TXD Interviews Zombie Wranglers Creators Frozen Codebase

Zombie Wranglers

ScrewjumperElements of DestructionZombie Wranglers

[TXD] - First off thanks for taking the time to chat with us guys. How and where did the idea for Zombie Wranglers come from?

[Billy] - Zombie Wrangling started to be conceptualized one night while watching Jurassic Park 2. The scene where the protagonists are catching a bunch of the dinosaurs inspired the initial high concept. The first concept document for Zombie Wranglers had the players driving vehicles (including Zambonis!) to wrangle the undead. Once we started to look at the concept more seriously though, we found more inspiration in games like Zombies at My Neighbors and Psychonauts and shows like Invader Zim; this helped evolve the game into a more character-driven experience.

[TXD] - Now you have me wanting to pull out the SNES for some Zombies at My Neighbors action! What is the storyline in Zombie Wranglers?

[Billy] - Well, the story as a whole is much larger than just the game, but the game’s storyline follows the unveiling of the zombie outbreaks in the suburban bedroom community of Potters Field. The town and the people who live there are used to outbreaks -- they see zombies like we see miscellaneous vermin like rats or mice. Potters Field’s long-standing zombie problem is how the Zombie Wrangler business got started. This time, though, the outbreak is on a much larger scale than the town is used to, and, with all of Potters Field’s wranglers dispatched to wrangling jobs in the city, it’s up to the kids of Union 138 to keep their neighborhood area free of the zombie infestation.

[TXD] - Personally glad I do not live in Potters Field. I don't think I would ever be "used" to Zombie outbreaks. What about the 4 different characters and their effect on the story?

[Billy] - All of the wranglers have unique personalities that we tried to convey in every aspect of their character. Uju, for instance, is into comic books and pro wrestling, and he has voodoo based powers – this is something that typically wouldn't fit or make sense in most contexts, but we were just having fun with the characters. The rest of Union 138 includes Amy, our resident nerd hipster; Dean, our brilliant inventor; and Monica, who has a lower tolerance for the rest of the group’s shenanigans – sort of our version of Margaret from Dennis the Menace.


[TXD] - I noticed a few fun Zombie types during my time with the game. How many types of Zombies are players going toe to toe with?

[Billy] - Seventeen different types of zombies, I think, covering everything from emo zombies to renaissance fair zombies. I think we have a pretty good spread. Sorry if we forgot gaming press zombies, we’ll cover that demographic next time.

[TXD] - Yea you totally missed that target audience. We game press get no love! So what will players have to defend themselves against the horde?

[Billy] - There are eight total powerups, with the Zombie Mask being the best by far.

[TXD] - How many locations are in the full version of Zombie Wranglers?

[Billy] - There are five total chapters. The group travels through the suburbs, near the local summer camp, renaissance fair, and the local strip mall.

[TXD] - Do you have any unique levels within those 5 locations?

[Billy] - There are twenty levels total. We've got some fun mission types in there -- such as Save the Humans, and Survival -- but the core of the game remains the sheer joy of wrangling zombies.

[Ben] - The game truly shines in multiplayer (Match and Co-op), and we feel we've created a really solid experience. Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Gauntlet were amazing games we all loved when we were growing up, and, for these games, co-op play was key. Our idea was to create a zombie game which beckons back to ZAMN, not only in multiplayer gameplay but also art direction -- zombies in an unexpected aesthetic situation: Cartoony kitsch. The humor is tongue in cheek; campy and purposefully cheesy.

[TXD] - I absolutely love online co-op for games like these. Funny I too felt the game played a lot like Gauntlet's speed and that gameplay certainly does not get old anytime soon. What about the art direction? Were you the first to go with Cel-Shading for a Zombie game?

