Premature Evaluation: Miscreated

That new Tory poster campaign is off to a strong start.

Each Monday, Marsh Davies scours the apocalyptic desolation of Early Access for precious artifacts and/or tins of beans. This week he staggers through the irradiated online survival sandbox of Miscreated.

In this particular post-cataclysm nightmare, I play a bald man of grim countenance, maniacal staring eyes and no pants. In fact, when I first toggle into thirdperson, it appears I don’t even have legs. So far, my survival plans are going exactly as well as I’d imagine they would if civilisation actually collapsed.

It’s not clear exactly what triggered the disaster that has befallen Miscreated’s world, but there seems to be radiation involved, and, inevitably, some sort of zombie-like menace. They’re occasionally seen waddling back and forth amid the tumble-down houses of otherwise deserted townships and, if you’re unlucky, stabbing you repeatedly with large, conical shivs which have been bandaged onto their stump arms. Thanks, Obamacare.

Denim cut-offs, leather slip-on shoes… If GAP starts selling spike-arms and tumours, it’ll have the apocalypse cornered.

I wonder if zombie fiction endures for the reason Simon Pegg suggests – because it evokes the inevitability of mortality, shuffling slowly but implacably towards you – or whether it’s because zombies are the familiar rendered unfamiliar: human society turned suddenly, inexplicably hostile. As social animals, what could be more terrifying than violent persecution by our own tribe?

Zombie games, meanwhile, seem to be desperately trying to render the unfamiliar familiar once more through sheer repetition, and since the release of DayZ there have been no shortage of pretenders like Miscreated, which seek to replicate that game’s open world survivalism, player-driven violence and unhealthy quotient of perma-beta shonk. Of these wannabes, Miscreated is one of the better ones, and already does quite a lot to streamline DayZ’s pitilessly opaque systems and horrible menus.

Drag-’n’-Drop is a welcome improvement over DayZ’s Accidentally Drop.

You might argue that some of DayZ’s richness came from the pedantry of its simulation – insisting that you find a can-opener before you can eat a tin of beans – but at least you won’t be reduced to plangent weeping by Miscreated’s intuitive and simple inventory system. All this simplification is made a slightly easier task by the fact that there are are just vastly fewer systems here to streamline. Though Miscreated promises exciting features like hunting and player-built bases at some point in the future, currently the game’s featureset is pretty much limited to the ability to spawn, scavenge and die – assuming the server you’re on doesn’t keel over before you do.

Generously, my legs pop into existence a little while after spawning, along with bits of level geometry and the majority of textures. My PC (AMD FX-6100, 6Gb RAM, GTX 670) is getting a bit long in the tooth and Miscreated, made in Cryengine, certainly doesn’t go easy on it – epic loading times are coupled with choppy performance and a lot of LOD issues. But when the textures finally deign to arrive, Miscreated can look pretty good.

To be fair, if the world ended, I would probably get legless, too. Ha! Ha!

The tree-lined road ahead is pitted with pot-holes and cluttered with the rusted husks of cars – and while not all of the game assets have a stylistic consistency to them, on the whole they paint a pretty convincing picture of societal and material decay. This is for better and worse: there’s alluring detail in the makeshift fortifications on a collapsing house, the weeds grown wild on the porch, the daubed warnings on its clapboard walls. But I find DayZ’s townships spookier – simply deserted. Like it happened yesterday.

Miscreated’s world feels long gone – and so, it initially seems, are its inhabitants. But then, while investigating a nearby house, I spot a figure. He looks exactly like me, only he isn’t wearing trousers, and his arms are outstretched wide. My traditional display of non-hostility, which involves spinning round and jumping on the spot, elicits no reaction. Perhaps I was hasty to befriend this trouserless fellow, I think, and not for the first time in my life. I give him a playful, friendly punch to the face and, to my surprise, he dies instantly. I feel bad as I loot his corpse, particularly as digging through his inventory reveals nothing of value. Although it appears he had some trousers after all – he just wasn’t wearing them. I tearfully salute his bold rejection of the Old World’s social mores.

RIP, Post-apocalyptic Sex Pest.

My journey continues down a road heaped with the carcases of vehicles and across a bridge. In the gulley below, the remains of an articulated lorry and its cargo lie partially submerged, while a billboard advertises the forthcoming player-built forts with the slogan “survive in style”. I suppose the devs figure that players will break the fourth wall, so why not push it over yourself?

As in DayZ, your exploration is motivated by the need to eat and drink, and my immediate goal is to scour the surrounding buildings for anything I can put in my face. A convenience store, already ransacked, only offers a couple of bandages and a squeegee brush. Here I am hoping that post-collapse society has developed a barter economy around your ability to clean windows:

Throw in another tin of beans and I’ll unblock your gutters, too. Where are you going? Hey!

