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Counting the DayZ

Hillary Nicole Posted:
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I didn't really plan on using my column to write first impressions, or even reviews, on games I've been playing (or have played). I wanted to keep my column more so to writing about the gaming culture and what I see in it. I guess I will still be doing that in this column, but it will definitely contain some impressions I got from the game DayZ, as well.

I've been having an absolute blast in DayZ. For those that don't know, DayZ is a mod for Arma II, a tactical shooter for PC. I have been playing this game for about a week and a half and have found that it holds this addictive element to it that many other games I've played in the past lack. Maybe it is the promise of losing everything if you die, maybe it is the environment, maybe it is the uncertainty of friends versus foes in the game that gives you a rush when coming into contact with other players, maybe it is the fact it takes place during the zombie apocalypse, or maybe it is a combination of all these, plus more.

One thing I do know for certain is that this game has been one of my favorite buys (in regards to video games) of the past few years. I have played plenty of new MMOs, expansions, betas, multi and single player PC games over the years, but a lot of them felt stale, unfinished, or just weren't the game I was hoping for. Take note that I am not a huge fan of shooters, I like to play them for fun every now and again, but this game is definitely a lot more fun than I initially thought it would be. Also keep in mind that I typically play games with friends, and that is what I do in DayZ. I rarely play alone anymore (unless it is a single player game - i.e. Amnesia).

One of the best features of the game, besides zombies (actually they are "infected" humans according to Rocket, but I like calling them zombies), is the fact that there are other players in the game and there are no factions. It is a dog-eat-dog world. Every man for himself. That is the glory of it. You're either a friendly or a bandit, but you can claim you're friendly, and still turn around and kill someone for all their belongings. It is really, really hard to trust another player in the game, even if they don't try to kill you initially.

I have been relatively lucky to meet a few players within the game that were actually friendly, one of which I met by saving his life from another bandit. And it is typically pretty easy to spot a bandit due to their faster beating, loud heartbeat (the more players you kill = the louder your heartbeat). The only thing is, if a bandit finally has been killed, his kills will reset and he will be incognito again. Overall, though, I've little trust for anyone in the game, especially armed players, and typically try to stay with my small circle of guildmates that play.

Now, upon first logging in I felt the UI was a little lacking. Of course you have the bare essentials and, I suppose, one good thing about the UI at the moment is it doesn't encompass your screen, so you still feel very into the game and not into the UI. But at the same time, I'd like to see a more customizable UI (so I can move certain things around), a more in-depth inventory, and perhaps some way to contact friends easier (I'm sure walkie-talkies and other forms of communication still exist in the zombie apoc). Some of these features they said they definitely have plans to improve upon, so it's a low complaint on my list.

I feel the default controls were relatively easy to get used to in the game, and they are all changeable in the options, but I have noticed quite a few new players struggling with getting used to these things. Not really knowing which button does what. I wouldn't necessarily blame the developers for this, there are places to search on the internet for this kind of information, but perhaps a tutorial map could help new accounts get used to the in-game features that have little to do with survival and more to do with controls and basic movement.

Aside from the threat of zombies in the land and the random animals you can kill for food, it would be nice to have other creatures in the game. I, for one, would welcome bears and wolves in the woods, sharks and fish in the sea, and bobcats and foxes spread throughout. I think the danger of actual wildlife is a very realistic addition to the game and would definitely counter endless running through woods for safety.

Speaking of other animals, it'd also be nice if, when running past an animal, the zombies would aggro onto the other creatures, not only rendering the creature useless for yourself, but dropping aggro from the zombies. I found it mildly frustrating that I could run past a cow, and zombies would not move to eat the stationary cow, but rather would keep chasing me. If I were a zombie, I would have taken the easier source of food, quite frankly.

And while we're speaking of aggro, I feel the distance at which zombies aggro is quite large. I understand that if I am in the open I should be more visible, but I feel as if some zombies have better vision than the sniper sitting on top of "sniper hill" outside of Cherno. There have been many times I've been noticed from across a field. Not only that, but they run so fast that, even if I run as soon as they see me, they still manage to catch up to me and then I have to start playing the line-of-sight game.

Line-of-sighting a zombie seems inconsistent at the moment, as well. Typically the best way to lose a zombie is to LoS around a building, fence, or to use pine trees in the woods, but there have been quite a few occasions where even these attempts were unsuccessful. Naturally, some would say "why not shoot the zombies, then?" but for those that play DayZ the answer is obvious, you run the possibility of attracting other zombies, and even worse, giving players your location and information about what kind of gun you're carrying. That could be your death.

In the interview with Dean "Rocket" Hall, I definitely found it interesting that he mentioned wanting to make the zombies vary in their power (paraphrasing, of course). Basically the well-fed zombies would be stronger, faster, have better vision, and so forth than the zombies that hadn't fed as much. I found this unique and definitely realistic. It would play a different role in the game. I'd probably want to kill a stronger zombie and would just run away from a weaker one, conserving ammo for later.

There's a lot more I can say about this game, but I will save that for next week when I continue these thoughts and impressions on DayZ. Keep in mind, this isn't necessarily a review, but moreso just things I liked about the game, things that kept me addicted to it, and what I'd like to see in the future. If you haven't gotten a chance to check out the interview with Rocket, you definitely should check it out!

Also, I plan on doing beginner's guides for DayZ, due to having been asked by multiple people while streaming. So stay tuned!


Hillary Nicole