Write your own Adventure
Back in the misty eyed years of my youth when summer meant six weeks of doing whatever we liked and the weather was genuinely balmy, my mates and I used to get on our bikes and head down to our local country park, we’d take whatever food we could scavenge from cupboards and fridges, stock up on sweets and fizzy drinks. A few times we managed smuggle an air pistol out of a certain someones garage and with a ready supply of pellets we would head off with mischief in mind. We would shoot at trees, empty cans of pop even to my shame, at birds, although we never hit anything. It was all about making our own fun with our imagination. Trying not to get spotted by anyone of remotely adult age and generally boys being boys.
Every time the I hit the play button on Steam, I’m reminded of those long summer days. No goals or targets apart from what you set yourself, DayZ for me and also some of the people I play with is fast becoming the greatest story in video games that was never written.
To me, narrative has long been the most important single thing that makes up your average game, flashy graphics, multiplayer, bombastic set pieces can only take you so far, they can even be a detriment but its the story that can, if told well, knit all the other elements together.
I Feel Hungry
The opening lines of Dayz, written in ugly but functional font is the only part of the story that the developers have shared with you. No middle and no end, the only narrative you are given is to feed your hunger, quench your thirst and survive. How you do this and the story you weave is entirely up to you, its this tangible sense of freedom and also the fear that goes with it that makes DayZ, even in it’s broken, often frustrating alpha state worth every penny of the £19.99 it costs.
You will die with alarming frequency in your first few hours in Chernarus, a fictional post Soviet state where Bohemia has set this post apocalyptic zombie survival mmo rpg fps/tps sim. Survive for a few hours and each item of clothing found or weapon brandished will increase your confidence and feeling of security, but death is never far.
You Are Dead
My first death came from starvation, I had tins of beans but with no way to open them, my life slowly ebbed away. Second, I was mauled by a zombie, and they are the least threatening thing about the game. It was my third death at the hands of fellow survivors that brought home the reality of life in Chernarus, give people free reign to do as they please, with little consequence and they will generally be absolute bastards, myself included if the mood takes me.
My third death, I had stumbled upon a group of three fellow survivors in the wilderness, who by the look of the automatic weapons they pointed in my direction had survived for some time. Forced to kneel, I was stripped of my clothes, tins of beans and my most precious item, a tin opener. They ordered me to run and run I did, with no idea of direction, they laughed and took potshots, as my pant wearing behind disappeared over the horizon. I spent the next couple of hours getting increasingly lost which led me back to my first death of starvation. I’d rather they had shot me.
Death comes, and can also be delivered with such variation and creativity in DayZ that I actually don’t mind the dying part, at the end of the day it all leads back to “I feel hungry” which is the greatest starting line of the best story never written.
Friends ‘till The End
DayZ played by yourself can be good, searching abandoned towns for loot whilst not knowing who or what could be round the next corner leads to some genuinely tense moments, even on relatively empty servers I’ve died more than a few times at the hands of fellow players also struggling to eke out a meager existence.
Playing with friends is where this game really comes into its own, and the best stories tend to unfold. A general night involves everyone legging it across the the rather large map to a wherever seems best at the time, tins of beans, cans of pipsi and stories of our survival or sad demises are then shared before heading out. With whatever food we could scavenge from abandoned buildings, fizzy drinks looted from derelict pubs and maybe the odd weapon smuggled out of the local police station. We then tend to head off with mischief in mind. We shoot at zombies, fellow survivors, even each other, although we quite often miss. It’s all about making our own fun with our imagination. Trying not to get spotted by anyone who looks remotely dangerous, and generally men being boys.
For a game that is so upfront with its current failings, even the steam store page has a warning that the game is in alpha and bugs are rampant, DayZ is maturing nicely. Dean Hall, the brains behind the game and his team of developers are rolling out constant updates and the game itself it not expected to enter beta until the end of the year. Over one million steam users purchased DayZ in the first month alone, and the £20 million plus revenue is now clearly being put to use with the team recently doubling in size. The current focus of the the upcoming updates included hunting, cooking, improvised weapons and barricading. Vehicles and persistent in world objects are also on the horizon, along with a slew of other features that will make Chernarus that much more believable, being able to open a fridge to look for fodder may sound a bit daft but I cant wait!
Quite a few people have bemoaned the £19.99 it costs to access the alpha, beta and full release, lets put this into perspective. A game about to be launched on a high street near you costs £20 to £30, depending upon your platform of choice. Said game, not including side missions and infamous cutscenes can be completed in 10 mins. Depending upon which way you look at it, millions of us have also paid upwards of £30 for a AAA online fps experience this year which although released as complete has been far more buggy and broken the the DayZ alpha has ever been. I’ve just clocked my 91st hour in DayZ and I’m sure that I’ll still be playing in a year to come, that is quite possibly one of the most frugal gaming propositions there has ever been for me.
If you are tired of being handheld though games, herded down corridors, finishing a game and thinking what was that all about or just the the yearly churn of juggernaut franchises whose only reason for existence is to boost the bottom line of multinationals, give DayZ a try. Bring your wits, your cunning, your imagination, press play and write your own adventure.