Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sit Rep 2

Been really cool to see the traffic being generated by my "DayZ" posts. I've had more page views here in the past two weeks than the previous two years. :) So, as promised, here's some more commentary on the latest build ( to kick off this week's sit rep.

The DayZ Update

Really feeling it for the build. I'm starting to enjoy the hatchet for quiet, 1-on-1 zombie kills now that I'm getting a better feel for its effective range. Being able to move it on and off of the tool belt to use a rifle without said hatchet taking up precious backpack slots is great as well.

Getting better at escaping from zombies but the mechanics of it could definitely use some more polish. Seems like the zombies still have too much sensory awareness when I round two or three quick corners and they still often come straight to me despite being hidden and silent. From what I've seen regarding the upcoming 1.7.2 patch, the planned effect of objects on sound and the zombies' ability to perceive it should help a lot. Can't wait for them to not be able to hear me through walls. Now if we could just get them to stop opening doors and climbing ladders. :)

Pro Tip: If you're going to answer your phone in real life while playing "DayZ," do yourself a favor and disconnect from the server. Lost a well-equipped character to a bandit because I wasn't as hidden as I thought I was while trying to help someone with a technical problem they were having. Doh!

Got my first taste of a sniper rifle (CZ500) today while playing with a buddy. I know they're not supposed to be that rare and I've found tons of Winchesters and Emfields and even some ARs and SMGs, but just never come across one. Took it out into a field and nailed a hopper from a pretty respectable range. Damn, that CZ is loud and damn does it attract attention. Ended up pulling and having to deal with about a half dozen infected that triggered from much further away than I'd expected.  Will definitely have to be more careful with it in the future.

Overall, I'm still really enjoying the mod. It's definitely become a bit more challenging to start a new character with the recent changes and it's getting really hard to survive for very long if you're not in some sort of group but I still find the core experience intensely enjoyable despite its quirks and the genuine stress and unease it often invokes in me. :)

Shout Out: Sidestrafe

Since I'm trying to make this a weekly post, I thought it would be cool and fun to try to advocate other gaming-related things on the net that I think are worthwhile. This week, I'd like to direct your attention to a YouTuber who goes by the name "sidestrafe." He focuses a lot on gameplay commentaries about a wide variety of titles like "DayZ," "World of Tanks," "Tribes: Ascend" and "Blacklight: Retribution." I really like his commentary style for the most part and I enjoy that he covers games that are a little more obscure and interesting than what you see on a lot of other channels.

His stuff's not perfect, but he clearly puts a lot of effort into it and there's way more good on his channel than bad. Definitely worth a look if you ask me.

The End of an Era

Those of you who remember me from "Gaming's Edge" will recall that I used the pseudonym "VT" on that site for a variety of reasons. One of those was as a stage name for the band "VT & Yukon" that I formed with the other writer for the site as part of our gaming-themed comedy schtick. Even though I was the straight man, the Abbott to his Costello so to speak, I always felt the persona helped create a necessary separation between me as a person and the content we were creating, which was often very experimental and hit and miss in terms of quality.

Long story short, the last vestige of that era, the "Music of VT & Yukon" web site will be going offline for good at the end of the month and I'll be pointing its domain and the domain that currently points to it here starting July 1st.

As much as I enjoyed making that music with Yukon, it never really caught on in the way we'd hoped it might and we agree that after nearly five years without recording anything new, it's time to put "VT & Yukon" to bed. Our two albums, "Vortikon" and "Level Up" will remain on iTunes and other digital distribution platforms should anyone want to check them out, but if you want any of the free songs we released for promotional purposes, you'll need to grab those this week before the site goes away.

The Music of VT & Yukon -

VT & Yukon (iTunes)

No development update this week. Need to get a few things nailed down before I can talk about them in a meaningful way. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

DayZ: Starting WIthout a Gun (1.7.1-

I was going to wait for "Sit Rep 2" to talk about this but so much has been happening with the mod this week that I need to address some of it now so I'm able to talk about some other things this weekend.

There have been a lot of big changes but the most significant is that new characters start with almost nothing in terms of inventory. All you get at spawn is the Coyote Patrol Pack, a flashlight, a bandage and a box of painkillers. No gun. No ammo. Nothing else.

This is a game changer.

