http://www.urbandead.com

An online game inspired by classic films like Night of the Living Dead, and other similar games like The Kingdom of Loathing.

To steal from the website, Urban Dead is a browser-based, grid-mapped multi-player game where you play the survivor or victim of a zombie outbreak in a quarantined city centre. It's basically a graphically sparse, semi-turn based strategy game. It's a great game to play at work on a cell phone. You don't really need to sit down and play it too much. Just open up a browser, make a couple moves, and let it sit again for a while.

The SettingUrban Dead takes place in the fictional city of Malton. Malton is a ten by ten grid of suburbs, and each suburb is made of a ten by ten grid of blocks. That's 10,000 blocks, unless I can't multiply. Each block can contain various structures, including buildings, junkyards, wastelands, and roads. Malton is besieged by undead, the power is out, and you're trapped inside.

The Community
Urban Dead has an unofficial forum, and the community uses it both to discuss the game and to plan strategies. Obviously the second option is pretty useless, as posting your meeting points on an internet forum puts it right there for all those non-RP types to just search for your plans. There's a self-styled "Council of Leaders" on the human side that's basically ineffective, and much infighting and general lack of strategy exists on the human side. The undead actually seem more organized. While many complain about the state of affairs here, I think it's making the game play exactly like it should. The humans are besieged from all sides and panicked, desperately trying to hold what they see as safe havens. The zombies sense the large human gathering, and show up en-masse to take them down. The zombies have no fear of death, and are a slow-moving, relentless wave set on destroying all humans. The message boards aren't actually terribly active though, as a relatively small percentage of players actually participate there. There's enough activity here to keep things interesting, if you're into that sort of thing.

Player Characters
Player characters come in three flavors: Military, Science, and Civilian. Choosing a category determines how much XP it takes to get a skill in your skill branch, and how much it takes to get a skill outside your skill branch.

Military characters can be Soldiers, Medics, or Scouts. Soliders get a gun, ammo, and training to use them. Medics get a First Aid Kit, First Aid Training, and a pistol. Scouts get a flare gun, and can move more easily between buildings than others. Military characters buy Military skills for 75 XP each, but science skills cost 150 XP.

Science characters can be Doctors or Necrotech Lab Assistants. Doctors start with First Aid Training and two First Aid Kits. Necrotech Lab Assistants get the ability to see special Necrotech buildings, and a DNA extractor to tag and report zombies. Scientists can buy Science skills for 75 XP, but Combat skills cost them 150 XP.

Civilian characters can start as Cops, Firefighters, or Consumers. Cops start out with A pistol, firearms training, and a flak jacket. Firefighters get an axe and training for it. Consumers get very little to start out with, but they are good at scavenging supplies from malls. Civilians buy their own skills for 100 XP, and other branches for 100 XP.

You can also choose to start as a zombie, if you prefer. Zombies can only get zombie skills, and they cost 100 XP each. Some human skills carry over, such as bodybuilding, which increases maximum health. Zombies are slow though.

The Interface
Your view looks something like this:

|----------|--------------------|
||  |  |  ||INFO:               |
|----------|                    |
||  |  |  ||                    |
|----------|ACTIONS:            |
||  |  |  ||                    |
|----------|                    |
|CHARACTER:|INVENTORY:          |
|----------|--------------------|

The 3x3 grid on the left is your view of the neighborhood. The CHARACTER section gives you basic information about your character, such as AP available, XP available, and remaining HP. The INFO section lists basic information about the block you're currently on. ACTIONS is a contextual section that lists all available actions. Don't jump out of windows unless you want to be a zombie. INVENTORY is a list of all the items you've manage to scrounge up so far.

Playing the game
When you first create a character, you'll be placed in a random suburb or one of your choice, whichever you prefer. You start out with 50 AP. Every action you take costs one AP, whether it's moving, attacking, going inside a building, or talking. Zombies take 2 AP to move one block. Yes, you can use all of your AP in about 10 minutes. The low neccesary play-time is a plus for me.

The main goal if you're human is survival. If your a zombie, you want to kill humans, and convert them to your "cause." Whether there are any long-term goals is yet to be seen. New features are added all the time, and I doubt that all the currently available features have been publicly announced yet.

