To play Project Zomboid, a character needs to be created. The character creation screen will allow the player to give the character a name, choose an occupation, as well as select certain traits (both positive and negative) for the character.
Players will need to eat, drink, sleep, medicate, heal and entertain themselves regularly to survive. Players can run, sneak, craft, open/close doors and windows, attack with weapons, equip items and consume items.
The player is the only entity in the game with the ability to improve their skills. Experience is gained in each of the various skills, once a box is filled, the option to "level up" that skill is enabled. However, skill points are only awarded at the player character generic level up, which means assigning the skill points efficiently is important and gets progressively more difficult.
No matter which mode the player choose, whether it be Survival, Sandbox or Last Stand, a character must first be created unless it was done so previously.
When creating a character, the player will first be greeted by this screen:
Character Creation Explanation of numbers below.
- This is what the player character looks like.
- This is the character's name.
- This is the character's gender, either male (as shown here) or female.
- Random, this just gives the player a character with random choices, if the player just want to jump in to the game.
- The clothing which the character will start with, with a variety of choices for color as well the type of clothing (vest, sweater, etc).
- Skin color, and where the character is growing hair.
- Type of hair, and color of said hair.
- Main article: Traits
After clicking the next button on the character builder, the player will be sent to this screen:
Traits Screen. Explanation of numbers below.
- Different occupations, all of which having different benefits.
- These are the positive traits, which require a certain number of points to take.
- These are the negative traits, which gives the player more points.
- These are the traits the player currently have selected.
- These are the skills, with each dash representing one level of that skill.
Once the player hit next, will be sent into the game.
The player requires an equipped weapon to fight, which can be done from the inventory. Holding
CTRL will put the player into a combat stance, allowing them to sneak or aim, clicking
LMB will attack with chosen weapon. There are three ranges of combat: extreme close combat, close combat and ranged combat.
Extreme close combat refers to small blade or improvised stabbing weapons, such as the Kitchen Knife and pencil/pen. The close proximity to the zombie increases likelihood of scratches, bites and infection; this is a high risk strategy and should be avoided by novice players, however, a knife is better than nothing.
Close combat refers to weapons that can be swung in an arc (such as the spiked baseball bat, axe etc.) meaning there is still a good distance between the character and the zombie. This is often the optimal method for dealing with zombies as it is quiet, lower risk and relatively low exertion, excluding the use of a sledgehammer which is high exertion and not recommended for combat.
Ranged combat refers to guns and Molotov cocktails; guns are effective in dealing with large hordes of zombies very quickly, especially the Sawed-Off Shotgun, however the large amount of noise will almost certainly attract other zombies, and possibly close-by hordes. This is generally a last ditch solution.
The players movement is controlled with
D keys. The default movement speed is walking, which makes relatively little noise. By holding
RMB, the player enters Sneak Mode, in order to make less noise. This mode is also used for preparing an attack, by readily holding the weapon in the character's hand. By holding the
SHIFT key, the player is able to sprint for a limited amount of time before tiring, but in compensation also makes much more noise.
Players can interact with the environment, using
E for climbing over obstacles such as fences and opening windows, which can be climbed through. Second floor and above windows can be jumped out of, which causes severe damage to the player, but can be mitigated by using a sheet rope to climb up and down through open windows.
With continued use of sprinting, the player levels up his sprinting skill, which directly affects how long the player can sprint for before they become overexerted.
Using Sneak Mode will increase the player character nimble and sneaking skill. The sneaking skill determines how well the character avoid detection, and while avoiding detection, the player character nimble and light-footed skills level goes up. The player character also gain experience in nimble by climbing fences and moving through windows while undetected. Light-footed is leveled by moving at any speed while being undetected, and reduces the amount of noise made by the player when moving.
- Main article: Skills
A shot of the skills panel.
As the player improve their skills in the game (carpentry, sprinting, etc), the player will gain a skill point at each level up. These can be used to improve on a skill (if there is a skill available for improvement). Each time a player gets a skill point or level up, getting the next skill point requires 100 more experince points.
