The Survivor Complex DayZ Standalone Design Considerations Few development teams have the resources, vision, and talent required to venture into niche genres, but Bohemia Interactive Studios (BIS) has taken up the challenge. The DayZ mod for ARMAII is an impressive specimen of innovative design, commitment to principle, and community support. However, transforming the mod into a standalone, finished product is risky for both the developers and the players – the cacophony of community voices endangers core design principles while the legitimate concerns of BIS's customers cannot fall on deaf ears. Several salient issues must be addressed before realizing DayZ's remarkable potential. I. Nihilism By far, the DayZ mod's most unsustainable design flaw is its lack of persistent progression. Without any concrete progression, the game actually encourages its players to disassociate themselves from their characters, gear, vehicles, and teammates; the completeness of loss at death betrays any commitment to any facet of the game, but this more stems from a lack of depth than from poor design. Death and loss certainly have play a central role in DayZ. The mod is one of the few games capable of inducing powerful emotions like fear and guilt. It is critical that the game continues to evoke these feelings, but must do so in a way that doesn't send players back to nothing. Death in DayZ is axiomatic. The question is not if you will die, but simply when you will die. Stripping players of their progress after each fatality totally subverts the concept of a persistent world and simply discourages players from continuing to play. This issue is compounded by the frailty of the players. Make no mistake, DayZ needs every bullet to carry death with it – the deadliness of a single shot from even rudimentary weapons is a great equalizer that prevents massive differentiation in the player base and also creates the “ The plea, suspense so unique to DayZ's however, is combat. It is imperative to maintain this frailness of mortality, but it's a simply to give concept that conflicts with total players a loss. The commitment and reason to live investment players want to make is eroded by mechanics that strip them after death. ” of all progress. Introducing concrete progression that persists after death supports the foundation of the permanent player bases, complex communities, and intricate social networks that require stability and persistence.
This is not to say that the BIS intentionally designed a game that reflects the fate of Sisyphus; the DayZ mod simply hasn't had the opportunity to sit down and plan out their concept of equity. What are the players going to invest their time in and why? The effects of adjusting these mechanics can already be seen in mods like Mod Origins, which has seen anomylous rise in communities since the introduction of persistent player housing. Even something as simple as allowing players to safely store equipment has a dramatic effect on the complexity of player's social interaction. There are a plethora of ideas and opinions on the subject, ranging from players crafting bandages, ammunition, food, et cetera to players incrementally improving skills through various activities. The plea, however, is simply to give players a reason to live after death. II. The Enemy of My Enemy Currently, there is no common enemy in DayZ. Non-player characters (NPCs) are little more than scenery – a backdrop for player-versus-player (PvP) combat. This poses two issues that threaten the mod's sustainability: (1) The lack of a credible common enemy creates a selfdestructive environment. (2) The only rewarding activity true to the first-personshooter (FPS) genre is PvP. DayZ's zombie apocalypse is unlike any portrayed the books, films, stories, or graphic novels that shape players' view of the survival-horror genre in that players rarely ever kill zombies. In fact, a zombie in DayZ is far safer than its kin in The Walking Dead who actually pose a credible threat to survivors. The simple tameness of the enemy subverts the suspense of disbelief and drives players to hunt a more dangerous game. Introducing a real adversary besides their fellow man would render an enthralling survival-horror atmosphere and help abate the wanton murder that sabotages serious and complex gameplay. Second, in the heart of DayZ's zombie survival genre is a first-person-shooter, but in an odd twist, DayZ punishes players for shooting zombies. Perhaps 'punishes' is a strong word, but a few things are certain: there is no incentive to shoot a zombie - they yield no equipment to speak of, killing them wastes ammunition, and the combat attracts more zombies (who also have no loot) and hostile players. Some critics of this criticism claim that DayZ reflects reality in this way, but fail to see that by turning players' ire away from the zombies, they pit players against each other. It's very simple: players want to shoot things – let them shoot zombies. This is in no way disparaging the role of PvP in DayZ; it has been well established that other players create intensity and suspense that is impossible to fabricate, but give players an opportunity and incentive to
engage enemies that aren't each other. One very promising opportunity to implement this principle is using instances that hold both danger and reward. First and foremost, this idea aligns well with the DayZ team's vision of instanced housing, and thus should not be “ Players particularly difficult to implement. want to Randomly placed instances reward shoot players for exploring and depending on things – let the instance, offers rewards for banding together and defeating the horde. them shoot Survivors could find an entrance to an zombies. ” abandoned bunker, gather a few friends (or enemies) and fight their way into the belly of a military complex. Perhaps an aircraft carrier is spotted off the coast and a group of survivors board the ship to find it overrun, but imagine way lays inside. This kind of incentive contrasts with the current 'get in, get out' style of gameplay that, while having a role in the game, does not by itself realize DayZ's full potential. III. Phemodenons The DayZ team has been blessed with a very precious development resource: mods. While some DayZ mods have dropped into obscurity, others have become incredibly successful, highlighting features the community values. Popular features include Breaking Point's chilling new atmospheres and Mod Origins' player housing, not to mention the dynamic helicopter crashes and new types of adversaries. These mods not only maintain the playerbase during DayZ's development, but also constantly reveal new opportunities in features and game mechanics. Ignoring the success of these mods would absolutely be a mistake. Where players invest their time is the best metric for features that will contribute to DayZ's success and sustainability – much more so than fickle and tumultuous polls, threads, and forums. These mechanisms still have utility, but don't communicate the success and sustainability of new features nearly as well. IV. The Greatest Form of Flattery Dean “Rocket” Hall has often spoken very highly of the popular space-themed MMO EVE Online (EVE). Complexity sans imposition is the phenomenon that propelled this game into greatness. The lesson learned: allowing players to define their own rules in a vacuum of structure both intrigues and captures players. The DayZ team has overtly expressed their interest in this phenomenon, but have never addressed the wide chasms that separate EVE from DayZ. Most importantly, CCP (the team behind EVE) provides EVE players with the tools to establish such an architecture. An elementary example of EVE's superior playground toolset is its robust 'corporation' system. By establishing persistent and clear teams, players can grow not just fighting forces, but the communities that become
the driving force of the game. This is a stark contrast to the DayZ mod that people play today. A 'team' in DayZ is often a loosely connected squad of individuals that band together despite the DayZ mod. With absolutely no mechanism supporting team play, players must undergo undue hardship just to effectively cooperate with another player, much less establish the long-term teams it takes to seed the kind of player-driven 'factions' or 'alliances' in EVE. The lack of team / squad / guild /outfit / alliance tools in DayZ always makes it easier to just pull the trigger, and it shows. DayZ will live and die by its community; it is imperative that the playerbase has the tools to cultivate that community. V. Closing Remarks Dean Hall, the DayZ team, and BIS have created something truly remarkable. With the support of the game's community and fans the world over, DayZ has the potential to become something very special; something the world has never seen. Addressing the aforementioned issues will create immense opportunities for both players and developers. Perhaps one day, after much thought and hard work, DayZ will be the masterpiece it strives toward.
will live and die by its community.”