DayZ is a free third-party mod for the first-person shooter Arma 2 that simulates survival in a zombie apocalypse. If you’re like us, you’ll try any game with “zombie” in the description, and this one definitely does not disappoint. In this guide, we’ll get you started in the game and teach you what you need to know to survive.
First, purchase and install Arma 2 and Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead. I recommend getting these from Steam as a pack. Next, check this forum post for up-to-date install instructions. You can also check this video. If you can’t get the game to work properly, try disabling your antivirus or updating your graphics drivers. Check the DayZ troubleshooting forums or Arma 2 forums for help.
- Using Steam, you should run Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead.
- When a window with options appears, select Arma 2: Combined Operations. This should be the last option.
- When the game loads, feel free to fiddle with settings. You may consider creating a new player profile with your desired handle.
- When you’re ready to play, press Multiplayer on the main menu to bring up the server browser. You can filter the names of the servers by “DayZ”. We also recommend filtering out full and passworded servers and servers with a ping over 150.
- Select a server out of the results. Lower-population servers are easier for beginners because they tend to have fewer griefers.1
- Once you connect to the server, you should see a screen that looks something like this. Press “OK”. You don’t need to select anything else.
- Be patient, but if you’re stuck at any step for more than a few minutes, try another server. It’s annoying, but remember that this is an alpha-phase mod!
Quiet oblivion should soon yield to the lull of birdsong and waves breaking upon a pebbly beach. This moment, with a pistol cool in your hand and the ocean lapping at your back, is your birth into a yet-untold story of opportunity. This is the Chernarusian dream, and you’re about to live it. Or die to it. Why do your brains and tears have to be so damn tasty?
The straightforward interface belies relatively complicated keybindings. In the top-right, you’ll see your weapon status. The first number indicates the number of rounds in your current magazine and the second number (if any) indicates the number of magazines in your main inventory. You’ll also see a debug screen. Don’t worry about it for now.
Five indicators line the right edge. Green is good and red is bad.
The NRA Says…
Guns are dangerous! Friendly fire is always on. Be careful!
When you die, you must start from scratch. Play carefully.
DayZ uses a numeric hit point system (blood pressure) with a scale from 0 (dead) to 12,000 (max). BP is directly lost through damage and can also be lost by bleeding. Your BP determines a number of things, including how susceptible you are to becoming incapacitated and how well you can aim.2 3 You can regain 200 BP by eating food, 800 BP by eating cooked meat (see below), and full BP by receiving a blood transfusion. Another player must administer the transfusion and must have a blood bag in his inventory.
In other news, you can fall under the following status effects:
- Bleeding: If there’s a plus sign in your BP indicator (or you’re spurting blood like an extra in Kill Bill), you should bandage yourself.
- Unconsciousness: A timer appears in the middle of your screen and you cannot act until it finishes.
- Shock: Caused by taking significant damage or gunshot wounds. Lasts 5 minutes and is incurable.
- Broken bones: This really, really hurts. You can’t stand or walk. Take a morphine injection.
- Pain: Shaky aim in 1st-person. Take the painkillers, House.
Hunger and Thirst
You need to eat and drink, but only enough to keep those icons from blinking. Running causes you to become hungry and thirsty more rapidly. Panicking from being attacked also increases your hunger. You can eat and drink the following things:
- Canned foods: You find these in many buildings and potentially on dead survivors.
- Canned drinks: Ditto.
- Canteen water: Refill this at a well, water pump, or pond.4
- “Hunted” meat: You can saunter up to Lambchop and pop a cap. If you have a hunting knife, wood, and matches, you can then have a blood orgy and eat the meat.5
To eat and drink, right-click the relevant items in your inventory and select the appropriate option.
Temperature and Sickness [CHANGED IN 1.6.0]
You can catch an infection that will gradually reduce your maximum BP to 10,000 unless you find antibiotics.6
- You can spontaneously catch diseases due to hypothermia. The chance increases with each degree drop in your temperature, starting at 31.2° C.
- If your temperature is below 34.2° C, you may catch something from infected players. The more sick survivors nearby, the higher your chances. Transmission is possible within 8 meters.7
- Regardless of temperature, if you sustain injuries that cause bleeding, you have a tiny chance of becoming infected.8
If your hypothermia becomes severe, your vision may begin to shake. To avoid hypothermia, avoid rain and water or warm yourself with fire or a heat pack. You can start fires using matches and wood, which you can find in loot piles and by using a hatchet in forests.
