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Thursday, 24 May 2012

DayZ - How to play

Okay, so you've got the mod installed, you've managed to connect to a server. So just how do you play DayZ?

DayZ is a mod for ArmA 2 which is a complex military simulator with a horrible control system because it's trying to cater to every eventuality. There is a PDF manual in the Operation Arrowhead folder, but that'll only take you so far. Read on to find out a bit more.

Once you've read this article, there's also:
How to install DayZ (with ArmA 2 Free, Operation Arrowhead or Combined Ops)
DayZ - How to get on a server
DayZ - how to stay alive for more than five minutes
DayZ offline single player / practice / training / (not really) cheating

Article updated 7th July 2012.


First person view, looking down the iron sights
Third person view
You can switch to third person view by using Enter on the numeric keypad. Note that some servers block third person view and (you can usually identify this by them having Expert, Veteran or Hardcore in the server name).



Crouching - the difference is more obvious when you're moving

Another player crouching

Prone / crawling
Use Z (standing) X (crouching) and C (prone) to change stance. Note the ear and eye icons on the right of the screen. They show how visible and audible you are to zombies.

You can also press V to vault over some obstacles (like low fences). All your stances lie in a strip on the bottom left of your keyboard. Z, X, C & V


Two players crouch running
You move around with the standard W, S, A & D keys. By default you run. You can hold Shift to walk or double-tap Shift to toggle between running and walking. Running is noisier and more visible, so save it for when you're not close to zombies. I tend to leave the game on running by default and I hold shift to walk. If something happens from which I need to run (and that happens often), I prefer to have the minimum number keys to press; easier to let go of one than try to find another when I'm in a panic.

Note that other players will be able to see and hear you much more easily than will zombies.


The inventory
Managing your inventory and understanding how it works is a big (and needlessly shonky) part of the game.

Press G (gear) to open your inventory and it'll look something like on the screen above. I've got much different kit to what you'll start with, so don't expect yours to look exactly the same. You begin with some morphine, painkillers, bandages, a Makarov pistol, some ammo, a water bottle and a couple of tins of food. You now begin with hardly anything, just a torch, a bandage and some painkillers. You still have the Coyote patrol backpack, but you have no weapon at all.

You're wearing a combat vest which has a number of pockets, but the pockets are specialised, which is to say that you only have a certain number of ammo pouches, general pockets, etc. You cannot alter this.

This is the pistol section of the inventory. That's a G17 pistol. Only a pistol can go in the pistol slot and you can only have one. Note the eight slots to the right of it. These slots hold your pistol ammo (you'll have several mags to begin with), but they can also hold other things too. In the example above, I've got four clips of G17 ammo and two bandages, so I can only pick up another two bandages or two pistol clips before I'll have to drop something. And when you try to pick up stuff when you don't have a free slot, the game will drop existing things on the ground. And if that happens, they'll disappear and you won't be able to pick them up again so don't get it wrong.

The twelve slots below the pistol inventory section are for general camping equipment. Yours will all be empty to begin with. As you can see, I've got a map (not very useful), some matches (for lighting campfires), a hunting knife (for gutting animals for meat) and a watch. If I find a compass, it'll appear in one of those slots. Those twelve slots are pretty generous and I've never come close to filling them all.

This is the rifle inventory. My assault rifle has a slot of its own and there are twelve slots next to it. Two of mine are blanked out because that green tube (a tent) takes up three slots so the to next to it are unavailable. Those twelve slots hold your rifle ammo, food, medical supplies, grenades (rare) and pretty much everything that the pistol inventory doesn't hold. To begin with, almost everything you find will go here. You might also notice that below my gun is a rucksack. You also have a rucksack to begin with - more on that later.

Looking down my inventory list, you can see various items and a number next to them on the right. I've got a can of pasta selected and you'll notice that there are little arrows on either end of the highlight bar. Clicking the arrow on the left will drop the item on the ground.

