DayZ: A Survivor’s Guide for the Uninitiated
How to last longer than a day in Chernarus
by Daniel Geikowski
©2013 Daniel Geikowski
You may have heard of it.
For those that haven’t, let me break it down for you.
DayZ takes place in Chernarus, where a zombie infestation has hit the population, where the player washes up on shore, with the sole task of survival.
That’s pretty much it. Survive.
Players spawn along the coast with nothing but a couple of bare necessities, and are left to decide on what to do next.
No waypoints, goals or objectives are in place, other than survival.
It is therefore up to players to create their own fun/narrative. This emergent gameplay has been praised by both game designers, press, and players alike.
Due to the increased popularity of the DayZ mod, a standalone version is currently in development.
This is only a good thing. It will lead to even more players immersing themselves in the world of DayZ, as they won’t have to worry about buying separate games, downloading mods, and all the other jazz that goes with it.
Hopefully, this will aid in reducing the amount of deaths you will suffer as you get used to surviving in Chernarus.
One Thing to Understand
Early on in your experience with DayZ, you’re going to die.
This isn’t a game where you can pick it up, play it for ten minutes, and start to dominate. DayZ takes time, patience, skill, and a little luck in order to succeed.
In an age of forgiving games, DayZ‘s steep learning curve may turn some players off.
There is no tutorial here.
Any wrong move can mean certain death for players, with a multitude of dangers including bandits, zombies, weather, starvation and dehydration, among others.
Don’t let constant death dishearten you. Persevere, and little by little, you’ll get a little bit further each time, grabbing a better weapon, and lasting longer than before.
Only then does the world of DayZ open up for you.
Identify where you Spawn
Pinpointing your location enables players to make a temporary game plan, giving them a short term goal on where they should head and what towns they should or shouldn’t raid.
The tricky thing is, however, that apart from some basic medical supplies and a flashlight, players spawn with nothing.
That means no map.
So how exactly do you work out what’s going on?
For the more experienced players out there, they may be able to recognise landmarks from certain places to determine their approximate location, and go from there.
However, new players don’t have that luxury.
Thankfully, there is an easy way to find out where you are.
When a player spawns on the coast, or whenever they log into the game for that matter, their location pops up on the bottom right corner of the screen. Be quick though, as it disappears in a flash.
This information might mean nothing to a new player, but over time, they’ll be able to piece these locations together from memory, enabling them to later work out their position on the fly, instead of running about in circles.
Or, for those players out there that decide total immersion into DayZ isn’t their thing, you could always just boot up an external map to view anytime you like.
But where is the fun in that? [Ed.: Hey, Daniel, some of us are just 'resourceful'!]
Slow and Steady
However, in DayZ, even something as minute as your movement can be a death sentence.
Players may be used to charging straight into the fray, throwing caution to the wind in the process. But doing so in DayZ pretty much results in certain death, or at least a very bad time.
New players need to understand something critical: zombies spawn in residential areas, such as towns, farms, factories, etc. Therefore, moving through these areas requires subtlety and patience, because your movement makes noise.
All freshly spawned players are unarmed, and therefore should put on their best Solid Snake impersonation in order to sneak through towns, to avoid a horde of zombies chewing on their face.
Zombies are attracted to players through both sight and sound. A player sprinting through the middle of town is certainly going to attract more attention (zombie and player alike) than a player who is prone, crawling through the grass.
Stick close to buildings, and zombies will have a hard time noticing you. Pay attention to zombies around you, as they have a tendency to slowly sneak up on players, so keep your eyes peeled.
Also make note of the various surfaces you walk across. Various surfaces make different levels of noise. It is far quieter to shuffle along in the grass compared to the crunch of gravel and the distinct sound of bitumen.
The only reason you should run through town is if you come under zombie or player attack. Jumping up and sprinting through buildings, doubling back over fences and through backyards will help new players lose both zombies and/or trailing players in the confusion.
Outside of towns, however, feel free to sprint, as there is little chance of coming across zombies, apart from the occasional Deer Stand. Stick to the trees, though, as players can spot you a mile away running through open areas.
With a little practice, sneaking through towns will become instinctive to players. It is one of the most important skills to have in order to survive long enough to get armed and gather supplies.
Gather any supplies at closest town
As players spawn with nothing more than a flashlight, a bandage, and painkillers, you’re going to need to find some gear.
Depending on your spawn location along the coast, the nearest town may have a supermarket, hospital, fire station, and/or residential and industrial buildings.
The goal here is to basically sweep through the town both quickly and quietly, as hanging around on the coast unarmed and ill-equipped is certain suicide.
