Since the release of its massive Update 41, Early Access zombie game Project Zomboid has blown up into a genuine hit, almost a decade after it first launched. Its developers, The Indie Stone, aren’t slowing down and resting on their undead laurels. In a new interview, the devs say they’re hard at work with Project Zomboid’s next major addition: human NPCs.
The Indie Stone’s managing director and coder Chris Simpson spoke with NME about Update 41, as well as plans for the game going forward. The interview provides some fascinating insight into the development of the latest update, as well as the devs’ feelings about having spent so long in Early Access. But Simpson also identifies NPCs as the studio’s next major goal for Zomboid. It’s a feature fans have been waiting for years to see in the game.
“We’re planning on doing NPCs pretty much next,” Simpson says. “Although there may be smaller builds in between, the next big thing that we’re working toward and talking about in the new year is going to be NPCs.”
Simpson says NPCs have been a hot issue for the Project Zomboid community for a long time – they’re both the most-requested feature, and their absence has been the source of the most criticism the Indie Stone has received.
Simpson says the original plan had been to add in wildlife before tackling NPCs, but that update would have necessarily involved tipping their hand for behaviours intended for the larger NPC update. The team decided to plough ahead with NPCs first, and as Simpson says, “I don’t think that will upset too many people”.
It’s an exciting idea: Update 41 has added areas of Louisville to the map, but Zomboid’s main settings of West Point and Muldraugh, Kentucky, are located just outside the US Army base Fort Knox, which means eventually, NPC soldiers could be guarding and staffing locations in the military compound – which is presumably where “the Knox event” that kicked off the zombie plague took place.
New players should temper their expectations – it’s unlikely that NPCs will arrive, even in an early form, in Project Zomboid any time soon. The Indie Stone works slowly and deliberately, adding opt-in beta branches when it wants to invite the community to try out new features it’s working on.
Fortunately, thanks to Update 41, there’s plenty of new territory to explore in Project Zomboid while we wait.