Now that I've clicked on the left arrow, notice that the 1 figure on the right has disappeared and there's now a 1 on the right. You'll also notice that the pasta icon from my rifle inventory has disappeared. The can of pasta is now on the ground. I can pick it up again by clicking on the right arrow (a 1 will appear on the right and I'll see the icon in my rifle inventory).

I've quit the inventory (G to close or click the Close button). There's the can of pasta on the ground. You'll just be able to see under my crosshair that there's another icon with a picture of a rifle with a couple of arrows. This will appear when you're pointing at something you can pick up. Just press G and you'll go into the inventory and be able to pick it up by clicking on the arrows just as we did when dropping something. Make sure you have space before picking something up - if you don't, the game will make room by discarding something and you won't be able to pick that back up. I cannot emphasise this enough; it's one of the biggest problems encountered by new players. You're always better moving a few steps away and dropping an item before picking something else up that might replace it.

The horrors of the inventory aren't over yet. Remember rucksacks / backpacks?

I've pressed G to open my inventory again and I've scrolled down to the bottom of the list. I've click on my ALICE pack. You'll have a different backpack to begin with, but they all work the same way. You might notice that there's an extra button down on the bottom now marked Open bag. Click on it and your backpack will open.

Okay so that's the backpack open. In the top left corner you'll see that it says ALICE pack (9/20) - that means I have nine spaces available out of twenty. You'll also see that there's a column of numbers to the left of my kit - these are the items in my backpack. I click the left and right arrows to move things in and out of my pack just as we did earlier to pick up and drop things.

I've highlighted cans of Pepsi. I've got four in my rucksack.

I clicked the right arrow and one of the cans moved to my combat vest and I can see the can in my rifle inventory. Once again, you must make sure you have space to put stuff in as the game will discard things to make room and you won't be able to pick them up again. Once you're finished mucking around with your rucksack contents, you can click the Close bag button.

I find that there are sometimes problems if you try to play with your rucksack when standing beside stuff on the ground. It's always best to move a couple of steps away before opening your bag. I think it's possible to pick things up and directly place them in your rucksack, but I don't recommend trying as the game's buggy enough that this could be a problem.

Note that some items take more than one slot, some considerably more. For instance, a pistol takes up four rucksack slots and, when you attempt to put one in there, the game will also try to put all the ammo for it in there too - anything that doesn't fit will vanish forever. A rifle or shotgun will take up a whopping ten slots of a backpack which is bigger than the rucksack you start with.

When you find another backpack, there's an option to pick it up. This will automatically drop the one you're carrying and won't transfer your stuff across. So you'll have to go through the tedium of crouching over it and picking everything up one at a time. Not a good thing to do when zombies are close or shots are going off.

I recommend dropping the backpack you're carrying before picking up another. There shouldn't be any problem with swapping them over, but sometimes a bug in the game can cause your current backpack to disappear when you swap over.

UPDATE: Since some item activation has been moved from the mousewheel menu to the inventory. To use most items you now do so in the inventory by right clicking on them. In the above screenshot you can see that I've right-clicked on a can of sardines and have the option to Eat Food. For some players this is a welcome change as they sometimes select the wrong thing in the mousewheel menu, but other find it a pest as you have to click a bit more.

Note that you can now consume items that you don't need to. For instance, you can take painkillers when you're not in pain, bandage yourself when you're not bleeding, etc. So you now need to be a bit more careful about what you click on.

The mousewheel menu

There's an extra menu system that you need to know about and it can be accessed in two ways: either through the mousewheel or by using the square brackets. I thoroughly recommend avoiding the mousewheel. It's a bit imprecise and it's easy to choose the wrong thing.

