Saturday, June 15, 2013

HvZ Super Saturday (Part 2)

I remember my first time coming to a college campus as clear as day.  The memories that stayed the strongest are the visual details of the school. I can still see the warm light of the lanterns shining outward as twilight hits the campus.  The green, neatly trimmed grass covering the serving as a resting place for students as they have quick conversations before heading off to their homes. The faint notes of a guitar echo in the background, adding to the soothing ambiance of the college. Walking back from my classes, it's the perfect atmosphere to relax, engage new academic peers, and to foster a culture of creativity.

Humans vs Zombies, or HvZ, has flourished in the college community.  HvZ is a great way to get people outside, interacting with each other and relieving stress.  College campuses are beautiful, and HvZ lets the players explore the terrain and see their school in a whole new light. The localization of most of the players helps keep the community tight, allowing for games to persist for varying periods of time and for players to have easy access to one another.  Not to mention that running away from zombies, or chasing down humans, is a great way to relieve some tension from all the hard work of studies and other college activities.
The San Francisco State University game of Humans vs Zombies is a prime example of HvZ done right. The turnout was huge at this game with around 70 players coming to participate.  The campus is large, but with plenty of places for players to interact with the environment. There are multiple stories to climb and explore, bushes and trees to hide in, and some wide open areas for running around. The campus is perfect for night games, with just enough natural light and scattered street lamps to keep things visible, while allowing the zombies to hide off in the shadows and prey on unsuspecting humans. Both Humans and Zombies alike like the field and felt like they each had their own advantages during the game.

The story for the script was well written and the missions were very creative with goals and objectives. Often there were multiple objectives each round, which required the human players to split up and use a lot of communication to succeed. We were also given a staging area where we could keep our loadouts, and had to choose between running just melee or just blasters whenever we hit the field. This made your loadout that much more important, since a lack of melee weapons or ranged weapons could leave your group at a disadvantage in certain areas of the campus. We were melee light the first mission and wasted many precious rounds fending off zombies.  The next mission our melee weapons were taken away, and despite the multiple opportunities presented to win them back, the humans failed every time to regain them.

The night aspect of the game definitely gave the zombies an edge in the missions too. The ability to hide in shadows, sneaking around bushes and under stairs waiting for unsuspecting humans added a huge element of tension to the games. Some zombies literally could lay down in the darkness and go unnoticed. With no melee weapons, it was up to the humans to sharp shoot in the night, allowing the zombies to get closer before having to be put down. The special infected were fantastic, with my personal favorite being the Hulk Zombie. This zombie could not be stunned while running in a straight line, essentially making him like The Juggernaut or a beefed up Charger from Left 4 Dead 2. The Hulk Zombie ran into me after tagging another human from his momentum, hitting his jaw into the back of my head. Luckily nobody was hurt, but I felt bad that he had to ram into a head as hard as mine.

One of the hardest aspects of the game was completing the missions in the dead of night. Many of the objectives revolved around locating small objects around the campus. Since school is already out at SFSU, only a handful of the 70+ attendees were familiar with the campus. The items were hard to spot in the dead of night, with many of the humans overlooking their locations despite being practically on top of their positions. It felt like finding a needle in a haystack, and the short timer on mission rounds had us hustling across campus trying to complete the goals. It was difficult, but not impossible. I personally enjoyed the challenge and felt the humans were able to fight back well enough despite taking the mission loss penalties every round.

The shining stars of the night were the event moderators Nate, Adam, Patrick and Justice.  Josh and I have managed B.U.R.N. games with around 30 people before, which I consider somewhat challenging. But organizing over 70 players is on a completely different level. These guys kept everyone focused, engaged, and having a great time the entire evening. They addressed player issues excellently and the Q & A session at the end shows they care deeply about the quality of their games. For example, last HvZ game they received concerns that the Humans had it too easy. That feedback resulted in a more challenging but fair experience at this HvZ event.  The huge playerbase alone shows that these guys are doing a great job, and their game is worth checking out.

On a final note, I wanted to address the audience out there. This week's content has been very Humans vs Zombies focused. I live in the Bay Area and love finding new groups to play with and new events to experience. If you have a group of HvZ players here in the Bay Area and you want to get some recognition, please send an email over to, or comment on this post, and we'll help get your game some recognition. 

I encourage everyone reading this article to check out the official HvZ website at and find some games near you.  If you would like to check out the game I just wrote about, join the HvZ: SFSU Facebook page for updates and new events. Also, check Part 1 of our HvZ Super Saturday post about the San Francisco game. Visit the Foam Action Network's Facebook and MeetUp page to sign up for their events as well.

As always, happy nerfing!

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