Perhaps the best feature of DayZ is the ability to choose any strategy for survival -- players are free to do anything they wish. Newly spawned players are immediately faced with a number of challenges:
- Finding food and drink. You will become hungry and thirsty fairly quickly, so having a canteen and a few cans of beans and soda is critical for long-term survival.
- Finding a weapon and ammunition.
- Finding a bigger backpack. The starter pack is probably too small to carry all the things you will need.
This page describes a few common strategies for solving these problems.
Hiding in the Forest
The forest strategy involves avoiding cities and towns, and heading directly into the interior of the map. The most immediate benefit of this is avoiding the kill-zones that are the major coastal cities. However, even the smaller towns can be very treacherous to lone players due to their large number of zombies. Avoidance can be a successful strategy for new players, allowing them a little breathing room to become comfortable with the quirky Arma II engine.
- As soon as you spawn, look for a way to enter the forest. Skirt far around buildings if possible. If you spawn in a city, stick to the beach until you have a clear path to the forest.
- Once you have reached relative safety, locate yourself on a map and look for nearest barn. Barns are ideal places to find hatchets, entry-level weapons, and the occasional can of beans or soda. And unlike towns, they are usually patrolled by only two or three zombies. Be aware that zombies are commonly inside the barn as well -- you can usually hear them when you get close. If you are spotted (and have some kind of weapon), you can sprint to the highest floor of the barn, which should give you ample time to target them as they approach.
- Deer stands are common throughout Chernarus, where you can often find food, drink, ammunition, and even military weapons. Deer stands are usually patrolled by two or three zombies, and should be approached with caution. You will also be clearly visible to nearby players, so speed is advisable.
- Although beans, soda, and larger packs can be found in barns and deer stands, it may occasionally be necessary to stock up on supplies at a supermarket. Choose a place where the market is on the edge of town, and be sure to carefully plan your approach. Then get in, get your loot, and get out (see Sneak and Search).
- Once you have collected a hunting knife, matches, hatchet, and canteen, it is possible to obtain food and water without ever having to enter a town.
Sneak and Search
This is probably the most common survival strategy, involving carefully approaching, searching, and retreating from towns and cities. It requires skill and experience in route planning, avoiding zombies, and locating loot. Familiarity with the target city or town is a big advantage.
- Careful route planning and situational awareness are critical. Try to always know where the nearby zombies are and which direction they are moving. Adapt your route to take advantage of the zombie movements.
- You may need to pause while nearby zombies pass, but in general it is a good idea to keep moving as much as possible.
- Know what you are looking for and which buildings are likely to have it. This will let you spend as little time as possible in the danger zone.
- After some practice you will develop a sense for how zombies move and react, when you should crawl or crouch, and how to circle away from them.
- You are less visible to zombies when you are in bushes, tall grass, or beside a building's wall. You are also less visible in the dark and are less likely to be heard during a storm.
- When things go wrong (and they often do), be prepared to instantly shift into Sprint and Grab and Losing Zombies mode.
Sprint and Grab
The Sprint and Grab tactic completely dispenses with stealth, and takes advantage of the fact that it is relatively easy to lose zombies in the city. It involves sprinting to a known loot location, quickly grabbing items, and sprinting away. Even with a pack of zombies at your heels you may have time to quickly stop and pick up a few items. Keep in mind the following points:
- Sprint and Grab tends to work best in the big cities due to the abundance of large buildings with multiple exits
- If you are being chased, avoid running into buildings that have only one exit
- Exposure to sniper fire will be high. Keep moving, stay close to the sides of buildings, and if you hear nearby gunfire then zig-zag away around corners
- This is a high-risk strategy at the best of times, and probably only worthwhile for newly-spawned players who need to gear up quickly.
- When you have successfully retrieved your loot, you may need to lose any zombies that are chasing you. See Losing Zombies.
This is an aggressive strategy best done by large groups of well-armed players. It involves directly approaching a town or city, working as a team to defend against attackers, and systematically looting buildings.