You won't see all these options since 1.5.8

Press one of the square brackets and various options are presented. Scroll through the options with either the mousewheel or the square brackets keys and then hit Return on the one you want to perform. Firstly, you can change to another weapon (if you have one and it's not in your backpack). I also have the option to eat food (it only appears if you have food handy). There's also the option to drink water (this includes Coke and Pepsi), but as mine is in my backpack, I don't get the option. I can make a fireplace (because I found some matches) and I have the option to pitch a tent (likewise).

If you're hurt and bleeding, you'll need to apply a bandage and the option will be in this menu too, but it only appears if you're bleeding. The options for using painkillers and morphine work in the same way. If you're hurt and shaking badly, painkillers will stop that. If you've broken a limb (surprisingly easy to do by stepping off ramps and ladders) then morphine will magically solve that.

It's also this menu that you need use to use when picking up new backpacks.

UPDATE: The latest version ( has changed the way that some items work. Although you still use the mousewheel or square brackets for some things, for other things like eating food, drinking, applying bandages and other stuff you now do this in the inventory menu. See the inventory section above for more details on that.

The icon strip

The icon strip gives you information about your character's status. When things are good, an icon is bright green, but it gets redder as the situation worsens, eventually flashing red when things are critical. The first icon isn't used (yet) and I don't know what it's for - probably your humanity, but that's a guess (more on humanity later). The humanity icon is no longer visible so you won't have that on your screen. There is still humanity in the game, but it's a lot more subtle. If someone has low humanity (because they've murdered other players), you will hear a heartbeat when you look at them (you need to be quite close). The faster the heartbeat, the lower their humanity - and thus the more people they have murdered.

1.5.8 introduced the use of the temperature icon. Being outside in the rain or wind will lead to your temperature dropping and going swimming will induce a large loss of heat. You can regain heat slowly by sheltering indoors. You'll regain a large amount if you light a fire (requires matches and now also wood). You can potentially catch a cold when your temperature drops. You'll know this has happened because your character will begin coughing regularly. Your blood will also start to fall, but it won't go below 6,000. Antibiotics will cure your infection - they can only be found in hospitals and are quite rare.

The third icon is your hydration level. When it gets low you need to drink water. It appears that your movement speed is reduced when you're thirsty and long runs will deplete it quickly. I usually wait until mine is blinking red before I drink. Coke and Pepsi are relatively plentiful, but water bottles are usually found empty. You can refill water bottles by swimming in water (not recommended as there's a high chance you'll drop all your stuff) or at water pumps (I've only ever seen one). More on water management in tomorrow's article.

The next icon down shows your blood level. Effectively your blood is your health. It doesn't regenerate but you can recover some (not much) by eating food or a bit more by hunting, gutting and cooking an animal (requires a hunting knife and matches - rare items). The only other way is to use blood packs (which can be found in hospitals), but you can't apply them to yourself so you need another player to apply them for you.

Not the best time to start fainting
If your blood level gets too low, your vision starts fading to grey. I don't know the exact level it happens as the effect is quite subtle, but in the picture above my blood level is around 5,300. If your blood gets much lower, you start falling over unconscious. This is especially bad as you can't move until you revive a bit. An hourglass appears on the screen and slowly drains. When it gets to the bottom you'll be able to stand up again, but if you're in a fight that's not likely to happen. I found that when my blood level was down around 2,000 or so that I started fainting. Another player can revive you instantly by jabbing you with an epipen, but those are relatively rare items.

If you're in a scrap with some zombies and you start bleeding, your blood level will fall to the point where you're falling unconscious and then dying, but it takes a few seconds to apply a bandage so you need a bit of breathing room in which to safely apply it.

The last icon is food and it works in just the same way as the water. When it gets low, eat some food. Tins of food will also regain 200 blood whereas meat cooked over a fire will regenerate 800 blood.

