How Rocket Plans To Follow EVE’s Lead With DayZ

By Nathan Grayson on June 25th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

I have a theory: eventually all games will just become EVE Online. This stems partially from the spacefaring MMO’s remarkably forward-thinking focus on player interactions and player-powered corporate empires that make EA look like The Most Comparatively Decent Company In America, but mostly from the fact that developers are literally saying that it’s their goal. PlanetSide 2, EverQuest Next, Age of Wushu, countless indies, etc. And now we can add DayZ to that list, based on a conversation I recently had with Dean “Rocket” Hall.

The original version of DayZ lured in countless zombo-obsessed hordes, but – beloved as it initially was – failed to keep them for long. In hindsight, you can chalk that up to all sorts of different factors (for instance rampant cheating, which Rocket has already addressed), but the elephant in the room is – as is the way of the majestic Room-Dwelling Elephant – pretty obvious: DayZ began life as a mod. A shambling, unpolished husk of its full potential. Its original incarnation simply lacked longevity, and Rocket knew that from day one. Naturally, he’s doing his damndest to fix that in DayZ standalone, but he doesn’t deny that he has a long road ahead of him.

“I guess that’s where the whole open alpha approach comes in,” he told RPS. “Because we’ve got base-building planned, and I think we’re going to add in a lot of clan stuff and group dynamics. So we’ve talked about something like a clan tattoo. I think a lot of it’s going to be about in-game [user-oriented] content – kind of like EVE.”

Which is all well and good, but you rarely find much interest-sustaining substance in style. Rocket assured me, however, that inevitably regrettable flesh drawings are only the beginning. I asked him why those particular options were worth an EVE comparison in the first place, and he replied:

“Well, I think the base-building will be. Like, you walk up to a sort of dungeon and go into a separate instance. There’s two ways we’re considering on the technical side. One is you go inside the area, and it’s Red-Faction-style destructive terrain, so you can use explosives or a pick axe or something. That may present bandwidth problems or restrict the size that we can make those areas. I mean, I envision this being an underground city. You dig out this city, lining the walls with palm trees and that kind of stuff.”

And if that doesn’t work? Well then, we might see DayZ quickly expand into other genres – something Rocket claims his engine is already fully capable of.

“If that becomes an issue, we go with a more Evil-Genius-style interface,” he explained. “You can still run around in it, but you construct from a top-down view. And Arma actually has language built into its engine. We don’t use it in DayZ, but we could use it for building security systems, programming your own computers in-game. So you can actually create a security system for your underground base and program it in. So I think that’s gonna be more like EVE’s capital ships.”

But to make a truly living, EVE-style world actually work, Rocket and the DayZ team have to paint in slow, calculated strokes. Slapping together a second sputtering shotgun of ideas will just leave them right back where they started. It’s quite an about-face from Rocket’s previous stance on the matter, which drove him to spend much of last year rushing to get something – anything – out the door. Fortunately, a shining paragon of selfless heroism averted that disaster: er, The War Z. Rocket explained:

“Our worst fears came true [in The War Z] – and they weren’t that bad.”

“So we were like ‘Fuck it’. We may as well make this a good game. The best way to hate on haters is deliver on your promises. So the idea is, we want it to be a good game, and we’re not there yet. But I like to think we’ve addressed some of the elements that were the worst problems of the lot. We’ve attacked them. We might not necessarily have solved them completely, but we’ve made good progress.”

As for when we’ll be able to dig through pudding for delicious, delicious proof, DayZ’s closed alpha is apparently almost at an end. A (top secret shhhhhhhhhhh) date has been set for an open-ish, buy-in variation on the theme, so we’ve upgraded the official RPS DayZ watch alert level from “Soon” Green to “No, Maybe Actually For Real This Time” Neon Hyper-Plaid. But even if the long-awaited game of moral decay doesn’t do it for sandbox lovers, it’s not like it’ll be unceremoniously hurled into an early grave. Taking another page from EVE’s playbook, the DayZ team is hoping to start small and listen to its most dedicated players. “Wider audiences” might not find a particularly warm welcome here. At least, not at first.

“We only need a reasonably small group of players for DayZ to remain profitable and for us to continue development,” he said. “If we achieve that, I think we might even bring back the players who were disenfranchised by the mod or development of the game.”

