Non-Static Spawn

Disclaimer: I happen to like the idea of non-static spawn and don’t want it removed. I also want it to be more playable than “I broke a window, and that somehow spawned five vanilla zombies and a spitter zombie around the corner”.

I started on Cataclysm back in the Whales days when non-static spawn was the only option. My first real, successful game involved me digging a trench all around the starting shelter and spiking as many pits as I could. All kinds of surprisingly nasty stuff would assault my little fortress (zombie necromancers being quite notable), some of it stumbling blindly into the pits. I felt like I was actually trying to hold back a zombie horde, and that nowhere was truly safe.

Static spawn is different, to be sure, and it changes the whole game. You can sneak around and pick off zombies and actually clear out a whole area. You’ll mostly want to keep pressing onward in order to find cool stuff. You only need to build a base or deathmobile for posterity, since once an area is cleared out of zombies, it’s generally safe (unless it’s too close to an ant nest/fungal bloom/triffid grove/slime pit, the first three of which can be cleared out). Is it fun? Certainly.

But as mentioned… there’s no real need to build a base, board up a house, dig pits, erect a palisade wall… as long as you sleep far enough away from potential spawning points, you’ll be safe. You can build the most elaborate base ever, but nothing will ever test its defenses. You can craft an amazing armored car and it’ll only be put to the test when you enter unexplored areas. This is the niche that I believe non-static spawn should fill - making you balance the need to gather supplies against the danger of actually going out and doing so, because every supply run is fraught with danger. You need to actually put up defenses around your chosen hold-out point, be it pits or traps or turrets, or take your deathmobile somewhere out of the way. And any time you run low on supplies, you need to gear up for a fight, and earn those supplies.

Which would be great… if zombies didn’t get spawned by sound.

Therein lies the primary issue with non-static spawn. It’s not that firing a shotgun will attract every zombie in a three-mile radius, it’s that is creates enough zombies to fill a three-mile radius. Breaking a window doesn’t bring a few nearby walkers to your position, it spawns several around the corner to cause you trouble. Driving a car won’t just attract zombies, it’ll create a steady strip of zombies around you as you move, unless it has a muffler.

I really don’t want non-static spawn to be removed from the game, because static spawn seems to funnel the player into a very particular playstyle and actively discourages certain elements of the game - which would be fine if it wasn’t the only spawn setting available. I want the issues in non-static spawn to be addressed and resolved, so that both spawn modes remain in the game, and each provide different types of game. I don’t think that either mode should replace the other.

So, here is what I propose should happen in non-static spawn, and I would appreciate feedback in this thread:

[ul][li]Remove spawning from sound, and instead spawn over time (up to a cap, maybe). Make it scale. Give the player time to find a hold-out and gather their first round of supplies - they’ll need them. Then spawn more zombies, and harder zombies, steadily making things more challenging.[/li]
[li]Spawn zombies based on the city density - much like non-static spawn, except that more are added over time.[/li]
[li]Improve zombie hearing. Make firing a shotgun attract every zombie around, giving the player a chance to escape if they are quick.[/li][/ul]

Essentially, I see that the first day or two should just be the “classic zombie” type zombies: zombies, zombie children, zombie cops (rarely), swimmer zombies, zombie dogs. Then things should start to become tougher, after you’ve had some time to prepare. Spitters and shockers, maybe a smoker. More classic zombies in total.

Work up to multiple master and necromancer zombies, multiple hulks - after the player has had enough time to become Rambo or the Terminator. Make their boarded-up houses withstand serious assaults. If the player elects to make somewhere out of town their safe house, that’s fine; they’ll need to be prepared to venture back into the city whenever they need something. And when they leave, it should be a frantic escape in their vehicle of choice driving fast to get away from the zombie hordes behind them, not the casual evening cruise that static spawn lets you do once you clear an area.

In short, non-static spawn shouldn’t be so much about “noise creates zombies” as it is “no area remains clear forever”.

This seems like it will mostly get addressed with the traveling mobs of zombies. We are supposed to get hordes of them wandering around the map and such, removing the permanent safety and if zombie mobs are spawned off-site then I wouldn’t really have a problem.