When the initial 1.7.1 patch first hit, it was sheer madness, mostly due to a simultaneous change to the zombie's auditory and visual awareness that caused survivors to be detected from ridiculous distances unless they belly crawled everywhere. This turned the game into a sort of torture device for a day or so with new players and re-spawns struggling to survive for more than a few minutes and falling victim to anyone who'd managed to find a gun.

Thankfully, subsequent tweaks to the zombie behavior have made things a bit more sane and improved the way that the infected respond to stimuli and distractions such as empty cans and road flares. It's now much easier, yet still challenging, to weave a path through a zombie infested area to scavenge, and scavenge you must.

Since you now start with barely any tools at your disposal, you are extremely vulnerable for a much longer initial period than in previous versions of the mod. As such, some of the advice in "My DayZ Survival Guide" has become a bit obsolete. I'm going to keep the guide up in its original form in case the dev team decide to re-introduce a starting weapon in the future but here are some quick tips for new players and old players struggling with the recent changes:


The world of "DayZ" was always harsh but it has become even more-so with the latest changes. Your first priority when entering the game with a new character must be to find a means to defend yourself. As such, you may want to avoid the smaller towns, which used to be good places to start scavenging. The only weapons you're likely to find in these are pistols with limited supplies of ammo. Depending on where you spawn, you may be able to cherry pick a few enterable buildings on the outskirts of a town without too much trouble but you'll want to avoid getting too deep into them until you've acquired some supplies. Of course, if you're really patient and sneaky, you can weave your way around zombies and other players to forage in such areas but the reward versus time spent is rarely worth it in my experience.

So, where should you go?

That depends on your spawn. If you start anywhere near "Chern" or "Elektro" (the two large cities on the southern coast) or the southern airfield, you'll want to begin looting right there. These areas are extremely dangerous but they also offer the best access to the items a new character needs most (i.e. weapons, ammo, medical supplies, food and drinks). If you start near a major city or military post, just go for it. Get in there, grab what you can and hope for the best. You have nothing to lose and if you're quick, quiet and careful, you're likely to walk away with a good set of gear.

If you start in a more rural area, you're going to want to focus on any of the special buildings and areas that are scattered throughout the game world. Barns are still a very good place to seek out, as are the small guard/watch towers that are sometimes found at the tree lines of forests that are near towns and points of interest. These often have good primary weapons and other useful items. Gas stations, lumber mills, warehouses and sheds are also places worth checking out as long as they aren't crawling with zombies.

The key is to find places where you can get in quickly, have a reasonable chance of finding something useful and get out without too much risk or spending too much time. Death can come very quickly if you linger, unarmed in a loot-rich area for long as most other players will kill an unarmed player simply to avoid resource competition unless you're lucky enough to find someone who's interested in forming a group.

Mechanical Changes

- There are at least two melee weapons now available in the game. The most desirable of these is the hatchet, which can be worn on the tool belt and used to cut wood from trees when not being used as a primary weapon– and the crowbar, which does a lot less damage and has a much shorter effective range.

- You are likely to take damage from zombies when using a melee weapon; however, they do not break and can be used while backing away as you would with a gun. Note that blows can miss using this technique and the timing is a little different for each weapon. Melee weapons can also kill other players. I know because I was killed by one while being a nice guy and shooting some zombies that chased a player into a building I was looting. "Thanks for that, buddy!" :)

- Zombies will stop chasing if they lose track of you (lose line of sight and are no-longer able to hear or see you). They will search at the last position you were heard/seen, so you'll need to hit the deck and crawl away to completely escape them. Just be sure that you've at least broken line of sight with all of them before you go prone, or you're likely to get trounced.

That covers the really important stuff. I'll have more on "DayZ" this weekend but I need to get back to work for now. :) One last note: If you're not using "Six Updater/Launcher" to play "DayZ," you should start. With all the "DayZ" and "ARMA II" expansion beta patches being released each week, it's a really big help.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sit Rep 1

Folks have been asking me to make an effort to put out more frequent and consistent posts here. As of right now, the only way I can do that is to carve out a little time from my weekends for it. As this is typically my only opportunity for down time, I'm going to keep these posts as low-impact as I can, so don't expect my standard wall of text on any particular subject. :)

Still, this is an opportunity to sum up and talk about everything that's been happening in my gaming life throughout a given week, so there could be some value to it. After all, I do play games during the week, mostly to de-compress for an hour or so before bed and I usually find time to follow the news of the gaming world and have things to say about it both from the perspective of a developer and that of a consumer.

