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SOE’s got three games in the works right now (that we know of, at least). Landmark is already out in public, being streamed and talked about by everyone. EverQuest Next is far enough away that it’s only a tantalizing glint in players’ eyes right now.




That leaves H1Z1 in the semi-awkward state of being mostly ready for public consumption, but not really “done” enough to be let loose to the masses. The H1Z1 panels at SOE Live 2014 were a kind of smorgasbord of questions and answers — fitting for a sandbox game with no pre-planned objectives other than “survive.”

Development is proceeding along a vertical track of providing one or two types of a bunch of different gameplay styles and elements — such as guns, vehicles, crafting, construction, and so on — and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Stuff people like, they’ll do more of. Stuff people don’t like, they’ll do less of or eliminate entirely. That’s SOE’s game plan these days, of going to the community for a lot of advice and feedback and “treating it like an indie project.”

So the game might seem a little thin when we do finally get early access, but most of the basic systems should be there. “We need to get the building blocks right,” said Senior Game Designer Jimmy Whisenhunt.

One way the team hopes to expand in is in different types of zombies. Right now, the game just has your basic shamblers — though the dev team is always tweaking attack speed, damage, movement speed, and so on, and the art team is always playing with their looks, to “gore them up” a bit more — but there are lots more planned. One that came up was the notion of a “shrieker” zombie, which would serve as a kind of “zombie magnet,” drawing others to your position.

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So when exactly is early access, anyway? Yeah, right, like you thought they were going to tell me that.

“I play our game every day,” Game Designer Adam Clegg told me in an interview after the panel, “and we just see things the players don’t get to see, and we know it’s just not ready yet. We do have an itemized list of things that we want to get done in the game — it’s not a “feature creep” thing where we just keep adding and adding. When it’s done, we’ll release early access and then the fun really starts!”

Besides releasing too soon, another thing that plagues early access titles is their lack of accessibility. Because the focus is on getting something merely playable out the door, games can be a little unfriendly to new players. Part of the reason for that is because EA players are the most devoted fans of a game, they’re willing to “power through” unfriendly mechanics. People who aren’t as dedicated might be more likely to have a bad early experience and never return.

This happened to me in my first play session. As I was looking around right after spawning in, two zombies approached me and “introduced” themselves. A few seconds later, I was already down to 50% health. Now, I’ve been following H1Z1, so it didn’t perturb me too greatly, but getting beaten down the moment you enter the game qualifies as a bad time, no matter what your experience level.

Clegg assured me that the “insta-zombie spawn beatdown” was a bug, but I wanted to know what else the team might be doing to make the new player experience a wee bit less stressful. It is a hardcore survival game, sure, but players should at least be allowed to find their footing before being ripped apart by zombies (or other players), right?

“That’s something I’m always aware of,” Clegg said. “I’m always trying to make sure the first five minutes of the game is a good experience for the player. I want to make sure the player at least figures out what they’re doing when they get into the game, and if they die, it’s not because they had no idea what’s going on. They know why they died.”

“You’ve got to have that feeling of being in control,” Technical Director Tom Schenck added. “No matter how new you are, you got to be able to get into the game, you know you did this, did that, and that caused you to die. As long as you don’t feel out of control, you aren’t going to really hate it.”

“I see this happen all the time in early access games,” said Clegg. “There’s a difference between making it think that the game killed you or you killed yourself, that you’re the reason why you died. It’s a huge psychological difference.”

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Other than the usual bug fixes and polish, the dev team is also looking to increase character creation options — you currently can’t play as a woman, for instance — and figure out what kind of rules sets they can implement. “What I’ve been telling players is that we have a hardcore tuning knob,” Clegg said. “Let’s say we have it at seven or eight right now. With the different server rule sets, we can turn that all the way up to 10 and make it to where you lose everything and when you log out, your character’s there forever… we can do all kinds of things.”

In case you’ve missed it, servers will all be hosted by SOE, but they will have different rule sets — “three or four” at launch, Schenck said, with usual suspects like PvP, PvE, RP, and maybe “super-hardcore” — and players will be able to vote to open new servers with new rule sets.

