Grave Days [Game Prototype]

edited in Projects

I finally decided that it is time to upload the very first prototype of a game I have been working on. There probably are a ton of bugs (besides the bad graphics and sound effects :P ), but I'm working hard to straighten them out.

DOWNLOAD: Grave Days (25mb more or less. Mostly due to 4 songs, which you will likely only hear 2 of... unless you are fantasticly good at this game)
Here is zip version of it too

For those of you who hate reading, here is the short version:
W, A, S, D - movement (towards cursor). If you find this difficult at first (it may seem counter-intuitive - especially with current art/graphics limitations), I suggest toggling your flashlight on with F. This will point towards your running direction.

Left click to attack (attacking is ill advised - this is a survival game, not a KILL ZOMBIES game).

R - to restart (I just implemented it, and it seems to be working. Let me know if it doesn't :P )
ESC to close.
P - Pause

Debugging graphics faults: If you have graphical faults (Dark blue lines, or funny edges, try different resolutions, or fullscreen. I suggest playing fullscreen).

What is Grave Days?
This is a Zombie Survival (hopefully, one day, Team Management as well) 2D game. With some bad horror elements which turn out to be slightly funny. It features day/night cycles, music by Kevin MacLeod, and eh, lots of badly drawn blood (still waiting for my artist to redo my bad drawings). The point is to survive for as long as you can. My record so far is 7 hours (in-game, which maps to 7 real life minutes). The game play still lacks a lot and it is sure to get boring quickly, but there is lots of content that still needs to be added. I blog about the development here.

Quick Guide for people who wish to read:
Try to avoid zombies as far as possible. In some situations, it may be helpful to help out other survivors (guys in white). A big gang can be effective at picking off lone-walking zombies. However, they pretty much suck for most of it.

Anyone or anything in light is slightly more visible (to you and AI). Keep it in mind.

When you get hit by zombie and start bleeding, there is about a 1/3 chance that you are infected. You will stay this way for about 3 in-game hours. When an infected human dies, he becomes a zombie (so keep your distance from infected survivors). Being infected also triggers fevers, some bad, some not so bad. It can cause different severities of bleeding, and the shakes(difficult movement). When the player is infected, he will make painful groans every now and then, so keep your ears open for the groans if you suspect you are infected.

Please give me any criticism and point out thing you like/dislike.

List of things to be corrected/improved:
- Unbalanced sound levels (sometimes spammy sounds as well).
- AI becomes stupid when running into/out of buildings

Oh, and for some reason, zombies drop fire-hydrants when they die :P (This won't be in the final version!!)

Future Features:
- Weapons, guns
- Bases/camps
- Better overall entity management (zombies etc)
- An actual map that was designed by me (not just this boring piece of tarmac)
- Game profile with progression between each survival game
- Very basic RPG leveling elements (that what you are thinking now, even more basic than that!)
- Ability to rescue survivors and giving them basic commands (such as scavenge for goods, defend base, etc)
- Better art!!!!

Some screenshots
797 x 774 - 414K
789 x 646 - 214K


  • So there I was, chilling around a fire hydrant with the rest of my survivor buddies. I'm guessing it was around midnight, since it was pitch black without my flashlight. The guy next to me bleeding and spazzing out a bit. I rushed over to try and lend some aid to the poor the guy. Worst decision ever. Suddenly he was a zombie and I was right next to him. He hit me a few times, at which point I realised I wasn't going to win this fight. I hit him once for the knockback, and then turned around and ran. I was bleeding quite profusely and the movement speed reduction meant the zombie stayed right behind me the entire way. I ended up running into another group of zombies because I had no vision except for the tiny beam of my flashlight.

    Pretty fun so far. I lasted 5hours (5 minutes). The next step in my opinion would be to add some motivation for the player to stay alive, or rather, to avoid zombies.
  • @TiaanN haha, happens to the best of us. Yeah I intend to expand it a lot to give more meaning in staying alive longer :)
  • @Denzil
    Gave this a whirl. And looking at your future features it seems that it can be lot's of fun. It does have one problem at the moment though. There is no reason to franticly run around. I just stayed alive for 18 hours by just making minor adjustments to keep zombies off screen(I died because I had to make some coffee :P). There was one instance when a zombie chased me into a group which I avoided and just resumed the strategy. Never hit a zombie and even forgot about the flashlight.

