In many ways it’s hard to be the first at anything. For the student team behind Zombie-Kiri, firsts are what they do – first Facebook game as a Game Design final project and first Facebook game by students in North America. We’ve mentioned the game before, but now, on the cusp of graduation, we caught up with the team to find out how this all came about. (Acting for Film & Television grad Kris Nielsen provided the game’s voicework.)
The first Facebook game in North America made by students – what inspired you to make one?
Stanislav Costiuc: Old-school Super Nintendo games. Facebook games have a certain style and essence to them, and we deliberately wanted to swim against the current. We wanted to prove that Facebook games are capable of having a much wider variety in genre and style.
Stuart Saunders: From the beginning, we wanted Zombie-Kiri to be something that hadn’t been done before. Risk was very important for us to properly manage. We knew we wanted to make something cutting edge. Our concept originated as an iPad game and a few days later we decided it would work better as a Facebook game. Making a Facebook game was a great opportunity for us as it has a huge audience and also crowned us as one of the first student groups in the world to make a Facebook game.
Tell us about the challenges and rewards of making a game on Facebook. What are the limitations?
Clarence Chan: At first getting Zombie-Kiri onto Facebook was a challenge given none of us had any familiarity with the process, although that was quickly resolved; afterward, the challenge was constantly updating Zombie-Kiri to continue working on Facebook due to the environment’s frequent changes in design that affect the way apps work. Other than that, most of the problems afterward lay in the creation of Zombie-Kiri, where we had to make sure the game ran smoothly at all times and never crashed. The biggest reward is being able to have the game on the largest platform in the world, as well as the vast amount of knowledge we gained through this experience.
Nathan Nasseri: The biggest challenge was making Zombie-Kiri fun. It wasn’t until we moved away from being realistic and more about being over the top with dark humour that we were more successful. Our mentor, Rick Davidson, advised us to focus on the fun of the game. Deciding to stop production and spend a few days tweaking the game to make it as fun as possible paid off big time.
Tell us about what you did on the game.
Clarence: I was the Lead Client Programmer. My job was to program aspects of the game in Flash Action Script 3 code. This included, but was not limited to, the menus and front-end navigation system, enemy AI, implementing visual assets such as world art, particles, and sprites, and the sound and audio system.
Nathan: I was the Project Manager and my responsibilities were making sure the limited time we had was being used as effectively as possible. This involved make changes or cuts to the game as they were needed. I also helped design the mechanics and systems plus the world design and world art. In addition to these I was also responsible for the audio and quality assurance testing.
Stanislav: I was the Lead Mechanics Designer responsible for core gameplay systems, balancing, and documentation. As well, I was one of the artists and programmers on the team.
Stuart: I was the Network Programmer. I was responsible for setting up the server and doing all the programming for it. I was also in charge of all Facebook interactions. After basic framework was in place I began working on the game and programmed a lot of the core functionality. I was focused more on behind the scenes programming rather than the gameplay, but I did a bit of both and a lot of optimizing and bug fixing.
When Facebook games come up, people usually talk about monetization. How much was this in your minds while you designed it?
Stanislav: When we were designing Zombie-Kiri, we decided to make the gameplay fun first, and only then think about monetization.
Clarence: We have two currencies: money and duct tape, both of which are used to upgrade the player’s items. While money is extremely common, duct tape is relatively rarer, and although it does not play a part in the upgrade system initially, the player will be required to use increasing amounts of it to upgrade their items at higher levels. Thus, the player can grind it out in order to collect duct tape in game, or pay to save time instead.
Stuart: We do plan to expand the monetization aspects of Zombie-Kiri after we graduate from VFS though.
Having done one, do you think you’d make another?
Stanislav: As long as I work with a creative and inspiring team, yes.
Clarence: If the opportunity arises again, I possibly would.
Stuart: I will definitely be working on more Facebook titles, but I wouldn’t say that is all I will work on.
Nathan: Absolutely, it was really fun and challenging as a designer to do something innovative.
You can play Zombie-Kiri now on Facebook.