‘The War Z’ Controversy: What Hammerpoint Did Wrong, What Dean Hall Did Right

2012 has been a big year for controversy in the games industry. From Mass Effect 3‘s ending to smaller issues like the Fuse/Overstrike transition, gamers everywhere have had reason to be riled up at least once this year. But none of these issues compare to that of The War Z.

For the unfamiliar, The War Z is billed as a zombie survival mode, taking many cues from the ever popular DayZ mod for ARMA 2. The game released just a few days ago on Steam, and though it quickly climbed the sales charts, Valve was ultimately forced to pull the game from its digital shelves.

The reasoning is simple: gamers claim that they aren’t getting what was advertised. The game, for example lists that servers support up to one hundred players, when in reality only fifty can play at a time. The Steam description also lists that players can host private servers, yet such an option was not made available. More of these inaccuracies are highlighted in the image down below:

The War Z Inaccuracies

Hammerpoint itself in a difficult position right now, and it’s only made worse by accusations that the studio has stolen images from The Walking Dead and used them in The War Z. Kotaku was able to snag a comparison image, which you can see down below:

The War Z Walking Dead

While plagiarism is a pressing issue, it’s the least of Hammerpoint’s worries. Essentially, gamers have been sold an incomplete product. Though some may argue that many of these gaming controversies are overblown, gamers certainly have reason to be disgruntled at The War Z developer Hammerpoint. The Steam page promises features which have yet to be implemented, falsely advertising an incomplete game as a fully finished product.

Hammerpoint, however, doesn’t believe it did anything wrong, with the studio’s Sergey Tito putting the blame on the shoulders of gamers.

“I’m sure that a few players may be upset, but I can assure you that based on what we’re seeing, the number of people who post bad comments are a small percentage of people who actually bought the game.

I think there’s a difference between false claims and perception of the text. There’s no such thing as ‘fully released’ for online game. As far as I’m concerned The War Z is in a stage when we’re ready to stop calling it Beta. This is a basic version–bones to which we’re going to add more and more ‘meat’–features and content in the coming months and hopefully years.”

While it is true that online games do evolve over time, the fact is The War Z advertised features that Hammerpoint has not yet implemented. A lack of ethics in the game industry is starting to become readily apparent, whether it be Hammerpoint advertising an incomplete game as a fully fledged title, or publishers backing out of promises. Perhaps this is just the initial roadblocks of the digital age, however.

When games first started appearing on store shelves, there was no telling what kind of an experience gamers were going to receive. That’s why Nintendo created it’s now famous seal of approval, to provide gamers with some sort guide as to which gamers were quality titles. We’re once again experiencing this with the digital age; open platforms such as the PC do not have the restrictions of consoles leaving it up to gamers to trust developers and publishers that they will not be screwed over, whether it be purchasing a complete product or simply making sure they received their pre-order bonuses.

This doesn’t excuse Hammerpoint, however. The studio should have fully advertised what it was selling, just as Minecraft developer Mojang did during the early days of development. We may be in a state of change and uncertainty in the industry, but that does not give developers and publishers the right to play semantics and essentially, sell gamers an incomplete product.

It takes a certain level of transparency to gain gamers’ trust, and that’s exactly why DayZ creator Dean Hall needs to be applauded. The standalone title, which started off as a mod for ARMA 2, has been in development limbo for the past few months, and fans are growing concerned. Thankfully, however, rather than keep fans in the dark, Hall went to Reddit to shine some light on the issue.

“I know I have been very quiet lately. So this will be really all I’ll say for the moment. I’ve been pretty depressed about the whole situation. 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 project.

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. I’ve been getting hammered by a massive amount with requests for information about DayZ release, interviews and my reactions to this and stuff and such — but for my own sanity I retreated and have kept to myself.

Right now I’m just at home doing bits and pieces on the DayZ development. The rest of the DayZ team is doing the same. I realize that I went back on my word about releasing an update, but went back into my shell for a bit last week, and I’ll come out when the dust is all settled.”

In an age of digital uncertainty, Hall did the respectable thing: he was honest with fans. He did not treat DayZ customers poorly; he shared his experience, he gave an update and most importantly, he apologized. There may be quite a bit of pressure surrounding development of DayZ, but Hall has certainly earned the trust of his fans by being honest and upfront, rather than taking the route Hammerpoint chose to.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyMole.

Source: Kotaku (1), (2VG247

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