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 DayZ 's Hall on balancing realism and game design
DayZ's Hall on balancing realism and game design
January 22, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

January 22, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Design

"I look at the 'real' and then I try to find a solution that mirrors the same emotional/thought processes. This is then the authentic solution, and that's the one I go for."
- DayZ creator Dean Hall on the boundary between realism and game design in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session.

The DayZ alpha has already hit 1 million sales on Steam Early Access, and project lead Dean Hall is not shy about sharing his opinions. In a new Ask Me Anything on Reddit, he was open about a lot of topics, but most interesting to developers, perhaps, are his thoughts on game development.

DayZ is renowned for its realism -- in that it's a simulation of a zombie apocalypse rather than a pure game experience. When a user asked about realism in games, Hall responded with the above quote, adding, "I also ask people around me for their viewpoints -- and try and consider alternate opinions (especially for anything views I hold with strong convictions)."

Hall made headlines for climbing Mount Everest last year, but he says that developing DayZ is "much, much harder" than climbing mountains.

"Probably because the buck stops with me. When climbing, I wasn't the leader. When something goes wrong with DayZ, I'm the one person who can't avoid the issue or pass it on to someone else. While I certainly don't do everything, I'm totally personally responsible for everything that happens. That makes me work very hard at it," Hall says.

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Maria Jayne
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I feel a major thorn in the survival aspect of Day Z or indeed any multiplayer game for that matter, is the fact people can organize groups and arrange places to meet before they get into the game. Which creates a division between the survival aspect of the game and the PvP mentality of players cheating the system to weight all risk and reward in their favor.

What I would really love to see, is a game where the only way you could survive, communicate or organize is within the game world. Because then the actual survival experience means something, you really do have to question is it more valuable to shoot that stranger and loot his corpse or perhaps try to make friends with them and increase your collective chance of survival...then the whole trust metagame comes into play, because you don't know them from outside the game, they might betray you.

Right now it's mostly about shooting and looting, because you either already have friends or because you're the victim of those that do and want to avoid that mistake again.

Christian Nutt
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That touches off an interesting idea -- a game like this where you couldn't control your spawn point, so you would only meet friends by chance or luck. Hm.

Robert Crouch
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@Christian Nutt

Something that I think that would be a cool idea is:

There's multiple shards. You spawn randomly on a shard. Your character is tied to the shard, and there's no trivial way to tell which shard you're on. (IE: it doesn't say, you're on US East 24. It just puts you in the game. Unless you start meeting people and find out which social groups have formed that way, you can't know) Maybe some encryption might be necessary to hide that info from very dedicated people.

When you die, you respawn on a different shard.

I think that would also address one of the other concerns I have with these games is that there's little value to your life when you can respawn. Right now the biggest risk is that you lose your items, when you have few items or when you have a stash of items, or when you have a lot of friends who can help you get back on your feet, that's not so big a concern.

Right now, a gang of 4 bandits can roll over a lone player with a shotgun and take him out. Even if the lone player can take a bandit down before dying, the bandits can loot the lone player, and protect the dead bandit's stuff until he meets up with them to collect it.

If death meant you moved off the shard, the 4 bandits would be much more cautious about doing that. Going in guns blazing might mean losing a friend. If he died, they would be a gang of 3 bandits. They wouldn't be able to wait for him to get his corpse, they would have to find a new person to recruit.

It would encourage a different kind of dynamic. Maybe they would rob him. Maybe they would leave him alone. If they robbed him they would have to make sure they didn't make him feel like he was going to be left defenseless, because if he's defenseless, they could kill him without fear of retaliation. So maybe they leave him his weapon, but take his food and half of his ammo. He knows if he doesn't comply they will kill him, but he knows that they can't force him to do anything without risk that one of them will die too. More tension and more complex relationships would be possible. He decides that he can always get more food and more ammo if he can keep his life. But if he feels like they are going to kill him anyways, he will take one or two of them out before he goes.

Steven Christian
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Nice idea, but unfortunately friends like to play together and this system would stop them from doing this.

Alot of the best videos I've seen were of friends playing together, and consequently this got me into the game. Cut this out and you are potentially cutting out a chunk of your market (and not just those that play together, as I generally don't play DayZ with friends myself).