DayZ. It's a wonderfully complicated, extremely hardcore game. Soon the online zombie survival sensation, which started as a mod, is getting a standalone version. Many questions remain about how the standalone game will work, and how it will differ from the original. Today at E3, I had a chance to ask a lot of those questions.
There are few games that have fans as hardcore as DayZ. These are people who have played this game endlessly, mastered every tiny system and rule, learned all the tricks there are to learn. I, despite my affection for the game, am not one of those people.
A couple of weeks ago, a friendly fellow named Chad reached out to us on behalf of the DayZ subreddit. He asked if, seeing as how we were going to have a chance to talk to DayZ creator Dean "Rocket" Hall at E3, would we consider asking some of the questions they had put together? He attached a list of detailed, interesting questions.
(Above: Hall, who recently summited Mount Everest.)
I decided to go ahead and ask Hall all of the questions Chad sent along. Hall was totally into it, and happy to have a chance to answer organised questions from fans.
So, here they are: DayZ fans' questions, answered by the game's creator.
Kotaku: How rare will loot and gear be?
Dean Hall: Very rare. So for example, the new apartment buildings, we're re-doing them from scratch with every room interval, and all of those rooms have possible loot spawns. So the amount of locations for loot to spawn will be very high, but the spawn-rate will be incredibly low.
Is suicide an option?
Yes. It's probably going to be via an action menu, so you go into the inventory screen, right-click on a weapon, if the weapon's loaded it'll say, "Commit Suicide." Click that. "Are you sure…"
What's being done with the humanity system?
The humanity system is on pause until we do the alpha. So the game is fundamentally changed in so many ways, going right back to basics, that we want to see how the players play it before we fool around with a lot of this stuff. Like, there's a lot of new stuff like now you can play gestures using the function keys and in fact the F7… F8 to F12 is reserved for facial gestures, so we want to see what this entails and how player behaviour changes.
So we'll be gathering a lot of data while people are playing, in the database, and then use that and then look at it. I think humanity needs to be a lot more subtle than it is now. And hopefully also with the introduction of this new antagonist — which is the environment, effectively, and your health — I think there's going to be a lot more reasons for people to interact. Not necessarily positively interact! But certainly neutrally.
Can we expect "random events" upon initial release of the Standalone? (Downed helicopters, Abandoned campsites, etc.)?
We're really reluctant to do that kind of stuff, what I far prefer is to create the tools for players to do their own thing. I think those kind of events are much more compelling than anything that we can come up with. So if we do that, I kind of feel like we've lost a bit. If we can't build the tools for the players to create their own events, then I guess we'd have to step in. But I'd say we'd kind of failed.
Is anything being done to increase disorientation?
Yeah! An example being, there's no UI. The only UI that's there is the quickbar. So, players receive their messages adventure-game style. At the moment it's text on the left, like you know, "You are recieve," "Your foot is sore," "You're bleeding," that kind of stuff. And there are some sound queues that go with it as well. The [goal] is to increase the sense of immersion and disorientation that goes with it. It's something that is kind of an aim that we'll keep going towards, it's not just something you do overnight.
Will zombies be enough of a threat that you will definitely have to team up with random people?
I think so, well, I think that zombies combined with this new antagonist, the environment, and your own body.. I think those things mean that there are important reasons to group together. So if you get sick, you're really going to need someone's health. There's so many items, already there's hundreds, that by the time we had have alpha there'll be thousands, and some of these items will be very important, so trading becomes very relevant because you're just never going to find all the stuff yourself. [There are advantages to working in a group] but they're not forced advantages.
"Why so many people are bandits: I think it's because they're bored, and there's nothing to do."
Will there be anything to balance out the clear advantage bandits have in the game?
Very good question. This is one of our big issues. So this is what we found, why so many people are bandits: I think it's because they're bored, and there's nothing to do. So I think that the game, this new antagonist, we're hopeful that that will have an impact on players' playstyle because they'll be forced to interact. Now, notice I didn't say forced to cooperate. Because I think that's a key difference. They'll be forced to interact, maybe on a neutral footing, so there'll be sort of these very high-tension trades occurring between groups of people.
Will colonization be possible, i.e. Eradicating zombies from a certain area and living there?
