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Dean Hall Discusses DayZ's Development Process
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Dean Hall Discusses DayZ's Development Process

May 24, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

Your mentality is paying off for you, with your game. Have you heard feedback from people saying, "I haven't played a game like this before"?

DH: Yeah, I get that a lot. It's a bit weird for me, because I guess I am always trying to play even normal games in this way. So for me, I always figured I was a bit weird in terms of what I liked. I guess I'm kind of lucky in that my whole life, and career path, and the games I've played has lead toward this particular kind of game that people right now were wanting to play.

But when I give my GDC talk, and I talk to people, I realize we're way over here. [Gestures far right of center] We are just way, way over here. And a lot of people are here [gestures center, chuckles]. So I guess we'll see what happens.

Dark Souls is another example -- the creator of that game has been making difficult games since the PlayStation 1 era, but it was the middle of the PlayStation 3 era before suddenly this became a triple-A smash hit. There's the zeitgeist theory, as well.

DH: Yeah, definitely. I think people want it. I think maybe social media plays a role in that. Certainly for DayZ, it did. People would go into DayZ and they would have these amazing stories. Now, it's not a story like what you're doing in Mass Effect 3, or whatever, because everybody else is doing that too. It's a story that no one else has experienced.

And I think as humans, we're natural storytellers. So you feel compelled to tell people about it. So they'd go on 4chan -- which is where DayZ really kicked off. And they'd post their little story. And people hear all these stories and they're like, "Wow, I have got to get into this game." Same with Reddit, and Facepunch, and 4chan. And it just went from there. I think the social media helped it happen -- I don't think it would have happened without it.

How do you design for player stores? Do you deliberately?

DH: I guess I don't really think about it. Like something we're bringing in soon with the standalone is radios. I play a game called Space Station 13. Have you played it? It's a PC game -- it's a real eclectic game. It's free. It's roguelike, top-down, multiplayer game with maybe about 50 other people. You're all playing a role on the space station -- there's intrigue and you can interact with anything. It's very complex.

You have radios, and you can turn the microphone on or off. So when we ere designing the radios that we're implementing in DayZ, we thought, "Well, we'll do that." So you can turn the microphone off, so that you can use it kind of like a baby monitor, or a bug.

We don't do that actively, because we want to create situations where the players can do intriguing or anything specific, we just are creating tools for the players to do stuff. Because they are going to do the craziest awesome stuff with it.

How do you design tools? You arrived at this idea for the radio, and I can see how that happened. Is that what you do: "I can think of an idea for a tool I can drop into this world"?

DH: We're actually mainly just designing tools, and then we see if we've got an idea for them later. In terms of art -- just for our crafting system, we're just designing all the tools we can think of, in terms of art-wise. And then from a design perspective we just look and say, "Well, what can you do with those tools? What will the players sit down and think that they might want to do with them?"

And I guess the overarching color is: What do we want the player to feel? What are the challenges in the player's mind, that we want them to experience? Rather than, like you say, content touristing, or "this is a cool gun." We're more like, "We want the player to be thinking about their resources -- like food -- and we want them to thinking about their diet. That means we need canned food, we need fresh food, we need meats..." It kind of drives it that way, more from a feeling standpoint.

It seems to me, if I'm understanding this correctly, that if you create a lot of tools you're going to end up culling some, or maybe merging some, or all kinds of different things. How do you do that weeding process?

DH: A lot of that's through -- the biggest time that's going to come is when we release our alpha. Because it's really at a point where it needs to get feedback from our players. So that's where the dev blogs become important, that's where things like PAX become important, because we actually engage direct with the community.

We get some feedback directly from the players at PAX. And then on Reddit, there's massive amounts of analysis of the inventory designs that I've posted. It's a tremendous conduit for getting feedback. I think 90 percent of my ideas are terrible, and the social media is proving to be a really good way of weeding those out.


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Comments


Alex Covic
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Very good interview.

I would be equally interested in hearing from Bohemia Interactive on THEIR experience with the Alpha-version of Arma3 on Steam. They equally have an "experimental" beta version, they share with the pre-order crowd.

"Transparent" professional(!) development in public. How much value is really in it? How much extra work does it create? Does the 'vocal' minority dominate the discussion? Is the player-feedback really useful, beyond the data, you get to collect? Etc, etc ...

Lihim Sidhe
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I feel that a lot of Day Z's success and Dean Hall's direction comes down to the vulgar statement of - balls. DH had balls to follow his passions in the face of adversity. He worked on what HE thought would be a good training module for the army and they said no. Being in the army myself, one really gets a good feel for what is acceptable and what is not. He knew these values but persisted along his own path.

When the army rejected it, he still possessed that same vulgar attribute to produce a permadeath game in a market absolutely over saturated in hand holding tutorials. He just said F it. And I would have to say - respawning has no place in an experience with anything involving the words survival, horror, or zombie.

The triple A publishes are the ones best suited to catering to the largest demographics. Us as aspiring and indie developers got to do the one thing we are best suited to do - to follow OUR passions, manifest OUR dreams, and have the balls to push through adversity until we see it done. I'm just glad DH's breakout success wasn't called 'DayZ: Balls'. Probably wouldn't have done so good. ;)


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