It seems like ages ago that we first heard about The War Z, a zombie survival MMO that looked suspiciously similar to Day Z. While it got some flack as a bit of a rip off, most were still keen to see what happened with the survival MMO. It was a bit different to Dean “Rocket” Hall's creation and it was a full game, not a mod. Surely it would have some improvements?
Today the story is very different. The creators of The War Z, Hammerpoint, have been accused of scamming customers, lying to them, misleading Valve into believing it was a full release, banning players to get more money out of them, endless bugs, allowing hackers to continue unchecked, horrible business practices and so much more.
With that in mind, we thought it might be a good idea to look back on how we got here and some of the biggest hiccups in the release of a game that had perhaps one of the toughest times in 2012.
We first heard about The War Z earlier in the year, when it was touted as a potential Day Z dethroner. At this point we were more interested in the story than anything else, chronicling that there did seem to be an aim to it – other than just the “stay alive” mentality touted by DayZ.
In-fact some reviewers actually praised early versions of the game's alpha, suggesting it was quite pretty – for an alpha – and that character customisation was pretty strong. However, as you might have expected if you know anything about the history of Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing creator, Sergey Titov, it wasn't long before he said something stupid.
In October 2012, he called out hackers and spawn campers as “faggots,” prompting backlash from the gaming community and an apology was quickly issued by Hammerpoint, their PR department keen to suggest that Titov didn't have any problems with homosexuality.
It got worse, as just a month later the US Patent and Trademark Office announced it wouldn't accept Hammerpoint's application for The War Z patent, since it too closely resembled upcoming movie and novel by Max Brooks: World War Z. Its connection to also similar sounding DayZ wasn't brought up.
It doesn't seem like it would have been too hard to come up with something that didn’t' sound as similar – and as naff – as The War Z.
Looking to cash in on the Christmas buying season, Hammerpoint rallied its developers and released what was described as a “foundation release,” on December 17th. This confused gamers as they believed it to be a finished game. They quickly discovered that the bug filled release was anything but that, with Titov again taking centre stage and declaring that the game would never be finished, since it was an MMO.
However on top of the huge numbers of hackers within the game, the bugs, the poor texture quality and modelling, that prompted poor reviews from critics and gamers alike, the big story shortly after release was that the developers appeared to be lying on the game's Steam page. It promised features such as 100 man servers, 400 square kilometers of game world and learnable skills. To date only the first of those features is actually present in game.
While Titov felt that gamers had simply “misinterpreted” the wording and apologised for them doing so – the balls on this guy - Valve felt otherwise, and pulled the game from Steam, suggesting that if Hammerpoint wanted it back on there, then it would need to provide the Half Life developer with a build that satisfied its idea of a game that was ready for release.
Since then, one intrepid player actually mapped out the available play area of the game. It turned out to be less than ten square kilometers, a far cry from the 400 claimed initially and the 100 km sq+ that Titov defended the game as having on release day.
Other criticism of the game suggested it as exploitative of the Free to Play model, suggesting that since you have to buy the game initially for $15, it wasn't free to play. On top of that though, weapons, respawns and other augments for characters within the game itself were incredibly difficult to come by unless you spent real money.
All the controversy obviously led to people making continued comparisons, with the much more well loved DayZ, developed by Dean Hall, who at this point was working with Bohemia on a full Day Z game. He released a statement suggesting that the whole “saga” of The War Z had left him feeling drained and reconsidering his future career in gaming.
Valve also announced further investigation into the game in late December, after rumours appeared of people getting banned from Steam forums for criticising the game, as well as having their accounts banned after a certain amount of time was used up in-game. This prompted them to suggest that Hammerpoint was trying to get them to buy the game again in order to milk them for more cash.
A few days ago we again had an apology from producer Titov, saying that everything had been his fault. He claimed he was arrogant and unthoughtful in his work at Hammerpoint and during the War Z development. Gamers didn't really take it to heart and they shouldn't have, because nothing has changed, despite Titov's calls for at least the betterment of communication with fans.
These crocodile tears were so unmoving to the gaming community, that it led to hackers smashing The War Z's servers, making it impossible for Steam players to login.
However despite this embarrassing saga of development and release, someone called it ages ago. Back in the middle of last year an ex employee showed up and spilled the beans on the plans for the game. It turns out it was a conversion project. Half Way through developing an iPhone game called War Inc. Hammerpoint switched it to a zombie title for the PC, in order to cash in on DayZ. Its intentions are to drop the game six months after launch, providing little in the way of support, as by then it will have recouped costs.
What a mess.
If you want to keep up to date with the latest gaffs with what will likely be one of the most hated games of 2013 as well, check out the WarZ Scam tumbler.