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December 19, 2012 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Hammerpoint Interactive released its new MMO The War Z on Steam yesterday. It has not been a good launch.

Described as a feature laden clone of Day Z, War Z had many baffling design decisions: Respawn times were measured in hours -- originally meant to be 24 hours, player protests knocked it down to 4 hours "for the beta", unless you bought a fast respawn in-game. In-game equipment purchases were lootable from your corpse, which is controversial in a game where player death is guaranteed.

But there were more problems: it's been alleged that scamulent developer of The War Z has purposefully mislead its audience to make a quick buck and shut operations down as soon as sales drop off. Interviews with the developer have done nothing to alleviate people's concerns about the game. Earlier today, Valve removed The War Z from its store and began issuing refunds based on the assessment that the game was "prematurely" and "mistakenly" released to customers.
posted by boo_radley (126 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
This has been such a gloriously weird trainwreck, it almost makes me not mind that standalone Day Z isn't out yet.
posted by cortex at 1:31 PM on December 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Heh, yeah. I've been following this since it first began. It's like the developer just does not give a good goddamn.
posted by Splunge at 1:34 PM on December 19, 2012


Forgot: One of the weird early warning signs was the tight restrictions the devs tried to place on the Steam Forums. While Steam's user forums (aka SPUF) aren't a glorious marketplace for the free exchange of well considered ideas in the best circumstances, enough users were complaining about Hammerpoint's community managers that they started investigating how Hammerpoint was interacting with their players -- a fairly unique event when most games forums are run at the pleasure of their moderators.
posted by boo_radley at 1:36 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hammerpoint has been doing almost everything wrong since they announced the game. It seems like they were willing to bet everything on rushing the game out before the Day Z standalone version launched, and now it's backfiring massively.
posted by anaximander at 1:43 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is the game only $3? Cuz I'm not seeing why someone would have purchased this game otherwise.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:44 PM on December 19, 2012


They cut corners on the artwork, too.
posted by jbickers at 1:46 PM on December 19, 2012


From the people that brought you the critical darling Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing!
posted by kmz at 1:47 PM on December 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


50 players per server is not what I would call an "MMO".
posted by thanotopsis at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2012


[Something something] World War Z [something]. It has not been a good [something].
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never heard of the game before now. But I like the idea of looooong respawn times, one of the only things that keeps Day Z from really nailing the athmosphere of dread is that is necessary for an effective zombie scenario. When respawn is immediate, death loses any significance and it ruins the mood, in my opinion.
posted by mediocre at 1:50 PM on December 19, 2012


50 players per server is not what I would call an "MMO".

Hey now, that's "up to 100 players"! In the same way that 0 players is also "up to 100 players".
posted by kmz at 1:50 PM on December 19, 2012


50 players per server is not what I would call an "MMO".

And a 4 hour respawn time.... how does that even work?
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:50 PM on December 19, 2012


50 players per server is not what I would call an "MMO".

mMO maybe?

(props to boo_radley for the perfectly coined term 'scamulent')
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2012


thanotopsis: "50 players per server is not what I would call an "MMO"."

Sergey Titov: "Max players -- I'm not sure why this is even an issue. [The] text clearly stated `up to 100 players.`"

It's like, "ugh, can you even read? why do we bother."

mediocre: "Never heard of the game before now. But I like the idea of looooong respawn times, one of the only things that keeps Day Z from really nailing the athmosphere of dread is that is necessary for an effective zombie scenario. "

It's an interesting idea, yes, right up until they mentioned that you can pay to respawn immediately.
posted by boo_radley at 1:53 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just allow me to threadjack for a moment to say that my experience was exactly the same buying Towns! from Steam Greenlight, because it looked like it might be fun and, hey, it's on the front page of Steam so it must be pretty legit. Turned out it was an unfinished alpha piece of crap that cost me like twelve bucks and didn't even launch until I had done some extremely irritating troubleshooting. And then it sucked when it launched. I lodged a complaint and demanded a refund and was refused, so all that has ended up happening is the developer got its cut of my twelve bucks, Valve got its cut too, and I'm never buying another Greenlight game again (I'm hesitant to even give Steam any more business) and if it's something I really want I'll pirate it, piece of cake.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


turgid dahlia 2: "Just allow me to threadjack for a moment to say that my experience was exactly the same buying Towns! from Steam Greenlight"

Oh jeez. Siri, remind me to do a post about the shovelware shitshow that Greenlight has become.