I’d love a combination of the two spawn types. A starting static base that gets added to over time with extra dynamic spawned zombies, that get more difficult over time would be so good. SO good. I want them to find your shelter and tend towards it over time, eventually building up into full blown assaults if you spend too much time there. I know not everyone wants to play that way, so maybe it can be a toggleable mode, or a mod or something.

Right; this should be an alternative, not the only option.

This is how a classic RPG game works, more or less:


1 # 2



3 # 4



(1) Your tutorial, and the first plot instance along with some of the lore. Your encounters depend solely on your decisions, and there are some tutorial/plot guidelines. All in few words, the game lets you choose more than it throws at you.
(2) This is where you decide on the pace of your game. This is mainly achieved through quests, whereas you care so little about the way that the game generates secondary challenges. Your choices matter, because you decide what’s useful to your character, and what’s slowing you down; the game “listens” how are you picking up on the storyline, and if you lack some stuff it “extends” the tutorial routine. This is where you learn it’s important to have some backup along with enough resources.
(3) After the Quest-riddled second part, you are to discover some things on your own. This is actually called Hinting. In a nutshell, the game no longer draws you guidelines - you have an impression of your character actually affecting the storyline. There are enough “bonus” bits and pieces if you miss on stuff, or you just acknowledge that the storyline isn’t linear anymore. The challenges are fixed in nature, however; the game assumes you’ve reached a certain level of skill, being that it threw some crucial items at you. You can explore the world and get really good at skills/combat; you can die if you make those same mistakes as with (1) and (2).
(4) When you acknowledge one of the hints, you begin interacting accordingly. You have one or several ways to get into (4), and it is somewhere considered as the “end tier”. Quests you decide on chasing through are flooded with challenges; this is mostly due to the fact that you’re entering the villain’s lair, and he’s surrounded with waves of minions. This is where tactics are important; you quickly learn to approach the problem and take notice that not every dandellion has to be run over. You can no longer accumulate more than you can waste, so the game picks up the pace too - there’s a reward system for difficult encounters, one that so many games make use of, MMOs being most noticeable. The final dungeon features a constant challenge rating along with some “new” riddles and puzzles (call them traps, if you want) so that you literally grind your way to the villain himself. The last challenge differs from one game to another, but an interesting thing is when he generates different “formations” of minions to confront you, and changes his own tactical approach and attacking strategy accordingly. To me, this feels as if you were a stormtrooper (not the SW kind) that’s locking his aims onto a single target, while under constant toe-to-toe pressure. Again, in a nutshell, it’s a showcase of all your skills and your tactics/preparations final overture. The thrill is everything, and the endgame video is a trademark of your accomplishment.

I’ve counted six or so methods of generating enemies and challenges as I was writing this. I only hope it could help you.

Roaming hordes of zombies have been my #1 wish for this game for a long time. Static is awesome because you can clear the area and actually change the world. But then the threat goes away. Forever. Roaming hordes fixes this, and could even add a gameplay element of strategy if certain things you did would increase the chances and intensity (leaving food/smells/noise/light/etc).

Yeah, roving hordes seems to be on the agenda (albeit probably quite a long way off unfortunately), I’m not convinced this would fix the problem as it seems difficult to balance:

  1. Regularity - if it was really regular it would become annoying (and be sort of just like a wave defence game) but if it wasn’t regular enough, it’d become pretty much pointless.
  2. Horde type - if they came in as just one insanely big group, that’d just be ridiculous - you’d just get trampled or have to run away. If it was a slow drib drab, it’d be again pretty pointless.

This leaves you with just spawning lots of zombies back in a city centres every week or two - which seems a bit trivial and probably sort of gamey.

I think the best way to increase this is to increase the base difficulty (see the thread from yesterday before it turned absolutely stupid) of the game, increase zombie toughness and have out of area spawning (so when you go away, more zombies come back) as a quick fix until a really dynamite idea for dealing with it comes along.

What if we handle them in much the same way we handle NPCs? Have roving hordes emerge from faraway from the player and move around the map occasionally. When the player and the horde intersect, the horde is spawned into the game proper and then dealt with. When the player is gone, then the game stores what type of zombies and enemies are in the horde and then despawns them, to be a later challenge for the player.

