Magnificent And Important Advent Calendar: Day 19

Oh good grief, it’s less than a week away. But we haven’t even bought the sacrificial turkey yet. Horace’s infinity doesn’t include infinite patience! Quickly, we must panic! Meanwhile, please rip open the 19th door on the calendar to see the latest of our 24 favourite games of 2012.

It’s… Day Z!

Jim: Oh, Day Z. The mod that was the news. My instant response to a few hours with this was to say that it was the best thing I had played all year. In some ways that remains true, although there are reasons why a number of other games deserve higher praise, or greater scrutiny. Day Z was standing on the shoulders of a giant. No matter Arma 2’s problems – and they are many, from its demanding engine to its excruciating player-experience – it is a behemoth of simulation, and a towering monster of code that has no peer. The inaccessible soldier-simness of it made it invisible to most people, and worthy of caveats even for those who played it regularly. The hardcore, of course, knew its joys, and its astonishing strengths. It took only the slight tweak of persistence and zombie-apocalypse (and none of these things were really great changes to the base game, at least not at first) for the true appeal of such high-grade simulation to click with thousands more. Even then, though, there were many left out in the cold.

Here’s what mattered, though: As with so many other games that I write rambling eulogies for, DayZ was an anecdote-generator of the highest order. No one could spend time with it without coming away with a story – even if it was about their frustration and death-stumble on the slopes of its difficulty curve – and some of those stories were post-apocalyptic internet-war tales of a classic flavour.

For me, though, my encounter with Day Z was as if someone had been taking notes on my escapist needs. Carefully noting what a game would need to satisfy my needs for survival, terror, and contemplation. The pace of the game – with long periods spent hiding, or simply walking – make it unlike shooters, and just right for my old-man’s need for games to be a mix of mesmerisation through boredom, and extreme horror. Nor does its persistence make it like an MMO. It is most like its parent game, and even then – because of the way the world just exists, and ticks along forever, expecting you just to go in and make your own fun – it is unlike it entirely.

Quinns said something earlier in the year about DOTA 2 being proof that we wanted to have to learn things when playing games, and how we actually valued complexity and challenge. He was absolutely right, and I think Day Z represents another pillar of that. A good number of the people who were drawn in around the hype of DayZ ended up coming away feeling that it wasn’t for them – and I think that’s fair enough. For all the noise, it’s a game that really does ask a lot of its players. Some of them, though, want to face this kind of gauntlet. I am one of them. Daisy, daisy.

Day Z made my year because it was a sort of monster of realism and an angle of surrealism. Arma II’s pretensions toward simulation meant incredible things were possible in this game, but it also made the things that could happen even weirder, precisely because it wasn’t just some pixels flickering.

I’ve seldom swallowed so much tension, or spent so much time alone in a forest, with nothing happening, as I have in this game. And I just want more, and more, and a thousand imitators so that gaming can change forever.

For now I’ve stepped back to wait for the standalone game. But I know once it’s here… Oh, there will be time.


  1. Prime says:

    LOL, timing. :)

  2. -Spooky- says:

    *must .. resist .. to write …* ARG! Ye. Wait for a real polish standalone version. *2 years later, after a few amount of patches*

  3. Carbonated Dan says:

    kinda sad this isn’t number one

    hope the standalone tops next years list

    • Randomer says:

      They are clearly reserving the number one slot for MineZ.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      This could never have been number 1, because not all of the hivemind enjoyed it (or even played it, I don’t think). It’s definitely a game that only catches some—but for them it gets its hooks in deep and pulls hard.

  4. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I must say. I stopped playing DayZ. My love for it remains, also.

    I got into Cherno, with some hi-tek weaponry/gadgets and etc. And then for some reason during a patch, DayZ just flat out refused to play nice with my GPU setup or drivers or something. Rendered it unplayable. Which is a shame.

    But surely the stand alone must be close? I mean, if WarZ devs were scared enough to pump out an alpha/beta, surely you would only do such a thing to beat DayZ to the finish/start line?

