In this episode of Tales of the Unexpected, we learn that DayZ creator and lead Dean Hall plans to leave Bohemia by the end of 2014, in order to set up a new studio in New Zealand. The early access version of the multiplayer survival sim passed 1.5 million players this weekend and I don't think it's dropped out of the top three sellers on Steam since release, but Hall told Eurogamer that his continued presence would become a hindrance to the project:
...maybe I've got the gift of the gab, so I can talk, I can explain something, I can talk people up to the ledge and get them to jump off it. That's what I did with DayZ; I've done it twice now - two new code teams have separately done it. But eventually, that's the bad person to have. Eventually, you don't want the guy telling you to go over the top and get through. So at some point I'll be a disaster for the project, at least in a leadership role.
Bohemia have acknowledged the statement but declined to add comment. More details below.
The reasoning is sensible, which is a relief. Hall hasn't watched one too many Youtube videos of bandits committing atrocities and decided to pull the plug on the monster he created. Mostly, it seems, he wants to go home, to New Zealand, as he'd planned to all along. He still wants to make multiplayer games (with three ideas already 'written' and two more percolating) but he wants to do it on his own terms and that doesn't necessarily mean in a leadership role. He recognises his flaws.
...it's kind of like cooking in someone else's kitchen: I don't want to be constantly telling Bohemia that this is how I do it and this is the way we do it.
The thing is, if I'm involved in the project, I'll be fighting anybody on the project to make sure it's good, so for the rest of the year, I'm there. And I don't just sit around; it doesn't matter if I'm the cleaner or the leader or whatever, I will be making sure - I will be in Marek's office yelling at him. I'm notorious for it.
Talking about his plans now is better for everyone, he says, including the DayZ community, Bohemia and himself. He wants to start seeding the new studio now, to start the process of building someting in New Zealand and to let publishers know that he's going to be a free agent in the near future. As for Bohemia, he doesn't want to leave them in the lurch.
I have to be on the project as long as it's important to. Whether that role is as the leader, whether that role is in a more creative sense...But at a certain point there will be diminishing returns.
This way, he says, is fairer than turning around and saying 'see ya' one day, which could create panic. Once the handover is complete, Hall will be continuing to chase the perfect multiplayer experience.
I feel like DayZ is a fundamentally flawed concept and I've always recognised that. It's not the perfect game; it's not the multiplayer experience, and it never can be, [with] the absolute spark that I want in it.
DayZ isn't going anywhere. It's already become a much larger project than anyone could have predicted and Hall isn't leaving on a whim. While the overall direction is unlikely to change, it'll be interesting to see if the devil and the details are reconfigured as time goes on. As for Hall - I'm eager to see what he cooks up next.