Interview: Daybreak’s Just Survive drops H1Z1 branding for massive revamp and relaunch today

Remember the survival version of H1Z1? If not, we can’t say that we blame you: Since Daybreak split the game in two, the bulk of development and attention has gone to the last-man standing tournament mode. Just check out how many patches and tournaments H1Z1: King of the Kill has seen! Those wanting to focus on the survival side of things were just out of luck as those servers seriously languished.

But all that changes today. No longer will H1Z1 Just Survive be lost in its sibling’s shadow; from here on out, Just Survive is its own game. And the name isn’t the only thing changing; beyond a rebranding, the entire game has gotten quite an overhaul.

I sat down with Creative Director Ben Jones for a tour of the many changes that go live today. We traveled the new map, investigated new POIs, visited the new safe zone respawn points (a few times!), met NPCs, checked out the new economy, and peeked at the new stronghold system. Jones also assured me that with its own development team, Just Survive will be receiving regular updates going forward. Will it be enough to bring players back? It worked for me. I had stopped playing the title quite a while ago (as I had no interest in KotK), but what I’ve seen now has me excited to give it another go.

No longer H1Z1

The first and most obvious change to Just Survive is that it is no longer affiliated with H1Z1. Jones explained that the game broke ties with the PvP-centric game and has been become its own universe. True, the two games could still share some assets, but everything from the map to the new story aspects are uniquely Just Survive. The game is still very much your standard survival sandbox, with survivors fighting off hordes of zombies, hungry wildlife, and even other players (whether directly on PvP servers or indirectly through base defense/resource gathering on PvE). But now there is story behind what’s going on that players will get to uncover on a brand-new map designed specifically for this revamped game.

Perhaps one of the most welcome changes that players will encounter is that new survivors will spawn in a military camp that is a completely safe zone. (Only one is available currently, but there will be three overall on this map.) This area gives players the chance to get accustomed to the game mechanics and such without being instantly accosted by vicious enemies that only want to slaughter them. As Jones put it, it’s “an opportunity for players to kind of get their feet wet, discover this world in a safe environment, and perhaps encounter a couple of players who might be able to help them along the way.”

Besides just an initial spawn point, these safe zones will be where all players who die respawn. That means no more randomly popping around the map unable to return to your friends. Folks who have bought a stronghold will also have the option to respawn there instead. All players spawning will have the opportunity to grab basic tools and a pack to start them back on their journey. And respawn you will, as Jones indicated that the zombies were much more powerful now.

Maybe the most welcome news is the fact that Just Survive will be getting regular updates and content. Jones emphasized that this team is independent of H1Z1, and he touched on plans going forward.

More MMO in your survival sandbox

While Just Survive is not claiming to be an MMO by any stretch, the new game is incorporating even more MMO elements into its design. Jones showed off the welcome notes that new survivors will have in their inventory starting them off on the story of this world. Folks will learn that they’ve been rescued by the remnants of the military, which is trying to repopulate a part of the US. Yes, this version has actual story!

Unlike its previous version where the only live (or undead) creatures were players or mobs, Just Survive has added NPCs. The first NPCs players might notice are the snipers atop the towers keeping the safe zone safe from threats — both the player and the zombie kind! The next NPC is the supply officer. This officer introduces the big economy revamp. Basically, there is an actual economy with in-game currency now! Loot has rarity levels, and every bit of loot can be sold the supply officer. The rarer the loot, the more it is worth. “One of the biggest reasons we added a supply officer is because we wanted to create an in-game currency to give value to all of the different loot items in the world,” Jones stated. He said that loot hoarding in the previous game “really messed up the loot balance of the world.” Either players wouldn’t loot anything, or they would loot highly valuable items and just hoard them forever. Jones said this change was to incentivise players to trade items in instead of endlessly hoarding them. He noted that players can still share or scrap items as before, but selling to the NPC adds another option. When asked if NPCs could possibly give missions later, Jones said that was a possibility.

Players will also find that they can purchase basic tools here, such as a hammer, shiv, crowbar, and a bag. This comes in handy after respawning when you’ve lost everything you were carrying before. Jones also noted that this system will be expanded in future updates. Now add the currency and economy stuff with the social hub of the military bases, and you have a place to do some real business.

Jones also demonstrated that you can drink dirty water from sinks as well as toilets.
Getting back to loot, Jones said that, “Loot as a whole is significantly better in this update. Not only do we have dozens of new items but we’ve completely reitemized everything [already] existing to make for a much better experience.” Additionally, loot is concentrated in major and minor POIs sprinkled abundantly across the map instead of only in big cities. Rarer loot will be in containers, though many items will be out in the world. Certain improvements that add immersion to the game have also been introduced, such as the ability to collect gas from pumps or vehicles, more realistic harvesting (especially of vehicles), accurate representation of clothing items in the world, and the ability to drink from various water sources. That soda machine you found at the gas station? You can drink from it. Jones also demonstrated that you can drink dirty water from sinks as well as toilets. (I’m not sure I will ever be that thirsty!)

Building a stronghold

If the main — or only — reason that you enjoyed H1Z1 was constructing your own bases anywhere you wanted in the game world, you will likely be pretty disappointed with the building changes. No longer can players erect a structure anywhere/ Instead, they will have to purchase a specific plot out in the world and build on it. The good news about that plot is that you can still design your base however you want on that building pad; Jones said that players were not restricted to any pre-defined outline. The only size restrictions are bases cannot exceed three stories high and can only grow as large as the pad itself. Also good news is that there are many more modular components available to construct with, such as a variety of functional windows, doors, and gates. There are also decorations to gussy the place up!