Finally, this gives me an opportunity to talk about the progress of my latest iOS game development project, which I know is of interest to at least some of you.

Okay. Time to give this a shot:

Battlefield 3 Premium and the Close Quarters Expansion

When I first heard about "Close Quarters" (CQ), I thought, "This could be cool." and to a certain extent it is. Being able to rip through walls with standard weapons fire, knowing that the potential for an engagement is around every corner and the general feeling of intensity are all pretty cool.

The new "Gun Master" mode, despite being basically lifted from "Call of Duty," is pretty fun even though I apparently suck at it and "Conquest Domination" makes the necessary changes to the classic "Conquest" formula to make in work in CQ; however, it's not all good news.

Cheating is still rampant in this game. I've had a lot of trouble finding servers where one or more players weren't obviously running aimbots and wall hacks, which utterly ruin the experience for everyone else. DICE needs to take a step back, look at what people are doing to create these hacks and put a stop to it. Cheating is absolutely killing this game for me and I already find myself avoiding it on nights when I just don't feel like dealing with that sort of thing.

Beyond that key issue, is Premium worth it? I think so. Despite its problems, "Battlefield 3" is still a good game and I continue to have faith that DICE will eventually make things right. Will that happen tomorrow or next week? Probably not, but I'll keep checking in from time to time to see how the situation evolves.

"Battlefield 3" is a game I've been playing for a while and I'll probably continue to play it for quite some time, so "Premium" makes sense for me but new players and those frustrated by glitches and cheats should wait for a patch or two before jumping into "Premium" or CQ.

The DayZ Update

Still totally feeling it for DayZ. Glad to see them adopt the Six Updater/Launcher as an official distribution mechanism for the mod as it's really slick and effective. There's a little weirdness right now as the mod transitions toward using beta versions of the "ARMA II" expansion patch, which makes it a little tricky to get the ideal version of "ARMA II" running through Steam via the launcher, but it's not that big of a deal and I see it as a very temporary condition.

The game is still great but I am definitely looking forward to version 1.7.1, which will introduce new zombie animations, zombie line-of-sight enhancements and an aggro dumping mechanic that will let you escape from zombies without having to kill every last one in the area when things go sideways.

Playstation Plus 'til The Last of Us

I have to admit that since I "beat" "SSX" last month, my PS3 has been collecting dust for the most part. Even with the SSD upgrade I did last year, the thing just feels so slow and old and lame compared to my PC, which is totally understandable and expected at this point in its life cycle. Still, I have to hand it Sony. "Playstation Plus" is a really great deal and the only thing that keeps me coming back to their box these days– at least until the handful of games I'm anticipating for it hit.

If you're gaming on a budget and you're trying to find a way to make your dollars go further, "Playstation Plus" is something you need to consider. The amount of free stuff this month alone easily covers the cost of the subscription for a year or two.

Playstation Plus -

Development Update

It'll be a few more weeks before I'm ready to announce what I've been working on these past few months, but I can say that development has been fairly rough lately. I ended up having to totally re-think a big chunk of the user interface for the game on iPhone/iPod Touch because some of the concepts I had in mind just don't work on that smaller screen.

A big goal for me with this game is to make it just as playable on iPhone/iPod Touch as it is on iPad. With "Powergrids," I started with the iPad version of the interface, which made it very difficult to create a comparable experience for the smaller form factors. That's not to say that "Powergrids" is unplayable on those devices. In fact, a lot of testing was done to ensure that it is and the current #1 player on the "Classic" leaderboard plays on an iPhone. Still, there's no denying that the game is more challenging to play on the smaller devices than it is on the iPad and that's a disparity that I'm keen to avoid moving forward.

That's it for now. As I said, I'm hoping to make this a weekly post so stay tuned for more. I doubt I'll have time to do much more than this sort of update until the new game is done, but you never know when inspiration will strike. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

My 10 Most Anticipated Games from E3 2012

One of the best things about E3 is that it gives us as gamers an opportunity to see and get excited about games that we'll soon have the opportunity to play.

Despite having already spent WAY too much time blogging this week, I couldn't resist whipping up a quick list of the 10 games I'm most excited to play as a result of E3 2012:

#10 - Defiance (PC) - I've been really down on the MMO genre lately, but I have to admit that I'm genuinely interested in an action-focused MMO that has direct ties to a Sci-Fi TV series being produced in parallel. This is either going to be the best or worst thing ever but I'm very curious to check it out either way.

