DayZ is what they call in the arts a phenomenon. Over the past 6 months, Dean Hall’s zombie apocalypse simulator has gathered itself 1 million players, a feat that many commercially released PC and console games can’t pull off. DayZ isn’t even its own game. It is a mod for Bohemia Interactive’s stringent military sim ArmA II, and an incomplete mod still in testing at that.
Like Minecraft in 2010, DayZ’s phenomenon status is propelling it to new heights even before it’s finished. Where the Minecraft beta put Mojang and Notch Pearson in the games industry spotlight, bringing them opportunities on platforms like Xbox Live that would have otherwise been inaccessible, DayZ is seeing Dean Hall becoming an integral part of Bohemia. The latest: DayZ will be a properly developed standalone game.
“That’s right, this is actually happening—DayZ will be developed as a standalone game, with me as project lead, by Bohemia Interactive,” reads the announcement on the official DayZ website, “This is the fairy-tale outcome for a mod that many would have said impossible four months ago.”
With 1 million players exploring the zombie-filled coast of Hall’s ArmA II mod, there’s no doubt some concern that this full version will halt the existing, evolving community. Development won’t interrupt the mod Hall assures. “Development and updates of the mod will continue in parallel with the development of the game, anyone who is playing the mod now will be able to continue to do so. The project will follow the Minecraft development model; fast iterations with the community alpha available for a heavily discounted price.”
DayZ’s success is another prominent sign of the PC game development industry’s health today. A game can, by merit of its good ideas alone, find an audience and become a success. The adoption of the mod by Bohemia for full development is more than just a sign of the business times in video games. This game, like Minecraft, represents a sea change in people’s tastes for massively multiplayer online games. MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic that mimic the model set by early MMO successes like Everquest and World of Warcraft gather together a strong following of players at the start but its difficult to retain their interests. The era of the quest-based MMO is coming to a close and games like DayZ are ushering in the future. Environments with clear cut rules where large groups of people—albeit not the thousands that populate MMORPG servers—create much of the “game” themselves through choice and behavior.
Cheers to Hall and Bohemia. May their game find all the success—and receive all the development time—it deserves.