Don't install DayZ. Go outside into the sunshine and enjoy life. Fill your lungs, breathe deeply and be happy that you avoided brutality of a zombie-filled, PvP ARMA II. It's tough, it's wholly unfair, it's incredibly buggy and the chances of you getting into a server are pretty low. Why is it tough to get a game? Because it's incredible: a mix of Stalker and ARMA II. While your eternal happiness depends on not playing it, you really should.
First up you need to own ARMA II: Combined Operations, that's both ARMA II and Operation Arrowhead. It's easy to find: the mod's so popular that it's launched Bohemia's mil-sim into the Steam top ten.
Whichever method you choose, you'll need to load Combined Operations at least once while running Steam as Administrator. Then, download and install Six Updater . It's a piece of software that automatically manages your ARMA II mods - once you've got it up and running, installing DayZ is as simple as choosing a server and waiting for the updater to pull down the necessary files. For more advanced instructions, check out the official guide to using Six Updater and the tool's documentation .
With both downloaded and installed, you'll need the mod files . You'll need all of these downloaded and extracted into the Operation Arrowhead folder. The file structure: x\Steam\steamapps\common\arma 2 operation arrowhead\@DayZ\AddOns. With the AddOns folder full of rotting zombie flesh, now it's time to tell Steam to launch the mod. Right click on - ARMA 2: Operation Arrowhead in the games list and select "Properties" then "Set Launch Options". In the box cut and paste this "-mod=@dayz -nosplash" without the quotations.
All set? Kiss your significant other goodbye. Launch Arrowhead in "Combined Operations" mode and be prepared to scan the largely unhelpful server browser for several minutes. You can prepare a little by setting the browser to search for "Dayz" in the mission section of the filter, and telling it to ignore full servers, but even that will mean you click on an apparently spacious server and find it actually full.
We've got our own UK-based DayZ server. If you want to chase Owen through the woods and steal his beans, this is your best opportunity to do so. The details are:
So I'll assume you've made it and you're in a server. Well done, and don't say I didn't warn you. You're alone, the controls are a bit Arma-ish (read: shoonky and unforgiving), you probably don't know where you are or where to go. Relax: these are normal feelings in the world of DayZ. Everybody hates their first hour in it. I did. You will. That guy over there certainly did. It's hard because the onus is on you: there's no missions other than to survive, no direction other than the one you choose. Decisions are tracked across all servers, so leaving one won't wipe the blood on your hands. Hell, you'll even respawn in the same position.
First I'd head into the options menu then "game options" and pull the "aiming deadzone" slider to zero. The zombies are speedy and run in zig-zags. With that done, familiaraise yourself with the controls: "Num Pad Enter" puts you in third-person, which I find invaluable when scanning the world for the undead. "Z", "X", and "C" select your stance. Enter brings up some contextual items, like Eat, Drink, Bandage, as well as interacting with things in the world like doors, loot stashes and dead bodies. To get out of that menu, hit the RMB. "F" cycles what your primary weapon is, swapping out the gun for a flare. "G" brings up the backpack, which is a confusing mess and I'll get back to it later.
On screen you can see some icons. The ones to worry about are Drink, Blood and Food: they'll flash red when you're short on each item. Food replenishes hunger, which sneaks down during the day, and blood with is lost through fighting. Drinking replenishes thirst. All this is in short supply, so only do them when the icons are flashing or you'll be wasting it. On the top right there's debug information. The most important thing here is the Zombie count: Chernarus is a big world, so actually the higher the better.
Game time corresponds to real-world time. I actually prefer walking at night, because you can make out people if they're firing guns or setting off flares a tad more easily. It does mean your sight is dismal, though.
So where are you and what do you need to do? I can't help you with the first as the game spawns you in a different location each time. It's always on the coast, and mostly towards the South. You might recognise a landmark, but generally picking a direction and walking in it is the best way to begin your adventure. Keep to a stroll, because excessive movement requires food. It's a world of meagre rationing, so you should search every building you're comfortable entering, but ensure your gun's drawn and you clear the area of any zombies before looting: you can hunt through bodies or stashes (piles of cans on the ground). It's no good: I'll have to talk about the backpack. When you search a stash, the menu that pops up actually has your rations on it as well as the stashes: the numbers on the right show what you have, and if there's anything worth collecting it'll appear on the left with a number. In order to transfer it to you, press the arrow on the right side and make sure the number has increased.
Only shoot if you have to. Now it's actually rather easy to avoid firing at the undead most of the time: if you can see zombies you can avoid them by crouch-walking and keeping your distance. They're attracted by noise and light, much like people are. If you make a lot of each, you'll be spotted.
People can either be wonderful or they can be assholes. Now the game tracks a certain assholish aspect, which is if you kill a few humans your character skin will be changed to “bandit”, so if someone appears and doesn't have a similar skin to you, you should be wary. In my experience it's 50/50, but if you meet up with someone and you don't recognise their name from the game's usually rather chatty chat channel, be wary. If you meet me, though, say “hi”. I'm mostly nice.
But be smart. If you see someone, keep track of them. Watch their movements. Don't stand in the light of a dropped flare, and don't be too chatty in global chat, especially if you find a decent stash. Everything is worth something to someone, and if they want it... there's no need to persuade or swap with you if they're quicker on the draw than you. And don't immediately assume people working in pairs of packs will be more trustworthy than those on their own. If you do get hurt, you'll need to bandage your wounds and take some morphine, to stop blood and shakes.
There's more, but this should cover your first experience. It's a game that's a much about discovering the mechanics as discovering the world. Right now it's so ridiculously popular that the servers are being hammered, so if you get into one that works treat it like a golden ticket: the average character lasts just over four hours before dying. Think you can beat that?
Check our our Day Z interview with the mod's creator here.