    Maybe you can implement a kind of smell that the player gives of that would work like a light radius of sorts for zombies. The further they are away the less likely they are to be attracted, but make it reach over more than one game screen so I can't just sit on my ass. Also, is there a reason that zombies just randomly die on their own?
    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • @Rigormortis oh wow :D I didn't even know it was possible. I did some last second tweaking to the spawn numbers before uploading, because I thought it was too difficult. Maybe I'm just a noob at my own game xD. But yes, I have realized that at some occasions you are lucky and no zombie wonders into your area.

    "The further they are away the less likely they are to be attracted" <- this is true as well (its already like this, but I feel I should work on it more). I think maybe it will be better if I increase this radius? Not sure if you noticed, but its harder for the zombies to detect you as it gets darker.

    And the reason for the zombies dying, they lose health over time, and when they feed they regain health. I thought maybe this would sort of balance out zombie numbers, because I felt at some stage their numbers become overwhelming (you seem to have managed very well though.... 18 hours :O ).

    Thanks a lot for the feedback! I'm definitely going to work on these issues you pointed out!
  • @Denzil The problem with them dying over time is that you can kinda herd them into an area and wait for them to die. Then you know that that area is somewhat safe. So if you have to run, you run in that direction.

    If they are already attracted you can try to increase the radius over time maybe. Or keep increasing it if the player stands still and decrease it to some minimum while he is moving? Or even spawn poor saps near the player(but off screen :P) that could attract the zombies to her position. I found that the more I avoided the survivors the easier it was to survive.

    I did figure they were harder to aggro wen it's dark. But only realized it in the morning on account of me forgetting about the flashlight :/
    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • @Rigormortis These are all very good ideas, thank you :P . So that's how u did it, you just waited for them to die off, lol. I've been playing this game for weeks, and I know the mechanics (since I programmed it :P ), and the best I could do is 7 hours, but normally only make it to 6. Lol. I feel so noob :/

    Thanks again! +100 internets for you!
  • I will take those internets...and invest, smartly :P

    If you want your games broken give them to other gamers, they wil find the easiest way to exploit all your well laid out plans. :)
  • That's exactly why I put it up! :P
  • Sorry for bumping, but anyone else have a comment or two? (Even if it's all bad :P ). I'm really depending on the feedback of this community for this one.
  • So got around to playing my long list of downloads.

    Firstly movement. I know what you are trying to do, I've tried to do it as well.

    Making the avatar have only 4 orientations is really confusing considering that W moves towards the mouse.

    If you lost the WASD and just used the mouse as they do in Diablo it would give the player better feedback.


    I survived for 6 hours by running around. Using the flashlight for a second then not for two. It became somewhat annoying.

    As a survival game I feel that there is a great flaw in that I don't feel threatened or scared which were the key things I felt in Amnesia. I haven't played Day Z yet but players are invested in their characters.
    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • edited
    @Karuji Cool, thanks for the feedback. Yeah, I agree that the 4 directions are confusing. I intend to add 8 facing direction (once my artist catches up). If this still fails I may have to switch to a complete top down view with full 360 degree rotation.

    Also this
    Karuji said:
    If you lost the WASD and just used the mouse as they do in Diablo it would give the player better feedback.
    is something that I have considered. I imagine it won't fit to well with some of the mechanics I have in mind, but I should also not draw conclusions before trying it out. I do feel that I full top-down view may be more suited than full diablo-type controls, but I understand and agree with what you are saying. I think I'll give it a go anyway.

    And what do you mean you "don't feel threatened or scared"? Are you referring to the game in general not being scary (which is something I probably won't be able to improve on too much), or do you mean you don't feel threatened over your character's life? If this is the case, there is still a lot of work that is going to be done to give you motivation to try and life longer, which will hopefully give you a desire to try and live longer (hopefully inducing a fear of dying).

    What do you think about this?
  • Hey, I also played a round or 2 last night, some thoughts...

    Like rigormortis said I also quickly found out that I can simply stand still to 'win' the game. I really think you need some kind of secondary objective besides just surviving, or you need to adapt zombie AI somewhat.

    Why don't you simply rotate the player sprite rather than having a move up/down variant? it will smooth it out a bit and make the controls a bit more intuitive. also, most of the sprites make it look like the game's perspective is top-down, and not slightly tilted as the 'walk down' sprite suggests.

