DayZ was originally developed as a mod to the game Arma 2 by one of Arma 2’s developers named Dean Hall. He developed the mod because he wanted to put players in a survival situation, but more than that he wanted to challenge gaming conventions by creating an “anti-game.” DayZ brought frustrating gameplay and a lack of balance to the fore as core pillars to the mod’s development and these features were exacerbated (for better or worse) by its rough edges. One of the best features of the game was its embrace of emergent gameplay; players were able to choose their own path to survival: grouping up with other players, going solo and slinking through rural farms, or hunting down other players for their goods. While many sandbox games emphasize a player’s ability to interact with the game world in a virtually infinite number of ways, DayZ emphasized the infinite number of interactions players could have with other players while surviving a zombie apocalypse.
But, as with many popular games recently, clone games are not far behind to share the spotlight. Rust was one of those games. Rust was developed by Facepunch Studios and it was built out of frustration with the enormous number of glitches and bugs present in the DayZ mod. Some of the frustration in DayZ was intentional (lack of food, zombies that were impossible to flee from, other players constantly griefing), but a large portion of the frustration was due to bugs in the code. Some bugs would make it difficult to run from zombies, others would render the screen virtually unusable from glitchy artifacts, and the worst would result in a permanently dead character due to walking down the stairs at the wrong speed. With news sites reporting that DayZ may always remain a broken mod, Facepunch Studios set out to recreate its gameplay in a much more stable way, while still maintaining the core interactions that Hall designed the game for.
The original DOOM also faced similar popularity issues on its release, though on a much smaller internet. After DOOM’s release virtually any first person shooter game was referred to as being a DOOM clone. Even games that have since gained enormous cult followings, such as Duke Nukem 3D, have been referred to as being a DOOM clone. But as you’ll see in the image below there was a shift away from using the term “DOOM clone” and instead referring to these games as first person shooters. DOOM wasn’t the first game of its genre, id Software (the company that released DOOM) had already created a shooter called Wolfenstein 3D. There were even games that came out before id Software even existed. But DOOM did as no other game before it had done; it popularized the genre to the masses.
Rust isn’t a clone. It originally started as one, but has since taken a drastically different development route. Like DayZ, Rust is based on the pillars of human interactivity. Players are left to their own choices as to how they will create an in game society. They can attack other players or offer them shelter. But DayZ also adds in the danger of zombies roaming the landscape, whereas in Rust players are left to their own devices. Rust allows players to dynamically construct buildings, in fact it’s the only way that a server will be populated with buildings, but DayZ has no such player built assets. What Rust and DayZ share is a core pillar, a core idea, and that is what puts them into the same genre. And there are other games with similar principles, some with lines more or less blurred with DayZ, but it’s an incredibly exciting time period for the game industry. We exist in an era in which we don’t have to look back at DOOM to see how games could unnecessarily be called clones; we exist in a time in which these “clones” are actually the birth of a new genre of survival game. It looks like DayZ started a cloning infestation of games with a similar feel. But as was the case with DOOM it won’t be long before the genre is stuck with a proper name.
Judge for yourself whether or not these games are clones, you can check out the trailers here: