From the mouth of Dean Hall himself Publishers have said that gamers don’t want hardcore zombie survival games, though the huge success of Minecraft to a degree and certainly DayZ have proven otherwise.
The influenza is spreading. Now that major publishers have seen the craze around survival games the likes of Ubisoft are getting involved with The Division and now MMO giant Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) with H1Z1.
The cynically minded would look at the proclaimed short development cycle of H1Z1 and how that conveniently lines up with DayZ’s release and instantaneous success (top seller on Steam for the better part of a month). In the end it just means more games for us to play, you can’t fault that.
Cynicism aside H1Z1 does bring something new to the table. Most importantly it is the first game in the genre from an acclaimed developer with vast resources; it will be a breath of fresh air to escape the excusably indie state of current offerings, by which I mean I don’t enjoy wall glitching and random deaths.
The other big thing SOE are dong differently is that they are an MMO company and as such H1Z1 will be an MMO, the first true MMO zombie survival game. All you have to do is look at PlanetSide 2 and Landmark to see the capabilities of the Forgelight engine; destructible/harvestable terrain, massive open maps, hundreds of players persistently.
SOE has the experience and architecture already in place to support large maps with hundreds of players, persistent worlds with an economy, factions, politics… literally going to steal Smedely’s words, “Create your own woodbury”.
While zombie survival can certainly be about being a lone survivor, for me at least it’s all about player interaction. The above features are the catalyst for player interaction and emergent gameplay.
As an avid DayZ fan I can tell you that I’m excited by serious competition entering the genre, competition will only lead to better games for fans.
While DayZ definitely has its own niche where authenticity is concerned, a lot of people won’t think twice when H1Z1 is more polished with a larger feature list to boot. Sure, right now we don’t know anything about the game, but it would be naïve to think SOE won’t put its weight behind H1Z1 if it is a success.
You could argue that the DayZ team is now larger than that of the H1Z1 team and it’s already several months’ development into early access release, but they also seem to be having a hard time bending the engine to their will (a huge point of criticism from the community).
H1Z1 is using an already established and proven engine, with features ready to roll and two other massive titles being developed on the same engine. The significance of the latter should not be underestimated, for example: if farming is developed for Landmark, then it can easily be ported to H1Z1.
The biggest concern I have with H1Z1 at this early stage is the decision to go free-to-play, which is the ethos of the new SOE. When you allow people to create an account for free and jump into the game, they don’t care if they upset people or get banned, they can just create a new account. On that sentiment hackers will be rampant.
Now that we are surrounded by free-to-play games, we have learnt its pros and cons, and it has changed game development for better or worse. These days the line between business and entertainment is blurred, the temptations of tainted micro-transaction offerings are often too much.
Ultimately I think DayZ and H1Z1 will head down two different paths. Those who want the hardcore survival experience will play DayZ, because the ARMA engine’s authenticity cannot be matched. Meanwhile H1Z1 will likely be a lot easier to jump in and play with friends.