Editorials

Infectious – DayZ and an interview with its creator Dean ‘rocket’ Hall

I’m getting just what I needed right about now; A swelling sense of optimism for the future of mods and PC gaming in general. How strange then, that this optimism’s providence should be a zombie mod, hardly an original concept, for a three year-old game. But therein lies the brilliant thing about this phenomenon and its effect on the gaming community – that a single mod should drive up a relatively niche, tactical shooter’s sales up a formidable 1000%, so long after the game’s launch.
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I am of course speaking of DayZ, Dean “rocket” Hall’s zombie survival mod for Bohemia Interactive’s Arma II, and its explosion over the face of the internet’s games community. Needless to say, this is not just ‘some zombie game’ to add to the pile of industry’s most ubiquitous theme – it’s what everyone, from the word go, has been asking for from a zombie game: open-world realistic survival.

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Still in alpha, as its creator is eager to stress, DayZ is drawing an inordinate amount of gamers into its harsh world simply by providing a large open island filled with villages and towns, Chernarus, a selection of scavengable weapons, medical supplies and food, scattered throughout the empty buildings and 30-50 other players, who may or may not be willing to try to survive alongside each other. With 1:1 time, food, drink and blood meters along with the occasional need for realistic first aid treatment and full-on unrestricted PvP, DayZ’s vision of the zombie apocalypse is bleak and satisfyingly simple in its realism.

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I jumped into the mod just as it began to blow up a month or two ago, when 5 or 6 struggling servers were the only way to play, and getting into them was a matter of watching for the number 50 (out of 50) to momentarily switch to 49 and slamming down the space bar as quickly as possible. Since then, the dev team at DayZ have been working restlessly to keep up with the burgeoning demand that stemmed from the graduation of the mod’s exposure from a few message and image boards to mainstream gaming outlets such as PC Gamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Currently, there are about 800 servers, almost equally rammed, and it shows no sign of stopping. Clearly people out there want this kind of thing on offer, and a £25 price tag (on Steam), whether they play the vanilla game or not, is not going to stop them from getting it.

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DayZ is what PC gaming and the world of modding is all about, allowing for player-driven stories and emergent gameplay. I can already tally off ten to twenty stories from my adventures, involving friends, bandit characters, vehicles and a whole lot more, and I’m certainly not unique in that respect. Various image boards have already started to create and nurture their own inside jokes and meta-games, even if that is picking off newbies on the coastline. There’s no doubting it’s taken the hardcore communities and large parts of the mainstream by storm. With all this in mind, I was delighted to sit down with Dean Hall, a few weeks ago at E3, to ask him about the past and future of DayZ.

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Read my full interview on Zath.co.uk…

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June 20th, 2012
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