- The odds of success increase the more you are able to work together as a team. Assign a role to each player, such as point man, looter, sentry, etc.
- Try to remain organized and disciplined even after the fighting starts
- Be aware that even small towns can spawn large numbers of zombies, and even large well-armed teams can easily be overrun.
- Military tactics may be worth learning and implementing
Although some frown upon it, banditry is a valid survival strategy in DayZ just as it would be in the real world. In many cases, taking what someone has already collected is quicker and safer than collecting it yourself.
- Banditry is by nature a high-risk endeavor, not recommended for beginners. This is especially true if your potential victim is better armed. The better armed they are, the more experienced they probably are as well.
- Many players will hunt bandits mercilessly. Some will remember your name, and may pass it to their friends and clans.
- Beware. Some servers allow for map waypoints to be seen on every map ingame. This allows players to mark locations on Map that everyone else will be able to see. This can be a good way to keep track of other players in the game to hunt them down, but they may mark your position for all to see. Keep on the move.
- Many players have companions that you may not always see, and who will gleefully exact vengeance upon you.
- Speed and surprise are the key. Move fast, loot fast, and leave fast.
- Even if you are peaceful and friendly, understand that the risk and conflict of PvP adds a critical dimension to DayZ, and is an important part of what keeps the game interesting.
As every new player has discovered, zombies will chase you relentlessly, never slowing down or giving up. They will stop chasing if you get far enough ahead, but that is difficult to achieve since they can sprint exactly as fast as you can. It is possible for them to chase you endlessly until you drop from hunger or thirst. However, there are multiple ways to get rid of them:
- Zombies operate based on hearing and line-of-sight (LOS), which means they will continue chasing you as long as they can see or hear you. But as soon as LOS is broken they will stop and enter search mode, where they wander for awhile around the location where they lost you. Breaking LOS is most easily done in a town or city by running around corners. In the countryside it is much more difficult (but not impossible) -- as soon as LOS is broken you should go prone and crawl to get away from their search pattern.
- Currently zombies must always walk inside buildings (this may be fixed in future updates). Therefore, simply running through a building may slow them down enough to break LOS. Take care not to find yourself cornered in a small building with only one exit.
- Zombies cannot run up very steep slopes. It is possible to gain distance and eventually break LOS by running diagonally up a slope at the steepest angle where you can keep running.
- Zombies always avoid going above water, making docks and wharves ideal places to lose them. Simply run out onto a wharf and wait. The zombies will eventually enter the water and swim toward you, at which point you can sprint off the dock and escape. Note that if you wait too long on the dock, they can climb up or attack you from the water below.
When you spot another player
Interactions with other players provide the fundamental conflict and challenge of DayZ. Human nature has rarely been so on display in a game. Assuming you aren't looking for trouble, the following ideas may be helpful:
- Make sure you are in direct communication mode, preferably with a microphone. This allows you to speak directly to nearby players by speaking into your mic while pressing the VOIP key (default: left Caps Lock), and is important because even otherwise friendly players may assume you are hostile if you do not respond to them. Note: be careful never to VOIP while in global or side channels!
- If you have not yet been spotted, you have the choice of making contact or not. What you decide to do depends on your mood, risk-aversion, and style of play. Be aware that players are unpredictable and making contact can be extremely risky. However it can also be extremely rewarding, so don't be too afraid to experiment.
- If you have been spotted, your choices are more limited. You can VOIP "FRIENDLY!" at them and hope they reciprocate, or you can retreat. Lowering your weapon (and not pointing it at them) is one way to show your good intentions. Some players also salute. Whatever you decide to do, be alert and prepared for possible trouble.
- If you receive no response, or are being shot at, you have even fewer options. Depending on your gear and temperament you may decide to either preemptively attack, defend, or retreat. Note that the DayZ community does not consider killing in self-defense to be murder or banditry, even though it will show up as a murder in your debug stats.
- Many players simply stick with the rule "Trust no one, except your close friends." Because often times you will be killed even after you shout friendly, mostly due to the fact that the other player knows you can easily kill them when their back is turned.