During Gamescom, we met up with Bohemia Interactive’s own Dean Hall, the brains behind the brain-eater survival mod sensation known as DayZ. This is our story.
Default Prime: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Dean Hall: I’m Dean Hall. I’m project lead on DayZ at Bohemia Interactive.
Default Prime: DayZ kind of exploded on the Internet (and for those two readers who don’t know what DayZ is, it is basically an ARMA II mod with zombies). How do you explain the popularity of DayZ?
Dean Hall: Well, I think a lot of it comes down to people being natural storytellers. And the tagline of DayZ is “This is DayZ, this is your story”. So, DayZ is all about you experiencing your own story, often with other players. People go out and tell their stories on Twitter, 4chan, reddit, stuff like that, and when they do that, it gets other people interested. So I think that’s really what fueled it: people would play it, then have these crazy things happen to them – unscripted stuff; just interactions with players and they go talk about and then more people would come. And I think that’s really why it exploded.
Default Prime: I read an interview where you said you didn’t have such high expectations. What was your estimate number of players?
Dean Hall: The system was only designed for maybe a hundred players across a couple of servers, so certainly not a million players across thousands of servers. So, I guess I thought it was going to be popular inside the ARMA community itself. You know, ARMA has a really great community and a bunch of really good mods. I knew it was going to be big there because it was quite innovative in its approach, but I think nobody could have seen the mainstream crossover that it saw.
Default Prime: Yeah, it reached that point where all of a sudden ARMA skyrocketed on the Steam charts.
Dean Hall: It’s quite bizarre, really.
Default Prime: We already know that there will be a DayZ standalone release. What can you tell us about that?
Dean Hall: Well, it will be released by the end of this year. And the main focus is on polishing up what we have now. There are a lot of issues associated with the mod, because it’s trying to get ARMA to do things ARMA was never intended for. So, that really opens it up for hacking, whole bunch of bugs, pathfinding issues and stuff like that. We’re going to tidy all that up. We’re also going to put in enough features that people are comfortable playing a small price point, like 15 euro or something for it when it releases. I think that’s really important to us: not only do we polish it up, but we put in enough content into it. We’ve taken the Chernarus map, we’re calling it Chernarus Plus. It’s got more enterable building, slightly expanded terrain, redeveloped bits and bugs fixed. We just want to provide a more polished game, rather than a mod.
Default Prime: Since DayZ itself started off as a mod, is the stand-alone game going to be moddable?
Dean Hall: That was the really difficult question. So, the DayZ standalone game won’t moddable initially. It might be something we allow later on as a sandbox mode, where you can load in mods. But unfortunately, to kind of deal with the hacking, it was the only direction we could go. But to counter that, we’re gonna open the mod right up. We’re going to allow people to edit the mod as much as they want to, run their own private central servers, all kinds of stuff with their own settings. Then we’re going to take the best ideas out of that and incorporate them into the game itself.
Default Prime: Since you’re going to let people do all that stuff with the mod, what can you tell us about the main difference between the stand alone game and the mod? What will be people be missing out on if they go with one or the other?
Dean Hall: I think it will rapidly increase. The real initial difference will be that DayZ the game will deal with a lot of the bugs and hacking problems. It will also have a feature set that is not in the DayZ mod. Things like a simple ragdoll implementation, much better visuals, taking some other visual styles from ARMA III and implementing them in DayZ. It will just be greatly improved and I think that’s the key focus.
Default Prime: So, we’re talking about stuff you might be able to mod in the DayZ mod, but ARMA wouldn’t play nice with it?
Dean Hall: Yea. DayZ the game will go in its own direction in the source, away from where ARMA is. So, quickly you’ll see a divergence between the game and the mod. And you know, we’d love to get some user content into DayZ, maybe that’s the area where we look at maps. Maybe we can look into bringing community maps into DayZ. But the when you’re running DayZ in multiplayer mode it needs to be locked down. If it’s not locked down, then we open it up for the hacking problems we’ve got now. So it’s just an unfortunate byproduct.
Default Prime: Yeah, in these kind of games, it’s almost never fun to die due to hacking.
Dean Hall: Yeah, so we need to have that multiplayer mode where it sticks with a very solid PvP experience that’s the same for everyone.
Default Prime: I’m guessing DayZ is going to stick with multiplayer mode only? There won’t be any single-player content?
Dean Hall: There’s a lot of games that do single-player zombie genre very well. Like, I think Project Zomboid is awesome. So, why should we do that when we’re only going to do a very half-assed attempt at it. So, DayZ is gonna focus on what made DayZ great and stick with that. I don’t know, maybe later on someone might make a single-player mode when we open it up for modding, but certainly for me, it’s not something I’m really looking at doing with it.
Default Prime: For the last question, can you tell us about your DayZ favorite scenario you had while playing?
Dean Hall: My favorite scenario was probably when I had broken legs and I ran into this guy. I had a hatchet and I helped him and offered him some food. He ended up helping me find some morphaine, but we actually both ended up getting killed en route to do that. We had this kind of moment where I was bleeding and I knew I was going to die, so I gave him my gear. It was this positive random encounter and I never saw him again. We never know who the other was. It was really cool.
Default Prime: Thank you for your time.
Miodrag hails from the land of Serbia. He is currently a college student trying to learn Japanese and speaks English, German and Serbian (as well as all the jabber similar enough to Serbian). He is primarily a PC gamer, but knows his way around various consoles, old and new.
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