Dean “Rocket” Hall’s ARMA 2 zombie survival mod has taken the PC gaming scene by storm over the last couple of months. Rocket’s success in developing the mod led him to be hired by ARMA2 developer Bohemia Interactive in order to focus fully on improving DayZ. However, given the mod’s success, there was no way DayZ could have remained just a mod forever, and we recently learned that Bohemia Interactive has given the green light to move full steam ahead towards a standalone version of DayZ.
What can we expect to see in the standalone version of the game? What would we like to see? We’re discussing it all in this week’s Independency column!
On August 7, Rocket announced via Twitter that the DayZ standalone project had received the green light. Surprisingly, Rocket has also committed to continuing development on the DayZ mod in parallel to the standalone project. We didn’t learn too much about the standalone at first, only that the game would follow Mojang’s Minecraft model in that the game would be iterated on quickly and be made available to players at a significant discount even while in an Alpha state.
Of course, everything changed once Rocket did a proper AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit just a couple of days later. Probably the most important detail we learned is that the DayZ public Alpha release date is currently set for the end of 2012 and that it would be developed on an independent branch of Bohemia Interactive’s Real Virtuality engine (the engine that powers ARMA 2 and 3). The latter point means that the DayZ standalone won’t necessarily be based on ARMA 2 or ARMA 3. Essentially, Rocket has access to whatever he needs from the engine in order to make the game he wants. Oh, and the price? Rocket can’t see the game being priced above 25 Euro. Again, early adopters who pick up the public Alpha will score the game at a significantly reduced price.
DayZ Standalone will take place on an updated version of the current Chernarus map, internally referred to as ‘Chernarus Plus’, and this map will feature many more enterable buildings and better clarity as far as what buildings cannot be entered. Player counts will be expanded as well; Rocket described the limitations as being design limited this time around instead of netcode limited. In non-technical language, Rocket considers 100-200 players “easily achievable”, so the main limitation is the size of the map at this point.
Features-wise, the main highlights were Rocket’s continued emphasis on improving group play and mention of base building of some sort. The latter appears to be integral in improving group play, as Rocket mentioned players improving their bases such that they can be used for additional storage and respawn. Other than that, we learned of a smorgasbord of smaller features and tidbits, including:
- Revamped weather systems
- Overhauled inventory
- Crossbow quivers
- Additional wildlife
- Significantly improved performance
- Improved limb damage systems
- New weapons (focused on weapons one would “find at home”)
- Hand-to-hand combat
- New UI
- New engine-sync’d system for improved player statistics/location persistence elements
- Improved customization (including females)
Clearly, there are a lot of neat things coming to DayZ with the standalone alpha, but there are some meta-game issues with the game that I’d personally love to see Rocket and his team work on addressing. The most prevalent issue to me is how the game has essentially devolved into deathmatch between most players. Eventually, once players learn the game well enough and arm themselves properly, zombies become more of a nuisance than anything else, and the real threat becomes other players. The balancing act of surviving a zombie apocalypse while also testing players’ humanity was one of the most appealing aspects of the mod, but the curve as it currently stands allows for resourceful players to essentially remove the zombie threat altogether and just focus on killing each other for phat lewt.
I’m not a designer myself, but two solutions stand out to me as being fairly obvious:
- Zombies need to be more dangerous and remain dangerous throughout the experience
- The abundance of technology could stand to be reduced. Vehicles and high-tech weapons are awesome to find and maintain, but after a while they really undermine the whole survival aspect of the game. Players shouldn’t be armed to the nines and tricked out with night vision goggles and attack helicopters. If this does happen, it should be an extremely rare occurrence.
Being a murderous bandit should be a rough experience that is both high risk and high reward. Currently, there’s really little point in trusting others you encounter; they are likely to shoot you on sight or backstab you when you’re not looking. I don’t have a solution for this admittedly challenging problem, but I hope this is one of Rocket’s main goals with the DayZ standalone. I realize the whole idea was to give players the ability to do whatever they want, but the results are pretty clear at this point. Rocket’s team could stand to offer some sort of guiding hand in the form of adjustments to the game’s design in some ways to discourage this sort of out-and-out murderous gameplay. I know many fans of the game will defend the current state of the game to the death, but I really feel DayZ has a lot more potential than what we’re currently seeing and I’d love to see Rocket and his team realize that potential when the standalone game is released.
Are you excited for DayZ Standalone? What do you hope to see addressed or added in the full game?