By T.C. Sottek and Sean Hollister

It’s day zero of the zombie apocalypse. You are hungry, frightened, and alone. You enter the town square of Elektrozavodsk, an abandoned city in a parallel Czech Republic, and see a man surrounded by several dead, naked bodies. He’s flanked by two kneeling men in handcuffs, while holding up a bible and shouting about Jesus and hellfire. Against your better judgement, you carefully approach him, thinking maybe you can free those survivors somehow. He suddenly falls to the ground, followed by the distant crack of a sniper’s rifle. As you turn around to leave, a stranger plants an axe in your chest. He steals your pants and runs circles around your corpse, laughing hysterically.

That’s just one of the spontaneous, unpredictable situations you might find in DayZ: an early release PC game that’s not even half finished. DayZ’s basic premise — to survive brutally difficult conditions — would be difficult enough in a perfect game. Unlike most games where your avatar is basically a self-sustaining demigod, DayZ forces you to eat, drink, and stay healthy. You can bleed to death, starve to death, become infected from rotten food, break bones, and fall victim to a number of other pitfalls — including devious murderers behind other keyboards. And when you die, that’s it: no magically reappearing with the gear that took hours to collect or running to retrieve it. You must begin again: nearly naked, thirsty, and alone.

But the game is currently even more difficult than it has to be. Things like falling 6 inches might kill you. Ladders are as dangerous as axes. A random glitch might completely wipe out your character. Zombies will walk through walls and maul you. Every time you load the game, you’re forced to read a disclaimer about its broken state and surrender all expectations by clicking a button that says, “I understand.” In a number of critical measurements, DayZ is a piece of shit. So why have more than a million people paid $29.99 for this?