    It seems as if at the 6 minute mark, most of the zombies start moving faster than you, which makes death just about inevitable if you play the game 'properly'. How is the player supposed to survive? maybe I am just noob... but considering that I made it to 6 minutes on my first try, and you only make it to 7 at best, it seems like there is a hard cut-off there. You need to give the player some options... Chokepoints or traps or some sort of mechanic to use to lose the zombies that are following you. Although it's a bit of a tired mechanic (lol), a sprint button with stamina might be interesting. Or, sprinting simply makes noise that zombies come to investigate - so you can use it to escape a zombie or two on your tail, provided you can find a good hiding spot shortly thereafter. Also- I may have simply been exploring the wrong areas - I could not find any sources of light besides the flashlight.

    Wandering around at night with the flashlight did work quite effectively though, but there is no real anticipation or fear - it's simply a case of running in one direction as far as i can until the zombies outpace me. In any kind of horror game, the player's imagination is the most important tool for the designer. Fewer, but meaner monsters are also typically more effective. I think you can adapt by having fewer clumps of zombies, but having the clumps larger. add some incentive for the player to explore the map and I think you'll have a really cool prototype :)
    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • @denzil, what the other two guys said is basically the same that I said: that there is no reason to run around frantically. I get the feeling you want to create a sense of frantic survival where you run around for 6 minutes(or more) straight and then become hysterical once the zombies finally catch you. It's more of an intense scary than a supsense scary that you want to create, if I'm reading it right.

    The problem is that there is nothing forcing the intense scary on the player. The zombies don't chase you relentlessy. They don't restrict movement(unless they hit you). They don't create a sense of immenent death when you spot one. If you can bring in things like that I think it would be a lot more fun.
  • edited
    @raithza :) Thanks a lot. I just wanted to get some opinions on the general feel of the game. There are still a lot of hitches I am going to work out. The current game-play, is a sort of mini-game to keep me/players busy while I continue with the development. I intend to have a better environment setting, to make surviving and exploring more exciting.

    I have the framework for adding some basic structures and world items in place. So I think I'll add some shops and houses soon that can be plundered. I intend to remove the health regen completely so that the player will have to find medicine, or perhaps even make it himself. But right now I am going to focus on fixing the AI like you and Rigormortis suggested.

    The movement itself is a bit of a problem for me at the moment, as I described in the post above, I have thought of adding full rotation. But first I want to try out 8 facing directions as opposed to 4. Do you think this will make it any better? I like the idea of being able to see character's faces, etc (given the right view). Currently 90% of the drawings are mine, and not the artist's ... and that is why the are in the state they are :P .

    As for the light sources, you are right in that only the player has a light source at the moment. The blocky nature of the lighting makes sources that don't move with the player look extra funny. I have an idea or two to work around this, but there's still a bit of work to be done there.

    I'll work through your suggestions a couple of times and work them into my to-do list :) Thanks for playing.

    In the next update you can expect the sprint bar, perhaps some more incentive to explore the map... and a better map and better AI.


    I agree and I'm thinking of ways to do this. I'm hoping an improved AI and zombie spawner + map will do the trick. When I have this done I'd really like you to tell me if this worked or not :P Thanks!
  • edited
    To second what @raithza said you can just rotate the sprite.

    I don't feel that you need to add some kind of objective, but allow a player to have a generative experience: give the players the tools to create their own goal.

    Also I do notice that at the 6hour mark the zombies will move faster than me.

    While I am no fan of kiting* it is better than a no win scenario where the zombies simply outrun you.


    With regards to fear. I mean both, but lets talk about the one we can fix.

    Gameplay has it's roots in challenge. Currently the challenge is simply dodging, and keeping your flashlight alive. After before the 6 hour point you can kite the enemies, after you can't.

    In both cases there is not much challenge. Slow Zombies are easy to dodge, and fast ones are nigh impossible. You need to find the sweet spot where I am scared of death, but I can still do something to survive.

    An easy thing I can think of would to make things more city like. It would be harder to dodge in more confined areas. Also if you can make the zombies ambush the player it would be really cool :)

    *With finding kiting in that article I recommend doing a search. It has some, hopefully, decent design advice if you want to read the whole thing.
  • @Karuji Thanks. I actually also feel it's too easy and boring, and then suddenly too difficult to do anything about it. I like the suggestion about making it more-city like. I also intend to add a small suburb like area, and maybe a foresty type area.

    Here is what actually makes night too difficult:
    The game spawns more and more zombies the darker it gets, but at midnight the numbers double~triple to what it should be at that given darkness. Besides that, the humans that may have been able to fight off the zombies previously die and become zombies themselves. They don't actually increase in speed (well they do, the closer they get to you, but this mechanic is there during the day as well).