I don't know what that means. Would you like me to search the web?
posted by boo_radley at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Valve / Steam are good people for pulling the game and issuing refunds. It's exactly what they should do but I assume it incurs some legal risk on their part. But still, good for them.

Ever since Minecraft's crazy success a whole lot of game developers now think it's OK to sell unfinished games. (Or in the case of Kickstarter, complete vaporware). It can really go badly for consumers. I'd argue even Minecraft suffered from too much success early; the game's development has fallen far short of what could have been.

But WarZ looks like a full out scam. I like this customer support screenshot from someone trying to get a refund. "We would like to inform you that if the refund is made for you right now, you will be put in the global black list of non-trusted users and some services may refuse you in providing a payment in the future."
posted by Nelson at 2:02 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are exactly two games I intend to buy from Greenlight. One is Pinball Arcade because Farsight is an exemplary studio and the idea of getting new tables on Steam-sale discounts is tantalizing as all hell. The other is Dragon's Lair because fuck you I like Dragon's Lair.

Everything else? Staying faaaaaaaaaaaaaar away, thanks.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:02 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Miasmata is a legitimately good Greenlight game.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:03 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


turgid dahlia 2, I had the same experience. Really tried to get into Towns but gave up after realizing that there are tons of great games that are actually enjoyable. Don't even get me started on the stupid idea of spawning enemies right next to camp...
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:04 PM on December 19, 2012


...and I'm never buying another Greenlight game again ...

Then you'll be happy to know that short of being John Carmack or Peter Molyneux, the only way to get a game on Steam is now via Greenlight.

Good job all around, Valve!
posted by griphus at 2:04 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Then you'll be happy to know that short of being John Carmack or Peter Molyneux, the only way to get a game on Steam is now via Greenlight.

Awesome. This is going to save me heaps of money (though Xenonauts and Miami Hotline 2 will still each be getting the fifty bucks I've earmarked for them).
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:07 PM on December 19, 2012


Also, and I absolutely do not mean to blame the victims lacking my cultural education, but "obvious cash-in clone by American front for Russian/Ukranian dev team" is so fucking obviously a scam that I don't even
posted by griphus at 2:07 PM on December 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


And just allow me to threadjack for a moment to say that incidents like this one highlight one of the very wrong things with rent-to-play games, which is what the video game world is turning into. With rent-to-play, it's not even clear what you're paying for. You are paying to potentially play a game for an undisclosed length of time. It doesn't say "guaranteed good for one year" anywhere on the proverbial box. That's not even part of the contract. The customer must agree to the terms in the EULA, but all that's binding the publisher is "convention" and "goodwill." We need more cases like this one to demonstrate why that's a bad thing.
posted by Nomyte at 2:10 PM on December 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Even their EULA was janky as get out, and that's by the already low, shitty standards I had for EULAs. By accepting it, you supposedly waived your right to a refund.
posted by boo_radley at 2:15 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bought Primordia from Steam Greenlight, on the theory that if it was Greenlighted, it must be okay.

I'm learning from others here that this is not the case, and that I should shop carefully. However, Primordia is pretty good. I'd call it too short for $10; it feels more like a $5 game. And the voice acting is a little janky. But the underlying story is quite cool, something I'm not likely to forget quickly.

I'd recommend grabbing it, if you see it for a fiver.
posted by Malor at 2:15 PM on December 19, 2012


I am enjoying the schadenfreude of this, because I don't have a zombie in the fightin' ring.
I know very little about MMOs, aside from what friends tell me and what I read on Slashdot, but even I am baffled by much of what I am reading.

I do love me a good trainwreck, and mockbuster computer games just help prove that the world is a very strange place these days.
posted by Mezentian at 2:17 PM on December 19, 2012


dunkadunc: "Miasmata is a legitimately good Greenlight game."

In truth, I should say that the game was not quite as it was described.

The player encounters a horned, green tiger from time to time, and the description says the tiger "can stalk the player for miles, lurking behind grasses and vegetative cover. By treading carefully and quietly, the player may be able to elude the creature. If [the player is] careless, however, the player will be forced to confront the creature head-on."

