Geez, it’s been a while, eh? I will admit my time hasn’t been… properly managed lately. I blame it on work that I find pretty darn fulfilling, as well as spending most of my free time playing a bunch of games — more than normal in fact. Why not talk about them as part of a series of posts (if I make it a series I am more likely to actually finish lulz). Anyway, first up is my latest and deepest obsession:
About a year ago someone told me about a shitty PC game named Arma that was very shitty. It was almost funny how shitty Arma was. Almost. But some enterprising soul took it upon himself to mod the hell out of that pile of shit, creating a surprisingly decent and realistic zombie game. You had to drink water, eat food, and everything including food and weapons were about as rare as you’d expect in an actual zom-pocalypse. I gotta be honest, I wanted to play it. IN MY BONES. But being a Mac owner — and lazy at that — I never pursued it.
Wouldn’t you know it, a standalone version of that mod (DayZ) appeared right around when I found myself sitting on a mountain of free time. I bootcamped my Mac, downloaded Steam, and bought DayZ Standalone.
When I first started I died a lot. I starved to death in the middle of nowhere, bled out from zombie bites, and was shot by other players (that last one especially happened quite often). And so in this absolute vacuum of anything that might be called success, I wanted to learn to make it in this world. With enough effort any game can be understood, after all. And I have an affinity for the games that have a lot to teach the player.
The massive map in which DayZ takes place.
Each death became a learning experience:
“Well, I may have died after my long trip to Elektro, but now I know where I can find a well — that will help next time.”
“Ah ha! Snipers prowl the shore looking for easy kills — best to stay close to the tree line.”
“Hmm most zombie encounters end with me bleeding like a stuck pig unless I have (at the very least) an Axe to defend myself.”
“What?! I can open canned food with an otherwise useless screwdriver?!”
In addition to this general knowledge I’ve also developed an awareness of places on the map where well-equipped players mercilessly defend, or new players rush to in the hopes of finding anything worthwhile.
I spent over an hour learning about the game’s food/drink/blood/health system. Give this video a watch and pretend for a moment it has nothing to do with video games — it’s just someone telling you why you should eat food (start at about 3:05):
Most frighteningly perhaps, I think DayZ has given me an idea of what kind of people a post apocalyptic event would create. In fact, it’s quite likely that I will never see a better example of such in my life. People will kill you out of fear. People will kill you for self-preservation. People will kill you just because they can. In the worst cases, they will humiliate you first.
I’ve heard stories of gangs of bandits holding players at gunpoint, handcuffing them, and force-feeding them poisonous foodstuffs. Yeah, you can do all of that.
Me? Well, I have gotten pretty good at sneaking — that’s how I get by.
There is no real gauge for success in DayZ other than how long you live; who is to say that the kind player who lives for 20 hours is playing better than the twisted psychopath who kills him/her after 60? I am not wise enough to tackle this question, but I still enjoy being a part of the social experiment that is DayZ.
All that being said, the game is far from polished. FAR.
- Zombies will phase through walls and bite me while I’m stuck in the animation of drinking a soda.
- Logging out in the wrong area has gotten me totally stuck in a mountain/staircase/room from which there is no exit, forcing me to starve to death.
- Some buildings spawn absolutely no items, meaning players are conditioned to avoid them.
- A lot of players “server hop”, meaning they change servers to repeatedly farm for items from locations that spawn the best gear.
- Absolutely nothing is explained. You pretty much have to drag items onto other items to see what can interact with what. This isn’t a huge issue (I rather enjoy learning in this way)… But I know some people are extremely opposed to this kind of game design.
All of these issues will supposedly be corrected in time… But…
OK. Confession time: I want the game to be cleaned up, but… my secret concern is that DayZ will be made easier and/or introduce morality.
I don’t want that. I want guns, ammo and can openers to be rare to the point that each one is cause for celebration. I want seeing another player to be a rare and startling occurrence. I don’t want the twisted bastard who would force me to drink bleach to be punished, just as I don’t want the player who would give me a can of beans and stack of bandages to be rewarded in any way other than social karma. For the game to be fun, I need the full spectrum of good and evil, and I think this is something that is naturally created in an environment that provides pure freedom. In other words: wild wild west, ya’ll.
So yeah — I can’t lie: DayZ is a broken game where glitches will kill you in unfair ways. But it’s also a massive, untamed world where survival means learning: learning how to make use of the items found throughout the world and learning places to avoid because bad folks hang out there. And dying? Starting over with nothing? Well, it happens, and it never feels good… But it makes surviving feel that much better.