Writing Plans for this Year, ZE Novel, and the Future of Safe Haven

For those of you still asking about Safe Haven Part 2, the files are with copyediting. Since the game is over 310,000 words, it will take a significant amount of time for the editor to go through it all. After copyediting, the game goes into the queue for updating. I believe in full disclosure, so once I hear from my editor, I will let everyone know.

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Part 2 Completion, Future Projects, How to Make a Game

Happy New Year!  A lot of time has passed since my last newsletter. I apologize for the lack of updates, but since the last newsletter in early November, I’ve added roughly 40,000 words to Safe Haven Part 2. I’ll get into that more below. As my due date draws near for finishing Part 2, I am already planning new projects and will discuss those too. Finally, I’ll talk about how you can write games like I do.

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Part 2 News

This post is dedicated to one topic – Part 2 and its release. For those who do not want to read the entire post, I will tell you the major news first. Part 2 will be delayed again.

I know, you’re tired of hearing this. I know an announcement like this will piss off lots of readers who have patiently waited for a continuation of the story. Well, I have more to add before it is truly ready for release, so I have decided to hold it back until next year. Since I don’t want to keep setting expectations only to fail my readers, all I will say is that, Part 2 is now projected for release in February, 2018.

If you want more details, read on.

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Survivors in your group, Building a Safe Haven, Character customizations

Hello everyone! This week I chose a few questions from social media to answer. Instead of giving short responses, I will cover these larger topics in greater detail.

Questions from Social Media

Here are answers to questions from Facebook and Twitter for this week.

Will there be more survivors that can join your group? Asked by Jeremy Nadeau on Facebook

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Update on Part 2, The Fashionable Zombie Slayer, Questions from Social Media

Hello everyone! This week I’m providing my newsletter as a blog post for those of you who prefer to read this on my website. This week, I’ll be sharing info on some upcoming features for ZE: Safe Haven, Part 2. It will be a spoiler-heavy newsletter, so after a general update, I’ll warn you when the spoilers are coming.

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The Status of Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, Part 2

Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven was released at the end of October, 2016, and my prediction for releasing Part 2 was summer of 2017. My early plan was to finish 150,000 words of content by August and release the downloadable chapters in September. As July drew to a close, I increased my projection to finishing in October for a November release. My new (and hopefully final) estimate is to finish Part 2 by mid-November and see it live conservatively by the end of the year for under $3.

If you came here to find out when Part 2 is releasing, now you know. If you want to know why, read on.

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Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven is out now!

Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven cover art

Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven cover art

Zombies rise again at the dawn of Apocalypse! Can you survive the first few days of the zombie outbreak as the dead rise, society collapses, and the living struggle to survive?

“Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven” is a thrilling interactive survival-horror novel by Jim Dattilo, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based–without animation or sound effects–and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Customize a character using a variety of professions, backgrounds, special challenges, and skills to survive in a brutal and chaotic city as the Zeta virus spreads. Will you be an honorable soldier, searching through neighborhoods to aid survivors? Or will you be a ruthless bandit who loots and robs others for needed supplies? How about a paranoid hacker, psychopathic con artist, pragmatic scientist, or idealistic teenager? Dozens of options allow you to play the character of your choice.

Set in the “Zombie Exodus” world, the first part of “Safe Haven” focuses on the first few days of a viral outbreak which changes the infected into mindless zombies. Explore the changes to society at the start of the pandemic. Board your house, gather supplies, meet over a dozen other characters, and survive encounters with the living dead and even other survivors. Scavenge numerous locations, craft items, and use a variety of skills to survive the many challenges of the apocalypse.

Play it through any browser on Choice of Games or download on Steam, Google Play (Android), iOS (Apple iPhone, iPad), and Amazon (Android).

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Development Blog–Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven

People who follow my games have been suggesting I blog to provide updates on ZE: Safe Haven’s development, to delve into ChoiceScript tips and tricks, and to discuss my other projects (A Wise Use of Time, Zombie Exodus, the ZE novel). I will try to keep this on a weekly schedule.

ZE: Safe Haven Development

This week was productive with numerous bugs fixed and approximately 5800 new words of content. I have also started hashing out profiles of several new NPCs not yet introduced but coming in chapter 4.