That way you can have stuff like nether sieges, fungal hordes, roving triffid forests, so forth. Simply store a different monster into the “horde” data and then you have a different horde.

You could have several types of hordes, switching from zombies to nastier baddies over time. On year 1 you should be facing plenty of zombies. On year 5 you should be under nether siege. Of course, the number of monsters will also vary from horde to horde, so you can be faced with a dozen zombies or a hundred zombies. Early warning should be a distinct possibility, and even if zombies do not respond to the player, merely move randomly, understanding where the hordes are is key. I think a system quite like the current NPC mapscreen, where zombie icons are put onto the map, and depending on how close they are to the player and whether or not the player has binoculars and good vision, you’d be able to tell certain things about them - such as what monster type, what type of numbers they have, and what direction they’re moving in.

Roving hordes being a long way off is part of why I’m suggesting this. Hordes also doesn’t really address the issue of being able to clear out a town and loot it at your leisure. Don’t get me wrong, hordes sound like a good idea, but it’s a distant dream whereas fixing up non-static spawn is something that could be done realistically quickly.

It is, after all, a roguelike, and it should offer greater challenges as the player obtains more skills, abilities, and powers. While this is normally represented as things like artifact weapons and more powerful spells, in Cataclysm it’s stuff like tougher armor, better guns, and huge stacks of bullets, plus better skill ranks (in part because the artifacts in Cataclysm are almost always pure junk, but that’s a separate issue entirely).

Vultures has the right idea - scale it up through different phases of the game. Scattered classic zombies serve as the tutorial; they shuffle around and will melee you if you get in range, but can be outrun at your base speed, but can be easily dispatched at range or meleed. Then you start teaching the player more by tossing boomers and smokers at them to encourage them not to try meleeing everything (without adequate protection, anyway), as well as spitters and and shockers to teach them that they’re not always safe at range, either. Then come the supporting zombies - necromancers and masters - who are most threatening when they aren’t anywhere near you. Finally you get brutes and hulks who aren’t going to be taken down by a pocket knife on a couple of shrubs and require the player to have invested some of their time in being able to outfight or outrun tough opponents.

This is far better than “bump up the base difficulty”, because a) That screws over new or inexperienced players, and makes the early-game annoying, and b) it’s a band-aid until the next time someone says “this is too easy!” (or “this is too hard!”). Having difficulty scale over time, rather than trying to pick a single arbitrary fixed point, is a better way to address giving well-equipped players a challenge, because everyone’s ideal challenge level is different. And that’s why you scale; after all, in a roguelike (especially one like Cataclysm that you can’t actually win, at least not yet) your primary goal is “survive longer than the last character did”.

Tweaking the regularity is something that will need testing, just like any new feature. As for the type or size of a horde - is it really a bad thing to generate a group that makes you run away? As long as you can run away, of course; spawning 30 zombie dogs is cheap and unfair. A big horde of regular zombies can offer the player a choice: fight or run? Or maybe lure them away and go around then? When players have choices, and all choices are viable, the game becomes more interesting. Is it really worth it to get to that grocery store if you have to go through that many zombies, or do you want to come back when you’re better-equipped? Take the challenge and succeed and you’ll have something memorable accomplished, making the run more enjoyable.

I think the problem with a horde (as has been mentioned) is that it doesn’t really do much to solve the problem of day to day ‘fear’, it just means occasionally you’ll run across a big group that’ll either require you to run away or fight a big load of zombies. I think this is a great additional mechanic, but doesn’t really solve the problem of how to constantly make the game a challenge. Even if the horde deposited a few zombies along it’s route, it’d still mean you’d just have a few zombies appear here and there which aren’t much of a threat.

My suggestion about the base difficulty was more that I believe it should be a multi-pronged approach, rather than just spawning loads more/have a more powerful difficulty curve.

So for instance, if the map was made with villages on the outside (where you start) and a city in the middle, you could clear the villages pretty much completely whereas the city would constantly pump out zombies (almost just randomly, it possibly could have some things which influence it). Some of these zombies might move up to the villages/in the direction of a lot of noise or smell, but others would just stay around the centre.

