This article first appeared in “PC Player” Magazine Issue 361, August 2021. Every month we launch exclusive features to explore the world of PC gaming-from behind-the-scenes previews to incredible community stories to fascinating interviews and more.
You may not see them, but there are secret PC gamers hidden deep inside the main console companies. Back in 2013, Brian Hicks was the project manager of Microsoft Studios-a professional Xbox evangelist. But behind the scenes, he is trying to establish a relationship between his boss and the creator of the classic PC game he fell in love with: DayZ.
“You know, I did so much,” Hicks wrote in an email to DayZ creator Dean Hall, “You should hire me.” When asked to fly to Prague for two weeks During the job interview, Hicks was shocked to find that with the development of indie games, the DayZ team has about 5 people.
“This is a very, very barebones team,” he said. “I can hardly exaggerate the extent of the garage development.”
It turns out that this is true. Gather at the Mnisek campus cottage in Bohemia, 30 kilometers south of Prague, used for weekend retreats during the communist era in Czechoslovakia-the garage was transformed into a motion capture laboratory. The DayZ team was packed 120 square feet above the laundry room.
“I am very fascinated by life in this small village,” Hicks said. After waiting for Bohemia’s budget approval in the United States for several months, he gave a thumbs up, cut his salary by 80%, and packed a few suitcases.
“I remember leaving Microsoft at 11pm on the last day because I didn’t want to leave anything unfinished,” Hicks said. “There is a huge LED clock in the lobby. It is counting down to the launch of Xbox One. The time is less than 48 hours. The next morning, I flew to Prague and took a nap for about four hours before starting work.”
Woke up dead
The development of DayZ is also busy. Hall and Hicks took the lead in launching Steam Early Access, which was earlier than expected. “I remember Dean telling the team that the high-level news is that if we don’t launch DayZ on Steam before the end of the year, we might not have a job,” Hicks said. “I was nervous at the time, I wouldn’t lie. It was a fucking tornado and there was almost no time to breathe.”
The release of DayZ is a combination of “tape, firewood and prayer”. The team observed the peak resource consumption and optimized it as much as possible after a 12-hour bridge call with the server hosting company Multiplay. Valve pulled down a trailer showing a scene of a character committing suicide, which angered Hall, who stayed up all night.
Hicks stayed up all night by himself. Due to a misunderstanding of the working principle of Valve Anti-Cheat, DayZ was launched without any hacker protection. Hicks fills the void by watching live broadcasts looking for cheaters, waiting for them to exit, and then moving their characters into the ocean so they will be frozen to death.
When Hicks accidentally deleted the real-time database of the game during peak hours, the consequences of sleep deprivation became obvious. “I remember realizing what I did,” he said. “I remember the feeling that all the blood on my face was gone.” Fortunately, Multiplay has backups. When Hall returned from an interview, the game had been restored to an earlier version—the same was true when he announced his departure from Bohemia. .
“I am a grenade,” Hall told Eurogamer. “I have a specific purpose. I can persuade people to go to the ledge and make them jump off it. But in the end, that was a bad guy.” In the first half of 2014, the DayZ team toured the world’s largest game show, Xiang from Rezzed and PAX East’s millions of players gave speeches. Then, in the summer, Hall changed into a consultant role, and his stay in Bohemia was much longer than planned.
Hicks took over, and a new structure began. He promotes regular status reporting to the DayZ community, which is huge but skeptical. Due to the rush to launch, the Bohemian team began to backtrack-DayZ’s alpha is more streamlined than the previous free mod, and fans know this. “When we started, I tried to get to where I knew we wanted to be,” Hicks said. “I want to achieve functional equivalence before DayZ Mod starts to split.”
Because the game is already running, certain aspects of DayZ’s development—such as the engine it runs on, and the promise of the new renderer Hall as a supplement to its tragic performance—have remained the same when Hicks took over.
“I support these decisions,” Hicks said. “I really hope that we can do more traditional closed development of the core technology before releasing the game. Knowing that 5.8 million copies have been sold, it’s easy to say. To be able to sit here and walk around, “We should do things differently” , It’s a lot of money. Actually, maybe we can’t do it.”