In reality, the monster spawns automatically near the player when they're near important quest items, and this happens more frequently as the game progresses. Being quiet does nothing to prevent the monster from appearing.

That said, I found it to be a compelling game- but the AI was not as described. Valve has the responsibility to vet claims made by dev teams.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:21 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mezentian: the world is a very strange place these days.

Yeah, this sounds like the plot for a 1980s SF short. It's one of the oddities of living in the future.
posted by Malor at 2:21 PM on December 19, 2012


(Oh and that Theme Prison game, whatever it's called. I'm really going to need to get that.)
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:22 PM on December 19, 2012


I miss the days when the closest vaporware MMOs ever got to actual release was sending out beta-test emails with gibberish subject lines.
posted by trunk muffins at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2012


50 players per server is not what I would call an "MMO".

I am sorry that some customers misread this acronym. The first M clearly stands in this case for "moderately".
posted by cortex at 2:30 PM on December 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


And the O stands for "optimistically". Good day.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:35 PM on December 19, 2012


I'll preface this by saying I'm an MMO veteran (lead designer, A Tale in the Desert (2003) and Dragon's Tale (2013).) I'll address just the point about lootable corpses, long respawn times and paying to shorten them.

There are times in game design when you intend to create tension. The primary mechanic for that is to have the player make a risk/reward decision. Now imagine a game where when your hitpoints reach zero, they simply reset back to full with no other penalties: that would be a zero-risk situation. It's obvious that this would lead to a boring game.

At the other end of the spectrum is perma-death: years of effort permanently lost. Few games have tried this. A Tale in the Desert does, but you have to know what you're doing to invoke it. One way is to repeatedly drink "Speed of the Serpent," an addictive drug which gives a large short-term boost at the expense of requiring more and more frequent logins and consumption of antidote. (The first dose of Speed of the Serpent creates a permanent requirement to log in once per 7 days.)

Another way to permanently "die" is to incur the wrath of the Demi-Pharaoh, a player selected by a game-wide election that takes place every 30 days. Demi-Pharaohs may permanently exile up to players, at their whim. Such bans occur only a few times per year, game-wide. Both cases of perma-death in ATITD have been widely praised.

My other game, Dragon's Tale, is a gambling MMORPG. (I'll make a post about this when we announce our Beta, soon.) The games within can be played for anywhere from fractions of a cent to thousands of dollars: players set their own risk/reward in order to keep the game fun.

Though I know nothing about the company behind The War Z, I do commend their decision to offer a higher risk (long respawn, risk of equipment, real-world $ cost) option to players that want that.
posted by Teppy at 2:38 PM on December 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


I bought Primordia from Steam Greenlight, on the theory that if it was Greenlighted, it must be okay.

I'm learning from others here that this is not the case, and that I should shop carefully. However, Primordia is pretty good. I'd call it too short for $10; it feels more like a $5 game. And the voice acting is a little janky. But the underlying story is quite cool, something I'm not likely to forget quickly.

I'd recommend grabbing it, if you see it for a fiver.


Buy it from gog.com. I did. For $1 cheaper than it was on Steam for, too.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:38 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Oh and that Theme Prison game, whatever it's called. I'm really going to need to get that.)

That's Prison Architect, from the guys who brought you Darwinia/Defcon, etc.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:40 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's the one! I think it looks brilliant, and Darwinia and Defcon mean it certainly has excellent pedigree. Plus the Brits tend to make games that are more fun.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:44 PM on December 19, 2012


Also ZOMG TEPPY IS ON METAFILTER TELLING 1 & 3 REPRAZENT

(okay back to the regularly scheduled thread)
posted by trunk muffins at 2:46 PM on December 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I also think Prison Architect looks great and would have jumped on it already if it wasn't $30. That's just a bit steep for me these days.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:49 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lodged a complaint and demanded a refund and was refused, so all that has ended up happening is the developer got its cut of my twelve bucks, Valve got its cut too, and I'm never buying another Greenlight game again (I'm hesitant to even give Steam any more business) and if it's something I really want I'll pirate it, piece of cake.

If you want to pirate games, go for it, I don't care on a moral level, but I don't think you can justify it based on being disappointed in a $12 purchase. I mean, I spent $12 to see Prometheus in 3D and I'm not going to use that less-than-stellar experience as a blank check to pirate movies.

