H1Z1: Yawn of the dead

For all the praise it gets from developers, Early Access or alpha funding, whichever term you prefer can do as much harm as good. H1Z1 launched to expected server problems, but even outside of that initial bitter taste there’s been quite a bit of scorn for the new zombie survival MMO.

It had problems with loot as in, there was none it had problems with lag, it even had problems with its own monetisation system. Yet its biggest issue, the one that Daybreak Game Company really needs to address quickly, is simply its familiarity. DayZ was something of a boom, a sudden rise in popularity that though it is still played today has dramatically dropped off, for one reason or another. Even after prompt patches that addressed many problems, H1Z1 could well suffer simply because it isn’t not yet, anyway providing enough of a distinction between itself and Dean Hall’s unexpected success.

The first hour of playing H1Z1 is much like any first hour of DayZ. You’ll spawn in a forested landmass, scavenge for berries and head off to the nearest town in the hopes of finding a weapon before your untimely death at the hands of another overzealous player. Part of H1Z1’s problem is the passiveness of its zombie hordes, though ‘horde’ is perhaps the wrong word to use. Any one group is unlikely to have more  than ten or twenty of the shuffling dead, and though noise and light will attract them it’s rare if ever that they’ll prove a threat. That makes for a particularly antagonistic playerbase, because without the fear of potential brain-munching, H1Z1’s  gamers are free to acta little more recklessly. It makes fora very consistent experience, and that’s not anything a zombie survival experience should be; it’s as much in the emergent stories you can tell, and H1Z1 has none of those. Not yet, anyway.
“I look at H1Z1 not as an MMO. It's got nothing to do with MMOs. It's a session based persistent online game”
Therein lies the problem with Early Access. Much of H1Z1 still lies in its promise, in the grand schemes that Daybreak has planned. Get enough co-operation going and you’ll manage to craft a fairly secure compound even if elements such as jails aren’t working just yet but to what end? As soon as you and your friends log off, that entire base is a free-for-all, and there’s little that can be done to prevent that. Traps are confirmed and will make that base a little more defendable when you’re not there, but it still doesn’t address the lack of permanence. It was a problem that DayZ suffered, too; once you log off you literally disappear. When concepts such as player built community hubs and trading are intended to be such key features of H1Z1, it’s hard to look at the current build and imagine this dream ever being achieved.

It’s too easy to survive, inexplicable murder aside, so what use is trading if you can scavenge and craft everything you need and simply take everything you can’t when someone logs off? Why bargain a hypothetical community's allotment of fuel against a stash of food when it’s just as easy to live off blackberries? Surviving the world itself not the players needs to be a much more prevalent threat if a sense of natural collaboration is ever going to happen. Potential is such a damning word these days, but that’s really all H1Z1 is at this point.By going into early access so soon without those differentiating features in place and working Daybreak now has a much harder task convincing players that this is going to be much more than a DayZ homage.

It seems unfair to so heavily criticise a game still in alpha things will change, things will improve but so far it’s clear that Daybreak’s focus is too much on DayZ and not nearly enough on what it hopes its own game should be. All the same, there are immediate problems that need to be rectified before it’s even comparable the passive zombies, for example. Time will tell whether H1Z1 has the breadth of vision to separate itself from its obvious inspiration, but as it stands it simply doesn’t have enough reasons to get involved at this early stage. Not yet, anyway.

One of the most controversial additions to the game is Supply Drops, purchasable keys of sorts that when activated will send out a plane to drop a crate of goodies (often with weapons) near to your location. The sound of a passing plane and the flashing lights of the descending crate naturally leads to something of a royal rumble in a bid to claim the contents. While you might not actually gain access to your paid-for rewards which, in itself, feels a little unfair gamers were calling this out as an unfair advantage to those willing to pay. The thrill of the fight is something that should be maintained, but it is admittedly a very clunky and morally suspect system that may need to be reconsidered.

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