What would you do if you were a survivor in a zombie apocalypse? In the next few weeks, you and other players will find out in Sony Online Entertainment’s newest free-to-play massively multiplayer online game, “H1Z1.”
“H1Z1″ has the potential to be a big hit. It stands out in stark contrast to SOE’s typical sci-fi or high fantasy games. It is a persistent open-world sandbox game set in the U.S. — 15 years after a zombie apocalypse — and will prominently feature player-driven world building. Players will have to learn how to cooperate with or survive against other players. The latter is an important distinction as SOE plans to implement various servers that will dictate economy, law (or lack of) and player behavior.
Games like “DayZ” and “Rust” have been blazing the trail for the survival MMO genre. Since “H1Z1” is so similar to “DayZ,” it comes as no surprise that people have begun to question SOE’s creativity and originality. John Smedley, SOE president, has been surprisingly frank about “H1Z1″ and questions about its similarities to “DayZ.” “How is this different from Day Z? Not going to give some politically correct dodgy b.s. answer. It is a survival in a zombie apocalypse game. So is DayZ. They have made a brilliant game (first I might add),” said Smedley in a Reddit post. “We’re making the game we’re making.”
Scope is what really separates “H1Z1” from other games like it. Gamers no longer need to adhere to “EverQuest’s” old motto, “You’re in our world now.” I am fascinated by the idea of being able to build a community around how players choose to behave in the game in order to survive in a persistent online world. Players can govern themselves and will act as judge, jury and sometimes, executioner. They can drive and repair vehicles, grow crops, build weapons, shelter, fortresses and even fire, something that might be necessary at night when it is completely pitch black outside. The potential is endless if players are truly given freedom to do what they want.
As with all of SOE’s current games, “H1Z1” will be free-to-play with microtransactions. Smedley has gone as far as to include players in the discussion of the implementation of microtransactions to assure that it is done right. “The game at its core is about survival,” Smedley wrote in another Reddit discussion. “Our preference is not to sell anything that can help with that. If this game is too hard for you, play another one. We don’t want to give shortcuts for our core mechanic.” This might sound like a harsh indictment, but this game is not intended for the casual gamer.
SOE clearly sees a demand for these types of games and are smartly capitalizing on it. The early access model has proven that people are willing to buy into a game, even if it isn’t complete. This is exactly why SOE is charging $20 for players to get “H1Z1” in early access for a game that will be free-to-play upon its release. The proven successes of “DayZ” and “Rust,” each having sold over 1 million copies a piece, bodes well for “H1Z1.” The early access version of the game will only come to PC, but “H1Z1” will also release on PlayStation 4 which is an exciting prospect for console gamers.
The kind of emergent gameplay “H1Z1” is pushing is very appealing and I love games featuring player versus player combat. “H1Z1” looks pretty rough at this stage in its development, but SOE has been livestreaming a great deal of the game to show their progress. Hardcore multiplayer survival in a post-apocalyptic world beset by zombies is a winning combination that is likely going to make “H1Z1” one of SOE’s most successful games ever.
Reach the reporter at Michael.Jerome.Martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter at @NefariousMike