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Project Zomboid is a 2D open world zombie RPG/strategy hybrid that’s open ended, tense, and brilliant. But it’s not finished; the devs are using a crowdsourcing approach to build the game, releasing updates and improvements in batches. We’ve been talking to them about what’s coming in their next update. The big news is a refresh of the game’s crafting, inventory and UI.

The overhaul of Project Zomboid’s crafting system starts with the introduction of ‘surfaces’, which should make everything feel a little bit more realistic. “Instead of just walking down the street building a wall section whilst you’re walking away from some zombies, which is a bit silly, you go to a counter in a house, and build stuff there.”

It’s a much more detailed system, too that will introduce tools and materials that can improve the quality of the final product. “To make a wall,” explains Chris, “you can just use a hammer and nails, but if you have a saw and a sander you might end up with a better wall with more strength.” Chris says that the goal isn’t to restrict crafting to specific ‘crafting tables’, but ‘if I want to saw some wood, I’ll need to find an appropriate surface where I can saw some wood.”

Survival in Zomboid means lugging stuff around and there’s new complexity in how you transport materials. Meet backpacks. “As soon as you pick one up, says Chris, “it adds a new bar to your interface. You can drag and drop items into it and the items take an amount of time to put it to your backpack. The more full your backpack is the longer it takes to put items in and take them out. You can drop your backpack and run away, and suddenly you’ve dropped it all, and you can come back to pick it up later.” Not all backpacks are the same. “Different backpacks will have different advantages,” explains Chris, “how much extra weight they can carry, or bonuses to different types of items.” It’s a massive increase in complexity, but manageable for players because, says Chris “the UI is going to be built around these concepts, and be more powerful.”

That new UI includes a new inventory system that will include sortable columns, search boxes and filters, and a much better implementation of drag and drop.  

Stage 2 of the UI update will radically rebuild how players interact with the world. “One of the biggest complaints we’ve had about the game,” says Chris Simpson, “is the UI system. The game has outgrown it, so now it’s way too cumbersome. We’re doing a complete rewrite of the UI system in Lua, completely open to modding, and people can completely replace the UI if they wanted.”

The new UI will be similar to how World of Warcraft works. Every action in the game is now represented by an icon, and you can place the icon anywhere on your interface to click it. But any action can also be hotkeyed, and those hotkeys extend to the entire keyboard. “We’re basically unifiying everything that you can do in the game under this system,” says Chris, “to make it completely customisable. Modders can add their own actions, and those actions can drag and drop onto a button.”

With thanks to Lewie Procter

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