7 Days to Die

Good evening Madam
Screamer: SKREEEEEEE!!
Quite so, quite so... *Starts running hysterically*

We picked it up again. Back in 2013, in the middle of our DayZ craze, Stealth and I were trying out some of the different new zombie survival games that were popping up through the Steam Early Access Program, one of them was 7 Days to Die.  Also another seemingly good choice was The Dead Linger, with its 360 km2 map (compared to the 225 km2 of DayZ), but the pre-Alpha had nothing more to offer than flat landscape, a few buildings and some utterly retarded zombie IA. Glad we didn't invest more than 5 bucks in that game, because it got shelved in 2015 any ways. 7 Days to Die on the other hand had something appealing to me with it's sandbox base building survival thingy going on. "DayZ with Minecraft elements in it?" - I was thinking - "Gotta try that out".



Alpha 5.0


7 Days to Die was still very early in development, but it already got four version updates in the first four months after it released as an Early Access title. It had a very weird art style, it was like a photorealistic version of Minecraft with some cheap Unity assets incorporated into it. "No biggie, it is still fairly new so we won't judge it so harshly" - we thought. We spawned in the middle of the forest next to a car, no idea what's going on, lets loot some stuff. We both found a pistol and a shotgun in the first two minutes in the game, and we got ammo to spare. Now we needed tools. Back in the day you had the same crafting system as in Minecraft, the tiled window where you had to place your resources in a certain way to create the desired object. On the left side of the screen you had a list of the items you already knew how to make, like a recipe book. As a Minecraft player myself it was very intuitive, yet exhausting, so I picked up stones and some wood and drew a T, two logs vertically, three stones horizontally. Tadaaa! Pickaxe!


After some fooling around chasing deer, we walked all the way over to the nearest city and barricaded ourselves in one of the buildings. What the hell is going on here? I get that they've tried to achieves some kind of a, how can I describe this, dynamic terrain deformation? That's probably wrong but the point is, I get that flat terrain is boring and making irregular surfaces makes the ground or caves look more real or alive, but why does this apply to buildings? You can see it in the screenshot above how the ground and walls are already deformed by default. Buildings aren't built like that. The metal scaffolding above the sofa was made by us, it looks exactly the same even when new. I myself am a person that goes for aesthetics when building something rather than making it practical. Sure it will be both at some time, but first it has to look good, then we can talk about it's general purpose. It irritated the shit out of me.


We spent a few days there, crafting some wooden log spikes and placing them around the building we were in, scavenging and generally just trying things out. It had bad frame rates, the world looked empty, you could find everything you would ever need in a radius of 100m around your base and the movement and shooting mechanics felt sloppy. The structural integrity system was something that worked and is really cool to play with, it even gets to be a new layer of danger for your character if you find yourself on a rooftop and the zombies start demolishing everything that is supporting your floor. At the end, it wasn't fun having everything you need in the first few hours of playing, even an RPG that had less splash damage than a hand thrown coconut. It got boring very fast, maybe we'll check it out at some other time.


Alpha 14.7


A few weeks ago I was scrolling through my Steam library and it cached my eye again. I haven't touched that game in the last two and a half years, I should have a look at it. It is still in Early Access Alpha but it doesn't matter, usually these kind of games are very much playable at this stage of development. I download it and tell Stealthkilla about it, who also gets it and we hop together into a coop dedicated server. The game actually looks good, has gotten a new UI and the landscape seems quite more realistic as I remember, also the walls and floors of buildings are actually flat now. Next thing we notice is that the survival part of the game also makes sense now, you start with nothing more than a bandage and some food, and you now have to look out for yourself and gather your resources in order to survive your first night. The crafting system has also seen a rework, now you have specific recipes, and as long as you have the necessary items in your inventory you can hit the craft button and there you go, no more placing of items in tiles.

We spawned in the middle of the desert and were sweating to death, so the first thing we did was to fortify one of the houses near our spawn point and use it as a base, cool down a little and survive the night. We don't really know what to do so we mainly explore the surrounding and gather the materials we find. Hunger and thirst soon became the be a problem, besides walking around with a permanent heat stroke. There's no water in sight but we find out that, thanks to the yucca plant, we can craft yucca juice which hydrates us and helps to cool us down. For now, eggs are our only form of nourishment. We are able to survive a few days this way, but even the lack of trees for wood is becoming a problem, and we can't keep upgrading the house we are in. We just heard a plane fly over us and drop a supply crate, maybe it contains something useful?


