Outbreak is a seasonal real-time 24/7 live-action outdoor game involving 200+ players across a university campus. It has previously featured both ‘Humans vs Zombies’ and ‘Battle Royale’ modes using nerf blasters and interactive websites for tracking gameplay.

Primary Role: Producer, Senior System Designer
Team: Outbreak Dev Team
Size: 16


High Impact System Design

As Outbreak reaches its ten-year anniversary and eleventh game season, the game has changed dramatically and its players along with it. Mission design demands variety and flexibility with pre-programmed levers that allow for adjustments on the fly based on player behaviors. These hardcoded variables are not enough however as a single well thought out tactical plunger could potentially result in half of the player base getting wiped before reaching the second day.

In the past, Outbreak had severely suffered from zombie player retention. The majority of players that attend the event have never played before which has always led to a natural assumption that humans get nerf guns and high-action missions while zombies simply hide under cars and in bushes to secure kills for hours on end. This resulted in human players typically dropping the game entirely if and when they did die, as they would then be converted to the zombie faction which they had zero assumed interest in. This caused higher demand for on-the-fly balancing as zombie kills randomly went from ‘one less for you and one for me’ to just ‘one less for you,’ significantly reducing the available user base as the events progressed.

Introducing — the reversion system. If you get a kill within twenty-four hours of dying and becoming a zombie, you are offered the one-time option to revert back to human. It is that simple, but the metrics and results that followed were overwhelmingly positive. Given that Outbreak takes place over five days: it provides the perfect vehicle to discover an otherwise unfound passion for the zombie faction or an extended stay on the human-side without sacrifice to the numbers behind it. The system was received very well and has been a desired hallmark of the game ever since. Suddenly the player goes from not wanting to play zombie and dropping out of the game, and instead gains a hungry desire to become the single best zombie and hunt for that kill.