    This, combined with the total darkness and the zombies intercepting movement (they aim in front of you using a pursuit algorithm Pursuit <-- good site for movement type AI by the way.

    This just makes surviving impossible (and not fun). Unless you manage to find a relatively quiet spot and manage to "break" the game and survive for 18 hours :P (but hey, that's no fun either)
  • in terms of stopping the camping, maybe add other survival mechanics like perhaps food or something that you have to get to survive that you can't get by standing around.
    I haven't gotten round to playing it yet, but I will do so soon hopefully.
  • Funnily enough, I'd actually try to reverse some things if we want to get the "threat" feelings up: make it easier for zombies to spot the player than the other way around.

    Maybe give them the sensory advantage. Afford them senses of sight, hearing, smell. And give them *supernatural* senses too, why not? They just *know*. Incorporate line-of-sight and max visual radius: say that a circle at the centre of your screen is your viewing distance, and then some distance beyond that into the fog-o-war you'll be able to pinpoint noises.

    Or you can afford the zombies more luxuries in teamwork. A lot of successful stealth games have alarms of sorts that the player can trigger: so maybe when a lone zombie gets within radius it emits a "feeding groan" to alert others (Urban Dead did this, it was a great multiplayer element).

    A player will always, ALWAYS feel more threatened by opponents when they suspect they're being watched by forces they cannot see themselves. I think.

    Good start, let's see a solid survival horror come out of this. :)
  • Nandrew said:
    A player will always, ALWAYS feel more threatened by opponents when they suspect they're being watched by forces they cannot see themselves. I think.
    I think there is a lot of truth in that. Amnesia is a lot scarier because I think there are enemies than Dead Space is when I know there are enemies.

    Come to think of it I've had some really great moment in Half Life where I am alone and think that its safe and then the monsters come.

    @Denzil if you really want players to feel scared make the game about finding clean food and water.

    Pick up Lone Survivor while it is on Steam sale the game does this to great effect.
  • Cool :D Feedback!

    @skinklizard yeah I definitely want to go into that direction. The idea is for the player to eventually search out a "safe" area, but he will have to go out and scavenge resources (food, water) to stay alive. And weapons, etc, to help him progress as it gets harder. Ultimately my idea is that the player will die, perhaps with something extra unlocked (nothing game changing), so that there is incentive to try and survive a bit longer next time. I have more plans to add progression between each game, but I'll discuss that later as I get closer to it.

    @Nandrew this is an interesting concept (the zombie calls). Funny enough, I wrote a mod for minecraft that does exactly this. I think I'll try and get something like this in.

    I think the fog-of-war may have to wait for a bit. Unless I can just use darkness instead of gray fog. My lighting system is probably pretty amateur, and it's pretty slow. I have it in a thread of it's own though (and it's got a few extra frames to spare still), so I may be able to rework my lighting system to also include fog.

    @Karuji Yeah I can definitely relate to what you are saying. I wasn't one bit scared when playing Dead Space. Even SCP-087 was scary to me, because you keep on anticipating something, though you are not sure if it is there or not. I do think visuals and good audio do play a role in the scariness of a game though (at least for me), but I know that slight, illogical fear that even bad graphics games can give you when you are really into it (it must be a sort of fear of losing your progress I guess). And I think this is what I should aim at capturing.

    Really good advice and feedback guys! Thanks. I feel much more motivated to work hard on it now :P
  • Hey, just got around to playing it. Liking it so far :) Course died in 2 mins cos i was running around like a complete ijit then tried to take em on with my survivor buddies, didn't work :P

    I see @raithza said this earlier:
    You need to give the player some options... Chokepoints or traps or some sort of mechanic to use to lose the zombies that are following you
    One of the first things I thought you might wanna use. Maybe narrow alleyways with obstacles you can jump but zombies have to break through, or environmental objects you could attack to make them fall and create a barrier behind you, or if you're slightly evil inclined :twisted: cripple another survivor to leave as a distraction, stuff like that :panda:
  • @GlitchM these are all good ideas that I hope to get around to eventually.
    if you're slightly evil inclined cripple another survivor to leave as a distraction
    I especially like this idea. I'm hoping that I'll find time to get around to programming like a loyalty/respect rating built into the AI to determine how they will react to you (I'm not the best programmer in the world so it probably will be less cool than it sounds :P but I imagine that I can pull off something quite basic)
  • I played a few rounds, usually ended at round six or seven without using the stand still loophole.

