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H1Z1 is leaving Steam Early Access right now, adding a new cars-only mode

Auto Royale is now live for all owners

A gunman wearing a motorcycle helmet and football shoulder pads looms over a collection of grimly attired characters backlit by explosions, parachutes and a flying pickup truck. Daybreak Game Company

H1Z1, the battle royale-style survival game released on Steam’s Early Access platform in the first quarter of 2015, is formally launching today. After three years of active development the 1.0 version of the game is now available for $19.99.

Along with today’s release, the developers at Daybreak Game Company are adding a new game mode called Auto Royale. It’s a vehicles-only version of the classic battle royale game that mixes Mario Kart-style jumps, power-ups and arcade-y physics with third-person shooting action. Players drop into the mode in teams, with one player driving and all others firing out the windows of the vehicle.

When H1Z1 launched in 2015 it had multiple game modes, including a DayZ-style persistent open-world survival game and Battle Royale. That last-man-standing mode was designed with the help of Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene, who would later go on to create PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Since H1Z1’s launch, it’s been split into two different games. H1Z1: King of the Kill retained the Battle Royale mode, while H1Z1: Just Survive went forward with the open-world game mode. Since that time, H1Z1: King of the Kill was renamed H1Z1. H1Z1: Just Survive was likewise renamed to Just Survive. The two games are still developed by teams at Daybreak, but no longer share the same lore.

There is no update on when Just Survive will leave Early Access at this time.

It’s also worth noting that the original H1Z1 was pitched as a free-to-play game, with a premium alpha version available in Steam Early Access for $19.99. When that title split into two, owners received a copy of each in-development game.

Currently, H1Z1 still costs $19.99. Castoro told Polygon that there are no plans to transition to free-to-play in the future.

An animation shows how points are awarded at the end of a match.
H1Z1’s new scoring system will reward consistency across multiple matches, not just kills and ranking in your current match.
Daybreak Game Company

Today’s announcement that H1Z1 has left Early Access comes in the wake of a staggering drop in the game’s player base. More than 90 percent of its active users have stopped playing over the last five months.

“We’re aware of where the numbers are,” Castoro told Polygon. “This [full release of the game] is not something that we just pulled out of our back pocket. The team has been working overtime for months to prepare this game to come out of Early Access.

“We’ve had a huge audience of people and there’s a lot of fondness for the game, but we really feel like putting together a fully-realized version of the game and coming out of Early Access is an opportunity for people to come back and try the game again.”

Additional features available at launch include a “tactical deployment” map that will allow players to jump into any portion of the map that they choose. The tactical part comes from a continuously updating heat map that shows where other players have elected to land. Airdrops have also been revamped. They’re currently the only way to pick up laminated armor, the game’s most powerful defensive item. Additionally, a new scoring system for the first in-game season of play will reward owners for consistency from match to match.

Yellow and red blobs demarcate regions of the map where more or less players have chosen to drop into a given game.
The new heatmap will give real-time feedback as players choose where to drop on the map. Castoro says they’re currently experimenting with how often the starting safe zone is shown at all prior to game-on.
Daybreak Game Company

“It still has your top-ten placement,” Castoro said, “but now [...] we actually modify your total score and your top-ten standing [in each match] with your average kills per match and average placement per match. So you can actually move up and down out of the ranks based on how consistently you play.”

Daybreak recently signed a partnership agreement with Chinese megacorporation Tencent to publish H1Z1 in that market. Tencent has grown to become one of the largest game companies in the world, with investments in Paradox, Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, Epic Games and Clash of Clans developer Supercell.

Late last year, Tencent even signed on to publish H1Z1’s competitor, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, in China.

Daybreak Game Company also told Polygon that the upcoming launch of the H1Z1 Pro League was on schedule, and an announcement regarding a console version of the game is coming soon.