  5. philbot says:

    I was playing this one a lot, but the glitches and hacks got a bit too much. I hung around waiting for it to clear up with patches, but there were several months where nothing changed, and the PvP made it even harder to move round. Hopefully the standalone gives people a reason not to shoot others.

    • varangian says:

      Ditto. It deserves a place in the calendar as it was a good idea that, in its early incarnation at least, seemed to heading for great things. Then it all went horribly wrong and turned into the griefers and hackers paradise that, so far as I can tell, it remains to this day. ‘Rocket’ seemed keen to boast of how many people had played it at conventions so I amused myself keeping an eye on the stats and while the hype kept it going for a while – hitting > 100k unique players in a day for bit – they dropped pretty rapidly. Fell down to ~30k players a day but that statistic mysteriously disappeared from the page a couple of months back so who knows how many people actually still play this.

      • Mad Hamish says:

        Oh plenty still play it, but it’s spread over many private servers, hives and maps. So the official stats can’t really be trusted at the moment. The hacking problem is still there I’m afraid, but so far it’s nowhere near as bad as it was at it’s worst and if you find a good server you can play in relative peace. But it can still happen anywhere. Also since the community updates started it gets updated more. Check out the .eu version of Taviana 1.2.0 to preview the official 1.7.5 patch. No more safety in vehicles and zombies are more dangerous now.

  6. Moni says:

    I feel like every article that mentions either DayZ or WarZ should just begin with big text saying DayZ != WarZ, and link to a website called “”.

    • RedViv says:

      Or we just agree on that nobody should ever mention the other game again. Just forget about it. Push it under the rug. Roll it into the rug. Throw the rug out of the window. Pour bubbling oil over it. That should be enough.

  7. Drake Sigar says:

    The few times I managed to get a group on Day Z turned the game from merely being great to perfection.

    “GET IN THE CAR, GET IN THE F**KING CAR!” I screamed, as a horde of zombies descended on the gas station. My comrades jumped in and we burned rubber, laughing at the zombie we bashed who went flying horizontally 20 feet into a tree. We rode down the highway, travelling distances which would’ve taken hours on foot, whooping like rednecks.

    I was there during the first weeks, when planes were falling out of the sky and you would be extremely fortunate to get a mere uninterrupted half an hour out of the game without the servers restarting.

  8. grundus says:

    I do love Day Z, or at least I tried to, but the hassle of patching it combined with the rampant hacking put me off it big time. I had some great times, but in the last few times I tried it I was levitated and then respawned on a beach in Cherno where I was blown up by some guy with an AT launcher, another time I was killed by some guy who just happened to spawn behind me… I could go on but we all know how it goes.

    Then there was the time where I found absolutely no food or drink and died because of it, I’m sure that must’ve been a glitch but it’s kind of annoying to play for that long with absolutely no hope of survival. On the other hand it was kind of fun because it made me do crazy things out of desperation, such as running into towns full of zombies to check houses for food, leading trains of zombies through barns in order to ditch them and so on.

    Damn, I can’t wait for the standalone (if it fixes the hacking).

  9. Clavus says:

    Rocket hasn’t announced that DayZ standalone is postponed, so I assume he’s still going to release the first alpha before the end of the year. Which means in the next 10 days.

    • S Jay says:

      No, as much as I like him, Rocket is not very good at keeping his promises. He said that last week definitely there would be an update about the standalone (which there wasn’t) and now he is in New Zealand having fun with his family during the holiday.

      So, no, it won’t be released in 2012. Which is a good thing if the game is not ready to be released.

      • Clavus says:

        Re-reading the last paragraph of their November update, I guess you’re right. They already hinted the date would probably slip.

      • Syra says:

        He’s gone home for Christmas? What a bastard.

  10. CelticPixel says:

    Best DayZ moment: Running through Cherno at night holding a red flare while listening to ‘John Murphy’s – In the house in a heartbeat’. I didn’t get far, mind.