However, on top of this, the villages could be pretty bare (but contain some essentials) which would both ease players in, whilst making them feel as though they were progressing, and there would be things like farms/motels and all the other ‘out of city’ places to visit first. This would leave the cities as constant, central challenge (especially if surrounding mechanics were put in) which could never be cleared, and which would also leave you absolutely swamped in zombies if you weren’t careful.

TLDR: The reality bubble feels like a big challenge to making this more engaging, be careful with difficulty scaling, and make sure it stays fresh.

60-whatever tiles is enough for about 5-6 houses square and that is not enough distance to truly represent a gunshot’s sound range. For this to be successful, for me, all our contributing factors for drawing attention need to be applied across a larger area for more exciting consequences. Also, that horde you leave behind outside the bubble needs to have an ability to catch up with you eventually. See the horde in walking dead that are attracted by the gunshot at night then overrun the farm hours later in the morning: this feels right and they used it in the show because it created some great tension and we should be able to use that. Could this be accomplished by calculating a distance over time variable for monsters as they leave the reality bubble and plotting their path so that as they phase back into reality they can appear in different tiles - ones further down the path they had been on when they phased out?

I agree on light. Flicking on your car’s headlights in an otherwise lightless post-apocalypse should draw as much attention as a gunshot. Leaving a window open with an active lightstrip in your base also, but not as big of a radius. Could it easily be tied to the light’s radius and extrapolated to an area of effect? Obviously headlights cast more light than a lightstrip in the current game.

[quote=“Ian Strachan, post:1, topic:4229”]…

[ul][li]Remove spawning from sound, and instead spawn over time (up to a cap, maybe). Make it scale. Give the player time to find a hold-out and gather their first round of supplies - they’ll need them. Then spawn more zombies, and harder zombies, steadily making things more challenging.[/li]
[li]Spawn zombies based on the city density - much like non-static spawn, except that more are added over time.[/li]
[li]Improve zombie hearing. Make firing a shotgun attract every zombie around, giving the player a chance to escape if they are quick.[/li][/ul]


I like all of these things,

Not that skill-based spawning is part of your list, but it is something I would like to argue against just in case it comes up:

A bad example of difficulty scaling see elder scrolls: morrowind. There need to be exclusions for fire atronarchs spawning just outside of town. Hulks in our case.

I like that you are tying it to time rather than skill, because players will come to know skill levels=harder monsters and it ruins the perceived power curve to feel like you can never get ahead. The time scale will help create urgency.

Could we tweak the intent of that to ‘safe’ so that if someone were to clear out your spawn over time cap they could have X days before it is re-set and monsters spawn again? Removing the challenge totally removes the feeling of the reward as time passes: my base town is clear, now I’m bored. Other roguelikes re-set this with death, but I think we can create a more unique experience with a tweak like this. See the ‘director’ in left for dead as it alternates between low and high number spawns to keep things fresh.

Agreed, I think you have a handle on what is fun :slight_smile:

Scaling difficulty to try and exactly match the character’s strength (as with the Elder Scrolls examples) is fundamentally flawed because you’re essentially keeping the difficulty static; if every monster takes exactly 5 hits to kill regardless of my equipment then there’s no point to having equipment, similarly for levels or skills.

Making things tougher independent of the character’s strength (usually done in roguelikes by scaling with the dungeon depth) keeps the player on their toes, as they have to grow stronger at an unspecific pace to keep up. They may fall behind a little, but realize this before it’s too late and invest more time in better weapons or armor; they may get ahead of the curve and take on greater challenges.

The Left 4 Dead director is indeed quite similar, as it drops in special zombies, hordes, and the Tank to keep the player on their toes. I’ve turned on the director’s debug mode to see some of how it works; each player has a ‘tension’ meter that goes up when they shoot something or take damage. If tension reaches 0% and stays there for too long, the director gives the players a “get your asses moving” prod by sending them a horde and/or spawning special zombies. This actually makes it better to keep moving, because you’ll encounter more scattered zombies and keep tension above 0 for longer.

