The problem with current video games is that if it isn’t a sports game or something that resembles World of Warcraft or Call of Duty then it doesn’t really have a chance of getting greenlit by the big companies. That’s why I was excited when I found about the mod for Arma called DayZ. The premise is simple, the gameplay is hard, and that is why the game is awesome for anyone who played Nintendo.
1) Death means something
The problem with today’s video games is that when you die it doesn’t mean anything. Oh well, go back to the next checkpoint or be forced to run back to your body but not lose any items. DayZ, however, makes it a much more grim option. Much like Eve Online, when you die, you lose everything. By actually losing everything, it forces you to play more conservatively. While you could run through the center of town, trailing sixty zombies in your wake, the better option is to crawl around the outside of town. Why bother being so stealthy? Do you really want to lose that M4 it took you three days to find? Nothing is more depressing then when a zombie attacks you and you start bleeding out, only to find you’ve run out of bandages and can’t stop the inevitable shadows from creeping in. With a limited supply of blood, it’s best to just lie down and start playing “Everybody Hurts” by REM.
2) “I died because I couldn’t find my baked beans…”
Certain video games played with the idea of forcing characters to eat or drink to survive. Even GTA: San Andreas tried this but it was mostly useless because if you didn’t eat than nothing really happened. DayZ uses this to put you to the test, though. It’s not bad enough that you have to dodge a bunch of brain eating zombies; you also have to make it a point to find water and food. The game monitors your actions and has you eat at relevant times. Running around a lot? You’re going to get thirsty and hungrier faster because you’re expending a lot of energy. Just because you have a solid weapon and can avoid zombies doesn’t help you if you can’t feed yourself. While essential, finding food and water can be a real problem if you don’t explore the right places. You can find cans of food around, or kill animals to cook their meat, and sodas are everywhere or you can refill canteens using water pumps or ponds. The only problem is finding all of these things before the environment beats you down and you throw your monitor through a wall because that zombie just won’t stop chasing you.
3) Welcome to the world, here’s your flashlight
When you create you character, the game drops you at a spot along the coast and then you’re left to the do the rest. All that’s in your bag is a flashlight, painkillers, and bandages. The rest is up to you. Don’t try to fight zombies before you find any sort of weapon because you can’t punch them back. But it shouldn’t be that hard though, just pull out your map and try to find a town. Oh, wait, the game doesn’t start you with a map or compass either. You have to head out on your own and hope you find them in the wild, like food or guns. For the kids who have played any iteration of World of Warcraft since the Burning Crusade, they will have an aneurysm because of this. If the game doesn’t tell you where to go, how are you supposed to win? I have to navigate using landmarks and towns? If I’m walking and the ocean is to my right, I’m heading north? I thought I was out of high school, why am I still learning geography? Oh, and don’t think you’re going to chat with people in world chat, because most servers don’t even have it turned on. Your best bet is to yell “Friendly?” through your mic and just start shooting before you get a response.
4) Real people are worse than zombies
Along with face eating, flesh ripping zombies; you also have to watch out for other real players that are out to kill you. As a rule of thumb, if you see another real player, and they have a weapon, you’re going to shot and you’re going to die and they are going to steal all of your items. Your best bet it to avoid them before they see you and then hopefully hack them to death with a hatchet while they’re cooking some raw meat. Playing the game in groups is a real bonus because your real life friends can help make a pretty effective assault team. This is all assuming, of course, that you have real life friends. While you can technically make friends in the game world, it’s always a safe bet to not trust anyone you don’t physically know because everyone on the Internet is a terrible person and will double cross you at the first chance they get to gain a useful item. Or, just to steal your food. Either one.
5) Towns are awful
In most games, after wandering through the wilderness, you come across a town and everybody is nice and you can buy supplies and rest there. Not so much in DayZ. Every town is full of zombies and the bigger towns are full of zombies and other players that are waiting to snipe you from a tower. Really, going into to towns can be chalked up to suicide. This forces you to play the whole game pillaging and raiding from a base that’s set in the wilderness. If you need to come into town then make it quick and get out as fast as possible. Many hipsters have voiced displeasure that the city settings are so violent and dangerous but so far the game designers haven’t done anything to appease them. It looks like if the hipsters are trying to use the free wifi at DayZ Starbucks then they’re going to have to dodge all the zombies that were already waiting in line for their grande low-fat mochas.
Because the developers made the game so hard, it’s much more rewarding to survive for as long as you can. If you go to DayZ’s site, they put up the average lifespan of a character (currently, it’s at 49 minutes). This game isn’t for the faint of heart so if you’re going to play you need to have some bit of dedication to figuring it out.
Everyone: buy Arma, download DayZ, and hop into the game. Mostly, so I can hunt you down and take your flashlight. Good luck!