Zombie Panic is a Half-Life modification. After the release of Half-Life 2, the mod has leveled up and became Zombie Panic: Source. The mod was back as a Source engine game! This upgrade brought together awards and the mod has earned the "Mod of the year" award by ModDB in 2007. The awards kept coming in following years.
Almost the same team is now coming with a new game: Contagion. You'll witness the story of Contagion, what's been going on in Zombie Panic era and much more in this interview we did with Brian Comer, CEO of Monochrome.
Gamers: Would you introduce yourself and the Monochrome for our readers? How many people work in the team?
Brian Comer: We currently have 14 members from our Attorney, developers, PR, and our Webmaster. The development team is obviously smaller but well versed in other areas so able to pick up the slack and keep us focused on our ultimate goal of releasing later this year.
Gamers: In the history of Monochrome there is Zombie Panic which is an HL2 modification, so is the Zombie Panic team entirely in Monochrome and working on Contagion?
Brian Comer: Monochrome was originally founded by 2 members of the original Zombie Panic: Source team. The list is as follows Members of Zombie Panic: Source who have worked on Contagion and their current status-
* Brian Tatsur0 Comer - Original Founder & CEO
* Alex Swolfington Wright - Current COO and Developer
* Erik Killahmo Grant - Former Founding Partner and Developer [No longer with the team]
* Oyvind Garrador Andersson - Former Developer [No longer with the team]
* Mark Marks Sneddon - Former Developer [No longer with the team]
We have a seperate team working on Zombie Panic: Source and expect v2.5 to release on Steam shortly. Its worth noting that we did later bring on Sérgio Sammy Fonseca, Jesse Wazanator Culver, Josh NeoAssassin Stetz, and Riley for Playtests and assistant positions recently. They are not original ZP:S members but have played a major role in the development of ZP:S and the improvements weve managed on Contagion.
Gamers: Zombie Panic modification has been a big success around the globe. Did you anticipate such interest?
Brian Comer: The original Half-Life 1 Modification Zombie Panic was a lot of fun but as a prototype for Source didnt gather much attention (though it did make it on PC Gamer). When we started Zombie Panic: Source we did not expect it to do much better but were determined to create more atmospheric and enjoyable experience as a Total Conversion. When our numbers spiked and eventually were asked to be one of the first mods on Steamworks we were shocked until we looked back at the community who would spend their time spreading the word and supporting us the last 10 years. Were incredibly grateful and I doubt we would have done nearly as well without that support.
Gamers: How did developing Zombie Panic help the team?
Brian Comer: Ive been modding for 16 years but Zombie Panic: Source as a total conversion mod required a lot of time management and team organizing. We went through numerous modders and so in a way Modding is a lot like a start up Indie. Some cant handle the pressure or lose interest when they realize its taken seriously as a job and not a hobby. We learned how to better manage our time, organize the team, set milestones, prepare for the worst, and focus on morale. We have a brilliant team and it helps for them to know we recognize that. The rest is still a lot learning how going commercial is different from Modding but I doubt we would have made it half as far as we have without that experience.
Gamers: In your opinion, how does developing a modification effect the base game? What could be the benefits of this for the gamers and the developers of both the base game and the mod?
Brian Comer: Contagion does take some away from Zombie Panic: Source like the names and general design of some of the characters (theyre currently actually quite different and developed by professionals who follow the original concepts). We also brought over infection and playing as a zombie because not only did we believe our fanbase would approve but we wanted to keep that original design in place. It makes a great deal of difference to existing games those before and after our initial release of Zombie Panic in 2003. That said, it is a spiritual successor to ZP:S but is a completely different game.
The benefits would be learning from mistakes and trying to understand your fanbase to provide a more enjoyable experience as well as surprise them with something new.
Gamers: Could you please mention Contagion a little please? In which locations are the gamers going to encounter zombies?
Brian Comer: Contagion is set in a ficticious city Roanoke (Not Virginia sorry folks) that was inspired by the lost colony. Depending on the game mode zombies will react slighly differently with different priority lists but with player zombies and their abilities can provide unexpected ambushes and manipulate interactions to a certain degree. You will meet them indoors, outdoors, hard to reach areas where you wrongly felt safe but will also be able to avoid encounters if your smart as ammo is limited. In the end each round will be randomly generated from paths, weapon, ammo, and zombie spawns and more. Weve avoided created predictable scenerios or zombies that appear out of thin air.