The days kept going by and, while Stealth wasn't connected, I decided to stuff myself with eggs, drink all the yucca juice available and head out West in the hopes of finding a new place to settle. I managed to get lucky and found a new biome, it was a complete wasteland but after not even a minute of walking I found this huge fortified base with 3-4 buildings in it, a water tower in the middle and thick iron walls at the front entrance. I clear it from zombies, close the holes in the fence with log spikes and surround the whole perimeter with them as well. I place down my sleeping bag in one of the houses and cook myself some meat, it's getting dark already. But that night didn't go all to well, as soon as the clock hit 22:00 a massive horde of zombies appeared out of nowhere, and overrun my defences within seconds. I managed to kill 2 or 3 zeds before I had to retreat, they were coming from all sides so I instinctively climbed up the ladder of the water tower. I was trapped, the ladder didn't reach the top of the tower and I couldn't go down either because the zombie were already pounding the supports. Ten seconds later I hear a crack, the ladder breaks and I fall to my death. I died again after spawning on my bed, and again after spawning outside of my new base. I wasn't able to survive that so I waited in order to respawn when the sun comes out. I died again while trying to clear out the base of zombies, because now a bear also joined the party and ripped my face of. I was now standing there, with only 60 HP left and nothing to lose, so I started a new game.

I now understand this games mechanics a little better, I hope I can now make the right decisions from the beginning. I spawn in the wasteland now and have the radiation zone right behind me, so the only way to go is forward. This time, instead of staying at the house right next to the spawn point, I decide to explore first. There's a bridge right in front of me, that will be the direction I'm heading. Not even 100m after I cross the bridge I find a mechanics shop with a garage next to it. The whole place is fully encircled with a fence, so I decide it would be quite a nice place to start a base. Wood doesn't seem to be a problem in this biome any more so now, with the help of Stealthkilla that has joined me again, we began repairing holes and reinforcing the perimeter, we don't want no zeds on our lawn.


The next days consist mainly of gathering wood for the perimeter, getting all kinds of food which is still scarce around here and exploring the surroundings, we even found some industrial buildings with what seemed to be a city far away in the horizon. That same evening we came back to our base, shut the perimeter door and went inside for some crafting and cooking. We talk about our next steps in our survival journey, we still needed many pelts to craft a bellows for our forge, but the animals in the wasteland are scarce and the damn rabbits can be very tricky to catch.


It's close to 10 PM, and we are sitting in our thought to be safe house, eating and chatting, until suddenly the screams begin. What's going on? Another horde? We rush up the ladder to reach the roof of the shop to scout out the surroundings and there they are, coming form the East, a massive pack of zombies running over the crest of the adjacent hill like Riders of Rohan rushing to clash with the Uruk-Hai at Helm's Deep. Like Lórien elves we tension our bows and start hailing arrows over the undead mass that is viciously pounding on the first row of wooden spikes. They don't stop coming, for every zombie we kill two more appear in the distance. The first logs start to break, and they appear to have found a weak spot: the metal door. It breaks almost instantly, as if it was made out of cardboard, and they start to pour in. There's everything, from decaying men and women, some crippled by the traps from the perimeter, rabid dogs and what seems to be like a super zombie. It has a distinctive scream and is bigger and stronger than all the others. They scatter around the yard, some of them are hitting on the walls of the building we are sitting on, some have entered the workshop right next to us and suddenly we hear a huge explosion. We had two barrels of gasoline stored in there and some of the zombies attacked them and blew them up, body parts flying, the whole front of the shop is now gone. We keep shooting at everything that moves, the zombies are already piling up all over our yard and many are trapped outside in our defences. Dawn is upon us and it still hasn't gotten quiet, all the zombies are dead, with exception of three super zombies that still crawl around, crippled from our barrage of arrows. We decide to come down from the roof to finish them of. It is done. We survived. Half of the East wall is gone, the work shop is destroyed and now only houses the crater those two gas barrels exploding left behind, and our building has major damage at the front. But we are still here.

After that encounter, while cleaning up the massive mess they left behind and discussing what could have triggered that wave, it quite literally dawned upon us; We now get it, the reason why this game is called how it's called, and our whole perception of it changed. From viewing it as another zombie survival the whole thing transformed into this Minecraft zombie defence game we, or at least me personally, never thought it would be. After some quick research we embrace the fact that those kind of waves will be happening once every in-game week, getting stronger every time. We need a plan, and resources, and for that we will have to get out of the wasteland and probably head north.

