downward viral


“Z.” - A Geeky Kickstarter Project…with ZOMBIES

Had a chance to meet up with Sebastian Haley, Creative Director of Downward Viral who is heading a revolutionary and delightfully nerdy Video Game project through Kickstarter called Z. A Zombies-Versus-Survivors Card Game that will feature cross-platform play on a number of devices (think Magic: the Gathering meets Left For Dead). What’s neat about the game, aside from the zombies and the creative playground of geeky references on the cards themselves, is how accessible it is to just about anyone. Very cool stuff!

Check out the Gameplay Rules (videos soon!), and should you choose to back the project, there are many Reward Tiers, each loaded with swag! Check back for daily updates as there is only ONE WEEK left to get the project funded. Who wants to play!



Kickstarter is celebrated for enabling people to independently fund projects outside the normal confines of corporate structures. It has been trumpeted as a place that allows people to dream big, and once successfully funded, live out that dream.

Sebastian Haley, Creative Director/Producer at Downward Viral, is one of those people. His dream? A card-based, survival-zombie game that mixes the best zombie lore from TV, film, comics, and video games with a little bit of Magic: The Gathering to create an all new digital experience called Z.

With an end goal of $100,000 Haley’s goal may seem lofty at first, but you’ll soon discover, as we did during our recent interview with Sebastian, it’s well worth it.

To start us off, tell us about yourself.  Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I grew up in LA and eventually moved to some very dry and hot states after depleting my life savings making my first iOS game in 2009. Now I’m in San Francisco mooching off my girlfriend and working with some very talented people to make my next game, Z.

What is your day job? How long have you been doing that?
My day job is supposed to be Culture Editor at GamesBeat, but that’s taken a huge backseat thanks to Z. I’ve been a professional games journalist for almost a decade now, and am thankful I get to write about the things I want to these days.

Before I told my editor-in-chief I was making a new game, I demoted myself from Reviews Editor, which was a position I’ve worked very long and hard to achieve. It just didn’t feel right to be reviewing other peoples’ games when I was developing one of my own, so now I basically just post galleries of Metroid-shaped cookies.

For those who aren’t familiar with your Kickstarter, would you mind explaining what Z. is?
Z. is a downloadable trading card game that mixes the best bits of Magic: The Gathering with the best bits of The Walking Dead, Left 4 Dead, and a million other games, comics, and movies that the Downward Viral team loves. It’s kind of like our love letter to geekdom, and we’re having a lot of fun working on it.

What do you feel makes Z. standout? How do you plan to differentiate your game amongst all the others in the market today?
There have been a few zombie card or tabletop games in the past, but never on the scale of what we’re doing. That’s not to say the others were bad, we just have a very distinct goal of accomplishing things that haven’t ever been done before.

Accessibility without dumbing the game down is one part of that, using real-life models and cosplayers is another, and then our live-action story sequences and RPG modes are a couple more.

Where did the idea of Z. come from?
It actually started out as a mod for another card game we were in the early pre-production stages of, but it quickly became obvious that Z. was what we needed to be making instead.

I feel part of Z.’s charm is that it pays homage to not only other video games, but also a lot of horror movie clichés. Like twisting your ankle while running away from monsters and things like that. We play those up in Z. and it makes sense, people will recognize them and hopefully appreciate the nods to all the various geek culture.

Do you play a lot of card-based games? Did you play any growing up?
I was born in 1981, so my choices were pretty limited for the first decade or so. I was actually a huge Marvel Comics card collector, but there wasn’t much of a “game” there.

Now I play everything, from Munchkin to Magic. Sometimes it’s for research: “What did this game do right or wrong?” But a lot of times it’s just because I love card games, and the concepts behind them. For example, I really liked the idea of Lost Kingdoms for the Gamecube. It wasn’t perfect, but it tried something new.

You’ve been announcing new guest cards; can we have a few hints of who’s to come? How about Bruce Campbell? He’s fought demons so surely he could kick a zombie ass or two. Maybe George Romero?
<laughs> I think we kind of outdid ourselves with Zombie Tim Schafer. That’s going to be hard to top. With Anime Expo and Comic-Con coming up, we’re now focusing on a lot of cosplayers, as that’s a big part of who is helping us make Z. awesome, especially when it comes to the Hero cards.

I also think we can really swing for the fences once we meet our funding goals and get further along in the process. I’d personally like to see Mila Kunis crack some zombie skulls, or perhaps succumb to the zombie virus herself and be a bad-ass zombie Hero instead.

