SOE spills details on post-apocalyptic MMO H1Z1 heading to PC, PS4

Sony Online Entertainment's post-apocalyptic massively multiplayer online game, H1Z1, is heading to PC first and PlayStation 4 later, SOE president John Smedley said on the latest Game Talk Live episode (later confirmed with Polygon), and will be available in 4-6 weeks via Steam Early Access for $20.

H1Z1, where players to take on the role of an apocalypse survivor in a world swarming with zombies, was first revealed earlier today when details of the podcast were teased. The game will be a free-to-play title with microtransactions but it won't be pay-to-win and nor will it require a subscription.

"The H1Z1 virus devastated mankind and left nothing but death and destruction in its wake and a world nearly empty of human life where the remnants of humanity are in a fight against extinction against those infected with the virus," Smedley revealed. "It's been 15 years since H1Z1 was first encountered and what's left of the world before it is overrun with the Infected. Humanity has been reduced to hiding in the shadows, searching desperately for food and water and anything that can help to survive even for another day. But the Infected aren't the only dangers in the world. Everyday life in the Apocalypse means dealing with all kinds of wild animals and the brutality of other survivors, as well as finding your next meal and a safe place to sleep."

"We want you to be able to form roving gangs that are headquartered out of an abandoned warehouse that you've taken over."

The MMO title is set in "Middle America" or an "anywhere and everywhere" town, Smedley explained, which SOE will expand over time "until we have our own version of the U.S. after the death and destruction brought on during the H1Z1 epidemic." The open-world will feature various environments "all connected seamlessly" ranging from urban cities and desolate wide open places.

H1Z1 will be different from other survival zombie games because of the various features and its use SOE's current generation MMO Engine, Forgelight, that can support up to 2,000 players in a single instance.

"First off, it's a persistent MMO that can hold thousands of players on servers we host (yes there will be multiple servers with very different rule sets)," Smedley said. "Why is that a good thing? It means a thriving economy (oh yes... there's trading). It also means you have potential allies in the all-out war on the Infected... and many an enemy as well."

The game offers a sandbox style of gameplay with a character progression system, scavenging and access to a "very deep crafting system," allowing players to make a variety of weapons such as firearms, Molotov cocktails, explosives and "other fun surprises." Players will be able to build shelters from resources they scavenge from the world and work with other players to construct fortresses "complete with weaponry to help defend against both the Infected and other players."

"We're going to make sure your zombie apocalypse fantasy is complete."

"The main thing that differentiates H1Z1 from the other great games in the genre is the emphasis we are putting on player ownership and building," Smedley added. "We want you to be able to form roving gangs that are headquartered out of an abandoned warehouse that you've taken over... or a house you've built from scratch after having cut trees down and secured the resources to make it. We are giving players the tools to make their own towns, camps and defenses, and they can decide how to set up their base (which is in the world btw... not instanced)."

SOE's goal is to offer emergent gameplay and allow players to interact with the world as they want to. From a farmer raising crops to a gun-toting killing machine, "we're going to make sure your zombie apocalypse fantasy is complete," Smedley said.

"To use a simple reference I'm sure everyone interested in this game will get... we want our players to make Woodbury from The Walking Dead if they want to," he said. "Or take over a prison. Or fix an old car so you and your friends (yeah we have multiplayer vehicles) can run zombies and players over mercilessly, and revel in the sheer delight of hearing a zombie scream as you light it on fire, or craft a gun to take down your friends and enemies alike."

H1Z1 will include social features included in other SOE games, such as grouping, proximity voice chat, voice chat for gangs and more. It will also support Player Studio creations, allowing players to use player-created items in-game. SOE plans to develop H1Z1 from the ground up using input from players by employing a design process similar to PlanetSide 2's Roadmap System, where it communicates what features are in development and when players can expect them.

You can check out early footage of the game below in the Game Talk Live video that was recorded  with Smedley in January. Smedley talks about vehicle repairs, looting, raids, the day-night cycles and the ability to set things and other players on fire.

"But here is something you're gonna be able to do that you can't do in these other games: Light Things on Fire," Smedley explains. "We are in the middle of putting that in so you are gonna be able to burn down trees, burn down stuff and thats gonna be a lot of fun.  The idea that these players building these forts and all the sudden these other guys coming in lighting it on fire and waiting till they come out of the fortress...is awesome."

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