By conventional standards, the DayZ alpha is a mess.
Want to play?
Google it and then head to the main page. Click the promising looking download link and you’ll get this:
(In most cases, it’s safe to assume that around 80% of potential players who get to a web page like this will never get any further.)
So, how do you get from a bunch of loose RARs to playing? Good question.
You should probably search the forums. There are a number of posts on the subject, many of which suggest different steps or disagree about what you must or must not do.
Pick one you feel lucky about. It’ll probably go something like this:
- First, you need ARMA 2: Combined Operations ($29.99 on Steam right now).
- From that package, install ARMA 2 and launch it. But don’t launch it from Steam – you need to launch the actual EXE as an admin. Maybe.
- Then install Operation Arrowhead and launch the same way.
- Then find the install directory for Operation Arrowhead. Make directories within for the mod, and unzip the files there.
- Oh, also, maybe you need to go to your ARMA 2 directory, copy the BattleEye directory there, and paste it in the Operation Arrowhead directory.
- Now find Operation Arrowhead in Steam. Go to launch options and put in a command line parameter for the mod.
Now you can play. Launch Operation Arrowhead from your Steam library. Don’t actually play Operation Arrowhead – pick Combined Operations from the launch dialog.
Now select multiplayer. The DayZ servers mostly begin with DayZ, so you can sort by server name to make things easy. Until recently, all of the available servers were constantly full and getting a slot meant waiting and clicking until you got lucky.
Once you’re able to join one, you’ll likely be confused if you haven’t played any ARMA before. BLUFOR? Roles? “ 1-1-A?” Just click ok.
Things should start to download. Sometimes this happens instantly, sometimes the bar gets stuck around 75% complete and then hangs out there. For how long? Well, sometimes it’ll advance after a minute or so, other times after five or ten minutes. Still other times, it appears to be permanently stuck. If you’re lucky or patient you can move on, otherwise back out and pick another server to try again.
Once the mission has downloaded, you usually get to everyone’s favorite “waiting for server response.” (I’m a little late posting this, so this has been As with “downloading mission”, you might be here for a minute or two. Or 20 minutes. If you wait long enough, you’ll sometimes get in a game. Other times, after the long wait you’ll be popped into some kind of limbo where you can’t move or do anything and get no (other) indication of a problem.
Don’t worry, you aren’t going to notice the wait at all. There are almost always really funny, clever people entertaining everyone by shouting random shit across ARMA’s built-in VOIP, so time just flies right by.
After a few attempts, you’ll probably get in a game. Congrats!
If you’re one of those people that decided to take a look at it after work or school and checked in once you were home and dinner was done, your first view of the game might be something like this:
Your graphic settings aren’t off – that’s nighttime. See, server time is the same as your local time, so if it’s night where you are, it’s night in the game! When does the sun come up? I dunno – six hours or so? It’s ok, sometimes the moon will come up and you’ll be able to see a little bit more.
What’s that noise? Probably a zombie. You might need to move, but since you can’t see, moving might take you closer to the zombie(s). Whatever you do, if you start walking and hear splashing, stop – if you walk too far into the water it makes your backpack and everything in it vanish.
You do start with some flares. You could maybe light one? Go ahead (if you’re not familiar with ARMA’s unique interface conventions, you’ll need to do a little Googling to figure out how to do this).
I might have forgotten to mention that flares attract zombies? Also, other players can see them for miles. Now, other players might be friendly or they might shoot you and take your things, so here’s a surefire way to find out if another player is friendly or not:
Once you figure out how to change your starting chat channel and to chat, chat this when you see another player:
“I see you dude, are you friendly?”
If they reply “yes,” then they are friendly. Players who will kill you to steal your things will never lie when asked if they are friendly. They will always say “no, person who can see me, I am unfriendly and will kill you as soon as I figure out where you are, so you should probably shoot me while you have the advantage.” You’ll also never see anyone say something like “I thought you said you were friendly, why did you shoot me and take my things?” in chat.
There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll stroll into a town or a few buildings shortly after you start. Zombies tend to hide out in these places, so the first time you see (let’s imagine the sun has come up) one, your FPS instincts will probably kick in and you’ll take a shot. Oh, what a silly mistake you’ve made! Now every zombie who has heard the gunshot is chasing you.
If you manage to get away, you were probably injured. You’ll want to figure out how to apply a bandage before you bleed out. If you start falling over or shaking or everything goes black and white, it’s because you’re injured and need get patched up. If you’ve run out of bandages and painkillers, you’re choices are a little more limited. Say you have managed to stop the bleeding but you’re low blood and have a broken limb – you might spend the next few hours (depending) crawling while shuddering and blacking out every few seconds, trying to get lucky and scavenge up the supplies you need to fix this.
If you have a friend who is also playing and on the same server, you might want to team up. There’s no built-in map. You can use the street signs and landmarks to figure out what towns you are near. If you know the towns (or look them up on the web) you can arrange to meet somewhere. It’ll probably take an hour or so of running cross-country in real time, depending on where you both are.
This might all sound dangerous enough that you’d rather just hide in the woods. That’ll work for a bit, but you need to eat and drink. When you run out of food and water, you’ll need to brave the more dangerous places to find more or refill canteens.
If you do manage to carefully move and enter villages, and you have a little luck, you can scavenge some items and weapons that will make you fairly formidable. About the time you feel good about your kit, someone will snipe you from a mile away or you’ll get careless and start a zombie train. One way or another, you’re going to see the “you’ve been killed” message at some point. When that happens, you can respawn. Not by clicking “respawn” or anything — by going back to that “waiting for server response” step.
And all that stuff you crawled around for hours picking up?
And that spot you spent hours getting to with your pals?
Well, you’re back on the coast, so you have quite the walk ahead of you.
All in all, a lot of barriers to entry, technically pretty rough, and a brutal game once you get in.
That in mind, here are some questions I think you should ask:
Why has ARMA 2 been the top seller on Steam for several weeks now?
Why have players now spent a combined time of more than 70 years playing this alpha (probably double that if you count the “waiting for server response” time)?
Sort the servers by player number. Why are there around a thousand unpopulated or lightly populated ARMA multiplayer games and then a few hundred heavily to fully populated DayZ hosts?
Why has the population for this game grown by (as far as I can tell from numbers on their site) about 1000% in less than a month?
Why can’t I stop playing?