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Round 3 of 7 Days: A Realistic Apocalypse

March 14, 2016

Dear Reader,

7 Days to Die has been making a strong third showing.  After playing it variously on and off over the past year or so with my buddy, I introduced it to a few others, and it seems to have taken off in popularity pretty well.  There’s not a ton of new information in this post, but I can confirm that playing it with larger groups does exponentially increase both the fun and the hardware requirements for the game.  It seems that having a fifth or sixth player makes it unplayable either due to machine requirements or Internet bandwidth even on the best of my little group’s computers.

Consequently, one of my buddies, who became quite enamored with the game and the idea of playing with a larger group, rented a server for us to play on.  We spent a solid six hours or so on a Saturday night getting started there, and I was pleased with some of the newer players’ progress, as no one died for the entire first 8 (or was it 9?  Who remembers?) days that we played.

I’ve learned a lot about the game by playing with others, like how brick actually sucks compared to cobblestone, which is easier to get and make (you don’t need a special structure – the forge – to make cobblestone).  It’s still an alpha game, though, with new systems being added and numbers being tinkered with, so we’ll see how that plays out in the long run.

Alpha_11_forest_bridge_01

Image courtesy 7daystodie.com.

One interesting development that has come out of playing with a larger group is the post-apocalyptic social dynamics that have shown up.  When I just played with my one buddy and, later, with my wife, we discussed what to do and usually came to a consensus.  Sometimes that came from no one really caring and one person just deciding and going forward, and sometimes that came from real discussion and debate about how to proceed.  With the inclusion of some new people who play games very differently – and let me be clear that I don’t think that’s a problem but is simply relevant to the point I’m making – the social dynamics have gotten a lot muddier, which is of course exactly what would happen in a real survival situation.

In particular, one of my new-player buddies has a different approach to the game that sometimes causes a little conflict.  Frankly, I think that’s good, as it’s very hard to grow without something to shake up your basic beliefs (he championed cobblestone over brick, for example, and was exactly right).  Nonetheless, sometimes I think he’s quite reckless, like firing a gun after dark at a single zombie, and while that particular incident didn’t draw death down upon us, my more cautious approach has proven correct a few times, too.  It plays out very much like a post-apocalyptic situation might, with a struggle about what’s best for the group in regards to residence, responsibilities, and unwritten rules (like it’s best to collapse back to home 3o minutes early to make sure, if there is a safety issue, there’s time to deal with it).

The interesting dichotomy is that in the beginning, he had more raw knowledge, having experimented and (I assume) looked up information in the Internet about the game, which is fine but not something my smaller group ever did.  But in those early days, I had far more experience, had died a lot and made a lot of mistakes, and had a lot of good suggestions that he occasionally ignored, which sometimes (satisfyingly) led to his unfortunate demise.  My experience, though, was colored with bad information (like using brick), so he was able to make cogent arguments in those veins to improve.

But now he’s played more than me – significantly more, I think, maybe near the order of double – but I still find situations where I feel like he’s being reckless.  I’m not sure if there’s a fundamental difference in our approach to the game that creates this schism or if it’s just me trying to justify a personal relevance for my own fragile ego.  I try to play as I would in a real survivor situation: ignorant and trying to do everything I can to survive an not draw trouble.  To be clear, I’m not saying he doesn’t play that way; I don’t know.  We’ve never really discussed it.

Alpha_12_Minibike_Motion_Blur

Image courtesy 7daystodie.com.

Nonetheless, with very few exceptions, his actions much more often draw trouble than mine.  Because he now has more knowledge and experience, he’s more able to deal with that trouble so it ends up being no big deal.  Someday, though, I’m afraid it will be a big deal; it scares me when he’s coming back after dark on a horde night, running up the platform a few steps in front of the mass of zombies.

What’s so great about this – and I’m not being sarcastic – is that unlike another game, like WoW, where significantly different play styles makes working together a perilous task, like having a few people in a large raid who aren’t serious about it when everyone else is, in this game the different survival styles work.  It is like the post-apocalypse, where people argue, nerves get frayed, and yet everyone still works together regardless – and it works.  It adds interesting tension without creating unbridgeable rifts, which is the exact balance I always wanted to strike as a DM in pen and paper RPGs.  It allows for insanely heroic moments, if you remember that the line between heroism and foolishness is quite thin.

So even though it’s unfinished, rough around the edges, and occasionally frustratingly buggy, 7 Days to Die strikes an authentic post-apocalyptic note when it comes to social issues.  That alone makes it somewhat unique in its genre.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (the real group leader)

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