which is the effect I was after. Things become more and more claustrophobic.
  • Nice pixels. very well done moods in those pixel paintings.
    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • @Denzil I finally got around to playing this morning, its been on my radar awhile now :) I played your earlier iterations too. Good job man, I love the art and the general premise. The character animation and movement , view arcs etc is very well done.

    I love the zombie genre and am currently making a general inventory system too and it is not that simple. Loot, stacking, splitting, tool tips, hot bar, cool downs, drag-and-drop, containers, durability, consumables etc. :)

    I think you've focused a lot on the proc world and art, but feel your initial time is better spent working out the game-play mechanics and what makes it fun to survive or die/retry, explore and collect first and foremost. Get that game loop working in a smaller contained prototype.

    I can tell there is a lot here already with player actions attracting unwanted attention from zombies when you make too much noise etc. I always fall into the trap of trying to do too much peripheral stuff, so saying it is more a reminder to me as well :)

    Chests and doors... maybe open them when the player bumps into them? Having to hit a key feels like a bit too much work?

    It's been awhile, but I hope you're still working on this! I'd like to see your next iterations :)
  • @konman Thanks for the feedback!

    I am still working on it, just had to take a break because life has been getting a bit busy but things are finally settling down again, so I expect to ramp up to full speed again over the course of this week.

    Luckily I have a team that's been working very hard on other aspects of the game - we are 3 people in total. We unfortunately lost our original pixel artist but have found a capable replacement, but she is redoing it in a new style - though we're still experimenting a bit.

    I'm currently working on populating the world to make it feel less empty and less arbitrary. And doing it in a way that opens it up for "mod" support in that users can add their own furniture, items and recipes to the world. Personally for me, I needed this as a better way to manage data (building types, town types, items, etc). After this I am itching to work on expanding game play a bit, but I think I also need to juice the game up in terms of gore and other feedback mechanisms.

    Our one team member is also working on really awesome sound and music, so I'm expecting the next release to be the biggest and best so far. Really excited to get it out.

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