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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

[DayZ] Good concept, needs polish

I've been playing Day Z on and off for the past few days, but once the initial "Ohhh shiny..." phase of a new game began to wear off some of its glaring flaws began to appear. Don't get me wrong, the game was worth getting ARMA 2 on sale for and I don't regret the time I put in, but as I play I feel like there are some lingering issues that diminish the fun. Below I detail a few of the changes/additions I think Rocket should consider adding before the stand-alone release; both for quality of life and entertainment value.

Dangerous Zombies

As it is right now the zombies are actually not very dangerous unless you make some BIG mistakes. They lumber around and are relatively easy to they have a few major weaknesses.

First, they have to stop to attack, meaning a player running away from them is effectively immune to damage from them.

Second, they are slowed to a walk indoors. This makes sense and surely simplifies they normally run so erratically that it's a challenge to hit them outdoors. It also means that zombies are VERY easy to lose so long as you have a building nearby.

Combine these traits and as it turns out the easiest way to deal with fact the easiest way to move around, is not to sneak through towns, but is to sprint from building to building. Zombies need to be a little more dangerous to the point where shooting a gun is a reasonable calculation. Right now if you see another person in a city you'd be an idiot not to shoot them dead where they stand; and if you attract any zombies as a result you just run until you are free of them, then go back and loot. So I think the zombies need to be a little more like those in Left 4 Dead. I propose the zombie's standard melee have a slightly longer range (to make it harder to just spring from them), and that it "stagger" a player after repeated hits....making them dangerous to the point where firing a gun requires a serious mental calculation.

Society Falls Apart

Ironically the Day Z forums have become a bustling discussion board on "post-zombie apocalypse" sociology theory as a result of this game, with plenty of players claiming they would happily shoot anyone they came across for their own protection, and others urging a more cooperative approach. I must say I don't think our society would entirely fall apart...I tend to think we'd end up cooperating for greater benefit. That said, I make no claims to be anything but a Carebear in most games, but in Day Z even I find that I have no reason to let anyone I see live. The simple fact is that the mental equation one has to perform is too stacked in favor of "shoot first, questions never." To elaborate, lets go down a list:

Reasons to shoot:
- Might have something useful on him/her
- Will probably shoot ME (easily 50/50 chance of a Bandit, likely even higher)
- If we're nearby he/she is probably looting the same places I am
- In the time it takes to ask "Friend or foe?" I will easily be dead. I only get about a second or so to decide whether or not to shoot...and in my experience, he/she WILL.
- If I die I go back to zero on the beach.
- I can easily evade any zombies my shooting calls

Reasons not to shoot:
- "Might" be friendly...
-  Might need a blood transfusion, assuming the person doesn't just shoot me and take it.
- Zombies might hear...but can be evaded.

Part of this is that in Day Z there is no real penalty for being a bandit...which I am not really complaining about, but to me it breaks the immersion of the "survival" when all cooperation that isn't organized out of game breaks down. I am not asking to remove the PvP, on the contrary, the PvP is vital to the game, but what I am asking is to "tweak" it a little to make PvP a little more challenging than: get cool guns in military base on empty server, go down to Cherno, log into high pop server, snipe noobs.

Let there be Light!

Day Z has a day/night cycle, it even has a lunar cycle. This is impressive, but I find that most people just server hop to avoid nighttime servers (I have observed most servers that are "night" will have notably lower populations than "day" servers). So it got me thinking about how to make "night" more fun. The first thought was to add a little light. Right now there is almost none. The only light in the world are a few random fires and the lights on runways. One can argue the realism, but I think introducing some still barely functioning electrical infrastructure (especially since there are power lines in game) might make night time more interesting. Turn on a few lights in villages and cities...make even randomize it so that each night the power grid is a little different. Right now seeing any light is a sure-fire way to know where another player is; instead, lets make it a guessing game...a risk/reward analysis. Certain areas of the map (the majority) should still be in complete darkness, but add to the feeling of "death" in the cities by having haunting streetlights or buildings with flickering power. It may not be perfectly realistic but it might just be more interesting.

Variety is the spice of life

If this is heading down the road to being a standalone product it would be nice to see some engine tweaks. One of the failings I find is that within about an hour one begins to notice the same 10 or so repeated buildings, allowing one to guess exactly which ones will likely have loot within a few minutes (in fact there are maps that show exactly where loot can be found and in what quantity). So first they would need to add more types of buildings, and in my opinion make all buildings open...perhaps you just need to hack the door down with your hatchet. At least make each building have a "chance" of being opened or closed.

Furthermore, larger servers would be nice, with some reason to remain on the same server. While it may be "legit" the idea of hopping to low-pop servers just to avoid danger of other players kills the immersion for me, especially because it's becoming the 'way to play' where high-pop servers are becoming kill-zones and low becoming loot-zones.

On the topic of servers, and to my main point about them; the ARMA 2 engine does allow for some interesting realism, but it chugs...even my friend's machines that are much more powerful than my laptop are finding the game is challenging their highest-end hardware. The engine could use some optimization, perhaps taking a page from WoW's book in how they handle having the whole map loaded.

The "Endgame"

I mentioned this briefly in the discussion about society but for the most part there is nothing really TO do after you've gotten all your tools and weapons aside from hunting down players...often players who are attempting to enter into the same situation you are in. Ironically this danger can be circumvented by simply going onto an empty server to power-up free of danger. One can argue about how the game is "meant" to be played. Alas I think this issue would fade if there was more of an "endgame", something more for players to do once they have "Geared up". Perhaps this involves building some kind of settlement or seeking weapons located in some heavily zombie infested locale.

Don't let any of this fool you, Day Z is actually quite fun, but has some pivotal flaws that mark it as an alpha and not a finished product. I would still recommend it to others, but do not play alone, find a

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