The lights are on
Anyone who has played Valve's Left 4 Dead knows the dread and exhilaration of cooperatively blasting through an undead horde. However, gamers might have been able to experience the zombie apocalypse years earlier if Irrational Games’ Division 9 had been completed. The premise was this: Division 9 would have put players (and their friends) in the middle of an ever-encroaching zombie menace. Co-op gameplay, scarce resources, base-building, and strategic rescues were a part of the conceptual blueprint. In our recent visit to Irrational Games, we talked to the team about how the game started and what it could have become. We also saw a slice of Division 9 in action – and with our exclusive demo trailer at the end of this feature, you can see it, too.“The reason we were frustrated with zombie games at the time was they never had the sense that you got for Dawn of the Dead, because there was really only Resident Evil at that time,” explains Irrational’s creative director Ken Levine. “That there was this group of survivors and they had to gather resources. They’d lock themselves up in the mall, and then be like ‘Oh, s---. We don’t have any food. We have to go out into the world and take these risks.’ And that was the game design, basically. You have a group of survivors, and these resources. You’d have to take on risks to get more supplies, ammo, and people. You sort of build up your group of survivors.”“It had strategic elements, too,” adds lead artist Shawn Robertson. “Like getting the power back on for a certain section of the city. From then on, any missions you’d do at night would be lit.”Art director Nate Wells adds: “We also had some really odd notions of base-building mechanics. At some location, you could get a transmission from a doctor who was trapped. If you went out and got him and brought him back, you would have a doctor installed at your base. Or you’d find an engineer who could make new weapons. There was going to be a whole RPG-style base-building mechanic. But the real innovation was the concept that the zombies never stop. The zombies are infinite. And now, just a few years later, there are plenty of games that treat zombies that way.”
“It was about holding back waves of enemies – I always think of Robotron – and you make these decisions moment to moment,” says Levine. “Do you stop to reload? Do you stop and heal each other? Do you stop and barricade a door? All these tactical decisions where the enemy was time, because there’s always going to be more zombies.” [PageBreak]
Essentially, Division 9 was an expanded version of the Left 4 Dead formula – years before the Left 4 Dead phenomenon started. In the history of Irrational Games, this falls somewhere between the release of SWAT 4 and the studio’s acquisition by Take-Two Interactive.Division 9 started as SWAT 5. Levine explains: “We were finishing SWAT 4, and Vivendi actually wanted us to do SWAT 5. This is one of those points where the money would have been really nice, and they were really good to work with, but I looked around and thought ‘What else have we got to say about this game?’ We didn’t really have anything else to add to what we did [with SWAT 4]. But I wanted the money really badly.”In an effort to land SWAT 5 while still retaining Irrational’s signature style, another game concept in the works at the studio – tentatively called The Infected – was adapted to the SWAT universe. “Nate [Wells] and I were toying around with a pitch for a game called The Infected, which we brought to Ken, and we basically had the idea to turn it into Zombie SWAT,” says Robertson. “Vivendi was like, ‘What’s your pitch for SWAT 5?’ ‘Zombie SWAT.’ Crickets.”“It started as a joke,” admits Wells. “Arrest five Draculas. Kill all Frankensteins in this level. Universal movie monsters versus SWAT.”“I remember going around pitching it and the person would be ‘Zombies? Who wants to play a zombie game?’” remembers Levine. Joe McDonagh, Irrational’s director of creative development, adds with a laugh: “Someone said to me, ‘We don’t think zombies will be big in 2005.’”Despite initial resistance, Division 9’s innovative ideas and (theoretically) fun gameplay brought it to the edge of production, only to be stymied by unfortunate timing. “We had a week to put together a demo, and we saw an opportunity there, and we actually sold it to Vivendi,” Levine tells us. “They were ready to buy it, but we had just sold the company to Take-Two. I think we would have been very successful with it. It would have come out around the same time as BioShock, maybe a little sooner.”
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They should still make the game...
So, they we basically making the game that every zombie-obsessed gamer has been dreaming about for years and now we'll never get to play it? Bummer.
