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Monday, 21 May 2012

DayZ - Our story

DayZ is not an easy game. That little image below is from its homepage. Despite being a sandbox game set on a very large map, your average life expectancy is 29 minutes. Some players survive for days, so that 29 minutes is a bit on the generous side when it comes to new players.

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
How to play
How to stay alive for more than five minutes

The first thing to point out is that it's not a standalone game at all - it's a mod. You need to have ArmA 2 Operation Arrowhead and another ArmA 2 game in order to get it. This is why ArmA 2 has suddenly shot to the top of the Steam charts despite being three years old. I'll post an article on how to get it and install it tomorrow.

The zombie apocalypse has happened. You're a lone survivor standing on the coastline of Chernarus, a fictional East European landscape based on the Czech Republic. You have a little water, some food, a pistol and very limited ammunition. You don't have a map and you don't know where you are. Zombies will be shambling around nearby, but if they see (or hear) you, they'll run towards you, keen to munch on your tasty brains. By scouting around, you may be able to find better equipment. And you will encounter other players - this is an online multiplayer game - and they may or may not be friendly. Oh and it's real-time... which means eight real hours of darkness every night.

There are no set goals, no achievements and nothing to guide your way. You decide what you want to do and how you want to do it. When you encounter another player, do you shoot them and steal their stuff? Or do you team up to help each other. It's pretty tense stuff even though you'll spend most of your time just running and walking over the vast distances. Someone described it as being like a Kenyan marathon runner simulation and they're not wrong.

With such emergent gameplay, everyone who plays has stories of what happened to them. This is the walkthrough story of when I played with my friends Lex and Michael last night. (Note: it's somewhat tricky to get DayZ running and it's still in alpha testing, so I've turned the graphics quality way down to get it working well. You can make it look much nicer than this.)

I'm on a coastline. I've got a weak Makarov pistol and I've no idea where my friends are. Michael and Lex are somewhere along this very long coast, but I could walk for hours to try and find them. Although I know they're on this same coastline, they could be in either direction.

As everyone spawns on the coast, it can be a pretty dangerous place to be; either from trigger-happy new players or more experienced (and better armed) players who prey on newcomers for supplies. Time to head inland for safety and locate some landmarks by which I can navigate. It's raining.

Ooh, a ruined castle. It seems pretty deserted, but the trees and shrubs aren't making it easy to see if there are any zombies around. I'll have to crouch and move in slowly whilst looking and listening in all directions. Careful now.

There were two zombies in there (that I could see) and I had to sneak past them. At one point I was lying on the ground and a zombie walked within ten feet of me, but the undergrowth afforded just enough concealment to stop them spotting me. Phew. If I'd decided to shoot it out, the sound of the gunfire would have had every zombie in the area running straight towards me and fighting in an enclosed space like those ruins would have been tough if not fatal.

But I managed to sneak in and out and I found a sniper rifle in there, but no ammunition. It's a great gun from a distance but not so good up close. And it's very, very loud. On my way to the ruin, I heard a sniper rifle shot in the distance and every zombie in the area suddenly sprinted towards the sound. I never saw the player who fired the shot (which is unfortunate as he might have been shooting at me), but not long after I saw 30 plus zombies sprinting up a hill and heard a few more shots, but not nearly enough to kill them all. He probably died.

I'll hold onto the rifle in the meantime, but I'm mostly going to be using it to scope out the landscape ahead. If I find some ammo that'd be nice, but I'm also looking for a quieter gun and I'm keeping my crappy pistol. Luckily the rain has stopped so visibility has improved. I've been walking for twenty minutes and I still have no idea of where my friends are.

As I walk along, I encounter what looks like a mass grave. There are clouds of flies buzzing around and their noise is deafening. Not nice. Not nice at all.

I'm on the outskirts of a large town. There are a couple of zombies shambling around on the streets below. If I'm careful I can maybe sneak into a house or two and find some stuff. It's hard to judge just how many zombies are around when there are so many buildings in the way. But what's really drawn my attention is the power station, or rather the power lines emanating from it. I can follow those across the landscape and they're an easy thing for my friends to find too. Progress at last.

