I had long discussions with several people about Day Z at Rezzed and most were were surprised, mid-talk, to learn I still haven't played the ARMA 2 mod. Turns out I'm very good at borrowing Jim's opinions and absorbing experiences vicariously through Youtube. The infectious growth of the mod was a story in itself but the possibility of a standalone version, perhaps as early as September, could mean significant changes are coming. Here's what we know.
Dean "Rocket" Hall's discussions about the possibility of a standalone version of the game weren't based around existing agreements; the plan is one of "intentions" rather than a specific roadmap with partners in place.
The September date that Digital Spy suggest is based around Hall's preferred model:
"Free-to-play is a successful model for games, and certainly one day I see survival games like DayZ as free-to-play, and it would probably be the most profitable model for something like DayZ - but I think it would harm the creative and experimental nature of DayZ. Therefore my preference is for a Minecraft type model..."
Following the Minecraft model, judging by Hall's words, means releasing early, and adapting to community feedback. He doesn't believe that it should "take too long for that kind of development to take place". The release would not be the end of development but the beginning of a new phase. To reach that point, however, there would have to be enough content and features in place to justify an as yet undecided price tag.
Speaking of the "harm" that free-to-play could cause to an experimental development model is interesting. What Hall could achieve with Day Z, if he were able to sell it independently while continuing to modify and expand it, would be hindered terribly by having payments occur within the game rather than to purchase the game. If elements could be purchased independently, how much more difficult to change them after a number of players have paid for them, how problematic the decision to remove aspects that may be profitable but create undesired imbalance or damage the overall feel of the experience.
Of course, selling a thing that is in a state of change and development has its own problems, with purchasers potentially left unsatisfied or, worse, seeing the game move in an unwanted direction. However, as long as the model and the intent is clear, it does seem the sensible path and avoiding the potential perils of free-to-play in favour of a complete but adaptable experience seems like a firm step toward making 2013 Year Z.
There are no guarantees though, of dates, partners, prices or features. The only thing that seems certain is that there are bigger things ahead and the community that helped to make the mod such a success will most likely be involved.
"...there are still a number of things that need to happen before this project as outlined could become a reality. It's my desire, and I believe it's possible."