This is exactly like L4D.... i know it came before.... but c'mon
The scenery kind of looks like RE:The Darkside Chronicles. This game should have been made, it looks awesome.
***, this looks way better than l4d and l4d2. I really wish this was made. Looks like an actual horror game mixed with the action of the left 4 dead series.
that would have been sweet but hey what if they didnt make bioshock I would rather have bio than this
Is there any chance of someone modernizing this game that would be so sick. Not Left 4 Dead-like but with the barracades and such. that would be so sweet. CUSTOM-WEAPONS OWN ALL!
well this does very little for us as gamers,just teasing us with great game concept just to tell us "you 'll never get it."goes to show how much those guy that said "who would play a zombie game?"know, they are eating their words with the sucess of left 4 dead,which seems like a dummed down version of this division9 game,thanx for the report on a game i will never play,excellent journalism gentleman.
"This is the type of zombie game I always wanted to play. Imagine this with updated graphics, free roaming city and the RPG aspects they talked about. Just roaming round the cities looking for supplies. *** that would have been awesome."
"So, they we basically making the game that every zombie-obsessed gamer has been dreaming about for years and now we'll never get to play it? Bummer."
You two just said it exactly.
This game shouldn't be compared to Left 4 Dead. Left 4 Dead is a fun game, one of my favorite multiplayer games of all time, but it's linear, fast-paced, action-oriented, and borderline arcade-style. It's not a "zombie" game in the vein of Romero's zombie movies, or in the vein of a "zombie survival" game that I'm sure a lot of people have been waiting for. Dead Rising didn't even fit that bill properly; it was fun, but look at how easy racking up zombie kills was.
If this was in a free-roaming city with a lot to explore, with RPG elements like the ones talked about in the article, and a genuine zombie threat - a genuine level of realism, a need to create barricades, a need to scavenge for (and ration) supplies, a need to conserve ammo, a need to *not* draw attention to oneself - this game could've been revolutionary. Or at the very least, the ultimate wish fulfillment for zombie fans. Slow zombies or not.
BTW, anyone criticizing this game's graphics, voice-overs, sluggish movement, etc. needs to read what Juba said. Very early conceptual demo, old graphics engine, created five years ago, not representative of the final product. XBLA? I would've bought this game for $60. That's more than I'd do for L4D2.
Considering this was only a prototype it was quite a matured one at that. I am sure with tweaking, and advanced visual fidelity this game would have been awesome. Looks more horror like, which I prefer in my zombie games. Though at the same time perhaps too much action. I havnt found a true zombie game that doesn't make you feel unstoppable, nor do they really take the time to make the zombie look all that menacing. Resident evil was about the only game like this(Pre RE4)
This game looks very interesting. I'm confused as to why they can't or won't make the game. I think that this game is distinct from L4D to be successful. Maybe they are testing the waters with this release...
Wow. I can imagine some of the stuff possible in this. Scavenging a open-world city for supplies as stealthily as possible, wondering if there's any possible way to cure your party member's infection other than a shotgun, building barricades for nighttime, and the possible zombie ambush on your base...Wow. Want.
well i hope this doesn't end up like THRILL KILL,and that this garners it enough buzz to the point where the publisher would like to take a second chance on this ambitious game.keeping fingers crossed.
p.s. whats with the puerto rico flag in that room towards the end of the clip,is someone on the dev team from there?and was the other guy on the squad(the one with out the beard)has a resemblence to chris redfield?hmmm.
This would have been a really fun game to play. It probably would have beaten out Left 4 Dead.
Setting up defenses before an attack? What a ripoff of Herzog Zwei! Hah, jokes and jokes and jokes
the sound effects reminded me of bioshock
its never to late for a psn or xbla title....
too bad this would've been fun.
So once again in the interest of "playing" it safe and turn out yet another addition to an "established" a IP get pushed aside. One in this case sound like it was playing with some very interesting, and original ideas, Base Building, never though of it before but that could have lead to a whole new level of stayed that if implementor correct could have been awesome, and thouhg I have played thru and loved L4d ad L4d2 I have a sinking supsion that Irrational could have come up with a story worthy of Valve's slick play mechanic, and visual splendor.