DayZ Alpha Will Be A ‘Disappointment’ If You Want A Demo

By Nathan Grayson on December 5th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

Patience, boy. Patience. You'll be bringing down entire helicopters all by your lonesome in no time.

Once upon a time, “early access” meant “a glorified demo with maybe a few features toned-down or MIA.” These days, however, it’s increasingly become a legitimate look behind-the-scenes of the game development process, a chance (for better or worse) to pay a penny to give our thoughts. On one hand, it aids game development on multiple levels, but on the other, there’s ample room for abuse of the system. I cannot in good conscience discuss these things without offering that disclaimer, and neither, apparently, can DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall. In a recent forum post, he was quite upfront about it: DayZ Standalone will be a mess on day zero, and many of its new features might not blossom into full fruition for months to come.

He laid out where the long-awaited project is right now and where it’s headed in a post on the official DayZ forums:

“I really can’t emphasize enough: this is going to be an early access project on Steam. It’s a true-blue alpha. Massive areas of the engine were entirely reworked, involving a large team of people over the last 12 months. Much of what these achievements will enable won’t be seen for many months – so I really plead for anyone who is on the fence to take a skeptical approach – watch streams, read reviews, watch some let’s play and form your opinion. You could always come back to the game in three, six months time and buy it then.”

“Buying early will be a recipe for disappointment. It’s a chance for those who want to be part of that whole process. For them, the process is as much as part of the game as the whole experience. For many, this is the opposite of what they want. To enable a smooth launch, we really are targeting it at a core audience who want to get deeply involved in a very barebones experience that is a platform for future development.”

The past many months have been more about sorting out architectural issues than anything else, so polish in other areas is minimal. On the upside, the framerate is now holding steady, and progress continues apace – shambling determinedly onward despite setbacks, like a zombie whose shoelaces have been tied inextricably together. We giggle when he falls on his noseless face, but he’ll get our brains eventually. Bless his courage. The brave thing.

As for a release date, well, that’s still up in the air. It┬ásounds┬álike Hall and co are just about ready to let their death-defying abomination loose from the lab, but it’s sounded that way for months. I’ll believe it when I see it, I guess. Although, to hear Hall tell it, even then I might not enjoy it. But hey, I’ll take honesty and upfront-ness over omission and deception any day of the week. Good on the DayZ team for sticking to their guns.

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37 Comments »

  1. Lemming says:

    How basic it is (judging from gameplay footage), vs how long it has taken to get to this point, is shameful. Wasn’t he doing better when he didn’t have the support of the Arma developers? I think he’s more or less missed the boat on this.

    • terry says:

      As I understand it, they had to basically rebuilt the back-end infrastructure from the ground up – the current system is more akin to an MMO server structure than the ARMA model, which left a lot of control in the hands of the client.

    • Discopanda says:

      DayZ is going to sell like gangbusters. Funnily enough, The War Z was developed in roughly 6 months based on a pre-existing game and released Christmas 2012, and lo and behold; it was legendarily terrible!

    • bit_crusherrr says:

      Most of the time has been spent re-writing how the game works. A lot of stuff in ArmA is client side which leads to hacking being hard to stop. So it’s all been moved server side. Then there’s the “network bubble” which took a lot of time to work on as well. They’ve been pretty busy.

    • remoteDefecator says:

      Fully agree. Every time I see SA footage, I’m baffled. They’ve spent all their time making 3D models of items and a different-but-still-just-as-wonky inventory. Lack of 3D models and the inventory weren’t what kept DayZ from being a fully playable game. The important stuff, like zombie behavior and item functionality (like the hatchet) is unchanged. I just feel like what the developers think is important is not what I think is important, and probably a lot of other players of vanilla DayZ.

      • dmastri says:

        If you take the time to read his entire post you’ll see they have spent 12 months focusing on the important things. The biggest piece of this has been the rewrite of the network code to make everything tracked server side. I’m speculating here, but it doesn’t seem like the Arma2 engine was designed to work this way and it’s been quite difficult to get everything server side AND maintain good FPS. They don’t have a choice though; if they left it all client side it’s all highly exploitable.

        I’ve been disappointed by the seemingly glacial pace as well for the same reasons as you. Every video I watch I’m incredibly unimpressed with the progress of zombie movement and combat. But that’s all just from taking a cursory glance at gameplay videos.

        After all the big name titles that have been released in atrocious condition (Rome2, BF4, Aliens, Simcity) I’m happy to see a dev be so transparent. It’s ready when it’s ready.

      • Potentaint says:

        I’ve been following this pretty closely and have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. Essentially Mr. Hall has a menagerie of dev units that were haphazardly thrown together underneath him in a dynamic fashion; dynamic meaning that these teams were patchworked together as development took off and they started to understand the shortcomings of the Arma engine, which are many. While the various entities worked on fleshing out interiors of buildings and upgrading the weapon models, others were thrown the incomprehensible task of completely redoing the net code to allow for a ‘network bubble’ which will lessen the toll taken on client side processors, a necessary feature to make DayZ SA run effectively. The network portion is so convoluted and nuanced, that it is lagging behind the other aspects of game development, effectively making it look like Dean is leading his team members in the wrong direction, which is patently false.

