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How not to launch a video game, starring The War Z
How not to launch a video game, starring  The War Z
December 20, 2012 | By Mike Rose

December 20, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    28 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Over the course of 48 hours, zombie survival game the War Z appeared on Steam for purchase, was brutally panned by critics and gamers, and rather quickly pulled down from the store by Valve -- a warning that, if you choose to mislead your players, it can come back to bite you on the ass.

The game launched earlier this week, described as a "survival horror MMO", in which players attempt to survive for as long as possible in a zombie-infested world, with other players occupying the same world online. The title is very similar to popular Arma II mod DayZ, which is currently in the midst of getting its own standalone release.

However, shortly after the launch, players began to notice that certain elements of the game's description were not strictly true. For example, there was no mention of the game being an alpha build, even though development studio Hammerpoint Interactive had said elsewhere that this was the case.

Meanwhile, the Steam page added that there were private servers available to play in, while up to 100 players could be in the same server at once. As it turned out, neither of these claims were true -- at least not for the available build.

Hammerpoint changed the game's description later in the day to fit the actual features of the game, but by then the damage was already done with players. Eventually the game was pulled, and Valve issued a statement to Kotaku, noting, "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."

Valve also says that those people who had already purchased the game are able to claim a refund if they choose to do so. Meanwhile, Hammerpoint's Sergey Titov says that his company is currently assessing the situation, in a bid "to have satisfied and not angry customers."

It's notable that Valve rarely steps in to remove recently published games from Steam -- a real sign of just how messy this entire situation is, not just for Valve and the War Z team, but also for Dean "Rocket" Hall, the creator behind DayZ. War Z is heavily inspired by Hall's game, and as you'd expect, he was watching yesterday's goings-on with a close eye.

"I've been pretty depressed about the whole situation," he noted on Reddit. "From a personal standpoint, this whole 'saga' of the development made me seriously question if I wanted to be involved in the industry and I gave serious thought to cutting my losses and not being involved in the [DayZ] project."

He added, "At my Army Discharge medical this week, they noted I now have high blood pressure. Some things in life just aren't worth worrying about."


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Comments


Mike Jenkins
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@Christoph
War Z was not in development before Day Z became popular, that was another lie. 6 months ago they started slapping zombies into their other game, War Inc.

Note the date:

http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?212608-ArmA-I
I-DayZ&p=6177919&viewfull=1#post6177919

The whole thing is a scam at worst or just underhanded, horrible and unethical at best.

R. Hunter Gough
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ah, thanks. I was also wondering how this had bypassed Greenlight. It makes sense if it was a major overhaul of a project that had already been in the system pre-Greenlight.

James Yee
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Don't forget there is still the standard ways of getting into Steam that don't use Greenlight. As Mike rightly points out these guys are basically the War Inc. ones which are basically on Steam already and hence have a normal release channel. (At least I believe so)

Thom Q
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This is what you get if you build a blatant rip-off. There was already so much negativity towards this game, that when it came out, people noticed the big flaws / "lies" straight away.

Not only is the whole premise of the game flawed: a Pay to Win Survival game, but indeed the hiding that it's not more then an alpha really pissed people off.
On top of that, they got Ban fever..

In their press statement on Steam removing the War Z they actually claimed that it was due to people who "read the information wrong"

People who asked for a refund got banned and blacklisted with certain international payment options. If there was one hacker on a server, they just banned 75% of the players on there. And most recently, there are rumors that they ban players who play a lot, since those would most likely get a new copy..

It's disgusting, and people should remember the name Sergey Titov in the future.

Mark Venturelli
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Speaking of remembering Sergey Titov, isn't this the same guy who released Big Rigs - arguably the worst game/scam ever?

Alex Boccia
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oh sheesh

Lewis Wakeford
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Hopefully Valve will take this as a sign whatever quality control they have in place is ineffective. They ignore plenty of legit games but crap like this gets through?

Daneel Filimonov
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It seems you can never run away from the past. Anyone remember "Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing"? Of course you have, it was the worst game of the decade. THE DECADE! Yup, that was made by Titov as well. Sergey is a scam and should be shunned from game development.

Jason Lee
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This is from the Big Rigs developer?! This makes so much more sense now.

Big Rigs is the Troll 2 of video games. Now I'm a little sad I can't get a copy of WarZ; I want to grab some popcorn and look at this train wreck for myself.

Dimitri Del Castillo
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The Xplay review of that game had me rolling. Titov is a shyster that should get run out of town.

Thom Q
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Unfortunately the Big Rigs story is debunked (see the wiki page). The sad thing for Sergey is that it's more than believable...

Maurício Gomes
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What do you mean debunked?

Sergey DID owned Big Rigs developer company, and is credited as producer and engine author.

the only debunked part is that he was the lead programmer... if you can call that debunked...

Bisse Mayrakoira
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Alex Navarro's review of Big Rigs for Gamespot is the best. I don't think Xplay managed to present it in an interesting fashion.

Maria Jayne
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I wonder if this will impact DayZ, the names are different but not that different considering the content is very similar and people buying WarZ clearly didn't know much about it beforehand.