#9 - Forza: Horizon (XBOX 360) - I love the feel of the driving in Forza and I love the idea of putting together a dream team of developers from some of the most revered racing games of the past decade to bring that feel to an open-world car porn game. If Criterion weren't releasing a PC racing game this year, this would probably be higher on my list.

#8 - Darksiders II (PC) - Darksiders is one of the best, often-overlooked action/adventure games ever made. The sequel looks like a bigger, better version of it and that can't possibly be a bad thing.

#7 - The Amazing Spider-Man (PS3) - Please be good. Please be good. Please be good. Please be good...

#6 - The Last of Us (PS3) - I love the concept of this game (post-apocalyptic survival with a companion that depends on and compliments you) and I want to believe it will be great, but I am worried that it could slip into the same trap as "Uncharted" where it devolves into a few great scenes strung together with way too many kill rooms packed with unrealistic numbers of boring enemies. Here's hoping for the best.

#5 - Dead Space 3 (PC) - Never been a huge "Dead Space" fan, but I will play this just for the co-op, unless it requires Origin, in which case I'll pass. :)

#4 - Beyond: Two Souls (PS3) - New Quantic Dream game? Yes, please! :)

#3 - Watch Dogs (PC) - The most original and interesting thing I saw from E3 this year.

#2 - Need for Speed: Most Wanted (PC) - Oh Criterion, I love you so much and I want to play and love this game, but I'm worried this will be another one of those Origin-required fiascos. Still, if there was another game I'd suffer through Origin for besides "Battlefield 3," this is it.

#1 - Assassin's Creed III (PC) - SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! :)

I should note that there are several other games I'm really looking forward to this year like "Borderlands 2" (PC) and "X-COM: Enemy Unknown" (PC) but the above list represents the games that won me over or had a particularly great showing.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My DayZ Survival Guide

As you've no doubt discerned by now, I am sort of in love with the "DayZ" mod for "ARMA II." Still, like many of the more intricate gaming experiences that I tend to gravitate toward, I am conscious of the fact that getting up to speed with it can be a real chore for those who aren't intrigued enough by the premise to dive into the various web sites, message boards and YouTube channels that have sprung up to help new players fill in the blanks.

Of course, with "DayZ" still in Alpha and changing once or twice a week in significant ways as the development team hits its stride, it would be impossible for me to produce and maintain a definitive guide, but I certainly don't mind sharing a few key tidbits from my experiences with it that I think most newcomers will find useful:

The Basics

There are a few key concepts at work in "DayZ" that serve to differentiate it from not just other zombie/survival-horror games but most first/third-person shooter games in general.

First and foremost, in "DayZ" death matters. If you die in the game, your only option is to start over with a new character. There is no re-loading from a save, no way to be revived by another player. If you die, you're dead and that's it. This adds a level of drama and impact to the gameplay that is rarely seen in gaming and almost never seen in mainstream or casual titles. "DayZ" is the hardest of the hardcore and that's part of what makes it great.

This is accomplished by all the data regarding your character being kept on a centralized server that tracks your position in the world, physical wellness and inventory of items. Because all the individual "DayZ" servers pass data to and from the global server, you can start playing on one server and move to another without losing any progress. This is especially handy if you find yourself on a server full of bloodthirsty player killers or stranded in the middle of the night with no means to light your way. Because each "DayZ" server's time of day is based on the server's clock, you can almost always find one where the game is at the time of day you'd prefer, be it dusk, dawn, midday or midnight.

In true survival-horror fashion, resources such as food, water, weapons, ammunition and medical supplies are a rare commodity in "DayZ." Even more problematic is the fact that you'll be competing for said resources with any other players who are on the server with you. As such, it can be a good idea when you're first starting out to choose a server that doesn't have many people on it and only supports a low total number of players. This will minimize your odds of running into unfriendly players looking to kill others and take their stuff or finding that the areas you search have already been picked clean since it can take a while for new items to appear in the world once a particular part of it has been looted.

Your First Character

Surviving in "DayZ" takes a combination of skill, experience and luck. As a result, you should go into it expecting to die at any moment, be it by zombie onslaught or via a nefarious player. The key to success in the game is to learn as much as you can from each of your initial, typically-brief lives. While it's true that being careful and concealing yourself while moving slowly through the game world will generally extend your life, such tactics don't do much to prepare you for situations when you inevitably are discovered and have to fight for your life.