Finally, with all the different options for rules sets, I brought up the notion of e-sports or tournaments in H1Z1, similar to DayZ’s Survivor Games, which are loosely based on the Hunger Games books and movies. “I love making different game modes,” Clegg said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to, really, and once we have a good core game, maybe we have the Hunger Games mode, and maybe the Hunger Games mode turns into something bigger than that. I’m really looking forward to that.”

the author

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

11 Readers Commented

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  1. Norrin Radd on August 20, 2014

    The original Dayz mod which is now modded further with Epoch is the best form of Dayz it is still a sandbox, but there is structure via the safe zone merchants and the ability to purchase lock boxes and build a base to store it in along with a key to lock your vehicle although people can still steal tires and such if not on a plot point you have established. It seems like this model is the end game for both the Standalone and H1Z1, but it will be years before they get there. I mean honestly all the Standalone needs is one vehicle and it would be worth play for at least some time, but in its current form Epoch is better and will also be better than H1Z1.

  2. Todoran on August 17, 2014

    I wuld speel bettr but bowth my fistz are covrd in man chocolate

    • Yeah on August 17, 2014

      Grammar nazzis….

  3. Scott Sigurbjartsson on August 17, 2014

    I like to perform oral on overweight men at truck stops and dress in women’s clothing.

  4. Todoran on August 16, 2014

    uaaau another pice of shit buged unplayable zombie survival…. aham maibee in 2050 this will be the same like those pices of s….t 7 days to play and uninstall and BugsZ

  5. some random scottish guy on August 16, 2014

    Dayz has zombies yes, but I think you will find that the largest majority of people do not play this game because it has zombies in it. Its more about players interacting with each other while avoiding zombies.
    Dayz Stand alone is not in a great shape right now, but the game is still a lot of fun. I dont play dayzSA myself right now instead I just stick to the arma2 dayz mod.

    This h1z1 does look interesting, and its Free….oh but wait doesnt that mean there will be a costly cash shop. Well one of the things SOE would like to do with this game is allow other players to steal other players cash shop items.
    The plan was to make cash shop items come in the form of an “air drop”.If other players are in the area and see the air drop then theres really nothing stopping them from trying to take the air drop.
    Its an interesting concept and would stay true to this hardcore unforgiving game genre.

    I dont think any of the newer survival games can be compared to that counterstrike game with zombies in it (LFD2). Ive watched many friends play and streams of LFD2 and not once have I wanted to play it. After weeks and hours of watching dayz streams I could not take it any more I had to have this game (mod) and the same goes for h1z1.

    If your looking for a zombie game dont play dayz, h1z1 or any other clone of dayz. These games are so much more than just about zombies but people dont realize that they just see the zombies and think “omg not zombies I hate zombies”. So they never get to experience what no other game genre can provide (Rust you say… dont make me laugh).

  6. GMAlonzo on August 16, 2014

    SOE’ gets rid of free realms, don’t bother to bring back the agency.
    sorry company IMO and this game looks like crap , just like Dayz.
    stick with Left 4 dead games for the best zombie games.

    • RadioactivePixxy on August 16, 2014

      While L4D is a great series, DayZ and H1Z1, and others alike, are no where near the same games. Sure, they have zombies, but it’s the massive map and emphasis on survival that splits DayZ and H1Z1 from the L4D series. I honestly dislike DayZ right now as it is in a unbelievably slow development speed right now (DayZ’s Staff’s fault) and I’m looking forward to the Walking Dead-like feel that should come with H1Z1

      • Synerix on August 16, 2014

        There wont be a “Walking Dead-like feel” to H1Z1 unless they allow people to have private servers with people who actually play out the characters and try to act as if it was a real person (Basically RPish servers). If anyone can join any server you’ll get the exact same thing as Day Z… A bunch of 14 year old asshats running around like chickens with their heads cut off, shooting every single person they see without trying to communicate…

        Unless that happens the best kind of experience you’ll get is a Battle Royal with Zombies game, not a Walking Dead-like feel.

        • tolshortte on August 17, 2014

          if they implement some kind of ‘law’ penalty system that tags players if ‘infamous’ enough and couple that with a perma-death-ish type system (you get x amount of deaths or an increased chance of perma every death) it would combat that mentality a great deal.

          nothing will ever do away with it. but if you actually gave people a concrete reason to band together, ie: staying alive, then the gank aspects would diminish greatly. only the die hard gankers would do it, and when confronted with large numbers of ‘survivors’ it would be harder to do.

        • Syoarn on August 29, 2014

          See, while I have never personally played DayZ but I have seen videos, what you’re missing is the picture of it. Of course there are people running around killing people during a zombie apocalypse. Would you REALLY want to take the chance of them being friendly? Could you really trust a complete stranger when resources are scarce? DayZ’s focus is on what life would be like in the zombie apocalypse. Not only surviving the zombies in which you are faced with, but the human interactions within so said society. Just like how it would turn out in the real world, in DayZ there will be people who want to be friendly or people who want to kill you and take everything you have. Simple human nature.

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