There’s always mixed feelings when a game goes from being a labour of love mod to a full, retail-grade release. Sure, it means that mod’s been a runaway success, but it also leads you to worry that all the qualities that made the game great may not make through an actual commercial development process. I’m feeling this kind of stuck-in-the-middle quandary with DayZ at the moment; I’m excited to know it’s going to become a full, standalone game, and worried at the same time.
Which is not to say that the game cannot be improved – it’s only because the gameplay is so damn gripping that DayZ many bugs and idiosyncrasies are put up with. But that’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement, and I think there are five main areas/additions where even just a bit of polish could make the game really sing.
Integrated server browser
Oh man, where do I begin. There are some great server tools out there, like Six Launcher and DayZ Commander, but the fact that they’re third party applications, and definitely more of a labour of love, can make tracking down a particular server a huge problem.
At the moment, the biggest issue is when you’re trying to organise a game with friends. Of course, you want to use the same server, but that alone can be an epic quest, as even the same program doesn’t necessarily show the same server list – two different programs will almost certainly return a different list of active servers. Just getting online becomes a game – and not a fun one – in itself.
Hopefully an integrated server browser, along with some kind of community or friend-finding feature, can put this problem to rest.
Better load timing
I’d actually rate this is the single most annoying issue in the game.
And there’s just not a lot of feedback to it, and despite many servers acknowledging the issue, it’s still galling to just sit there and watch that ‘Loading’ message sit there and taunt you. Even worse, it’s inconsistent, so can often lead to people getting into a server ahead of you, and possibly taking that last slot.
I get that this is simply the nature of the beast, but, again, it can really harsh the buzz of trying to play with a group of people two or more people. In the last week I’ve actually spent more time watching load screens than playing, or trying to work out if the load issues are server-side or on my end of things.
Improved inventory management
Is there anything more singularly painful than taking the risk to store a firearm in your pack, only to have it disappear? Or the click-juggling you need to perform to drop something out of your inventory?
Again, this kind of issue comes with the territory, as the base game just isn’t designed with this level of detail in mind, but nonetheless, a sleeker and more intuitive inventory would be a Gods-send for DayZ. I’d love to see more feedback on pack and item size (which seriously seems pretty random to me), a more robust way to store items in different slots (what do you mean I can’t sling rifle clips on my belt?!), and possibly even some form of hotkey-based equipment controls, so you can always bring up whatever you need at any given moment, without taking your eyes off the environment.
I’m not sure about this one, to be honest. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of just having no damn idea when you first fire up DayZ, about how zeds behave, or the best survival strategies, or even how to equip stuff. It certainly makes you feel like you’ve achieved something when you finally do get the hang of the game’s many intricacies. That said, some kind of offline tutorial, that taught you the basics of mousewheel controls, inventory, even zombie evasion 101, would go a long way to getting even more people into the game.
Maybe it could even include a basic guide to morality, and then less people would be liable to shoot me in the face for trying to help them… but perhaps I’m aiming too high.
So, assuming you put in the effort to get everyone on the one server, and everyone manages to get loaded, doesn’t get dumped by BattleEye, and then actually spawns… you could still be miles apart on the map.
There are two sides to this, of course. Given the overall ‘new-cruelty’ tone of the game, it does make sense that even getting together should be a challenge. But it’s very unlikely that three players with basic starter can ever manage to make it to a hook-up. With the average player life expectancy only slowly increasing (it’s currently one hour, five minutes), chances are you’ll lose one player, who then has to go through a random re-spawn, which could in fact make the other two players’ progress a hinderance. If they were heading to a somewhere in the hills above Balota, because you all spawned in the south, and then one of you respawns somewhere near Solnichniy, that’s a lot of wasted time.
And it’s time that a lot of players really don’t have.
I can see there’d be definite balance issues with that, but nonetheless the need to invest a week of available gaming time, just to get for all three of my mates into the one vague area, is a little intense. Perhaps a system of separate spawn points is the answer, with set spawn zones for solo survivors, and different ones for pre-planned groups. But I’m open to suggestions on this one.
I can think of a few other changes, but I think it’s those five that could really elevate DayZ to something not only deep and challenging, but much more approachable to new players, and I just can’t see that as being a bad thing.
What other stuff would you guys be looking for in the game?