“Photojournalism from the fronts lines of the Chenarus infestation.”
Trust is a finite resource on Chenarus, but it’s a commodity that the boys of the Freeside Trading Company must rely on.
(Gallery of full-sized images at the bottom of the page)
When two people meet on Chenarus, usually one of them ends up dead. But the Freeside Trading Company is attempting to carve out a little piece of civilization in a world dominated by mistrust and desperate aggression. They are doing this in the face of banditry, zombie infestation and relentless hacker attacks.
The Company is run by three main officers: Publik, Vulwulf and Kurkistan. When Publik first contacted me he told me that they had managed to set up a working trading post on Chenarus. Every weekend they meet, customers turn up and they facilitate trades between the people who arrive. I was impressed. How could this even be possible? It seemed to me like a logistical nightmare. When I asked Vulwulf why it is that they do this he told me: “I can’t give you a really good answer as to why I do it – why we do it… So many people had said ‘this is a great idea but it isn’t possible’. I did it half to prove them wrong and half to do something amazing.” They have certainly achieved this goal.
When I arrived at the camp I was even more impressed. Barbed wire, tank traps and sandbags have been placed to force customers through a prescribed route through the camp and into the customer holding area. Customers are met a short distance outside of camp and are escorted by two members of the company whenever they wish to enter or leave. They must walk at all times, never run and have their weapons lowered. They are constantly watched by ever-vigilant guards. Customers must all stay inside the holding pen at all times and sit on the floor when not making a trade. That can either trade with each other or sometimes directly with the Company itself. The whole operation runs smoothly and efficiently with everyone aware of their roles.
The Company faces a problem. It’s the big one. The hackers. Every single op they run is a huge target for those looking to test out their new hacks. I had only been at the trading post for an hour before a hacker ran a script that insta-killed everyone on the server, and the hackers are taking their toll. Publik speaks of an “utter lack of morale at this point with all the bullshit that we pull. DayZ at the moment is kinda run by the hackers. It’s sad but true.”
So why are the company still trading in the face of this onslaught? “Every time I see a post on the forums saying ‘you guys are doing a great job, we traded with you guys and despite what’s happening with the hackers you should keep going’ that is what keeps me going.”
Juicebox, a charismatic and confident combat officer, told me: “It’s the greatest game I’ve ever played when you actually fight someone that’s legit. It’s the most intense feeling I’ve ever had. That’s why I keep playing, just hoping for that fair fight.”. Then Vulwulf chimes in: “We actually had a legit attack on Friday’s op. From what I gathered from the radio chatter during the confusion there were 8 of them. We had killed four and lost two of ours. We were laying down suppressing fire while a team of three led by Kurkistan tried to flank them. Then just as they were coming up on their flank a hacker teleported us all to Solnichniy and tried to blow us all up with a satchel charge. Even with the hacker attack it was still the most fun I’d had during an op.”
I was along for the ride during trading hours last Sunday when they suffered their most devastating attack to date, which ended with an explosive finale. For once the attackers appeared to be genuine non-hackers. They were highly organized and on this occasion the Freeside Trading Company were bested. Their number were diminished quite possibly due to the morale issues cited by Publik – ten players, four new. According to Vulwulf this is “what I consider just enough people to safely defend Devil’s Castle.” I was atop the tower photographing of one of their sniper team when it happened. The shot rang out and the sniper fell to floor before my eyes. I immediately hit the deck and crawled panicking back down into the tower. The radio chatter became furtive as the Company responded. Snipers manned their posts, the guards on the gate readied for battle and a team was designated to mount a counter attack on the snipers, to be led by Juicebox. This team needed another member and, tempted by the thought of the amazing action that might greet the lens of my camera, I volunteered. Big mistake.
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On Juicebox’s orders we ran through the main gate of the castle, veering wildly left to right as we made a break for the tree-line. I never made it. I got maybe 20 feet and was cut down. I cursed my own stupidity for volunteering for such a dangerous mission rather than holding back and documenting the action. Now all I could do was listen in from the coast as I attempted to run the 10km back to the castle, knowing it would be over by the time I got there. From here on I must defer to the accounts given by others who saw the battle to it’s explosive conclusion. The attacking team rapidly took out more and more Company employees. Juicebox made it to the trees but was himself killed by an unseen enemy with a silenced weapon. At least our deaths had bought enough time for the snipers on the tower to take down two of the opposing force. Soon afterwards the attackers stormed the front gate and killed both the guards there, who were kneeling behind protective sandbags.
Four of the six customers cut and ran but the remaining two implored Vulwulf to let them fight. Vulwulf knew the battle was not going their way so decided he had nothing to lose. They retreated into the main tower to form an effective sniper squad while Vulwulf guarded the main entrance. He writes: “the enemy were getting close and [they] wouldn’t have just run into the tower, they probably would have flushed me out with grenades, so I went out to meet them. That was my first mistake, the second was not realising how many zombies would have been attracted to the tower by the snipers up top shooting.”. Taking advantage of his distraction one of the attackers put a high powered bullet straight through him.
Shortly after this both the traders were shot down by enemy snipers which left Ace, a new recruit in the tower alone. Somehow that brave hero managed to hold that tower for a further half-hour on his own. He was saved when another squad turned up to attack the castle. The group, known as Elysium have attacked the Freeside Trading Company before and had always put up a good fight in the past. While the original attackers were busy fighting them, Ace took his opportunity to sneak out and run for his life, the only Company employee who lived to tell this extraordinary tale. Elysium report that they drove the attackers into the tower, found satchel charges on a corpse and blew the whole tower up with them inside.
My time with the Freeside Trading Company has earned them my greatest respect. They have chosen a very difficult path despite being told repeatedly that it would never work. They have been mercilessly and repeatedly script-killed by hackers and they have kept going. They plan on keeping this up through to the DayZ standalone and beyond. I look forward to following their journey.
If you’d like to contact the Freeside Trading Company or organise a trade with/through them you can visit their forums at http://freesidetrading.co
If you think your group would make a good subject for the DayZ War Photographer’s lens you can contact Joss at DayZWarPhoto@gmail.com. Read more about Joss Widdowson at the BuzzFeed article posted here.
Below is a full gallery of my pictures taken with the Freeside Trading Company.
All images belong to Joss Widdowson and are released under a creative commons non-commercial share-alike licence. Feel free to copy them, display them or adapt them. Just please don’t sell them.