Poor developer with a poor game, cashing in on the popularity of a better game by releasing early and feeding on the hopes and dreams of said fans, despicable really.

Thom Q
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I think DayZ has enough support and love from the core community, that once the stand-alone version comes out, the hype is going to go to the next level.
Provided that the stand-alone of DayZ doesn't suck / is plagued by bugs / has none of the extra options or polishing the mod needed.

James Yee
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Thom Q hit it on the head and it's a big head to hit. Day Z is great as a mod both for ARMA II and soon III (Last I read they said it already worked in early builds of Arma III) that mod community will be ready and probably eager to jump strait into the stand alone build just to get away from the "Mod cookiness" of the ARMA versions. :)

That said they do have to deliver a good game on it's own and won't be able to rely on being just "mod jank" they have to get it to work and stand on it's own two feet and not just beg off all the errors. :|

Groove Stomp
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I don't even see how WarZ can exist. I constantly confuse which game I'm talking about. I almost always mean to talk about DayZ, but sometimes refer to it as WarZ because they completely ripped off the name. The concept is also so similar.

I am not a fan of software patents, but this is a case where the WarZ should *not* exist because it is obviously a flat-out ripoff.

Jeremy Reaban
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What's the difference between Doom and Halo? Both are 1st person shooters starring space marines. Heck, both even have 4 letter names.

Okay, in this case, it's pretty much a blatant rip-off. But the demand for this sort of game is apparently there, and no one else is filling it, so...

Ron Dippold
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Honestly, if it had been any good, I wouldn't see a real problem. You can have Minecraft, then you can have Terraria and all the various other Minecraft variations. A good variation changes things up slightly and doesn't really hurt the original (Notch has been very supportive, and it certainly doesn't seem to have hurt Minecraft's sales).

What hurts is something that's obviously trying to clone your game but is just a total scam that burns everyone who comes into contact with it.

Mark Venturelli
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Argh, don't even start, Jeremy. Even you could see you were being pedantic...

Copyright law is there to protect things like that: the costumers are actually confusing the two games.

This IS a crime. People DO think that WarZ and DayZ standalone are one and the same.

Ron Dippold
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I've been reading up on this off and on all night. It's really fascinating. You've got a guy who's apparently a pathological liar (We were working on this before DayZ!) but charismatic enough to convince people to work for him, he's got a small army of astroturfers who invade comment threads to say how great the game is (will they show up here?), and forum moderators who anathematize and ruthlessly eliminate the slightest hint of discontent. They blame purchasers for 'misreading' false statements they've made, spin spin spin.

As far as I can tell OP Productions released it in this unfinished state to get whatever sales they could because someone at Valve was completely asleep at the wheel, or just far too trusting. But they didn't realize that Valve could lay down the ultimate doom hammer and stop sales and offer refunds. Now it's complete damage control mode, but I don't think they actually have the technical skills to deliver what they promised.

Congrats, you managed to outsleazy Zynga for worst game company of 2012 in the home stretch.

James Yee
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Well maybe Gamasutra isn't on their Astroturf radar because I haven't seen any here. :)

I agree with you the whole thing feels far more sleezy than the clone schemes of Zynga.

Maurício Gomes
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Bumped into this by accident:

http://www.poepra2.com.br/blog/warz_fraud/

This is a brazillian post from october with the author expecting WarZ to be vaporware or just be released rushed and buggy...

Ron Dippold
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Hah, very nice Maurício. Here's a google translate for those of us who don't know Portuguese. http://tinyurl.com/ck3k3pg

Ron Dippold
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[removed] should have been a reply

Ramin Shokrizade
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I don't think it was a coincidence that I used this company's previous produce, War inc., as my model for how *not* to monetize a game in my Supremacy Goods model I wrote in February and published here a few months ago: http://gamasutra.com/view/news/177237/The_new_rules_of_monetizati
on.php#.UNiQ-W9X2HB

I don't think this will be the last we hear of this company.

Carlos Sousa
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You know, all of this "reputation" that Mr. Titov is earning... Could this actually serve him some sort of popularity for his future games? I know this might sound ridiculous but could this negative fame also work to his benefit? Maybe I'm just tripping on my thoughts!

Joshuah Kusnerz
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That could very well be the case. Look at the comic book industry. Both Greg Land and Rob Liefeld have controversial reputations stemming from some pretty harsh allegations. Both are still in demand and people collect their work, even those who publicly decry it. We see the same thing with Ed Wood, Michael Bay, Joel Schumacher and good ol' video game kryptonite, Uwe Boll. Some people are drawn to schlock, some might even actually enjoy it.

Titov is taking a trend in the industry (micro-transactions) and pushing them to the sad logical conclusion. Pay-to-win. We may be headed to a revenue model reminiscent of the old arcades on crack. I personally think that paying 25 cents per life might work for some online titles. However I would tend to shy away from designing DLC that really should be included in the full title (necessary levels, entire characters, skill trees, tutorials, etc.). When I saw War-Z store screen I thought it was a parody of this concept "spend all your money to get a full game".
I think Carlos has a point, some people may follow Titov simply to collect his games, either ironically, or just to have a part of history (much like collectors of Duke Nukem Forever).
Just my 5 cents.


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