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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 2 of 4 Next

You talked about the advantageous nature of zombies and the fact that they're easy to work with, for game developers, and we all know why. How did you balance that with what you wanted to achieve in terms of this realistic stuff?

DH: Well, I really just wanted the zombies to represent a threat for looting. And it was kind of a low-level threat. DayZ is all about these subtle tensions. Some of them are very, very subtle, and certainly with the standalone, that's the direction they're going.

So an example being, you have to think about hunger and thirst for your character. They're not a prime consideration; it's something that happens over quite a long period of time. The more you run, the more you'll need food. If it's colder, you'll need more food; if it's warmer, you'll need more water. This is subtle but it's always in the back of your mind.

Because there are these added tensions, it really heightens the player's horror experience. If you look at DayZ, there's really not anything in-your-face scary about it. But because it has all these little tensions... For example, you come across loot. You only have so many slots in your backpack, so you can only take so much of it. So again, these subtle tensions come to mind: "Do I drop the food? Do I drop the water? Do I take the ammo?" And a lot of it's subconscious. I think that's why it resonated with people.

Over the course of this generation, triple-A games tended to make things more and more seamless, and easier and easier for players -- checkpoint every five seconds. And we've seen in the past couple of years, games like Dark Souls and even Spelunky -- aggressively difficult games have sort of come into vogue, at least as a niche.

DH: Well, I think that people have always played them. I know, for me, it's trying to get back to the experiences playing on the Amiga, which is where I really cut my teeth as a kid. And I think back to the first time I played X-Com on the PC. My brother was looking after a computer for a friend of his at university while I was on study leave for my school. I was searching through it and I came across this .exe for X-Com.

I didn't know anything about it. And we didn't have the internet; it was the '90s. So I started playing it, and there was no manual or anything. I was discovering, really discovering it. And it had this huge emotional response for me. When I came across the Sectoids, I actually wanted to autopsy them because I had no idea what they were. It was just this amazing experience of difficulty and things like that, and I guess that I've always wanted to get back to that point in a game.

Even when I play something like Company of Heroes with my friends, we'll add a whole bunch of AI players on expert difficulty. Now, we might lose 99 percent of the time, but the emotion and the passion involved -- yelling at each other to support his area or that area -- that's, to me, gaming.

I go for this very specific experience when I play games. I've been playing a lot of Kerbal Space Program. I play it very crazy and take it very seriously.

Another example is FTL. Everyone tweets about "I'm playing it, but I can't get past X point, Y point, Z point." It does seem that it has come back. I personally feel that without challenge... Don't get me wrong. Ever hear the term "content tourist?" The idea that you play these games to see pretty things and go through them.

DH: Yeah, I'm totally not. It's like, I love Skyrim, but for me I felt like the more time I invested, the further I got on. Which I didn't want that. I wanted -- I really like Morrowind. Morrowind for me is a good Elder Scrolls. Visually, Skryim was amazing. I just loved looking at the rivers and stuff, and going round it.

But for me, what I need is context. I need to feel like there's a value to my game playing and the value in a lot of instances comes from risk. If you know there's a risk of an outcome, then you're gonna think about what your decision is more carefully. And that's gameplay to me -- is making decisions. If those decisions don't have a gameplay value associated to them then, why am I making decisions? I'm just making decisions for the sake of it.

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