DayZ Diaries: the one where Andy wonders what's next
Every week, DayZ Diaries recounts Andy's adventures in post-apocalyptic survival sim DayZ, where beans and friends are frequently in short supply. This week, Andy looks to the future of DayZ.
I’ve logged 98 hours in the DayZ alpha since it was released in December, and I think I’ve finally bled it dry. When I start a new life I have a routine. I hit the nearest town to my spawn point, scavenge as much food and drink as I can, then head inland. Here I pick the towns that everyone ignores clean until I have a backpack, a fire axe, and maybe a weapon if I’m lucky. Then I’ll hit an airfield or military base and, providing I survive, pick up a tactical vest, ammo, weapon attachments, and other military gear. I’m so familiar with the map now that I can do this in as little as an hour. Then I reach the point that every geared player in DayZ has experienced at least once: what do I do now?
This is a common question on Reddit and the DayZ forums, and the responses are always the same. Use your imagination. Get into adventures. Meet people. I agree, because this is a true sandbox game in which you have to set your own objectives, but the hurdle here is other people. Whenever I head to the coast after gearing up to help bambis or interact with other players, I’m usually attacked or killed on sight before anything interesting happens. It’s difficult to use your imagination when trigger happy bandits have none of their own. Stories seem increasingly hard to come by in Chernarus these days.
But it’s an alpha, and far from content complete. It’s incredible that I’ve managed to squeeze almost a hundred hours out of something that’s barely finished and incredibly broken. Bohemia have big ideas about the future of the game, including hunting, player-made structures, underground bases, and even laboratories for researching a cure for the virus. Yes, really. You can read about all of this, and more, in our latest issue. Some of this probably won’t make it into the game, but whatever does is all leading to one important goal: giving DayZ a legitimate endgame. Then players will have something to strive for other than finding an M4 as quickly as possible and shooting new spawns with it.
When I think about DayZ’s future, I imagine groups of players working together and establishing Mad Max-style shanty towns in the wilderness. Bandits will attack in vehicles they’ve salvaged, and the inhabitants will have to take up arms and defend their homes. Hunters will leave the safety of the town on horseback with bows and rifles to hunt deer, but could be ambushed by hungry bandits and never return. Communities could form alliances with their neighbours, or even go to war with them over limited resources. What we see in DayZ now is only a fragment of its potential.
I’d also like to see more story elements in the world. The Green Mountain radio transmissions in the mod were an enticing glimpse at the events behind the fall of Chernarus. Narrative should never be at the forefront of DayZ, but I’d like to see subtle details in the environment, and maybe things like audio logs and notes, that add a little more colour and detail to the setting. The crashed plane in Chernogorsk and moored cargo ship on the eastern coast are a step in the right direction, because you feel yourself making up your own tales about what could have happened to them. Chernarus is already a rich, atmospheric setting, but I want to know more about its past, and what caused the outbreak.
Of course, for now, this is all just a distant dream. Similar ideas are no doubt scribbled on notepads and whiteboards all over Bohemia’s offices. I’m confident they’ll take the game in the right direction, even when Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall eventually departs. He said in a recent Edge interview that there’ll be a time when he moves on to do other things, but that development of DayZ will continue without him. The Early Access release has been an incredible success, with 1.5 million survivors to date, so it’ll be around for a long time, mutating and evolving with each update. For now, though, I feel like I’m close to reaching the limits of what DayZ has to offer, at least in its current form.