Outbeak is a week-long game of Zombie Tag where players must be on the alert for threats and objectives while going about their day-to-day lives.
Personal Learning Goals
• Content Design
• Player Behavior
• Interest Curves
• Developed missions for Season 5
• 4 month development cycle
• Collaborated 2 other designers, a project manager, and 2 marketers
Zombies attacking a group of Humans
Horde of Zombies posing
Zombies who have surrounded a group of Humans
Zombies chasing Humans up a hill
Returning on Player Investment
With entertainment readily available to consumers in today's market, competition is more focused on time than money. Making a game which takes place over a 5-day period is an ambitious project, requiring players to commit to playing the game not just during scheduled missions but also while doing mundane tasks like going to get food or walking to their car. Despite this significant time requirement for players, the uniqueness of the game experience created a lot of interest from our players; we needed to make sure the time investment would be worth it.
As the designers for the 5th season of Outbreak, we had the privilege of building off of the work of our predecessors and using their notes and observations to inform our decisions.
What Went Right
One noteworthy trends we saw was that while interest started off high, it quickly dwindled over the course of the week. Digging into this we found out that most missions only involved one of two types of game mechanics; Defense and Retrieval. These missions were interesting as first, but as players found themselves doing the same thing again and again they quickly lost interest in the game.
In order to change this, I started looking through lists of verbs, taking note of anything which we may be able to build a mission around. After narrowing these down during a design meeting, we settled on a final list of 5 verbs: Recon, Delivery, Construction, Retrieval, and Run. With a unique verb for each daily mission, we were able to build missions that felt and played differently each day of the week.
What Went Wrong
One of the dominant human tactics in previous seasons was 'clumping', where humans would gather together in large groups to minimize opportunities for zombies to attack for zombies.We wanted to change this for Season 5, so we introduced a mechanic known as Radiation Zones to the Season 5 missions.
Radiation Zones made clumping harder to use by restricting the Human team's movement; when a Human entered one, they would be disabled and unable to defend themselves from zombies. This forced humans to split up into smaller groups so they could maneuver around these areas, preventing large-scale use of this tactic. While these zones did have the intended effect, they were ultimately a clunky mechanic which was difficult for players to arbitrate themselves; with no computer system to keep track of them, many disputes arose over weather or not a specific Human was disabled when fighting Zombies.
Ultimately this mechanic ended up creating more problems than it solved, and we had to nullify it later in the season.
What I Learned
Just because something is different, doesn't necessarily make it better. Going into the 5th Season of Outbreak, we were nervous about the game being too similar to previous seasons; while we made improvements, some of our changes such as the Radiation Zones actually hurt the game more than they helped. Ultimately it's just as valuable to identify what is working well and keeping it, as it is to identify problems and finding ways to fix them.