Zombie evolution

GlyphGryph brought up some ideas for specializing zombies by making them into nether creatures. That’s awesome, but I also want vanilla zombies to stick around long-term in the world and remain a persistent challenge. Rather than hijack his thread, I’m outlining some thoughts on how that could happen here. Comments welcome.


  1. Zombies don’t spawn.
    Currently with static spawns the zombies spawned at the start of the game are all you get, so you have to balance early-game survivability against late-game challenge, and that’s a losing proposition. I’d generally argue in favor of not spawning NEW zombies, because thematically, where do they come from? However I have plans for working around it.
  2. Zombies don’t get tougher.
    You’re also stuck with the SAME zombies throughout the game. A regular shambler or grabber might be an ok challenge when you’re right out of the shelter, but they’re pointless just a week or so in, and you can easily steamroll large numbers of them without expending any significant resources.
  3. Zombies don’t get new abilities.
    They kind of do in dynamic, since specials only start spawning over the course of several days, but once Tanks start spawning, it’s done. It’s more a breathing space than a progressive difficulty mechanic. As with numbers, you pretty mich get what you get from the start.


  1. Dormant zombies.
    One way to have our cake and eat it too is to have large numbers of dormant zombies spawn at the start of the game, even outnumbering regular zombies. You can creep through even dense crowds of them, but don’t wake them up, because it can snowball. There can even be different varieties of dormant zombies, some might stand around and notice moderately loud noises or a nearby target, and others might be even more dormant and lie on the ground, only woken by extremely loud noise or direct damage.
  2. better/faster/stronger zombies.

It’s been 5 days since the infection started, long enough for the goo to take over and reanimate the corpses, but is it long enough for goo to fully come to grips with the capabilities of it’s new host? I think not, over time the goo, both in general and in individual hosts, will deepen the parasitic link it has with its host, leading to greater coordination, higher resiliency, and better regenerative ability.

As time progresses, regular zombies can be replaced with better regular zombies. At the very beginning of the game, they might actually be weaker than the standard zombie now (meaning there can be more of them for the same level of challenge), but as time progresses, the population is gradually replaced with zombies that are better in every way, reaching a peak that is significantly tougher than the current regular zombie. Also over time the dormant zombies could steadily be replaced by active zombies, increasing the level of danger.
3. special zombie evolution.

As with the above, the goo would begin to specialize and develop new abilities in different hosts over time.

The concept here is that at the very beginning, there would only be vanilla zombies, but over time some would be replaced with zombies with special abilities, possibly starting as weaker versions of the current special zombies and developing to be as strong or stronger than the special zombies we have now.
4. New or recycled zombies.
This is a bit more problematic, and frankly I don’t have any good solutions for adding zombies. We have a system in place already for dynamically spawned natural animals to be slowly (but not totally) replaced by zombified versions, and this would carry over into statically spawning animals, but there isn’t much room for new human zombies to appear, and we do want to let you fully destroy zombie corpses such that they won’t come back, so having zombies revive isn’t a reliable way to handle it either. It strikes me that if you sneak through groups of dormant zombies, only taking out active zombies as is absolutely necessary, it makes revivication more dominant, as you won’t have an opportunity to destroy the bodies.
5. Regional differences
Long-term, the player will probably start outside a small town, with a relatively manageable number of zombies, and will have cause to head into larger towns or cities in late-game, where the density of zombies could be off the charts. This is relatively straightforward, just requires extensive work in mapgen.

You sort of mention this with regional differences, but factors to encourage player exploration play into encountering more zombies. If there’s some particular reason for the player to move on to new territory, then they’ve got every reason to keep encountering new populations of zombies, perhaps even in higher numbers. There’s a lot of ways to accomplish this, and is worth considering.

We could also have the zombies themselves appearing to migrate towards the players area from off map for some reason - like in our Race to the West mode, where the mass of zombies heads in from the east pushed forward by a wave of nether critters.

Worth mentioning the options there, anyway.

I do like the idea of slight improvements to normal zombies, and dormant zombies are obviously something I’ve wanted to do for a while but it’s interesting and a neat idea to think of them as a later-game-resource pool.

If the goal is to have normalish zombie scenarios as a common thing, increasing numbers of specials late game is a dangerous option though, since the feel of specials (and their specialness) would obviously change were that to happen. Much like with the gradual strengthening of normal zombies, though, I assume we’d start off with fewer specials than we have now and eventually upgrade to slightly more than we have now then cap it.

As far as spawning “new” zombies is concerned is there anyway to tie Labs into this? Sorta in the way that Fungal Blooms and Triffid Groves spawn new enemies in a logical way Labs with active uh… Clown Collages to use a familiar term… In their “loot chamber” could be spewing Sub-space not-zeds?

Wow, you know… that would actually present another entry vector for humanoid(!) zombies, a portal to a different nether/goo infected world, or even a different location on earth. With sufficient imagination, any scenario becomes reasonable.

New areas having “different” numbers of zombies is of course a possibility, but I’d rather avoid new areas automatically having more zombies (though they would be monotonically tougher with the passage of time).

I really like the migrations from off-overmap, but I’d prefer to tie it to something the player does rather than the player themself. For example murderizing X,000 zombies, macroimmune* responce anyone? :smiley:
Seems sensible that the meta-goo inteligence would react to truly massive cleansings, but it would be based on the site of the cleansing, not on the player specifically, so the migrations would target areas with lots of zombie deaths, not the player’s location. Still, it’s reasonable to assume this would incinvinience the player somewhat :smiley:

*Is that even a word, I just started using it a few days ago… google “macroimmune”… no really I didn’t typo “microimmune”… About 1,950 results (0.24 seconds) and ME using it a few days ago is on the first page of results. So I pretty much coined it, neat.