Furthermore, I think a lot of the opinions in this thread are maybe a bit, well, uncharitable given the low amounts of money at stake. I mean, yeah, if you were scammed out of $300 on a Kickstarter project that never delivered, that would be cause for outrage, but buying a $8-12 game that doesn't meet your every expectation doesn't seem like a reason to boycott all Greenlight games forever. If a developer is acting in bad faith, like with War Z, then that's a different situation, of course.

But I would say that you have to adjust your expectations with regard to Greenlight games; you aren't buying a shrink-wrapped game produced by a big studio that employes hundreds of developers and testers, you're probably buying a game produced by at most five or six people, and more likely only two or three. If you want a perfect bug-free out of the box experience, then you ought to stick to the big studio releases (which will cost $30-60). You really should look at Greenlight as a way to explore ambitious and experimental titles, and remember that not every experiment is a success.

I mean, a meal at a restaurant is going to cost you more than the average Greenlight game, and nobody expects to be satisfied by every restaurant they try. You have to accept that you're going to get some number of 'duds'.
posted by Pyry at 2:56 PM on December 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Pyry: "I mean, a meal at a restaurant is going to cost you more than the average Greenlight game, and nobody expects to be satisfied by every restaurant they try."

I expect any restaurant I go to to at least offer up something vaguely resembling what the menu said I was ordering.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:58 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have to accept that you're going to get some number of 'duds'.

Only in Bizarro world where people can lie about what you're going to get, and then refuse to refund your money when the product doesn't do what they say it does.

Oh, wait, that's the real world, isn't it? Damn, that's pretty unethical in real life.
posted by Malor at 3:00 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And it's gone.
posted by GenericUser at 3:01 PM on December 19, 2012


Regarding Day Z rather than War Z or Steam/Greenlight:

It recently occurred to me that a large part of my appreciation of Day Z has to do with playing through Arma with all of its failure-prone mission triggers and winding up aimlessly wandering the map half the time, having broken the mission. Day Z actually rewards me for edging my way sideways over a ridge to reach an adjacent bay, rather than instakilling me when I cross some invisible line set for that mission; but plus or minus a few yards, making me waste a hours of play trying to avoid the "sniper."

My only thing is I don't love zombies that much. I'd like a Battle Royale / Lord of the Flies / Mad Max mod that plays like Day Z.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:02 PM on December 19, 2012


If you straight-up lie like War Z then that's one thing, and Valve has done the right thing by de-listing it, but getting a buggy, half-finished game is something you should probably be prepared to happen and accept as one of the risks. People do post reviews and YouTube videos of these games so it's not as if you have to buy them blind. For example, you can find current videos of Towns and get a pretty good idea of what you're going to get if you buy it.
posted by Pyry at 3:07 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't feel the Greenlight hate. Greenlit games so far have a good-to-crap ratio no worse than the old system. Fly'N in particular is the most fun I've had with a platformer in years, and Waking Mars is clever, charming, and refreshingly different.

You do need to watch out for the Kickstarter effect, where hype and promises win out over what the developer can actually implement, but it's not like the old approval system was immune to that. Legends of Pegasus was broken and incomplete on release and was eventually removed from the store. The developers have gone out of business, so anyone who bought it and didn't manage to get a refund will never, not even eventually, have the game they were promised.

(And I just noticed this Greenlight talk is a tangent, since War Z didn't actually go through Greenlight. Oh well.)
posted by skymt at 3:08 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


dunkadunc I expect any restaurant I go to to at least offer up something vaguely resembling what the menu said I was ordering.

Does Burger King count as a restaurant?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:12 PM on December 19, 2012


Yeah, the situation with Greenlight is interesting partly because it's just this new thing, this attempt to sort of streamline and centralize what has historically been a very DIY, caveat-emptor process of funding/pre-ordering independent games.

Towns' listing as far as I heard was sort of problematic in that it didn't clearly enough communicate the "seriously, this is alpha code, you're buying in eaaaaarly" nature of the situation, but what I'd seen from the devs prior to that was some pretty clear signposting on their own website that that was the state of the game; likely not malice, in other words, so much as a divorcing of the sale of the game from the scrappy early dev context that'd otherwise normally make it clear to make yourself informed first and put money down second.

