Toronto’s Gamercamp is set to announce another stellar addition to their already rad local and international lineup today. Get your hatchets and beans ready, because we’ve learned that Dean “Rocket” Hall, creator of the wildly popular ARMA 2 mod DayZ, will make his first Canadian apperance in Toronto for the two-day game celebration running November 3 – 4.
For those not aware of Hall – or of DayZ‘s meteoric rise from a simple experiment to the talk of game industry – the man and his mod have been one of the most exciting stories in gaming this year. Built on the bones of the unforgivingly realistic military simulator ARMA 2, DayZ puts players in the role of a survivor who awakes on the shores of Chernarus, a former Soviet backwater now completely and utterly overrun by zombies. With nothing but a flashlight, some painkillers and a bandage, players must scavenge the 225 km2 world for supplies and weapons in order to survive not only zombies and the elements, but other players as well. This bleak scenario leaves survivors to their own devices (or the bullet-shooting/face-gnawing devices of other survivors/zombies, respectively) and puts their survival at about an average of 45 minutes in game. Talk about a steep learning curve! However, despite this punishing difficulty and limited life-expectancy, within the first three months of its release DayZ‘s player base had grown from just a few hundred to over 1.2 million. The average survival time is now about 1 hour and 8 minutes.
Much like zombie apocalypses depicted in other fiction, DayZ creates a terrifying wild west scenario in which almost anything can happen, and frequently does. But what makes the open world zombie game so engaging (and indeed what has attracted the attention of game critics and players alike) is the fact that the majority of those frightening encounters and “holy shit” moments are not the product of some scripted event dreamed up by Hall. Instead they are completely player-generated and driven – or what scientists like to call “emergent gameplay.”
Want to clean up an infested town and set up a trading post with friends? Sure! Prefer the lone wolf route and want to live off the land? Right this way, Bear Grylls! Want to help your fellow survivors by playing medic? Hit that hospital, grab some blood bags and morphine, and get out there, doc! Does picking off newly spawned survivors on the coast with an anti-material rifle a 800 metres sound more your speed? It’s kind of a dick move, but you can do that too! Don’t want to do any of that? Then don’t. With the list of possible gameplay options growing with every new patch, DayZ has become the ultimate survival-horror sandbox to play in.
Hall’s mod can essentially be whatever the player wants to make of it, and that’s exactly how he has gone about designing DayZ. It’s no small task to make a game that can be so many different things to so many people, but it’s that unique and challenging approach to the game’s design that has made “Rocket” one of 2012’s most fascinating gaming figures. Honest and irreverent, Hall has made no secret of his disdain for the current publisher-based, console-driven market for games, instead leaning towards the Minecraft model of self-publishing and the freedom that accompanies it. Those attitudes have likely earned him more enemies than friends in the games industry, but the industry is a boat that the New Zealand-born game designer seems determined to rock for its own good.
Although Hall discussed DayZ at length at various gaming conventions over the summer, Gamercamp will be his first Canadian appearance. If all goes according to plan, DayZ will make the transition from modification to standalone game by the end of the year, and Gamercamp will be an excellent opportunity to hear Hall speak about that process, the future of the project, and gaming in general. If you dig the zombie genre, open world games, or just want to learn more about a very exciting game in development, Hall’s talk is sure to be a highlight of Gamercamp for you.
Gamercamp runs November 3 – 4. For more details and ticket information visit their official site Gamercamp.ca.