The debug monitor

The debug monitor gives you more game information. Don't expect it to always be there - chances are it'll be removed when the mod is a bit more stable. Although it tells you how many zombies you've killed, this isn't anything to boast about. My one here shows 49 zombies wasted and that's after about fourteen hours of playing. It was at 21 just a couple of hours earlier but a friend and I got into a bit of a situation where we had lots of zombies chasing us and we had to blaze away at them. You can get through the game without killing any zombies at all and killing one often leads to others coming for you. The headshots number is self-explanatory.

The next thing is a little odd: murders. This is the number of players you've killed without being fired upon first. Every time you do this, it alters your humanity. I'll skip ahead a little and explain humanity. You start with 2,500 but every time you murder someone your humanity level drops. Kill enough people and your humanity drops to zero and you become a bandit.

Dead bandit spurting blood out of his arse - he'll not be messing with us again. Unless he respawns and messes with us
Bandits are players who have killed a number of other player in situations that were not self-defence. At the moment, if you're a bandit, your character skin will change to the one in the picture above. Most players will shoot bandits on sight, so there's that too. Bandit skins are going to be removed in the next update which is going to make encounters with other players even more tense.

You can regain humanity by helping other players in certain ways. I gained 20 points (yes, just 20) for bandaging another player. I got another 50 for injecting them with morphine. So it's a long journey back to righteousness...

UPDATE: The 1.5.8 update changed some things. You will no longer see the Unsaved line in the debug monitor window. It doesn't mean much to players anyway, but it's now gone and everything gets saved when you exit a server anyway.

That's about all there is to playing. There are a few features I haven't detailed here, but they won't matter until you're much further into the game. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll try to answer.

Come back tomorrow for tips on staying alive for more than five minutes.


  1. I am currently playing version 1.7 and there is no humanity level anymore, instead there is a face icon. The face looks normal when you spawn but if you kill someone it looks evil.

  2. you no longer get makarov food waterbottle or morphine
    you cant see your humanity at all

    1. That's a good point. I'll update the guide.

    2. Is there anyway to pick up weapons to put in backpack in the most recent patch, because I'm been seeing weapons just disappear on me.

    3. You can still put weapons in the backpack, but they take up quite a few spaces. Pistols use five backpack spaces whereas rifles and shotguns take up ten, plus the ammunition. So if you have the starting backpack, the Coyote patrol pack, with its eight slots and you try to put a shotgun in there, it won't fit and will just disappear. A pistol and its ammo will just fit in there if your backpack is otherwise almost empty.

      To successfully carry around weapons in a backpack, generally requires that you find a bigger backpack.

    4. I forgot to say it was a pistol, and i had the room, but I find out changing servers fixed the issue of the gun disappearing instead of going into the bag. Thought it's funny how so many servers are still running on the earlier versions, and I was running the updated version, and was on it.

      I wondering are they planning on having the game allow two, or more friends spawn near each other?

    5. Ah, it's best to stay on servers that run the same version as you. Still, I'm glad to hear that's solved.

      Rocket has said that the game will be changing the spawning system. At the moment, when you spawn, it can be anywhere along the south coast (and to some extent the east coast). When you first spawn in, the game will actually say in the bottom right corner of the screen where you are. You can then just hit respawn and die and try spawning again until you're close to your friend. However, these respawns put strain on the servers, so Rocket has suggested that in the next patch (due any day now), the respawn button will be disabled. He's looking at an option to allow you to choose roughly where you spawn.

    6. Thanks for the info. Never used respawn while alive, but on accident, because I remember it was use to re-spawn a new you before a certain date. Otherwise, I never use it, because it takes away to me. I remember it cause me to load in the middle of debug forest, and I made it back to civilization, but then killed over from blood lose.

      I think they should add a friend system so that you can sort of lock yourself with someone that is a friend, but "once you find" them it's not bad.

      Is all veteran the same, because my friend can't play in first-person, because he'll get physically sick while playing?

    7. A friend system would be good and Rocket is definitely going to change the spawning system, so that may well happen.

      "Veteran" is a description of the server difficulty settings, but servers may vary those beyond the defaults.