Rocket’s ambitions are an odd mix of down-to-earth and almost astoundingly sky-high, but there’s no telling which mark his game will actually hit. It certainly sounds intriguing, but then, so can anything when somebody’s drunk on the drug that is enthusiasm. For now, though, all we can do is keep our eyes open and choose our allegiances carefully. We’ll need all the friends we can get when the Goonswarm invariably takes over.

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33 Comments »

  1. jrpatton says:

    A lot of what makes EVE great are the corporations operating in a free market. I can see the parallels between that and DayZ, but it’d be nice if DayZ supported clans natively. It sounds like there’s the possibility of base building, so that’ll help too.

  2. Cerzi says:

    Ten years ago the MMO industry had 2 opposing game philosophies to follow: Everquest’s, and Ultima Online’s. Eve Online was the only successful MMO that followed the ideals of early UO, and I’m glad that attention may finally be returning to this side of things, even if it’s taken over a decade to happen.

    Imagine how much more interesting things would be by now if Blizzard funded Shadowbane instead of WoW.

    • bstard says:

      Not sure the average player can cope with all that sandboxing. Tracks man, gimme guidance and lead. Also, within 15 minutes I will loose all interest.

    • Shuck says:

      WoW would have been a much less popular game had they gone that route (orders of magnitude less popular). Multiplayer sandboxes are new-player unfriendly; newbs tend to bounce right off of them. WoW’s mainstream appeal is due to the hand-holding and largely linear and highly consistent “theme park” experience. The experience is the same for each player; with a sandbox, things are constantly shifting and player experiences can vary wildly, depending on when they joined.

  3. DrazharLn says:

    Agreed.

    If they have interesting base-building (I’m especially interested by the create-your-own approach and the idea of programmable elements), then one can imagine raids on opponent’s base-factories for resources or for market advantage.

    Player created and maintained markets, public and safe houses and so on would be really cool. they could have programmable NPCs to act as merchants, guards and builders.

    If the tools are there, they could generate a really interesting living virtual world, not just a game.

  4. phelix says:

    My proposed alt-text: An astronaut aboard the USG Ishimura, yesterday.

  5. Elmarby says:

    For all my time with the mod version of DayZ, disappearing servers, glitches, patches and hackers have made it that I start afresh every time I give it another go. As if success in DayZ was not fleeting enough by design. Before I drop coin I really need to hear that my efforts in DayZ will have some protection from just disappearing in a void every time I give it a few weeks break.

    Eve is succesful because over time you build up worth to the point where you have a tiny empire of your own. In DayZ, so far everything I gathered went *poof* if it did not merely end up in the hands of a bandit or a thief.

    • lefiath says:

      Those problems you mention have already been resolved even in the mod, and Standalone is something completely different. Just listen to some of the interviews Rocket gave, what they focus most on right now is security and performance (and obviously content). I have no worries about that, but that is just a part of what will make DayZ Standalone a good experience.

      • Elmarby says:

        I beg to differ.
        I fired up the mod this weekend and once again I had no option but to start on the beach with no gear. Whether private hive or main server, your gear still being where you last left it (on your person or in a well hidden cache) is unlikely if you took a small break.
        I am a big fan of the mod and have followed the development closely but have not heard details on how they are going to make sure the random (accidental) wipes are a thing of the past.

        • shagohad says:

          the fact that loot or cars de-spawn is needed to maintain a balance in the current mod due to the lack of a global loot system. If loot never despawned it would be even more saturated that it is now.

          As for the other problems I have been playing (though recently quit) a mod called DayzRedux that essentially fixed almost all the really gamebreaking bugs. This was done by a couple of enthusiasts so I hope that rocket can get that shit fixed,

          If you havent watched the Rezzed presentation by him I recommend it, it made me much more excited about the game and the new features they showed whereas previously they had just been showing random bullshit.

          anyways I am ready for this cant come too soon

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        The mod is still broken. It still suffers from glitches and crashes and annoying mandatory server resets. If users can expect the same experience from the standalone, then I can expect to not spend money on it.

        • Cleave says:

          The main change in the standalone is the MMO server architecture so it’s very unlikely that many of those problems will remain.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            I hope so. I love the concept of DayZ, but my actual experience with it was underwhelming. The myriad technical issues left me less than impressed.