Survival
This game can be frustrating at first; you'll walk outside expecting to slay some undead, only to wind up wasting most of your ap, getting stuck outside or in an unsecured building, and poof, you're a zombie.

The most important thing to do is conserve AP. Always make sure you can duck into a building with at least secured doors, and preferably a barricade as well. I like to keep a reserve of at least 15 AP so I can get the hell out of dodge if I need to.

Second, don't worry about killing anyone, at least not right away. The game is designed to make it hard to kill someone in one day, so you don't have to be constantly logged in. Besides, you get XP for any damage you do, not for each kill. Be happy with wasting 10 AP for 3 XP. More efficiently, search out hospitals, and dump AP into finding medkits. Then, when you come upon a zombie infestation, run around and heal survivors. That's 5 XP per heal! (Note that you won't be able to see how many HP someone has until you get the diagnosis skill. Until then, either ask inside buildings, or try randomly. Generally if there is a large zombie presence on a square, it's a good bet that any people there will need healing.) Much more efficient than trying to kill zombies. Once you get some levels under your belt, and a few skills, you may be able to start really zombie hunting. You certainly don't have to go that route right away though. It's entirely possible to level up wihtout ever killing a zombie (though eventually you'll run out of stuff to buy and might as well start getting those combat skills). I'd recommend branching out at least a little bit though. You can never be too prepared.

Finally, stay away from people. Yeah, sometimes you'll be running low on AP and just need to duck into the nearest fire station or police dept. These aren't terrible places to be -- guns and ammo can be found, along with other useful goods. There are usually people around to protect you. Unfortanetly, just like in the movies, zombie tend to draw towards large clusters of life. I don't trust people anyway, and try to stay as independant as possible. If you have to hole up while low on AP, these are a pretty good choice, since there are others around to help out. However, as long as you have enough AP to run, stick to yourself if you can. You never know when someone's going to go crazy and start killing their own. Besides, zombies are slow.

Urban Dead is an awesome low-tech browser game by Kevan Davis (previously known for making an awesome low-tech website). The premise behind the game is that you're in a quarantined city named Malton, either fighting for survival against zombies, or fighting for tasty brains. Urban Dead has proven itself to be pretty damn awesome over the past few years that I've played it, and I feel like I wouldn't be doing it justice if I didn't make an attempt to advertise it. So here's my top ten reasons why Urban Dead is the best browser game ever.

10) There are no NPCs.
Most games bog you down with stupid AI and immersion-breaking invincible townspeople. Urban Dead has none of that. Every single being in Malton has a player behind it, whether it be person, zombie, or corpse. This honestly isn't much of an advantage over other browser games, but it's certainly unique, or at least uncommon. Even games with no computer-controlled enemies will at least have a shop or something. Urban Dead has no NPCs whatsoever, and that's pretty badass.

9) The game is highly customizable without much effort.
The term "without much effort" may need to be clarified: Urban Dead is highly customizable if you use Firefox. (I can already hear the Opera users groaning.) If you have Firefox, you can make the bland-looking default game look a hundred times better simply by installing the UD Toolbar, though the actual toolbar portion of it should be disabled immediately because it's hideous. After the toolbar, however, this extension adds graphics to the game and makes the layout slightly better, which makes it much easier to keep track of what you're doing. If that doesn't satisfy you, there are dozens of Greasemonkey scripts that will make loads of small UI tweaks. The game is perfectly playable without any alteration, but it's simple enough that it gives you the ability to easily modify it to suit your style, something that most games lack.

8) It's about zombies.
Shallow maybe, but zombies are awesome! There's no better fuel for one's love of drama, plus one's love of violence, plus one's repressed misanthropy, than a horde of humanoid murderers trying to smash down the hastily-constructed barricades of every tormented soul that isn't Rambo. For the people that are Rambo, they've already joined the horde as death cultists. There's two things that I will always have a soft spot for: misanthropic cyberpunk protagonists, and unrelenting waves of zombies. Since there's a depressing lack of the former, I'm going to have to say that Urban Dead is unbeatable in this category.

