Surviving Day Z: 10 tips that will save your life

The world of Day Z is a cruel one — so unpredictable and so volatile that even a seasoned veteran will hit the deck at the sound of a gunshot in the distance. Beginners have it even worse. In most games, spawning in one of the game’s most hostile areas without a weapon would be considered borderline torture. Day Z adds another layer of difficulty – in addition to physical threats, you have to worry about glitches and lag and the constant need to feed yourself. But don’t worry. There are ways to stay ahead of the system. The following tips will save your life, and with a bit of luck, you’ll be brandishing a pistol and feeding yourself before the bandits can even spot you.

Tip #1. Do not trust anyone.

Period. Ever. Just don’t.

I don’t care if you’re usually a goody-goody hero in other games and derive pleasure from finding a non-lethal approach. If you try to make friends in Day Z, you’re going to get shot. Frequently. Let’s go over a scenario here. You’re walking through a heavily wooded area and see another player. You’re both “friendly” and decide, hey, why not take on the world together? If you’re lucky the best that’ll happen is that the both of you will raid a small town and grab some supplies. But then what?

One of you gets shot, that’s what. You only found one can of Frank & Beans, but you’re both hungry. And I’m sorry, but at some point, self-interest will always win out over “friendship.” This is the reality of Day Z. Actually, scratch that. The reality of Day Z is that you’ll probably get shot before you can even ask someone if they’re friendly.

If you want to be nice without putting yourself at risk, hide from other players when you see them. Gaze at them from afar and wish them well. If you want to play with a group, you’re better off inviting your friends to play Day Z and meeting up with them on a server.

Tip #2. Find the server for you, then get your game settings right.

There’s a ton of gameplay settings within Day Z that aren’t immediately apparent, but can drastically affect the way you play the game. First off, if you’d like the ability to play in third person, join a server that says “3DP:ON” in the title. When in-game, press “Enter” on the number pad to switch to third-person. The perspective is a bit less immersive, but it’s easier to see what’s going on around you. And if the server allows it, why not use it?

Another server-specific feature is the crosshair. If you want to be able to view your crosshairs in-game, join a server that contains “CH:ON” in the title.

As for settings you can change up yourself, make sure that first and foremost, you’ve set up your screen resolution correctly. Besides setting your screen resolution, you’ll also want to set your 3D resolution to 100% – if you don’t change the 3D resolution, your image will probably look blurred out and ugly.

Lastly, if you’re playing first-person, you can turn off head bob in the game settings menu. You’re welcome.

Tip #3. Orient yourself.

Day Z’s sandbox world is huge, and players don’t spawn with maps. As soon as you can, find a good online Day Z map and figure out where you are. A good way to do this is to keep an eye on the lower right corner of the screen the moment you load up the game. The caption that appears will tell you what city you’re in. From here, you can figure out what places you want to go and what places you want to avoid. Navigation can get difficult, but look at the bright side – this is a great opportunity to learn how to read a topographical map!

You'll learn to read a map, whether you like it or not.

Tip #4. Take care of the basics first. And for the love of god, get some morphine.

The first thing you might notice when you start Day Z is that you’ve got food and drink meters on the side of your HUD. You need to eat and drink to survive. This is the base element of Day Z’s ruthless world – the constant need for basic supplies is what keeps things interesting. As soon as you can, get food for yourself and don’t settle down until you do. The first few hours of game time will be spent scavenging for sustenance.

For a longer-term solution than Coke cans and canned spaghetti, get a hold of the following:

Apparently, you really would eat this if it was the last food on earth.

– Canteen
– Hunting knife
– Matches
– Hatchet (or wood piles for a temporary solution)

With these supplies, you’ll be able to hunt food and drink water from the game’s water sources like lakes and water pumps. No more desperate impromptu town runs.

Once you have your food source, get morphine. This is easier said than done, as most morphine only spawns in hospitals and higher-risk areas, but it’ll save your ass. It’s absurdly easy to get your legs broken in Day Z, and unless you’re willing to crawl over miles and miles of terrain to raid a hospital in the prone position, broken legs mean the end of the line for your current character. Morphine will heal your broken bones, and it should be at the top of your priority list.

Tip #5. Learn how to get rid of Zombies.