Given all that, I recommend focusing on building a few key survival skills with your first few characters. These activities will almost certainly get you killed but they will also give you a deeper understanding of the game world and its mechanics that will make it much easier for subsequent characters to live longer.

Task 1: Learn How to Engage Zombies

While the other players on your server represent the greatest potential threat to your character, zombies are  the most common enemies you will encounter and you will have to deal with them to access areas of the game world that contain supplies vital to your survival. Things to know about zombies:

- There are several different types defined by their movement. There are walkers, which walk relatively upright, hoppers that hop along in a lurching crouch, crawlers, that belly crawl along the ground and a few other subtle variations.

- The default pistol (Makarov) will kill any zombie in three body shots or one headshot. Because ammunition is extremely limited, headshots are the preferred way to dispatch zombies.

- If you back away from a zombie as it attempts to hit you, it is far less likely to land a hit or cause bleeding if a hit does land. This technique involves a bit of timing, so you should practice to get a feel for it. Also, keep in mind that zombies attacking from the rear or sides will still be able to hit you. As such, it's a good idea to run away from the zombies and get them all following you from the same direction before turning to face them and beginning to back away while shooting.

- Zombies can NOT run or move quickly indoors.

- Zombies can NOT step over waist-high obstacles that you can.

- Zombies CAN climb stairs and ladders.

- Zombies will generally not react to you if you are hidden (crouched/prone) and silent (still/slowly moving) unless they come into direct contact with you; however, some will occasionally, randomly detect you simply by getting close.

- Zombies will react and be attracted to loud noises such as gunfire or players running through an area.

I recommend using your first character or two to seek out large groups of zombies and engage them to get comfortable with scoring headshots on the various types. Just keep going until you run out of ammo and let yourself get eaten. You'll be able to respawn with a new character, a fresh batch of ammo and a better sense of how to deal with the undead.

I also highly recommend taking some time with these initial characters to learn and embrace some of the keyboard commands unique to "ARMA II." For example:

Left Shift - Double tap to toggle walk/run. Hold for opposite of current default.

Left Alt - Hold to turn head independently of body and weapon aim. Double tap to toggle.

z, x, c - prone, crouch, stand

q, e - lean left/right. Double tap to toggle or double tap while prone to roll

v - Step over waist-high objects (fences, etc.) - There is no jump.

g - Inventory (Gear)

o - Watch (if you have one)

b - Binoculars (if you have them)

mouse wheel - contextual action menu (includes weapon switching). Use mouse wheel to choose action; left mouse button to perform action; right mouse button to cancel.

right mouse button - double click for iron sight, single click to toggle, hold for zoom

, - previous chat channel

. - next chat channel

/ - chat

Needless to say, there's a lot to learn or re-learn if you're used to the conventions of most other military-themed shooters.

Task 2: Learn to Scavenge

Beyond surviving immediate threats from zombies and other players, you will need to constantly be on the lookout for items that will help keep your character healthy and better able to survive. In general, you will need to find weapons, ammunition, food, water and medical supplies just to get by. Beyond that, there are some very beneficial if not essential items such as watches, binoculars, maps, compasses, GPS and artificial light sources that can go a long way toward making life a little easier if you're lucky enough to come across them.

For the "cheaters" among you, there are plenty of maps of the "DayZ" game world available via a quick Google search. Some of them even indicate the specific areas of the map where you're more likely to find various items. With such a tool, you can quickly identify the nearest town relative to where you've entered the game world, which most servers will indicate when you first appear in game, or you can simply find a road and accompanying road sign to get your bearings the old fashioned way.

Assuming that you're not using any mapping aids, here are some things to keep in mind while scavenging:

- Most items in the game are contained within buildings but not all buildings can be entered. If you see a building from a distance and you can't see into any of the windows, you likely can't enter it. With a little practice, you'll be able to identify enterable versus non-enterable buildings from quite far away as there are only so many building types in the game and many of them have a fairly distinctive look.

- A lot of things just make sense. You'll generally find food in grocery stores, medical supplies in hospitals, better guns and ammo in military bases and so on. Churches are also often good sources of all sorts of random items but beware as the obvious locations tend to attract the most players and those specifically looking to kill others.