When infected, you will hear coughing in-game. The only way to cure an infection is through antibiotics, which you can get from hospitals or helpful survivors.
When you’re under attack, you will hear the sound of hyperventilation. During this adrenaline rush, you become hungry much faster.
The system is simple (possibly to its detriment). Humanity is meant to be a measurement of your trustworthiness. If you kill a survivor, your Humanity drops. As it changes, the Humanity GUI indicator will change between happy, indifferent, and meany faces.9 Humanity can be increased by using first-aid on players and through the forgiveness of time.
The Humanity system has a built-in provision for self-defense. If another player hits you, you do not lose Humanity for attacking that player within 2 minutes. You also lose less Humanity when attacking bandits (who have very low Humanity).
DayZ uses a persistent character system. When you switch servers, you keep the same health/humanity conditions, inventory, and location.10
We’ll assume that you know your way around first-person shooters in general. The following are the default keybindings, which can be changed in the game options menu. You can find a printable Word-compatible crib sheet here.
- Escape: Open game menu.
- W/A/S/D: Standard strafing movement.
- Z/X/C: Prone/crouch/stand.
- V: Vault over obstruction.11
- Shift (Hold): Walk or move slower.
- MW (Scroll): Select from available actions.
- MW (Click): Select action. Performs a default action if none are selected.
- G: Open inventory.
- LMB: Shoot or throw tactical items (e.g. flares).
- RMB (Click): Toggle iron sights/scope. Also allows you to hold your breath for sniping and pool parties.12
- RMB (Hold): Zoom view in.
- R: Reload. (See Ammunition below for info.)
- F: Switch firing modes or select tactical items.13
- (;): Switch between primary and secondary weapons.
- Page Up / Page Down: Adjust scope zeroing. (See Zeroing below for info.)
- Q: Lean left. (Roll if prone.)
- E: Lean right. (Roll if prone.)
- Alt (Hold): Look around without changing direction of travel.
- Num Enter: Toggle 1st/3rd-person.
- (,): Select last chat channel.
- (.): Select next chat channel.
- (/): Type in chat. Use “Side chat” for global communications.
- Caps Lock: Use VOIP.
- (\): Salute (when standing).
You must loot and equip the appropriate items before you can use these:
- B: Binoculars.
- N: Night vision.
- M: Map.
- Ctrl + M: GPS minimap.
- K: Compass.
- O: Watch.
- L: Flashlight. (And headlights.)
In some cases, double-clicking a key will perform a special action or toggle a default. Here are some important ones:
- W: Sprint.
- Shift: Toggle default movement speed (slow vs. fast).
- Alt: Toggle free-look.
- Ctrl: Lower primary weapon.
- K/O/L: Toggle tool/item.
Your Best Friend: The Mouse Wheel
Scrolling with the mouse wheel opens up a new world of opportunity. The menu that appears on the left is contextual, and is based on your condition, location, and what you’re aiming at. Here are some examples of things you can do with the mouse wheel:
- Performing first-aid on yourself and others. Target your buddies with your crosshairs first.
- Interacting with doors and ladders. You can also just click the mouse wheel when you see the appropriate indicator on the screen.
- Looting. You should always loot by selecting “Gear” instead of just pressing G.
- Picking up backpacks.14
- Building fires, extinguishing and picking up flares, etc.
- Performing sweet dance moves.
If you can’t see an action you want to perform, try moving closer to your target and keeping your crosshairs on it.
Whoops. I died already. Uh…what do I do?
Don’t read this while you’re sitting on the beach. While they seem placid, the beaches in Chernarus are more Omaha than Oahu. As of 1.5.7:
- Press Escape to bring up the menu.
- Press Abort and then Yes.
- Press Escape to bring you back to the main server screen.
- Press OK on that screen.
Guns, Gear, and Inventory
Let’s be honest. You’re here for the loot. You can expect to find the following kinds of items in Chernarus:
- Weapons: primary weapons and sidearms. You can equip one of each, though you can store more. Check this wiki page for information about the available types.
- Ammunition. Most ammunition is gun-specific.
- Food and drinks. And the trash that comes with it.
- Tools: e.g. watches, compasses, maps, toolboxes. These are non-consumable.
- Optics: binoculars, night-vision goggles, and rangefinders.
- Backpacks. In terms of size, Coyote Backpack > ALICE Pack > Czech Pack > Coyote Patrol Pack.
- Medical supplies: painkillers, morphine, epi-pens, bandages, antibiotics, and blood bags.
