[lore] Rationalizing why there are too many zombies

I have seen people complaining before that there are unrealistically many zombies. Every zombie had to have been a living person before the cataclysm, but every city has way more zombies than bedrooms - where did all this people live?

I think I have an idea how we can resolve this conundrum - we can change the lore to say that the cataclysm caused multiple slightly different worlds with identical geography (i.e parallel timelines) to merge. The result is that the zombie population is the combined population of multiple worlds. This lets us make the zombie hords as big as we want them to be.

Its not really a problem nor does it need a lore lampshade because the game isn’t about realism, its about verisimilitude in the pursuit of fun. When a normal person thinks of what their home town would look like zombified, they think great masses of shambling dead - even if there’s not actually enough people in most cities to do so to that kind of density.

People aren’t good with the scale of numbers on the level of city populations, so what we ‘think’ should be real is actually far more abundant than what pure realism would dictate, but pure realism would be incredibly unfun as all of three zombies shamble out of a six story apartment - the realistic population that wasn’t at work when folks started turning. A realistic level of zombies would paradoxically feel very wrong, and some side-lore narrative explanation for magically multiplying populations wouldn’t make any more sense to be honest, its just confusing in a different direction.

I always just thought it was either due to migration or the displacement of people during the initial chaos of the evacuations

Spring day 60 is end of march so it’s the easter holiday.

Where did you get this information? My impression was that “realism” is often cited by the core devs and other contributors as the motivation for one gameplay change or another

In that case, where are all the empty ghost towns they have migrated from?

If I understand correctly, the cataclysm did not happen instantly. It’s not like a nuclear war, it took months of gradual decay and breakdown to reach the point where the game begins. People would not be at work. The holidays would not affect where the people are either. The people would either join the riots or try to find a safe place (LMOE, refugee center, evac shelter, FEMA camp etc. - not all of those turned out to be safe, but people could not have known in advance)

The design docs on the official site. Realism and Verisimilitude are close but not the same - Verisimilitude as a design philosophy says you have to eat a varied diet of sufficient calories, realism says you also need a place to poop and three seashells. One is an interesting gameplay aspect, one is very much not.

So in the case of population count, verisimilitude says zombie hordes should be hordes and urban areas should be dangerous, realism says most areas should be really quiet if not empty entirely. Realism would just be a less interesting and less fun gameplay space at the end of the day.

The main problem here isn’t really the population of zombies, it’s the size of cities. Our urban centers are pretty low on housing. I had a solution written out somewhere about this but it looks like I still need to put it up as an issue oh GH, I should do that. Basically, it wouldn’t be too hard to have cities grow a little bit differently so that city_size variables actually meant something significant about the number of residences in a city, and from there, we could use that to determine roughly the number of zombies that belong in a city.

note that this wouldn’t dictate eg. the number of zombies in a house, just roughly how many zombies we’d have overall spread out in the entire area.


I can see a bit of leeway too with major survival sites like hospitals, box stores, gun stores, being places individuals would flock to and subsequently die. Meaning the population in areas with these sights could possibly double or triple.

I agree with this, it’s not the zombie population that’s out of whack, it’s the city layout and to some extent engine limitations.

A note on goals. The goal is versimlitude, an example of which is something like, you walk exit the treeline on the outskirts of a small town, how many zombies do you see? If you start a fight, how many zombies are you going to have to deal with?

Actual population per OMT is secondary to the encounters you have mirroring what would happen in reality. Things like population density are a means to an end, not the final word.

Throwing some numbers out, an overmap is about 7 square miles (7.2), our upper limit is e.g. Boston, at 14 THOUSAND people per square mile, or about 100 thousand zombies per overmap, which is one zombie every 186 tiles, or maybe more relatable about three per OMT. We certainly see densities higher than that, but that’s in part because the zombies are concentrated onto the roads and density inside buildings is pretty low unless they chase you in there.

You can correctly note that not everwhere should have Boston levels of density, which is where we get to the engine limitations, which is that hordes still don’t meaningfully happen, which is a mechanism that will let us have good levels of “threat” with smaller zombie populations. Until we have that we need the zombies to be simultaneously more spread out so they threaten everywhere plus more sense so you’re confronted with a good number of zombies. Putting those together you need more zombies for the encounters to come out right.


There arent too many zombies. There are too few.
There are too many zombies compared to housing but thats the problem with the lack of housing, not zombies. Small towns shouldn’t have 3 single family houses and a gym, there should be a few dozen houses and a few apartment buildings. Big cities should have 20 stories apartment buildings with hundreds of individual apartments instead of single family houses only or two stories “apartment towers”. But various issues prevent that.

Have you ever been in even a small town during the day? There are sooo many people everywhere. If they all turned to zombies, I would be dead in seconds.