7) There's no economy.
...And that means that there's no broken economy either. Unlike most online games that suffer constant inflation and enough financial issues to make the real-world economy look stable in comparison, Urban Dead has no means of trading or buying items. There's no money, either. All items are found by looting the abandoned buildings strewn across Malton. Different buildings give different items (e.g., hospitals give first-aid kits, junkyards give junk), which turns the game into a sort of resource war over those buildings that are most important to human survival. You need to fight to secure a hospital so that you can spend time searching it for first-aid kits, then move onto the nearest police station to load up on shotgun shells, then make shelter in a shack somewhere that won't draw attention. Everything is balanced.

6) The developer is awesome.
This is an underrated quality. A lot of games wallow in their problems because the developers are recluses that never come out in public to hear what people want. Kevan actually pays attention to the game and updates it accordingly. He also actually listens to his players and sometimes incorporates suggestions that they vote up on the wiki. Which brings me to my next point...

5) They have a well-maintained wiki.
The Urban Dead Wiki is like a strategy guide, and it's complete enough to help you get a feeling for the game without much hassle. It doesn't get bogged down in useless details -- it gets right to the point and explains the things you want explained. Once you've learned how the game works, you'll still use the wiki every once in a while to check what the objectives of a group you meet are -- you wouldn't want to let a human into your hideout if he's a member of a zombie group, after all. This wiki works in much the same way as the KoL Wiki does for The Kingdom of Loathing, but with a much better URL.

4) There are practically no rules.
Yet the game isn't broken. The only real rule is against multiple accounts, which would upset the fairness of the game. Outside of that, there isn't much. Humans kill humans all the time and it doesn't upset the game because it all makes sense: those humans are the death cultists, or the psychopaths from Dead Rising. Zombies kill zombies and it makes sense because the zombies in Malton are smarter than typical zombies. If they can form groups and attack certain buildings consciously, who's to say that they can't form an allegiance with humans? They're called life cultists, the antithesis to the typical death cultists. You don't see them in zombie movies, but they still work fine. Urban Dead is practically self-governing because anyone who's being a dick can be killed by a horde of people that aren't dicks.

3) You can play all day, kind of.
This is a huge thing in browser games. Almost all of them limit how much you can play in a day by assigning you some kind of "energy" that only refills at night. Urban Dead changes it up by giving you an energy that refills slowly over the course of the day. That might not sound like much, but it means that you can essentially play the game all day... as long as you play slowly. Some people might not care, but I think this feature is an important part of what makes Urban Dead so fun: you don't fall into a routine with it. You really can play it anytime.

2) It has a good community.
This one is obviously important. A great game with a bad community just wouldn't be worth it. Luckily Urban Dead has a great community, mostly thanks to the aforementioned lack of rules. People can't really troll you, since getting killed is a normal part of the game and makes sense from all sides. The only people who ruin the game are the ones who cheat and use multiple accounts, but they don't usually get in the way of your fun. Another great thing about the community is that...

1) People actually roleplay.
Urban Dead is the only online game I've ever played in which the players roleplay more often than not. Seriously, half the fun of the game is from organising into groups of fellow players to take out whatever group you disagree with. And if you get bored, switch sides and play as the opposite class for a while. It's all okay. The way people communicate in-game will almost always heighten the experience rather than detract like in most games. People send messages by talking, graffiti, and radio broadcasting -- all of these create an atmosphere that suits the game perfectly. Nothing is more immersive than sitting in a hospital with a bunch of survivors, huddling around your radio transmitter, to hear a broadcast from across town that another building held by your group has been taken down. You hear people calling for backup as zombies lay siege to their resources, and people from your building run to help them out. If things go sour, you get to hear the other building's radio transmitter crash to the ground before the signal cuts off. You know that the people who left to help aren't coming back for a while.

Immersion can make or break a game. Urban Dead actually has one major flaw that would ruin all of its positives: there are only 43 skills in the game to buy, and you won't care about most of them. Once you buy those skills, your initial goal to "level up your character" is gone. In a normal online game, the loss of that goal would destroy your only incentive to play the game, causing you to give up -- that's why characters in World of Warcraft take ages to build. Urban Dead embraces this flaw and turns it to its advantage with its incredible immersion: by the time you buy the skills, you're playing the game for the community and the roleplaying. I've never seen an online game built like that, and that's the key reason I think Urban Dead is the best online game ever. There's no grinding!

Play Urban Dead.

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