Wizzing down the telegram wires in a series of frenetic beeps and whirrs, Tim’s just managed to get the transcript of a little conversation he had with Dean “Rocket” Hall, creator of the obscenely successful DayZ mod, and lead on the standalone version of the game, to be developed by Bohemia Interactive, makers of ArmA 2 and the upcoming ArmA 3. In between sharing awed gasps about quite how many people play DayZ every day (“175 thousand players every day, and it’s buggy as crap”) they talked about the future of DayZ.
Far from just converting the existing mod into its own client, Hall is aiming to create something altogether more impressive, unshackled from the restrictions of modding. “We’re going to take the multiplayer code from ArmA 2, which is the most important thing, that’s the most mature element of the code, and it’s going to be a while before ArmA 3 reaches that point. So we’ll effectively be using ArmA 2.5 as a start, but DayZ will quickly go off in its own direction, with our own inventory, UI; all those things we’re completely starting fresh.”
So the idea is to have something with all the familiarity and complexity of ArmA 2, but with all of ArmA 3’s graphical oomph. But more than that, once they’re able to develop completely free from ArmA 2’s assets and code, there’s all sorts that the team behind DayZ can start to implement. Hall rattles off a series of features.
“We want to see ragdoll in the alpha. A simple ragdoll simulation.”
“A completely revised inventory system.”
“Some kind of underground construction.”
At which point the jaw hits the flaw, and you start to look at him in a new light. ArmA 2’s Chernarus is absolutely massive, a huge FPS playground with which you can wander, explore, and get killed by many zombies all of the time. But it’s fundamentally a single plane, with no depth, few enterable buildings and mostly just lots of fields and trees. To start allowing you to dig, to build, is something altogether different.
“We do have some underground structures, but we don’t have construction. That’s going to be quite ambitious.” Hall continues. “So you get your pickaxe and you actually carve out a cavern. But that’s long term, that’s more next year.” Not that that’s going to stop him talking about it. “If we instant it you can go into your construction from multiple different servers. You could have caverns, and you could level them out, put concrete in there. We’re looking at EVE Online, and we want to create some real end game content.”
Which isn’t to say that suddenly they’re trying to make Minecraft in the ArmA 2 engine. That’d be overambitious, to say the least. But they are expanding on Chernarus, to begin with. “We’re starting with what we call Chernarus Plus. So it has more enterable buildings, towns are expanded, there are some new villages, and it’s a little bit more tweaked for DayZ.”
It makes sense that if you don’t have to worry about rolling convoys of tanks or skies filled with helicopters and jets, you can probably put in a few more buildings and interiors.
As to the future of the mod, which broke a million registered users just a few days ago, Hall has mixed optimism. “We need to keep the mod going, and we need to open it up more so that people can go in and breathe new life into it.” Which means that while his focus will be on the standalone version, he’s not going to just abandon the mod.
But that doesn’t mean that it can continue as it is. “The mod can’t survive. No matter how many resources you put into it, the mod can’t survive. We have 175 thousand players every day, and it’s buggy as crap.” A victim of its own success, the hope is that new players, heading into the standalone game, will relieve pressure on an already buckling servercluster.
As to the pricing of that standalone, Hall has already stated that he’s going for a Minecraft model, where he releases a bare-bones alpha at a reduced price, and at significant milestones in development, up the price as he heads into release.
“The pricepoint is going to be lower than ArmA was, even during the Steam sales.” which is promising, to say the least. “We want to get something out very quickly and overcome the problems with have at the moment, because we can’t really do that as a mod.” The aim is have something out by the end of the year.
“What happens in the next three to six months is going to be the interesting time. Whether it’s just a footnote or if it really kicks off.”
Let’s hope it’s the latter.