Zoink Games is quickly building a reputation for delivering off-beat and visually unorthodox games that are insanely fun to play. We saw this with the puzzle platformer Stick it to the Man! and even more hijinks are afoot with the upcoming co-op beat ’em up Zombie Vikings. Along with the zany premise, Zombie Vikings introduces unique ways to fight enemies – if your zombie loses a limb, a friend can effectively weaponize it. That’s not even taking into account the ability of all four zombies to combine together into one massive Mega Zombie.
GamingBolt spoke to Mikael Forslind, PR and Marketing Manager at Zoink Games about the upcoming release including development on the PS4, working with SMBCC’s Zach Weinersmith and much more.
"We found Zach Weinersmith through Ryan North who wrote the script to Stick it to The Man, which was the game we made before Zombie Vikings. Since Ryan was busy with other projects he recommended Zach and lucky for us - he jumped on board!"
Rashid K. Sayed: Zombie Vikings which can have their body parts hacked off and used as weapons by their friends. You have our attention. How did the idea for the game come about?
Mikael Forslind: The idea for Zombie Vikings came after we made Stick it the Man! We were fan of adventure games and the crazy humour and we just wanted to make something more with the craziness. After Klaus (Our CEO /Creative Director) played another not-to-be-named famous game about crashing castles we saw the potential to make our own co-op game but add a lot of story and quirky characters. So that’s what we did and out came Zombie Vikings – a crazy co-op story brawler. Or a hackventure if you like.
Rashid K. Sayed: What was it like working with Zach Weinersmith, known for Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Comics? How did the collaboration come about and how has his humour added to the overall story?
Mikael Forslind: It was really great to work with Zach Weinersmith; his type of humour is just a perfect fit for Zombie Vikings. Our creative directors Klaus and Andreas Beijer wrote the basic outline of the script and all the characters. Then we sent the script and character descriptions to Zach and he added his sense of humour and style to it and out came the crazy story that’s the main plot of Zombie Vikings. We found Zach Weinersmith through Ryan North who wrote the script to Stick it to The Man, which was the game we made before Zombie Vikings. Since Ryan was busy with other projects he recommended Zach and lucky for us – he jumped on board!
Rashid K. Sayed: Aside from using a zombie head to spew venomous vomit and throwing your friends, what other co-op abilities can players employ throughout Zombie Vikings?
Mikael Forslind: Throughout the adventure you’ll come across small puzzles and side quests. Some of these are only accessible while playing certain characters. Picking each other up and forming a giant Zombie tower not only looks good and feels cool but it also makes you reach certain places in the game, which would have otherwise been unreachable. Some of the small puzzles in the game also take the effort of two or more Vikings working together in order to solve.
Rashid K. Sayed: Zoink’s last major title, Stick it to the Man! was heavily puzzle based while Zombie Vikings seems to focus more on combat. What kind of puzzles will teams have to solve together?
Mikael Forslind: As I mentioned earlier there are some small puzzles but since Zombie Vikings is a co-op brawler the focus is put on that aspect of the game play. On top of that we’ve added a really funny story and a lot of crazy things happening throughout the adventure. But Zombie Vikings won’t have puzzles in the same way as Stick it to The Man had. They share the art style and focus on comedy though!
"We really wanted to make players work together so we created a Mega Zombie where all players are stitched together. One is controlling the left side, one is controlling the right side, one can shoot projectiles and the last one plays the drum. A Mega Zombie really needs a drum player to set the mood when fighting."
Rashid K. Sayed: What does each Viking possess in terms of different abilities and can players further develop their character in terms of abilities and equipment?
Mikael Forslind: Each of the four Zombie Vikings has their own unique look, personality and signature move. Gunborg, which is the largest one all the characters can grow her muscles until she’s so big she explodes dealing massive damages to all enemies. Caw-Kaa can fly and attack from above. Seagurd is part squid and his attack is the coolest looking in the game. He grows into this enormous squid zombie and strikes the enemies with his tentacles. Lastly, there’s Hedgy which has the ability to puke up skeletons. The others can of course pick his skeletons up and use them as exploding projectiles. It’s a putrid posse to say the least!
There are a lot of different weapons in the game. Throughout the adventure you’ll unlock more and more. You’ll also get access to different runes, which gives you certain special abilities. At the start of each level you’ll first get a chance to choose your Viking. Then you choose weapon and lastly you choose a rune. With the runes and the different weapons you can experiment and find your own style of playing.
Rashid K. Sayed: We must know if players can actually form a single Super Zombie by combining together a la Voltron.
Mikael Forslind: Of course! We really wanted to make players work together so we created a Mega Zombie where all players are stitched together. One is controlling the left side, one is controlling the right side, one can shoot projectiles and the last one plays the drum. A Mega Zombie really needs a drum player to set the mood when fighting.
Rashid K. Sayed: The art style and visuals for Zombie Vikings look great, reminding us of Ubisoft’s UbiArt-based games. How did you go about deciding on the visual style and building an entire game around it?