    I'm all for the sacrificing survivors idea! The most fun I had was actually leading hoards of zombies to the survivors. Fun!

    I second the hunger bar and food idea. It will defiantly add more tension to the game and prevent people from using the stay in one place loophole.

    I'm not sure how difficult it will be to implement and balance out, I'm guessing very difficult, but it would be totally tits if you had physical objects lying around that you could push around to form a sort of shelter or base. These items would create a physical barrier that is then broken down by the zombies.
    All that is left then is to make it into an mmorpg where anyone can manipulate time! :P
    But seriously the movable objects could be cool.

    Other than that it is fun, and even better; it is an actual survival game about the zombie apocalypse as opposed to a "I need to survive, thus I will go hunt some zombies" game.

  • @notsimon207 Yeah there will definitely be a hunger bar in the final game. I like the idea of building a base by pushing objects around, though unfortunately I think this is somewhat beyond my ability.

    I had this in a older version of the game (it was placeable, not pushable though). But I'm having difficulty with getting the AI to react to it in an acceptable way. For my buildings at the moment, I just mark the entrances with "nodes" that the AI can walk to. For this however, I need a building or obstacles that are clearly defined (so I know when the entity is inside it or outside).

    Eventually I will get around to writing A* pathfinding (hoping it won't slaughter my performance too much), but for this I will have to place my objects on a fixed grid to get good response from the AI (otherwise it will be too difficult for me to do it on my own).

    I thought of merely making the zombie attack the obstacle when he runs into it, but that gives equally dumb behaviour. There may be an entrance right next to the place where he ran into, and then attacking the obstacle will be a waste.

    Any ideas will be appreciated :)
  • For the pathfinding couldn't you make obstacles have a high weight instead of actually blocking? That way if there is no other path to a point within a long enough distance, they will path "through" the obstacles, then you could make them attack the obstacles when they want to move over one?
  • Yes I was thinking of doing that. That means I have to implement A* first though
  • @D3zmodos That sounds like a superb idea. That would mean that heavier objects are herder for the player to position and harder for the zombies to move out of the way. Can already see epic fun from that mechanic :D.!

    I'm actually busy with a cheap ass fake path finding system for Fling Fu. Not sure if it would be of any use, but I'd gladly post my methods (maybe they inspire or spark some ideas). My CAFPF needs to be able to navigate around constantly moving obstacles and dead bodies. If the obstacle is low enough it must try to jump over it. Hopefully it will be done by tonight, but I'm very new to this so I may find it more difficult than expected and only ave it done in x amount of years.

    Ether way if you'd like I will gladly open a thread on what I'm doing.
  • @notsimon207, thanks man that would be great! Sounds really difficult though and I'll probably have lots of questions. I guess the "perfect" system isn't expected anyway as it's a one man, no budget job. I'll do some research but ideas will be cool :)
  • The other day I came across a pathfinding thing on the Unity asset store developed by Angry Ant. Haven't gotten around to playing with it but it looks interesting.

    Hope it's useful, i'm still trying to wrap my head around pathfinding algorithms :panda:
  • If you're looking for a unity pathfinding solution, I'd refer you to A* Pathfinding by Aron Granberg.
  • The thing is, I don't actually use much of Unity's functionality. I basically just use it to render and for audio and such (the only reason I use Unity is for the ease of compatibility). Thanks though anyway, I'll give it a look.
  • Oh, my fake ass path finding is kinda working, it can track the player around dynamic obstacles but still needs a lot of tweaking. I'll post a video just now... Hopefully.
  • This is a game I always wanted to finish, and although it's normally a bad idea to start a game from scratch I think (well, I mean to scrap your old work and try and do it better), I am going to do it for Grave Days. When I started this, I was afraid of using Unity, and basically did all the engine work myself (well, I suppose I didn't really know that 2D was possible with using prefabs, heck, I didn't even know what a prefab was).

    So now I can actually try to make Grave Days what it was always meant to be. I think development will go much faster this time around (thank you Unity :) ).

    I don't know if this is the best idea though. I'm still working on my other game, CubeZ, but I honestly never play puzzle games, and I feel I should make something I would actually play myself.

    I'm still going to struggle with art, but I'm going to make a few design choices to simplify it for me, and use place holders for the meanwhile.

    Wish me luck :)
  • In case you hadn't seen, your game got featured by Lazygamer this week :).
    Thanked by 1Denzil
  • That's awesome :D I've never had anything featured by anyone!

    Anyway, this is the old prototype, the new one is here:
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