  6. Premium User Badge

    lowprices says:

    Well, I spent a few hours in the mod a while back, and based on my experience of being instantly murdered by everyone I met, DayZ already has Eve’s “Few Decent Souls Drowning in a Sea of Bastards” audience. So it’s halfway there.

    • lefiath says:

      It wasn’t always that bad. I remember playing it more than year ago in the first months and while we met few hackers, it was generally different. People actually were cooperating! Then it went downhill, because many discovered an obvious problem: What do you do next? Currently, even with other mods like DayZ Origins, there is almost no reason to do anything else than shoot other people. After you explore what mod has to offer, you get bored. That’s why most of the people that still play DayZ play it just to be bandits, as sad as it is.

      • Elmarby says:

        Yeah, this has been my experience too. The first few weeks after RPS brought the mod to my attention were the greatest. You could risk cooperating with strangers and had a decent chance of having fun together.
        It was a great feeling to rescue someone from a bad zombie encounter, patch them up and give them some basics and help them on their way.
        Then the mainstream crowds came in and coupled with the dyed in the wool survivors getting bored meant it resulted in nearly every encounter being a shoot-out. Whatever goodwill I had towards my fellow man quickly drained away after that. At first I and my fellows just avoided others but after a while of boredom and being on the receing end of ambushes we let out our inner douchebags too.
        Especially on a low population server (as was the case on the now sadly gone RPZ hive) an encounter was too rare not to get the most out of.

        The real trick I’d like Rocket to pull off is getting back to the interaction of those early days. I doubt he can, be he can have all my monies if he does.

        • shagohad says:

          I also started playing after RPS’s first article on it,

          to be honest the complaint about bandtiry has always been there, the thing people dont realize is that its just community outlook. The only way to stop it is not kill people at random, try and be friendly. I have a mountain of random skype contacts from dayz, just from that. If you get cheesed from being killed and start doing it yourself its just part of the problem.

          of course this only applies on the coast, anywhere inland you need to either have the person completely at your mercy when you approach them so you can assure your safety.

          I think private communities also solve this to some extent, when people have a reputation in a community it means something to them as strange as that may sound

  7. Artist says:

    “Our worst fears came true [in The War Z] – and they weren’t that bad.”
    *cough, cough*
    Are we talking about the same horrible, multi-copycat crapfest, Mr. Hall?

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      That was his point. Someone beat them to release and it was horrible. The War Z, I mean. Not being beaten to release.

  8. Cyrius says:

    I literally LOL’d at the Neon Hyper-Plaid sentence.

    To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this. I kinda thought Day-Z standalone would be basically Day-Z the mod. I am glad to know that it is going to be much more, and should be much more. There is an incredible amount of zombie-themed horseshit out there right now, and we are only scratching the surface of what can be done.

    Zombies, to me, were always about survival, building companionship out of necessity, and conveying the message of consumerism and useless shit surrounding us all the time (Trapped in a mall anyone?)

    We really are just starting to hit the ‘survival’ part, and Day Z sounds like itll be a huge step in the right direction both for the survival and the camaraderie based on necessity. Should be cool.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Jerricho says:

    Is that a Zombie Molyneux?

  10. Morzak says:

    Yeah sure all games will become like EVE………… How do people get that Idea, EVE appeals to a small subset of Gamers…. It’s not something that draws mainstream audience. Don’t get me wrong I like EVE and the Idea behind it, but to assume that this is the future even though only a small subset of gamers actually play that game. And no there will always be more directed experiences out there because many people like it!

    As for DayZ, let’s see what they can deliver, I’m personally not that much into those Survival sandbox games, but if they execute it really well it could be fun.

    • jonahcutter says:

      Well, Hall does point out they don’t need a huge population to keep it running.

      An fps, survival-based version of EVE is an excellent way to go for DayZ. It’s going to be tough to pull off though. Overcoming human-nature on the internet (aka bored Cherno snipers) with game design and mechanics, while still allowing player freedom, is no small task. I always thought the mod would function far better if they removed all the long-range weaponry and made ammuntion for pistols and shotguns so scarce that you’d be fortunate to have even a dozen rounds at any one time. Then up the zombie difficulty, reduce the food abundance, and you’ve got an actual need for strangers to cooperate to rival the desire to shoot on sight.

