An Interview With Outbreak Creator Evan Wolbach
This past week, I got a chance to sit down with the creator and developer of the Outbreak series; Evan Wolbach. For the uninitiated, the Outbreak series is a retro-style survival horror game series created by Dead Drop Studios. Since founding the studio, Wolbach has completed 5 games in the Outbreak chronology. A sixth game; Outbreak: Endless Nightmares, released on May 19th. As a writer who had never played an Outbreak game, I jumped at the chance to talk with Wolbach, and get his view on the success of his series, and how a new player like myself should tackle his games.
As always, this interview has been edited for clarity and grammar.
Jans Holstrom: So, I’ve never played an Outbreak game. I’m downloading Endless Nightmares now. What can I expect as a fresh Outbreak player?
Evan Wolbach: If you’ve ever played a 90s or early 2000s Resident Evil or Silent Hill title you’ll notice a lot of similarities. But it’s totally fine if you’re new to survival horror: The game focuses on exploration, intense inventory management and solving environmental puzzles while fighting off the undead. You start in a hub world with supplies scattered around. Once you’re equipped, you can begin venturing into anomalies, which are essentially dungeons. You’ll have to scrounge for supplies, solve environmental puzzles and fight off the undead as you try to find key items, Conductors Coins, that will help you proceed. Basically it’s up to the player to explore and learn how to proceed, similar to a title like Dark Souls or Enter the Gungeon. Over time you’ll level up, encounter better equipment and get stronger. Every few levels you can equip new skills for your survivor as well. It’s a tough as nails experience, but each time you venture into a dungeon you’ll learn a bit more. I don’t want to spoil too much more. And death is going to happen – a lot.
JH: How does it stack up to your previous games?
EW: it’s a radical step forward in terms of production quality – Endless Nightmares has mo capped animations, vastly improved visual and sound effects and so much more. It’s a major break from prior titles that lacked a lot of that polish due to a lack of budget Essentially I’ve made it far enough to invest in leveling up the experience over the last few years. Each prior title though is still a good time – each is designed to play like a different era of survival horror.
JH: What pushed your budget over the top this time?
EW: The success of the series to be honest. It took off in the last two years and I was able to make the capital necessary to get the polish and gameplay jumped up significantly. The budget for the five prior titles was exactly 0$. I had to go into quite a bit of debt to make them a but fortunately a strong group of players formed around the games
JH: Exactly $0? Not even maybe $.05?
EW: Yup it’s all debt man. Shoestring budget just trying to put them together as best I could. I’m really happy that the series has grown into such a healthy state and this game is really a landmark in the series.
JH: So you say you’ve built a strong playerbase?
EW: Yes. It’s hard to put an exact number on it, but the series has as many players in the last year as almost the entire four years preceding it. It’s kinda exploded.
JH: So would you say Endless Nightmares is the biggest and best Outbreak so far?
EW: Yes absolutely. There is no comparison
JH: I know it’s not even out yet, but of course I have to ask: Where does it go from here?
EW: Well that is a fun question! I’ve committed to a year of content for Endless Nightmares. I haven’t spelled out the specifics there just yet but I’ve got some fun expansion ideas in mind to keep building on the core game experience. We also have a physical release from Limited Run Games on PS4 covering the first five titles in the series coming soon. And past that, we will see where the success of Endless Nightmares takes us. I have some very ambitious ideas in mind.
JH: Limited Run does good work.
EW: Yeah they’re excellent. Really awesome company and group of people.
JH: So to switch gears a bit. The physical release of the first five titles: any visual updates or anything of that sort?
EW: The PS4 physical releases includes all five titles on PS4 and backwards compatible with PS5. These releases are very new – they came out last autumn – so they already include all of the years of updates those titles received since their respective launch dates. I did also recently push a patch for Outbreak Lost Hope and Outbreak Epidemic on PS4 with some graphics improvements that are out now digitally and will be included on the LRG disk
JH: So definitely an excellent jumping off point for people wanting to check out the series?
EW: Absolutely! The PS4 ports are fantastic and are PS Pro enhanced with better graphics and resolution and frame rates. And they play great in backwards compatibility mode. There are also native PS5 titles of each available too! They include all patches, dlc, etc from over the years. And on Series X and PS5 it’s in native 4K!
JH: Oh dang. It seems you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this. So would you say it is the absolute definitive version of your vision?
EW: Endless Nightmares is the beginning of that realization. It’s the first time where there’s no compromises due to animations or visual effects for what I’m trying to create – modern retro survival horror.
JH: Is it daunting putting out a survival horror game the same month as survival horror giant Resident Evil?
EW: Haha it actually isn’t. I loved RE8 by the way, but it’s a very different experience than classic Resident Evil. There is a very vocal community who wants that 90s gameplay and it’s just something you can’t get in RE8. It makes Endless Nightmares the perfect companion to RE8, you get the future with the Capcom product and a return to the past with Endless Nightmares. Together they form a complete package.
JH: Fantastic. Thank you for all your answers and insight. One last question: What do you want to tell the horror fans out there that may be reading this, that have never experienced an Outbreak game?
EW: Wow that’s a great question! I think the message I’d like to share is that retro survival horror experiences still have a place in the gaming landscape today, and folks like me recognize that and are doing our best to provide awesome experiences and fill that void. All the posts about how folks want a classic RE collection or a remaster for Resident Evil Outbreak are being heard loud and clear by people like me, and ill keep doing my best to bring those experiences back with a modern coat of paint and fun twists! And if any publisher out there wants to invest in building that vision out more fully, they know where to find me.
I’d like to thank Evan Wolbach once again for his time. You can find Evan’s games HERE. Outbreak: Endless Nightmares released May 19th.