Rebuild 3: The Tech Tree


Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Development, Rebuild3 | Posted on 06-04-2014


My first pass at a research tree in Google Docs

My first pass at a research tree in Google Docs

In Rebuild 3, engineers won’t be the silly white-lab-coated scientists of earlier games. They’re gonna have to get out there and get dirty.

“Tech” isn’t even the right word for what they get up to in those labs. Most of the things you’ll research in Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville are pretty mundane… Irrigation, for example, is a matter of digging ditches to bring water to your farms, because city water and sprinklers no longer work reliably.

They’ll be designing medical training programs, rigging up generators to power electric fences, organizing more efficient night watch routines… and of course pulling zombies apart to see what makes them tick. Come to think of it, that may still require white lab coats and safety goggles.

techtree_v2  techtree_v3  techtree_v4
Earlier versions of the tech tree in development.

In Rebuild 2, research was in three linear paths: getting more food, defending against zombies or recruiting and keeping survivors happy (also towers in the mobile version). The Rebuild 3 tree is 3x the size and more meandering. You’ll be hard pressed to research everything in a single game, so choose your path wisely.

I decided to tie more lategame abilities into the research tree so you could unlock things gradually as you play, for example the ability to craft traps, medkits and fireworks. Policies, building upgrades and workshop missions all need to be unlocked via research now before they’ll appear in the game.

Other research projects improve your fort defense or reduce your casualties in one way or another. You’ll definitely want a few of those as the zombie hordes start to build up outside your walls.

Research tree as it appears in alpha version 0.53 (temp art)

Research tree as it appears in alpha version 0.53 (temp art)

Getting your first lab will be harder now because you can’t build them initially (you need to research that of course!), but you’ll usually start near one you can reclaim. Events in the game also give you a chance to build labs, and even to get research for free.

One of the problems in Rebuild 1 and 2 was that you’d run out of thing for scientists (now called engineers) to do. With this much larger research tree, plus a new mission to craft items in workshops, they’ll have plenty to occupy their time inside the fort. Hopefully enough that nobody will send them out to shoot zombies or scavenge or any of that dangerous stuff.

God forbid they get their white lab coats all dirty!


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Rebuild 3: Books and comic books


Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Art, Rebuild3 | Posted on 24-02-2014

Tags: ,

This month Stephen and I are hard at work on the random events and stories of Rebuild 3. We just passed short-novel length (say Chamber of Secrets) and are plowing on towards Goblet of Fire. Of course, you’ll never see all the events during a single game. Some of them relate to a specific faction, and even the biggest game map only has 4 of the 12 factions. Plus Gustav the trader of course – he’s everywhere.

We’re also doing a fun little project on the side: a short promotional companion comic with EvilKris, the artist for Rebuild 2. It’s a day-in-the-life story of a trade deal gone wrong, using characters from Rebuild 3 and Kris’s grungy horror art style (best known from his Insanity series – he’s working on a third one!).

The comic will be posted online, and I may give out printed copies if I show the game at PAX Prime this year. I’m happy to be working with Kris again; his corrupt environments and gruesome corpses delight me… in a stomach-turning kind of way.

Panels from EvilKris’s in-progress comic:

Zombies... walkers... we call them gankers.

Zombies… walkers… we call them gankers.

Dara from 1337cREw and her bike. Forget cars; everyone will ride bikes in the zombpocalpyse

Dara from 1337cREw with her bike.
Forget cars; everyone will ride bikes in the zombpocalpyse

Thugs from the Pharmacist faction.

Muscle from the Pharmacist faction. The one in the front scares me the most. You’ve got to be pretty nuts to use a meat cleaver as a weapon.

You probably don't want to know what that head is for.

You probably don’t want to know what that head is for.

The next alpha build will be out at the end of February, then I’m planning to focus on tech, resources, and zombie attacks during March. At that point the base game should be close to feature-complete and hopefully ready for Beta around the end of April. It looks like I’ll have to push release back to Summer 2014, but every person who pre-orders will be able to play the beta in May.

