So I have, better late than never, started to dabble with mod-cum-game of the year (yeah, I’m calling it) DayZ. And by ‘dabble’, I mean DayZ has totally taken over my regular gaming schedule. I’ve not played anything, from Battlefield 3 to Total War: Napoleon to my just restarted foray into Lord of the Rings Online... all gone.
Now, all my gaming hours are taken up with trying to stay alive in a world gone mad.
So far... it’s not been good. I think the longest I’ve stayed alive is maybe... five hours, tops? To say DayZ is punishing is a massive understatement, but it’s that gritty, unforgiving perma-death model that makes the game so compelling. Success in DayZ is not from clever saves, or from sheer bloody-mindedness, like other games; instead, you have to play smart, think ahead, and weigh every decision you make against the risks inherent in the environment.
And if you fail in that, you die, and have to start again.
It’s amazing how permadeath changes things, and given how popular DayZ has become (ARMA II is selling like hotcakes), I’ll be very curious to see if we see more games introducing such a feature. Imagine an MMO where death is permanent...
But we’re talking DayZ, here, and if there’s one thing I’ve heard not only from other, but also from me, is that it comes with one hell of a learning curve. Not just in setting the game up and keeping it up to date, but also in terms of knowing how to play. I think everyone should give DayZ a go, so here’s a quick guide to getting it running, keeping it going, and then making the best start you can in your apocalyptic (and likely brief) zombie-killing career.
Six Updater: Getting a mod up and running in most games is pretty simple these days, but ARMA II is not a simple game to begin with. Bohemia Interactive does a great job of supporting the mod community, and DayZ in particular, but without the same massive resources of a lot of publishers, mods in ARMA can be a bit hit and miss. Your best bet for not only getting the game running and keeping it up to date, but also for finding servers, is Six Updater. This dedicated ARMA II mod manager is essential. The Six Updater suite includes the Updater, which you won’t use much, and the Launcher. Forget launching through Steam or ARMA itself, just get Six Launcher fired up and you can verify your ARMA install and track down a server that isn’t hopefully full of bastard bandits who’ll shoot you in the back of the head.
Research: The average life expectancy, at time of a publishing, in DayZ is 49 minutes. Less than an hour. Huh. I think the number is so low because a lot of people do what I did – just start playing without getting themselves ready. And they die in minutes. A lot of games give you a tutorial or some kind of intro, but DayZ gives you nothing – except for a flashlight, painkillers, a bandage, and a backpack. You’ll spawn in a random coastal location, and you will often spawn close to zombies; if you’re unlucky, you could find yourself running for your life in seconds. So don’t be Zed-bait – do your research! The DayZ Wiki is invaluable, and its beginners’ guide is absolutely vital to lasting more than a few minutes. It also has some essential advice regarding other players. Namely...
DO NOT TRUST THEM. So far, I’ve not killed anyone else I’ve been provoked – mostly. But hey, I was bleeding out, and the dude pointed a gun at me. He had it coming. Regardless, DayZ could almost be a game MADE for the kind of jerks who will camp overlooking a good loot spawn just so they can snipe at anyone who comes looking for gear. And, it must be admitted, it’s often easier to kill someone for their gear than find all that stuff. All of this adds up to a rather accurate recreation of the kind of stuff you see in the best zombie films – it’s not the dead you’ve got to worry about, it’s the living. I’ve had people call ‘Friendly!’ via voice chat, only to shoot me in the face a moment later. Basically, unless you know the person on the end of a survivor, head the other way. Though, that said, I am fast warming to the idea of simply shooting first; and even that’s been a fascinating, if... alarming, journey.
Living (with the) dead: Of course, for all that, there are always ten zombies for every survivor on any given server. You will see a lot more of the dead than the living. However, there are some handy tricks you can use even if you’re getting swarmed. First up, the most important advantage you have over zeds is that you can move a lot faster inside buildings and on steep slopes. If you’re lucky enough to have a firearm, you might be tempted to use it, but frankly, in a lot of circumstances, that’s a mistake. It’ll not only draw LOTS of zombies, but also loudly report to other players nearby that someone has a firearm. Rather, just run, especially if you know there are large buildings with multiple entrances. You can run in, forcing pursuing zombies to slow down indoors, and then flee; steep hills are just the same. If you do feel forced to go loud, again, get inside. The swarm of zombies you attract will be much easier to deal with if they’re forced to walk at you, rather than run. But, remember, ammunition is rare; it’s better to save it whenever you can.
Success is the best revenge: The final thing to remember is that while it’s going to be very tempting to think the game’s all about killing zombies... that’s kinda wrong. If you get good and/or lucky enough to equip yourself with everything you need (axe for chopping wood, a knife for gutting animals, a water bottle, and a good hunting weapon), you’ll last longer heading into the woods and hunting – animals, that is. They provide the best food in the game, and going bush is far safer than hunting zombies in built up areas. You will eventually have to head back to built up areas, but think of these instances more as stealthy raids – get in, get your stuff, get out. In DayZ, a high body count isn’t a sign of winning; but living longer? Oh yeah, that’s tough.