Friday, July 20, 2012

DayZ: Just take the shot

The DMR.
It was either going to end with me saying, "You're welcome," or, "I'm so sorry."

I was stationed south of the International Airfield, where I was reconning a downed chopper. Crash sites are great places for rare and high-grade military items in DayZ. From a distance, I could spot two weapons on the ground, but the site was crawling with the infected helicopter squad. I couldn't get in there by myself.

A call out to my squad revealed that Sam was south of my location and could get to me in a few minutes. In just a short time, the spoils of war would be ours. There was just one problem — he was being chased.

With my binoculars, I saw Sam approach from the south with around four zombies on his heels. He was in a bad situation. The infected weren't going to just give up.

He ran past the road that I was on and aggroed some of the zombies at the crash site. From what I could see, he had around seven or eight on him now. If he stopped to shoot, he would surely die. I told him to veer back towards me on the road.

Here was the moment.

I could feel it. Anyone who has played cooperative gameplay has felt it before — that moment where a squad mate's survival is in your hands. I checked over my AKM assault rifle. With three magazines I had ample gunfire to take down the horde.

I switched the rifle over to semi automatic to help keep down the ridiculous recoil. Also, slow and steady shots would keep me under control a lot better than a full automatic spray.

I knelt down on the road and brought up my iron sights to spy Sam running in my direction, about 75-100 yards north of me. He was bleeding, which meant that there was no time to fail.

My heartbeat was racing and my hands were tense. I took aim and began.

One and one.

Pop pop. Pop. Pop pop pop.

Three or four fell, just as Sam had to stop to bandage his wounds. As he worked, I zipped bullets past his head, taking out the zombies still clawing at him. As soon as his bandaging was done, he veered off directly towards me. I aimed one last time and zipped a final round past his head, right into the last zombie that was chasing him.

He got to my location, thankful and relieved. I noticed the last zombie crawling to get to us. His will to feed keeping him alive.

I watched him for a few seconds down my iron sights before squeezing the trigger one last time.

With a quick blood transfusion, Sam was back on his feet.

Soon after, our backup arrived. Nate was stocked and ready to assault the crashed chopper.

We armed ourselves and fanned out, Sam on the right, Nate in the middle and myself on the left. We slowly made our way through the field until I had to fire.

"I've got four zombies on my side," I said. "I'm taking the shot. Opening fire."

My AKM rang out amongst the sound of my squadmates firing at their targets. I couldn't check my flank to see how they were doing because of the zombies in front of me. I was able to kill two and injure a third, but just as I was about to finish him off my gun clicked with the sound of an empty magazine.

I hustled towards Nate and Sam, telling them that I was out of ammo. Nate swung around in my direction and quickly popped the two following me.

We were then able to finally search the chopper. I was already looking for a DMR, a high-damage sniper rifle with a high rate of fire. It has zeroing capabilities, due to the mildot sights, allowing for accurate shots from range.

Nate, however, found the holy grail.

The L85A2 AWS is a British Army's assault rifle. It is extremely rare in DayZ. The rifle is equipped with night vision and thermal vision, as well as a multi-zoom. It also has a built in laser sight. It is a dream rifle for any squad member playing support or spotter.

Sam was able to salvage an engine for later use.

All in all, it was a pretty epic mission. And considering that DayZ has been lately handing me my ass on a plate, it was nice to see a reward for the all the effort.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

DayZ: One corpse run to rule them all

"Strangers in the night exchanging glances.
Wond'ring in the night what were the chances,
We'd be sharing my brains before the night was through"
Crazy, insane, ludicrous.

There are many ways to describe the events that went down in Elektro last night while playing DayZ with my squad. Unfortunately, none of the adjectives that can be used are particularly flattering.

It was me, Nate and Sam grouped up in the supermarket on the north side of the city. We had just finished raiding the office and the pub, however we were still without matches to start a fire and in need of better primary weapons.

We decided to head towards the west to the fire station to see what we could scavenge there. Yes, infected were crawling and shambling all around, but that was the least of my worries. A quick look on the western horizon showed a setting sun. In minutes, Elektro would be blanketed in darkness. The thought raced through my mind over and over again, "We don't want to get stuck in the city when night falls."

Everything in me was screaming at me to run to the tree line for safety. We could wait out the night and hit the city in the morning. But against my better judgment, we slowly and quietly made our way to the firehouse.

I took point, while Sam and Nate followed, guns drawn. I stashed my Winchester in my backpack and armed myself with a hatchet.

Order number 1: don't fire a weapon in the city right now.

Order number 2: let me quietly execute any hostiles medieval-style with my hatchet.

I was only forced to engage the enemy once in route to the firehouse. Once we got there, we picked up some new weapons and random supplies. I was able to trade my Winchester for an AKM, a high-powered assault rifle that can zero in up to 800 meters.

