You may have already seen that earlier this week H1Z1 was the recipient of our Rising Star award at E3. When I first watched the stream where John Smedley, President SOE, announced H1Z1 I was more than a little concerned in the direction the development of the game would take. I am a firm believer that survival horror games have to encourage players to survive, and typically that is with a stick, not a carrot; and that stick is permanent death. That aspect of the game never really came through in that announcement for me. After my meeting with Adam Clegg, one of the developers working on H1Z1, to discuss development on the Survival Horror MMORPG I have started to believe this game can do well in the genre.
The first question I asked Adam was if there was going to be perma death, expecting the answer to be no. I was pleasantly surprised when he informed me that death in H1Z1 is permanent. Your character will lose everything. They will lose all the gear they have on them and all the crafting recipes they have discovered. Adam referred to this as, “Hardcore survival.” The only thing you will actually keep is your name. There are, however, a couple clever ways to work around losing all your gear. You’ll be able to find containers scattered across the game world. You will also be able to create ground mounds. One type of container resembles a foot locker; you will actually be able to put locks on these. Once locked someone will not able to steal your stash. That said if you die the lock will disappear and you will immediately have to run to that foot locker to collect your gear before some other passerby stumbles upon it. Ground mounds that you create will not disappear upon your death but they cannot be locked. While they are not readily apparent to people running through an area, if other players take the time to scour the ground looking for these mounds they will be able to find them and they will be able to swipe your goods.
World player versus player interactions will be the primary driving force behind this game. Players can choose to be a griefer or they can choose to be a community builder. SOE will not be hosting forums for H1Z1 on their website. All the interaction with the community will take place on the H1Z1 subreddit. They are depending on reddit to build a community to support H1Z1 after the success they saw on reddit for PlanetSide 2. Hopefully they will see groups of players align on reddit and then start working together in game. While in H1Z1 they can work together to build structures. They can use these structures for community storage areas or just for a safe haven. The team isn’t sure exactly how they are going to establish permission settings on these structures. Right now it is looking like it will be up to the community to police themselves. If groups have internal strife and end up quarreling over a building and how best to use it, they will allow the players to solve the problem for themselves. More than likely it will end up with a few dead players.
H1Z1 also has an interesting take on crafting. As you craft you will learn new recipes by trying new combinations. Currently the game has over 100 recipes and the developers are adding new ones in all of the time. They plan to make these additions stealthily too. They will just add them in and not tell anyone what they added. It will be up to the community to figure out what the new recipes are.
Throughout the game you will be concerned with maintaining your four vital stats: Stamina, Health, Hunger, Thirst. With crafting you can take some sticks that you collect, carve them into planks and from there make a trap. You can then place the trap and collect meat. Eat the meat and you will no longer be hungry. You do not have to worry about your traps being poached either. Once you place a trap you can immediately pick it back up and have food inside of it. You will not have to wait around to make sure it actually catches something. You can also hunt the local wildlife in the game for food as well. During the demo I saw a number of deer ripe for the taking.
Vehicles will also play an important part in H1Z1. You will find vehicles strewn across the landscape in different states of disrepair. It is up to you to find the pieces you need to fix up a vehicle so you can use it for travel. Fuel is another consumable you will have to worry about. There are a couple of ways to come across fuel. You can scavenge for it or you can craft it. You can distill corn into ethanol to run your vehicle or you can reduce animal fat down into fuel.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that weapons are very important in a survival horror game. H1Z1 is no different. Firearms are especially powerful, and dangerous. They are an item of last resort. If you have to fire a gun in H1Z1 it will be heard for miles around. The sound quality is such in H1Z1 that other players will be able to tell what direction the weapon was fired from. You may be able to suppress an immediate threat but the report from a rifle is going to focus unwanted attention on your from both NPCs and players alike.
Another feature of note is the game’s dynamic weather system. The days can range from sunny and clear to overcast and foggy. There is also rain of more than one variety: it can drizzle or it can storm and a handful of settings in between. The game also has a full day-night cycle. Currently it is set to about 4 hours but Adam wasn’t sure if that was going to be the setting for when the game was live. The inventory system is like tetris. They wanted to make carrying items a challenge but they also wanted it to be fun. They did not feel a pure encumbarance system was fun so they made the system where you had to have your items fit into a space. If you find a spare tire for your car that is pretty much the only thing you will be able to carry even if you could probably carry more weight. There are also no maps in the game as of yet, but hopefully they find a unique way to incorporate maps into the game that make them rare and valuable.
I was expecting an announcement at E3 surrounding when the alpha for H1Z1 would begin. The announcement never materialized and for good reason. Adam explained that John (Smedley) asked them if they were ready to start the public alpha and the H1Z1 team told him they were not. Adam further went on to say that one of the advantages of not being indie is that they can take the time to make the game and when they finally do let players into alpha they will be like, “this is the best alpha survival game I have ever played.” I applaud SOE for having the courage to not try and rush this product out the door and start to see a return on their investment. While we do know that this game will be microtransaction based, SOE has not finalized what exactly they will monetize other than wearable (cosmetic) items.
But for now, color me cautiously optimistic on H1Z1.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time checking out the latest games and technology. Feel free to hunt him down on twitter @Grakulen
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