I checked out the power station and found a shotgun so I've ditched my sniper rifle. In a tight spot this is going to be a much better weapon and it holds a lot more shots without reloading. I got careless as I was coming out the door and almost walked into a zombie. I shot him in the head but it brought four of his friends in my direction and I had to kill them too. Once you've got zombies on your tail, they never give up and you can't outrun them. Luckily they were the only ones who heard, but I wasn't sticking around so I headed off along the powerlines sharpish. But it's starting to get dark.

Ahead of me, a player steps out of the trees! He's facing away from me and I don't think he's seen me. I drop to the ground. I can't see a thing and I can't hear anything either. I crawl slowly, every so slowly, away from where I saw him and towards the treeline. The creepy background music isn't helping and I spend a tense couple of minutes in the cover of some bushes. I carefully stand up and look around but I can't see anyone. Did he see me and is stalking round behind me? Has he run off? Is he friendly? I don't know. My shotgun's a good weapon, but he was far enough away for it to be useless.

I take a wide circle through the trees around my position and rejoin the powerlines some distance away. I'm scared and I'm constantly looking around me to see if that guy's tailing me.

I've found Michael! This is a moment of rejoicing. It's taken over an hour, but there are two of us now so our odds of survival just improved. Damn, it's getting dark though. That's Michael just ahead of me in the image above and I can hardly see him. We continue along under the powerlines in an effort to find Lex. Although we're exposed in the cleared land under the lines, running through the trees when it's this dark isn't going to help us.

I can't see a damn thing now. Silhouettes against the skyline are the only thing I can make out. And it's going to get darker than this. Soon enough the sky will be completely black and we won't be able to tell down from up. On a more positive note, we've found Lex. Our two becomes three. Although this doesn't make us invincible, any unfriendly lone player whom we come across won't be able to withstand our combined might.

We'll have to stop soon. Artificial as it may be, we can find a spot to hold up and quit the game without losing our kit. Rejoining the server or switching to another one will allow us to keep our kit and our location. But as we're thinking this, our hand is forced by the server crashing. It is an alpha after all.

We're on a different server (with the same kit and location) and it's not long after sunrise. After all that running, our characters are hungry and thirsty so we stop to munch some supplies. We're quite far inland but still near some powerlines and there's a small collection of buildings here. There are only a few zombies around so we're going to try searching the buildings for supplies. We've probably been playing for about four hours now.

We're pretty far inland which makes coming across other players less likely (newcomers tend to stick to the coast and the large towns), but it means that the few players we will encounter are much more likely to be heavily armed veterans. They might even be in large groups. Yikes.

We moved through the trees to approach the buildings from a better direction. As we pass through a small clearing, I hear an unusual noise just to my side. What was that? I whip round, frantically scanning the surroundings. Over there! A shape! A player on the ground. He's looking right at me. He has a weapon raised. I shout a warning and we scatter into the trees. Run. Run! Don't lose sight of him. Weapons up, ready to fire.

Of course we immediately lose the other guy. Where is he? Is he hostile? Seems like it. I don't know what that noise was, but it didn't sound like gunfire and the others didn't hear it. It was right beside me too so it couldn't have been a shot, could it?

We flank around, covering all the angles, looking for this guy. He's one man (or is he?) and we're not looking for a fight, but we'll certainly provide one if necessary. We hunt around for several minutes but can't find him. He's probably more scared of us than we are of him and he's run off. We keep looking but he's nowhere to be seen so we continue towards the buildings we saw before and...

There! There he is. FIRE! Lex and Michael blaze away and he's hit. He goes down! Run. Run. Towards him quickly. He's not dead! He's got a weapon in his hand and he's raising it towards.. bang, bang, BANG. That's it. He's done. We got him. Phew...