[tt]Anyway to give monsters infections kind of like the player can get. But instead of needing antibiotics to keep them alive it will turn them into whatever zombie evolution tier? Maybe an evo_infected flag or something.[/tt]

Hmm… I really like the idea of that “macroimmune” response - it would certainly be interesting. And no matter how common the nethercritters get, the zombies will always have the survivability and mobility advantage, so this really does keep them relevant and answer questions about WHY the ‘goo’ would bother keeping zombies around - it’s because they don’t need to always hang around wherever it is they were created, and can go off to do things in other places.

Also, it would be absolutely bloody hilarious if there was a clone lab still operation, considering the problem with the clones in game was that they tended to die before completion… meaning it would turn into a zombie factory, straight up. Combined with the “head for trouble spots” mechanic, that could get really really interesting.

I wasn’t really talking about clone labs, more the portal that can be toggled in the labs allowing subspace specimens to pour though if left on. In the same manner that the (rare) overworld portals have Nether-Creatures spawning around them. …It’d justify the critters Glyph was talking about in the other thread, hell it reminds me of the portal in the Phobos lab in Doom.

It just seems that having the subspace specimens occasionally ‘convert’ labs into spawner bases akin to the Ant-Hills, Fungal Blooms, and Triffid Groves with the ability to destroy/turn off the portal at the bottom.

Yeah, but the thread is specifically to reference how to evolve zombies and keep them interesting and relevant into the late game, so lab portals spawning not-zombies isn’t really much of a tie in to that. It did inspire me to mention the similar, lab-based equivalent for actually generating zombies though.

So that’s a solid destination, go shut off the clone/portal research lab that’s now generating a steady supply of zombies that migrate toward any nearby place where zombies are getting killed.

In nether clone lab, mutant fetus bites you!

I guess you could say its eat or be eaten

[tt]Why not give each monster a mutation stage. Or tier. From 1 - 3. And have the stages trigger based on certain factors.[/tt]

The zombie tentacle swipes at you!
You know, grabbers getting even more grabby.

I like the idea of evolving zombies, and spawning stronger zombies. Not sure how I feel about dormant zombies. You’d have to have them basically invisible to the player until they activate. If anything I can kill shows up on the screen, I’m killing it, hostile or not, once I have the capability to do so. I’d also like other enemies to evolve but this isn’t the thread for that.

Sounds interesting. I’d say that instead of a across the board sameness to the evolution you could always do a % chance for the zombies to get worse as and you spawn new sections you could base the new spawn on that. This should also apply to wild life and what not and how nasty the areas are becoming. This would work well with and macro tile system if that goes into effect.
Also, as for adding new zombies, we could always have a wandering monsters type check where monsters are wandering outside their normal zone. Be interesting to get one of the giant herds from Walking Dead. :stuck_out_tongue:

About the Zombie Lab: since all labs are closed at start, Zombies shouldn’t be spreading. As soon as you open the door however…

This would be pretty interesting, finally get an ID card and open the door only for a bunch of zombies to come pouring out. Might give some reason to blast the doors open, as you could both destroy the immediate inside and trigger the turrets, which would hopefully focus on the zombies before gunning you down.

Of course, if one of the zombies evolved into a Zombie Hulk, the puny metal walls would serve as negligible deterrent, so some labs should perhaps be broken open from the inside before you get there.

Note that labs tend to open up into sewers. Should even be something about it on the in-game computers.
Unless that’s been changed.

As (pretty much) only a vanilla player, it really does become an issue after a week or so - as soon as you can one or two hit zombies and have a few extra tools for when it gets hairy (grenades, lots of first aid, shotguns) you become pretty much invincible, even if you do turn up the spawn rate. Furthermore, as soon as you’ve cleared out one small town, you’ve got pretty much all the material you need to build stuff at leisure. As such, I think it would be a fair lore vs gameplay argument to add some extra difficulty later on.

My idea would be to mix a lot of your ideas:

Firstly, zombies getting faster and stronger as time progresses (because the virus/whatever grows) would be a big plus, especially if they became quite a lot more damage resistant (this would put the ‘fear’ back into it) - I doubt it’d need much explaining, and the faster/stronger progressions could be called something different to point it out.

For re-population, roving hordes that come from ‘off the map’ to repopulate areas (they could be draw to the centre of towns, leaving some along the way) would be interesting (I know this has been discussed many times) and could be coupled with ‘dormant’ zombies in sewers/labs/enclosed areas which could rise up and move about after a week or so (or earlier if the player wakes them). This would make no areas ‘safe’, which might also help with stopping players simply driving a truck down the main street and mulching zombies - as too much noise would wake TONS of dormant zombies.

I’d like to add my own suggestion is that butchering/pulping a dormant zombie may have a chance to wake nearby dormant ones (due to the sounds or the zombie’s corpse releases “pheromone”, we can work on the lore about this). This makes player to consider actually butchering/pulping zombies to eliminate potential threat or just leave them there a haul his ass out with the loot but may face them as enemies later.
Butchering should be “quieter” because it’s longer, while pulping will be quick but carries a higher chance to wake nearby dormant zombies.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t spawning zombies based on noise already covered by dynamic spawn mode?