One day last week I became curious about how development of DayZ was coming along—despite the game being near and dear to my heart, it's sort of slipped off my radar recently—and wouldn't you know it, the developers hosted a livestream on that very same day. During the stream, they demonstrated and discussed some of the changes that will be coming to the open-world multiplayer survival game in version 0.63.
A few minutes into the stream, however, the devs broke my heart by showing off a new sprint meter. I should explain that I have a bit of a problem with sprint meters in open world games, so much so that I once griped about them at length. I know it's not realistic for characters to be able to run endlessly, but I think every player has a different line where realism begins to interfere with enjoyment. For me, that line is squarely on the sprint meter. I hate them. I think slowing players down is anti-fun. I even lauded DayZ in that very article for not having one:
"...I fondly recall that [DayZ] let me run at top speed across the map for as long as I liked. At the same time, it didn’t treat me as superhuman. After a long run, it would take some time to have steady aim because my character was out of breath. This system allowed me to get where I wanted to go as fast as I could, but when I got there I’d have to deal with the consequences of my marathon."
I guess I'll have to revise that article once the new meter appears in the game. You can see a recording of the developer stream below, with the sprint meter discussion beginning around three minutes in, followed by two hours of them talking about other new features that I didn't watch because I was so upset about the sprint meter.
I should probably note that I no longer play DayZ, because I once wrote an article for Rock Paper Shotgun with the premise that I would play the game using not just permadeath but perma-permadeath, meaning that if my character died during that session, I would never play it again in my actual lifetime. Naturally, I died more or less immediately and have done my best to honor my incredibly stupid promise: apart from taking video of myself chopping down a tree for this piece, and one other time to get a specific screenshot of something, I haven't played DayZ since.
That essentially means I have absolutely no stake in whether or not DayZ has a sprint meter. But I love DayZ and I hate sprint meters, so I did what I always do when I have a question about DayZ: I sent a message to DayZ's creative director, Brian Hicks, on Twitter. Technically, I just started wailing like an infant.
Thankfully, Mr. Hicks can recognize a professionally phrased and well-thought out query (three frowny faces is an industry standard for signaling deep concern), and was nice enough to answer my questions about the sprint meter in DayZ. (My first question was literally "NOOOOO WHYYYYYY." I'm not joking, that's what it was. I am a giant baby.)
After hearing Hicks' reasoning for adding the sprint meter, I definitely understand what the devs are thinking, yet I still can't quite get on board with the idea.
The logic boils down to a few points.
Running speed in DayZ is already very fast
When compared to the DayZ mod, the running speed in standalone DayZ is almost twice as fast, according to Hicks. He also explained that jogging (which doesn't drain your sprint meter) is still pretty fast, too:
"...while at first blush you might think [the sprint meter] will be a pain," Hicks wrote, "in reality the jog speed (what you slow down to after depleting stamina while doing a dead sprint) is actually still pretty quick."
I guess my counter-argument here isn't a great one, but here it is anyway: I like how fast the running speed is. And, as fast as it is, it still feels like it takes a long time to get from place to place because the map is so darn large.
Sprinting is meant for escaping
"The stamina bar is essentially a resource you can burn through when you need to escape quickly," wrote Hicks. "Much like in real life per say—when that sucker is full and you run you'll be doing a flat out sprint—when it's depleted, you are doing a jog (which again is actually pretty quick and I believe fairly close to the DayZ mod's default run speed)."
That's fine, but I feel like when running around in a game, I'm typically going to want to be running as fast as possible at all times. In Skyrim, in Far Cry, in pretty much anything, really: if I'm moving, it's going to be at top speed. Always. A sprint meter isn't something I will save up for certain situations, which is why I prefer there to be no meter at all.
They want you to manage the weight of your gear
"In addition," Hicks wrote, "we wanted weight to be a consideration (but not a huge thing you have to micromanage). So, the stamina bar capacity is affected by how much you are carrying. Someone who selects a light kit obviously has more stamina than say someone who has a big ass coyote pack full of beans."
Again, I feel like DayZ already did a pretty good job making you deliberate over what to carry and what to leave behind. It's got a pretty restrictive inventory, especially at the start of a new character, and even later with some of the bigger packs. Inventory management, even though it wasn't based on weight, almost felt like it was because you couldn't really carry much until you were completely kitted out with packs and vests and stuff, and even then I found myself spending a lot of time mulling over what to take and what to ditch.
They want you to be careful
Hicks continued: "And of course, soft skills and more careful decisions with your character being intended to give more value to the character itself so players don't just give up and respawn when someone takes their loot from them."
I feel like making careful decisions was already pretty adequately handled by DayZ, because it was DayZ, a game where you can be shot dead in an instant, or captured and tortured, or stripped of all your possessions and have to start over from scratch after hours of progress. Are people not careful? I'm careful. Except for that one time I really needed to be careful, I'm always careful.
Modders may be able to disable it
"Also," Hicks wrote, "keep in mind a couple factors: 1) Our modding support is very low level. Mod authors should be able to disable this should they choose 2) This isn't final, obviously. The team will be keeping a close eye on how it is received. 3) Even I was skeptical of implementing stamina—but I can genuinely say I have had fun with it in. "
Despite all the solid reasoning, I have trouble imagining a sprint meter being fun. Perhaps tolerable, but not fun. Still, points one and two made me feel a little better about the whole thing. Maybe there are some players who really like the idea of a sprint meter being something you have to manage. Maybe (almost certainly) not everyone is as opposed to them as I am. Maybe I'm making a bigger deal out of it than it warrants. Maybe it'll be just fine. And if it's not, maybe it can be modded out by someone who agrees with me. I can live with that.