In Cataclysm, “damage taken” and “recent kills” could both be tracked to determine spawn density, in addition to how close to the city center you are. Incoming damage reducing spawns will ease things up, so that if you survive the skirmish you’re in, you’ll have time to heal yourself and scout the immediate area before getting into trouble again. Tracking kills avoids things swinging in the opposite direction and punishing you for doing well - if you’re progressing through and dispatching enemies along the way, the fact that you’re moving into an already-populated area means you’ve likely got enough to worry about already. But when the player chills out in a house or library within the city limits to read some books… by the time they’re done, they should have some ‘friends’ waiting for them outside. After all, you’ve had your break, it’s time to get back to the zombie apocalypse.

Exactly. It’ll encourage people to make that initial Day 1 push into the nearest town to get as much as they possibly can while the zombies are still relatively tame. I’ve had games where I received a bite early on and thus entered that extreme state of urgency to find a first aid kit (or, eventually, antibiotics) that gives you a very clear short-term goal. The difference here is that you would be setting the goal yourself, which depending on your playstyle and character, could be any one of:

[ul][li]I need a working vehicle ASAP[/li]
[li]I want a really good primary melee/ranged weapon[/li]
[li]I want to grab a stack of skill books and then escape so I can read them all[/li]
[li]I want as much volume-granting clothing as I can get[/li][/ul]

And so on. Because that’s the other thing about static spawn; as you clear out areas you have the freedom to grab anything and everything lying around, be it food, thread, books, crafting materials, clothing, or whatever. When you need to fight for every item you pick up, it makes you prioritize rather than just grab everything, a critical element to a survival-focused game: you can only carry so much stuff, what is it that’s most important to you?

I’m not a fan of this myself - or rather, I would be, but I think there would be far, far too many problems with it becoming too ‘gamey’, something I know the devs are against. For instance, lets say you worked out that you had to kill one zombie every 100 turns to keep the meter rising, you could just keep some around to stop this going up. Obviously this is a very simplistic example, but I think the sort of ‘your actions cause more zombies to appear out of thin air’ seems a bit too fake, and too much like dynamic spawns. I’m sure it could become quite realistic with a ton of variables and so on, but for a quicker route to it I feel a different approach would be easier.

I feel a more passive/softer version of this would work well though, where it could simply monitor the zombies in an area and boost the numbers by spawning more in the city center (with some set to wander) if you killed off too many. It could also keep a list of the sound/smell/light of the area, and boost Z’s over time if these factors had become too heavy (which likely means you’ve progressed level wise).

I just dislike the idea of an exact timetable/skill based spawning really, as I think that it makes the game more linear rather than survival/skill based.

How about something like cities of a certain size support a certain capacity of zombies. Over one 24 hour period, a city of a certain size generates a certain number of zombies. Whenever a city is below its limit, zombies from a nearby city that is over its limit will migrate towards it over time.

So for example (all numbers made up off the top of my head) you have a city of size 8. It can support 1000 zombies, it spawns 25 zombies a day, and it statically spawns 750 at world gen. Nearby is a city of size 4 that can support 200 zombies, is too small to spawn any zombies, and statically spawns all 200 at world gen. Slightly further away is a city of size 3 that supports 150, doesn’t spawn, and statically spawns 150.

So starting day 1, you clear 50 zombies a day from one of the smaller cities, and then from that point on you wait and turtle up.

So we have this (all sizes at end of day, except for start):

[tr][td]Day[/td][td]City 8 size[/td][td]City 4 size[/td][td]City 3 size[/td][/tr]


I would think the zombies would tend to go towards the area you’re in over time, and it would be a slow march type effect where being spotted by a zombie on the front of the line causes it to make noise and rile up the zombies behind, creating a chain reaction effect that can grab the entire migrating group towards you.

It could be modified so that the number of zombies spawned in a city is based off the current population of that city, so that once you started majorly clearing sections of a large city, the number of spawns would go down noticeably.