  11. luukdeman111 says:

    Sooo… 5 more days on the calendar …. Dishonored, xcom, hotline Miami, far cry 3 and I can’t figure out what the 5th game will be… Sleeping dogs perhaps? Or rayman? Crusader kings?

    • Oozo says:

      Spec Ops, maybe? (It won’t be Botanicula, I guess. Which would be a nice game for around Christmas, though.)

      • luukdeman111 says:

        I actually hope it’s spec ops…. For me that was probably goty alongside the walking dead….

        Spec ops is just sooo underrated…

    • jhng says:

      Surely it has to be Crusader Kings. It would a travesty for that to be left out of the calendar. Also, what about the mighty Super Hexagon?

    • Supahewok says:

      My bet’s on Crusader Kings, with Xcom coming in on the last day. (Jim already said Dishonored wasn’t the last one, so unless he’s a BLOODY LIAR it’s out of the running)

      It’s a shame, I was kinda hoping for something unexpected on the last day, like making it Kickstarter. Just because.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      I’ll put money on it being XCOM, Dishonored, Hotline Miami and Crusader Kings II, with the remaining slot being taken by one of their trademark leftfield picks or Far Cry 3 (assuming FC3 was released early enough to be in the running).

      With either XCOM or Hotline taking out the Big One.

  12. Navagon says:

    Was the order of these planned out in advance or was this just horribly ironic?

  13. derbefrier says:

    Waiting for stand alone. I enjoyed ot but it was just too buggy and it got to me bad enough that o decided to quit and wait for Day Z proper

  14. sophof says:

    In the end the bad zombie pathfinding and the many problems with lag and such just didn’t make the game ‘stay’. I have good hopes for the standalone though, if they manage to fix those problems. Our group has had many nights of sheer fun anyway.
    One night in particular, where it was also night on the server stands out. Where our group, for the first time completely ‘kitted’ out with sniper rifles, silenced rifles, ghillie suits and even night vision, encountered an even bigger group with several vehicles looking for gas. The tension of that engagement (we had seen them, they did not see us) was so ridiculously realistic, I will never forget it. Especially because in the end only a single shot was fired…

    The metagame got a bit messy as well in the end, hope they find a way to solve that. It became more and more a game of groups of friends on mumble or whatever sticking together and shooting everyone else on sight, because that was the sensible thing to do. I can imagine people playing alone being immediately murdered constantly.

    • Sigh says:

      I can imagine people playing alone being immediately murdered constantly.


      Day Z was interesting during the first 6-8 weeks of its life when encounters truly were surprising and one did not know how the other player would react: aid you, ignore you, team up, attack you, cautiously watch you, etc.

      As soon as the default reaction became “Shoot on sight” the game lost its charm. There was no more mystery, no more surprises, no more emergent gameplay…just a long un-punctuated string of griefing. At that point the game was just a deathmatch with persistence.

      I enjoyed its infancy however.

      • Oozo says:

        Agree. I very much hope the standalone version will have come up with some ideas to revive that old spirit. I never quite understood why Rocket did get rid of the bandit-system that was in place early on, to be honest. And I don’t know how you could motivate players to behave differently, restore the sense of… mystery, maybe.

        But yeah, for me, it was a more worthwile experience in those early days — which has nothing to do with a misguided notion of “Me Waz there first, dammit!”, but a lot with how those kind of experiences tend to change once the player base has reached a certain critical mass and the experience becomes much more about, well, winning and gaming the system.

      • Synesthesia says:

        +1. This game was amazing when the “faction” system was in place. Encounters were tense, strange, and beautiful. I even teamed up with a bandit for a while, on a market run, to fend off a small horde. The, i cautiously said goodbye, and continued.
        Now, it’s become a frustrating and stupid exercise in repetition, a staggered deathmatch. Let’s see what happens with the standalone though. As i see it, if the only interaction we are allowed to have as players (via game mechanics) is point and shoot at each other, then guess what is going to happen! The early makarov bean wars are a good example of this. As soon as we spawned naked, cherno was a dark, slow paced nightmare.