For my part, I like supporting promising indie games early and so have had a habit of spending pre-order cash via janky e-commerce widgets on individual dev websites already, so for me Kickstarter and Greenlight have both mostly just been boons—I'm already going in wary on any game I might put money on, but now some of the management and transaction stuff is centralized and thus less janky.

But it's easy for me to say "just be careful"; that doesn't change the fact that something like Greenlight carries with it a stamp of legitimacy that might well give people reason to not feel like they need to be careful.

I have a feeling that that is something that'll shake out over the near future as Valve figures out how to manage requirements and expectations better. Won't do a whole lot about a truly ambitious scammer, maybe, but might help everyone else have a better experience.
posted by cortex at 3:14 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If a developer is acting in bad faith, like with War Z, then that's a different situation, of course.

Same deal with Towns from everything I gleaned on the Steam community forums for the game, and Reddit. It wasn't even close to what was claimed on the Steam store page - two of the screenshots "taken from the game" were actually outright doctored, apparently - and Steam and the devs were jerks about the whole affair. Twelve dollars might not be much in this magical "scheme of things", and is a pretty good price for a book, or a CD, or a meal, or a game, but I didn't get any of those things - I just got a big nothingy pile of poo that didn't work. Imagine paying twelve bucks for a sandwich and you take it out of the clingfilm and it turns out the clingfilm is what was holding it together and it's really just like a million breadcrumbs and cheese and tomato molecules. You wouldn't think "Ahh, it was just twelve bucks", you'd think "Fuck this I'm never buying a sandwich from here again" and you'd just torrent them or whatever.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:14 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do not understand why valve is apologizing. I have bought some shitty games from steam in the past but I didn't get mad at ol' Gaben for it. Even after hours of troubleshooting and forum research I didn't blame steam or valve for putting the worst consol port of this century on sale. Instead I played something else and that game just sits in my library.

As for Greenlight, it just seems like it should be obvious that some of these games will be pure crap. I mean they're community rated... anyone with a steam account can rate these games... ANYONE.
posted by Somnolent Jack at 3:15 PM on December 19, 2012


Waking Mars is clever, charming, and refreshingly different

Waking Mars is pretty amazing but it was amazing before it landed on Steam. I bought it direct from the devs. I guess Greenlight might be useful for getting exposure to games you might not have heard about otherwise, so you can go right over to the developer's site and get it there.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:16 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And I just noticed this Greenlight talk is a tangent, since War Z didn't actually go through Greenlight. Oh well.)

It didn't, but I don't think it's as tangential as it appears. The trouble with prematurely releasing unfinished crap like War Z or "paid betas" like Towns or Minecraft is that the consumer no longer has any idea what they're in for -- they're buying the game as it will be instead of the game it is, and that's ripe for all kinds of scammitude and broken promises. IMO this is the most problematic aspect of Steam Greenlight, selling betas instead of finished games (although it works really well in certain cases, like with Don't Starve -- although in that case Steam is pretty upfront about the game not being "finished" yet).

On preview, more or less what cortex said.
posted by neckro23 at 3:17 PM on December 19, 2012


Towns' listing as far as I heard was sort of problematic in that it didn't clearly enough communicate the "seriously, this is alpha code, you're buying in eaaaaarly" nature of the situation, but what I'd seen from the devs prior to that was some pretty clear signposting on their own website that that was the state of the game

cortex, you make a fair point, but I'd argue that the relationship gamers have with Steam has, historically, precluded any real need to go to a developer's site to scratch around and find out further info. The Steam page for Towns was identical to any other Steam page for any other game - though no videos in the media scrollbar, I admit, which probably should have started dinging a few bells for me - and no mention was made anywhere about it being a super early version of an unfinished game. Then the developers were jerkwads about it in the forums. I mean, I've bought loads of duds from Steam before but they've at least been finished, playable duds.

But it's easy for me to say "just be careful"; that doesn't change the fact that something like Greenlight carries with it a stamp of legitimacy that might well give people reason to not feel like they need to be careful.

