The creator has called it a “mature Minecraft”. He’s also stated that he’s aiming for “an authentic experience” rather than realism. He’s called it an “anti-game”.
We’re going to see more games like DayZ. There’s been a lot of talk about innovation over the years, and the current indie scene has really proven that there are a lot of unexplored ideas. We’re starting to see critical mass build to support even multiplayer experiments, like Realm of the Mad God. DayZ can be taken as yet another example of this phenomenon, though its roots are quite different, coming out of the hardcore sim experience.
As I understand it, in the past month DayZ has gone from 500 players to 70,000. And, since it’s a mod, it’s sent Arma 2 to the top of the sales charts across the board. the servers are not quite up to the challenge yet, especially when night falls on part of the planet and players flock to the nearest daylight servers: the game’s real-time clock is synced to the server location by default, so if you want to play in sunshine you’ll have to find a server that’s in the right timezone. (Some servers are time-shifted, but by design they all keep the 24-hour clock).
As a feature in DayZ, this is pretty much par for the course. The latest update added temperature to the list of survival horrors the players need to keep track of. Get caught at night in the rain with no matches and the zombies will be the least of your concerns. This is approaching Dwarf Fortress level of intensity (though not the fractal detail, yet).
Of course, even in sunshine the zombies aren’t the worst things lurking on the servers. The other players are the real monsters of this apocalypse. Killing another player subtracts from a player’s humanity score, but the latest patch removed the only visible sign of this loss of humanity, causing the servers to descend into shoot-on-sight paranoia.
There are two reasons this experience is so powerful: permadeath and persistent characters. This is the first-person-shooter roguelike MMO success that we never expected. Spawning into the world, each player arrives on the beach with a new, minimally equipped character and turned loose to try and survive. Characters tend to have a definite arc as they gather equipment and become more capable, only to be inevitably brought down. All progress is lost when the character dies: only the player’s humanity score persists.
But the other important feature is that during their brief lives, these mayflies are the same on every server running the game. Each server essentially acts as a shard in a world of persistent characters. This one change sets it apart from the majority of shooters and the majority of MMOs.
So, we’re going to see more things like DayZ. Not just more persistent roguelike survival shooters (though those would be nice too) but we’re going to see more crazy ideas that would never get approved for funding or make a Kickstarter, but nevertheless find their niche and become insanely popular and impossible to ignore.