Zombie games have been coming out for years now, whether its Resident Evil, House of The Dead, or DayZ. There are plenty of dead head titles to chose from, and despite many expectations, the zombie trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. H1Z1 is Sony Online Entertainment’s contribution, and with the Free-to-Play model planned for its full release, it’s fair to say it has caused quite the hype among the many millions of zombie survival experts.
Not shying away from the fact it was inspired by DayZ, H1Z1 appears to be taking the concept and improving on it in their own way. Obviously it will be hard to compare these games until H1Z1 releases, but we can compare the promises and evidence of gameplay that we have been given. Also to be taken into consideration is that there are technically a few versions of DayZ, so for the sake of this comparison, I will only look at the Standalone. There is plenty to talk about for both these titles, so I will only focus on a few topics.
DayZ has taken a huge amount of criticism for the A.I. of its zombies, what with their unfair advantage of being able to walk through walls, them being discouraged by bushes, and the genuinely surprising ease to escape them. Obviously, they can and will try to kill you, and they can be hard to take down if you are in a panic, but they don’t really offer the biggest threat. They can however, infect you, making your character ill, and noisy as they will start coughing intermittently, which will alert any nearby players of your whereabouts. With all this in mind, there is some credit to give to the zeds of DayZ. There are three different types of zombie to watch out for, a crawling, a hopping and a walking zombie, each moving at different speeds. Whilst this won’t make any difference to the players who run everywhere, the players who prefer a stealthy approach will have to keep their eyes peeled, as one of the biggest giveaways for where enemy players are, is following the hoard of running corpses.
H1Z1 looks like it has noticed the lack of fear induced by the zombies of DayZ and have used that as a main focus. The running animation of the zombies is pretty freaky, and the skins definitely have a disturbing feel about them. These things could change of course, as in the videos available at the moment show only one visual appearance for the zombies that is acting as a place holder until they push out the finished textures and skins. On top of all this, hoards have been promised, this meaning huge collectives of zombies all moving together as a group. These hoards will actually be spawned by the devs themselves as they act as admins in the servers.
DayZ was one of the first multiplayer games I played that offered such a large map. I was surprised initially, and I remember thinking “I will never be able to learn this map”. Spanning 225²KM, the DayZ map, Chernarus, was originally designed for Arma II, a game that DayZ Mod used as its base to build from. Arma II was made as a military simulator, and so had to provide large maps to help replicate combative situations. Despite my original thoughts of becoming lost in the map, I quickly learnt a lot of the maps areas, even if the majority of it is fields and forests.
H1Z1 seems to be taking a fresh approach to their playing field. Instead of having a defined size, they will be making changes to the map as the game continues along its development timeline. When it first releases on early access, the planned location will be rural America, but as time goes on, more locations will open up, with the tease of more urban settings. Size wise, it will be very hard to compare until the games have both been released, but with a planned player limit of around 1000, it certainly sounds like H1Z1 may be pulling ahead in terms of size, but as the saying goes, it’s quality that counts, not quantity.
Gear, loot, and other equipment
The release of DayZ standalone brought with it, a more customisable wasteland survivor for you to toil through the world with. Clothing is often a very important part of games for a lot of people, and DayZ definitely utilised gamers’ love of customisation. Not only that but it made clothing an essential part of the game, what with the varying weather now affecting your players health. The importance of warm clothing that is in good condition made searching for new threads not only fun, but essential. Along with multiple racks worth of garments, there is plenty of other gear to keep an eye out for, some of which you may not think you need until it’s too late. “Who needs a stick and this rag?” you may think, but when you break your leg, and realise you have no morphine, you will pine for that damned stick and that rag so that you can craft yourself a splint. “What’s the point in carrying these handcuff keys?” you ponder, only to be taken hostage, cuffed up and force fed bleach.
