So you're wondering why Arma II: Combined Operations is a featured steam game, it was released two years ago and people are suddenly starting to talk about it? Why?
What game is DayZ a mod for? What's the premise of the game? Is it a FPS? Can I play this with my friends? Who made this mod? Is it finished?
DayZ is a recent Arma II mod that is blowing up with popularity. If you're not familiar with Arma II, it is a warsim game that boasts an dynamic engine as well as some aesthetically pleasing graphics. It's all very much built around realism, both Arma II and the DayZ mod alike. For example, things like food, water, medicine, sound produced by weapons/actions, vehicles, or by means of moving (pronemove, crouchmove, walkmove etc) all are equally important to gameplay. This mod is currently in it's alpha stages, but already boasts hundreds of thousands of players. The ultimate goal for Rocket (the creator of DayZ, once on the Arma III team, now fulltime on DayZ) seems to be an even larger map with fully lootable and destructible buildings on massive player servers, quoted as saying even having up to a thousand players on a given server. So congratulations, you're on the frontier of what may become the most intense MMO ever.
Websites you'll want to stay on top of and find useful are going to be listed at the end of the post. This will include websites such as reddit, the DayZ forums, loot maps, and more. I must reiterate the importance of accepting and embracing that the game is in alpha - the game as you know it will get changed regularly. The good new is that the mod team is quick to hotfix their patches should something go wonky make the game unplayable. It's you who Rocket/devteam will listen to with your wishes and criticisms, as they lurk both the forums, twitter, and reddit alike (rocket2guns).
So what is it? It's hard to explain really, but the best I can do is to call it a solo or team-based Survival-Sandbox-MMOFPS/TPS equally involving PVP and PVE. The means of what you're doing and where you're doing it will change the longer your character lives and whether you decide to play solo or with friends. With that many acronyms, yes, you can pretty much do whatever the fuck you want in this game and more.
Game play for the Lone Wolves would involve killing or avoiding other players completely. Basically looting to make a completely decked out character able to deal with all sorts of situations effectively and tactically. Lone Wolves may have the tendency to live the longest as they're not tied down by the needs of team mates nor the end goals of try-hard teams. At the same time, items like blood bags cannot be used solo, they have to be applied to you from another player which is only to say the lone road is still not easy.
Human nature comes into DayZ a lot which maybe one of my own person favorite aspects to the game. As our friend Steven Bonnell would exclaim "ITS TOO REAL!" - direct chat lets you talk to other players who might play nice. Some might play not so nice. Some might lie to you and lead you into a deathly trap. Others might actually want to cooperate for the greater survivability of the team. And then there's some who might just skip all the bullshitting, get right down to brass tacks and blast the fuck out of you on sight. What you can be assured of is that at any given point you might run into a player, and you'll have to decide what the fuck to do with them.
To the best my ability that is a general background summary of what you can expect when you're considering playing this game where it may lead you as to what kind of styles are available. So let's go into how to go about acquiring, installing, and moding the game, what preferences work well, what don't and what may help optimize the game for lower systems.
HOW DO I GET IT?
Where do I download it? How do I install Arma 2? Once I have it installed, how do I mod it? Once everything is modded what are configurations I want?
You can go about getting Arma: II through a couple of methods. The cheapest way is to aquire it would be through getting Arma: II Lite and downloading the demo from steam. You're STILL going to need Operation Arrowhead which is $20 USD. Personally I just payed the $10 extra bucks for Arma: II Combined Operations from steam. It's the easiest way, the game is $30 USD. There is talk about the end final product of DayZ being sold as a stand-alone game, but we're far from that, so if you want to join in on the zombie fun, Arma: II is what you will need.
Anonymous pretty much hits on everything you'll need to know though. I play windowed. At current even with great programs like ShiftWindow you still cannot get true fullscreen windowed. Anyone who plans on streaming with Windowed mode on you're going to have to deal with this by creating some sort of overlay to cover up the taskbar/window title. I use maximum brightness to allow me to see in darker conditions. Most things are optional here save for three options. The disabling of Postprocess effects is an absolute must. Shadow detail fails miserably on almost any setting other than High, so keep it there if your system can handle it. Lastly always make sure video memory is set to default, again outlined in Anonymous' post. "Very High" setting in Video Memory forces 512mb regardless of your video card, default will detect it.
Make sure to turn off "Mouse Smoothing" in your Arma: II control options. It is garbage.While you're in the controls section, take a quick gander at the keybinds. Almost every one of the keybinds can be extremely useful. Basic keysbinds that everybody should know are WASD for movement, Q for left lean, E for right lean, Z prone, X crouch, C stand. Double tap W for sprinting. F for throw commands, G for backpack. Most things can be done by right clicking items in your inventory or using scroll wheel+mouse three for the options menu.A great video explaining the basics can be found here.
Some users with lower tier computers have found Arma: II decent in terms of it's ability to downgrade video settings. Another tip for slower computers is to use RAMDISK to house your DayZ mod files. This was outlined in a fantastic reddit post by grizzlymann. Thank him for his efforts with delicious karmas. Similarly, you may want to run the mod from your SSD should you have one.
So! Assuming you're all configured out, you're probably pretty excited to play! So go ahead and join up on a server. Picking a server from a city near you can help keep lag down but you certainly don't have to feel obligated to do so. Keep in mind that if you're going to start a camp with your pals, if you're going to farm vehicles and try to keep them, you're going to have to find a 'home' server - a server you connect to 100% of the time. Tents and vehicles are not saved globally like your character and all of his/her items.
Thank you for making it all the way through this wall of text. If you're new, I hope this helped you, and let me know if so! If you're a veteran already, go ahead and let me know of things I should add. I will continue to edit and update as I want this to be useful to people. Ideally I'm looking for this:
Friend: Hey! you're playing DayZ? is it awesome?
You: Yes, get it..
As promised, the Link Library for everything important to DayZ is as follows!
http://dayzmod.com/ - DayZ mod official website. Join the forums to get the latest of news.
https://twitter.com/#!/dayzdevteam - DayZ mod official twitter. Another great way to stay in touch with updates.
http://www.six-updater.net/p/download.html - Six Updater download link
http://dayzwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page - DayZ wiki. Learn about items, weapons, and everything right from here.
http://www.reddit.com/r/dayz - DayZ reddit. Get everything from user content, stories, and updates to the game from here.
http://dayzdb.com/map - Hands down the best map showing everything from where loot spawns to what loot and at what percent.