It is important to remember that Bohemia is taking advantage of a phenomenon and does not know how long it will last. Postponing the Early Access release of DayZ is like closing the Fidget Spinner factory in the summer of 2017. The competition in Bohemia is not so fierce, but stomping-Rust, inspired by the Hall model, came out a few days before the independent DayZ. “There is blood in the water,” Hicks said. “There is this new type, everyone wants to join. This is chaos.”
Every small victory is viewed in the context of how far the game needs to go. In the 2014 cover feature of PC Gamer, Hall talked about his dreams of underground bases, gangs with matching tattoos, and player communities that cooperate in professional fields (such as the Eve Online Legion). But by 2017, these players are still waiting for basic features such as smooth animation.
Nevertheless, Hicks realized that, in his words, all creative directions have been completed. “Systems that have not even appeared in the game have been fully prototyped, whiteboarded, and written in design documents,” he said. “Everything is there. More and more, my job is no longer to guide the boat, but to go out more to promote the brand.”
The creative director spends more and more time on the plane and realizes that he is homesick. Following the success of the early battle royale game H1Z1: King of Killing, he successfully persuaded Bohemia to purchase the IP of the survivor GameZ-the 2012 mod made Hicks famous and laid the foundation for the current genre The foundation is dominated by Fortnite and Warzone.
“Marek [Španel, Bohemia CEO] Was sold,” he said. “We will split the development between Bratislava and Bohemia Interactive’s Seattle office. I am very excited about this because I can continue to do what I am passionate about in my hometown. “
Survivor GameZ will be the venue for DayZ to compete for the battle royale crown, and the timing is just right-Bluehole has not yet begun development on PUBG. In fact, Bohemia is negotiating to hire Brendan Greene, who had just completed the H1Z1 consultation at the time.
“For some reason, his skills are not mature enough to play,” Hicks said. “I thought,’Are you kidding me? He did DayZ Battle Royale. He understands our engine.'” Bohemia’s interview process was as long as it was when DayZ was born. During the discussion, Hicks received a call from Greene. . “Hey, buddy,” Green said. “I don’t know what to do. This company provided me with the role of creative director of my own game.” The company is Bluehole, and the game is PUBG. Hicks suggested that he accept the job. “I can’t match it,” he replied. “I can’t let Bohemia Interactive put you in that high-level role. It would be too stupid to pass this down.”
At the same time, plans to open a Survivor GameZ studio in Seattle became complicated. Bohemia has opened a new office in Amsterdam, and the project consumes all the company’s management bandwidth. When Hicks renewed his residence visa in the Czech Republic, he turned to rent a house in Redmond, Washington, intending to become an advance force in the Survivor GameZ developer army.
The biggest irony is that although he returned home, he had never seen it-but worked at night to match Czech time, his windows were covered with cardboard boxes and electrical tape. To make matters worse, it turns out that it is much more difficult to become the leader of DayZ from another continent.
DayZ and confusion
“I have very different opinions on some people in the company, and I don’t seem to be able to bear the same responsibilities as when I was working in the office,” he said. “In the previous situation, if it was really bad, I could drive up the hill to knock on Marek’s door.”
Hicks felt that the development team heard it, but the problem kept recurring. When Bohemia started planning to release DayZ’s 0.63 version as the official 1.0 version of the game, he was particularly frustrated. “This is a bad idea,” he said. “We are currently not setting the goals for the past four years stated on our store page in the game.”
Despite the protests, after five years of open development, DayZ withdrew from Early Access in December 2018. “I can’t change any thoughts,” Hicks said. “When I get to this point, I have always been very nervous about DayZ. I am very angry and will enter into actual debates. I am not designing new things. We are locked in functionality. If anything, we are backtracking. This is what I have. Worried. I thought,’Why would I do this?'”
Hicks wrote his last DayZ status report at the InXile office in Newport Beach, California, where he accepted a new job. Survivor GameZ was originally intended as a standalone version, but eventually failed as a DayZ mode a few months later. The star of Brendan Greene is on the rise, and it is clear that the era of survival games has finally given way to battle royale-this genre makes DayZ seem slow and outdated, even if it pays homage to Bohemia’s open exploration and high-stakes treasure hunt .
Today, you can find the starting point for Hicks: streaming the old version of DayZ on Twitch. But now he has the distance to marvel at the changes in the game. “It is a blessing to be able to enter my life,” he said. “Many developers have not been lucky enough to experience this phenomenon.”