We had already lost two days while repairing our defences so we packed some wood and enough provisions to get through at least two more days while looking for an ideal place to settle. For reasons of precaution we walked along the river heading north, if we would encounter another group of zombies we would be able to just swim to the other riverbank in the hopes they wouldn't follow us.


After crossing an area devastated by wild-land fire we arrived at the point where the river meets a lake, and we can see a big marina far on the left shore.We quickly found out that the surrounding buildings are not quite the most ideal place to start a base, not because they had stone foundations, which would have been perfect actually, but more because they were still "inhabited". We stayed on the road about 200m south from the Marina and started building.


The abundance of trees made it easy for us with the setup of our new main base. There were a few points where we had to make some adjustments compared to our previous base; First of all we needed to have direct line of sight to the zombies that would be attacking us, that's why we would again set up a perimeter around the house, so we could fight outside. This wall would need to have openings for us to shoot through and no doors, doors equal weak spots as we learned from our experience in the wasteland. In order to get in and out of our fortress, I dug a hole straight down, made a tunnel to the other side of the perimeter walls, dug upwards again and placed a hatch on each side, this would now be our entrance. But it's getting darker already, good thing Stealth has a miners helmet because we aren't able to craft any torches just yet.


The next few days we were mainly engaged with gathering materials, building and reinforcing our place and cooking, since we settled down in the forest, getting hold of fresh meat is now the least of our problems. We also have crafted a forge, so forged iron isn't a foreign term for us any more, and the better tools we are able to create with it facilitate our tasks immensely. But the time is running out, we are getting closer to the end of the second week since we regained consciousness and we don't feel ready to face another horde of zombies, much less with a wooden barrier between them and us. Stealth takes the secure path and decides that two rows of wooden spikes around the perimeter wont suffice, and starts crafting hundreds of wooden log spikes to completely encircle our base, row after row. We feel secure, at least a bit more than last time. Now we feast, and then we wait.


The sun has set already and it's awfully quiet around our base. We climb up to the roof to scout out the surroundings, only to see something moving past a house far in the distance. As it comes closer we can see what it is, a young woman with long black hair wearing a white dress, dirty from the waist down. She is walking straight at us without caring much about the rows of spikes ahead of her, until the moment she tumbles into the first carefully sharpened logs. SKREEEEEE!! She is screaming in pure agony and so loud, you can hear her echo from the other side of the lake. More screams join her cries from afar, this isn't good, they are coming. We start to see a crazy amount of movement in the shadows, zombies running at full speed charging at us from over at the Marina, getting overtaken by rabid dogs. The first few to reach our outer perimeter get instantly impaled by the spikes, while the second line of dogs leap over and land right in front of us. While the zombies begin to plow through the spike defences, the dogs try to get through the slit we left open in the wall. They start crossing over and we panic, while I run away around the house, Stealth tries to get into the house for safety, yet misses the opportunity to close the door behind him and one dog gets inside. I run around the house closing the doors on both sides before killing the dog that's following me, in order to trap the second one. Stealth has managed to flee up the ladder to the second floor and finishes the trapped dog from up there.

By now the horde is already pounding at the North-West corner of our perimeter wall, and the wooden supports are quickly falling apart. I rush over to repair it, but it's a really hard task in my current panic fuelled state, I cant concentrate with all those blood thirsty creatures in front of me, everything is blurring out. I've got another one!! Stealth is still sniping out zombie heads from the second floor, I back up a little to recover my breath, the wall seems to be sustaining the attack. He kept shooting so I joined him, we had enough arrows to last for a week and remained on our vantage point until none of the undead was left standing. This success didn't cost any lives, thankfully, except the ones from those already damned, but we would surely have to rebuild our defences because on that side all the spikes got run over.


It was time to heal up, recover, and get ready to upgrade the newly found flaws in our system of defence. We didn't really discuss it or anything, Stealth went his way and I went mine. My priority was strengthening the wall, and for that I would need iron, tons of it, and that would pretty much be what I would be doing for the next few days, mining rocks for iron. Meanwhile, Stealth, the cook and wood chopper in our team, crafted a metric shit ton of log spikes and carefully placed row after row around the base, to the point where even our exit hatch was surrounded by them.


And he kept going ...


... and going ...


... and going.