    • Gaz_Carbonique says:

      On the mod, it took him eight months to fix the glitchy tents that ate their contents on restart, or disappeared entirely, or duplicated everything. Not a big shock that after a year of development we’re not seeing a quality product. But the fanboys want their “alpher.” Even if it sucks rocks.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Apparently you’re as smart as the Minecraft players who complain about the lack of new features while the dev team is hard at work reworking all the internals for better modding support and future additions. Changes to a game are not always visible, you dummy, and anyone who’s every worked on a game knows that it’s a crash-happy, ugly-looking mess most of the time, unless you’re stopping progress on features and just fixing bugs for a demo or the release.

    • MiKHEILL says:

      There’s nothing shameful about it. Making games is hard. Retooling an engine is hard. This is a pretty common theme that thankfully seems well understood at RPS.

  2. Talon2000uk says:

    Too little too late I’m afraid. The Mod has moved on with variations like Epoch and others, giving a way more interesting take on the Zombie Apocalypse experience than plain old vanilla DayZ.

    This stand alone will have even less features than the original mod, so I’m not sure why I should buy It. Maybe someone can enlighten me?

    • purdz says:

      You seemed to have missed the point a bit though, what they are saying is you shouldn’t buy it if that’s how you feel!

      There are currently great additions to the mod as you mention such as Epoch and Origins but we all know when playing them that a frustrating glitch or a random hacker is just around the corner ready to ruin our fun. Standalone *should* hopefully make that experience a lot less painful so once the core of the game is running stable you will again see great additions like Epoch running on a STABLE base.
      I’m not sure they’ve made clear their intentions with regards to modding but I do believe they would be stupid to discount it as the basis of ARMA and Bohemia has always been about the community and the value that that adds to your product.
      Keep your money in your pocket for now, keep enjoying the mod, I know I will, but once they’ve added vehicles and base building into the standalone don’t be ashamed to jump into it you don’t have to limit yourself to one or the other or feel that because you love the mod you should be a day 1 standalone player.
      Day 1 of the mod itself was incredibly broken, myself and a few others ran the unofficial RPS server Rock Paper Zombies and it was incredibly frustrating and difficult to keep that running well and keep everyone happy, that is the experience I expect with standalone and I will be giving it a go but I wont be devoting too much time to it until it’s at a state I believe to be fun.

    • Turin Turambar says:

      Have three:

      Stability
      Security
      Performance

      All the mods you mention are, like Dayz mod, very crappy: they are full of hackers, the fps is horrendous, the servers usually die and have to be restarted, etc. Which is why the priority for the Dayz standalone was to improve the basic backbone of the game.

      They are being late, but when they finally release it, they will allow for more players, with less lag, with several times more zombies and without hackers. Once they have that basic platform, they can start again adding up features.

      • Gaz_Carbonique says:

        Have you tried the DayZero mod? Whitelisted only, and I’ve never seen a hacker. They’ve added interiors to many of the buildings, and the framerate is better than any other DayZ-type mod I’ve played. It does suffer from the same unfixable Arma 2 pathing problems of course.

  3. razgon says:

    Nah, if State of Decay has shown anything by its very high sales numbers, its that there is a huge market for zombie survival games, and this smells enough like it to be catagorized as such.

    The fans from the previous projekt will come as well, have no fear.

  4. Big Murray says:

    DayZ has giant dogs?

    SOLD!

  5. Unrein says:

    They may not get the numbers they could have had if they had released earlier, but it’s highly fucking unlikely this will be a failure like so many seem to be crowing. Hell, they may even get bigger interest from releasing later since the numbers for the mod versions have died down.

  6. Moraven says:

    Listening and being told the wrong thing time after time is the biggest disappointment. So much for a beta 12 months ago.

  7. Tridae says:

    (insert generic rant about ‘too little too late’ and ‘dayz is dead to me now for taking too long’ ) . . – jokes

    I for one am fine to wait, from all the dev videos it seems to be heading in a good direction and their attention to the framework which supports this thing is what’ll make this a success. Sadly this is something that most people fail to understand which concludes in their constant negative comments about it.

    I almost think it’s a good thing that it’s dragging on. . let the main zombie craze die down a bit, let the State of Decays and the WarZs happen. . then when the market is fresh again WHAM! A polished rock solid DayZ enters the fray and happiness all around.

    Patience will pay off. Its a tiny team, their progress is already apparent from all the videos. They’re attempting the near impossible – exploitproofing a very complex game system. ‘That shiz takes time yo’

    • Talon2000uk says:

      No, I completely understand why its taken so long to rewrite the underlying architecture of the game and turn it into a secure client server model, I’m just saying that people, myself included have moved on. I’m sure there are die hard fans such as yourself who are prepared to wait, but I’m not one of them.

      I have friends who are very excited for this Alpha and I to may buy this one day when it is feature complete, or at least has all the features of the original mod, I just don’t think that just offering the same old vanilla DayZ experience is going to cut it this late in the day. Just my opinion of cause.