The next time the player opens his or her "skills" tab in the UI section, the Skill Point Allocation Panel will appear, allowing the player to distribute Skill Points to the category that has been trained, which will be greyed out but depicting a small plus symbol.
Gold Squares are already obtained Skills. Black Squares are skills that have yet to be trained. Partially white squares are skills that are being trained but have not been trained enough to get a skill level increase in. White squares with a black cross in the middle indicate that the player can spend skill points in it. Skill names that have arrows beside the name indicate that there is a multiplier applied for the xp the player earn in that skill. The player earn this multiplier by reading skill books.
- Main article: Health
A characters's health is displayed in the health window, which is accessible by clicking the heart icon on the upper left side of the screen. When a injury is sustained, a Moodle will show up in the top right of the screen and the sound of a injury may be heard, and the corresponding ligament will be injured.
By default, the player can recover from most injuries provided that he or she doesn't acquire any further damage or has any condition preventing recovery (for example a unbandaged wound or infection).
The speed of recovery is affected by Moodles. Being well-fed will speed up the recovery while being hungry or catching a cold can make this process slower. Other moodles, such as having a fever or having the character starve to death, can reverse the process - further damaging the character.
Any wound that breaks the skin will cause bleeding, which will need to be bandaged with either a medical bandage or a ripped sheet. Applying a clean bandage to a wound lowers the chance of infection that having it exposed. Disinfecting a wound and then applying a sterilized bandage or sterilized rag further lowers the chance of infection.
However over time, the bandage will become dirty, which will not only negate the previous bonuses against infection but will actually increase the chance of infection if left on the wound. This requires the character to remove the bandage and replace with a clean one. The type and severity of the wound will dictate the speed of a clean bandage going dirty.
- Main article: Sleep
Sleep management is a vital part of the gameplay mechanics. The player will get tired everyday, and the level of tiredness affects the player's spatial awareness, greatly increasing the chance of being caught out by zombies. The player must choose when to go to sleep and requires a bed, sofa or chair to do so. Sleeping will initially get rid of the tired moodle and then gives between 6-8 hours of regular sleep, provided the player is not attacked or otherwise panicked. The only action that can be performed whilst asleep is the assigning of skill points.
In Multiplayer, sleep can be enabled or disabled by the server owner. If sleeping has been disabled, the player does not need to sleep, and when a bed or other piece of furniture is clicked, the message "You're not tired enough to sleep." will appear even if the player has taken sleeping pills.
Example Inventory of Jimmy Johnson
Managing the inventory is an essential factor in survival. Through it, the player can acquire various resources and tools that can be used or stored for future use. The inventory area also functions as a crafting panel using the context or crafting menus. The context menu is accessed by right-clicking on the object desired to modify, while the crafting menu is accessed using the
B key. Here the player can view all the recipes available to their character, according to their skill level and known recipes.
In the clothes panel, it is possible to see the items the player is currently wearing, this is used to keep the player's body temperature at the proper level. Short clothes allow the character to cool off and warm clothes keep the character warm and protected from the cold.
The encumbered moodle appears when the total inventory weight value exceeds the player's weight limit - the value of which is defined by the player's strength level - drastically reducing his speed. This can be avoided with the use of baggage. Baggage (such as Plastic Bag or a Backpack) is an object that can be carried in hands or back and allows the storage of items from the player's inventory, reducing their weight. In addition to baggage, objects can also be stored in containers such as cabinets, drawers, shelves, etc. Vehicles can also be used to store objects and transport them to another place without overburdening the player.
Safe House Fortification
A safe house is a defensive structure that the player can construct as a base of operation. The player is able to build or secure a safe house with carpentry. It usually started by closing all windows and doors and securing them. The player can secure windows and doors by barricading the with Wooden Planks, a Hammer and Nails are required to do so. The player can further secure a safe house by putting sheets over the windows. Where there is either a sheet or a curtain on the window, the player will be able to close and open the curtains by right-clicking on them. Players can further refine their stronghold by placing doors, windows, and wall pieces, in addition to crates. Players can also destroy their walls by using a sledgehammer.