Is DayZ worth playing anymore?

DayZ in its current incarnation, with hackers and bugs in tow, is bordering on barely playable.  Without a tight nit community that you enjoy playing with is there any reason to continue playing it or should you just wait until the standalone version?

First, some history.  DayZ followers (especially if you venture into the crap-pile that is the official forums) will be quick to point out to you that DayZ is a free mod for the military simulation game ARMA2 from Bohemia Interactive.  As a mod, and not a stand alone game, DayZ is limited in what it is able to change regarding how ARMA2 works. This causes some issues with scripting that the ARMA engine is designed purposely to allow that is affecting DayZ.

It is also of note that the mod is in it’s ‘Alpha’ stage.  An Alpha is the first and least stable testing phase of a piece of software.  Usually this is not targeted at a large audience is typically for gaming titles is reserved for internal QA testing or testing by a small, select group of players.

With that out of the way, a quick word on my credentials.  I haven’t had any commercial experience with video game development.  I have developed very small games for the XBox using XNA and for Android and I made some crappy games while in university.  I do however have more than a dozen years experience in developing software for large businesses and governments – starting off as a developer and now I am filling a service/product management role.  I know more than a bit about the software development lifecycle, I have worked on countless development projects large and small and I have managed many successes and failures.

Development of the mod should cease.

My first critism of DayZ is that its development as an Alpha mod running on top of the ARMA2 game has gone way too far.  There is no reason to continue development of this version while the security and stability expected byplayers can not be provided.  If the ARMA2 engine can not stop the hackers and scripters then the development team needs to move to the standalone game as their next priority.  Stability is an issue that needs to be addressed before testing new features, otherwise players will be frustrated and stop playing and the results from testing and tweaking the game will not be realized.

I understand that Rocket and team wants to test out new features like adding dogs and testing their impact on the game.  Same can be said for the changes and decisions that Rocket has made along the way such as removing the starting weapons from newly spawned players.  These are important things to test out with the community prior to the game going out to retail.  The problem with all this tuning is that the base game is not secure and stable and it is damaging the testing of the game.  Who can test and provide feedback when your guns are being eaten by your backpack, your car isn’t saving and hackers have teleported you to the middle of the ocean? I would suggest that it is pointless testing under these circumstances.

It is obvious that if the hacking issues cannot be stopped with this game running as a mod that development resources should be instead spent on getting an Alpha build of the standalone game out as soon as possible – before people get frustrated with the community and flock to competitors like WarZ.

The large, shared hive as a feature has more caveats than it is worth.

The population of DayZ is getting smaller, and the number of servers are shrinking too.  The pool of people providing testing and the number of people willing to spend money out of their pocket to run and maintain a server to play on is dwindling as server admins and players become frustrated with the game.  In contrast the number of private hive or smaller shared hive servers is steadily growing.  A private hive has several advantages to both the player and server admin communities.

There are two huge faults with the single shared hive concept: server hopping and ‘ghosting’.  Server hopping allows people to get great gear and guns on a low populated server, move to a good sniper location and then switch to a high populated server to wreak havoc on the players.  Ghosting is a type of ‘combat logging’ where a player who is outgunned and pinned down can leave the game, join a low populated server, move to a flanking position and then relog into the original server to gun down his opponents.

Server hopping is the lesser concern but I would argue that it has a negative impact on the game and the communities of gamers that play it.  ‘Ghosting’ is a game-breaking, serious concern which should have been immediately obvious to any designer when considering a single, shared hive concept.

I understand the draw to the persistent world, I get where Rocket was going with this and why he implemented it this way.  But in any group there will be assholes and exploiters and gamers often yearn for any competitive edge that they can find and if it is there a large portion of them will abuse it.  There are anecdotal statements that a good 60+% of the DayZ community is cheating.  I would wager with all the duplication exploits this number is probably at least 75%.  Competitive advantage is everything to a gamer, look at the money we are willing to spend on specialized ‘gaming’ hardware and peripherals.

Smaller hives or private hives offer so many advantages that not playing on one is a no-go for me at the moment.  The communities are tighter knit and the server admins are much more apt and quick to ban hackers from their hives.  The gear has to be gained from scratch and with the smaller number of players the high end gear takes longer to farm and eventually be duplicated on purpose or through one of the many buggy ways that duplication is possible.  Above all I find the smaller hives better because death has more consequence; if I die its not just a run to the clan camp and grab another AS50, CCO SD and all the tools and ammo that I can carry.  Very few people have nightvision googles, AS50s are scattered here and there but with the shortage of available ammo they are much more prized.  I haven’t felt the ‘pain of death’ and then the carefree post fresh-spawn existence for a very long time in DayZ and I welcome it back.

Rocket needs to hand over the reigns.

I have seen this many times in my tenure in software development: Developer creates something, it gets used more and more, turns into something great and much bigger than intended, things go haywire as users consider this a piece of important infrastructure and not just something a developer made on the side of his/her desk.  Congratulations, you were proactive and saw a need and provided something to fill the void.  But now it is bigger than you, and as a developer you may not possess the skills needed to manage such a product.  It now needs a product manager to steer the ship and make decisions and to be accountable, it is no longer your baby.

I have had this situation happen to me and its difficult to let go, but Rocket has to realize that his attachment to his creation is his biggest drawback.  You can’t effectively manage something that you are so attached to, your feelings get involved and you just can’t let things go.  I would suggest that if Bohemia Interactive wants to make something out of DayZ to give the reins to a product manager to run the show and make Rocket a lead designer reporting to the product manager.  There needs to be somebody who isn’t as invested with their feelings to make the decisions to lead the project.  If you look at the forums you will see posts (mostly not so constructive) by Rocket defending everything from design choices to Bohemia Interactive  to of all things Battle Eye.  He should really think about hiring somebody to handle PR and community management too.

Community is everything, though.

The only thing keeping my wanting to play this game is the tight knit group of adult, friendly, considerate, non-hacking people that I play with.  I would urge anyone who is looking for a place to play with like-minded individuals to head over to www.worldsendgaming.com and introduce themselves.  If you can keep the hackers at bay and play with great people who aren’t children and script kiddies this game gets a lot more palatable.  Their vanilla DayZ server is watched over by careful and considerate admins and moderators.  Small hive servers run by members of this community are breathing new life into the game for me and others.  The community is also branching out into CS:GO and Guild Wars 2 so if you are interested in any of those games come check it out.

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