"Zombies are hot. Everybody loves zombies, you know? Even in a recession, zombies are awesome." That's what Eruptive Games CEO Julian Ing admits as he describes his intentions with Citizen GRIM, the next attempt at that new genre of social game known as "mid-core". But Ing and his team want to make a zombie game that's different from the rest. And if not just yet in aesthetic, Citizen GRIM might accomplish that on paper and in mechanics.
"A lot of the ways [we're] described, and it should be more accurate coming up shortly, is kind of, well, Diablo meets [tower] defense," Eruptive Director of Interactive Design Ryan Eves tells us. "You do have these critical resources that you have to rely on, [which] the enemies will destroy and you have to rebuild."
Citizen GRIM is a point-and-click action RPG that throws players into--what else?--the heart of the zombie apocalypse with one mission: Kill as many zombies as possible. Players do just that in an isometric, pseudo-3D setting with customizable characters and an array of wacky weapons. In fact, that sort of fantastic, irreverence for the super serious zombie properties out there is something that Eruptive hopes to capture.
"One of the things that we want as we continue to develop the game is to create wackier and wackier weapons. In Region One, we obviously need to keep it a little light, [like] my lightning gun," Eves describes as he electrocutes a gaggle of ghoulish undead. "But in later regions, you are going to get saw blade guns where you can actually shoot saw blades through all the enemies."
And don't worry, zombie fans: Eruptive is not afraid to turn it up a notch on the gore factor. But what's more important is the studio's approach to difficulty and its emphasis on the label "mid-core". Citizen GRIM is one of the first social games that this writer has seen to introduce scalable difficulty. What that means is that players can control exactly how difficult the game is at any given moment with a single button.
Want to take on a few more monsters? Press the button to spawn a few more waves of zombies. But if you really want to crank up the challenge level, press the button another two or three times in a row to stack the waves of carnivorous cadavers and rack up the multi-kills for extra points. Eves expects players to naturally begin ramping up the difficulty as they grow more comfortable with the mechanics of Citizen GRIM.
"As you get more familiar with the product you'll want a little bit more challenge, so it's kind of like that mastery of Bejeweled," Eves says. "So as you get better at our product, you can actually opt to start stacking waves on top of each other. And it increases the multiplier of the score. And the way we see it from the game perspective, it's almost like a flexible difficulty curve."
A tenant of the "hardcore" games scene is real-time, action-packed multiplayer matches that last for hours. But that won't be the case on Facebook, according to Eves. Unlike recent releases like Dungeon Rampage and Uberstrike, Citizen GRIM will focus on asynchronous multiplayer. Shortly after release, players will have the pleasure of sending waves of undead to their friends' games as well as helping them asynchronously with their avatars.
"We tend to favor asynchronized, and actually think it's an untapped opportunity in this market. We tend to talk about the fact that the typical focus of a social game is around 15 minutes. Especially if you're trying to appeal to a bit of that core audience, you need to be wary of extending beyond that time frame," Eves explains. "As soon as you start to head over a 30 minute play cycle, you start to overlap with, 'Well, I could load up my Xbox,' or you know, 'I could jump on a game on my PC then,' which has a production [value] that makes us look silly. So, we're trying to stay in that sweet spot, and unfortunately it's really hard to coordinate that 15 minutes with another player."
How's that for an explanation? Citizen GRIM, soon to be published by Zynga, looks like an interesting take on the zombie genre, especially in terms of its low-risk, high-reward play structure and focus on asynchronous play that's both competitive and cooperative. You can try Citizen GRIM out on Facebook right now, though much of the multiplayer features won't be ready for prime time until the game's official launch later this year.
Click here to play Citizen GRIM on Facebook Now >
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