video games

Zhenyu Li, ‘Zenless Zone Zero’ producer, says the game isn’t just for hardcore gamers

Kyle Chua

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Zhenyu Li, ‘Zenless Zone Zero’ producer, says the game isn’t just for hardcore gamers

ZEROING IN. Producer Zhenyu Li discusses the 'Zenless Zone Zero' approach to fun and accessibility,


In an interview, 'Zenless Zone Zero' producer Zhenyu Li says the game's accessibility is what will help players appreciate the charm of the action genre

HoYoverse, the Chinese game giant behind breakout successes like Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail, could have another hit on its hands with the release of Zenless Zone Zero – or ZZZ for short.

The upcoming game looks to cater towards fans of the action genre, featuring fast-paced, real-time combat and a stylish urban visual style that distinguishes it from the studio’s previous outings.

We had the chance to sit down with the game’s producer, Zhenyu Li, at a media event in Singapore to ask him about his approach to combat and his inspirations for the different elements of the game. (Note that he spoke through a Chinese translator and some of his quotes were enhanced here for clarity purposes.)

In ZZZ, you’ll be battling with a team of three Agents as you enter the Hollows, the supernatural gateways to dimensions where mysterious monsters roam. Each Agent has his or her own basic, heavy, chain, assist and ultimate attack as well as a dash to avoid enemy attacks. You only control one Agent at a time, but you can freely swap between them anytime with a push of a button.

The combat is fast and frenetic, where combos and precisely-timed dashes and Agent swaps are key, so quick reflexes can come in handy. Yet at the same time, the easy-to-learn controls allow newcomers to the action genre to come in and easily pull off flashy attacks without much difficulty. These were all intentional design decisions, according to Li, who emphasized that striking a perfect balance between simplicity and depth is what makes a combat system fun.

“Complexity doesn’t always equate to an engaging combat system,” said Li, referring to how some action games have a lot of mechanics that might put off some newcomers to the genre. “I didn’t want ZZZ to be an overly complex game so that it can appeal to a wider audience.”

That, however, doesn’t mean there’s nothing here for hardcore players who are looking for more challenging experiences. Li said that the strength of the enemies and the difficulty of the missions ramp up as players progress through the story.

But the game won’t simply throw players in at the deep end without any preparation. Instead, it’ll first build up their confidence by helping them learn and master the different mechanics in stages and rewarding them for doing so. There are scenarios in the game that have been purposely designed for players to test what they’ve learned, such as certain boss battles. Once they have that confidence, they can start taking on more challenging combat encounters and continue improving their grasp on the game’s mechanics from there.

Li said what’s ultimately important is that the combat’s accessibility helps players appreciate the charm of the action genre.

But even though ZZZ is an action RPG akin to the likes of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, its inspirations span different genres of games. Li, for example, said he pulled ideas from the popular fighting franchise Street Fighter for how to implement attack and impact feedback on his own game.

Apart from Street Fighter, Li said he’s also influenced by the games of Japanese studio Vanillaware. “I draw inspiration from many sources, but I particularly like the games of Vanillaware like Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade. The studio’s attention to detail in almost every aspect of a game had a strong influence on me. So I tried to emulate that when I was working on ZZZ by making everything from the world to the combat as richly detailed as possible,” he said.

Li also hopes that once players get their hands on ZZZ, it changes the common perception that modern action games don’t need to have complex mechanics or be difficult to be fun.

Zenless Zone Zero launches on July 4 on PC, iOS, Android, and PS5. –

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