In H1Z1, players put their survival skills to the ultimate test. Not only must they face a world filled with hordes of flesh eating zombies, they also need to find a way to stay alive against elements and even other players. The game went into Early Access last year, and has taken center stage at a number events, including the H1Z1 Invitational at last year’s TwitchCon.

The game’s development took an unexpected turn recently when it was announced that the game would be split into two standalone games with separate developers focused on them. H1Z1: Just Survive continues with the experience of surviving the zombie apocalypse with limited resources, while H1Z1: King of the Kill has players battling each other in competitive arena-style play.

Candace Brenner, Senior Director of Global Marketing at Daybreak Games, talks to [a]listdaily about the this split, and what it takes to get through the zombie apocalypse.

cbrennerWhat led to H1Z1 being split into two games, and can you tell us what the differences are?

We released H1Z1 on Steam Early Access in January of 2015. Over the course of development through feedback on social channels and the forums, as well as in-game analytics, we started to notice that two distinct communities were forming with unique needs and desires.

Those that favored the survival game, now known as H1Z1: Just Survive, are looking for that gritty, survival experience – they want an immersive experience with a focus on crafting, scavenging and base building. Those that leaned towards Battle Royale want a fast-paced, high-intensity shooter, so we created King of the Kill.

On the development side, design decisions were diametrically opposed. When you think about progression and character investment, those decisions really differed between what we now call King of the Kill and Just Survive. Separating H1Z1 into two titles lets each game grow in their own distinguished ways with dedicated development teams, which is really great for the player communities.

How else has H1Z1 changed and grown since it entered Early Access?

Developing a game in Early Access has allowed us to better understand and communicate with our players. We are able to get real-time feedback, make refinements on live features, and make impactful changes to the game. When we first launched H1Z1 on Early Access, we had a little bit of everything but nothing was in its final state.

We treated everything in H1Z1 more like a placeholder because we wanted player feedback to help mold the game into the final product. From zombie appearances to zombie AI, to player characters to animation, nearly everything has evolved in the game since H1Z1’s Early Access launch last year. And in reality, development is never really complete; both H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill will continue grow and develop until launch and beyond through game updates, new features, and more.

The H1Z1 Invitational hosted at least year’s TwitchCon turned out great. Is that a sign that H1Z1: King of the Kill will be developed as an eSport?

We were very happy with last year’s H1Z1 Invitational at TwitchCon – we were the most-watched event at the show with more than 118K concurrent viewers and the tournament was a huge success.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Invitational was how that level of competition resonated with our players. We know that competition is at the core of H1Z1: King of the Kill, but it became even more apparent at TwitchCon. Beyond events like the Invitational, our main focus is on the development of organized play. We want to empower our players to create their own competitive experiences and we have the in-house expertise to create structured organized play and turn it into world-class competitions. We are working on mechanics that allow and encourage organized play, player-hosted games, and player-run tournaments, which will set the foundation for King of the Kill’s competitive future.

H1Z1 Zombies

There are quite a few zombie and survival themed games around. How does H1Z1: Just Survive stand out among them?

H1Z1: Just Survive combines massive scale and community, and adds a layer of zombie, survival and progression to create an authentic post-apocalyptic experience. We are working with our community through Early Access to create a unique world that puts players in that survival mindset; we want to capture the emotion and feelings of being one of the last remaining humans on Earth.

Why do you think so many people love the zombie apocalypse?

End-of-the-world scenarios are very intriguing because it is an automatic world reboot. It tests us at our foundation and allows us to get rid of any labels and redefine ourselves. You are no longer an accountant or a cook… you are a survivor. We get to imagine what life is like at the end of the world? Are you a leader or a follower? What is your role – are you part of a community or are you building a community? What do your last days look like? It’s a balance of humanity and survival. Plus, who doesn’t love zombies?

What is the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in H1Z1?

Last December we hosted the H1Z1 Showdown, which was a remote tournament where 75 of the top Battle Royale players fought against each other for a chance at H1Z1 fame and glory (and the opportunity to create an in-game item skin). The teams were handpicked by their captains, Twitch broadcasters, CDNThe3rd, summit1g, Trick2g, sxyhxy, Ninja, Mr. Grimmmz and Phaze Pyre.

During the broadcast of the Showdown, we did a special exhibition match where the team captains took on an entire server. But there was a catch. The captains were able to wear armor and scavenge for guns, while the others had to fight in underwear and were only allowed to use bow and arrows. The combination created a pretty hilarious fight; it’s crazy to see hundreds of arrows fly over a hill at a single target. Video of the exhibition match is still up.

The idea actually stemmed from one of the Twitch Broadcasters, CDNThe3rd. Leading up to the Showdown, CDNThe3rd used his whitelisted Battle Royale server to regularly host games with varying rulesets, such as Throwables Only, Shotguns Only, NFDY 500, and more.

He produced an awesome video summarizing his game modes here:

What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when surviving the zombie apocalypse?

Find shelter and food ASAP! If Walking Dead taught me anything, it is that leadership is important because the apocalypse can make you go crazy. Also, relationships matter – it’s extremely hard to survive alone but you have to be extra careful about who you trust.