Initially codenamed simply as ZRPG, Dead State, being developed by veterans of development teams Obsidian and Troika and headed up by lead designer Brian Mitsoda (Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines), it aims to explore the social interactions and survival realities arising from a zombie outbreak.
The game will be set in a fictional rural and suburban area of Texas, where the player will have a school as their shelter and primary base of operations that they can gather other survivors to over time, as well as gradually upgrading. The player character and the other NPCs which players befriend and join their group will need to find food on a regular basis to survive and can also scavenge other resources and encounter other survivors as you do so. The zombies (of which there are only the traditional shambling kind) are not designed to provide an immediate threat to the player and will only pose a real danger when there is a large group of them, such as when they are attracted by the player making a large amount of noise. The presence of other survivors or groups of survivors is likely to cause a greater threat and players will be able to interact with these individuals or groups to make them accepting of players or to potentially antagonise them. A choice quote from Brian Mitsoda explains what the feel of the game will therefore be: “Honestly, the game is not about the zombies, but about how people react to a crisis and what they are willing to do to other human beings and even members of their group to stay alive or protect their own.”
Equally as important will be players relationships with those survivors that add themselves to their party. As the player will need to monitor the moral and health of their group and embark on missions to increase moral or bring back items that will do so. There will also be story elements to the game with the opportunity to dialogue with the members of the player's group back at their school base. Keeping as many people as possible happy and healthy will require some political style decision-making and certain crisis scenarios will occasionally arise amongst the player's group.
By completing various objectives and challenges players will be able to upgrade the following skills: survival, mechanical, melee, ranged, medical, science, negotiation and leadership, though there will not be the opportunity to max them all out in one playthrough of the game. It is known that the combat will be turn-based and in this way and others it seems Dead State will take some leads from the original X-COM game.
It is known that the game can be lost by losing control of the school the player is sheltering in, but that normally the player character getting bitten by a zombie will not be enough to die since the player's companions are designed to give them antibiotics to halt the spread of the infection if this happens. There will however be a mode in which players can turn this off to raise the difficulty of the game considerably.
On June 5, 2012, the game developers started a Kickstarter to help fund the development process. Backers will be able to get a DRM-free copy of the game at half the price, and other rewards like concept art books and bullet-shaped USB sticks. The goal of the Kickstarter was US$150,000, and it ended on July 5, 2012 at US$ 332,635. The Kickstarter page can be viewed here.