The War Z - What Went Wrong?
Hacking, forum bans, lies on Steam - what the hell happened with The War Z?
Published on Dec 19, 2012
Never have we seen a gaming community turn on a game as quickly as has happened with The War Z. When it was announced, the response was wary but most were willing to give it a chance. There was no denying The War Z was born with an eye on the recent success of DayZ yet there was time for The War Z to forge its own identity and become its own game.
Now it's finally been released via Steam, The War Z has hit rock bottom. Here's a diary of what's gone wrong and when, and we'll update this with any further important developments.
19 July 2012
The War Z is officially announced and will be developed by Hammerpoint Interactive and published through OP Productions. Sergey Titov will be the executive producer. One of his previous titles includes Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing, a game notorious for… well, have a look.
Similarities to DayZ, a popular zombie-themed survival mod for Arma2, are immediately noted and addressed.
“While we began developing our game before DayZ, we’ve been encouraged by fact that DayZ has become so popular,” Titov tells IGN. “And yes, of course some of our latest design decisions were influenced by the DayZ community forums.”
8 August 2012
A post appears on Reddit poking holes in the claim that The War Z had been in development before DayZ. The evidence also mentions Arktos Interactive being at the helm for The War Z, with Arktos Interactive only having worked on free-to-play War Inc previously.
14 August 2012
Following on from that Reddit post, images are posted showing the similarities between the official screenshots for The War Z and Arktos' only game to date, War Inc.
18 August 2012
A Reddit link to a post made by SergeyTitov on the War Inc forms in May, saying that Hammerpoint sent the concept to Arktos “a couple of weeks ago”, which puts the beginning of development two months prior to the announcement, at most.
The post on the War Inc forums has since been deleted.
Sergey Titov says Hammerpoint “inadvertently incorporated part of an old EULA” used at Riot Games, developer of League of Legends and former employer of Titov. The gaffe in the Terms Of Service was a “legitimate mistake.”
John Robertson writes The War Z vs DayZ for us, based on his time spent with the beta.
"It's like a child imitating its parent; the kid can go through the motions, but it doesn't understand the meaning," says Robertson. "If DayZ is a zombie-apocalypse survival simulator, then The War Z is a zombie-apocalypse survival shooter. Simply put, in their respective states, there's no reason to own and play them both.
"With the standalone edition of DayZ on the horizon, Hammerpoint still has a long way to go in convincing us that its creation is a worthy competitor."
The War Z launches on Steam. Now take a deep breath, because this is when everything kicks off…
Complaints about the game immediately follow - there are problems with hackers, bugs, glitches and the general rough state of the game.
Worse, the description page on Steam lists many features in The War Z that simply aren't true. For example, the claims listed include:
- A Huge Persistent World: The War Z is an open world game. Each world has areas between 100 to 400 square kilometers (PCGamesN has worked out the world is barely 10 square km)
- Up to 100 players per game server (the maximum is 50)
- Dedicated Public Servers as well as Private Servers (private servers are not yet implemented)
- Two modes of Play: Normal and Hardcore (Hardcore is not yet implemented)
Gamespy interviews Titov and asks him about the misleading Steam description. "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," answers Titov.
"Let's be frank: when you read "up to 100 players" - what does it mean to you personally? I mean, for me it doesn't mean that I will play with 99 other players. Really."
A wave of bans kick in following the rampant hacking in The War Z and some innocent players are caught in the crossfire. The War Z community manager, Kewk, admits the mistake on behalf of the developers and said that 5% of the banned players hadn't done anything wrong. Their accounts were reinstated with 700GC given to those players by way of an apology.
YouTube personality TotalBiscuit plays through The War Z, labelling it 'The Bore Z' and at one point, gets killed by a floating backpack and torch.
Later in the day, a patch is released that increases the respawn timer from one hour to four, while also adding a monetisation feature that allows you to instantly buy back in.
The War Z community manager, Kewk, becomes the moderator on the Steam community hub for the title. Rules outlined on the subform include not being allowed to talk about the hacks or refunds.
However, a Reddit thread emerges that says any criticism of The War Z sees not only the thread deleted but the user banned too.
In the meantime, Sergey Titov addresses the issues about the Steam description on The War Z forums: “There were a number of customers that felt that information about the game was presented in a way that could have allowed for multiple interpretations. We've taken steps to correct this and format information presented on our Steam Store page in a way so it provides more clear information about game features that are present in the Foundation Release and what to expect in the coming weeks.”
The Steam description for The War Z is updated.
Valve steps in to ‘investigate’ the forum moderation, after players complain about being banned for saying anything negative about The War Z – including opinions that don’t violate the ToS outlined by Kewk.
Valve eventually removed The War Z from Steam. "From time to time a mistake can be made and one was made by prematurely issuing a copy of War Z for sale via Steam," they told Kotaku. "We apologise for this and have temporary [sic] removed the sale offering of the title until we have time to work with the developer and have confidence in a new build."
Titov also got in contact with Kotaku and said: "We're making sure that our store page is 100% correct this is why. Bottom line - our end goal is to have satisfied and not angry customers, so this is more important for us than anything else."
A Kotaku reader notes that the main promotional image for The War Z has copied zombies directly from Walking Dead (the TV show, not the game).
PCGamer interviewed Titov over Steam's decision to pull The War Z from sal, a decision he agrees with as "we think this is the best way to serve their customers and we respect their decision."
The misleading description on the Steam page is blamed on a disconnect between the development team and marketing team - "ultimately it's our responsibility" - plus an element of complacency as The War Z had been publicly available for a month prior to its launch on Steam.
In the meantime, one of the developers - RussianKaliber - posted the following on The War Z forums:
"I am embarrassed for the Steam situation. If I said I wasnt, I would be purely lying.
However I want to stress out the fact that, NONE of US will be giving up, or have any intention to give up on our game. Its out of question and discussion.
Its ok to have disagreements on the team, but we are not quiting or killing the project. Sergey did an interview with the PC gamer, and answered the important questions. As for me and my team, we have a lot of work ahead of us."