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The Surprising Inspirations Behind Zombie Game ‘H1Z1’

The Surprising Inspirations Behind Zombie Game ‘H1Z1’:

Everything in pop culture builds off what came before, but sometimes it’s not so obvious exactly what inspired your favorite video games. Luckily game recognize game, and Source Code is where Playboy explores the eclectic influences of video game developers.


In the forty-seven years since they first shambled across movie screens in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, zombies and the ensuing undead apocalypse have taken many different forms—and inspired many video games.

Take H1Z1 from Daybreak Game Company. In it, players have to scavenge for supplies and build shelters in hopes of surviving in a massive and open world infested with zombies. But, as is so often the case with a zombie apocalypse, surviving isn’t a solo exercise, which is why the game lets you team up with other online players to stay alive. Sound familiar?

With H1Z1 coming to PlayStation 4 and PC soon (currently available on Steam Early Access), we asked art director Sebastian Strzalkowski to tell us about the movies, books, TV shows, and other bits of pop culture—zombified and otherwise—that were the biggest influences on their game.


walking dead comics

5. ‘THE WALKING DEAD’ (COMICS)
Let’s start off with the obvious ones. The comic that started it all, The Walking Dead is written by Robert Kirkman and was originally drawn by Tony Moore, but is now illustrated by Charlie Adlard.

How it inspired H1Z1: “Many of us on the team are fans of the Walking Dead comic, and it is one of the first sources of inspiration I looked at when I joined the H1Z1 development team. Tony Moore’s artwork has such an iconic look, full of character and attitude, that we used as inspiration through the game to get that post-apocalyptic vibe. I even posted several pieces of his artwork on the walls to inspire the team when we developed the game’s aesthetic.”


the walking dead

4. ‘THE WALKING DEAD’ (TV)
The AMC television show The Walking Dead was inspired by the above comic and developed into a TV show by director Frank Darabont. The sixth season is slated to begin October 11, 2015.

How it inspired H1Z1: “The Walking Dead TV show had a heavy influence on the mood and the post-apocalyptic setting in H1Z1 as well. Many movies in the genre are much more stylized, but the Walking Dead show has a very realistic feel to it, which is what we are striving for in H1Z1. We used a similar process as in TV/film to accentuate specific colors to create mood and a sense of the world falling apart. The state of decay in the show is very close to the same timeline in H1Z1, so we got a lot of good reference and ideas from the TV show. But I’m only on season three of the show, so please: No spoilers!“


the road

3. ’THE ROAD’
A bleak, post-apocalyptic novel by No Country for Old Men author Cormac McCarthy, The Road tells the tale of a man and a boy trying to get to safety in a world devoid of it. It was adapted into a 2009 movie of the same name that starred Viggo Mortensen.

How it inspired H1Z1: "Most all of us have seen the movie, and the ones that had read the book couldn’t stop raving about it. The backdrop is so haunting and the remaining survivors’ humanities are pushed to new limits, so it immediately became an early source of inspiration for the mood and the game’s setting. The father/son dynamic is so integral to the story, and we strived to capture some of that desperation, hope, and devastation in our H1Z1 world.”


the colony

2. ’THE COLONY’
The Colony is a reality show on The Discovery Channel in which the participants must try to survive a post-apocalyptic disaster zone.

How it inspired H1Z1: “I love having it on in the background while I work. It’s a fascinating character study, as well as a theoretical look at what groups of people have to do to survive with limited dwindling resources. In one of the episodes, the people are trying to figure out the best way to build a shelter: What are the best resources? Should they just barricade, etc.? This was great to reference as we developed base building in game, and it was really interesting to see how similar players used the base building tools in-game compared to how people built shelters on The Colony.”


life after people

1. ‘LIFE AFTER PEOPLE’
Life After People was a documentary TV show on The History Channel that showed what the Earth might be like if all of us pesky humans went away.

How it inspired H1Z1: “When developing a new area in the world of H1Z1, we have to ask ourselves how much decay would happen after a year without civilization: What would the malls look like? When would food start rotting in the supermarkets? When would backup generators stop working? Life After People helped answer many of these questions for us, and we tried to create urban settings that accurately and realistically reflected what life would actually be like in a post-apocalyptic world.”


Paul Semel has been writing about games (as well as music, movies, books, and other fun stuff) for over twenty years. You can find him online on his own site, paulsemel.com, or follow him on Twitter at @paulsemel.


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