DayZ is a multiplayer zombie survival sim which, though buggy and incomplete, produces anecdotes of drama, desperation and clown mask-wearing weirdos. Emily Richardson has been playing it with a question: can you be a good person in the videogame post-apocalypse? Start with part one.
We're a team of four heading straight for the city of Cherno. We have another survivor to pick up and we want to help some people around the town if we can. Yes, by now we realise how dangerous this is. Cherno is not a friendly place and we know that bandits go to find a more challenging kind of prey there, but we'll be a pack of five soon, and we're up for the fight.
The only thing really holding us back is a Swedish friend called Daniel. At every turn he's vanished into the tree line, a factory, a house or something else. Every time I check my numbers, there's always one missing. And it's always bloody Daniel.
When we arrive in Cherno we're fresh out of saline. My beloved, precious saline. Having been given a trouncing by a flock of zombies, I've used the last of my supply on teammates and my screen has gone all monochrome from a persistent punching to the back of the head while I was stuck in the bandaging animation. This is not a good start.
We push on regardless and find our friend. He's right where we arranged, thankfully, and the city seems ripe for the picking. Everyone's trawling through the supermarket looking for food when I step outside to open a can of spaghetti for a friend. I sit and look at this other player in front of me, waiting for him to drop the can for me to open, when another player comes around the corner. I do a double take, looking from one to the other. The second guy is my buddy, the first one... is unaccounted for. I do the maths in my head quickly, counting all the backpacks in my group and all the backpacks I saw in the supermarket. Sure enough, there was one missing, but this is not Daniel stood in front of me now. This is someone else.
“Hello,” he says.
“There's a zombie stuck under there, huh?”
“Uh, is there?” I turn around to look. Sure enough he's right, there's a zombie stuck in the concrete under the shop. “So there is.”
My friends come out to see the new arrival and the new guy backs off a bit.
“Oh wow, there's a lot of you.”
“Yeah. Oh, do you need any help? Would you like a soda?”
Suddenly all my friends are asking him what he needs and throwing items at him. We rarely get a player approach us so openly and our inexperience shows in our ineptitude. The guy is clearly freaked out and I tell him he can leave if he wants. He turns to go without looking back and we wish him a happy birthday, merry Christmas and a happy new year. He doesn't reply.
While moving through the city, someone spies what looks like two other players, both armed. We decide to hide in the church as they're coming our way, and the plan is simple: surprise them with kindness or shoot them to smithereens depending on what they do when they see us and how much we panic and fall to pieces.
Minutes pass by and nothing happens. Suddenly our minds fill with images of ten armed bandits smashing in the church doors with M4s and mowing us all down. Then a more sensible thought occurs – they're going to hide in the buildings surrounding the church and wait for us to give up and come out. Then they're going to blow our heads off. Someone should have waited outside as a scout.
We try a new tactic, which is to lure them in by doing a 'god voice' and saying things like, 'And lo, thy bandit did come to thine church', but to much surprise, this doesn't work either.
We give up and open the doors ourselves. Someone peeks out and runs across the road. We do a lot of faffing around for a bit and then, suddenly, there's a gunshot. We flail as helpless baby birds would until we realise it was one of us firing a warning shot, and then we regain our composure.
We decide to hit the airfield next. We're a hopeless bunch of maverick peacekeepers hell-bent on getting killed, it seems, and so we press on until we get behind the tarmac of the runway, crouching in amongst the trees.
This time I scout the windows of the nearest building with my mosin and let the others know what I see. We've already checked the watch towers and other windows, and we have eyes on most of the surrounding area, so Will and Edward George Terry Fenning move up on the first door.
“I don't see anything, you should be alright,” I say, encouraging Will to open the door and head into the first floor. Which he does. And then all hell breaks loose. The Skype chat descends into terrified screaming and the game audio is nothing but M4 and pistol shots. Turns out a bandit has been skulking in there behind the door, just waiting for a player to come along and wander inside. What this guy hasn't been counting on is an entire group wandering up to him, but nonetheless, with no other entrances to the building we're still at a disadvantage. Running into his M4 fire one-by-one is about the best we can do unless he moves closer to a window so I can shoot him, but there's absolutely no logical reason for him to do that, and so he doesn't.
We sit around for a while and faff some more. It's what we're good at. Twice I hear the static of voice comms without words, but other than informing us that this guy hasn't logged-out in fear, it's not helpful. We run around the building a bit, searching for anything that might give us the upper hand, but, just as expected, there's nothing.
Then the server resets and we all get disconnected. It's been a bad day for helping people, killing people, or even just collecting our divine bags of saline. We're rubbish at this.
The Saline Bandit will conclude... on Wednesday.