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Survival Games Need Survival

h1z1 zombie survival

I’m really looking forward to SOE’s upcoming zombie survival game called H1Z1. With MMOs completely failing to live up to what I want in a persistent world that I can log in to for hours and days on end, I’m really starting to crave a great jump-in-jump-out persistent game that won’t require the commitment but will still provide a meaningful experience. H1Z1 is looking like a great candidate.

One of my biggest complaints with survival games in general is the player’s complete lack of regard for anything around him. When you spot another player there’s no reason to let that player live. Kill that player immediately because he has stuff you want — the goal is to get stuff. Here’s why it’s so easy to kill other players in DayZ:

  • Zero environmental threat
  • There’s really nothing else to do but kill other players

h1z1 base building

Survival games have to incorporate reasons to let other players live and not simply kill them on sight. Zombies or nature itself has to be a greater threat. Seeing a zombie should terrify the player so much that if another player runs by the two of them desperately want each other’s help. People should want to gather together to pool resources and survive.

Common goals are important. Surviving can be a common goal. Crafting and trading can also be common goals. Communities can form around the idea that players go out and find things and trade amongst themselves. Creating a base can be a common goal.  If there is no common goal then the goals will be created by the individual, and chances are that goal will involve killing everyone else out of boredom.

As alluded to already, there has to be more to do in a survival game besides killing zombies and other players. Eventually players will tire from shooting NPCs and turn on each other. Base building is a really cool idea if given the proper attention and fleshed out to be a meaningful and rewarding goal. Whatever features are added, there needs to be depth to these games or else they’ll simplify to the least common denominator: Trolling each other.

As my chosen title notes, survival games simply need survival. Animals, Zombies, weather, sickness & disease, fatigue, hunger, thirst, shelter, etc., can all be elements of surviving. What the player is having to survive against can still include other players, but if the environment isn’t a huge part of survival then the game is simply PvP.

  • JJ Robinson says:

    There is definitely a fine line to cross when incorporating PvE into a game so very focused and driven by PvP.

    Make zombies, etc. too powerful and people will constantly be jumping anyone engaged in PvE.

    For myself, get the combat, crafting and building right first, then add some rewarding PvE elements.

    Rust had boring PvE and I had a great time playing it until hackers ruined the game.

  • Keen says:

    I’m not saying there needs to be an actual PvE mechanic where players actively seek out killing the zombies and animals in the world, just that those environmental elements must be dangerous to provide a reason to survive (not go out and hunt). If anything, I’d say it should be more of an “avoid at all costs and hide” direction.

  • Whorhay says:

    Don’t Starve strikes me as having a lot of the necessary elements. They are going to release a multiplayer version here in awhile. But for now the PvEnvironment is pretty strong and the Monsters can be a real challenge if you are not prepared.

    I would also like to see a game like you describe but I’d like to see the zombie’s be modeled in a more realistic sense. And by that I mean they exist in a limited quantity, and you could in theory actually kill them all. I would want a huge world with villages, towns, cities and metropolises. All populated by hoards of varying sizes, with more wandering packs, herds and such. Make it so that in the short term their may not be a huge incentive to cooperate, but it being the only long term option worth pursuing. Maybe only allow a single character per server and make it either permadeath or very long respawn. Have an end goal of eliminating the zombies, with shorter term goals like establishing a safe haven, building to a fortress, that kind of thing.

  • Fidjit says:

    I think one thing that might help is that being injured should matter.

    Right now in most games, you are either alive and 100% functional or dead. In the real world animals (including people) avoid combat because even if you win you can sustain severe injuries. Injuries that can be fatal or disable you for a long time.

    So, you encounter a player with an axe. He hits you once or twice but you win. In most games you’re absolutely fine, or at most you pop a health pack. Now imagine an axe could mean a disabled limb for a long period of time, or significant bleeding, or potential infection. Extended wound care becomes involved. Maybe you can’t run as fast if they hit your leg, etc.

    You’re left to decide: Is that player’s stuff worth the risk of a leg injury, given that I might need to run away from a horde of zombies later?

  • Argorius says:

    That is where the reputation system usually comes in…as in UO…even if difficult to implement…I liked the attitude of “normal people “I usually won’t kill people but I know that I could kill anyone at any time.” Not killing people was the norm and killing people was the exception. (Unless you dedicated your character to become a recognized PK which is totally fine).

    Other MMOs with FFA serves seemed to have the attitude of always killing other players with choosing not to attack being the exception. I find the latter implementation boring and predictable. The former reputation system like implementation includes many more interesting character choices.

    It is more exciting to kill or get killed in an environment where killing is the exception as opposed to killing or getting killed in an environment where it is the rule.

  • Gankatron says:

    “Seeing a zombie should terrify the player so much that if another player runs by the two of them desperately want each other’s help. People should want to gather together to pool resources and survive.”

    One word…

    Terminus.

  • Gankatron says:

    I think there should be some dedicated PvE servers, or at least some servers with PvP flagging or some other severely punitive PK penalties.

    Although it will break immersion I can’t think of any other way to prevent PK groups/guilds from exploiting less geared and/or non-grouped players.

    While your idea makes sense on a certain commonsense level Keen, I just think that players will end up getting non-consensually fingercuffed between strong NPC’s and strong PvP groups.

    I think PvE servers would be popular and likely have a more mature community, and if griefers don’t like it well then join a PvP server and forever hold their piece.

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