      Even better, make shooting someone potentially damage whatever they’re carrying. You might want to trade with or rob that person, instead of simply shooting them…

      His vision of the game seems all over the place though. Instanced Red Faction Guerilla destructible environments with maybe plant husbandry? And “if that doesn’t work”, then maybe a top-down version with placing traps? This doesn’t come across as having a specific vision or focus on how to get there. And a way to use up a bunch of dev resources without ending up with much to show for it. But hey, tattoos!

      I’d say following the EVE approach is DayZ’s best chance to become a legitimate game, and not a throwaway mod. I’d be far more interested in hearing about how the game creates competing needs in a player though: the need to not kill other players being as strong as the need to kill them. If they can pull that off, they’ll start to have something. And I think the key to that is creating a bad-ass zombie mechanic that is a legitimate and constant threat to everyone.

      • ironman Tetsuo says:

        Have you watched the video of Dean talking at Rezzed? He mentions objects being destructible now which is great but I’m really hyped for the potential with the radios, hopefully their ability to become remote broadcasters will encourage safer trading and more inventive forms of griefing. Anything to broaden the scope for player inventiveness!

  11. ShEsHy says:

    Haven’t read the full article yet, but still had to comment that finally, after years and years of waiting, I’ve seen Evil Genious get a mention. I’ve begun to think that I was the only one who played it.

    • jonahcutter says:

      Evil Genius is one of those classic flawed diamonds. I still periodically reinstall and play it, while dreaming of a sequel.

      • jalf says:

        Huh, can I ask why?

        I always felt it was merely a “Dungeon Keeper, as reimagined by someone who had a fun idea for a new setting, but didn’t really understand what made DK a good game”.

        If anything, the opposite of a “flawed diamond”. As in, it looked pretty and well-polished, it glittered nicely, but it was ultimately just a pretty trinket, not a gemstone.

        But hey, your mileage may vary, and obviously, this is subjective.

        I’m curious what you saw in it that I didn’t, though.

        • jonahcutter says:

          As you point out, first it’s got style to spare. I personally enjoy the all the glittering bells and whistles. The animations. The sound design. The music. The news blurbs as you do acts of infamy. Tone and atmosphere can go a long way in this game for me. And this game has a fully conceived and realized art design. Of subjective value to individual players though, yes.

          The creating and recreating of a base and playing with different trap systems is what is the real core fun. Of course you can fairly easily min/max it and then cruise quickly into boredom. The game is far from perfect. But if you create artificial challenges for yourself like a base with multiple entrances and overly-elaborate traps, it becomes much more challenging and open-ended. Basically, I roleplay a bit as a cartoonish but not-all-there villain and I get more out of it.

          It’s got many problems too. Many small flaws. But the biggest is the paper-thin mission structure. Almost nothing there. The results are fun, with getting to place various objects around the base that also aid in your minion stats. But the missions themselves are nothing more than a pure spreadsheet “game” with a graphical overlay. Move your numbers around and wait.

          It’s true though, it doesn’t hold long-term. It’s not a game I keep installed. It’s something that pops up in my mind every so often, I go reinstall it and contentedly tinker away with traps and base layout for a while, and then drift away again. All the while wishing for a sequel that expanded on a promising beginning.

          Anyway, yeah I consider it a flawed diamond. It’s got some great core worth, but with plenty of cracks and imperfections. But still glitters nicely if held up to the light in particular ways.

          Gemstones are pretty trinkets. They have no inherent value. They exist to glitter nicely. You can’t eat them.

          • gi_ty says:

            It’s awesome seeing this game come up in discussions, I just got it off of GOG on Friday and I adore it. It tickles my fancy in ways I haven’t had in a sandbox-y builder in a long time. I’m enjoying training up masses of mercs and Bruce Lee types maxing the Heat and relishing in the apocalyptic battles that ensue. Watching the outer layer of defense crumble as the super agents try to get to my inner sanctum is lots of fun to watch. I too wish someone would rezzerect this title.

        • Koozer says:

          Brace yourself: I think I prefer Evil Genius to Dungeon Keeper (2).

  12. hotmaildidntwork says:

    Hopefully they won’t copy the soul crushing tedium part of harvesting resources in eve. >.>

  13. JudyCrews37 says:

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  14. KayinAngel says:

    As much as I’m not particularly fond of Eve…. at least it has gameplay goals beyond ‘run endlessly from zombie, shoot players sight’