Lies, missing features, censorship, and a removal from Steam: The War Z controversy so far
Hammerpoint Interactive is in hot water over alleged misrepresentations of its newly-released game, The War Z. The game was posted to Steam yesterday, and almost immediately gamers reacted with anger over what they see as lies or misrepresentations of the game’s features. The War Z‘s executive producer Sergey Titov calls them “interpretations.”
You can’t handle the truth
In an interview with GameSpy, Titov stated that the game was “foundational,” and that the game would never be “fully released” due to its online nature. “Online games are [a] living breathing GAME SERVICE. This is not a boxed product that you buy one time. It’s evolving product that will have more and more features and content coming it. This is what The War Z is,” he said.
“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.”
Except people have checked the details, and therein lies the problem. The initial listing on Steam advertised multiple maps that were colossal in scale – 100 to 400 sq. kilometers. The page has since been revised to reflect the truth that the game only has one map, which is supposedly 100 sq. kilometers in size. PCGamesN did a thorough test of the game and found the map to actually be less than a tenth of that.
There are many other examples of exaggerated claims and outright falsehoods. Tom Ohle of Evolve PR, the public relations firm behind The Witcher 2, has shared his thoughts. “Okay, so normally I do everything I can to avoid criticizing someone’s PR efforts. Who am I to say that the way you’ve learned to do something is wrong? Well, in this case, I want to give a bit of advice to the fine folks at Hammerpoint: please, guys, stop talking!” his column starts.
“The sad part of all of this is that the negative publicity will merely lead to more awareness of a game that — by a number of accounts — isn’t (in its current state) worth the time,” Ohle writes. “There are a lot of developers out there who are under-promising and over-delivering, and many of them (and their games) will slide under the radar, never to achieve the sales success of The War Z.”
We’ve seen something like this before; when Towns was made available on Steam Greenlight, players had a similar reaction. That game was marketed as a fully-playable build even though it hadn’t reached version 1.0 yet, and used modified assets as official screenshots. When players complained, a moderator for the community told them they “should have done more homework.” Developer arrogance never helps these situations, and it seems clear Hammerpoint is barely willing to admit any wrongdoing.
Terms of Disservice
Titov’s suggestion that players are imagining their plight is bad enough, but Hammerpoint’s abuse is systemic. Kotaku has a rundown of other ways in which The War Z has alienated players and tried to cover its mess, which includes several eyebrow-raising points.
For one, players aren’t allowed to talk about why they quit on the game’s forums. This is perfectly legal, mind you – these are Hammerpoint’s forums, and they can moderate as they please, but it’s still worrisome that they would squelch any messages that might worry newcomers.
Other rules are just as ludicrous, or even hypocritical. One rule states that calling posters “care bears,” “trolls,” or “fan boys” will not be tolerated, yet Titov said in an email to Kotaku that, “While over time, especially after game have been launched publicly players been able to see that those two designs are pretty different, there’re still DayZ fanboys out there who just can’t accept fact that similar concept doesn’t mean being copycat.”
All of the above might be forgivable if the game was of astounding quality, but even that’s not the case.
TotalBiscuit posted a scathing, 3/4 hour impression piece that recapped several of the game’s problems, from both a public perception standpoint as well as game play. If you want to see the quality of game that people are arguing over, it’s a fascinating watch.
All of this has inspired the upset gamers to charge forth to the game’s Metacritic page, where it currently has a user score of 1.2. Of course, that’s bad, so what is Hammerpoint to do? Post a thread on the game’s forums asking players to vote for the game, naturally.
Valve will have its hands full as it investigates the game’s misrepresentation, Hammerpoint has a PR disaster on its hands, the game’s low quality and controversial microtransaction model have become even more apparent to a wider audience, and simply put, people aren’t happy. Some players started a petition demanding refunds. Others wanted the game removed from Steam. It seems they have gotten their wish.
In a statement to Kotaku, Valve called the release “a mistake,” and via their usual support site, those who already purchased the game and are unhappy can ask for a refund. The game may still yet return; Valve said they’re working with Hammerpoint on a new build of the game. Until then, hold onto your money.