[quote=“Binky, post:13, topic:4229”]I just dislike the idea of an exact timetable/skill based spawning really, as I think that it makes the game more linear rather than survival/skill based.[/quote]I’m on par with this ideology; linearity can’t go well with survival sim. If I knew as a player that spawning/difficulty is gonna be raised once I’m “tougher” then I’m better off staying at my current position/status. Because my goal (as a player) is to survive not be on top of the food chain.

Basically, the goal is to survive not actively trying to up my stats just for the sake of being more powerful and kill tougher enemies in the process, this is not a dungeon crawl. The idea of a game tracking your stats and changing the world around you and thus forcing you to beat your previous “score” is too linear for such a game.

Definitely! I think you’re definitely along the right lines. I’d like to see some other variables come into play aswell, like lots of noise causing more to wake up - but rather than them magically spawn, it could just up the number that are generated over time. This would mean that you would still benefit from not just going in and bazooka-ing everything, as it’d wake loads more up.

As far as increasing difficulty, a mixture of the surrounding mechanic often talked about, with a scarcity of objects over time from ‘looting’ (even if this is behind the scenes for now) and decay, would mean that though you’d be increasing in skills, you’d be balanced by a lack of easy access to food/water/supplies, and an ever growing Z population.

Hence basing it off some factor that is not affected by the player: time. The game does not become harder because you are tougher; you have to grow tougher because the game will become harder. A subtle, but important difference, because this lets you exceed the difficulty curve if you have the right loot/build/skills, thereby giving an incentive and a reward for hunting for better gear. You might very well be a walking death machine temporarily, and this is fine, because while having a nail bat and a melee skill of 4 is enough to dispatch vanilla zombies with ease, it won’t keep you safe forever.

Easily fixed with a better model. Use a fuzzy limit (say, 10% tension or less). Or have an upper limit on how long they can go without additional spawns, so that after 1 hour of in-game time (just for example), it spawns no matter what. Or have the countdown scale: 50% tension or more and it halts, anything lower and it decrements the counter after 1 turn per level of tension, so 5% tension brings spawns 5x faster than 25% tension.

Interesting, but it seems like a more complex model than is really necessary. However, “cap how many zombies one city can generate in a single day” is a good idea. No reason for a town of three houses to spit out hundreds of zombies at once, regardless of game mode. The reality bubble will devour the rest.

The alternative is having a character decked out in armor with fancy modded guns and ammo driving around in a car o’ death, in a world meant to challenge characters who have little more than jeans and a pocket knife.

Remember, this is supposed to be an alternative to static spawn, not a replacement. Static spawn encourages the player to visit new locations, because ‘cleared out’ locations become empty and boring. Non-static spawn encourages the player to revisit the same location and have it be different every time, at least until that location is of no further use to the player.

I’d like it if spawns accounted for zombies tracking people - if a horde sees you drive away in a straight line, and then loses track of you, they keep going in a straight line - so if the player wants to avoid that horde, the need to be at least a little stealthy, and try to cover their tracks and scent trails - put your base across a rive from the city, etc. It shouldn’t be a matter of outrunning zombies, they should be able to track an obvious trail - assuming they have no reason to deviate from it, so if you drop a radio to the side in your getaway, you can distract them long enough so they’ll lose your trail.

Ian Strachan = Fun. I would just like to add my idea onto all this.

If we look at the current world_gen, it spawns about three city districts - residential, downtown and supply/market. Discussing each piece individually would shape many different questions, if our point is population/density and therefore zombies. My export of the dynamic system constist of two distinct units:
First one is general to the urban area, and perceives zombies as clusters that form around buildings/blocks,
Second one is the mass count, it calculates the sum of enemies/spawns, relevant to current static logic.