A trip to the local church proves fruitless, although it’s an impressive vision of decay – all ivy and plywood barricades. Luckily I hit paydirt in a building bearing the enticing slogan “I HAVE WEAPON STAY AWAY” and manage to scrape together a backpack, beanie hat, several tins of soup, a can of soda and, most importantly, horn-rimmed sunglasses. I even manage to swipe a hatchet, which should come in handy if negotiations over my coveted window cleaning skills get heated.

Unfortunately, at this point, the server decides to go it’s time for it to go and have a little lie down. The next server I get into survives a mere five minutes before it too is summoned to the land of nod. I’m somewhat thankful, however, because the server clock was set to some midnight hour and the five minutes it remains functional are a terrifying dash through dark woodland. Somewhat disappointingly, I encounter no one lurking in the bushes, trouserless or otherwise.

I bet I could really bring the shine up on that bonnet. Just saying.

My plan is to get to a water tower that stands on a hill-side above the town – a landmark that should be easy for friend of RPS, Craig Pearson, to find when he logs in to play with me. Craig’s the best sort of person to play these kind of games with – he loves them so much, he quit journalism to go and help make Rust (among other of Facepunch’s projects). And, by luck, when we both find a server to our liking, he spawns in a cluster of buildings only a few hundred yards away.

He has not spawned alone. Suddenly, after hours of isolation, we are repeatedly assailed by insistent but ill-equipped players, each of whom falls beneath Craig’s swinging hatchet. They aren’t our problem though: I’ve spotted a figure on the horizon, watching our antics from afar. It’s hard to tell – and maybe it’s just the LOD settings – but he could be holding a gun. Craig patches himself up in some bushes and instructs me to flank through some gardens, while he approaches the mysterious gentleman along the road. This plan does not work out well for Craig, despite an extravagantly non-hostile display of jumping, and his perforated body crumples to the tarmac. My attempts to circle round unnoticed and take revenge are also unsuccessful. And so the apocalypse cuts short yet another life – so many dreams unfulfilled, so many windows left unwiped.

He didn’t even loot my squeegee.

Subsequent spawns happen in relatively quick succession. I am murdered by one of the roaming zombie NPCs, which I choose to throw myself at unarmed for the sheer novelty. Later we spend a lengthy period of time orienteering, attempting to direct each other to a large motel in a town called Woodhaven. The servers go and up and down. It’s raining. Then it’s foggy. Then it’s dusk.

On one server we’re treated to a bit of in-character player chatter: the local “sheriff” reporting a sighting of two bandits near the motel at Whitehaven. Surely not us, sir, we say. We are merely peaceful travellers in these parts. But someone pipes up, claiming that we shot them with an M4. Then another. And another. Pretty soon the entire server of players is swearing vengeance upon us for crimes we are sadly too ill-equipped to have committed. This emerging drama is cut short by a server collapse, but Craig does his best to whip up some conflict in the next game we join – publically staking our claim to the motel and challenging all comers to battle. No one turns up, though, and after an attempt to reach a hillside observatory is thwarted by the map’s impassable boundaries, we call it a night.

Yellow puffer jacket, Caterpillar boots… If Timberland starts selling open worlds with a quickly tedious sense of purposelessness… woah, deja vu!

Miscreated’s world seems smaller and denser than DayZ’s and its locations have more individual personality. But it comes at the cost of DayZ’s simulatory breadth. Whatever direction Miscreated takes this genre, it’s always going to be playing catch-up with the likes of Rust and DayZ itself, and at the current stage of development it’s hard to see why you’d play it in preference, especially when it costs £19. Some players, like the self-appointed Sheriff, are making their own fun in here, but it’s not obvious that the game is helping them with that in any particularly sophisticated way. It’s certainly one to watch, but right now the devs need to get on with making it before the game can be said to be miscreated or otherwise. For the time being, I’ll be keeping my trousers on.

Miscreated costs £19 Steam, and I played version 0.1.1.1436 available on 13/11/2014.

21 Comments

  1. SMGreer says:

    At the risk of sounding pretentious let me just say I’m put off by this because it looks more “gamey”. Part of DayZ’s haunting allure is the simulation style of it. Cumbersome and clunky yet more immersive. The atmosphere is more tense and danger is always very real, always present.

    Miscreated may have its charms but it just looks more…bland? DayZ hardly has a striking art style but it’s photo-realistic looks lend the world an immersive quality that keeps me invested every time I return to it. Its effortlessly bleak and stark. This just looks more like a typical game, cheaper and more obvious.