Which you basically went on to say, so never mind me.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:20 PM on December 19, 2012


turgid dahlia 2: "Waking Mars is clever, charming, and refreshingly different

Waking Mars is pretty amazing but it was amazing before it landed on Steam. I bought it direct from the devs. I guess Greenlight might be useful for getting exposure to games you might not have heard about otherwise, so you can go right over to the developer's site and get it there.
"

Thanks for the reminder! They didn't previously have a Steam key for it, so your post lead me to go right back and check, and, BOOYAH!
posted by Samizdata at 3:22 PM on December 19, 2012


You wouldn't think "Ahh, it was just twelve bucks", you'd think "Fuck this I'm never buying a sandwich from here again" and you'd just torrent them or whatever.

Yeah, I'd never buy a sandwich from there again, but I probably wouldn't become some kind of sandwich-burglar either (to strain this analogy). I guess the question comes down to where 'there' is: is Greenlight the sandwich merchant, or like a mall that houses the sandwich merchant and many others? I would hold a bad experience against an individual developer, but not against Greenlight as a whole (unless it was some kind of Valve management specific thing).
posted by Pyry at 3:24 PM on December 19, 2012


I see Greenlight as analogous to a craft fair: that someone has a booth mainly proves that they have enough money to afford a booth, not that their art is any good.
posted by Pyry at 3:26 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


People still pay for games nowadays and then complain about them? The best games I've played this year are all absolutely free.

MMO / RPG : Star Wars: The Old Republic
MOBA: DOTA2 or LOL
FPS: Hawken

Star Wars is the most expensive game ever made and the single player is excellent - it's the most immersed I've ever been in an RPG, because as an MMO, all your decisions are final - there are no save points.

LOL is the most popular game on the planet. DOTA2 is probably the most insane competitive game you will play with mind boggling prize pools at the highest levels. And Hawken is simply visually breathtaking. In fact, my net spending on gaming this year is negative, because the one game I did buy (Diablo3) cost me $60 but I made back $250 selling items to other players.

Day-Z better be free-to-play when it releases or it won't even get a second glance from me...
posted by xdvesper at 3:27 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Steam lets a lot of known defective titles persist on the store. Like Cities XL. It's had a fatal memory leak since it was first released, and Steam lets the developer put out another version of it every year without fixing the problem.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:27 PM on December 19, 2012


Can we change from this restaurant/sandwich analogy to something more fitting... a haberdashery perhaps?
posted by Somnolent Jack at 3:28 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Audio of a dev cheating by spawning weapons and shields for his bros.
posted by boo_radley at 3:32 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been reading skeptical takes on The War Z for weeks now, and I am surprised and disappointed the negative publicity even before release did not lead to increased scrutiny of the game at Valve. Even if we accept that Valve lacks resources to pore over every line of code distributed using Steam, they should take responsibility for ensuring their products are at least superficially as advertised.

(Also, Waking Mars rocks. I purchased it when it was released for iOS, and this discussion of Greenlight reminded me to buy again from Steam for convenience and to support the developer.)

(Finally, I'm totally buying Don't Starve. Thanks for the tip.)
posted by The Confessor at 3:33 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


That item spawning audio is interesting because as a new player, your first line of defense is a flashlight -- it apparently takes dozens of flashlight hits to kill a single zombie. Meanwhile, players take three or four gunshots to die.
posted by boo_radley at 3:35 PM on December 19, 2012


Can we change from this restaurant/sandwich analogy to something more fitting... a haberdashery perhaps?

Sporting good store?

You sold me this shiny ball, but when I booted it like usual it crumpled into a deflated wreck. I demand a patch.

Hardware store?

Full of tools, for when you feel like getting screwed?


Although for all my grumbling I find Steam and its follow-on imitators to have been a mostly good thing at a time when traditional distribution was dying and threatening to take the industry with it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:35 PM on December 19, 2012


And yet LA Mulana languishes.
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:41 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll make a post about this when we announce our Beta, soon.

I don't think you will, unless you want a bannin'.
posted by smoke at 3:43 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


turgid dahlia 2: Waking Mars is pretty amazing but it was amazing before it landed on Steam.

Of course. (I bought it in a Humble Bundle, which is probably the best exposure possible for an indie game.) But Towns was equally terrible before it got to Steam. I guess my point is that the Greenlight banner is neither an badge of quality nor a stamp of shame: there's always going to be good and bad games no matter who approves them.

neckro23: IMO this is the most problematic aspect of Steam Greenlight, selling betas instead of finished games (although it works really well in certain cases, like with Don't Starve -- although in that case Steam is pretty upfront about the game not being "finished" yet).

