H1Z1 and the problem with post-apocalyptic MMOs
There’s a new kind of game on the survival horror horizon – the post-apocalyptic MMO. On the surface, games like DayZ, State of Decay, RUST and the recently announced H1Z1 (see what they did there?) sound like they’d be loads of fun, something to put the survival back in survival horror, right? But leave it to RoH’s Negative Nancy to chime in and point out its flaws.
You’ll be forgiven if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of H1Z1. To be honest, you’ve probably already heard about it. If you’ve heard of DayZ, you’ve heard about H1Z1 and probably a hundred other games in the works that are like it. To give this particular game credit, it looks like a much more polished and full version of DayZ. It will also be free to play, with micro-transactions. Have a look at the video – this particular footage is from January, so there’s probably been some improvement since then.
Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley took to Reddit to give the full details.
[H1Z1] is a massively multiplayer game in which players fight for survival in a world where death is the only sure thing. The H1Z1 virus devastated mankind and left nothing but death and destruction in its wake and a world nearly empty of human life, where the remnants of humanity are in a fight against extinction against those infected with the virus. It’s been 15 years since H1Z1 was first encountered and what’s left of the world before is overrun with the infected. Humanity has been reduced to hiding in the shadows, searching desperately for food and water and anything that can help to survive even for another day.
Sounds awesome, right?
But the Infected aren’t the only dangers in the world. Everyday life in the Apocalypse means dealing with all kinds of wild animals…
You mean like fauna? I can deal with that. That’s to be expected. After all, The Last of Us had giraffes – except…they weren’t…dangerous. I mean I guess they could be? You’d think that if Ellie and Joel ran into some mountain lions they’d be dangerous.
…and the brutality of other survivors.
Smedley goes on to state that the game has all of these awesome things planned for it, such as putting an emphasis on player ownership and customization…
The main thing that differentiates H1Z1 from the other great games in the genre is the emphasis we are putting on player ownership and building. We want you to be able to form raving gangs that are headquartered out of an abandoned warehouse that you’ve taken over…or a house you’ve built from scratch after having cut trees down and secured the resources to make it.
Despite all of the awesome features that are planned H1Z1,at this point, it’s crossed off my list. Why? Well, if DayZ has taught me anything, if my first real, easily accessible online generation of gaming had taught me anything, it’s that players, when given a proper avenue, can be fucking dicks. And in H1Z1, it almost seems like players will be rewarded for being unmitigated assholes, like getting ‘ganked by other players’ is a key component of game play.
Fuck all of that.
True, all online communities have their trolls, but games like this really bring them out from under the bridge. Have you ever built something truly amazing in Minecraft only to have it destroyed by some dickhead? What’s the sense in cooperating with everyone to do something amazing if even just a small group of people can come along and destroy it all? Why take the time to secure the resources to build a house if it can be burned down? Games like Planetside 2 have safe zones, generally at one team’s base to prevent spawn-killing. Meaning that it was such a problem in previous games they actually had to implement a feature to prevent these kind of dickheads from doing it. And despite that, there are still people who try!
With H1Z1, it’s been announced that if you die, you will keep all of your stuff, though this is something that may be changed in the final build of the game – but if everyone keeps dying, there’s not much fun in that. If all you ever do is fight zombies, get ganked by other players and start fresh with nothing, there’s even less fun in that.
While I am by no means an expert, I think that part of the problem with these post-apocalyptic MMOs is that on the surface there doesn’t seem to be anything else to them. The plot is what you make of your time in the game – the world has been destroyed and now you have to survive. Everyone who is a friend can also be an enemy, so make sure that they can’t betray you. When this kind of thing is written into a plot as a friendly reminder that the world has gone to shit, it’s great. But when you’re just thrown into a sandbox and told basically to make your own fun, online bullies will rise and turn the entire thing into a giant shitbox. Sure, reading a couple of Chernarus Logs or watching some videos online of people getting their asses handed to them is fun, but it’s different when that’s you playing, every single fucking time.
Of course there are still good people out there, people who want to do the right thing, so what’s the ratio? If SOE can say that there will be safeguards in place, such as safe zones or safe servers, I’d be a little more inclined to risk it. Until then, we will see what happens.
The game will release in 4-6 weeks.