Writing this game has been more stressful than I’d expected, so I’m super grateful to all the fans, Kickstarter backers, and to the alpha testers on the forums for your help and support. You guys are the greatest! I’m making this game for you. :)

I’ll leave you with an alpha teaser from Espen of No Studio, featuring the Rebuild 3 music:


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Rebuild 3: Alpha of Deadsville


Posted by Sarah Northway | Posted in Development, Rebuild3 | Posted on 01-02-2014


Nearly all the buildings are done - recognize that tech company in the middle?

Adam’s new buildings are nearly all in – recognize that tech company in the middle?

We’re a couple months and four versions into Rebuild’s early alpha test, and so far so good! Of the 1500 people in the alpha, 500 have logged in, played 3000 cities, and found more bugs and typos than I’d care to think about.

The forums are hopping, with insightful gameplay discussions and some great suggestions I’m desperate to squeeze in the game. Release date wise… we’re starting to fall behind, but there will be a very playable beta in a few months for backers and anyone who preorders. If you missed the Kickstarter, you can still get into the early alpha if you preorder the $25 deluxe edition.

Meet the pig farmers. What happened to his legs???

What happened to Farmer Bucket’s legs?? I needed temp art for the leaders so Sara’s character sketches made it into the game…

I added factions yesterday with version 0.44. Finally! These are the “gangs” from the game’s name after all. They’re in there in all their temp-art glory, hitting you up for protection money, selling “meat” of dubious heritage, and raiding your fort if you piss them off or just look like an easy target.

That's more like it: Malik from The Riffs

That’s more like it: Malik from The Riffs

You can also trade with them, which will soon be invaluable when I drastically reduce the resources you can scavenge for in the game and create new resource sucking policies (a gun isn’t much good without ammo, and johnny’s gangrenous leg ain’t going to heal itself without proper medicine).

The faction events are still pretty barebones, but Stephen and I have been working on a heap more content which I’m hoping to get in this month along with fort-wide policies. So much to look forward to!


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An Argument Against Shader


Posted by Colin Northway | Posted in Thinking about Thinking | Posted on 19-01-2014

Tags: , ,


Some people can like this

Shader is a game I’m making and stranding on one laptop. Stephen Totilo wrote a great article on his brush with Shader, he relates his personal experience with it as well as my own in making it. It’s a great article because he doesn’t spend time talking about what Shader might mean or should mean. He focuses on what it means to him.

The comments are also pretty great. There are many many people on this article and others calling Shader pretentious and not-novel and dumb and for one reason or another think Shader is bad. And the haters might have a point. There is an argument that commenters haven’t hit on but that I think is important. An argument that Shader could be helping to destroy things I love, that is: the power of clued-in-art to destroy approachable-art.

Lets talk for a minute about everyone’s favorite piece of Dadaism: Duchamp’s Fountain. Fountain is pretty hated, then and now, and I think that makes sense. Say you pay a little money to wander into an art gallery in 1917, you’re used to seeing representational art like this but instead are presented with Fountain, or this or, god help you,  this. Of course you don’t get it, Fountain in 1917 is exciting to thousands of people, epic representational works are exciting to millions. Unfortunately for you, early 20th century casual art fan, you ain’t seen nothin‘ yet. Modern art pretty much kills representational art.

Pretty much everyone can like this

You’re not really supposed to get Fountain. Duchamp isn’t talking to you, he’s talking to the art world. He’s saying “dude, what does the word art even meannnnnn?” but you’re not super interested in that question. You don’t spend every waking moment of your life thinking about sculpture and painting like Duchamp does. You want something that moves you, something that hits you in the face and makes you say “wow”. You want art that speaks to you. Unforunately for Fountain to speak to you you have to know what’s going on in the art world in 1917. You have to read about and care about art to appreciate it and that’s not something representational art requires. Fountain is just too damned inside baseball for you. But this new kind of art, art that requires a deep understanding of the art world, kind of takes over. It shoulders representational art off the main stage and takes over. You hated Fountain and railed against it, but you lost, and now art sucks for you.

I don’t get this at all

Now you walk into the NY MOMA and are just like “wtf“.

