Sixty months into early access DayZ Standalone is finally getting a Beta release with 1.0 set before the end of the year. This radical step aims to draw a line under work completed so far and release a core game that is easily moddable.
Five years into early access, Bohemia Interactive have announced a Beta release for DayZ Standalone for PC "imminently" with a 1.0 release scheduled before the end of the year.
Now "Beta" and "1.0" are both everything and nothing in development terms. However, after such a long time in Early Access the announcement this week was quite surprising for those of us who followed the game's development.
This is a title, do not forget, that has sold three million copies for PC. However, after a few peaks back in 2014, it now averages around 2,000 players daily, according to Steam. The delay to full release is primarily down to the decision to shift DayZ to an entirely new engine, a subject we've already covered.
So a 1.0 release will be interesting to at least some of those three million people. And here's the rub. A 1.0 release should be a marquee event for a game. For DayZ it's a chance to pull back some of that popularity it once briefly enjoyed.
It isn't as though the concept of DayZ is one that suffers from market saturation. An open world zombie survival shooter - a really interesting open world at that. There's not much that fits into the category - we'd say the hugely enjoyable SCUM comes closest in rough comparison, while Dead Rising has long fallen from grace.
So what awaits those who come back to check the game out - or those newbies who go for the title based on 1.0 publicity? This is what has split those who have remained loyal to DayZ - yours truly included. Make no mistake, we want Chenarus to thrive again, we want busy servers, exciting firefights, breath-holding moments, new friends and proper enemies.
Yet the decision to go to 1.0 will see a fairly bare bones release. Many of the features we want, and indeed some we have experienced during the various build phases of DayZ, won't be there.
There's a good reason for this, whether you agree with it or not. Simply, the development team have become swamped. The need to fix a multiplicity of bugs along with the pressing need to introduce new features has seen the team lose their way somewhat.
The planned Beta then 1.0 release is Bohemia's strategy for drawing a line under the past and pressing on with a future for DayZ.
So 1.0 is going to be a streamlined release. But without the features us veterans still crave, will it have enough content to hold the attention of DayZ returners and impulse buy newbs? Is 1.0 the only chance the game has to put itself back on the map?
The list of missing features is pretty long. There be will no sickness mechanic - things that should affect a player's health won't. There will be no bicycles, there will be no helicopters, there will only be six different guns, there will be no bows, you won't be able to throw stuff, no ragdoll modelling, no fishing, no traps, no horticulture, no player bone fractures, no drowning.
There won't be zombie hordes, there won't be two-way doors. No proper climbing or vaulting. There will be two types of vehicles, a truck and a 4x4. There will be basic base building and a new "physical" map model.
That's quite a lot of defining content missing in a game flagged specifically as being in the survival genre.
Yet in this cloud, we're finding a substantial silver lining. DayZ SA was inspired by an ARMA mod, which Bohemia also own, and was also designed to be extensively moddable in its original conception. Now running on a new engine, that remains the case. And indeed the current development team are very much pro-modding.
Once the 1.0 release is made and the modding toolbox opened up, we are expecting some very creative types to produce some excellent content. In fact, we know of several teams who are already working up some very exciting mods. And in the age of tightly-controlled, pre-packaged gaming, we still think the people out there have every bit as much imagination - maybe more - than inside the games industry proper.
In short, we're still optimistic. DayZ has broken our heart a few times over its years in development, but equally, it's given us some of the most memorable moments in gaming. Check out the video above by 3RNO to see what we hope the game can be like.
The release of 1.0 could be exactly what Bohemia Interactive are aiming for. A new zombie-infested beginning.