DayZ Impressions

DayZ Impressions

I’ve been playing DayZ long enough now that I feel confident weighing in with my impressions.  First, for those who haven’t been informed, DayZ is a mod for Arma 2.  The setting is a huge zombie infected post-apocalyptic post-soviet state open-world.  The goal of the game is to survive.  What you choose to do in order to survive is what fuels the gameplay of DayZ for you and other players.

DayZ is played on servers like a first-person shooter with a limit averaging around 50.  When you join a server, you load your character that you’ve played on any other server — that’s right, there’s persistent character progress.  You can take that character to any server and log in right where you logged off.

In order to survive, you must eat, drink, stay warm, and remain healthy.  The catch is, zombies will seek you out to attack you, infect you, and eat your body.  That’s not all.  Players will also be seeking you out to kill you and take your stuff to help them survive. Whether or not you choose to engage in banditry is entirely up to you, but chances are you’re going to be forced into it from the moment you start playing.

That launches me into one of my biggest gripes about DayZ.  Players do not have any incentive to be friendly or hospitable to random players.  There is a *huge* benefit to playing with others, but I’ve never met anyone, other than my own friends, who won’t shoot you at the first opportunity.  See my experience I recorded below.

What I love about DayZ is the feeling I get when I play.  I love the concept of survival, working against the odds, and how dynamic my experience is every time I play.  Despite being the same world, nothing is ever the same day to day or server to server.  There’s a constant on-the-edge-of-my-seat feeling because I never know when some sniper is going to kill me, or when a player may be hiding around a corner.

DayZ presents a decent realism.  Eating and drinking dynamics add pressure to do more than shoot stuff with guns.  Ammunition restricts how aggressive you are with your firearms.  Sound and visibility make you care about what type of surface you’re on or whether or not you crouch or prone through areas.  There’s a level of depth to DayZ that immerses the player quickly.  It’s not perfect, but it works.

Where DayZ suffers greatly is the engine.  Arma 2 sucks.  The engine sucks.  The polish sucks.  It’s akin to what I call the Darkfall Effect.  You have a good idea, but the way you execute it makes it hard for players to enjoy.  It sucks running around town with jittery controls that are unresponsive.  Glitchy zombie and player movements distract from the enjoyment.

Hackers are also a concern.  There are simply too many people abusing scripts.  Two days ago I watched a group of players driving down the road each in a big black SUV.  The day before that everyone on the server was instantly teleported to the same location.

Is DayZ worth the full price of Arma 2: CO? No.  Is it worth the $17.99 I payed for it during the Steam sale? Yes.  I look forward to the future when this idea is improved upon by the current developer (given the game is only in Alpha…) via the potential standalone or even ripped off and improved upon (War Z).  I will continue to play for one reason only: There’s nothing else quite like it available on the market.  However, my experience tells me the popularity of DayZ and overwhelming interest will ultimately be a passing fad.

  • Nice review. I almost bought Arma2 the other day but still keep holding off. If they do a stand alone that does improve on some of the problem areas that you mention I would be more than willing to spend $30-$40 for it.

    One question I have had is the longer a server has been running I assume that the more likely hood that the server will have some well established characters that will terrorize anyone new to the server correct?

    I have enjoyed watching your videos as well as others on DayZ. That said I am not overly impressed with some of the bugs and glitches that I have seen videos of not just in Arma 2 but in the DayZ mod as well.

    With Arma 3 on the way soon I am wondering if the DayZ modders will end up dumping further improvements on the current engine and start using Arma 3 once it releases.

    While the game does look to be very open ended and fun, it also looks to be a grievers paradise and call me a carebear but I have enough grief outside games to have to put up with it in games. I think in the end that is what is holding me back more than any of the bugs I have seen.

  • @Neuronomad: Characters can be played on any server and keep the same stuff. So it’s not so much about how long one single server has been going, but how long players can go without dieing.

    One good shot from a very common gun, from a newbie, can put down the best player with the best gear. It’s really realistic like that. In fact, I had a makarov and shot some pro in the head on accident and took his amazing gear.

    So far it’s been less of an issue with geared out players, and more an issue with random people being completely trigger-happy.

  • DayZ reminds me of Eve as well as Darkfall…not a place for the squeamish. But it’s so important these games are out there. For me, they are the “Badge of Honor” games: places for the hc of the hc. Definitely not for me but I like being able to measure another gamer by his/her resume and these top the list.

  • It been a while I played DayZ, as I did not like some changes.
    Back when I played DayZ not everyone was trigger happy.
    That and cheating was very uncommon.

    If you killed 2 players you where forced to wear a bandit skin (unless you killed in self defence). Showing everyone your bad news and would get you killed on sight from there on by 90% of the playerbase.
    People could just not risk letting you near them. (and for good reason!)

    That penalty is gone and it took only a day or 2 to turn everyone into shoot first ask questions later players.
    Can you really blaim them? Player killers roam free without knowing who is one of them. Only way to know sure someone is no threat is to shoot first.

    It feels like some kind of sick physiological mindfck game.. “lets change a few rules here and there and let human instinct run ins course”

  • I am of two minds about the bandit skin and DayZ’s current systems in general. I think it is clear the game is full of strong incentives for aggressive, shoot-first play, because the natural checks to this sort of behavior are not modeled by the game mechanics, nor does the game help players to behave in a way that counters banditry (i.e. a bounty system and sheriffs, organized settlements that a murderer might lose access to, the deep-seated desire to avoid violence that a person would feel in reality, etc.). Then again, I’ve read a lot of arguments about why the bandit skin shouldn’t come back that make sense. Mostly the reasoning is that it was too easy to be marked a bandit when you were defending yourself, which in turn would lead others to kill you out of a false sense of justice.

    My belief is that there should be a new layer of simulation which models the character psychology that players must deal with. In the same way that your character can get the shakes from an injury, in turn preventing the player from aiming perfectly, I think a character who murders repeatedly should start to suffer psychological trauma. For the sake of game balance I think this should be “healed” by having certain interactions with character you do not normally spend time with (restoring your trust, hope, confidence). this isn’t realistic, but I think there simply must be some mechanism in place to force players to socialize with people outside their own group.

    In reality people would have a strong desire to not feel isolated and hopeless; there would be survivors outside their group with skills they need, they would want to make families and communities and believe they had a chance to do more than simply stay alive for another day and stockpile more guns. These sorts of realities are hard to model in a game, so something else needs to take their place to motivate nonviolent interactions.

    I think DayZ is fascinating, and its success is heartening. I don’t even find ARMA to be especially bad or hard to use, and I’m happy with the engine for the most part (coming from Red Orchestra 2, it feels quite good). But it is definitely a work in progress, and has a long way to go.

  • I do not like your pshyc trauma idea at all.
    What worries me more is this:

    Interest for this game is mind blown high.
    Its been more then a month now that its nr1 in the steam most sold games list.
    Without a discount.

    Even with a 20% discount during the steam summer sale it was ranked in the top 5 every day.

    You bet there will be countless ripoffs.
    Guy with sales pitch to investors: This is what consumers want.

    On the up side… maybe we get a better engine then arma2. Maybe even a better game.

  • The current plan is to

    1) Switch Mod over to ArmA3

    2) Make the Mod a standalone game entirely.

    Rocket would prefer 2, but it depends on a number of factors. Rocket is the creator/lead Dev.

    And of course this is all like… a zillion years in the future. So far in fact that it doesn’t even matter, as anything past 12/21/12 is an empty void. o.0

  • @Zyler there’s already the first Day Z clone on the way: I kid you not it’s called World Z and they are making ridiculous promises for it. It’s being built from the ground-up rather than as a mod. Not sure which base engine though.

    Personally I held off on Day Z in the end, partly as all my previous experiences with Arma/Arma 2 put me right off. I absolutely love the idea of the game but ultimately realised I just would not have time for it. I do quite like watching videos of it as I can skip over the 90% walking about/inaction!

    I did have a look at your stream last night and saw the attempts to kill a zombie with an axe: man and zombie ghosting and lagwarping past each other every few seconds, flailing ineffectually at each other in some kind of macarbe, spastic dance.
    I found myself thinking “Phew, dodged a bullet there”.

  • I confirm what Zyler said about the game changing significantly after the bandit skin was removed. I started playing in early May. At that point people actually used the in-game microphone communications. The game had more of an Arma 2 crowd along with some interested players like myself who had seen some in-game footage on youtube. The bandit skin was removed in 1.7 which was about the time there was a significant influx of new players because of the reviews the mod had been getting. Don’t get me wrong, there were always exploiters and jerks, but now it is more noticeable.

    One solution is to seek out the 3DP:off servers. That is something I recommended to you when I heard you were planning on buying the game. Because it makes the game more difficult, I believe it weeds out people who are cheating to make the game even easier. It’s also more immersive.

    I’m passionate about this game because it is the opposite of the hand-holding, linear crap we get from most AAA titles these days.

  • You had basically the same review as I did with the game. My main pros and cons;

    1. decent concept (zombie survival in a huge world with other people, fun)

    2. decent immersion (the game does do a good job of immersing you in it….until you realize the bigger scope of things)

    1. terrible game engine (I think Arma II was chosen due to how big the world is, that is my only idea on why such a bad engine was used)

    2. poor gameplay execution due to the engine (if I can’t even control stuff good why do I want to play you?)

    3. potential hackers (I didn’t see any personally but others have)

    4. Not enough to keep me playing (there’s just not enough to do, find random spawning items in houses, run from zombies, fight buggy zombies and probably die, get randomly attacked by people and have them disconnect and magically vanish in front of you yay!)

    My main gripe is the lack of stuff to do. Why do I care about anything when it is all lost on death that can happen frequently due to bugs and a bad game engine? You never gain more skills or levels or progress at all, it’s straight forward find magically spawning items in houses that are surrounded by zombies that arn’t even fun to kill so you might as well run away, rinse repeat. Or you can exploit the game mechanics and server hop which is totally realistic right? I mean in a game that seems to focus on being realistic, it screws the pooch on 2 big things. instant server hopping to camp spawns or get away from fights, and the ability to instantly disconnect without penalty. Why engage in pvp if the person can just pull the plug, why even have item spawn timers when I can server hop camp items. Simple mechanics are being overlooked that are the ONLY things to do in the game. Get items and pvp……and both are poorly executed in my opinion.

    I know it’s an alpha yada yada, but this dude needs a team of people to help him that are talented with maybe art and code? It’s just not solid enough in its current state.

  • I’ve heard about this a bit and while it looks interesting why didn’t they just build on the source engine like cs mods would do?

  • Mark, because the lead developer works for the company that made Arma 2. Also, the Arma 2 Engine is the most extensive military simulation software…ever. You wouldn’t have the brutal realism of Day Z as a mod without Arma.

    Also War Z is not a Day Z clone. Lord people use this term way too flippantly these days. War Z is a MMO with missions, skills, and avatar progression(leveling up etc). It features optional perma-death and has no where near the state of realism Day Z provides.

    I personally think the Arma 2 engine even with it’s bugs is a one of a kind gem and that Day Z is a diamond in the rough. But boy in a year or two that diamond is going to be damn pretty.

  • I do agree with a lot of the points raised in the original post. I generally dislike the plumb attitude of “I can kill them so I must kill them.” I wish they still had the Bandit skin or some sort of incentive not to kill other people. It is much more fun if people are generally friendly but have the opportunity to kill you whenever they want at some sort of cost. It makes for more interesting gameplay and provides role play opportunity.

    Otherwise, I am blown away by DayZ…it kind of recaptures some of the feeling of playing UO but intensifies it. I am on my second character and the game is an emotional rollecoaster. One second, you feel helpless, desparate, and weak…then you suddenly get your first weapon (in my case a sniper rifle with 2 magazines) and I feel like a badass…until I have to start worrying about food…

    I do like to keep in mind that this is a MOD and for that, it is amazing. I would love to see a fully fleshed out game based on this concept – considering how many people play DayZ or tried it at least, there ought to be a market for it. It also shows that this type of hardcore gameplay is what many people want – listening to the theme park fan crowd over the last few years I started to believe them if they proclaimed that nobody wants a challengem a hard game, and that the few people on this blog are freaks for wanting that.

  • Great example of a fantastic hardcore PvP sandbox. Bohemia Interactive is probably enjoying the boost in sales.

    I’m convinced now that there’s a crack ton of people out there that want to see an extremely hardcore PvP sandbox. But my question is… do they need it? I’m not one of the nuts that believes that “video games make you violent”, but I’m a bit nervous about a game where the only reasonable thing to do is backstab each other forever.

    Not so much that it effects us badly, but it fails to effect us in any good way either.

    Sorry, that waxed philosophical. I’m stepping back now.

  • Honestly, DayZ is a riot. I think you take your gaming a bit too seriously. why be so negative about something that is so much fun? relax homie…

  • I love the Day Z concept and what it’s reaching for.
    I know they’re calling it an “alpha” right now,and that’s truly the experience you’ll have. The bugs are staggering, the ui is horrible, and the immersion breaking awkwardness of the physics interaction is dreadful.
    Additionally, hackers run amok using God mode scripts, spawning themselves any weapon or vehicle of choice, and one, in particular, acts as an all seeing eye; They are able to see all players, vehicles, tents anywhere on the map in real time. Oh, and let’s not forget being able to teleport, at will, to such locations.

    It’s the tale of something beautiful turned rotten.
    As much as I WANT something like this to exist, this isn’t it.
    Stay away from Day Z despite the hype. Maybe next time….