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 sounds like 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.