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The Zombie-Tastic #Rebuild Game

May 18, 2012

There was a web game that I’d enjoyed; Rebuild, so I was reary happy to read about it coming to the iOS:

Zombies are rarely a sign of originality in a game, tending to signify the last gasp of a desperate developer – but Rebuild (app store, Sarah Northway, £1.99) is different. This indie title was originally a free flash game, but has now come to iOS where it deserves to be a big success. A zombie apocalypse/ FarmVille mash-up, Rebuild presents the player as leader of the last remnants of humanity following the inevitable undead uprising. Choose a look for your avatar, as well as a tool – think pistol or dog – to help determine what kind of boss you become.

Rebuild (on iOS)

So I’ve downloaded my copy and started playing it. So far so good. However I thought I’d also email some questions about the game over to fellow indie developer, Sarah Northway, who was kind enough to answer them…

Why zombies? (We faced the same issue on Call of Cthulhu!) Are they not overdone?

I know what you mean, I’m sick to death of zombies, but someone at Apple once told me they thought zombies were “perennial”. They just keep popping up, and people love to mow them down again. Rebuild was really born of my love for post-apocalyptic survivalist stories. Whether it’s 28 Days Later, The Road, or Blindness (a great movie starring Julianne Moore), for me it’s more about the people struggling to survive than what monsters they’re facing. So I picked zombies because they’re easy to explain, and the AI is easy to write. Zombies just keep moaning and advancing slowly on the closest target, right?

What I like about the game is the sense of hope it has; how much of the design was about hope (if any)?

Maybe you’re not playing on a hard enough difficulty! Kidding, kidding – yes hope, along with the idea of morale, were things that I wanted the player to think about. Life in Rebuild isn’t just about getting through the next zombie horde, you need to believe you’re actually rebuilding civilization, and that someday things will get better.

What were the challenges of going from web to iOS?

Performance was a big issue for the mobile version. I ported Rebuild using Adobe AIR, so the iOS version uses the same source code as the original Flash game. This saved me a lot of time and allowed me to further port it to Android, BlackBerry, and Kindle in a matter of days. However AIR is far less efficient than native code, so getting the graphics to run smoothly on any mobile device was a challenge.

How big is the development team for the game?

“Team Rebuild” is mostly just me, although I contracted EvilKris to help with art for the characters, attacks and ending animations. He was great to work with, although we were on opposite sides of the world then with me in San Francisco and him in Japan. But I’m a bit of a nomad and don’t really have a specific place to call home. My husband (Colin Northway, also an indie game developer) and I sold everything a couple years ago and we’ve been jaunting around the world since then. I’ve been working on Rebuild off and on during that time in places like Honduras, the Philippines, and Malta. Right now I’m living in Greece, in a small mountain town on the island of Thassos.

What has the reception been so far?

People just love it. The Flash versions have done extraordinarily well, and when I think about how many people (millions) have played my game I’m astounded. I’m also surprised with how many people who played those free browser versions are excited to buy the iOS game as well. Rebuild has been doing quite well in the iOS App Store (considering it’s never been featured!), and I owe a lot of this success to fans of the original game.

Anyway I’m now playing Rebuild and having fun on the move – and I recommend it to you, dear reader.

Rebuild (on iOS)

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