- Small, enterable buildings like shacks and outhouses often have very useful items for new players such as ammo, bandages and handguns with a bit more kick than the default Makarov. Enterable outhouses can often be found amid clusters of buildings that themselves can't be entered, so keep an eye out for them.

- Barns are a great place to find decent primary weapons such as shotguns, sniper rifles and crossbows. Making your way inland from the coast with a new character to a barn is a good first step as you'll likely find some useful items along the way and end up acquiring a more effective weapon around the time you have things worth protecting.

- Larger cities tend to have more and better loot but are also hotbeds for resource competition and player killing. I recommend avoiding them unless you're in a group of friendly players or have sufficient gear to defend yourself from a distance.

- There are several larger backpacks than the default Coyote Patrol Pack available at various locations in the game world.

- Take some time to familiarize yourself with the unique and (let's face it) clunky inventory system of the game. On the inventory screen, numbers to the left of an item indicate instances of it lying nearby that can be picked up and numbers to the right indicate the total of that item you are carrying. Use the right arrow to pick stuff up and the left arrow to drop/remove it. You must also double click backpacks to open (add/remove) items from them and specifically close them to return to the main inventory screen. After other players and zombies, the inventory system is the scariest thing in "DayZ." :)

Task 3: Make Friends

Even exceptionally skilled and experienced players will find it difficult to survive in "DayZ" for any length of time on their own. Solo fights against large numbers of zombies or unfriendly players are a very risky proposition and rarely end well or prove worth the effort despite being downright exhilarating when they're happening.

In my experience, "DayZ" is a game that's best played with friends, be it an organized group of real life friends on Teamspeak/Ventrilo or a pick-up group formed by players who ask questions before shooting. With the former, you're more likely to experience success, but the latter can be interesting as well since there's always the threat of someone deciding to turn on the group or individuals within it.

In any case, some of the most interesting and compelling aspects of "DayZ" are the interactions both positive and negative that you can have with other players, so do what you can to experience those aspects of the game while still having fun with it.

Of course, the problem with trying to play "DayZ" with friends is that the game world is huge and new players can end up entering it at opposite ends. This is where having a map can be really helpful as you'll want to get to where your friends are as quickly after entering the game as possible. You might even consider letting your character die and making a new one if you start really far from where you're trying to meet up with others. You can lose hours in this game just getting from place to place, so you have to consider how valuable your time is versus whatever items you might have, which will always be the same for a new character.

Once you've found each other in game, you will note that even a party of two is much more effective at pretty much every aspect of the game. Groups of zombies become more manageable and solo enemy players are much less likely to bother with a pair or trio of players unless they have a significant tactical advantage.

There is no such thing as being "safe" in "DayZ" but being in a friendly group does a lot to add to the overall fun of the experience, assuming that you get along well enough with your "friends" that you're not constantly threatening to kill each other over cans of Baked Beans. :)

There's a lot more that I could get into but as I said in the last post, I have my own game to work on so I'm going to wrap this up. Hopefully this will be helpful to those of you who are getting started with "DayZ" and encourage those of you who are on the fence about it to give it a try. It really is one of the best, most amazing gaming experiences I've had in a long time, even in its current form and I'm extremely excited to see it evolve now that "Bohemia Interactive" (the developers of ARMA) have gotten behind it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tripping DayZ - Part 3

Okay. No more cliffhangers. :)

Time seemed to slow down as I realized that I hadn't been spotted and I took a moment to consider my options. The man in the doorway was far enough away that I didn't like my chances of hitting him with pistol fire. I felt confident that he was looking for trouble; prowling the coastline for unsuspecting victims. It made me wonder what sort of person does that– killing and looting their fellow man with what could only be described as monsters roaming the countryside? Then again, what might I do if I were down to my last bullet and spotted someone else carrying the same gun as me?

I snapped back to attention. This was no time for a philosophical debate. Mr. Murderface seemed reluctant to leave the relative security of the gas station office as he continued to scan the tree line and I became aware that it would be very easy to simply back away into the forrest and disengage from the whole situation, so I did.

I have no idea what happened to Mr. Murderface. Perhaps he remained standing in that doorway until someone or something else did him in? More likely, he went his own way in search of greener pastures. In any case, I was rid of him and happier for it.

