Surviving in the world of Day Z alone is no easy task. Starting off without any sort of weapon except for your wits and perception demands a player to be cautious of their surroundings at all times. Zombies roam the countryside and towns, littering the streets, moaning and growling, looking for their next meal. But, while always a lingering threat, zombies can be avoided with patience or through sheer agility. The real danger lies within fellow man.
While Day Z is a multiplayer mod for ARMA II, playing with others is merely a question of trust. Players can either be only in it for themselves, choosing to shoot you on sight, or they can team up to survive. The most dangerous entities comes from those who do both, luring unsuspecting players in with goodwill, only to callously murder them after a decent loot run. It becomes unsettling knowing that the person who was betrayed learned a harsh lesson, no longer trusting anyone else. They soon become the betrayer.
This was my experience through the first several hours of Day Z. The first was when I was trying to outrun some zombies chasing me through the forest, when I heard a voice over my speakers. He tells me to run to him, and that he will help. I foolishly believed him. He gets rid of the chasers then proclaims a half-hearted “Sorry,” before taking one shot to my head. He presumably loots what little supplies I had left. I was never quite the same after that.
Until, the next spawn.
After an hour of finding a few weapons, some food and supplies, I was feeling good about my chances. Though, while running from a pack of zombies, I ran into a small shed. The monsters were able to open the door and give me a few good lashings, resulting in a broken limb. I was down. I popped a few shots into them with my Makarov, but there were too many. I began crawling through the back door. Crawling for my life. There was a hospital somewhere nearby, and maybe if I could reach it, it would be okay.
Then another player appeared, and took out the rest of the zeds with his 1911. We exchanged a few words and he gave me a shot of morphine. I was able to stand again, but what was his game? I came to find, that this was a decent person. For another hour, we explored the city, and the countryside on the outskirts. We hunted for some food, and killed a few other players trying to pick us off.
On top of a building, a few zombies had followed us up. My only ammo was for a Lee Enfield rifle. I shot one round into the gut of one of our pursuers. My new friend turned to me and said, “Alright, don’t fire that gun in the city anymore.” I asked him why, and he told me to look down. A crowd of zombies were parading towards the building.
But it couldn’t have lasted. Some bandit sniped me while I was getting meat from a lamb, and we never saw each other again. But now was the time for me to go lone wolf. Explore the island and find the treasured loot.
It was about this time where the mod really started to shine. I was cautious and hardened from previous experiences. I knew how to avoid zombies. I figured the best places to find supplies. I took shots carefully, thinking about how much sound they would make, and what kind of impact it would be. I found a map, and routed where I was going to go next, using a compass to find my way. I was a man on a mission and I had survived for a long, long time. But I knew that it could end at any moment.
A sniper could be lurking in every town. Zombies could corner me. I could run out of food or water. Unsavory characters could hunt me down for my precious loot. Distant gunshots induce fear rather than comfort or hope. Every step could be my last. It was unsettling.
Needless to say, that I eventually died, though extremely far into the island in the town of Gorshino. I won’t say how I died, but I will say that it was due to a glitch, which is the most upsetting part. All of the time, just wiped away because of the game’s bugginess.
The mod is buggy, in some part because ARMA II is inherently buggy as well. It is still in alpha and being updated quite a bit, but it is janky. Zombies hit you through walls or hit you from dumb distances, they walk through closed doors, and they rubber-band to you when you’re running away allowing them to be on your ass most of the time. Then, players also take advantage of some of the quirks. Because your location on the map and your personal equipment is consistent from server to server, it makes sense that if a player is getting messed up on one server, they can disconnect before death grips them, switch to different server, load up and they will be perfectly fine. It’s a little cheap, but as long as players can do it, it will happen. So expect that if you don’t kill someone with one shot, they could very likely just log out before you finish the job.
Still, the mod is beautiful in its simplicity. Scatter randomly generated zombies and loot in places on a giant map. Have various unique locations, like a helicopter crash in the middle of a field. Then let sixty players roam around and see what happens. It’s almost a crazy social experiment.
Players needlessly killing others is not inherent to the mod though. It just becomes necessary when you never know the intentions of these people, and with little consequence for doing murder (in fact it’s one of the major stats being tracked), it’s bound to happen. It seems that if players come into the world wanting to be friendly, they quickly learn; that isn’t the name of the game. Unless you have friends that you trust, it’s killed or be killed in Day Z.
*Screenshots from: http://deadendthrills.com/