Home Editorial DayZ to come: When a mod becomes a game

The success of DayZ is impossible to ignore, and looking back, I think it was inevitable. Zombies remain a huge seller when it comes to public consumption, and the Arma II mod’s unforgiving take on the genre breathed new and needed life into a bloating market. It’s barebones, multilayered without the need for multiple levels of design, open to anyone with a very high and malleable skill ceiling, etc. Dean Hall, the mod’s creator, is working with Bohemia Interactive on Arma III, so it only makes sense that the developer would want him working on the idea that made them a ton of money.

But I have my reservations. I want to talk about the possible ups and downs with making DayZ it’s own full title, as well as a personal list of do’s and don’ts I hope the developers follow.

 

My stuff could beat up your stuff

Chernarus is huge, and the sheer amount of stuff present within its borders is equally staggering. With the financial and material support of a professional development team, we will likely see the inclusion of a lot of new loot. Much of it will be low- to moderately-powerful. There will of course be an influx of new rare, powerful loot that can only create additional layers of complexity. Foresee, and hope for, the addition of an attachment mechanic.

As it currently stands, the weapon you find is equipped with whatever the creator modeled it with. For this reason, weapons with sights and suppressors are prized almost as much as a ghillie suit and sniper rifle on the hills north of Cherno. They are rare, as they should be, and those equipped with them are in a much more advantageous position than those newly spawned. Attachments would ease some of the burden build in with weapon limitations. Think of an AKM, a three hit kill, with a scope and suppressor. Such a weapon would be overpowering and exceedingly sought after.

Balance might become an issue, though making the attachments loot in their own right, and limiting their appearance even at the most dangerous locales on the map should hamper OP spam. As it stands today, the best players hoard the best loot in centralized tent camps and in the vehicles they repair, so one could argue the balance is already broken by team play.

 

Too meta for my ghillie

What worries me about such mechanics is how they might affect the metagame of DayZ. While on the one hand I actually like having a ton of options when it comes to the shooting of people in the face, sometimes limitations are good. In its current state, just having an M4A1 SD does not make you an expert PvP player. If you don’t know what you’re doing, all it does is make you a target. The top players are, for this and other reasons, both feared and desired by all others because of what hides in their backpacks. Cherno, Elektro, the NW Airfield: all three are key combat zones where both the new and the equipped go to find cool stuff and/or die.

Putting in additional weapons, attachments, vehicles, and other safety measures means the gap between fodder and serial murderer closes somewhat. Now, I’m not saying that adding five additional assault rifles will instantly make someone with a lucky Cherno spawn into a raving bandit. The rarity of the best stuff, and the commonality of finding diddly — followed closely by squat — will keep the prepared on top of the new. But I don’t want those who’ve spent months collecting stuff to have their valued weapons and gear instantly devalued. Your silenced M4, AS50, and NV Goggles should remain as desirable as they were when they came into the game. I have faith that the devs will balance everything appropriately, but the playerbase has a way of ruining things in ways designers never foresaw.

 

Call [insert number here] for natural graphics enhancement

The visuals in DayZ are not staggering. I think the prettiest thing to look at is the water, and unless you’re a n00b kill machine, you probably don’t spend much time by the coast. As a standalone game with over a year of testing beneath it, DayZ will invariably have better optimization, improved visuals, and updated animations. Unsightly draw distances, graphical artifacts, flashing spawn indications; these will be ironed out and forgotten by the hoards of new players. I will remember some of them fondly, as the formative hiccups of an important child in gaming.

But there are some things I hope Hall and his team don’t change. For one, I hope they don’t update the color palette much. The dismal, muted greens and browns and grays of the world lend to the hopelessness of the survivor’s plight. The zombies likewise are a rather disconcerting hue, but some are dressed more brightly than the rest of the environment. Not even survivors can claim some of the deep blues and yellows worn by the walking dead.

Sound as well I hope stays fairly unchanged. I grumble about the annoying sounds the zombies make when they chase you, but what other sounds could they make? The fact they run and crawl like the survivors do is unsettling, and the hoppers only need their animations smoothed a little. Zombies warping through things could use tweaking, as could their sightline AI, but on the whole there’s not much needing change there.

I’m curious, and without any real suggestion, on how to update and improve the HUD. The Debug Monitor will need some things either removed or displayed in alternate ways. The current zombie count indicator, for instance, is an invaluable tool for gauging when to raid a certain location, or if it’s safe to log out where you are. Blood and Humanity might have character model indicators, but I think they work better numerically. Food and water are easy to understand, but I would like a little more clarity with the temperature indicator. Antibiotics are rare enough as it is. I want to know how close I am to getting an infection long before it happens, so it’s my own damn fault, no because the game wasn’t clear about it.

 

Quoted for falsehood: Size doesn’t matter

No matter what someone tells you, bigger is almost always better. Chernarus is quite big, as anyone who’s visited will tell you. And there are about a thousand versions of it hosted from, effectively, a single server. When DayZ goes standalone, the already ballooning numbers will explode. I imagine server player counts, already pushing an average of fifty players, hitting caps of one hundred or more. 225 square kilometers will certainly hold thousands of players comfortably, but the fields would run red with zombie and survivor blood.

Now I don’t have a problem with populated servers. In fact, they can add a serious dose of excitement if you know where to go and what to do. Remember, though, that when DayZ releases as a full-blown title, there will be a metric sh*t ton of new players, not just new spawns. That means the players with significant time and resources will have to act like an artificial bottleneck effect. These players might not have the time to dedicate to looting, instead focusing solely on keeping their bandit skins. New arrivals who stick out the initial onslaught will join the ranks of the killers rather than the victims, but a large number of people will simply give up. Unlike a lot of games coming out these days, the barrier of entry for DayZ is high if you want to succeed. It’s no cakewalk.

 

Which is why I want to take up the suggestions of a Let’s Play with my Lord and Master WingspanTT. But instead of us doing stuff together, I want to hunt him in the zombie infested wastes. There’s no greater prey than a n00b friend in Chernarus.

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