The forrest was oddly calm and quiet. There were the occasional sounds of bugs and birds that kept it from feeling totally sterile, but I soon realized that I wasn't going to get any answers or make any real progress taking a nature hike, so I opted to cautiously return to the tree line a little further in the direction I'd been headed; hoping to spy new signs of civilization.

Sure enough, when I reached the edge of the forrest, I spotted the road I'd been following and gazing along it I saw that an intersection with another road, which seemed to head into the tree line beyond me, wasn't far away.

I stuck to the trees and proceeded carefully. As I approached the perpendicular road, I saw that the trees thinned out beyond it almost immediately, but more importantly I identified a cluster a buildings across a field of tall grass just beyond that.

Excited to explore a new area, I picked up my pace slightly and in no time, I'd crossed the new road and made my way into the tall grass. I slowed down again, wary of what might come into view around the corners of the buildings and realized that the grass was tall enough to easily conceal a crouched man. At that thought, I crouched and crept forward toward the first cluster of buildings. The sea was much further away now, but these were the closest to it so I wanted to start with them to keep my bearings.

Suddenly, I heard them– not one but several zombies groaning and wheezing from behind the nearest building. I froze, trying to estimate their positions. There were what sounded like two moving along a dirt path that was in front of the house I was approaching and at least one more moving around the other side of it. Did they hear me? Could they somehow sense me? It seemed unlikely given my experience with Farmer Joe. Still, things were getting tense.

A few seconds later, two of them shambled into view as predicted. They seemed to be headed toward the shore so I looked left to try to spot the third. Turned out that there were three more rounding the far rear corner of the house and crossing the field toward the trees I'd vacated. One of these was hunched over and hopping around like some sort of ape. Despite being in such close proximity and making an awful lot of noise, they all seemed completely oblivious to each other.

Something compelled me to check the progress of the first two zombies and I turned just in time to see that they had both changed their trajectory and were now headed directly toward me. I pulled out the gun and sighted it on the closer of the two. He had been a man perhaps just shy of middle age and was wearing a surprisingly-clean and complete business suit. Had it not been for his mannerisms and the pallor in his face, he would have come across as a respectable gentleman, but snarling and twitching as he was, the suit was a simple dichotemy.

The other fellow, a more portly, grandfatherly type was less of an immediate threat; though I had no doubt that he would come running if I put a bullet into the snappy dresser. I backed off slightly, moving toward the rear of the house. Then I heard the most terrifying sound of the day. A man's voice whispered from behind an outhouse just a few feet away.

"Don't shoot! They will pass."

I almost did shoot– not at anything in particular but as a sheer reflex to being totally shocked. The man, who again looked an awful lot like me, was lying prone in the grass next to the outhouse. I realized immediately that he could have shot me at any time because the grass had totally concealed him at the distances I'd previously been.

As much as I wanted to keep an eye on him, I had to turn back to the zombies to ensure that they were in fact passing by without incident. As the snappy dresser continued on into the field, I heard the voice again.

"Good luck."

I turned again to find that the man was gone. He'd apparently slipped around the far corner of the house while my attention had been diverted. In retrospect, he had probably been as worried about what might happen once the zombies had passed as I was. I realized at that moment, just how dangerous and complicated this world and my life in it were going to be.


I could go on but I think you folks get the idea. "DayZ" is one of the most amazing gaming experiences I've had in a long time. I know that it's E3 week and I know there are a lot of other games out there vying for your attention, but if this little story has peaked your interest, I would highly encourage you to check out the mod's homepage and give it a serious look.

If time allows, I will try to put together a little survival guide post to help folks get started with the game later this week, but I've got my own game to work on, so that's not a promise. :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tripping DayZ - Part 2

Sorry for the cliffhanger folks but that last post was getting a little long.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah...

It was now only a few yards away. The smell was rancid but I was too transfixed on the wretch before me to care. For a fraction of a second, I thought it saw me; thought I saw some flash of recognition in those dead eyes. I tensed despite my best efforts but then the moment passed and it kept moving on toward the shore.

I could have left. I could have just moved away in any other direction but I needed to know. I needed to be sure. I crept out from the bushes and stood up facing the creature's back. I pulled the gun up and sighted it where the back of the head met the neck. I took a step forward to set my stance and called out to it.

"Hey! You okay buddy?"

It spun around with a speed and precision that I hadn't expected. Something inside of it had awakened. It was now very much aware of me, and it was pissed.

