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Five Lessons MMOs Can Learn From DayZ

Garrett Fuller Posted:
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For the past few months I have heard all the hype surrounding DayZ. I have watched RipperX go on and on about how great it is. I saw the demos, watched a few videos, but still did not fully get the idea. Flashback a few weeks when the standalone became available on Steam and I decided to spend the money on the game to see what all of this talk was about. Well, over the holidays I was in a daze most parties because I stayed up so freaking late playing DayZ. In my three week run, I have lost 9 characters and late last night I died again, this time from a fall which forced me to crawl on the ground and finally get attacked by zombies. So why do I continue to go back to Chernarus? Pure addicting adrenaline is the reason. Other MMOs seem to miss the mark on certain key mechanics that make DayZ so much fun. Here is a list of things that DayZ does which make the game work so well:

5.  Levels? What Levels?

You wash up on a shore in jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. You do not have to kill ten rats to collect a pocket knife and unlock a “shiv” skill, you start running and hope to god you do not get killed. The idea of keeping a character healthy vs. building a stronger one is a reverse approach to character building. It all comes down to what you can find and how you use it. There are no high level characters against you. There are characters with guns and axes who have explored further than you have, but you can still punch them unconcious. There is a lot of thought that goes into character maintenance. Do you enter the town to find food because you are starving? Are your weapons good enough to fight multiple zombies? These are questions you face when playing your character, not “Okay, I need to speed through these mobs to get to level 22.” It is all about survival, not about who killed the most goblins.

It is all about your gear.

4.  Chernarus the Open Zone.

The more MMOs I play, the more I go back to really loving the sandbox map design. In Chernarus you basically face the wide open world lots of terrain features. The ARMA-influenced design forces you to make choices like: can I get to the next town with the water I have in my pack? Also, once you get yourself armed and dangerous, you can explore every area of the map. Nothing is wasted on low level zombies or zones that you will never go back too. Everything has a purpose on the map. This makes the whole zone useful no matter what stage of the game you are in. If you are with friends and want to run a quest, then maybe you organize trips into the bigger cities for resources and food. Even something like checking out the military sites becomes a huge challenge and adds to the fun.

Ponds offer a drink, which you need constantly, and who knows what is in that house?

3. Perma-Death and Starting Over

Replayability in the extreme is the way to describe DayZ. Once you die that is it, you have to start over washed up on the shore again. It doesn’t really matter because there are no levels. So you are back to square one with no resources. That is part of the charm though. How well did you do last run and what can you do differently now? Do you hit the coast towns for minimal supplies or do you head straight inland? Do you try for one of the cities or go straight to the military bases? Each attempt at the game brings a new tactic or strategy. You are never told where to go or what to do. You never have to follow some quest line for the farmer to save his crops. It is all about your own choice and consequence. The game keeps it simple and practical. You get mad, then you start to think about the game again. Did I miss something? Should I have gone for the city? Before you know it, you are back playing again.

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Garrett Fuller

Garrett Fuller / Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997 and writing about them since 2005. He joined MMORPG.com has a volunteer writer and now handles Industry Relations for the website. He has been gaming since 1979 when his cousin showed him a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. When not spending time with his family, Garrett also Larps and plays Airsoft in his spare time.