Day Z is buggy. This is known. But don’t let the clipping and inventory frustration get to you. For every Zed that hears you through a concrete wall or unfairly spawns just feet away from you, there’s a way to exploit the game to lose that Zed. First, and most important, zombies cannot run while indoors. If you’re ever being chased down by the undead (infected?) hordes, run into a building and take them out as they saunter helplessly toward you. If you don’t have a weapon, run into a building with two doors, and run out the back door when they enter through the front. They’ll have to walk through the building, and by the time they finally exit, you’ll be long gone.

The other thing to remember when being chased by zeds is that they pretty much lose you if they can’t see you. The second you break their sight line, they’ll go into a search mode, patrolling a single area until they find you again. If you run around enough corners and get far enough away, it’ll be like they never spotted you. Mixed with heading indoors every once in awhile, zombies aren’t too much of a threat.

Tip #6. Stay out of sight.

This one’s for all the run-and-gunners out there. To survive in Day Z, camouflage and discretion are absolutely vital. I’ve touched on some of this before, but be quiet, and stay low to the ground. Instead of running into clearings, stick to the treeline. Instead of full-on sprinting, run while in the crouched position. Go prone when you get anywhere near a populated area.

If you’re running around at night, use something dim like a chemlight instead of the standard flashlight. The flashlight shines brightly and makes you a clear target.

Not quite as realistic as "Pro Crawling 2012," but don't worry. You'll spend a lot of time in this position.

This might sound self-explanatory, but there are a lot of quirks to the Arma II control scheme. For starters, there’s the ever-so-shitty inventory, which is as unavoidable as it is insufferable. But you work with what you’ve got. Take a few minutes to figure out how the inventory system works, and you won’t find yourself itemless due to some messed-up glitch you inadvertently set off. There are tons of videos online that’ll teach you how to use the inventory. And don’t go swimming, because you can lose all your stuff if you go swimming.

Another useful command is bound to “V”, which allows you to vault over small obstacles like fences. Zeds can’t jump short fences, so if you’re in a pinch, try vaulting yourself to safety.

If that doesn’t work, and you’ve got a chain of zombies trailing you, press and hold the “Alt” key to look around you as you run around. As with most of the other body positioning commands, double-pressing “Alt” will toggle free-look mode.

Tip #7. Take your time.

If you run upright, zombies can sense you from a few football fields away. But if you crawl, you can practically kiss their feet without being detected. Your visibility and the amount of noise you make depend on the type of ground you’re walking on and the amount of shade you’re under, so take advantage of the terrain. A lot of the time, being discreet means taking 5 minutes to crawl just a few meters, but it’s worth it. Better to take time avoiding zombies than to draw them all and lose all your ammo fending them off.

The other thing to consider when keeping a low profile is your weapon. Even though guns are lethal, gunfire is guaranteed to draw zombies and bandits from far away. If you can, stick to pistols or melee weapons, and if you get a Lee Enfield AKA “The Dinner Bell” AKA “Leeroy,” you’re better off not shooting at all. Only shoot your gun if you absolutely need to. For those just starting, use the hatchet – if you’re indoors, it’s got a surprisingly long range and is perfect for kiting.

Tip #8. Experiment with fresh spawns.

The best time to screw around in Day Z is right after spawning – you have nothing to lose. If you spawn on the coast, which is the most likely possibility, get to a city and quickly loot some buildings, then run away. Just the other day, I ran straight into Elektrozavodsk (“Elektro”), one of the most dangerous cities in the game, and stumbled across an AK-74, a nice sidearm, a huge backpack, 5 morphine injectors, and 5 blood packs. Good stuff. If you try this approach and don’t get as lucky, try out something different, like running into the woods and speed-looting a small town.

If the zombies don't kill you, running into an open field probably will.

A new spawn is also a good opportunity to try teaming up with someone else, as you’ll both have fresh starts and nothing to lose by helping each other. Reverting to the golden rule, though, proceed with extreme caution when a weapon comes into play. At that point, don’t trust your partner, even if you’ve been working together for hours.

Tip #9. Take time to assess an area before entering.

Before you try to raid a city or town, scope out the area first. Keep your eyes open for other players, and map out a quick route for getting in and out with the loot as quickly as possible. If you need to, determine an indoor fallback point in case you need to retreat from zombies. More importantly, be on the lookout for snipers atop high towers or buildings – there’s nothing worse than getting killed by an enemy you’re never even going to see.

Tip #10. Stay up-to-date.

Since Day Z is still in its alpha stages, any given strategy is subject to change  on a daily basis. To keep updated on Day Z mechanics, check in with online resources like the Day Z wiki, the Day Z subreddit, and