The War Z Farce

The War Z launched on Steam yesterday, and is unfortunately the current top seller on the platform.

‘Unfortunately’, because the game is blatantly unfinished, and the developers’ all-round attitude and behaviour has been an utter disgrace.

For as long as there has been talk about The War Z, there have been accusations about it ripping off Day Z, the in-development mod for ARMA 2: Combined Operations.. these are understandable enough when you look at the game details side by side, but most games take inspiration from elsewhere.. and there is no shortage of zombie games lately.

More worrying is the suggestion that The War Z was pushed out early to beat DayZ to launch, which seems true based on all the reports I’ve seen around the net.  As for that selling point of being the “first” survival MMO with zombies?  Take a look at Dead Frontier, a free to play survival horror MMORPG which has been going for a few years now.  Yeah.

The War Z is missing many of the features they boasted about on the Steam product page: the “huge persistent world” with various maps from 100 to 400 km2 in size is actually only one map of 72-100km2 (I’ve seen both figures quoted for ‘Colorado’); there are no private servers available to rent yet, and the servers that do exist only allowed up to 50 players, rather than the stated 100 players (Servers allowing up to 100 players have now been added to the pool after complaints).

As for gaining experience points and learning dozens of available skills.. the skill system doesn’t even exist!

The screenshots for this game have been staged, with scenes and features that don’t even exist in the game.  I’m not against a little bit of staging.. setting the scene so it looks good, putting the zombies where you can see them, a body here, and so on.. but if the screenshots are not representative of the game then it’s just fraudulent.

One of the worst things about this is the bad attitude that the devs have displayed towards their paying customers.

On The War Z forums, Executive Producer Sergey Titov has admitted that some of the information on the Steam product page could have allowed for “multiple interpretations”, and apologised to players “who misread information about game features”.

I don’t see how anyone can say that customers have “misread” any of the statements on the Steam product page, and I think it’s rather offensive to claim customers are so stupid that they can’t understand the product description.

In an interview with Gamespy, he again blames customers for imagining details about the game: “I’m sure there’ll be people who will look into small details and will say “no I was mislead,” where in fact they imagined something to themselves without checking details first.”

There are plenty of other reports of people being banned for complaining about problems, or randomly banned for ‘hacking’ (via detection of players picking up baited weapons, rather than any true hacking), and one particularly nasty threat for users requesting refunds; that they will be added to a blacklist of non-trusted users, which may mean other services refuse them in providing payments in future.  The latest version of The War Z’s Terms of Service even says that customers will not be entitled to a refund for any reason.

I think it’s worth pointing out that there are European laws entitling customers to a refund if the game is not as advertised, and that our laws always take precedence over any ToS.

In addition to the purchase price of the game, there are also microtransactions, for weapons, items, consumables and so on.  The devs claim there will be no pay to win in The War Z, and sure, you can’t purchase fantastically overpowered weapons, to go and beat other players but still.. if you don’t pay then you’re going to be defending yourself in this PvE and PvP world with a torch unless you find something useful just laying around.

Items bought with real money disappear when your player dies.  I assumed this meant consumables when I first heard about it.. but no, this means weapons and costume items too!

When you die, and you will, there’s a four hour respawn time.. unless you pay more money to revive instantly.  Previously this was a one hour respawn time.. I can only assume that some players were waiting the hour out, doing other things, and Hammerpoint just weren’t making enough money.

TotalBiscuit’s first look at the game shows quite how poor it is at present: bad textures, poor modelling and animation, slow loading of player models.. so slow that TB was killed by another player before their character model had even loaded.. and a terrible implementation of fall damage that means taking damage for walking down slopes!

On top of that, the game world itself looks horribly empty too, with none of the abandoned vehicles you’d expect to see on the roads between locations, no suitcases, broken items, litter, and other things that help to make a world look real.  There’s really nothing to do other than try to get into one of the built up locations in hopes of finding supplies.. which from this video, appears to be a risky business even if you have bought a weapon.

Don’t buy The War Z.  Don’t even buy anything else from Hammerpoint Interactive, or any other venture involving Sergey Titov.  This kind of crappy behaviour shouldn’t be rewarded.

Valve’s part in this is a little worrying too.  Are they not checking the games they release now?

Hammerpoint isn’t the first developer to be accused of cashing in with an incomplete game on Steam; the indie town building and management game Towns was also initially launched via Steam Greenlight as a full game, with the product page only updated to reflect the Beta status after many, many complaints.

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