My favorite part of Microsoft’s Xbox 1 presentation was game studio VP Phil Spencer coming out in a State of Decay T-shirt. He must be pretty happy about the sales of Undead Labs’ open-world zombie game (it’s second only to Minecraft for the numbers of copies sold in two days). And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer game. State of Decay is a fascinating contrast to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which has considerably greater production values, meticulously engineered and calculatingly effective emotional beats, and the same vivid characterization that made Uncharted so successful. But for all the raw manipulative power of The Last of Us, I can’t stop thinking about State of Decay while I play. Undead Labs knows well something too many larger studios forget as they chase their larger ideas: good game design will lead to good storytelling, but good storytelling in no way guarantees good game design.
Unfortunately, Spencer’s tastefully informal blazer covered the edges of the game’s name. Puzzled viewers must have wondered what Ate of Dec was. Furthermore, Spencer faithlessly changed into another T-shirt later in the presentation, shilling for something called Apy while showing off the new game from Superbrothers’ developer Capybara Games.