Half-past dead, and not in the good way.
The past few weeks have not been the kindest to Hammerpoint Interactive. Although the phrase famously goes that 'no press is bad press', I'd find it very hard to think that anyone from the company thinks that's true at the moment. The various and surprisingly numerous controversies surrounding The War Z -- touted as a survival MMO zombie game -- have probably got the company reeling. There's a lot of debate just how much of it they've brought upon themselves, of course, but that's one of the points that I hope to elaborate on.
The game released on December 19th on Steam (and it's worth noting that despite all that's happened the game is still available from The War Z website itself), and people were anxious to get into some online zombie survival action. However, excitement quickly turned into confusion and anger when it was found that the game wasn't strictly speaking ... finished. Not helping matters was the fact that in response to this the first reaction that executive producer Sergey Titov had was to cite that people had somehow misread or misinterpreted the information presented to them on the product page:
"As you all know we launched the game on Steam yesterday," he wrote.
"Okay - we're number one top grossing game on Steam right now - thank
you guys for your support. At the same time it was clear that 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."
"We also want to extend our apologies to all players who misread
information about game features," he added. "At the end of the day our
goal is to serve our players as best as we can, and we love when you
guys steer us into the right way of doing it!"
As the Reddit thread I linked above noted, there was originally no mention of the fact that this was an alpha/beta level of release: an unfinished product. Whether there was actually an error in communication when they released to Steam or whether this was an intentional early release to perhaps take of the momentum out from under the similarly themed DayZ is unknown, but the way that it was handled didn't do much to alleviate the situation.
Valve took their own share of heat for allowing Hammerpoint to release the game to Steam in the state it was in, but they attempted to quickly remedy the situation by both pulling the game from the store; the game page is still there, but it is not available for purchase through Steam, nor will it be until a more acceptable build is available. Likewise, Valve also offered refunds to those that were unhappy with their purchase, along with an apology for the problems caused.
The problems weren't over for The War Z though. Less than a day after this whole incident took place on Steam it also came to light that it was seemingly ripping off images from The Walking Dead television series for its own promotional use. At this point not only have things gotten highly embarrassing, but now we're also crossing into serious potential legal ramifications. Titov again spoke out via email:
"Early summer, we contracted a freelance artist to create concept art for
us. He delivered the art, and soon after we posted it online ( quite a
long time ago ) our community pointed out that it uses Walking
Dead COSPLAY photos ( not a tv show as they’ve reported ) as
references. We’ve immediately retracted the images and replaced them.
We also terminated the contract we had with this guy. This is happened
around 4 months ago."
Given however, that at least two of the images are seemingly from the official series, it's hard to ignore that it still kind of seems like a dodge.
Believe it or not even that isn't the end to everything.
On Christmas Eve the game had its trademark suspended with little ceremony. In this case it's likely that there was nothing that could have been done. The name simply is too similar to World War Z, a popular novel with an upcoming movie. So now it seems that on top of all the troubles that they've been having, that they'll have to suss out a new name for the game as well to avoid getting sued.
It's true that Titov has since issued an apology, but a lot of people, myself included, are wondering if it's simply too little, too late.