Prelude Design


Prelude is a game about zombies. It's currently in public alpha, which you can access online here. This page is a collection of ideas, musings and concept art about the game and will be added to periodically (likely whenever I have time that I would be working on the game but don't feel like it).

Eventually, the player will have the opportunity to interact with a rich, procedurally generated world in a dystopian alternate history scifi-meets-survival narrative. Think 2D platforming dwarf fortress with more action, a single protagonist, abstracted mechanics and a million unlockables on another planet with zombies and you're getting close.

~ Max "Geti" Cahill

History of This Page

  • 23 September 2010 - Released this preview.
  • 21 September 2010 - Started drafting this page.

Changelog - The Game

  • November 1 2010 - Day and Night Cycle! Delicious clouds by Lizard added in draft form, Credits page added, support panel added, basically lots of cool stuff. Oh yeah, bloom and timescaling too.
  • October 25 2010 - UNLOCKABLES SYSTEM IN PLACE :D Or at least, some semblance of functionality there. Added .303 repeater unlockable and did quite a large overhaul of the damage system.
  • October 13 2010 - Drafted an embark system, finally.
  • October 11 2010 - A few more plants added, control scheme changed, ability to pick up and drop items added (part of a larger inventory management system)
  • October 7 2010 - Idiot bug fixed..
  • October 6 2010 - 2 new tiles added (the wooden wall and roofing), and a "no ammo" indication added to the HUD. A large chunk of the actor input system reworked.
  • October 5 2010 - Lag issue really fixed, a stupid bug slipped in at the last second.
  • October 4 2010 - Lag issue fixed (only affects old machines) and construction made a tad more intuitive.
  • October 3 2010 - .22 Rifle added, FireArm class drafted, some cleaning.
  • October 1-2 2010 - Surface terrain view implemented, Vegetation partially extended. Some work done on a saving system, but not in release.
  • September 28-29 2010 - Vegetation Drafted. The system is a little patchy at the moment but is easily extendible for making complex growth behaviours. Surface-only Visiblity also drafted in. The effect is currently not soft enough, as it's based on the tile sprites and not any overlaps, but it's amazing what not being able to see into the terrain adds to the atmosphere.
  • Late September 2010 - Various Fixes.
  • September 2010 - Public Alpha Started. Tile support, items, actors and level format drafted, but not finalised in any way.


One thing I don't want to do is give the player too much setting to play with. The protagonists wouldn't have very much insight into the history of the planet or the biology of the zombies or even of what the established government is up to realistically, and I think it's a lot more interesting to let the player fabricate their own theories on what's going on anyway.

Even so, a solid "backstory" is needed as a sort of a starting point. It helps the universe retain some sort of stability between interpretations, and also prevents players from feeling like they're just getting dumped into the game.

The game itself occurs at least 30 years after a societal collapse on a newly discovered planet, Humus (literally a synonym for Terra in latin, named for their similar appearance). This planet was discovered in the midst of the cold war upon Terra, late 1950's AD. The space race wasn't related to this discovery, a portal was discovered in Terra's crust during a mining endeavour. Similar portals were found worldwide over the next few years after a way to detect them was developed and Humus was slowly colonised. Initially all was well, and industry prospered, though the political situation Humus-side was decidedly dodgy.

The few diplomats that were courageous enough to venture through the portals found themselves effectively in the hands of some elite scientists and their associate mercenaries, who needed the freedom to study everything about this new planet without pesky legislation in the way. A few especially sneaky researchers even located portals without informing anyone and set up their own remote labs.

The portals on Terra themselves linked to temples on Humus, some large, some small, all of them giving no clues to how they worked or why they were constructed. Destruction of a temple resulted in the immediate closure of the related portal, however, marrooning of a good few hundred Terrans at various points of history.

For years, however, nothing went wrong. Some interesting xenobiology was learned and the mysterious temples were investigated (to no avail). Some modern earth flora and fauna were brought through to give the colonists some homely comforts. It seemed that the Terrans had simply found themselves some convenient new land to exploit. Trade routes, some more legitimate government, and some solid infrastructure begun to be pieced together.

Then, one (possibly fateful) day, a happy colonist was out exploring and stumbled upon a field of what appeared to be rose-like flowers. He took a few samples and brought them home with him to show his family. The next day, he told his associates and took a party of researchers to study the flowers. The scientists puzzled over why they hadn't observed the flowers before but marvelled at their bioluminescent leaves and fantastic ability to regenerate new stems where any were severed at high speed, and sent samples around the planet for research. Some samples were sent back to Terra as well, as presents or as research fodder.

Half a week later, the original colonist's house erupted with noise with the rising of the sun. The family burst out into the town and assaulted any nearby Terrans before being shot to death by the local militia. Their skin had turned a sickly green colour, and roses grew from gaping wounds in their bodies. Over the coming weeks, as more and more cases of violent assaults broke out across Humus and then Terra, the authorities put two and two together and finally, too late, decided to close the portals by destroying the temples.

Terra and Humus, separated once more, were about to go to war with something worrying.