Friday, June 6, 2014

DayZ and the Unfinished Survival Genre

The survivalist horror genre, if it is indeed a genre, seems to be a big thing right now, either that or I just happen to like the genre enough to notice games cropping up here and there to think that it is becoming "a thing" in the video game industry.  And just to clarify, I am referring to "open world survival" games that center around your character surviving out in the big bad scary post-apocalyptic world where you have to scavenge supplies in order to survive from either zombies or the more deadly, other humans.  I do not plan on touching on the forebears of the survival horror genre (Sweet Home, Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil, Silent Hill), so aside from their obvious name dropping, I will not cover those games here.

The games that I do want to cover are, coincidentally enough, are all "Early Access Games" through Steam.  Before I get down to it all, I want to mention that the only game that I will be bringing up here that I have played is DayZ as it was the first game I heard about in this genre back when it was still a mod for Arma II; yes, I intentionally made a hipsteresque comment.

To date, I have only managed to put in about two hours into DayZ, thirty of those minutes I put into the game just before writing this article.  The fact that I have not put as many hours into this game has made me a little sad.  Ultimately, the game that is available to play, albeit an early alpha build of the game, is not very fun.

I understand that the game is based heavily off of a mod for another game and that the game is played on one of dozens of servers with anywhere between zero and 30-50 other people.  In a game where the goal is to survive both zombies and humans, people are going to be very competitive.  In a recent podcast of The Patch, it was "reported" that there were certain aspects that were broken, such as people server hopping after looting an area and becoming overly powerful with respect to people, like me, just signing on.  

Somehow, not normal behavior for a zombie.
To date though, I have not run across any other survivors.  In my last playthrough, I ran across a total of four zombies.  No, make that five.  The first one beat/ate the crap out of me while I tried to climb a ladder up to a roof.  I later threw myself off the roof rather than go about a slow death bleeding out.  One zombie ran through the wall of a house and became stuck in the floor.  The other three mobbed me one after the other after I came out of a house.  The first I clubbed to "death" within a couple of hits with a massive wrench I recently found; the second took way too many hits and I then thought that I had to "target" the head, but that was not the case; the third kept chasing me into the house I had recently vacated before I could manage to close the door behind me.

I must admit though that the player is warned before each playthrough that the game is not complete.  The disclaimer states that "This game is in Alpha and will be for some time.  This means you will experience bugs, unfinished features, problematic design decision, and many more things that disrupt your game experience.  We will be working with the community to fix these. . . Above all, please remember that this game is not finished, and is a work in progress."  I think I may just give DayZ some time to work things out and check back every few months to see how the development is going.  Steam even recently updated their FAQs for Early Access games (possibly due to the Earth: Year 2066 debacle) to state that "You should be aware that some teams will be unable to 'finish' their game. So you should only buy an Early Access game if you are excited about playing it in its current state."

This now brings me to the other games that I did not mention, but as I did mention, there seems to be a fair amount that fit within the DayZ model of open world survival and most importantly "not finished."

A lot of these games tout their "procedural worlds," which makes me wonder if that means that the world is being constantly created while the game is being played and can be different on each playthrough or for different people, which is kind of what it is, in laymans terms.  Crafting is also a very big aspect in almost all of these games.  Be it crafting weapons, shelter, bandages or cooking food, "creating" is a big aspect here.  I cannot tell from the trailers of the above games if eating/drinking is or will be as important as it is in DayZ, where you can actually die from starvation and dehydration, but I would not be surprised if maintaining your health is another part of these games.

This looks to apparently be "a thing," an idea I thought about in the last couple of days due to Extra Credits' posting about the effects of future games from a generation who have grown up on Minecraft.  These series of games just might be the link between massive worlds where you build stuff to survive and the Left 4 Dead zombie action game.

But, they do not pay me to make assumptions.


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