- Tactical consumables: flares, chemlights, smoke grenades, grenades, and heat packs. [NEW IN 1.6.0]
- Consumable tools: Wood.
- Fortification materials: tents, barbed wire kits, sandbags, and tank traps.
- Vehicle parts. You can fix up cars, trucks, and helicopters.
- Fashion accessories. Two types of skins: camo and ghillie suit. [NEW IN 1.6.0]
You begin with a Makarov pistol (read: BB gun) and some magazines. You should aim to find a primary weapon (e.g. a rifle), a more powerful sidearm, and some ammo. Ideally, you should try to find a Winchester 1866 with slug cartridges as a starter weapon.15 It’s quiet, relatively accurate, and its ammunition is plentiful.16 Barring that, you can sometimes find Lee Enfield rifles, which are longer-ranged but louder.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your weapons.
- Accuracy is indicated by the width of the two vertical parts of the crosshairs.17
- You’re more accurate when crouched and calm. Running temporarily decreases accuracy.
- Stay in 1st-person mode when you expect to have to shoot. The crosshairs are slightly off-center in 3rd-person.
- Switch in and out of ironsights or scope by clicking (not holding) RMB. This works even in 3rd-person.
- Remember to reload! Unlike some shooters, there is no auto-reload when you run dry!
- Try for headshots whenever possible.
- Each gun has a maximum range. In general, sniper rifles > rifles > shotguns > submachine guns > sidearms.
- Louder guns attract more zombies than quieter guns.18
- Each gun has a slightly different sound. Memorizing these can be very useful.
- If you have to choose between slugs and pellets, choose slugs.19
All weapon sights are calibrated for optimal accuracy at one or two specific distances, since bullets travel in an arc in real life. Scopes in Arma 2 have a default maximum zero around 200-300m. To adjust this scope zeroing, you can use Page Up and Page Down. In general, don’t worry about this.20
Many FPS players are used to pool-type ammunition systems (e.g. in Left 4 Dead), which refill directly out of an unsegregated pool of rounds. Arma 2 uses a more realistic system.21 You can only change magazines and clips; you cannot refill them.22 When you reload, you place the fullest available mag into the gun and rearrange the others in descending order of fullness in your inventory.23 It may be best to avoid the tactical reload in Arma 2.
Let’s say that you begin with nothing but a fully loaded Makarov (8 rounds) and two spare magazines. You spend 4 rounds and reload. After the animation is complete, one full mag is loaded in the Makarov; one full mag is in the top-left sidearm ammo slot; and the half-full mag is in the slot immediately to the right.
You can interact with items through your inventory window. To use an item, you can right-click it and select an action from the menu that appears. [CHANGED IN 1.5.8]
When looting (with the mouse wheel menu), lootable items show up in the left side of the inventory window. They are highlighted in white, and should include a number at left. That number indicates the amount available. Any number to the right indicates how many you have in your inventory. To pick up the item, double-click it or click it and press “Take”. You can also press the arrow to the right of the item name. You can dispose of items in your bag by clicking them and pressing “Drop”.
You can stash your stuff in one of four places:
- Your inventory.
- Your bag. This is independent from your inventory.
- Your tent/vehicle. Be careful, because other people can loot these and they do not persist across servers.
- The ground. You’re back in college—leftovers are fair game!24
The inventory system is one of the most unintuitive parts of Arma 2. Your inventory appears when you press G. It holds the items you have handy. Your bag appears in your inventory, but its storage is independent. Think realistically—you can’t use items in your backpack unless you take them out.
To open up your bag and fuss with its contents, click on it and press “Open bag”. If you’re not currently looting, you’ll see some numbers change in the left side of the inventory. Numbers on the right side indicate what exists in your inventory and numbers on the left indicate what exists in your bag. Exchange items in and out of the bag in the same manner as described above for looting from the ground.
If you are currently looting, you can store stuff into your bag directly by clicking your bag and pressing “Open bag”. This will change the inventory screen directly, and you will be able to see your bag’s slots at right.
Some items take up more than one slot. Multiples of these items cannot be stored in your inventory. For instance, if you try to pick up a M1911 pistol, it will replace your Makarov. However, you can store these in your bag. If you store that M1911 in your bag, it will take up a block of four slots. You don’t need to worry about shifting items around as long as there are enough slots. If not, you’ll drop items starting at the bottom-right.
For more information on working with your inventory, check out this great guide (with pictures).
