The EVE community’s love affair with the ARMA 2 mod DayZ was like something from a cheap romance novel - swept up by this dark and curious stranger, the community could not help but fall for him, only to find out that his flaws were both real and irreversible. With passion sated for the time being, the fling ended and most players returned to playing spaceships. However, DayZ hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, it recently saw a new patch roll out, as well as a new (albeit unofficial) map for the mod that takes the creepiness of a zombie apocalypse to new levels.
Patch 1.7.3 - Bug Fixes Galore
After the announcement of ‘DayZ Standalone’, there had been doubt that the players would see further updates to ARMA 2 mod version of the popular zombie sim. Some had even begun pursuing their own patch development in an effort to address hot topic issues like tent placement, vehicle repair, combat logging and dogs for companions. However, Dean Hall and company were not about to let the mod die completely.
Neither did they have time for full-on development of the patch, however. In a move that will no doubt give the amateur modding community a bit of a lift, Mr. Hall instead reached out to the community that so desperately wanted improvements now and worked to push out patch 1.7.3. Released on Halloween day (October 31st), the patch managed to get tents working in a more common-sense manner, vehicle repairs sorted out, and singlehandedly stop the "combat logging" (or alt-F4ing) plague. For full patch notes and community credits, see this link.
Most important was the combat logging fix. Watch any DayZ stream or YouTube video from before the patch and you will find many references to ‘alt-F4ing’, usually in conjunction with language not suitable for children. The issue has been a thorny one to tackle - first to go was the ability to use the ‘Abort’ function while in combat. However, the game’s definition of combat was at times a bit off, not to mention that this fix did not address the actual pressing of Alt and F4, a shortcut that closes a user’s current window (in this case, the game).
Now, however, combat definitions have been refined and Alt-F4’s shortcut changed to the status menu in-game. While these changes are being tested, more are already on the drawing boards (though not live at the time of this writing), including the automatic death of any character who disconnects while in combat.
We Aren't In Chernarus Anymore
For those who weren’t particularly bothered by the bugs that 1.7.3 addressed, yet still found themselves bored with regular old Chernarus, there is plenty out there for you as well! Apart from community-enhanced patch development, other elements of the embryonic DayZ community have been bring in new maps on which to play the mod. All the maps were originally designed for typical ARMA 2 play, or are official maps from ARMA 2 expansions successfully ported to DayZ. Ranging from amazing to underwhelming, they at least give you a new reason to play and help shake the typical “Go to Balota/Cherno/Elektro, then Stary/Novy Sobor, then NW Airfield, die, repeat” path of play.
- Lingor Island - A map made for the jungle enthusiast! The closest equivalent to Lingor Island in reality that I can think of is Cuba - dense jungle, ramshackle huts and the occassional Russian propaganda or building floating about. Lingor also features an increased ‘military loot’ drop rate, making it easy to gear up and hunt other players down. Clocking in at just slightly smaller than Chernarus, I recommend taking a stroll through Lingor - if nothing else than to experience the amazing ambience of a jungle with zombies in it.
- Utes - This map is played for one purpose, and one purpose only: murdering other players. Similar to Lingor, Utes takes place on an island. Unlike the jungle, though, the climate is about the same as Chernarus - and the island is terrifyingly small. Most Utes servers seem to have thirst and hunger turned off, the better to focus on killing with bullets and axes.
- Takistan - ARMA 2: Operation Arrowhead's official map, where the rolling green hills and forests give way to steep ravines, sparsely populated valley villages and lots of rocks. Takistan is based more or less on Afghanistan, and seems to suffer the same problem that I have with the war-torn country it is modeled upon: I have absolutely no desire to go there. The mud huts will look familiar on this map if you played Lingor Island first. The lack of regular cover changes the sniping game in a good way, forcing would-be campers into buildings instead of the wide open desert, where they in turn can be easily dealt with by the less fortunate survivors.
- Fallujah - Because having an Afghanistan map simply wasn’t terrible enough, someone ported Fallujah, the town in Iraq that gave the U.S. Marine Corps some trouble a few years back. Built behind the concept of an Urban DayZ, the map had a lot of promise and sounded awesome as I downloaded it. Then I played it. The zombie spawns were horrific (in both frequency and placement), combat with other players seemed to revolve around who entered whose building last, and the spawns were easily a kilometer away from the town across a flat plain.
- Namalsk - After the last couple of rather dismal ports on the map front, I was hesitant to try again. However, Namalsk has a bit of a different pedigree than the others listed here - it began life as its own mod of ARMA 2, based loosely on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The port over to DayZ was done flawlessly and the production value of the map is easily on par with the original Chernarus (some small bounding box issues notwithstanding).
The custom soundtrack (which includes faint footsteps, howling wind, and floating echoes of children’s laughter) is enough to keep you on edge, as is the full implementation of weather mechanics (I froze to death on my first play through, scavenging in the snowcapped mountains). Military grade equipment is relatively easy to come by, but food isn’t, and the map features several very clever chokepoints, making the action easy to find. Of all the unofficial maps that have come out since DayZ went ‘Private Hive’, I can’t recommend Namalsk enough to those interested in getting back into the mod.
If you are interested in playing any (or all!) of these maps, I highly recommend getting DayZ Commander. Not only does it simplify the installation and updating process for DayZ itself, it also streamlines the map installation process.
DayZ Goes MMO
Of course, all this community-driven content is necessitated by the fact that Dean Hall and company are busy at work on the standalone version of DayZ. After a grueling slog through interviews without number and appearances at conventions throughout Europe, ‘Rocket’ has finally settled down to work on the game.
The environmental modeling work is proceeding at a good clip. New interiors for structures (the vast majority of which should be enterable in the standalone game) are looking quite pretty - almost too pretty. Mr. Hall acknowledged this on the devblog, stating that the released screenshots were the ‘clean’ versions of what will eventually end up as dirty and dingy an environment as a zombie apocalypse deserves.
Work on the engine itself is also well underway. The DayZ devs have decided to change up the architecture of the game to more resemble an MMO. Before anyone freaks out, this does not mean that DayZ is turning into World of Warcraft or anything like that. Instead, it has to do with the allocation of resources and task-assignment to clients and servers. In short, DayZ Standalone intends to make the server the ‘umpire’ of the game. Zombies, structures, loot, et al are to be handled exclusively by the server (as opposed to the ARMA model of distributed processing). This should mean an appreciable improvement in performance across the board for players, while requiring slightly beefier server specs.
For more information, In-depth updates and devblogs are posted here.
Still Good Shootin' To Be Had
All in all, it is a good time to be a DayZ player. The standalone game is progressing and the mod is alive and well, thanks to the amazing efforts of the community as a whole. If you haven’t yet played DayZ and want to know more, feel free to visit DayZmod.com. To get the latest on the standalone game, DayZgame.com is the place for you.