Dean "Rocket" Hall isn't quite sure how to handle his mod's runaway success.
Having begun life as a small zombie mod for ArmA II, DayZ has outstripped industry expectations at every turn. It now boasts a fanbase of 550,000 gamers, with up to 22,000 of them playing simultaneously at peak times. The numbers are so large and unexpected that the designers often have trouble distinguishing between DDoS attacks and traffic sent their way from scary-lookin' YouTube videos. Another problem concerns the mod's players more directly: DayZ's lead designer, Dean "Rocket" Hall, is "terrified" of irritating them.
In a recent interview with Edge, Hall outlined the troubles that accompany running an unexpectedly popular mod. "It's gone from being a little experiment in a lab to being in some particle collider in Europe somewhere. It's taken on a life of its own, which has impacted on the ability to do anything," he said.
"It's scary and it's also fun at the same time," Hall continued. "In a way, the project is basically about two or three hours away from complete disaster at any time. Every time we do an update it's just terrifying. And a lot of people get very frustrated when things go wrong."
DayZ owes a lot to its fans, whose loyalty kept the mod afloat even after its servers were hacked earlier this year. Their overwhelming appreciation for the game recently took years-old ArmA II to the top of the Steam charts, a vital piece of validation that has led DayZ's designers to consider the possibility of launching their mod as a standalone game.
Hall keeps a close eye on DayZ's community via its forums and associated blogs. "There are almost two sides [to the community]," he said. "There's the side that will just support anything that happens in the project, and then there's the side that's very critical of things that happen but continues playing...And I think that's very important, because otherwise it'll lose direction and ego will come into it."
"For me, the importance is that the right community is involved in it, because if we don't have that then we can't push the experiment of having players create the world," concluded Hall.
DayZ is available to download for free right here, but you'll need a copy of ArmA II: Combined Operations to play it.