Being the battle royale shooter that started it all, H1Z1 is a fast-paced and highly competitive. Players parachute into a world in search for weapons, supplies, and vehicles in order to survive a toxic gas cloud. As time goes on, the deadly poison compresses the map, boxing the players in closer and closer. Whether players jump into the game solo or with a team, it’s always the perfect time for mayhem in the mission to be the last one standing.
The people behind H1Z1 are constantly using community feedback to find just the right balance between nostalgia and high octane battle royale action.
Enter Outbreak. — The new post-apocalyptic 8 by 8 KM world designed to not only enhance intense battle royale gameplay, but give older fans just the right amount of nostalgia with signature landmarks from Z1.
Outbreak also has exciting, new features for terrain, POIs, art, and textures, pushing the boundaries on how dynamic H1Z1 can become. Along with the new map, players can now run and jump faster, thanks to a change in the animations that makes combat fun and intuitive. Classic audio cues are also part of this PC update.
Producer at Daybreak Games, Terrence Yee, talked with CGMagazine about this process of mixing nostalgia with battle royale and how this new update affects H1Z1 gameplay.
CGMagazine: Can you tell us a bit more about the process behind the new Outbreak map? How did it begin and how has the map evolved over time?
Yee: Outbreak is basically a renounced version of what we refer to as a Z1 versus map. And the first map is really what introduced the world to the battle royale genre. It really was at first a standalone game, and we kicked it into high gear and got it published.
The reason we wanted to go back to it was this map was originally actually built for a survival game. Like zombie, horror, post-apocalyptic survival game. Then we went in and came up with the idea of making a game mode — battle royale — on top of it.
The problem was the map wasn’t quite built as good as it should be for that sort of game. So we really wanted to go back and make a perfect battle royale version of it. While remaining true to the visuals, the spirit of it.
So we ended up taking the train and we took a step back we ended up trying to figure out what is it that we all do to address it to make it a battle royale map. We ended up addressing parts of the terrain that were just not great to drive over or not great to traverse over. We redid all the textures and the props, so they are much more for a shooter, because a survivor game is much more of a player versus environment experience, and in a shooter, you need things like standard cover, heights, metrics, and stuff like that.
So we opened up windows, and doorways, and hallways. We added more cover to where space was too empty. We distributed loot in a different fashion again and made sure retrieval was better dispersed and located.
We really went back and tried to recreate this map so that it was built for a battle royale experience.
CGMagazine: How much of an influence did nostalgia have on Outbreak, and how does it affect the map itself and gameplay?
One thing that was very important for us when it came to H1Z1 is to remain faithful to the original, which is really grounded in a realistic kind of setting. Everything looked organic and it made sense.
We really tried to work on visual storytelling. So here, we landed in what looks like what a survivor camp would try to put together in a post-apocalyptic setting where you have zombies coming at you or looters. They rearrange it in a sort of circle, it’s a barricade. So we try to put all of those visual storytelling elements everywhere.
A lot of our veterans just loved it, and I think it’s because to them, it’s what they grew up with. It was their first introduction to a battle royale game, and they went on to really love the genre. And I think Z1 had a certain character that they really preferred, so when it came down to making the new map, it was like we just really wanted to remaster Z1 and make it how a battle royale game map should be made.
There were also some folks who preferred the older animations and how some of the gun mechanics felt — like the recoil. So we took some time and effort to try to go back to that to see what we could recapture.
Most of the POIs that are famous from the Z1 map is definitely in [H1Z1]. We had three cities — Pleasant Valley, Cranberry, Rancho. We had other major spots that players love. There’s a set of cabins at an intersection of a road. It’s lovingly referred to as “murder cabins” just because there’s always so much action in and around it. The Governor’s Mansion, the Dam — all of those have been recreated faithfully in the map, and we were really careful to upgrade them to make them better for a shooter, geared for an actual competitive shooter game without radically changing their look and their feel.
CGMagazine: The new lighting schemes and climate setups in Outbreak look fantastic. But why these new setups? Do they affect gameplay in any way or are they there to make the remastered ZI more visually stimulating?
Basically, our art director is trying to give us multiple lighting schemes and kind of weather schemes to really add variety to the game so that players get a different sense of feel. The gameplay feels different, and the map feels different.
When we bring in the fog, for instance, all of a sudden the map feels more oppressive. It feels a little more dangerous. You can’t see folks or enemies nearly at the same distance as you can [in the sunny version]. So it really not only changes the mood but also actually the gameplay.
It’s got kind of a weighted system, so if we had four different lighting schemes, they’re not just 25 per cent each. We kind of say, “The sunny scheme seems to appeal more to players.” For instance, we’ve done some surveys, and for the lighting schemes, we got some votes, and so tend to weigh heavily the ones that are more popular.
CGMagazine: What is the feedback process like, and what are some of the most valuable feedback you’ve had from the community so far?
A lot of times, we have a survey every time we put this out on test, and we do a revision. We generally have an agenda, so this last one was really about the feel of Outbreak — Is it similar? Does it make you remember what Z1 felt like? Is there a problem with not enough loot in an area?
The most valuable feedback we actually got was we used to have, basically, spawn select. We had that on test, where you choose where you landed. By an extremely large margin, players actually wanted us to turn that off. Players really understood that it was much more reminiscent of the original Z1 experience. It was much more organic, where players spawned randomly throughout the map and happen to just have these organic firefights when they came across each other.
CGMagazine: What makes H1Z1 unique and enjoyable as a battle royale shooter?
We really try to concentrate on what makes a battle royale game compelling to begin with. — Which is land, find your guns, get quickly moving, get into the action quickly. Another thing that really makes H1Z1 is the extremely competitive aspect to it.
And also, our vehicles are very fun to drive. That’s one the reason why we went back to the terrain and tried to smooth all that out.
Players are always kind of testing the boundaries — that’s what you would expect in an open world game.
I remember seeing a video stream of somebody literally hitting some ramp they randomly found and jumping and landing on top of a house — which is completely unexpected. Out of the corner of your eye — all of a sudden — this truck goes flying, and you didn’t expect that, but it sure did make for a funny, memorable moment.
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