Mikael Forslind: The similarities are not intentional but yeah. The new Rayman games are absolutely brilliant and if people make that connection that really makes me happy. The art style in Zombie Vikings built on expanding the art style from Stick it to The Man, which has the same looks. We just really liked that style and wanted to build more fun worlds and characters that has the same crazy look. We want Zombie Vikings to look like a concept art book where you can really see every brush stroke on all the characters, giving them depth and personality.
We didn’t want to spend too much time on all the characters but instead give them a natural look, sort of like they were hand-drawn quickly. A ‘fresh’ look if I can use that word to describe Zombies. We really found a look we like and we hope the fans will appreciate the unique Zoink look that we’ve come to be known for.
"Developing for a platform such as PlayStation 4 is easier than developing for PC just because you know the exact hardware specifications of the user. When you develop for PC you need to take in consideration all of the possible setups a user can have which is of course more complicated."
Rashid K. Sayed: What kind of length can we expect from Zombie Vikings? How many stages, levels, collectibles, etc. are on the cards?
Mikael Forslind: The game isn’t really done yet; we’re still tweaking stuff and adding content such as side quests and more levels. But there are about 8 different worlds with 2-3 levels in each of them. A normal play-through would probably be in the range of 7-9 hours. If you want to collect all the weapons, runes and finish all the side quests you’re probably looking at 15-20 hours of Zombie bashing fun.
Rashid K. Sayed: The hack and slash game play looks like it could fit well into a Horde mode of sorts, like Castle Crashers. Can we look forward to the same?
Mikael Forslind: We’re still adding content and we really want to include something like that but it’s all a matter of resources and time. At the moment all of our resources goes to trying to finish the game and working on upcoming DLCs. There is something called Söcker added to the game though. Söcker is a real warrior sport and to score you have to chase an annoying little gnome, spear it on your sword and throw it into a dragon’s mouth. Söcker has some resemblance to what we today call Soccer and we think it might have been the predecessor to the version we have today.
Rashid K. Sayed: Having worked on the PS4 previously, what kind of benefits does it present over working on the PC?
Mikael Forslind: Developing for a platform such as PlayStation 4 is easier than developing for PC just because you know the exact hardware specifications of the user. When you develop for PC you need to take in consideration all of the possible setups a user can have which is of course more complicated. Same goes for the controller which on PS4 is the exact same for everyone.
That just makes everything so much easier. If you get the game running on the PS4 you know it will run on all PS4s out there. We’re releasing Zombie Vikings on Steam so we’re confident working with PCs and Macs as well, it’s just a different process.
Rashid K. Sayed: Is there a specific reason why the game is not coming on the Xbox One?
Mikael Forslind: Zombie Vikings is coming out in July on both PlayStation 4 and Steam. We’re going to do our best to release both on Xbox One and Wii U in the future as well. At the moment we can’t make a promise but the game will most likely come out on these platforms. We’ve made a really fun game and we want everyone to get a chance to play it but we’re a small studio and our capacity is limited.
Rashid K. Sayed: What are your thoughts on the GDDR5 memory on the PS4? Do you think it will extend the lifecycle of the console given that last gen was running out of memory? Furthermore did you face any latency issues due to GDDR5?
Mikael Forslind: When we made Stick it to The Man for the PlayStation 3 we did in fact struggle some with memory resources but developing for the PS4 has been much smoother and we haven’t had any problems with neither memory issues nor latency issues.
" Things have really changed! But I really think the fact that you can get into game development much easier nowadays is a great thing. The world needs more creativity and more games."
Rashid K. Sayed: Will the game run at 1080p and 60 frames per second on the PS4? Furthermore, how much of a challenge was it to achieve the same?
Yes, that’s the plan at least. We still have a few weeks left of production and we’re spending the time mostly just tweaking content and performance to get everything run nice and smoothly. Zombie Vikings isn’t a very resource demanding game, although it’s a lot of stuff happening on the screen at the same time. We’ve developed games before on the PS4 so we didn’t have to struggle to achieve this.
Rashid K. Sayed: What is your take on the initiatives that have been taken up by Unity and Unreal Engine in the field of indie games development?
Mikael Forslind: I think it’s great that these are free to download. A person that wants to get into game development can just download Unity and start watching a tutorial on YouTube and start coding right away. It’s amazing and it just brings more creativity to the industry. If that same person had to learn coding for years just to make a sprite move maybe that creativity would have died out. I’m still a little worried though that all these game engines will make the art of coding disappear and we’ll end up with no one left to actual program new game engines.
I’m old school and remember where we went out and bought magazines just to find code snippets in articles. Then we went home and copied the lines of codes into a computer just to make a pixel move or something like that. Things have really changed! But I really think the fact that you can get into game development much easier nowadays is a great thing. The world needs more creativity and more games.
Rashid K. Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Mikael Forslind: If you love carrying your friend’s severed head around while it spews out green puke you’ll love Zombie Vikings! Also, if you’re a fan of the comedy shows like The Simpsons and Futurama you’ll really appreciate the story in the game. Also, I would like say thank you for the interview and if there’s anything anyone want to know, drop a comment on the site or send us a tweet! We’re called Zoink Games on most social media sites. Hope you like Zombie Vikings!