Vanity [NEW IN 1.6.0]
You can change the appearance of your character by choosing different faces in the game options. You also have the option of changing your character’s gender, but this option only appears once, and if you decide to change it, you cannot change back, even if you create a new profile.
You can currently apply one of three skins to change your overall appearance: normal, camouflage, and ghillie suit. These skins are lootable items; to use them, right-click on the clothing item. You should not kill players for their skins, because they are not lootable. Another player must take off the skin and drop the item before you can loot it.
You have three types of enemies in this game.
Check this wiki page for information on the types of zombies in the game, as they may change quickly. Consider the following:
- Zombies are more common near settlements and inside buildings.
- You can often detect zombies by their breathing. When they aggro, they start to snarl or howl.
- Zombies will detect you more easily when you’re loud and easy to see. They also detect you more easily in the daytime.
- Never run when you’re anywhere near a settlement. To sneak by zombies, go prone and crawl.
- Gunshots can attract tons of zombies, so be very careful, especially in towns.
- Any source of light and sound can attract a zed. Be careful with flares and chemlights.
- Zombies will investigate player deaths.
- Zombies cannot run indoors or up slopes. Use this to your advantage.
- Zeds can aggro and hit you through walls, windows, doors, and sometimes floors. Stay away from them.
- Zeds can be distracted with flares, smoke grenades, and your (former) friends’ freshly crippled bodies.
- Zombies may have trouble getting over obstructions. They cannot slide over sandbags at all, and may have to crawl under or go around fences.
- Zombies can swim and climb ladders, albeit poorly.
- Zeds can respawn around you, so move expeditiously after clearing them out of an area.
The best places to fight zombies are inside buildings with escape routes and out in a flat, open field, especially when there’s a fence in the way. As mentioned, zombies must walk indoors, allowing you more time to headshot them. In the open, zombies will run in predictable patterns toward you and will have to crawl under fences. You can also throw flares and smoke grenades to attract zombies and then blast them all at once.
Some people are out to steal your candy and laugh at you while they eat it. These people are called bandits in DayZ.
Here’s some advice for preventing you from becoming the fodder of someone’s Schadenfreude:
- Don’t trust anyone you don’t know. Play with friends.
- Avoid open areas, especially roads, beaches, and railroads. If you must follow one of these, stay up in any nearby woods.
- Stay low and use cover. When you hear gunshots, drop to prone immediately with Z. Remember: someone may be aiming at you at any moment.
- While cities are lucrative, avoid them whenever possible. If you need gear, you may be better off looking for a deer stand in the woods.
- When approaching cities, identify possible snipers’ nests and keep an eye on them. Assume anyone in one is a bandit who has already targeted you.
- Be wary of anyone with a scoped rifle. These are rarely carried by legitimate zombie slayers.
- Identify yourself as a friendly (if you are). You can do this by typing/saying “friendly” in side chat, lowering your primary weapon, or saluting.25
- Avoid people with clan tags or anyone unwilling to communicate with you.
- Avoid telling others your exact location.
One of the surest ways to make friends and avoid being backstabbed is to add new people you encounter as Steam friends and then use Steam VOIP, Ventrilo, or Teamspeak. People are much less likely to backstab you when you’re not just pixels on a screen, and you’ll have a better chance of telling whether people are hiding their true intentions.
Eat and drink when the indicators blink. Occasionally, you may want to just consume what you find on the ground even if you’re not fully hungry or thirsty. You won’t have trouble finding these supplies along the coast. Inland, you’ll want a hunting knife, matches, wood, and extra canteens of water. You can currently find wood piles in loot piles (in and around buildings) and by using a hatchet while in the woods. [NEW IN 1.6.0]
In terms of sickness: again, trust no one. Also, seek shelter when it rains.
Let’s Play Already
Jesus H. Christ! What is this, Zombocalypse Survival 400? I hate classrooms! Hand me those pills, give me the CliffNotes version and bring the carnage!
Ah! Okay, one last thing. The map in DayZ isn’t your run-of-the-mill FPS map. You need to learn how to navigate using landmarks and a compass (if you’re lucky). The in-game map is a topographic map with structural details.26 In case you don’t have an in-game map or you want a map with other details, I highly recommend checking out the maps on this page.
Even without an in-game compass and map, you should be able to navigate using online maps in the Steam overlay browser27 and coastlines and road signs. The coastline stretches along the south and east of the continent. If you want to be super-hardcore, you can navigate using the sun or the stars.
You can also watch the bottom-right part of your screen closely when you first load into the game. It will tell you the name of the closest major landmark.
