By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor), OnRPG Journalist
It has been around a year since the ArmA 2 mod DayZ exploded and showed the world what a basic mod with an inspired developer was able to do. It’s been a long year. While the modification is still being updated regularly by the community, and a lot of similar mods have risen up, the big question to the true fans is, where is the Standalone? Originally the plan was to launch it in the end of 2012, but here we are in the summer of 2013 and we haven’t seen nor heard that much about the game.
What do we know and what is different compared to the mod?
As a big fan and close follower of DayZ and the team behind it, I can say with confidence that it has been a really long year for Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall, the lead developer behind the DayZ Standalone. Dean never expected this side project of his to explode so quickly. What started out as a hobby changed his whole life. Since the original plan was to launch the game back in December, a lot of things were changed and most of the initial plans were scrapped or greatly reworked.
Let’s start at what might be the biggest change in the whole game, the architecture. Initially the plan was to create a standalone game of the mod, with not many major changes to the engine or code itself. This plan was changed, and they decided to build up the game from the ground up. What big game studios do in years, they are doing it in just a few months. They have changed the architecture from being just a first-person-shooter to a fleshed out MMORPG. And the uninitiated might be wondering how that’s even possible on Bohemia Studios’ ArmA 3 engine. Well it isn’t. They’re tweaking it into a separate engine while splicing in elements of the Take on Helicopters game, and upgraded the graphical areas in the areas required to make a believable zombie survival title.
The world map also has undergone a lot of major changes, and the old Chernarus is a lot different than what the current DayZ players are familiar with. Rest assured the map itself is made by people that worked on the original Chernarus, so skillful hands will deliver our new village of zombies. From what I’ve seen so far, it feels like a much larger and more populated city. Chernarus now welcomes a real apocalypse world, where the visual images tell you the story, the events that might’ve happened, and what kind of people lived there. Beyond the township, a foreboding swamp also awaits adventurous players seeking to live outside the bounds of society. But that isn’t the only eye candy that we are able to expect from the standalone. A lot of the buildings were overhauled and nearly all have interior access. Expect plenty of looting and player versus player confrontations to occur in-doors as a result.
The interior of buildings will also feel a bit more apocalyptic than the mod. Furniture will be overturned, rubble will block various routes from caved in buildings. And ammo and other loot will likely be hidden under beds or scattered across the ground rather than neatly placed on tables. Sure you might still find the occasionally goody in a cupboard or on a car seat, but that just adds to the uncertainty of your adventure. And thankfully the buggy inventory system of ArmA has also been changed into something that is more user friendly.
Of course bandits aren’t the only enemy lurking behind locked doors in DayZ. The pathfinding of zombies have undergone some big changes as well. You will no longer see them zigzagging around trying to find a way to eat you, but this time these scary nasty things will walk finding the shortest route from A to B. Players will need to think on their feet to keep their cheekbone intact. The new engine allows more advanced algorithms in spawning mechanics to helpfully place flesh eaters in shadows and other unexpected ambush points to keep you guessing. Over the last few months, we have seen quite a lot of footage from the changed inventory system, loot spawning and zombies. The most notable change is a more advanced color spectrum. No longer will we be trapped in the greyish yellow warzone filter of ArmA.
Unfortunately for Dean, the zombies aren’t the only ones getting hungry. Dean himself has had to face the wrath of a mob of fans and rabid media. I wanted to talk about this for a brief moment, being a follower of him on both twitter and reddit. See Dean is very open to the public and it’s had a bit of a backlash. The media is known for twisting words so that it changes into speculations and flat out lies. And these are what I believe are also the reasons of why the Standalone hasn’t been released yet. We have heard many possible release ‘dates’ before; typically these are months rather than actual dates.
These false reports have put further pressure on Dean and brought disappointment in his fans when not met. Dean may be feeling a bit insecure in how successfully he can meet the hyped expectations now, especially with so many copycats rushing to launch before him and failing miserably. More recently Dean has been much less public with the development process. He’s gone so far as to state he’s afraid to state further details. And this is probably one of the many but major reasons why Dean isn’t happy with his alpha build yet.
As one of the biggest self-proclaimed fanboys of DayZ, I am hungrily awaiting the standalone but I have to give Dean credit for his work and dedication. The approach of being open to the public has definitely taught him to double check his words, and perhaps changed his whole hindsight of being open to the public. If we have to believe his statement at E3 that the alpha testing of the standalone would launch within two months, then there is only a couple weeks left to go. Even so I would want it as soon as possible; but fear the general public isn’t at a point yet where they would be accepting of testing the alpha state of any game. Still the known changes sound fascinating and I hope I’m chosen to be among the first to see if they stand up to the hype that’s been building for nearly a year now.