        I mourned losing this game to the deathmatching horde quite a bit, but all was not lost! I now had arma, and i found the rps TT and folk sessions, and god, is this game great when played in an organised manner. Truly a beast of a game. I’ll be there this sunday!

        • Mad Hamish says:

          The bandit skins have been back in it for ages now and if you have high humanity you get a hero skin.

      • sinister agent says:

        I agree also. Had a great time when it wasn’t pretty much guaranteed that anyone you met would just shoot you, and of course the griefing paradise quickly became a script kiddie playground. Hacking happens in any game, of course, but it really got out of hand months later, and in a game like Day Z, even a little hacking very easily becomes a game-ruiner for everyone.

  15. Brainkite says:

    Really, the title should have been:

    “Magnificent And Important Advent Calendar: Day Z”

  16. daphne says:

    Could it be that Hotline Miami is the 24th pick? COULD IT BE? Naw, it’s probably Far Cry 3, fug. That’s what my micro-second analysis of blog post per author distributions tell me.

    Seriously though, guys, it’s Day 19 and still we have singleton opinions on the games. You’re supposed to be a five fella hivemind, right? So why is there usually only one or two of you commenting on each pick?

  17. airtekh says:

    Not the best thing I’ve played this year, but certainly the most interesting and innovative.

    I stopped playing it ages ago but I’m very much looking forward to buying the standalone when it becomes available.

  18. buzzmong says:

    DayZ is sort of great.

    However, it’s bogged down by the ARMA II engine. Even the standalone will have that problem.

    I fully expect however that the possible ARMA III engine version will be where the game properly comes into it’s own.

  19. cyrenic says:

    There we were, locked in a mortal struggle. I was the bandit, he the hapless survivor, but we both had weapons. We were on a rooftop, circling each other around a ventilation shaft, trying to get an angle on each for a pistol shot. Only one of us was going to leave alive, that was for sure.

    My moment had come, I was just about to get a clear shot. I circled faster, taking aim. Then the world started rushing by and I was dead. I had fallen off the roof in my haste to get a shot on the survivor.


  20. Paislyabmj says:

    I read that as war z.

    You had me scared for a second there.

  21. brulleks says:

    I haven’t even played Day Z, but I’m finding it hard to think of a game I’m looking forward to more next year, so impressive are the reams of stories that have emerged from it.

  22. Paul says:

    Cannot wait for standalone!

  23. kyrieee says:

    Bah, wrote words but it tells me it’s spam

  24. PopeRatzo says:

    Even if they’re zombies, I’m quickly getting less thrilled about games where I kill people by the truckload with automatic weapons.

    The fact that they are mostly unarmed (even though they’re zombies) does not help.

    Will there be zombie schoolhouses with zombie 6 year-olds in this game? Not sure I can do that. The fact that what you killed has zombie makeup and a stiff walk isn’t having the same reassuring effect on me as it used to.

  25. ScorpionWasp says:

    This was one game that, in theory, was everything I had always wanted, and yet royally failed to keep me interested past the first 30 minutes. For starters, the interface is the absolute antithesis of what you’d call intuitive. Doing anything in the game is a pain, starting with the ultra awkward server login screens. But I could have gritted my teeth and weathered that. Heck I probably would have. What nailed the coffin for me was the realization that, for as long as I moved constantly, the zombies could not hurt me, period. That, combined with the reports of numerous PVP exploits turned my interest dead faster than any T-Virus ever could.

  26. BigMorgan says:

    Highlight of gaming for me in 2012 was – without doubt – rolling with 6-10 Arma 2 veterans I’ve been gaming with since 2009 ambushing DayZ noobs at Balota Airfield and elsewhere circa June and July of the past summer.

    Rocket gave us Arma 2 try-hards a great gift. I hope all the new players in the Armaverse enjoyed folks like us ruining their last week (or more) of gameplay looting their NVGs and silenced M4s. Why did he have to put all those moronic zombies in our massive TDM gamemode, anyway?

    Moments I’ll never forget… Come back for Arma 3 :D