What are your plans for supporting the game after its release? Will you be selling expansion packs, new scenarios/locations, etc.?
The Kickstarter-exclusive physical card set is meant to be a standalone experience, but the digital version will have extremely deep long-term support.

We’re looking at monthly episodic content, including new live-action story sequences, plus new cards and themed expansions. So if the story leads the main characters to a hospital, there will be hospital-themed cards. Likewise for a farm or research facility or military station, etc.

From what I’ve read about your project, along with the videos and updates on the Kickstarter site, it really seems like Z. is a “passion piece” for you, where did that love of zombies and the undead start?
I guess I’ve kind of always had it. Like vampires and dragons and robots, zombies are just an inherently cool concept, and at Downward Viral we may be planning lots of zombie-centric games, but we always find a unique approach instead of just copying what’s already been done a million times before.

My first iOS game wasn’t great due to time and budget issues, but people would randomly tell me that it stuck out to them because it was the one game where you played as a zombie and attacked survivors instead of the other way around. So hopefully we can continue to make memorable game experiences like that, zombies or not.

Do you have a favorite zombie movie or series?
Left 4 Dead and The Walking Dead comic series are definitely the two that stick out. I also like to imagine what Highschool of the Dead could have been if the creators hadn’t been shitfaced during its entire production.

Why did you choose Kickstarter as way to get your project funded? Why not get funding from alternate means like a venture capitalist or other investors?
With Kickstarter, you get to make a game with the people who want to play it, not some corporation or suit who only cares about numbers and profits. I’d rather get $100K from people who believe in Z. than $10M from some random dude who doesn’t

Your Kickstarter goal is $100,000. What are some of the largest expenses you’ve budgeted for this project and how did you determine that goal?
Making each individual card (out of hundreds) with real models, photography, and horror effects is a small chunk of that, but we’ve managed to keep it minimal because everyone is working for pennies. Or in Linda Le’s case, Krispy Kreme donuts.

So most of the cost comes from engineering a cross-platform cloud-based game, and then of course the live-action sequences and monthly content updates all add up quickly.

Have you considered what you are going to do if your Kickstarter doesn’t get funded? Do you still plan on moving forward with the game?
There’s always a Plan B. Z. is going to get made no matter what, it’s just a lot harder to do things when you have no funding. Also, I really don’t want to move back to Arizona!

I’ve read that you are a huge video game fan. What are you playing right now? Is that the kind of game you normally play?
I have ADD so right now I’m playing Gravity Rush, Pokemon Conquest, Lollipop Chainsaw, and Magic 2013.

It’s a pretty diverse spread so that’s nice. I usually play everything, so I’d say this is par for the course.

Did your passion for video games influence the creation of Z. in any way?
Definitely. We have killstreaks in our game because we love that feature from other games (as far back as Midway’s The Grid). And Linda Le’s hero card will be named Ayane, just because that’s my favorite Dead or Alive character. So video games have influenced our video game in every conceivable way.

Assuming you have any extra time on your hands, what do you do for fun?
I’m fortunate to love what I do. Whether it’s writing about games, playing games, or making games, in my spare time I would just do more of that anyway.

And finally, if there’s one thing that you want people to know about you or your project, what would that be?
It still needs lots of money to get funded! <smiles>

For more information about Z. and/or to help fund this ambitious project visit the Kickstarter page. Remember, every little bit helps whether it’s a dollar or ten thousand of them.

Also, if you have suggestions for the project, Sebastian and his team would love to hear from you.


I can’t even express how excited I am to share this project with everyone! It seems like its been years since Sebastian (my boyfriend) first described his idea for this game to me…

Kickstarter is helping him to make Z. a reality, and that reality is an awesome zombies-versus-survivors digital trading card game. The best part (in my opinion) is that all of the cards use real photos.

If you have a moment, please take a look at the Kickstarter video and read through the list of backer rewards. As a gamer and a zombie fanatic, I want to help this game come to fruition, and I hope many of you do as well! I received a large number of birthday messages yesterday, generously asking if I had a gift wish list living on the internet somewhere. If that sentiment still stands, I’d love for you to contribute to the project - any small amount makes a difference. If you can’t contribute financially, a share would go a long way to making this game a reality.

I’m going to end by bragging a bit, and most likely embarrassing Sebastian. I’m immensely proud of him and all the work he’s put into Z. I hope that hard work resonates with all of you!