      • kyrieee says:

        Lack of features was never the problem with DayZ and in any case the long term potential of this project is much greater than with any of those mods of a mod. You don’t need to be excited for it, the point of rocket’s statement is to say you shouldn’t be excited about it because it’s got a long way to go.

  8. HisDivineOrder says:

    Mods are one thing. Full releases are another. Polish is very necessary for the latter while a bonus for the former.

  9. Gaz_Carbonique says:

    Bohemia should NOT release this at all before fixing the core elements. From what we saw in the leaked November video, the standalone zombies are just badly animated, reskinned, Arma 2 civilians. They’re better than the mod, but not much.

    There’s a market for a quality zombie survival game. Maybe it’s time for another developer to step up? Or maybe Bohemia should be working with the developers of DayZero or Arma 3 Breakingoint if Dean Hall can’t cut it.

  10. SkittleDiddler says:

    Sounds like the engine is what’s holding this game back. I’m just left shaking my head at Rocket’s obsessive dedication to Real Virtuality and Bohemia, when one of a number of other professional setups could probably have gotten the job done by now.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      That’s entirely the developers fault. Instead of using the Arma 3 engine – a far, far better engine, with some features that would have truly pushed DayZ into a category of it’s own (the frankly unbelievable fog rendering alone) he chose to use the Arma 2 engine.
      An outdated piece of junk and has spent all his time trying to barely get it to do what he needs to make it work instead of what the game should have to make it great.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Yeah, we should probably be placing blame where it’s due, but that’s not to say Real Virtuaity is entirely blameless in this mess. Rocket has seemingly taken a very slap-dash approach to this whole project, and I’m partial to thinking that that’s as much the fault of clunky source code as it is the developer.

        He could have gone with Source or CryEngine or UE3 or even Frostbite and gotten more substantial results by this point. Instead, he went with an wonky engine that favors “realism” over practicality.

        • Bone says:

          Well, I was thinking the same, getting angry at Dean for not taking the opportunity to switch to Arma 3, but then I bought Arma 3 when it was released, and beside the better, more fluid animations, and how the guns feel, there’s not much to it I have to say. Servers run FAR worse than on Arma 2 release back in 2008 and still do. The big map has blatant FPS issues, hackers? yes -.- car handling is still without grip or feel of weight; inventory is slightly improved, but not the item based stuff they are working on in DayZ SA…

          Getting 17 fps on most servers and scratching 25 in Single Player (while the game looks far worse on my settings) I’m really glad they just use Arma2 with some enhancements for the clouds and fog etc.

          Oh and I have yet to see a halfway decent environment as big as in the Arma series, that’s not chopped into small areas with loading screens, in one of the engines mentioned here ;-)

    • shagohad says:

      dayz is ArmA, why change that? It is not the arma2 engine any more regardless. You are buying a bohemia game, it will be great, fucked up in places, but great all the same.

  11. dethtoll says:

    Bunch of grumps up in here. I can understand that. I’m still getting the game, but not right away. I’ll take it when it gets out of alpha.

    • ninjapirate says:

      If you’re buying the game either way, why not grab it while it’s in alpha? You don’t have to play it until it’s closer to being finished, but you’ll more than likely save some money if you get it early.

      • Svardskampe says:

        Ye, right. If devs would keep onto this schedule of having a cheap alpha and steadily grow more expensive. Except for some select games. (minecraft), this is not happening, and I’ve seen many early access games on sale before they are off early access, effectively making it cheaper to wait it out.

        I for one, think early access is detrimental to games. When a game got released, the momentum of the sales was rolling. That momentum has no shifted to the early access phase, where your game is long gone and trash when it’s ready for actual release. This eats up time from the Dev to continue on the next game.. Steadily into this downwards spiral of going bankrupt. Or maybe even worse, kept alive as a bleeding animal, snarking to its final breaths, trying to survive in his struggle while it’s better off dead.

  12. Skeith says:

    I don’t see why people are so upset about DayZ SA taking so long, or think its window of opportunity has passed. If anything the potential market for DayZ SA is even larger now. It helped establish a weird and now thriving subgenre, even games that existed before the mod were boosted by DayZ’s popularity. Like Project Zomboid which Rocket cites as a major influence.

    Rocket’s various posts about difficulties in development were interesting to read. For one it paints the mod as a miracle of clever programming. With the Arma engine either being not designed to do something or overdesigned, requiring many jury rigged solutions*. In spite of pretty severe limitations it pretty much works. What they’ve had to cut out and replace in the engine is mainly to accommodate a much larger scale while using less resources. One day they want the SA to handle tens of thousands of items, thousands of zombies, and hundreds of players in the world at once and do it easily. That scale is pretty unique and I’d guess they would have a tough time using any game engine. So using their in house one makes the most sense.

  13. RichardDastardly says:

    I think the hype for DayZ is gone folks. Games like Nether are coming up and being developed faster with more features. I don’t think DayZ will sell as much as people think it will.

  14. redd says:

    From what I’ve seen, the new Breaking Point shits all over this.

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