While Nate and I were scavenging the second and third floors, Sam misfired on the ground floor and zombies were on us. Nate was the only one to survive the encounter.

At this point, it was getting late in real life. Sam logged but I wanted to make a corpse run. For those reading this who don't know what a corpse run is, a corpse run is where after dying, you respawn and then go back to the place where you died so you can loot everything that was on your previous character. There is an unknown time limit of doing this. Eventually, a player's corpse will despawn along with all the gear that was on him or her.

There was no way I was losing all of that gear.

Nate's escape found him holed up in the north east fire station, while I respawned in the south west. We couldn't have been farther apart.

By this time, the sun had fully descended and everything was pitch black. Night in DayZ isn't like other games. In DayZ, you can't see anything. It's like real life in that way.

If you look at this map, Nate's position is the arrow at the top, while I am positioned at the thumbtack on the shoreline. In between us, noted by cross hairs, is where my corpse is. I was armed with nothing but a bandage and flashlight. There was no way to defend myself.

Pictured: Fuck you, Sinatra!

I knew my best strategy was to head north up through the fields, but that route was still dangerous since zombies shambled all throughout the fields surrounding the city. But I had no choice. The plan was to swing all around to Nate's position, where we would both head to the target area — the fire house with my corpse in it.

Nate had some supplies to help me survive in the city if I could reach him, but he was holed up in a stairwell. The groans from zombies on the ground floor kept him company in the dark. He could have engaged them, but he was already low on health from our squad's near wipe in the other fire house, and the sound of his gun fire would surely attract more hostiles. He was trapped.

It was hard navigating the fields at night. Even with my flashlight, my visibility was poor. And just when I thought things couldn't get more precarious, it began to rain. So now it's pitch black and raining. Perfect. Any visibility that I had was cut in half.

While scanning my flanks for zombies, I noticed a small blue light up in the sky. A chemlight. Nate's chemlight. A chemlight is basically a glow stick and Nate had dropped one near my corpse. It was the only waypoint I could see in the dark.

I decided to head straight over there and see if I could get to my corpse. Then, after getting geared up, I could head up to Nate's position to dismember the zombies that had trapped him.

Nate had a good vantage point over a large portion of the city from his position. While visibility was bad, his binoculars allowed him to see my flashlight moving on the other side of the city. When I got closer to the fire house, I shined my flashlight on the stairwell that housed my previously failed attempt at survival.

My flashlight, teamed with Nate's binoculars and vantage point, allowed him to recon the fire house for zombies. He surveyed the building and relayed that there were no geeks in sight. I nervously made my way into the building, waiting to hear the groans and growls from any infected still lingering, but everything was quiet.

I was able to recover my gear and hook a blue chemlight to my jacket, giving Nate visibility on my location. The first task was done, now it was time to head north east to Nate's location to deal with his zombie threat.

The rain had not let up, but I felt better about having my hatchet again. The problem was that I couldn't hold my hatchet and flashlight at the same time. This meant that I had to choose. I decided to crawl in the dark with my hatchet in hand. Nate could see my chemlight from his position and was able to relay information as to my position and any hostiles that he could see.

The only thing I could see was the horizon in front of me, a silhouette of a zombie moving would break up the darkness every now and then. Everything felt pretty good until my chemlight burned out. There I was, in the middle of a zombie-infested field, with no light nor eyes from Nate's vantage point.

We kept communication tight and Nate guided me through the darkness the best that he could. It was pretty much a guessing game, but eventually I found myself squared off with Nate's location. I could see his chemlights burning, so I knew exactly where I needed to go.

A 7-foot high concrete wall surrounds the northern power plant and fire house. There is an entrance on the west side and one on the south east side. The problem, though, was I couldn't see the entrance in the dark. I knew that there were a couple of zombie spawn points on the inside of the wall, but there was nothing I could do about that.

Nate turned on his flashlight and it shined down around me like a spotlight. He used it to guide me to the entrance and I made my way inside the wall. It felt warm and comforting to be in the light again. It had been such a long and tense mission that a little relief felt great.

Nate's light flickered in and out. This being a game still in its Alpha stage of development, it's buggy. This became apparent when Nate's light began to bug out.

And that was when I was hit. One of the infected was on me, clawing and growling. I stood up and started swinging wildly with my hatchet, hoping to hit something in the darkness. The zombie tore open a wound, but I was able to hack into him finally. I quickly bandaged myself up and headed into the fire house where Nate was holed up on the second floor.

I readied myself for an attack in the stairwell, but before Nate could get some light into the area, a zombie struck me. Once again, I began circling and swinging my hatchet. Just as Nate's light hit the area, I cut the zombie down. We took an overlook of our resources and decided that we needed to get out of Elektro fast.

