What's holding developer Bohemia back - why hasn't a standalone version of DayZ been commissioned?
DayZ is the brutal zombie survival mod for ArmA 2 that, as of this morning, had 639,000 players.
Five days ago, DayZ broke the 500,000 mark.
On 7th July, DayZ had 420,000 players.
Gamers are buying 2009 war game ArmA 2 (£14.99) purely to play DayZ. Hundreds of thousands of them - "probably about 600,000 of them", DayZ creator Dean "Rocket" Hall told Eurogamer. It's "definitely" more than half-a-million.
But DayZ remains a mod. An unfinished mod. And Hall won't be able to get it to where he wants it to be without a proper team and proper funding for a proper, standalone product. He's publicly declared that he wants to do this, but for some reason, he's not getting anywhere.
Sensing frustration, Eurogamer spoke to Dean "Rocket" Hall at the Rezzed game show. There, he made a statement to Eurogamer that we were required, as journalists, to offer Bohemia the opportunity to respond to.
Bohemia CEO Marek Spanel found the statement "surprising", and Dean Hall joined the conversation to clarify what was seen as confusion.
No, Dean Hall doesn't feel ignored within Bohemia. "No, no, and not at all ever, really," he stressed, in a follow-up call this morning. "They've been really good, even for mods when they're really small."
In an adjoining email, Hall wrote: "Marek, indeed the whole company, have hugely supported the development of the mod and indeed have also supported me personally with advice and guidance.
"It is worth noting that Marek and many of the senior Bohemia staff also reply regularly on the Bohemia forums to posters, so their support of DayZ echo's the approach taken by the company with regard to modding in general - without which this project never would have come about."
Marek Spanel's comments were these: "Dean nailed down very special experience in this mod and we have been trying hard to assist him in every possible way since the early days of DayZ, and we are not going to change our attitude as long as it makes sense."
There's no dispute that Bohemia supported the creation of the DayZ mod.
The real question here lies in what happens next.
"Whether and how DayZ will evolve further is primarily in Dean's hands," Marek Spanel wrote to Eurogamer.
"It would be logical if it turns out into an experience of its own, considering its overwhelming success as well as the benefits it could bring to its user base.
"But, in any case, it is a long way ahead (be it together with Bohemia Interactive or someone else).
"Once [patch 1.61] it is done and released I think it may be best time to think about possible next steps."
Dean Hall has talked to other parties about standalone DayZ. "All I can really say is that I've talked to a lot of different people, not just Bohemia, over different options," he told us this morning.
At Rezzed, Hall said to Eurogamer he'd had "serious, actual, here's a cheque-type interest from about seven parties who I know have the funds and the movement to make it happen".
Conversations later, a "couple" of those parties remain as possibilities - the others fell away because they only looked at the numbers, not what the game was really all about.
Hall told us fans had campaigned him to start a Kickstarter funding drive. But $500,000, even $1 million wouldn't be enough to build a standalone DayZ. "It's still not going to go very far with what's needed, because we need to license the engine, do this, do that," he explained.
Hall's more keen on the Minecraft model of a paid, open development, and it sounds like he would charge less than the £14.99 ArmA 2 tag for it.
"If I don't do something, someone else will do it ... And what's to really stop people?"Dean Hall, creator, DayZ
The ArmA 2 engine DayZ runs on is fairly pivotal in all of this. Hall believes he could make the mod work without that engine, and use something else, but it's clear he'd prefer to keep using it. Also, building on DayZ, rather than building DayZ again, would save time.
There's the infrastructure - "a weird nebulous of different things that are really complex" - of a persistent online game like this to consider, too.
The underlying message being that Dean Hall would really prefer to make the game with Bohemia. It would save a lot of time and a lot of hassle.
So how's that discussion going?
Everyone at Bohemia has been so preoccupied keeping DayZ ticking over and working that, "There's really been very little time to think about what can be next, other than saying, at some point, it's going to outgrow itself," Hall told us.
"And we've kind of had that point now."
Hall couldn't talk about what specific conversations he'd had with Bohemia about this. Usually, he said, he talks to Spanel about the minutiae of running a mod.
But all of this procrastination comes at the expense of time - and Hall's convinced he doesn't have much left. "If I don't do something, someone else will do it," Hall told us at Rezzed.
"With the numbers it's now reached ... those kind of numbers - someone else is going to sit down and go, 'We need to get money on this.'
"And what's to really stop people?"
"All I can really say," Hall added this morning, "is that I'm 100 per cent positive now that this will be made as a game, and I would really like to do that with someone like Bohemia, because it's just a great studio, and the engine's just really awesome."
And there will by copycats whether he makes the game at Bohemia or not. Hall just hopes "DayZ will be the first one out".
"I guess I do have to be a bit coy about where the project goes from here," he added.
"I'm 100 per cent certain that we'll hear something by the end of the year."
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