Aim to pick up anything of value, but take note that the backpack players start with only has room for eight slots.
Grab food, drink, medical supplies, ammo, anything you can get your hands on, and get inland as quickly as possible. There are plenty more towns to raid off the coast.
Keep an eye out not only for zombies, but other players as well. Even though they may be unarmed, they may have better equipped friends not too far away. [Ed.: As the old adage goes, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies with high-powered rifles closer."]
Not only does this allow you to shoot zombies and players in defense, but it may also act as a deterrent for other players if they spot you from a distance wielding a weapon.
It pays not to be picky when it comes to getting armed for the first time, as any weapon is better than no weapon. Find and grab anything you can get your grubby hands on.
Players have room for a primary weapon (shotgun, rifle, carbine), along with a secondary weapon (pistol).
Here is a list of some of the types of weapons players can find along the coastal towns and cities:
- Hatchet – Surprisingly great starting weapon. Takes out zombies and most players in one hit to the head, and is silent, perfect for stealth trips through towns. Can add it to your toolbelt after finding another weapon, as it is also used to harvest wood to make fires.
- Lee Enfield – Rifle that has a decent amount of range. Plenty of ammunition lying around, the Lee Enfield is a good ranged weapon for new players. Extremely loud though, firing this baby in towns will definitely attract any and all zombies (not to mention players) from the surrounding area.
- Crowbar – Not as effective as the hatchet, but better than nothing. Both zombies and players alike take a few hacks to put them out of their misery.
- Double Barrel Shotgun – Very effective at close range. Very loud too. Uses 2rd pellets or slugs, meaning players have to reload after 2 shots. Therefore, storing large amounts of this ammo can quickly use up much needed inventory slots.
- Makarov – Effective starting pistol. When not aiming at the head, takes multiple shots to bring down a target. Reduced noise compared to other pistols, the damage dealt is also reduced as a result.
- Winchester – Lever-action shotgun. Fires fifteen shots before reloading. Although it’s loud like any other shotgun, the Winchester is great in a pinch when you need to take out multiple swarming zombies.
- Revolver – Six shot. Very powerful, takes most zombies down with one hit. The trade off however, is the increased amount of noise produced. You can hear the distinctive sound of this baby a mile away.
Once you’re armed, you now stand a greater chance of survival in DayZ.
Shooting is a last resort
Firing a Lee Enfield or Shotgun in the middle of town will attract both zombies and players in the vicinity. Players can hear a shot from a great distance away, even if you suspect nobody else is around.
If you do run into trouble and accidentally agro a zombie in town, try to lose them by ducking through buildings or weaving through nearby trees in the forests.
If you come across a player, you stand a greater chance of survival by resisting opening fire on them. You still may have the element of surprise. Try to sneak up on them and take them out with the hatchet; you’ll agro less zombies this way.
One thing to remember, however, is that you need to avoid firing after running for long distances. Running fatigues you, therefore making it hard to steadily aim down the sights.
Once again, take it slow and steady, being prepared at all times.
Get off the coast as soon as possible
There is by far a greater amount of player activity along the coast of Chernarus compared to the rest of the map.
Remember, being killed here isn’t the end of the world; most of the time, you’re never too far away from where you were killed.
This enables you to develop a “nothing-to-lose” attitude over time while you gain more experience.
The coast is full of players, not just fresh spawns looking to survive like yourself, and Bandits as well. These guys are usually well-equipped, and travel in groups. They enjoy heading to the coast, and picking off fresh players trying to get a start.
Sure, it’s an immoral and unfair way to play, but that’s DayZ; anything goes.
Find Better Equipment
Therefore, another goal players should have in mind is to find better equipment. The bad thing, however, is that most of the desired items are found in supermarkets and hospitals, which are usually beacons for other players.
But keeping in mind the cautious method of taking your time to scout an area, these buildings are easily lootable. Fresh players usually head to Balota Airfield, which also has a military camp, but this is highly dangerous for encountering hostile players.
The safe bet is to grab what you can on coastal towns, then head inland to towns that have supermarkets and the like.
Players should be on the lookout for these types of items:
- ALICE/Czech/Coyote Backpack – Packs which grant players more slots to store items.
- Box of Matches – Allows players to light fireplaces in order to cook meat.
- Hunting Knife – Allows players to gut animals to harvest raw meat.
- Compass – Identify the direction you are heading in.
- Watch – Allows players to identify server time, can use to figure out direction in conjunction with using the sun.
- Water Bottle – Players can refill this at fresh water sources to keep hydrated.