Why the change to established building pads? Jones explained, “The biggest reason for that outside of performance and ensuring that players didn’t continue to stack hundreds of bases in a single area and really create bottlenecks for other players was that we wanted to create contention.” (For more about contention and the new base raid system, keep an eye out for Justin’s podcast interview later today!) The pads are scattered in various locations, and some near valuable POIs will be highly desired.

If you don’t want to buy a plot or haven’t found the perfect spot/earned enough coins, you can fortify an existing POI as your own home base. By beefing up a building or RV with barricades and placing traps around players can protect an in-game structure as their own. Another form of protection is a stash, which is heavily fortified and very difficult to break into. Jones said that these new stashes are also much harder to see when placed, so other players won’t instantly know where your stash is hidden.

If you don’t find the perfect plot for your stronghold right away, don’t worry — more will open up. Only one-quarter of the Badwater Canyon will be available to start. Jones noted that this was to concentrate players in a particular section in order to gather a ton of feedback, which will help the team make it the best possible map it can be. From what I have seen, I’d say they are off to a pretty good start. Check out a few before and after update shots to get a taste of the extent of the changes visually in the gallery below.

Want to hear more from Jones? We’ve interviewed him for the Massively OP Podcast going live later this afternoon. You can also see the changes live on OPTV tonight at 6:00 p.m. EDT.

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34 Comments on "Interview: Daybreak’s Just Survive drops H1Z1 branding for massive revamp and relaunch today"

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Jack Pipsam

Terrible and generic name, dropping the H1Z1 name from the branding will only hinder, not help.

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syberghost

Hey, remember when they changed Landmark to just be “Landmark” and promised it’d have its own development? How’s that working out guys?

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Boom

Well that was a quick in/uninstall….

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Slaasher

I was such a fanboi of SOE/Daybreak for almost 20 years. But after the way t5hey treated the whole Landmark thing I just cant find it in me to care what they do.

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It Didn't Take

Gee, this is starting to sound like something that happened to another IP not too long ago by the same studio…

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Rottenrotny

I like the way it sounds.

My only negative comment is that we can’t build wherever we want. I get that people would stack structures so players wouldn’t get through, but there’s likely better ways to handle that than restricting to plots. Do I sense an Archeage style land rush coming? T_T

Also, if I purchased H1Z1 back when it first was a thing and Smed called SWG players to come home do I still get this game?

-=Edit=- Nevermind, I just checked Steam and I already own this. Good.

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agemyth 😩

This looks a lot better than the Just Survive product I owned before, but “a lot better” probably isn’t enough if it isn’t followed by many more patches.

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Chris

They said this shit like a year ago. This team is so full of shit. I have never seen a company with more shit coming out of their mouths.

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Greaterdivinity

Jones also assured me that with its own development team, Just Survive will be receiving regular updates going forward.

Thus far, nothing gives me any reason to believe them when they say this.

The first and most obvious change to Just Survive is that it is no longer affiliated with H1Z1.

Does King of the Kill even have zombies? What’s the point of keeping the zombie-esque branding on the game without zombies but stripping it from the game with zombies?…

But now there is story behind what’s going on that players will get to uncover on a brand-new map designed specifically for this revamped game.

Probably the first bit of positive news I’ve heard about this game in years, and a nice break from the usual survival-sandbox monotony and nonsense.

Jones emphasized that this team is independent of H1Z1, and he touched on plans going forward.

Wasn’t this always the case? I was under the assumption that when they split the game in half, the teams largely split up as well. There was obvious overlap, but each game had dedicated people to support it. Have I been mistaken all this time?

Reading through the rest, I don’t want to be too harsh since it seems like the game is genuinely getting a pretty big overhaul, but I can’t help but be dismissive and snarky after the years-long saga of H1Z1 under DBG, the constant direction changes, pushed release dates, business model changes, abandoned game-modes, pointless esports tournaments for an unfinished game, and more. I’ve no clue why folks really gravitated towards it to begin with (I find the whole “survival X” genre to be painfully generic, but apparently people buy each new entry like hotcakes), but watching H1Z1 languish has been almost as sad, given its early potential, as seeing DayZ still in alpha in what I believe is going on its 5th year in Early Access.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

The support for Just Survive dropped off to a trickle within the first year as team members were poached away and KOTK did better, just as players predicted. They were supposed to launch KOTK officially last summer and instead they scrapped that and shelved the console launch indefinitely too. ‘Round the same time their post-Smed interim CEO stealth-resigned and CN took over.

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Greaterdivinity

Yeah, lots of stuff has fallen by the wayside over the years (Xbox One version of Planetside 2? Updates to the PS4 version of Planetside 2?) since DBG became DBG. It’s gotta be a bloody mess internally there when it comes to their overall project management – at least for their “active” titles. “Legacy” titles like EQ 1/2 and DCUO seem to largely just be chugging along with their respective levels of support, at lest.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

people bought hizi because smed paid popular streamers to shill it and got on said streams to make wild promises like eventually the map will be as large as the continental united states and so on.

not even kidding on that last btw

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BDJ

Oh let me guess?

Punching rocks and grass to collect rocks and grass…. to build a base… for PvP? rinse and repeat?