Looking at the corpse, we realise that he's a bandit. Players who prey on others lose "humanity points" and once they cross a certain threshold, their character's clothing changes to show their bandit status. This guy has killed at least five other players to end up looking like that and he was clearly wanting to add us to his list. And the weapon in his hand is a crossbow. That's why we didn't hear a shot. That odd sound I heard was a crossbow bolt thudding into the ground just beside me. A fraction to the side and I'd have been dead without ever knowing why.

After that excitement, we take a moment to calm down and check ourselves. Ammo is never plentiful in Chernarus and we were quite well-stocked but we've expended some to take down our attacker. A search of his corpse reveals only crossbow ammunition so we've gained nothing (except our continuing lives) by fighting him. Although not desperate for supplies, infiltrating those nearby buildings just got a little more urgent.

Michael stands by in an overwatch position with binoculars and a shotgun. He'll be able to keep an eye on the zombies milling around the buildings and provide powerful covering fire if we have to run for it with zombies after us. Lex crawls slowly forward towards the nearest shack. I follow some distance behind. If Lex has to suddenly come back this way, I'll be able to take down a few pursuers and then we can both sprint back towards Michael's covering fire. There are quite a few zombies around, but if we're careful, we can crawl in and out of there without disturbing them.

Lex is in a large cattle-milking shed and it's good news. There's a ton of equipment in there. It's too much for him to carry so Michael and I move towards the building. As we come in the door, we can see Lex down at the far end. Michael closes the door behind us and we edge down the length of the shed. We can hear zombie groans outside, but we're safe.

As we draw closer to Lex, a zombie walks in the door directly beside him. Lex has to open fire. There are shrieks from outside. The zombies are coming! And coming en masse. Shit, shit, shit. Michael and I jump to the sides of the building and start to fire at the zombies pouring through the door right on top of Lex. Boom, boom, boom! We blaze away. Boom! I'm out of ammo. Switch to the pistol. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Reload. Bangbangbangbangbang. CLICK. Empty.

The doors behind us burst open and the zombies are on Michael. He's down. He's unconscious. He's dying.

I've got no ammo. I can't fight them off. He's bleeding out and I can't do a thing about it. I turn to Lex. He's out of ammo and bleeding badly. Michael! Michael! I can't see him any more. He's covered in a mass of zombies.

I turn to Lex. Blood cascades from his neck. Quick. A bandage. Slap it on. Get up. Get moving. We look over. Michael is dead. There's nothing we can do. Lex has lost a lot of blood. He's on the verge of passing out. Move. Run. Get out of here.

We're out the door. We're moving. The zombies are still coming. But we're out of ammo. Run. RUN! Shit, I've lost Lex in just the few short steps we've taken. Run!

I run. And run. I turn around and I see Lex. He's not alone.

Look a little closer. That's Lex on the left of the image. That's twenty or so zombies behind him. Even with ammo, it would be hard to cut them down. Run!

A house! Inside! Close the door! There's ammo on the floor. Shotgun ammo. YES! Pick it up. Reload. Quick, quick, quick.

The zombies have found me! They're at the door (one is glitching through it). The door opens. Boom! Boom! Boom! Get out. Get out. Run. Run. Twelve shots left. Run.

They're all around me! There's Lex! He goes down. I'm firing, firing, firing. Boom! Boom! Boom! It's not enough...

I'm down. I'm unconscious. I'm bleeding badly. My empty shotgun lies next to my hand. My legs are broken. I can't do anything. I'm dying. I'm dead.

And that's that. I killed 41 zombies in that last encounter. Lex and Michael killed even more. The piles of twice-dead corpses are the last testament to our lives. Maybe someone will pass this way and see the bodies and know that we did not die easily.


I'm on a coastline. I've got a weak Makarov pistol and I've no idea where my friends are...


  1. Very cool story - You're definetely good in writing! I wanna play it, too. :)

  2. this made me want to play dayz
    already did but now i have to

  3. I can't wait to get home so I can play this! This looks like almost everything I have been wanting in a zombie game.