Of course there is great contemporary art that you don’t need an education to appreciate, I wrote a whole blog post about that. Unfortunately a lot of modern art does require deep engagement with the art world and in my oppinion the NY MOMA does a particularly bad job of stuffing itself with unaproachable art. In a way, those of us without an art education lost art. It was stolen from us by the likes of Duchamp and Jackson Pollock.

And so Shader comes to exist. A game (possibly) exciting to thousands instead of millions. Shader is exciting to me because of how it is different from writing a game that might be released. If you don’t write videogames for a living those reasons will not resonate with you. Stephen Totilo plays a lot of games and he plays a lot of games as his profession, but he has a different relationship with Shader than alllll those games he plays so it’s interesting to him. If games aren’t a big part of your life then Shader is probably not going to be interesting to you (i’m not saying that the obverse is necesarily true though).

Shader is too inside-baseball for most people to like, which is not a reason to hate it, but it also might be a tiny shot at populist games. It might be one little piece of kindling on the fire of games that are only interesting to those with a deep understanding of games. And could that fire eventually burn so furiously that it snuffs out beautiful games that everyone can love like World of Goo and Super Meat Boy?


No actually it can’t, because unlike painting and sculpture there is a popular market for games which means that the weird-abstract games will happily exist alongside populist gold just like books and movies and music.

So get over it forum commenters! People are gonna make games you don’t get. You can’t stop them!


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Shader’s First Night Out


Posted by Colin Northway | Posted in Development | Posted on 03-01-2014


The Images in this post are all things made in Shader by the people at the New Years party. Sorry for the bad quality iPhone videos, no screen-caps for this game!

Shader is playable! I wrote about this kinda weird project I’ve embarked on here and now it’s a playable thing, it’s not quite done but it’s pretty cool.

It’s a game that will only ever exist on a single laptop. I’m writing it on a cheap netbook I bought here in Buenos Aires and when it’s done I will destroy the usb/internet/bluetooth capabilities of the netbook and super-glue it’s harddrive in place so Shader can’t get off the netbook (at this moment it’s still un-saobtaged so I’m writing this blog post from it).

In Shader you manipulate an image to make some specific visual effect using buttons and sliders. It can also be played sandbox-style to make whatever weird, trippy visuals you want. It has about six levels right now that that kind of ease you into the experience. The sandbox mode works really well too, that’s my favorite way to play. I think Daniel Benmurgui and Agustín Cordes both like the levels more, it may depend on how much you’ve had to drink which you prefer.

Sarah and I celebrated new years 2014 in Buenos Aires at the house of Tembac with his friends. It was a great night and we didn’t get home until 6:00am which is the second time that’s happened to us in Buenos Aires, these people like fun! New Years in BA is a lot like New Years in Canada except that everybody spills into the street because it’s summer and warm then lights off fireworks. It was amazing to see all these little kids running around at 2:00am lighting off explosives. Most of the fireworks people were lighting off are illegal in Canada because kids are always blowing their fingers off, thankfully no one around us was hurt and everyone had a good time. Turns out fireworks can be a really lovely expression of community.

After the fireworks died down (3am or so?) we headed back inside and I pulled out Shader and nestled it onto a table among the wine and beer bottles. Everybody had a go, we always played in sandbox mode because that’s more fun for the audience of people watching. It worked a lot like the fireworks had, there was always something interesting going on on screen and when someone found a particularly good effect it elicited appreciative oohs and ahhs.

It was really cool that I was there, right next to Shader, and that I will always be right there. It’s fun to point to a button and tell someone “this makes it go faster”, like it’s a three way conversation between me and the player and the game. When you’re playtesting commercial games you have to never explain or give encouragement to the player because you won’t be there to do those things when it’s released. With shader I can suggest things and laugh appreciatively at the cool things they do, if they get confused I can steer them in the right direction.  It’s like I’m part of the game and I really like that. The joke is often made that you should ship a copy of yourself with every game, with Shader I’m actually doing it.

Maybe when you get to play it you’ll be able to feel that night when you press the keys, the carefree night of explosives and friends staying up late playing video games.



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