Every time you throw an item away, you may be throwing away the pivot with which you could turn the game in your favour. Then there is the whole degradation of items. This mechanic means that you will often find better versions of what you own, which keeps looting as a prime reason to traverse the map. This feature was also meant to be one of the weapons used against players who kill on site, due to the fact that you can destroy equipment if you shoot it. However player killing is still something that happens regularly.
Obviously it is going to be hard to compare the loot of H1Z1, as nobody really know what items will feature, other than a few items displayed in the livestreams and gameplay videos. However, there will be a new approach to items and buying equipment with real world currency. Anyone who remembers the WarZ fiasco will know that the item shop introduced, enraged many gamers regardless of whether they had played or not. The items you bought could be lost in a matter of seconds, essentially throwing money away, or worse, throwing money at other players. H1Z1 has taken the idea of an in-game item shop, and made it work… or at least made it sound like it will work. John Smedley, President of SOE, has been very hands on with the fans through H1Z1s Reddit page, comforting players with information and often teasing us with new snippets of planned content. One such comfort being that you won’t be able to purchase weapons, ammo, food or water from the store as they consider these items the “goal” of the game. Clothing is the main thing to be sold on the store, but they may also make emote packs a part of the stock list. They will also probably sell extra character slots, which altogether sounds like completely reasonable products to sell. Now for those of you worrying about you buying and losing your items a la WarZ, fear not. Items you purchase will always be available from your characters locker, and will never degrade for you either. This doesn’t mean that other players won’t be able to loot purchased equipment though, as the plan is to make copies of purchased items that you can retrieve from enemies, but that will degrade and start out at a low endurance level.
And so I turn to the most painful topic, player killing. Now, I know not everyone will feel the same way about this, but when DayZ first surfaced, I was excited by the idea of social interactions that could go either way. I wanted to encounter other players so that we could re-enact also those tense moments from my favourite zombie shows, stories and movies. That standoff that has you both explaining that you want no trouble. Now don’t get me wrong, this happens, but not nearly as often as I would like. The majority of the time, if you give a player the benefit of the doubt, they will take their chance to remove you from the world. I’m not saying I wanted there to be no PvP at all, but I would have loved to have had a reason to want to kill other players, for example they have a base with resources that your camp needs. I just longed for social interaction that gave the game a bit more depth. I wanted two rival camps that vowed war against each other across the server. However the fear that the player you are stood opposite will pull the trigger obviously gets to a lot of people and they react before anything can come of these social interactions. As mentioned before the loot being damaged was intended as a deterrent, but I fear it just makes bandits aim for the head instead. Another feature implemented was the idea of having to raise your weapon to fire, which at least allows you to see if they are about to fire at you. It’s a tough thing to make people who are holding guns, not want to fire them.
As I mentioned in the zombie section, H1Z1’s living dead appear to be a lot scarier, which I believe is to encourage teamwork. The reason DayZ has so many kill on site moments is probably due to the fact that the biggest threat is other players. My hope it that fear will bring players together, even if it’s only temporary, it would be better if players bargained with each other. The idea of being able to play a gun for hire is such an exciting prospect, or even having situations where your rivals have no choice but to join you if they want to survive. Why did Glen save Rick from the tank? Because there is strength in numbers. Of course there will always be bandits, and there will always be someone who likes the look of your gear, but my hope is that they will be rarer instances.
Though it is early days, it is safe to say that H1Z1 could become one of DayZ’s biggest competitors, as they have had time to study other games that follow the genre, and to pinpoint the flaws and the features that the players love. Though it;s too early to say for certain, the progress that H1Z1 has made is stirring a lot of fans, not the least because they have implemented vehicles, a feature DayZ fans are still waiting for. H1Z1 has the advantage of seeing where DayZ is lacking certain desirable features, and this may be where they get their advantage from. John Smedley’s hands on approach through Reddit is also very encouraging as it shows that they want to make a title that gamers actually want. For now however we will have to wait to see what H1Z1 delivers, which for a lot of us means it’s back to Chernarus.