I decided to stop the public playtesting at the next update. To focus on development, it is far more efficient to work with a small team of testers. While I truly appreciate all feedback, handling it can be time-consuming. The number of requests for new features sometimes takes my time away from squashing bugs or fixing continuity errors. My goal is to spend this summer finishing Part 1, and limiting my tester pool will help.

Replayability vs. Game Length

Today, I read a comment I made on the Choice of Games forum from January, 2015:

People felt Part 4 was short because it’s not linear, so I received criticism. From my experience, people want a long playthrough. Replayability is not as important as playthrough.

I remember this comment came at a time when several reviews of my game were calling it too short while other games at the time had far less word count but linear gameplay with more perceived length. Out of frustration, I made this comment. Now, I disagree with it.

I enjoy games with replay value and a chance to explore multiple plots, characters, and playstyles. If I read through a game a second time and find little has changed aside from flavor text and an ending, I wonder why it was made as a choice game. I want to try out multiple types of characters and have the game respond. Can I survive as a pragmatic teenager, a snarky coward, or stoic badass? What will happen if I let Candace die in Part 4 but save Crone at the summer camp? If a game is too linear and gives only the illusion of choice, I can’t feel immersed in the story.

While creating such games can be complicated, ChoiceScript empowers its users to add depth through branching narrative. My suggestion to choice-game developers is to create meaningful stats and change them routinely. My rule is to change 1-3 stats with every choice.

For example:

As the reverend leans in his car, the exterminator reaches in 
his van and pulls out a crowbar. He clenches it in his hands and 
strides toward the unaware man. From the yard of the house across 
the street comes movement behind a row of trees.

  #Rush outside to warn the reverend before he's attacked.
    *set morality %+15
    *set impulse %+10
  #Rush outside and yell for the exterminator to stop.
    *set morality %+10
    *set honor %+15
  #Rush outside and threaten the exterminator to stop.
    *set morality %+10
    *set impulse %+15
  #Walk outside to be in position to take advantage of this situation.
    *set honor %-15
  #Call the police. They need to handle this altercation.
      *set impulse %-15
  #Watch and wait. I'll only get involved if it benefits me.
    *set morality %-10

In the code above, the player is presented with an option for dealing with an imminent fight outside his or her home. Each option modifies a stat or two which helps build the profile of the character. As the game progresses, stats will be changed more and more, and we start to see how different the main character becomes: paranoid loner, impulsive vigilante, heroic cynic, psychopath, and many other profiles.

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A Wise Use of Time is now available!

wutWhen you freeze time, no one can see you, hear you, or stop you, except, perhaps, a handful of mysterious time controllers like yourself. Every second you steal puts more stress on your body and mind.

Will you bring justice to the mobsters who run rampant in your city? Will you steal from them to provide for those in need? Will you share your power with friends and family? Will you destroy your own powers, or will your powers destroy you first?

Play it through any browser on Choice of Games or download on SteamGoogle Play (Android)iOS (Apple iPhone, iPad),  and Amazon (Android)

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Zombie Exodus Part 2 Play-by-Play

z3cityAs part of my project to write a Zombie Exodus novel based on the game, I am hosting live play-by-play sessions. During these events, anyone can play the game along with me on Facebook and Twitter, and everyone can vote for each choice I make. I record those choices and use them in developing the Zombie Exodus novel.

To make this next event more accessible, please vote in the survey below for when you would be available.

What date & time would you attend?


Sunday, March 7; 12pm to 2pm EST 57.1% (28 of 49)
Monday, March 8; 6pm to 8pm EST 22.4% (11 of 49)
Tuesday, March 9; 7pm to 9pm EST 10.2% (5 of 49)
Wednesday, March 10; 6pm to 8pm EST 10.2% (5 of 49)


So far, players have created Abigail Miller, a female carpenter, who spends her free time at the gym and the shooting range. She carries a backpack and multi-tool, spoke to Jason, and found a revolver in her neighbor’s apartment. She met Mike in the maintenance office and humanely ended his life after he became infected. On the ground floor, she helped Candace and Mindy kill a zombie, and they in turn helped her get past the police officers at the building entrance.

Abigail drove the river road and bypassed military blockades, killed some bandits who were robbing motorists, and avoided a zombiefied park ranger. She met a little girl in a playground, who she tried to help, but the girl disappeared. Finally, Abigail met up with her sister Emma and her sister’s friend, Heather.

Next, we need to figure out how Abigail, Emma, and Heather are getting out of the city.


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