      Regular means third person view, aiming cross-hairs and name-tags
      Veteran means third person view, aiming cross-hairs, but no name-tags
      Expert means no third person view, no aiming cross-hairs and no name-tags.

      But servers may disable certain things beyond that. You will find Veteran servers with no third person view for example. Usually servers will say something in their name about this. Generally, third person view is available on all except Expert servers.

    8. Yeah never seen a vet server with third person.

      I hoping to jump on a vet that has no tags, but with third person. The more I learn from you, and all the more I want to play with you. I ended saving my buddy near cherno yesterday, but while helping my friend I got sniped by someone, and it was weird I think he was type in Russian before he killed me. I think he might of been searching for me with the tag wheel indicator.

    9. Are you by chance getting artifacts, or graphical glitches cause by either broken vehicle, or dead prop bodies.

  3. I just started this game and I'm so confused. I found a backpack inside of a toilet, but I couldn't look into it. This guide says there's mouse scroll menus for looting, but scrolling does nothing for me.

    1. Toilets are very annoying places to try and pick up items. The game is so concerned with displaying the icon for opening and closing the door, that there's only a tiny area by which you can stand for the loot menu to be able to come up. I find that if you point at where the toilet meets the floor you can get the menu up, but it's really tricky and annoying to do and you could be there for ages trying...

  4. How do I equip items? Your guide has literally 12 paragraphs on inventory, but nothing on how to just equip a knife. I found one, and died while spending 20 minutes trying to f'ing equip the thing.

    The inventory system ruins this game for sure.

    1. You can't equip a knife. The hunting knife is just for gutting animals that you've killed. Approach a dead animal and you'll find "Gut animal" on the corpse and it'll slice it up and make raw meat available. You can then build a fire (if you have matches and wood) to cook that meat into something you can eat.

      The only 'utility' item that you can use as a weapon is the axe. You right-click on it and select "remove from toolbelt" and it'll be placed in your hand. You can then go around hitting people and zombies with it. (Note: you may, rather nonsensically, have to 'reload' the axe before use).

      To be honest, it does seems a little silly that you have a knife, but can't use it for fighting.

  5. Recently, when i join a game on any server, all I see when I'm actually in control is a big expanse of totally barren land, and I am left with only the pack with none of the equipment I gathered. I'm not sure if it just has not updated, which it should be, but is their another way to update DayZ? I am currently using the Six Launcher program.

    1. Shit, that's not good. You're in the debug forest/wilderness/plains. This is an area off the map where your character actually spawns during the loading screens - it's when the screen is black, so you're never supposed to see it. Once your real location data is loaded in (during the "Waiting for character data" screen), your character is teleported over to there.

      You ought never to see the debug area, but it happens when your location data gets corrupted. With the latest updates there have been quite a few people ending up in your situation. Chances are you're screwed. It is possible to run out of there by heading east or south east, but it's a long, long way back. You'll be running for the best part of at least 30 minutes over featureless landscapes. Your best option is, sadly, to kill yourself - select "Respawn" on the in-game menu and you'll die and be able to restart at the coast, but with the default kit.

      I'm sorry I don't have better news for you, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing you can do to sort this without dying.

  6. nice nice GOOD JOB !

  7. I tried running away from shore. Somehow I ended up running until I died without seeing anything!

  8. i keep dying before i find any weapon to use :(

    1. Don't worry too much about finding weapons too early on. Get inland where you're safer and look through smaller towns or deer stands. You'll soon get armed up.

  9. give another download link i dont want to pay to download it

    1. Maybe you don't want to pay, but that's pretty much the only way you can play it. Your CD key is lodged on the central database, so you can't play online with a dodgy copy. There are cracked servers out there that don't check your CD key, but then you're restricted to only playing on that server. You can also play single player with a dodgy copy. But you cannot and never will be able to play normal DayZ without paying some money.

    2. Someday.. never say never.