Since DayZ first came out and YouTube gameplay videos began to gain popularity, we’ve been excited for the idea of the imminent explosion of a genre of video game that scratched that infected itch for a massive survival sandbox experience, where the only rules are the ones players choose to play by. DayZ was a fan-made mod for ARMA 2 (and now ARMA 3) and it’s sinced evolved into the development of a full-fledged standalone release by ARMA studio Bohemia Interactive.

Before DayZ was a thing, another open-world sandbox game played with our imaginations, another title that began as a mod, aptly titled Garry’s Mod (GMod), a project built on Half-Life 2’s Source engine that’s constantly evolved since its 2006 release. Players simply use all of the tools and objects from the game and from other people’s creations to do whatever they want. Facepunch Studios, the team behind it, have their own sandbox survival title coming out titled Rust, and like DayZ, it’s also in its alpha stages.

Unlike the repeatedly delayed DayZ by creator Dean Hall, the alpha build of Rust is available right now for free. You can download it here. From viewing gameplay of Rust, it’s no surprise that it actually began as a clone of DayZ, zombies and all, but Garry Newman’s team knew they couldn’t compete with the resources behind DayZ (see: ARMA) so they decided to make it more like the STALKER games, still open-world, but with radiation and the ability for players to craft their own builds anywhere on the map. The theme emphasized by the team is freedom.

One of our main aims with Rust is to not control how people behave directly. For example some people want us to implement something to discourage people killing each other.  Some kind of rating. Or turn killers red to warm you they can’t be trusted.

I hate that. It’s not giving the players freedom. The players should decide how they play the game. You should be fearful of othersThat is the whole point. This is a game where the player makes their own story.. and emotion plays into it a lot. If you see another guy in game.. — you’re going to be scared of him at first. But then you sniff around each other and decide to go on an adventure together. You begin to trust each other. That means so much more if you both had the ability to kill the other at any time and didn’t. And you weren’t just doing it for a green +1.

So what’s to stop you from going around killing anyone you want and taking their shit and becoming more powerful? Nothing. What’s stopping it from becoming a PVP killfest? You. Our job should be to give the players the tools they need. If you’re sick of getting killed — start a town. Build town walls. Give all the town members red clothes. Put warning signs up outside the town. Set up trip wires and alarms. Watch each others back.

As the video above indicates, there’s a lot of work that needs to go into polishing and expanding Rust so the current plan is for the team to continue with bug fixes and work on adding their own assets, beginning with player models, clothing, weapons and tools. Eventually the game will hit Steam. And:

“I also want a 100 foot giant that will come and smash your buildings up — forcing you to work together to take him down. But I’ll have to sneak that past Helk.”

As for DayZ, Hall showed off gameplay of the latest build at the Rezzed 2013 developer conference. Some highlights include the new inventory screens, new map system, crafting and the following:

  • Players use up different amounts of calories depending on temperatures and how much physical strain they endure.
  • Pirate radio stations featuring content chosen by community. Players can place radios on ground as bait.
  • Disinfectants and human blood that must be kept cold, purification tablets for water.
  • Can create improvised explosive with things like duct tape, flares and butane.
  • Weapon attachment system: all guns redesigned, can add silencers, etc.
  • Zoom in from 3rd person to 1st person with weapons.
  • ARMA II sounds in the game will be replaced with original content after gameplay is refined.
  • Oculus Rift support coming eventually.
  • Zombies spawn at very beginning, and zombies killed in an area stay dead until players leave and new ones spawn in. There are also roaming zombies.
  • There are super rare items that literally may be one-of-a-kind.

DayZ logo

For players eager to get hands-on with DayZ, the devs have set an internal date with a one-week timeframe. We don’t know when that is but it should be relatively soon. The intial plan was to release a limited amount of codes incrementally but now the plan is to open it to everyone to test the servers, architecture and to get feedback for improvements. As Hall referenced previously, the pricing model of DayZ will follow that of Minecraft with it being relatively cheap during alpha and increasing in price as it moves to beta then eventually, full release. It will eventually make its way to consoles as well, but not for quite some time.

The ultimate community-focused, community-crafted sandbox games are on their way and we’re excited to try both.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.