There was no question in my mind, no hesitation. It was coming to kill me. It wasn't thinking about it. It wasn't considering it. It was going to kill and, based on the crusted blood around its mouth, consume me.

I had to tweak my aim slightly, but the head had stayed mercifully close to where it was when it had been facing away from me. Still, the thing was fast and it had nearly closed the distance when I pulled the trigger. It wasn't until the gun went off and the zombie fell to the ground at my feet that I realized just how quiet everything had been and how loud the gunshot was by comparison. There was a slight ringing in my ears and I immediately felt the need to scan the area for any signs of motion. As luck would have it, there was nothing, but somehow that managed to be unnerving in its own way.

I looked down at the body before me and felt relieved. After all, the bullet might not have stopped it or I might have missed the shot. I reminded myself that caution was still in order and resumed my original course toward town.

As it turned out, the town was otherwise deserted. Most of the buildings were sealed up and inaccessible, but a few had been left open and I managed to scrounge up a few provisions that had clearly been left by people who had been holding up in the structures. Everything had the feel of a safe house, with items piled up as if they'd been carefully gathered from various places around town then quickly abandoned. It occurred to me that something fairly terrifying must have happened for whoever went through that trouble to simply leave such a cache. I tried not to think too hard about what that something might be.

I took what seemed useful from the town– a few cans of food and some bandages, and decided to follow the road in the direction I'd been traveling. I'd yet to encounter anyone else beyond Farmer Joe, as I'd taken to calling him, and figured it was prudent to get a better sense of the surrounding area before deciding whether or not the town was safe.

I followed the road for a few minutes when a gas station came into view on the inland side of it. Even from a distance, it looked run down and vacant, but I figured buildings were worth investigating, so I crossed the road and made my advance.

As I got closer, I decided to get off the road proper and slowly approach from the adjacent tree line, just to be safe. The station was definitely in disrepair and seemed like it hadn't been used for its intended purpose in a while. There ware a couple gas pumps but they didn't seem to have any power and there were no cars to be seen. The main office had a few broken windows and the front door was ajar, and there was something else– something just visible in the shadow of the doorway. I strained to focus on that particular area and suddenly realized it was a hand, a human hand, lying palm down on the ground.

At that moment, I couldn't see anything else. The hand and what was likely attached to it became a compulsion. I stepped out of the trees and made my way directly toward the office. As I approached, I heard the unmistakable sound of a swarm of flies and steadied myself for what I might find.

Sure enough, the hand belonged to a corpse, but unlike Farmer Joe, he seemed "normal." There were none of the leisions and missing chunks of flesh I'd seen on the zombie. Initially perplexed, it took me a minute to determine that he'd been shot and most-likely died from that injury. In fact, looking more closely at the body, I realized that he was dressed and equipped basically identically to me. Another pistol, just like mine was even lying next to him; though there was a conspicuous lack of ammunition for it to be found. He even had the same type of backpack as me but this had been picked clean as well.

It occurred to me at that moment that I was in serious danger. Someone had killed this man and taken his supplies and I had no idea whether or not they were still around!

I threw my back up against the nearest wall and drew my pistol, scanning the area outside for any signs of movement. For a moment, I thought I heard a sound off toward the shore, but I couldn't pinpoint it. This was absolutely unnerving and I knew I needed to get out of there as quickly as possible.

The office had a back door that faced away from the sea so I quickly made my way to it and popped it open. There was a 15-or-so yard gap of the paved gas station lot between the office and the tree line, which was about the same distance I'd covered to approach it initially. I hadn't seen or heard anything in that direction, so I decided to make a break for those trees, keeping the office between me and the sound I'd heard.

Not wanting to over think the situation, I went for it, running at full speed from the office into the trees in just a few seconds. As soon as I made it a few yards into the forrest, I dove to the ground and turned to see if anything was behind me.

My heart was thumping and I was breathing heavily as I re-oriented myself amid the foliage. At first, I couldn't see anything unusual and I started to curse myself for overreacting but then I saw him– another man dressed similarly to me and the dead guy entering the office from the same door I had.

From my vantage, I saw him move smoothly and swiftly through the office to the back door I'd left open without pausing at the body. Clearly, he had been here before and knew that the door had previously been closed. He was now standing in it, staring out into the woods where I lay prone. He pulled up his gun and began sweeping it back and forth across his field of view. He was looking for me.

To be continued...