When you enter a small setllement, aiming at that gun store / garage you trigger both events. The first one should dynamically generate every cluster of opposition related to that specific town area you’re exploring. Since you tend to close in at your aim like it was a funnel of sorts, generating noise, scent and overwhelming with presence (related to other living things), the mass count variable begins to act as a pool. If you trigger a heap of explosions, attract a lot of shriekers - unleash havoc upon the undead in short - the “knot” that’s supposed to be the mass count begins to tie you up where you stand. Since that pool can be quite large, and it stacks with urban_area spawning, it could generate more enemy clusters; note that lower treshold should be a thing with this dynamic instance, since mass count is a sum (see Second).
Let’s say you’ve managed to virtually “clear” that small town of real, formidable opposition. This means that you’ve eliminated the clusters that were showing up around places of interest. You’ve moved the “herd” towards the “town center” (assuming that’s where you were heading) and beaten them to the ground. All that is left is perhaps a cluster or two with urban_area, and a sum that’s just a little above the treshold - but enough to act as Dynamic. Also, this assumes you have left the area, only to return at a later point.
For example, if the dynamic can handle a total of 500 zombies, these are the numbers before/after:
25(building)8=200 <-- figure 8 counts as rand(6,10)
(6+14(map squares))15=300 <-- 6 town map squares, and 14 that surround those
On default it yields 8
4+15=(round up) 40 zombies per average map square, 4 buildings per 9 tiles.
8=(round down) 15 <-- zombies left in clusters
25*2=50 <-- zombies left in pool, the minimum is 30 zombies, that’s one tenth of the initial sum
This instance says there are between 60 and 70 zombies left, meaning that Dynamic has been long triggered

If Dynamic is relevant to game_time, it could fill up the sum (mass count) back to defaults or near that value, I’m oversimplifying to show you the point. There are three milestones with the total (300) value:
2/3rds of the value (<200) - normal rate to pool refill; this means you’ve moved the “herd” towards a specific town area some dozen steps, and the game constantly adds to the number, but doesn’t add to the urban_area - meaning clusters are yet autonomous.
Half value (<150) this means the player’s beating the spawn rate by a long step; the dynamic begins to act as an extension to urban_area clusters upon reaching the figure 15 that’s relevant to a map square. This means that cluster gain is relevant to those clusters that were eliminated or decimated but not those present / yet unknown to player.
1/3rd of the value (<100) means that the rate is 50% greater (if the rate was 2 zombies square/hour, now it’s 3) and it keeps this trend until the “map square” figure is 15; it adds to cluster gain at a normal rate, and reverts to its own normal rate upon reaching the first trigger (2/3rds of the value).

Let’s see how is this perceived when the player character returns to the spot: at a rate of 3 per hour, 20*3=60 zombies are generated, per initial two and a half hours, and + 50 = 200 (those 2/3rds) of zombies in the pool. Since the density has changed, those map squares that had the bigger number of zombies left benefited the most, perhaps generating some clusters. If the estimate was 3 hours, that means there are around 220+15+?=235 zombies – about a half of the initial sum; mentioning again, with some cluster gain. The number should rise to 300 and stay there;

Some important conclusions:
-if the player lures the opposition to decimate the urban_area+mass_count and acts as if he was to slaughter them quickly, those numbers would rise, possibly refreshing the urban_area figure. If he makes much noise/scent/etc. along the path - the extension of the rate picks up quickly enough to throw more clusters at him and repopulate afterwards, even adding “reinforcements” to the back;
-if the player employs guerilla tactics (swoop-and-loot) only to clear a couple of houses, he doesn’t shake the numbers enough and the game isn’t “aggressive” nor “unforgiving” if he took a pot or some meds;
-if the player is efficient and skilled, aiming his shots to erradicate threat (clusters) and escape without a full-on rampage, the game won’t move the “herd” much. This means, at 100% efficiency though, that the game will summon only about 300 scattered opponents, 15 zombies per map square, 4 in the vicinity of a single building, the next time he returns to that town.

Conclusion: handling Dynamic two-way (duplex) is better than just altering the pool refresh rate. Beings so, clusters should be classified for difficulty rating whereas the “bumps” (hardest difficulty) density could be controlled before spawning.

Zombies cease to be a threat whatsoever after you’ve got your skills and equipment. Spawning hordes wouldn’t add challenge, just grind.

What we need is more boss-type enemies that appear over time and don’t succumb to simple overpowering by hacking up with a katana, driving over them, or pouring magma throwing molotovs at them. Give them extra abilities and resistances and make them wander around, attack your hideout and try to drive you away, then eat your food stores :slight_smile:

Also, the game lacks ranged foes.