Back in 2012 my friend Dan phoned me after work. He asked if I’d ever heard of the game called DayZ. At the time I hadn’t heard much about it but did my research that evening. To be fair, it wasn’t a game at all but instead a mod for the Military Simulator Arma 2. At the time I didn’t have a very good PC but went ahead and downloaded the very graphically intense game anyway. DayZ essentially transformed the games huge open world into a Zombie Apocalypse.

The game can be played in either 1st or 3rd person, and you can switch at anytime but because the mod ran over the top of a simulator, the controls were very confusing with practically every key on the keyboard set up to do something.

The mod had a very steep learning curve. You started by spawning in one of 6 or 7 coastal locations with nothing but a bandage and a flash light. You had to scavenge for food, medical supplies and weapons in order to navigate through the harsh world. Zombies were a threat in those earlier hours as without meds a hit that makes you bleed could become fatal. You would accumulate gear over time but if you died, that was it, you would start again on the coast with nothing.

I’ll briefly explain some of the basic mechanics of the game:

  • Taking damage can cause you to bleed, this can be fixed with a bandage.
  • Taking damage can cause you to become physically injured, this can be cured by using painkillers
  • Taking damage will cause you to lose blood (your “blood” level starts at 12,000), if you drop below 4000 blood, you will randomly pass out. Blood level can be restored by another player if they give you a blood transfusion
  • Food and drink also have there own levels. If you become hungry or thirsty (or both) your blood level will slowly start to decrease
  • You have an inventory to store items. Backpacks can be found to allow you to carry more.
  • Loot spawns randomly based on the type of building. Hospitals spawn more medical gear, barracks spawn more weapons and ammo
  • Maps and compass were extremely important for navigation

You”ll notice that throughout this blog post I am referring the mod as if it’s a thing of the past. That is not true, you can still play it now, but it has drastically changed from it’s initial conception but I’ll get into that.

Zombies were the threat in the start of a new life but after you got yourself a gun, some food and a few meds it would be time to head in land. In the centre of the map was a town called ‘Stary Sobor’ (referred to as Stary by the player base). Stary had a military camp which spawned very decent high end weapons. It was also the second most popular location for other players. Gun fights with other players are some of the most intense moments I have had since I started playing games. There is no other game that has made me feel that same way since, nor do I think there ever will be again. The sense of fear that sends adrenaline pumping through me made the situations so scary. Knowing that if you messed up during that moment that was it meant that every decision you made was critical.

I started recording the game as I played it with Dan. I’ll be the first to admit it that the first few videos I made were dull and uninteresting, but watching them back now I realise that it was my discovery of the game and for me, that makes it interesting.

Here is episode one – you don’t have to watch it, and this particular video is very dark because it was night time in the game and my computer at the time was not very good.

During the first year of the DayZ mod the game play mechanics didn’t really change that much. Meaning I was was able to learn how each gun in the game worked. Got yourself a sniper rifle? Great! But it’s not a case of just pointing a shooting. How far away is the enemy? You have to zero you scope to ensure that your shots will be on target. Found a Light Machine Gun? I would avoid holding down the trigger with that thing. Go prone and only shoot a couple of rounds at a time so that the recoil is drastically reduced. It became easy to read the game as well. Zombies would spawn in areas where players were. So if you approached a town or village and you saw the Zombies pop in, then you knew it was because of you. Approach an area where zombies were already wandering though and you knew that another player was nearby.

To be honest, I became pretty obsessed with the game. Everyday after work Dan and I would jump online and play. Investing a few hours a night and more at the weekends. As we properly got into the game we would go looking for other players in the hopes of getting into a decent gunfight. During one such incident Dan and myself encountered a random player that was trying to fix a bus just north of one of the major cities on the coast. He was unarmed so we approached and spoke to him using the in-game voice chat mechanic. We helped him fix the bus and would have carried on playing with him, then we discovered that he was cheating but duplicating items (there were a lot of cheaters in the early days). We killed him and then hid all of the duplicated gear. The noise from our gunshots attracted some attention from another nearby player. This player ended up killing me but Dan outwitted him and then avenged me. We exchanged ‘good game’ messages in the text chat in the game and started talking to him. 7 years later, I am still talking to that player and he is now one of my best friends and will be a groomsman at my wedding.

The guy that Dan killed was Matt, him and his friend James had been playing the game for a similar length of time as Dan and I so we teamed up. Set up a Skype call and played into the early hours of the morning. The first night we all played together saw some of the most high octane gun fights we ever got into. You will also tell that we are still learning the game at this point. Here is the first video (of 3) that I made from one evenings play:

If you decide to watch the above video there is a few more things you should know about the game mechanics:

  • One of the best spots for loot were randomly generated helicopter crash sites
  • It was possible to get Night vision but they were very rare and only spawned at heli crash sites
  • It was possible to get an assault rifle with a thermal scope to allow you to very easily spot players from long distances
  • Bad players (people that shot on sight) were referred to as bandits
  • It was possible to get vehicles in the game, cars, trucks, busses and bikes could all be used but the risk included the large amount of noise they generated.
  • There were no markers to let you know where your friends were, you had to reply on communication and co-ordination so that you didn’t shoot your friends.
  • Game servers would restart randomly without warning and on no set schedule

DayZ in those early days was the best time I have ever head in any game ever. I genuinely do not think I will ever find a game that I hold in such high regard as I do the DayZ Mod.

The first part of this blog series has shown a couple of my old videos during the first few months of me playing the game. I have explained how I have made friends for life by just randomly encountering them in a game. I hope you enjoyed this and please keep an eye out for the next part where I will go into more detail about some of the specific experiences I have had in DayZ and how the game changed over time.

Luke – @Lucas_Whizz