At the moment, yes. The way the zombie spawns work now is that they're all spawned at the start of a mission on a server. And then they respawn in a zone so long as there's no players in it. So if the player clears out, say, a village and and they stay where, then no zombies will spawn there. But — and this is a big caveat — zombies can rove around. So, particularly if you've fired a lot of ammunition or exploded something, zombies from a long way away may hear you and may come there in a big pack.
Will there be any form of barricade system to hold out inside buildings?
Just today, unfortunately we can't demo it because it's not configured, a system has been implemented that allows you to interact with the world. So picking up basically any object in game, and being able to move it around, and all that stuff. But it's not persistent past the server restart. We need to judge what we can store long-term.
Are we likely to see barricades on doors and windows to slow zombies and allow for temporary bases?
We want to do it, but there's an art impact to that. This is stuff we want to look at in the alpha; right now I would say vehicle customisation is far more important than barricades.
How many items (weapons, different type of food) will there be in the standalone game at release?
It depends on alpha. Alpha's not going to be held back to achieve a number, so the number I say here is more, what is the aim for what we have? And I would say thousands.
What options will be available for base building?
It's still TBA. What I want to do, in the game this is just designed, we haven't really done a lot of technical analysis here, is underground bases, instance-style. Like, you know how in Skyrim you go up to a grate and you hit "enter dungeon" and you go into a separate instance? So, do that, but have it Red Faction-style destructing the terrain to dig it out. That might be too much for multiplayer; if it is, we might go for more of a…have you played the game Evil Genius?
It's a little base-building game where you're an evil dude and you build a base. That style, isometric, create the base and then run around it in first-person.
Will there be any bullet penetration mechanics?
Yes. There already are, and it becomes a factor with kevlar vests, kevlar helmets, that kind of stuff.
How about walls and doors?
Yeah, it already does, but it requires configuring, so it's not configured… we gotta watch with firing through walls, because people generally expect that you can't, in a video game. But yeah, the engine supports it.
What are your plans for making the north more attractive?
Well, you can see out there [in the demo] we're actually redeveloping the north. So there's a whole bunch of new stuff in the north based on real-world stuff. Towns, roads, more stuff! We've got a full-time map-designer and that's his job.
Are you planning anything to prevent loot farming?
Yes. So, this isn't… it might be, but it probably isn't going to be in for alpha, or for the start of alpha, but we have a central server that we run that holds all your character information, we're also going to be adding another cluster of central servers that manage loot-spawns, and manage the economy. So they tell the servers what loot they can spawn, so we might say there can only be one can of Coke. Out of all the servers in the whole world. So we use that to manage the economy.
Is that how you could keep someone from farming loot and cheating, because you keep an eye on their character on your server?
Oh, like, server-hopping and that sort of stuff? That's one that we're going to deal with when we go to the alpha. Because again we need to see what the player behaviour is. Like, we can do what we did in the mod which is track the players who log in and log out. If they keep logging in and out of other servers a lot, we give them a warning, saying, you appear to be server-hopping. If you change servers now, you'll be locked out for five minutes.
That's probably what we're going to do. We need to get some data from alpha so we might have something very rudimentary or something that just warns you before we actually stop people getting out. Because the alpha is about testing.
"I'm very critical of melee, so I would say [melee combat will be] OK or bad. But it's gonna be way better than the mod."
Will the melee combat work great, good, ok, or just bad like it does in the mod?
I'm very critical of melee, so I would say OK or bad. But it's gonna be way better than the mod. We want to make melee really good, but there's a lot of limitations. Look, I may be wrong, but I think to manage expectations… I'm hopeful it's OK.
In what ways is it better than melee in the mod?
Well, it's purely custom designed. We're looking at options. We studied like, Chivalry, talked with the Chivalry guys and that kind of stuff. But there's a lot of animation stuff we need to deal with, too. Because it's an MMO, you have to make a lot of concessions. It's going to be reasonably rudimentary.
Will shooting at and hitting another persons gun break their weapon/scope/magazine?
Yes. Weapons are entities now, they're just like a vehicle, so they have their own damage and everything.
Will it be possible to damage other items by shooting them?
Maybe. Because to save performance, the server forgets about items that are on the ground. Because there's a hundred thousand items that spawn throughout the world. So, at the moment, it's a no, but it's something we might do. Like what we can do, for example, is, when someone fires a weapon, we can activate anything the bullet gets year. So there's an ability for us to do it, but whether we actually bother doing it for the alpha is a maybe.