He went on to the point where I approximated the amount of log spikes to be close to the 3000, which of course made me elongate the tunnel in order to still be able to get out of the completely surrounded base. Thanks to that we were able to withstand the third horde wave without much of a hiccup, except that when the zeds were piling up, some of them were able to jump over the wall and attack us from the inside. At least the dogs were dead even before reaching the inner perimeter. At this point we felt safe enough to invest a little more time exploring, we didn't go to far the last few times. This extra time appointed also gave us some new rewards like for example valuable blueprints for crafting things like explosive crossbow tips and of course the crossbow itself, ever welcome gun parts and materials like paper, needed to craft the explosives we used to hollow out the underground of our base. Getting the first engine helped us craft a cement mixer, which for me would completely replace wood and iron as a building material.


Once I got into the cement frenzy there was no stopping me. Stealth first upgraded the perimeter wall to twice its original height while I put in place crossbars at the openings so no more dogs or crawlers could get through and installed some safety bars outside against spiders, after that the upgrading to concrete began. Over the course of two weeks we gathered sand and stone, shaving away the whole West shore of the lake next to us and mining deep down into the ground, and mixing it together for concrete. Wood ad this point was even less of an issue, since we replanted every pine cone from the chopped threes around the perimeter. We mixed and mixed, probably over 15.000 buckets full, to upgrade the wall and the bridges to the second floor. The building itself was torn down and rebuild part by part, including the reinforced ledge between the two floors, and of course, the basement.



Yep, our basement is not only the access to the mines, but also the garage for our two mini bikes. After searching way to long for a pair of car batteries, I was finally able to craft them. They are stored right beneath our crafting room and they can be accessed through a hatch next to the forge. Once in the garage you'll find the bike parked on the right and left side of the hallway that leads outside, which is to far away for the zombies to even care about, and even if they did, they still can't climb ladders so no worries there.


Thanks to those fully functional bikes we are now able to take our explorations even further, that's why we quickly decided to prepare all the needed materials for an advanced outpost, a place where we could get back to if the night catches up with us. It's nice and save, all the way North-East from the main base, close to the snowy mountains, and mainly consists of a concrete cage to which we can access only with our bikes, and an underground safe room with enough space to store some loot, cook and sleep through the night. Now it's time to find the secrets of this world...


That's about as far as I got after ~60h, and I'm talking about me on purpose because, since I was running the dedicated server, I sometimes would log in to play when Stealth, who must have around 50h, wasn't around. Yeah I know, shame on me, but I was to addicted to cement! Snorts. All in all the game works pretty fine, playing it at a resolution of 3440x1440 at high settings on a 980 Ti it gave me some solid 50-90 fps, but it is very inconsistent. Sadly the horde nights are not as enjoyable as I would wish, not because of its difficulty, but because the frame rate drops to a minimum. Yeah I was able to get some 25-30 fps on the lowest settings, but the problem is for example that I can't turn down texture quality below high (very high being the best quality) because the textures get so blurry you stop seeing the cracks that indicate that a block is deteriorating. The game isn't perfect, it still has some bigger and smaller problems judging from the 7 Days to Die subreddit, but we didn't encounter any game breaking bugs or other frustrating things at all. This game has seen a lot in the last 2.5 years and has matured a lot, and I'm looking forward for what's to come. 10/10 would play again, IGN. Thank you if you made it all the way down here and...

Cheers

DHR_000x



Comments

  1. Amazing article! Very well written and inspiring. You hit the nail on the head (or the zombie in the head) with your rundown of your gameplay. I'm glad ya'll loved it as much as we do over at /r/7DaysToDie.


    Hope you guys are excited for the new Alpha 15 changes that The Fun Pimps are testing right now live! There are so many new, awesome things, to play with. Like NPC traders to buy/sell goods, drawbridges, catwalks, larger doors (2x3), and steel spikes! (I think Stealth might like those for his defensive project). And the best feature of all, vastly improved view distances. You can see town outlines from miles(km) away! It really brings immersion to the landscape now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much and yeah, Stealth will surely love the news about the spikes :D

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  2. As for FPS issues on horde nights, it is MUCH better in Alpha 15. Before I would get super low fps, sounds would bug out, game would become almost unplayable a few weeks in. However now I am not having any of those problems and rocking solid 60fps with everything but motion blur maxed out on a 970.

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    Replies
    1. Good to hear, looking forward for its release.

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