- Just in case it wasn’t clear enough: stay low, stay quiet, and slow down!
- Be careful with doors, because they can hurt you if they close on you.
- When throwing items like flares and grenades, hold down LMB for longer to throw farther.
- You have to be about chest-deep in water to fill bottles.
- Don’t go for a swim. You can lose your inventory. If you want to be safe, drop you stuff on the bank.
- The two biggest cities in Chernarus are Chernogorsk (“Cherno”) and Elektrozavodsk (“Elektro”). Both are located along the southern coast.
- The “Direct communication” channel connects you with people that are nearby. As of v1.5.7, it works for voice but not text.
- Use VOIP only in “Direct communication”. Do not use it in other chat channels; this is bad form and can sometimes get you kicked from servers.
- There is a fixed set of building models in the game. Check this page to see them and what kind of loot they may hold.
- Buzzing fly sounds indicate that a dead survivor or bandit is nearby.
- You can enter some vehicles, but they must be repaired and refueled before they can be used.
- Your character will be saved when force-quitting (with ALT + F4) and force-disconnecting.28
- To see better at night, you may consider raising your game’s brightness and gamma (in Video settings), though this is basically cheating.
- Please comment here with any questions or corrections! Enjoy!
- DayZ Announcements @ DayZ Forums
- Newbie Survivor Guide @ DayZ Forums
- Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead Steam forums
- DayZ Unofficial Wiki
Thanks to rocket and the rest of the DayZ team for the mod, and thanks to sherlock and ZogVarnoka on the DayZ forums for their help!
- There are three kinds of servers: Regular, Veteran, and Hardcore. In Veteran servers, you can see your crosshairs but cannot see player nametags. In Hardcore servers, you also cannot see your crosshairs, though you can use your ironsights. ↩
- At <9000: you can be knocked out easily by zombies. At <5000: your aim and vision are affected. At <3000: you begin to fall unconscious randomly. ↩
- If the screen effects are annoying you, you can turn them mostly off by disabling “Postprocess effects” in your advanced graphics settings. ↩
- As of 1.5.8, you cannot refill in the ocean. ↩
- Okay, so maybe the blood orgy is optional. ↩
- See this DayZ forum thread for more details. ↩
- 8m is roughly the width of a two-lane road. ↩
- Currently, it’s 0.1%. ↩
- As of 1.6.0, humanity no longer affects your player skin, and the debug monitor no longer shows your Humanity value. ↩
- Beware: anything not on your person will not be stored across servers. This means that if you put up your tent, it will only appear on that server, and will not appear on others! ↩
- Warning: you automatically stand after using V to climb over something. ↩
- If you hold your breath for an extended period of time, your vision will become blurry. ↩
- Your crosshairs change to a circle when you don’t have a gun selected. ↩
- You must transfer any items out of the backpack you drop in order to keep them. ↩
- Yes, we know, the Winchester 1866 is a lever-action rifle, not a shotgun, but just shut up and eat your candy. ↩
- The Winchester was nerfed in 1.5.8, but should still be an effective starter weapon. ↩
- If they are visible. You can also tell your accuracy by how much your gun sways when sighting down the iron sights. The gun movement is not a superficial animation—the bullet will follow a trajectory out of the barrel wherever it appears when you pull the trigger. ↩
- By virtue of attracting zombies from a larger area. ↩
- Slugs are solid rounds for shotguns that have decent range and stopping power. Pellets are rounds of buckshot that spread out at short range (about a quarter of the range of slugs). Pellets are more situational, and are probably only superior to slugs in buildings. ↩
- Look here for more information about zeroing in Arma 2. ↩
- It’s similar to the systems used in Rainbow 6, Operation Flashpoint, Red Orchestra, etc. ↩
- Except for the Remington 870 and M1014, which have intrinsic magazines that you refill through a feed slot. However, the ammunition boxes work the same way. ↩
- The inventory slots are ordered like Western reading order: left-to-right and top-to-bottom. ↩
- Items left on the ground may despawn if you leave the immediate area. ↩
- To lower your main weapon, double-click Ctrl. To salute, stand up with C and then press Backslash (\). You can also use VOIP in the Direct Communications channel. ↩
- If you don’t know how to read a topographical map, look at this primer. In case you didn’t realize it, playing DayZ actually gives you real-world survival skills! ↩
- Bring the Steam overlay up with SHIFT + TAB and then press “Browser” at the bottom. This is a Webkit browser, and you can use it and leave it up in the background. ↩
- As of 1.5.8. ↩