Gamers: Is there any difference between the single player and co-op modes? Does the AI take control of other players in single player, like they do in Left 4 Dead series?
Brian Comer: Its best to think of SP as Solo-Play vs the usual Campaign/Story Mode people assume is related to the title. The game is quite a bit more challenging for some and for others a relaxing/tense experience depending how they plan to play through the maps and game-modes. Youre more likely to die playing Solo than you are with skilled team mates. Solo-Play is still a WIP as we are working improve the experience significantly but we all on the team enjoy the game immensely and play it solo on a daily basis for the most part.
As for Co-op you start with your entire team as survivors. We dont have special infected or a versus mode like L4D but like ZP:S when a member is infected or dies they join the horde in their hunger for human edibles. There is more to this but we are still working out the balance. In Co-op hogging weapons will guarantee a loss and with player zombies mixed in the game changes drastically and becomes quite a bit more difficult and the tension amonst the survivors becomes quite a bit more noticeable.
Gamers: What aspect of Contagion did you care about the most?
Brian Comer: Its really hard to say with so much work put into environments, animations, features, etc. I believe that our reliance on team-work has been a big focus and improved from many other games (we tried to learn as much as we could and improve from that) while keeping it simple for the casual gamer as it can be frustrating when new players join and dont know what to do while vets can be quite mean and scare off new players. We also focused on griefers (Im a griefer at heart so I just think of what I would do and see how I could resolve the issue and avoid people leaving a server because one player isnt interested in working together or actively seeking to derail a round).
Gamers: What is "a must" for a zombie-themed game in your opinion? Should the player necessarily be scared?
Brian Comer: Ive found it very difficult to get scared in any co-op experience personally and most zombie games have failed to achieve it without using the standard shock method. I do not believe it the primary focus but we do believe weve managed to unintentionally create a sense of fear whether it be the fear of an infected player, whats hiding in the next room or around the corner, other features that make you feel somewhat helpless if youre not with friends to save you. We also have some unique ideas were prototyping to add something co-op horror games have always lacked but were currently keeping that to ourselves and hope it works out as intended.
Gamers: Are you thinking of giving away any promotional content or special items (like those of Team Fortress 2) when the pre-purchase period begins?
Brian Comer: We have a number of promotions including one no developer has ever done before (again keeping it tight lipped for now) but as for special items for other games or brought in from other games that is still something to be worked out later. Were not completely against it but we are serious about salvaging the intended atmosphere on release.
Gamers: What are the difficulties of building a standalone game after developing a modification?
Brian Comer: I feel much more responsibility for those I work with. Were a closer nit family and I worry I will fail my team as well as my community. Having worked in the industry it feels like any other job really. But running an Indie its like having a second family. The only difference really between Contagion and ZP:S really is the focus on quality, the financial strain (weve avoided crowdfunding and have paid for everything out of pocket thus far), creating something original but still enjoyable rather than just improving the graphics of a mod and selling a clone. We did gut most of the Engine and implement new 3rd party software that works better for the genre, atmosphere, and overall feel of the game.
Gamers: How did you come up with the idea of Contagion? Contagion is still work-in-progress, so does it have a huge history?
Brian Comer: I first started drafting Contagion back in 2006 but not seriously just more of a set of ideas on how I could create a more serious and darker version of Zombie Panic with a unique take on what one could do. As development of ZP:S continued some ideas we couldnt add that I really wanted to put in but like in Contagion we all listen to the Majority and only in rare cases do the Partners step in and stand firm on an idea/feature/etc. Contagion was not taken seriously till around late 2009 early 2010 when I was tired of the jobs I managed in the Industry and wanted to live my dream creating games that I wanted to play rather than help others print money on unoriginal, simple ideas, that surprisingly sold. Others felt the same and so Ive been incredibly lucky with the team that I have.
Thank you for showing an interest in our sprinboard board title Contagion and we cant wait to share it with our community and more!
We thank Brian Comer for his sincere answers and wish him and the Monochrome family members the best of luck with their projects.
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