DayZ

The War Z announced: zombie survival shooter-MMO with strong parallels to Day Z

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Evan Lahti at

Well, that didn’t take long. Someone’s announced a persistent survival shooter-MMO set in a zombie apocalypse. It has permadeath (as an optional “Hardcore Mode”). It has PvP and PvZ folded into the same experience. It has a hunger mechanic. It has a dude in a baseball cap. The War Z is undeniably inspired by Day Z, one of the best things to happen on the PC this year. But before you load your cynicism guns with copycat bullets, I wonder: is that really a bad thing?

The War Z describes itself as a “Survival Horror MMO that immerses players in a zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic world in which a viral outbreak has decimated the human population leaving, in its wake, a nightmare of epic proportion.” It’ll be available unbelievably soon: Fall 2012 for $30 (coincidentally, the same price of Arma 2: Combined Operations), and it won’t carry a subscription fee.

The game's being developed by Hammerpoint Interactive, a new developer. According to Sergey Titov, Executive Producer, they began development last fall. "The major difference is that DayZ is a fantastic mod for a hardcore military simulation game," Hammerpoint Interactive Senior Game Designer Eric Nordin says in an interview with IGN about the game. "We are creating a standalone game, with the entire world designed around a zombie apocalypse, so that players feel completely immersed in that environment.

I'm not sure if that's the stance I'd fire a gun with.

Like Day Z, The War Z will integrate PvE with PvP.

Vehicles weren't mentioned in the press release, but here's one bowling over a stack of unpeople.

Here’s a breakdown of features, taken verbatim from the press release:

  • Big open worlds to explore between 200 to 400 square kilometers
  • Two modes of play: Normal and Hardcore
  • Combination of first-person and third-person perspectives
  • Meld of PvE (player versus environment) and PvP (player versus player)
  • Strong Role Playing Elements
  • Multiple playable characters with customizable features
  • Unique social elements, including bounties, help requests, trap setting, etc.
  • Safe settlements where players can purchase, sell and store items as well as post notes for other players
  • Dozens of unique skills that can be learned and improved
  • Up to 250 players per game server
  • New weapons and items become available as players explore the game world
  • Full developer support with regularly scheduled, free content updates
  • Dedicated public servers as well as private servers that can be completely self-managed in game client
  • Single purchase, downloadable client with ability to play full game without subscriptions or requiring in-game transactions

 
From this, I think it’s fair to speculate that The War Z won’t share Day Z’s emphasis on realism and experimentation. Some of its systems seem more in-line with what we’d expect from conventional RPGs or MMOs: a skill system, customizable characters, item selling, and bounty-setting, which I actually love the idea of (my death to Pokerguy33 in Day Z still goes unavenged). Promising larger player capacity than Day Z (although this is something the mod’s creator, Dean “Rocket” Hall, continues to pursue) is also something of a surprise, especially if The War Z will be able to accommodate all of those players in a single instance.

What’s totally unclear is what kind of shooter The War Z could be. The release makes no mention of real-life ballistics modeling or what form its combat mechanics will take, leaving me to imagine it might strive for accessibility.

Anyway, I know it's natural to express cynicism about developers pinching ideas—or whole concepts—from one another. And I’m in no way defending the breathtaking absence of originality put forth here, but I’m also not sure if copycatting is some inherent sin that we should condemn. To some extent, this is how genres are formed, and variations on Day Z’s wildly-successful concept were inevitable. We’re not living in an imaginary dimension where only one version of a thing can exist. The War Z will have a lot to live up to -- Arma carries a lot of inherent traits that lend itself to survival simulation, and not all of them are easily reproducible.

Registration for The War Z’s closed beta, beginning later this summer, is open on the The War Z website. (Man, that’s awkward to write. “The The War Z?” Yikes.)