Exor Studios is offering a very different take on the extremely popular zombie genre of gaming, if there is such a category. While there will be plenty of undead to eliminate, Zombie Driver THD serves up a unique gameplay experience that challenges players to use their vehicle as a weapon. Pawel Lekki, head of Exor Studios, explains how this new game benefited from NVIDIA Tegra 3 technology in this exclusive interview.
Where did you find inspiration from Hollywood and other games?
We didn't look to any specific film for inspiration, however we can't ignore the fact that the general "zombie lore" mostly originates from movies. Our goal was to recreate that retro feel of the top-down perspective like in GTA 1 and 2 and give the player the ability to make a zombie "Gouranga" around every corner. With Zombie Driver THD our zombies started to mutate and new, bigger monsters have begun to emerge like the boss that is visible in the debut trailer. This can be seen as a similar direction to the Resident Evil series, where one can meet a huge number of twisted beasts that no longer resemble humans. Our goal was to make the zombies fit our gameplay mechanics. The generic zombie crowd was not enough to create a huge variety of game lay scenarios, so we had to create a bigger variety of monsters.
How does your game differentiate itself from other zombie games?
Ninety percent of zombie games are first-person or top-down shooters. There were some censored versions of Carmageddon, where they had to swap pedestrians for zombies. But we were the first to make a top-down car combat game in which the player primarily fights with zombies using his car and the guns that are mounted on it. We also have the Blood Race mode, which is pure car combat with zombies used as decorations.
How did you work with NVIDIA on this project?
We had very close support from NVIDIA in terms of optimizing the game to utilize as much of Tegra's power as possible. They also helped us to optimize our use of PhysX so it would take advantage of all four CPU cores on Tegra 3.
How does your game take advantage of Tegra 3 technology?
We are running multiple tasks in parallel like game logic, rendering, physics simulation, geometry instancing, world geometry streaming, and audio. Thanks to the four physical CPU cores, we can do that very efficiently. This allows us to put additional destructible objects in the game, as well as improved damage effects on vehicles and zombies.
What are your thoughts on how far mobile gaming has come since Tegra was introduced?
The leap in mobile processing power has been astonishing. A few years ago, mobile games had to be developed separately from "big screen" platforms. With the introduction of Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 chipsets we were able to develop for mobile at the same time. Zombie Driver THD is literally running from the same code base with some specific optimizations, different UI and controls, etc. The content is mostly the same with a few lower polygon count models. Essentially, we were able to save a huge amount of time by developing the game once and just tweaking it for the separate platforms, instead of making two games with completely different technology and assets.
How do you see mobile gaming evolving with NVIDIA's roadmap for Tegra 4 and beyond?
We don't know the official specs for Tegra 4, but my guess is that it’s going to be close to the current gen consoles. This will allow for a lot more core titles that will be graphically rich. Being able to use the same code base and assets is a huge enabler for porting and parallel development. We will probably see new consoles next year that will distance themselves from the current handheld devices for a few iterations. However, I think that mobile will be able to catch up to them sooner than in this console cycle. As the evolution of mobile processing power progresses, I think we will see a lot more AAA titles developed simultaneously for handheld devices.
What excites you about the future of mobile game development?
I love the fact that it’s becoming more and more similar to developing on the PC, which means more freedom, better tools and making games faster. I had some experience with mobile development five to seven years ago with Java development. Because of the huge fragmentation in the market and bad technology, we spent over half our development time porting games and dealing with compatibility issues. There was no time to iterate on game design. Currently, we spend just a fraction of that effort on making sure the game runs correctly on all devices, so we have more time to focus on actual game development.
How does your game take advantage of mobile control options like touch screen and accelerometer? How does it support HDMI connections for big screen TVs?
We don't use the accelerometer because we didn't find it precise enough. We have two types of touch controls -- a standard analog stick and fixed digital input directional controls. We also streamlined some mechanics by automatically pressing the gas pedal when turbo is pressed. We fully support game pad controllers and USB keyboard input. The game can run on a big screen TV through HDMI. Our user interface is optimized for smaller handheld devices, as well as tablets and bigger screens.