    • Lobster9 says:

      I know what you mean. DayZ’s origin as a mod for a realistic military sim gives it the kind of every day detail that genre games usually ignore. It feels like something grim has happened on-top of a real world, rather than a Hollywood approximation of an apocalypse. There are huge swathes of land designed for having tank battles that will never appear in DayZ. When you see a hospital in DayZ, it isn’t just “The Hospital” area, it’s just one of many. It creates a kind of prolonged monotonous atmosphere that would require a lot of restraint to build from scratch for a zombie game.

      That said. I don’t know much about this game, and it might work okay in practice. As much as I love what DayZ did, it do often feel that no one has really cracked the formula yet.

    • brokeTM says:

      I never got that point, that a ‘clunky’ UI or control-scheme makes a game more immersive. That’s like saying having no thumbs makes many sports more cumbersome yet immersive.

      Survival games need to center around dread and tension, the UI should be as unintrusive possible. If I have to use a can-opener on a can in order to open it. Then for the sake of immersion, let me place the can in the word, equip the canopener and use it on the can. All in a as smooth as possible experience. I don’t want a ‘press “X” to heal” in a survival game, but neither want I to wrestle the UI. And that’s where DayZ has fumbled the ball, the UI is a joke.

  2. coppernaut says:

    DayZ has been in early access for almost 2 years and has hardly changed. Biggest scam and cash grab in Steam Early Access ever. Done supporting unfinished “games”.

    • Pulstar says:

      Agreed.

    • SMGreer says:

      Well I paid twenty quid for 300+ hours of some of the best and most interesting multiplayer gaming I’ve ever had. Sure the changes don’t come quick or drastic and it’s rough in places but DayZ has been largely playable from the get go. Also DayZ has been in Early Access for almost 1 year, not 2.

  3. Rollin says:

    7 days to die is by far the best zombie survival game. It’s in a good state even in alpha and gets monthly updates with a whole load of stuff. Plus you can build your own base. Also more PvE/singleplayer friendly, you can run a server with friends for co-op. The others all seem orientated around PvP so the zombies are just a backdrop.

    • slerbal says:

      Agreed! I am having so much fun with 7 Days To Die – we stumbled upon an abandoned prison, fortified it up and fought off wave after wave of Zombies. The upcoming Alpha 10 update is sounding especially tasty and I am really enjoying the blend of Minecraft / DayZ :)

    • Persona says:

      It’s possibly the most polished out of the bunch, even if it still has a long way to go. Which is interesting, because the game looked very rough during their Kickstarter campaign, but they’ve done a lot in just over a year of development. They’ve been using their budget quite well I’d say.

    • statistx says:

      Hmm, seems i have to install it again. Bought it even BEFORE the Kickstarter and back then it definitely was pretty early to form an opinion.

    • 6double5321 says:

      7DTD is a blast…I’ve over 300 hours since alpha 7 and am currently pacing the room till my buddies and I can get our hands on alpha 10. I wouldn’t say updates are coming monthly, but they do come regularly. And the devs are in constant communication with players on the message boards. A shame 7DTD doesn’t get more coverage than it does.

    • Premium User Badge

      Craig Pearson says:

      I tried to play that in January, but it was in an awful state: the atmosphere was ruined by the broken sound and an incredibly busy world. It felt full and loud, which is the opposite of what I want from that sort of game.

      • Persona says:

        It got a lot better once they started polishing some of the mechanics and reworked the interface. But the sound is still broken – if by that you mean the implementation, not the sound missing – and the world is still as busy, since that’s pretty much part of their design.

    • tk421242 says:

      Another thumbs up for 7DTD. I have been playing that game off an on now for well over a year. I find the key to a game like that is wait for a new release version and play it for two weeks or so then let it sit until the next big release. They add small batches of content and fixes with patches in between but when they drop a new version it usually is massive and provides enough new material that I can easily play without getting bored for a bit.

      Version 10 should be coming any day now with new player animations and hopefully new zombie animations.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Has this replaced The Lighthouse Customer?

    Will miss you Chris! Marsh is good too of course!

    • Hex says:

      Yes. :(

    • Persona says:

      What happened exactly? Wasn’t aware Chris wasn’t writing The Lighthouse Customer anymore.

      But since Graham and Marsh are already writing for RPS, how about the rest of the Crate & Crowbartenders join them? Besides Francis of course, Heat Signature isn’t going to develop itself :)

  5. Ashrand says:

    “human society turned suddenly, inexplicably hostile. ”

    #Gamergate?

  6. bonuswavepilot says:

    Sounds interesting, if a bit unstable.

    Also, I don’t think this is how one conjugates the verb ‘to go’:

    “the server decides to go it’s time for it to go and have a little lie down.”