Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) have officially unveiled their new MMO game, H1Z1. The game was teased in the beginning of 2014 when two ambiguous screenshots hit the internet. Despite lacking detail those screenshots led many gamers to predict that the new IP would be a survival-horror game and right they were. President of SOE, John Smedley, confirmed in an exclusive gameplay reveal with Game Talk Live that H1Z1 will be a zombie survival game set in a sandbox world. Some of you MMO fans will notice that H1Z1 sounds very much like Day-Z and Rust (before the removal of zombies) and would be excused for wondering how is this game any different. Well, in answer to the question posed by many, Smedley stated
“How is this different from Day Z? – saw this a lot. Not going to give some politically correct dodgy b.s. answer. It is a survival in a Zombie Apocalypse game. So is Day Z. They have made a brilliant game (first I might add). They have a great vision for it and can count myself and most of the people on our team as fans and contributors.
We’re making the game we’re making. Long term we plan on making this about a persistent world with a big landscape with thousands of players. The way we would like to see this roll out is much more like players building small enclaves or pockets of territory and hold out against a legitimate zombie threat that’s ever present while others go it alone taking their chances.. These player built structures, forts and towns are one of the ways the players try to carve out some small space in a dangerous world.
We also want to make sure we have a deep in-game economy that is heavily dependent on crafting. Players will be able to become manufacturers.. sell bullets, arrows.. etc. The in-game economy will be entirely player driven.
So this is our take on the Zombie Apocalypse with a lot of friends and hopefully some great enemies both living and dead. We’re proud to be up front and say we love Day Z and the job they’ve done and we hope they enjoy what we make too.
We’re another Zombie Apocalypse game. Call it what it is. But our goal is to make ours fun, accessible, hard core and super, super deep. As time goes on we hope our take on the end of the world by zombie is fun and lots of people get to try it.”
Clearly SOE are ambitious in their plans to improve upon what games like Day-Z have started. They want to add a level of depth to the genre that hasn’t been implemented in other survival based MMOs through crafting systems and trading. They also want to do this while delivering the enormous worlds that have become a trademark of SOE’s games. These open and consistent worlds will be then populated with thousands of players giving the truest impression of a vast landscape. Undoubtedly, it would be one of the first times a game of this scale, at least in the genre, has been brought to consoles.
Some are understandably sceptical of H1Z1’s ambition given that biggest complaint of Day-Z is that due to the scope of the game progress has been slow, and that the longer the process continues less and less players will be active once the full game is available. However, SOE are a larger company than Day-Z’s developer, Bohemia Interactive. Therefore, you can expect more resources will be made available to fulfil H1Z1’s full potential along with new technology and years of MMO experience. There are even early signs of promise from gameplay footage seen during the highly praised streaming sessions with the developers; Zombie AI looks accomplished, with the undead posing a credible threat to the player. Minimal crafting has been shown during the streams, but the foundation mechanics are there and ready to be built upon. SOE’s post-apocolytpic version of anytown middle-america also is visually satisfying with enough depth to keep players interested in exploration of the environment.
So why should the Day-Z developers be concerned by the imminent arrival of H1Z1? Well to start SOE are openly showing off their product with confidence. This indicates that the powers that be feel that their game can mount a serious challenge to any competing game. The open policy is also a fan favourite on the H1Z1 sub-Reddit; the gaming community appear to be invested in discussing their wants and desires with developers. Likewise the developers use the opportunity to post topics and garner feedback from the community. This isn’t to say that the Day-Z developers are not using reddit for the same purpose, but a lot of comments responding to H1Z1 feedback requests are advising developers to avoid making the mistakes that Day-Z have. Now SOE have have community who feel part of the development cycle as well as a plethora of information to enable H1Z1 to out-perform its closest rival, at least in the early stages of its launch. A huge PR win for Smedley and his team.
Perhaps, more importantly, unlike Day-Z, H1Z1 will employ a free-to-play model similar to SOE’s other games. If monetization is handled correctly, which is safe to presume it will be as indicated by Smedley on a reddit post, then players will be able to jump into the action without the worries of paying a fee for an unproven product. Better still, is the fact that a free-to-play model may be the best way populate an MMO the size of H1Z1. After all an MMO with half empty servers doesn’t serve its purpose. Gamers coming to the genre for the first time may also be deterred by Day-Z’s £19.99 price tag for an early-access game when H1Z1 will be free once it has been fully released.
Let us also not forget that SOE is a Sony owned developer. That means that a PS4 version will not only be encouraged but most likely insisted upon by those who pull the strings. Meanwhile, Day-Z creator Dean Hall has stated that the intention is to get the game onto consoles after the PC version is finished, but with little signs of moving out of Alpha any time soon, Bohemia interactive can expect to be second in the race for the console market.
H1Z1 pre-alpha is set to be released on steam in May priced $19.99 (around £12) with the full PC release later this year and will be followed by the console exclusive PS4 port. However, the PS4 version may be further off than expected with still no news on SOE’s other MMO game, Planetside 2, which was originally slated for release on Sony’s newest console in Q1 of 2014.