[Ben] - We might not be the first cel-shaded Zombie game, but we certainly pre-dated the current trend in zombie games. Burn Zombie Burn came out before us, but that was a total coincidence. Zombie Wranglers was pitched in summer 2007, started in fall/winter of 2007, and shown publicly in April of 2008. Most the other zombie games out now were announced at least six months later. Our original ship date (as confirmed by Microsoft) was September 17th, and the game was actually on the service for a short period of time. Due to the merger of Activision and Vivendi and its residual effects on our original publisher, Sierra Online, the game was pulled from release. The story surrounding this is very complex. At Frozen Codebase, we poured our hearts and souls into this game; it was frustrating to have it finished but not able to allow gamers to play it. It took eight months for us to sort out the situation. We owe a huge thanks to Hal Paris at Activision for helping us sort this out and seeing the game through.

[Note Ben is talking about the sudden release and pull of Zombie Wranglers back in October with a small Microsoft promotion "Shocktober" if you guys remember it. Joystiq caught it then you can find it here. ]

[TXD] - So after all the hassle with the merger you still decided the first level to be in broad daylight?

[Billy] - The game takes place in the course of a single summer day and kids are lazy, so of course they didn't start their work until noon!

[TXD] - Lazy Zombies I guess then too! So which character best represents you two? Were the characters based off anyone on the team?

[Billy] - None of the characters are directly based off of anyone, but everyone on the team has a favorite. My favorite and the one I'd say most closely represents myself would have to be the original wrangler, Uju. He was the first character drawn up for the game when it was still about driving Zambonis.

[Ben] - My personal favorite is Monica, but this is more owing to an alterna-teen past life. She's the ultimate goth girl zombie hunter, and her ice bow (with the applicable metaphor being that her heart is cold as ice) is a great fit. If I remember right, this idea was hatched by us but enhanced by our publisher. Special thanks also to Michael Caradona, formerly of Sierra Online, for sharing in some of these ideas. We loved working with the production team at Sierra Online, they were great.


[TXD] - You guys recently asked your Facebook fans their best Zombie survival tip. What is your best Zombie survival tip?

[Billy] - Move north, zombies don't like cold weather.

[Ben] - Bacon! Lots and lots of bacon! Sometime late at night during a recent Frozen Codebase crunch, we saw that a guy on the internet made an AK-47 out of bacon. I think this is the right idea, but that AK-47 needs to actually SHOOT bacon. If you could shoot bacon at these clowns, this would do two things: For one, it would slow them down. For two, when the bacon got stuck in their zombified flesh, the other zombies would attack them to get the bacon out. It's a little known fact that zombies LOVE bacon.

[TXD] - I guess mine would be get out before noon! Are players treated to any hidden easter eggs in Zombie Wranglers?

[Billy] - The windows of Comic Emporium have a picture of an early game character concept from one of our previous games.

[Ben] -We also have our programmer Jason Kim in the multiplayer menu punching fire.

[TXD] - Thanks for taking the time to talk to us guys! We wish you the best with your current and future endeavors!

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While throwing down on ZOMBIE WRANGLERS, you might have occasion to stumble across some of the twenty voodoo dolls that intrepid Wrangler Uju has hidden throughout the game’s twenty levels. In said situation, you might begin to mentally debate the pros and cons of collecting said voodoo dolls -- i.e., do I really want to commit to finding all twenty voodoo dolls in this game? Do I have the tenacity, the resourcefulness, the sheer intestinal fortitude to complete this quest? And besides, what’s in it for me? Well, we’ll TELL you what could be in it for you – A FREE T-SHIRT!!! That’s right! Find all twenty of ZOMBIE WRANGLERS’ hidden voodoo dolls AND take a photo of yourself in front of the I-got-all-twenty-voodoo-dolls screen (hopefully lookin’ kinda like a zombie yourself, or at least adopting goofy enough mannerisms to briefly amuse the staff here) AND post said photo the Facebook fan page AND YOU JUST MIGHT WIN a FREE ZOMBIE WRANGLERS T-SHIRT! We’ll give away five of ‘em! You’ll be dressed for the revolution in style! None can ask fairer than that!

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