While HoYoverse has been extremely successful lately with Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact, the developer has another card to play: Zenless Zone Zero.
The game was revealed last year, and it went back under the radar after a successful beta test, leaving many to wonder what had happened with it.
Yet, HoYoverse brought it back under the spotlight in a big way at Gamescom in Cologne, and to hear more about it, I spoke with producer Zhenyu Li, who shed some light on many interesting details.
First of all, while HoYoverse’s titles are always quite cryptic, Zenless Zone Zero likely has the most peculiar yet. Li explained that it’s a result of the development team’s aesthetics.
First, “0” by itself forms this beautiful ring in the eyes of our team. It symbolizes the start of everything, representing how this is our team’s first game — and also relates to an important setting in the game: Hollow. We decided on the word “Zero” based off its numerical form and, guided by our aesthetics of keeping things snappy and neat, we eventually decided upon “Zenless Zone Zero” from over 10 different options. Then we designed the logo based on that.
He also explained that after the beta, the game received a lot of praise from players and media around the world, especially for its art style, character design, and combat. Yet, the team took feedback seriously, wanting to provide a game as close to perfect as possible. That’s why it took so long for them to provide an update.
A Second Zenless Zone Zero Beta is Coming
Since the beta, they have put a lot of effort into optimization and added a lot more content. They’re actually close to a second beta but they need to complete some more changes first.
Li presented his apologies to the fans for the long wait but hopes that the community will be patient and trust the development team. He also promised that the next beta will provide players with a much more complete gaming experience, and the developers can’t wait to share it with the fans.
Interestingly, the fact that Zenless Zone Zero follows a sequence of extremely successful games doesn’t really make Li feel much pressure. The team is simply aiming to create a good product that is refined and interesting, and feedback from players will help.
Zenless Zone Zero Is Different from Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact
There are quite a few aspects that set ZZZ apart from its predecessors. It’s an action RPG, and the “action” aspect is really refined. The team hopes to draw in players that may not have enjoyed action games in the past.
The aesthetics are also a distinguishing factor, as the urban-fantasy setting is definitely very different from what you find in Genshin and Honkai.
While, on the surface, one could find some similarities with Genshin Impact due to the game’s action gameplay, Li argued that the differences are substantial.
These similarities are just the tip of the iceberg. The combat systems are very different, and the interaction system enables a lot of interesting content that the development team has invested a lot of time and energy into.
Li believes that there are multiple elements that can convince players to give Zenless Zone Zero a try, including art and design, music, and the action gameplay.
He has given a lot of thought to the elemental gameplay in previous HoYoverse games, so in ZZZ there is more emphasis on the flashy action and the player’s input. Li stressed that he encouraged his team to make sure that the features that are fun in the game are very distinct compared to the developer’s previous game.
A Game Inspired by Subcultures and Nostalgia
Many think HoYoverse games are heavily inspired by Japanese games and media, but interestingly, Li explained that this isn’t necessarily the case. He and his team aren’t particularly focused on Japan.
They have traveled and seen a lot of different cultures and combined elements of these cultures in an urban-fantasy setting, which isn’t really inspired by any one country.
The locations of the planet that serves as the setting for the game all have different sceneries and designs. It’s a very diverse product, and Li hopes that ZZZ will not be judged according to any specific label.
One of the elements of inspiration for the game is subcultures. For instance, arcade games are mostly gone nowadays. When Li was young, he really enjoyed them with his friends, so he decided to include them in the game. They used to bring people together in a community, and the developers wanted to recreate that feeling.
Similar elements can be found in fashion and other items that have disappeared in the real world, like VHS tapes. While the setting has been affected by a disaster, it’s not meant to be depressing. The developers aimed to create an environment that feels lively and buzzing, with a sense of community surrounding the characters.
A game like Zenless Zone Zero necessarily requires a rich cast with many characters, and Li explained that there is a lot of discussion among the team when creating new ones. They want to create new and interesting characters that won’t be boring for the players. They start with the question, “What have players not seen before?”
For instance, a maid character has been done many times, so the developers ask themselves how they can attach more elements to keep things interesting. A solution is to add tropes from horror movies to create a new aesthetic and vision.
Is Zenless Zone Zero Coming to Other Platforms?
ZZZ has been announced for PC, iOS, and Android so far, so I asked Li whether we may see it on other platforms, including Xbox, which the developer hasn’t approached yet with its previous games.
While he did not make promises, he hopes players on different platforms get a chance to enjoy the game at some point.
We hope that ZZZ can be a game for everyone. At the beginning of the project, we had all come to an agreement that this game is “more than a mobile game” and “more than a PC game,” so we do hope that players on different platforms can get access to it and like this game. Therefore, regarding this issue, please stay tuned for more updates in the future.
While the development team is aware of the success of Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail, they haven’t followed the situation closely, and it was very unexpected for them that ZZZ gained so much attention worldwide.
That being said, Li enjoys working hard on his projects and the same goes for his team, so the priority is always to make sure that the game is good before thinking about whether it’ll be successful.
The teams working on different HoYoverse games hang out and game together and share their experiences. Yet, they’re very distinct and separate projects. Li isn’t personally the kind of person who talks to other teams much about specific aspects of the games, because he’s a little concerned that their thoughts may influence him.
To conclude, he mentioned that the developers are aware that the community is eager to play the game and apologized once again for making everyone wait. The team wants to create a great experience for everyone with plenty of content, and they’re doing their best to get things done as fast as possible.