Is that really a problem with Greenlight? Getting Greenlit nets the developer a distribution contract, but it doesn't mean the game needs to be released ASAP. That decision's still between Valve and the developer. As far as I know, Towns is the only Greenlight game to be released while still unfinished.
posted by skymt at 3:45 PM on December 19, 2012


Steam Greenlight selling half-finished games reminds me of all the bands on Bandcamp selling music when they can't even sing or play in time with their synthesizer yet.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:15 PM on December 19, 2012


Is that really a problem with Greenlight? Getting Greenlit nets the developer a distribution contract, but it doesn't mean the game needs to be released ASAP. That decision's still between Valve and the developer. As far as I know, Towns is the only Greenlight game to be released while still unfinished.

I'm probably confusing myself here. On review, it doesn't seem that Towns (or Don't Starve for that matter) is a Greenlight game. However, it's been a pretty big trend among indie games lately to have "paid beta" periods (I blame Minecraft), and I think I assumed that's what a lot of the Greenlight entries were doing.
posted by neckro23 at 4:26 PM on December 19, 2012


thanotopsis writes "50 players per server is not what I would call an "MMO"."

I've never really thought about it before but it seems to me 50 is right about the break point between multiplayer and MMO.
posted by Mitheral at 4:30 PM on December 19, 2012


I see Greenlight as analogous to a craft fair: that someone has a booth mainly proves that they have enough money to afford a booth, not that their art is any good.

There's a general assumption of not outright lying, though.
posted by Artw at 4:31 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if we accept that Valve lacks resources to pore over every line of code distributed using Steam, they should take responsibility for ensuring their products are at least superficially as advertised.

Molyneux wouldn't have released a single game that way. I'm not sure Valve can check every single game they accept and I think Greenlight is a red herring here; there have been plenty of games published the old way that were not as advertised. Scamsoft should be ashamed of themselves though.
posted by ersatz at 4:56 PM on December 19, 2012


All Valve have to do is play the game, and compare what they see with the game's description.

Vetting for basic quality isn't that hard. Any record label is going to want to hear your EP before releasing it.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:09 PM on December 19, 2012


> Any record label is going to want to hear your EP before releasing it.

But Amazon doesn't listen to every album they sell. Valve is distributing these games, not publishing them.
posted by gilrain at 5:11 PM on December 19, 2012


I'll make a post about this when we announce our Beta, soon.

I don't think you will, unless you want a bannin'.


I assumed he meant on Projects, but maybe I'm just bring overly generous.
posted by goshling at 5:12 PM on December 19, 2012


But Amazon doesn't listen to every album they sell. Valve is distributing these games, not publishing them.

The better analogy might not be music, but books. Amazon, via the Kindle store, is letting people self-publish; does that make them a publisher, or establish the expectation that they act as one? Valve, through Steam, has allowed some developers to self-publish games without needing a publisher to negotiate the brick-and-mortar stores of the world. Does that make Valve effectively a publisher? I'm not sure, but it does seem to be establishing the expectation -- at least among some people -- that it should act as one.
posted by cjelli at 5:18 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Paid Beta, as a model, isn't necessarily a terrible model --- when it works well, it works very well. The best examples I can think of this are Minecraft and Don't Starve. Both were very upfront about their 'unfinished' status, but the reality was that from the very first version of the Beta, they were fully playable games that, excepting some forthcoming features and bug fixes, were already complete in spirit.

To be honest, I mostly just came here to recommend Don't Starve, particularly if you like survival games. It can be a little grindy at times, but there's also a lot of depth to it, and the bi-weekly-or-so updates bring a lot of pleasant unpredictability and discovery to the whole experience.
posted by Tiresias at 5:26 PM on December 19, 2012


whoa hey let's not get into minecraft territory, thank you.
posted by boo_radley at 5:35 PM on December 19, 2012


boo_radley: "Even their EULA was janky as get out"

Especially the first one they cut and pasted from 'League of Legends.'
posted by the_artificer at 5:38 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ever since Minecraft's crazy success a whole lot of game developers now think it's OK to sell unfinished games. (Or in the case of Kickstarter, complete vaporware). It can really go badly for consumers. I'd argue even Minecraft suffered from too much success early; the game's development has fallen far short of what could have been.