- Map – Self-explanatory
- Bandages/Morphine/Blood Bags/Painkillers – To make you feel better.
Keep in mind that medical supplies such as Blood Bags and Morphine usually are only available at hospitals, which require players to smash windows in order to gain entry. Be cautious on alerting zombies and other players.
Thinking ahead – food and water
This is a constant factor all players need to keep an eye on, both fresh players and veterans alike.
As players move about the map, they get both hungry and thirsty. Failing to act on this basic need of survival will result in your character losing blood, eventually passing out and ultimately leading to their death.
Therefore, finding ample supply of food and water goes a long way towards surviving in DayZ.
Players dehydrate much quicker than starvation sets in, so finding water is the main priority. Cans of Coke and Pepsi are usually littered around towns, even on zombie corpses. Water bottles are even better, as these can be refilled at pumps, lakes, and other water sources throughout the map.
Food, on the other hand, can be found as canned goods much in the same matter as cans of soda. Eating food not only prevents starvation, but restores blood lost from bullet wounds, zombie attacks, etc.
Meat can also be found on animals throughout DayZ.
These items are invaluable, though, as it allows players to sustain themselves in the wilderness, instead of resorting to heading into town to gather canned food. Cooked meat also regains more blood than canned food.
Players should aim to stock their packs with ample supplies of food and drink, to sustain them in their long travels across Chernarus.
Look and Listen
Being aware and alert of your surroundings can make a big difference between danger and safety. Constantly scanning the area can prevent you from walking straight into an ambush.
Scan the horizon for any movement. While most of the time it will be animals, it could potentially be a player heading in your direction.
It pays to scan a town before heading in. Zombies only spawn when a player is nearby.
If you are a fair distance away from town and spot zombies, chances are there are one or more players standing in your way of some much needed supplies.
Listen out for gunshots or agroed zombies when in town to get an idea on any potential combat occurring around you. You’ll also hear land vehicles and helicopters long before you see them, giving you the chance to get out of sight.
When spotting another player, don’t immediately shoot unless fired upon.
Take a closer look at them. Determine whether or not they are a survivor, hero, or bandit, then decide on your next move. Also take note of their weaponry, and whether they are alone or part of a larger group, which could be ready to overwhelm you.
Only once you’ve taken note of this information can you then make a decision on how to proceed. You might feel it’s safer to slip away unnoticed, or you might like to take a chance and engage in order to get better gear.
It’s DayZ, and the choice is yours.
Watch out for bandits
Distinguishable by their head wraps, Bandits are the unfriendly folk who take pleasure in killing zombies and players alike. Survivors who murder enough players reduce their humanity, becoming Bandits as a result.
If you see one of these guys on the coast, run.
Although, if you have a weapon, and spy them spawning on the coast, by all means shoot them in the face.
Spotting Bandits in towns requires the same thought process as before; look and assess the situation. Either quickly determine whether to escape, or try to jump them and take them out. Bandits usually travel in groups, so be careful.
It might be worthwhile taking your chances against a Bandit, as they usually have very good gear, as a result of killing survivors and heroes for their items.
Once players see the distinctive head wrap, there is no time for friendly chat. Instead of coming up to talk to you, a hail of bullets will be sent in your direction.
Safety in Numbers
Players stand a greater chance of survival if they work together, and travel in groups. Trust is a big issue, and to prevent a “friendly” shooting you in the back after a while, it’s best to team up with some well known buddies you may have.
Freshly-spawned Bandits will less likely attack you if you are in a group of 3-4 people, although a well equipped Bandit with a sniper rifle may think otherwise.
Playing with friends allows you to loot areas more quickly, and greater numbers allow some to scout areas to prevent ambushes and attack while gathering supplies.
The advantage of being a part of a group is that players can heal each other, in case of blood loss, loss of consciousness, or broken bones.
Blood Bags cannot be administered alone, as another player is required to give you a blood transfusion in cases of high blood loss.
On the other hand, having greater numbers allows you to attack other players with increased effectiveness, especially if a lone player stumbles into your sights.
It’s Only the Beginning
By all means, take these suggestions with a grain of salt, as that’s the beauty of DayZ; there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Players can operate in the best way it suits them.
If you want to help out other survivors and do some good in the world, be a hero. If you feel like taking out anything that moves, scavenging off other players, you can just as easily play as a bandit.
Or anywhere in between.
These suggestions are designed to help out players who are fresh spawns, getting them off the coast, hopefully with some gear, to ensure they can see more of what Chernarus has to offer.
More tips and suggestions in relation to vehicles, high-level weapons, and places to visit/raid for players safely geared up and more experienced, will be detailed in future articles.