With Nate lighting the way with his flashlight, I took point with my hatchet and we headed north east to the tree line. We'd be safe once we got there. It took some time and some maneuvering around a couple of zombies, but were finally able to reach the tree line.

The entire ordeal was one of the most intense things I have ever done in a video game. It took both of us working together to get through the rainy night. Nate was trapped without help from my hatchet and I was as good as dead without his reconnaissance. It was a cap stone moment and one that made me appreciate that a game like DayZ exists.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DayZ: Take time to smell the roses

This is what a typical visit to a city in DayZ looks like.
Well, I made the call and let's just say that it didn't end well. While I was able to escape the airstrip in tact, an infected at a nearby rest stop caused me to bleed out.

When I awoke — fresh on the coast — was outside Elektro. Perfect! There are some great opportunities for gear in the city, but a bigger city means more infected. Elektro is one of two major hubs on the southern coast; the other being Cherno.

I made myself around the northwest end of the city, picking up a hatchet in a barn on the way. That hatchet would end up being very important as my story continues.
Using stealth, I made my way into the city, stopping by a factory to raid it for loot. It was there I was able to pick up a Winchester shotgun and a few slugs. I didn't want to have the fire the Winchester in the city unless I had to for fear of it drawing infected to my location.

After leaving the factory, I headed into deeper into the city, looking for three buildings that are right next to one another: a three-story office building, a pub/hotel and a supermarket. If I could make it through these three buildings I would surely be set with ample gear to make my way north.

As I crawled through some backyards, I came face to face with an infected. Seeing that a confrontation was inevitable, I reluctantly fired my Winchester, taking the bastard down. Within seconds, the horde was headed my way.

Knowing I only had a few shots, I carefully took down a few infected with some well-placed head shots, but I was outnumbered, 10-1. I spun around and began looking for a bottleneck. If I could funnel the horde through a doorway or staircase, then their numbers would equate to nothing.

I ducked into a nearby house and shut the door. Ever second counted and I knew the door would not hold for long. I quickly bandaged myself to stop the bleeding and readied my axe. One by one, I was able to funnel the infected into the doorway and chop their numbers down. I eventually won the battle of attrition against them.

After the last body had fallen, I quickly surveyed my damages and headed back into the heart of the city. And it paid off.

I was able to score many great supplies amongst the three buildings, some of which included:

• an Alice pack, which is the second largest backpack in the game,
• two canteens for water,
• multiple bandages/pain killers for wounds,
• a knife to gut animals in the wild with,
• a tent,
• multiple cans of food and drink, and
• a box of matches to start a fire.

After gathering what I could, I ran to the tree line to survey my newly-found gear. While I'm still without a reliable means to defend myself, I have the required supplies to last indefinitely. While in the woods, I found a small pond, where I set up camp.

I was able to keep a fire going without attracting attention to cook some steaks, refill my canteens at the pond and just relax.

The game has taken an interesting turn this time. I am quite set on survival supplies. I have no problems making fires and it is easy for me to hunt game for food. Water/drinks aren't hard to come by, so I can effectively survive without having to risk my life to scavenge through another city or village.

It's calming to know that I have the needed tools to survive, passively at least. I must admit, sitting next to that pond in the forest, fire burning, steaks cooking — was extremely satisfying. It was a needed victory in a game that oftentimes feels like it punishes the player instead of rewards them.

The idea that I can survive without much risk is very appealing.

Of course, what fun would taking the safe road be?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

DayZ: The cold embrace of death

The "gauntlet"
I should have known better.

I had plenty of supplies to survive on. I had food, I had water, I had ammunition and I had medical supplies. Why was I willing to risk everything to go into Stary Sobor?

At this point in my journey through this zombie apocalypse, I was looking for luxury items — a means to start a fire and a larger backpack. Neither of which I was in dire need of, but the military encampment was calling to me like a bitch in heat.

Here is the layout: several tents formed two long rows on the outer edge of the city. In each tent was the chance for supplies and goods that I could use to aid my survival. It wasn't long before I was under assault by infected. I did everything I could to survive. I bandaged when I could and took painkillers when needed, all the while watching my ammunition dwindle with the full auto stream from my assault rifle. I knew I had made a mistake.

A couple of times, my character blacked out, only to wake back up with zombies gnawing at me. My life force was draining, which caused my character's hands and arms to shake, making aiming near impossible. It was spray and pray.

Eventually, I was able to get to my feet and run out of the encampment.

Broken and bleeding.

Supplies all but gone.

Morale lost.

Not more than 15 minutes ago I was set to survive for days. Greed and curiosity got the best of me. Where I was looking for fire as a luxury before, now it became a matter of survival. I had raw meat in my backpack and it needed to be cooked in order for me to regain strength. In 15 minutes, fire went from a luxury to a necessity.

Death was close. And when that happens, desperation becomes the game.