Will there be high-tech army loot like night vision and sniper rifles?
Yes. But that's where this global economy comes in. There might only be like four thermal-scoped weapons… in fact, at the moment it's possibly unlikely there'll be any thermal weapons, just because we're not doing the thermal textures for a lot of stuff, just because it takes a lot of time. But high-scope, military weapons will be in there, but they'll be very rare spawns. And they'll be global loot spawns, so there'll only be a certain amount of them in the whole world.
Will the amount of gear you're carrying affect stamina and speed?
This is something we're going to do after we release the alpha. So for the moment the only restriction is gonna be how many slots do you have. But we're looking at playing with the idea of weight, and how it affects your character movement and all that. But we need to get player feedback on how the system currently works before we go and introduce another mechanic to it, because then it just becomes too confusing.
"You could add poison to a canteen bottle, and then give someone the canteen bottle, they don't know it's poisoned, and they could poison themselves."
How complex can crafting become?
Very complex. Crafting is going to be, I think, one of the cornerstones of the game. So, you can cook food, so you take your gas cooker, you put a gas canister on it, you get a mister and you put some baked beans in the mister and then you cook the baked beans. In the [first game], you placed a fire, then you just looked at it and [cooked food]. So there's a lot of, you could add poison to a canteen bottle, and then give someone the canteen bottle, they don't know it's poisoned, and they could poison themselves.
How will the degradation system work on backpacks and clothing?
It's still very much a work in progress with that. At the moment, it's purely going to be on the basis of, if you receive damage through that item, then it gets damaged. Like if someone shoots you and you're wearing a shirt, then that shirt is going to get damaged. Shoes are the first one we're doing, where the more you run around, the more damaged the shoes get, and you'll need to find new shoes. If that functionality works well, and we get good feedback, we'll probably extend that to other items.
Can you give us a ballpark on pricing?
No — the reason I say no is that I get really confused between all the currencies. So if I say 20 dollars, I can't remember whether that's 20 euro, 20 dollars, very confusing. But it's gonna be cheaper than Arma II. And it's going to start out very cheap with alpha, then ramp up. (Ed note: DayZ is going to be priced similarly to Minecraft, where players can pay less than the final retail price to opt into the alpha, then get the beta and full game when they're eventually released.)
Will user-created maps (Sahrani, Namalsk, Taviana) be ported in the future?
It's up to the map-makers as well, we're not the only ones who decide that. What I want to do is, have a combined approach where maybe Bohemia (Interactive) makes some maps, because I know there's guys at Bohemia who really want to, these guys love making maps. So they'd love to make a new one. But maybe we go to some of the community guys, give them resources and some training, and make some official boards or official maps. So I would say, yes, that's something we want to do. But we need to put structure around it, and we need to finish the very risky development side of it first.
There's a lot of stuff that needs to be added and changed in the maps at the moment, that need to be done.
So they could re-import the maps that exist into the new one. They'd have to re-do it?
If you wanted to take a DayZ mod map and put it in DayZ standalone, you'd need to do a bunch of stuff different for it to work with the new engine. It'd be better to wait until we finish developing that. Because otherwise you'd port them and then you'd have to port them again.
"So what I'd say to people is, if you don't like what you're seeing, don't buy the alpha. Wait until later in the alpha or the beta."
Last question: Anything general you'd like say to all the hardcore fans out there about the alpha, the standalone, etc.?
I think the biggest thing is, we're making, particularly for the alpha, it is for a hardcore group of people who really want to play it. So I'm sure you're familiar with Prison Architect. Same deal. Lot of people looked at the alpha, maybe they bought it, and were a little disappointed. It wasn't made for everybody. It was made for a group of people… like I played it, I thought this is great, this is gonna be really good, but I didn't play a lot in the first alpha.
So I think that's the track we're taking. So what I'd say to people is, if you don't like what you're seeing, don't buy the alpha. Wait until later in the alpha or the beta. Because let's face it, that helps us with the release by not having so many players, and [laughs] we get more money if they buy it in the beta or the retail! Everybody wins!
Thanks to Dean for taking the time to chat with me, and to Chad and everyone at the DayZ subreddit for the great questions!