Zero Sievert was developed by Luca Carbonara from CABO studio in 2020, as a one-man team during the height of the pandemic.
The game was then published by Modern Wolf in 2022 and achieved a revenue of over 1 million dollars in its first week.
Zero Sievert is a top-down pixel extraction shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world due to nuclear fallout, the player has to scavenge the wasteland for items while surviving radioactive wildlife and bandits.
The wasteland is procedurally generated maps set in 5 different biomes, making every trip to the wasteland unique, where the player starts armed with a gun and some water, and has to make it back alive to the base to retain what they scavenged.
On Steam, the reviews are very positive and by the first day of launch almost 5000 players were playing concurrently.
What lessons can we learn from Zero Sievert success?
Post-apocalyptic worlds are very popular (Nuclear Throne, Fallout, The Last of Us, Stray, …), while the causes might differ, players enjoy exploring a world both familiar and alien.
The familiar aspect comes from the remnants of the previous world (ruins, technology, …) while the alien element comes from radioactive wildlife, bandits, destroyed landscapes, etc.
The nuclear apocalypse scenario is as old as nuclear weapons, and is loved by players (Fallout, 7 Days to Die, Metro 2033, ...).
Players have to face a unique environment, which is heightened by Zero Sievert procedurally generated maps giving players a different landscape every time they venture out, avoiding any repetition and keeping the environment fresh.
Players have to survive the wasteland while scavenging for supplies, weapons and managing their health (water, food, radioactivity), which creates a sense of urgency and adds to the realism of the survivalism gameplay.
The base also offers players information on the world, by talking with NPCs, allowing them to understand what happened and how the world works now, immersing players in the story and creating attachment with the characters.
Beyond the world building, the game’s art direction is very appealing to players, relying on the pixel art and retro gaming nostalgia.
Pixel art games are very popular (Terraria, Stardew Valley, Enter the Gungeon, Core Keeper, …), relying on a simple art style that can be very colourful and convey a lot in a small amount of pixels.
Zero Sievert is a single-player game, allowing people to take as much time as they need to progress and explore the world.
It relies on perma-death, allowing players to retain their supplies only if they survive the wasteland, setting the difficulty high but also offering real consequences to players’ abilities to survive the bandits, wildlife and radioactivity.
The world building allows players to fully immerse themselves in the game, and feel the urgency and tension of the post-apocalyptic world.
The onboarding of the game allows players to understand and retain the mechanics they will need and get immersed into the narrative, while the core loop stays fresh due to the procedurally generated maps and the base being a refuge for players when needed.
The Steam page was created a year before launch, and worked really well in addition to the dev logs Luca published on Youtube, allowing players to look behind the scenes of the creation of an indie title.
Luca also set up a Kickstarter to fund his development, which reached 30 000€ in its first month, while being active on Reddit indie games subreddits:
Luca also appealed to video games Youtubers, which helped increase the reach of the game:
Once the game was acquired by Modern Wolf, the number of potential players wishlisting it grew exponentially, leading to a very successful launch a few months later.
Overall, a combination of a popular genre, well thought out gameplay and an amazing marketing strategy lead to a great launch, which is setting up Luca Carbonara for long-term success as a game developer.