11.15.12

DayZ developer troubled by murder

DayZ is supposed to have a standalone release by the end of 2012. Those who have yet to figure out the complex modding of ARMA 2 (myself included), wait with bated breath, only having stories to tantalize what the full game might have in store. Some are inspiring, but most are harrowing. Here is one from the founder, Dean Hall:

At the airfield, Hall spotted another new player cluelessly running around in the open. The troupe tried calling out to him, but, seeing the size of the group, the stranger tried to run away. “I started firing some warning shots,” said Hall. “and I just kept firing. I don’t know what compelled me. The next minute, I see him fall over.”

The interface alerted Hall that the player had died. One of the players in the group said, “Wow, you killed him.”

“I struggled, trying to understand why,” said Hall. “I did it out of morbid curiosity. I wouldn’t say I was revolted — at the end of the day it’s still a game, but it didn’t make sense to me.”

Hall had spent nearly a decade in the New Zealand military, and he admits he has an odd background for someone concerned with killing a virtual person. I met him in Toronto, where he presented the international keynote at Gamercamp last weekend. Given his training, could he imagine killing in reality?

“I’m not sure I could,” he said. “Now I honestly think that the non-violent solution is the best, even if it means getting hurt myself.”

DayZ lets you be the pacifist who would die before harming others, or the killer who punishes such idealism. Not killing and killing both have their rewards. One playstyle is empowered with righteousness, the other with something more literal. Nothing forces you to adhere to any path; you only have yourself and other players to answer to. No gods or kings, only man:

There is no moral compass to guide you. Hall admits that recorded server data proves certain stereotypes to be real: Russians are rather blood-thirsty, Canadians are helpful and Kiwis rarely get too far from the beach as they enjoy talking to each other.

Academics have contacted Hall for help with social science dissertations. The murdering in the game, is over-proportionalized by web-talk. “Everyone thinks that everyone goes in and just kills other players,” said Hall, “That is not the case.” Murder only accounts for around 10% of player deaths.

DayZ lore is self-perpetuated. Hall loves playing DayZ because he has done so little to define it. He just set up the world, brutal as it may be, but the players made the game and the characters. He imagines developers who make linear, narrative games must get so bored playing what they already know. DayZ has no goals — it is an ongoing campfire story, where players fight to define their own legacy.

Some will do anything to survive, others like Hall try to carve out a nobler purpose. This and everything in between can be done in DayZ. The toll these paths take on you is what makes the game so unique.