DayZ: How Brian Hicks failed to develop the survival game

Published: Oct. 10, 2021
Updated: Oct. 10, 2021

German English

Former Microsoft employee Brian Hicks was instrumental in the development of DayZ. In an interview with PCGamer he looks back on his time at Bohemia and explains why his efforts were ultimately doomed to failure.

What's the matter? DayZ has an eventful development history behind it. A bumpy early access release and what felt like an eternity preceded the release of an unfinished version 1.0 on Steam. He revealed to the editorial team of PCGamer what many obstacles the former executive producer of the survival game, Brian Hicks, had to overcome.

Early Access: Wanted Too Much Too Early?

Hicks' involvement in DayZ development began in 2013 when he joined the five-man development team for the survival title. The fact that the studio consisted mostly of log cabins and a garage didn't bother him. Even the 80 percent lower salary than his previous Microsoft job didn't put him off.

The early access release was chaotic: But the pressure on the developers was great. The people in charge at Bohemia made it clear to Hicks and chief developer Dean Hall that they would have to fear for their jobs without an early access release.

The release on Steam was therefore held together by "tape, matches, and prayers" after a lot of crunch, says Hicks. The game was launched without anti-cheat measures because the developers did not understand the associated Steam system correctly.

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Because Hicks and the team worked around the clock to mend bugs and plug cheat holes, Hicks hardly slept. As a result, one day he accidentally deleted the game's live database. Fortunately, they could then be restored thanks to backups.

Did Bohemia force early access too early? Looking back, Hicks would have liked to have invested more time in developing the Early Access version of DayZ. However, he also believes the team ultimately had no choice. The reason: The genre of survival games was just flourishing - and the competition never slept.

Nobody knew how long the trend would last. Then came H1Z1: King of the Hill, the first battle royale. Hicks convinced Bohemia to buy the IP of the Mod Survivor GameZ and establish it as a Battle Royale for DayZ.

DayZ "was a blessing for my life"

The release of version 1.0 "was a bad idea": In order to set up a new studio in Seattle to take care of Survivor GameZ, Hicks moved back to the USA. However, it turned out to be extremely difficult to coordinate the development of DayZ across the pond.

"I had big differences of opinion with some people on the corporate side, and somehow I couldn't do the same as when I had been in the office all the years before [in Prague, editor's note.], "Says Hicks." Before that I could just drive up the mountain and Knock on Mareks [Španel, CEO of Bohemia, editor's note.] door."

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When DayZ left Early Access in December 2018, Bohemia finally sold version 0.63 as the official version 1.0. A bad idea, Hicks thought, because the game didn't come close to offering all the features that the developers had promised on the Steam site.

A short time later, Hicks left the DayZ and Bohemia team. The frustration and anger over the development of the game had gotten over his head. He had failed. But looking back, he still describes DayZ and its influence as a blessing: "It's a phenomenon that only a few developers are lucky enough to experience for themselves."

Sascha Asendorf is the co-founder of Guided.news and has been running online magazines in the gaming sector since 2013. Starting with a strong focus on survival games, Sascha now deals a lot with role-playing games and is an expert on survival and RPG titles like Conan Exiles, Baldurs Gate 3 & Cyberpunk 2077.
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