DayZ is more than just another zombie-infested survival horror series; it’s both a social experiment and a testament to the growing influence of indie developers. With its persistent open-world and the complete absence of prescribed activities, DayZ lets the players find their own meaning in the zombie apocalypse, offering gamers an unprecedented degree of freedom. It’s a risky approach, but it’s been a huge success. What started as a simple mod for ARMA 2 is now a multi-million dollar franchise – and the game’s not even done yet.
It’s also hard. Really, really hard. Run out of food? Dead. Attacked by a zombie? Dead. Can’t find any weapons, clothes, or medical supplies? Sorry, dead. And that’s before introducing other players to the mix. Wandering through abandoned buildings, dodging zombies and staying fed is difficult enough; now try doing it with bands of raiders wandering around, all of whom have fully loaded weapons and really want those pants you’re wearing. DayZ isn’t a simulation; it’s a petri dish of human greed and suffering.
That’s why MiniDayZ is such a nice change of pace. Sure, players are still tasked with foraging for limited supplies while fighting off hoards of the undead, but the top-down interface and charming 90’s style sprites make Chernarus look downright welcoming. It’s just as hard as the main title, but it’s infinitely more adorable.
MiniDayZ was made by Russian DayZ super-fan CannedBits, and quickly made the rounds on Reddit. Unlike the core title, MiniDayZ is single-player only, but don’t think for a second that it’s somehow a lesser experience: MiniDayZ has been endorsed by DayZ creator Dean Hall, and Bohemia Interactive likes the game so much they’re offering it on the official DayZ website as a free download.
MiniDayZ isn’t the only fan-based “demake” of Bohemia’s title, either. There’s also DoomZ, which is an attempt by Robert Prest to recreate the DayZ experience with the original Doom engine. So far, it’s not a particularly attractive remake, and a lot of the core functionality (like, say, the zombies) is missing. Still, it’s an ambitious project, and it’ll be fun to see if Prest can pull it off.
The devotion of fans like Prest and CannedBits sheds light on DayZ’s continuing popularity. The fact that DayZ’s core gameplay can be recreated in so many different formats and still feel roughly the same speaks to the depth and specificity of Bohemia’s creation, while the game’s DIY roots are clearly an inspiration for other would-be developers. Gamers might claim to be tired of zombie titles, but DayZ‘s influence looks like it’ll be felt for years to come.
MiniDayZ is out now for PC. You can download it for free at DayZ.com.