I found a small settlement with a house that looked open. I knew this was the end before I stepped onto the property. One of the infected caught sight of me and charged towards me. I had no choice. I had to fire my rifle.

The sound rang out like a dinner bell to all the infected in earshot. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I could see that the horde had amassed great numbers. Finally, death took me.

So, there I was staring at a black screen with giant words that said, "You are dead." I became relaxed in a world where such a feeling is a death knell.

I'm back in DayZ now with a fresh character, struggling to find even the most basic supplies — a can of beans, maybe a soda and a simple weapon for survival.

After some time, I have found myself on top of a watch tower alongside an airstrip, just west of Cherno. Looking into my backpack, I have some food, some drinks and three magazines for my AK. I've also picked up a GPS device. From where I am stationed, no infected can reach me.

The airstrip and the fields that surround it are littered with infected. All around me are the bodies of fallen military personnel. Once again, I find myself in a precarious situation. I have few options and even fewer that don't involve me raining bullets.

It's beginning to rain and I know I'm going to have to make the call soon.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

DayZ: Day 2

Get ready to scream
Another day, another zombie outbreak.

For those who don't know, DayZ is a mod for ArmA 2, a European military shooter. DayZ swaps out the setting with that of a zombie apocalypse. But this isn't some arcade shoot 'em up like Left 4 Dead. DayZ is hardcore and punishing.

For starters, it's based around permadeath. Once you die, you start over. Don't find water? Die and start over. Don't find food? Die and start over. Don't find a means to defend yourself? Die and start over.

Supplies are scarce and every shot from a gun needs to count. Patience and strategy are key to surviving in DayZ. And that really is the goal — to survive. There's no end game. There's no dialogue. There's no quest line. You start on the shore and it's up to you to survive.

I'm playing the game while listening to the 28 Days/Weeks Later soundtracks. It is scaring the shit out of me and after only playing for 75 minutes last night, I needed to step away and take a walk to clear my head. DayZ is stressful and tense.

I'm in Day 2 of my DayZ adventure.

Day 1 was spent learning the controls and getting a feel for the game. Day 2 is all business.

It felt like I had scavenged all over Europe without finding any supplies, but eventually I was able to pick up a crossbow, a soda or two and a can of beans. Of course it wasn't easy. On three different occasions I was left running for my life from zombies. All three instances were dire. I had to risk it all because I had nothing to lose.

My risks paid off, though, as soon as I realized that I could retrieve my crossbow bolts from zombies that I had killed. All of a sudden, three bolts seemed plenty. Not only that, but it's a silent killer, so nearby zombies wouldn't be attracted to my kills like they would with a gunshot.

The crossbow became my dearest friend in this bleak and suspenseful world.

One after another, zombies fell to my accuracy. I'd shoot, wait for them to drop and then go and retrieve my bolt, remembering to search the body for any supplies. It was at this point that I felt that I had become the predator.

In a world so dismal, finding a can of beans or a soda can be a major victory for a player's morale. Learning how to use the crossbow made me feel like a god. This feeling was compounded even more when I found some old tower ruins and was able to stock up on supplies for sustenance, including binoculars and a couple extra bolts. I had a high vantage point to plan my next destination. It was a perfect scenario.

Of course, all good things must come to an end.

This morning I stumbled across a hunting rifle. I decided to pick it up to see how the scope works (I'm still learning the game, after all) and in doing so, it replaced my crossbow. Normally, my crossbow would now be on the ground and the rifle would be on my person, but this being a game still in alpha, my crossbow disappeared. To top it off, the rifle had no ammo.

I went from being a god to a survivor with an extremely weak pistol and limited ammo. Fear overcame me once again.

It was a struggle to reclaim some sense of protection. At one point I found myself trapped in the upstairs of a barn, while the groans and screams from four zombies on the ground floor drove my paranoia home. I'm still not sure how I ended up surviving that barn, but I did.

For the most part, I've been able to keep enough food and drink in my backpack. I picked up a canteen, which has allowed me to refill it when I find a well. I also have a hunting knife, which I used to gut a boar. If I can find a way to start a fire I can eat the meat.

After traveling northwest for a bit, I came across a dear stand in the forest that had just what I was looking for — a means to survive. Inside the dear stand was an AK-47 and three clips. Had I still had my crossbow, the decision as to whether to take the AK or not would have been difficult, but considering my hunting rifle was empty on ammo and was only serving as a vanity piece on my back, I quickly swapped it out.

Now I stand on the outskirts of another town. I can see where the military had set up a medical encampment. Maybe I will get lucky and find some good supplies.

Shopping list:
• A larger backpack.
• A means to start a fire.

While neither is critical, both will bring a level of comfort and security. And in a world as harsh as DayZ, morale can be more empowering than even a good weapon.

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