ZENMODE is a local-multiplayer game created by Jesse Chand and Zach Vega-Perkins.

Download the latest build (Mac or PC).

Watch the trailer.

What is ZENMODE?

ZENMODE is a local multiplayer action game starring two to four monks seeking enlightenment and nirvana. However, upon their training they are tainted by impatience and turn against each other. This results in a deadly brawl as a desperate attempt to absorb each other’s zen energy and become the first to attain true inner peace.

The goal of the game is to slay your opponents, absorb their zen from their spirits, and fill up your zen meter. The target audience is a group of friends seeking an extremely competitive experience.

The core game design goals we hoped to explore in ZENMODE include ‘intense local-multiplayer competition’, ‘juiciness’, and ‘complexity from simplicity’.

What is the vision / inspiration behind the game?

ZENMODE is a student game built with three core goals in mind:

  • Intense local-multiplayer competition. We’re a pair of gamers that grew up playing games on a couch with our friends after school. We love games that make you want to punch your friends in the face – Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. come to mind. We value games that are social experiences, and we wanted to craft our own. ZENMODE is a tale of deception, a game that shows that even the purest of human beings will mercilessly turn against their friends when eternal glory is at stake.
  • Juiciness. We wanted ZENMODE to be not only fun to play, but fun to watch. Despite being a ridiculously simple game, we paid enormous attention to detail. We spent weeks fine-tuning physics and controls to make basic movement feel really solid. Every action the player takes is rewarded with juicy, juicy feedback. When a player dies we loop through 27 different permutations of death sounds and 40 permutations of in-your-face taunting text that gets slapped on the screen, as well as an assortment of mangled body parts and copious amounts of pixelated blood.
  • Complexity from simplicity. We wanted the game to be super simple to pick up – instead of hand-holding players through a tutorial we implicitly teach them all the mechanics in the ready-up screen. Players only use two buttons, however using just these actions they can perform a variety of moves based on context. For example: push against a wall to wall slide and wall jump. Press down and attack to plunge downwards. If two players lunge together, they clash against each other. If players are attacked immediately after they attack, they perform a parry.

How do you install the game?

ZENMODE is a standard Unity game that can be downloaded and installed on Mac or Windows. The game is strictly local-multiplayer and requires 2 to 4 gamepads. It is recommended that Xbox 360 controllers are used, but any on the following gamepads listed on this site should be compatible: http://www.gallantgames.com/pages/incontrol-supported-controllers

Xbox controllers can be connected to a Mac using the popular Tattieboggle driver: https://github.com/d235j/360Controller

What are the game objectives / controls?

The goal of ZENMODE is to completely fill up your zen meter and attain nirvana. To fill up your zen meter, slay another player and step into their orb to drain their zen.

If you are slain, your orb will appear and your are vulnerable to having your own zen drained. You can move your orb around with the control stick to dodge other players and protect your zen. If your zen meter is fully empty, you are eliminated from the game. If the time runs out in a round, the player with the most zen wins.

Players can perform three actions: jump, lunge, and plunge.

– Use the left control stick to move.

– Press A to jump / wall-jump. You can optionally use X or Y.

– Press B to do a lunge (horizontal) attack. You can optionally use the left/right bumper.

– Press B and hold down to do a plunge (downward) attack.

What’s your story?

ZENMODE was created in a four month sprint by two university hackers who studied by day and coded by night. We’re broke college students who built a game that cost us nothing but sweat, tears, and sleepless nights.

ZENMODE is not a class project. We wanted to build a cool game. We conveniently submitted it as a grade, but our motivations transcend transcripts. This is our first game release.

The core team of the game consists of Jesse Chand and Zach Vega-Perkins, two undergraduate students at the University of Southern California. They developed the game in four months for a class taught by Richard Lemarchand and Peter Brinson.

Work on the game was done in dorm rooms and classrooms. We worked with two outside collaborators, Guillaume Muller (a music composer from the Berklee College of Music) and Jacob Pavone (a 2D pixel artist). We also enlisted the help of two other USC students, Raquel Korman and Jerardo Perez, for usability testing.

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