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

    
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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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