The difference is that Minecraft was playable and enjoyable when Notch started selling access to it. It wasn't, you know, barely-playable shit, as The War Z is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:40 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mitheral: I've never really thought about it before but it seems to me 50 is right about the break point between multiplayer and MMO.

Naw, because then a simple Minecraft server can be an MMO. The idea behind the original wording comes from when computers weren't very fast, and bandwidth was scarce, so the idea of being able to host a bunch of people simultaneously in the same game world was really difficult, requiring large server farms, and very careful programming.

I'd say that any game you can host on one average-ish computer, no matter how many clients it has, by definition is not an MMO. Regular old desktop PCs with a quadcore processor, 32 gigs of RAM, and enough outbound bandwidth can support scads of clients in many games. We're not yet to the point of being able to run a WoW-class server on a single PC, but in another five years, maybe we could. At that point, WoW-class games would no longer be MMOs.

tl;dr version: "Massive", in my view, means "requires a server cluster to support". If you can do it with one off-the-shelf, prosumer PC, it's not massive, no matter how many clients it can handle.
posted by Malor at 5:52 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd never buy a sandwich from there again, but I probably wouldn't become some kind of sandwich-burglar either (to strain this analogy)

Finally, the mysterious origins of the Hamburgler have been revealed.
posted by flaterik at 6:30 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


To me, beta means code complete ... but insufficiently tested. These guys seemed to have released an alpha product explicitly missing many core and promised features. It's one thing to have the features in there during beta, realize they're broken and remove them (or better yet, take time fix 'em), but it's entirely different to do what they did.

To second what Tiresias said: I too can see happiness in kickstarter games where players knowingly get in on early products (either alpha or beta, the keyword is knowingly). There have been successful launches like that (DCS A-10 is one that comes to mind, MWO could be another, not to mention others mentioned up thread).

But these guys lied with gusto, bannings and no refunds. Hopefully they learned a lesson, and realize their credibility is severely tarnished.
posted by mapinduzi at 6:31 PM on December 19, 2012


tl;dr version: "Massive", in my view, means "requires a server cluster to support". If you can do it with one off-the-shelf, prosumer PC, it's not massive, no matter how many clients it can handle.

What do you suppose the NWN classic server ran on? Or Meridian59?

I'm guessing a modern desktop quad core with a RAID stripe and 8GB of DDR3 would blow its three-phase power cable off.

Why the reverse definition?

NWN: AOL survived on NWN Player bills in its early years, and Steve Case was often seen playing the lead character "Lord Nasher" to promote the game and what it meant to AOL. Average players spent a hundred dollars or more per month to play NWN, and this was serious revenue for AOL. Add to that the fact that NWN was DOS based AND running off a single server, and you can see that America online would not have been hurt by leaving the game intact.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:33 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Bore Z (from Total Biscuit) -- some comments on the game (that finally convinced me not to buy) in case anyone needs to see someone else dislike the game.
posted by timfinnie at 6:34 PM on December 19, 2012


if it's something I really want I'll pirate it, piece of cake.

I do precisely the opposite. If a game does not offer a demo, I'll pirate it to see if I'm going to like it. If I end up liking it, I will buy it.

I did this just recently with Hotline Miami, which I torrented, tried, hated, tried again, loved, and bought.

Then you'll be happy to know that short of being John Carmack or Peter Molyneux, the only way to get a game on Steam is now via Greenlight. Good job all around, Valve!

That's simply not true. The very game we're talking about in this thread did not go through Greenlight, for an example.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:22 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not morally pure, but I don't pirate games simply because the idea of pirating executable code strikes me as incredibly risky in a way that pirating data doesn't.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:28 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Bore Z (from Total Biscuit) -- some comments on the game (that finally convinced me not to buy) in case anyone needs to see someone else dislike the game.
"I'm gonna die just because I had the audacity to walk down a hill...

Bloody hell.

Can I swim?

Really?

Really?

This isn't even a river - there's no current. It's just a very thin lake."
So... he didn't like it?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:28 PM on December 19, 2012


Alex Austin (aka Cryptic Sea) is not happy with Steam Greenlight either.

His latest game, Sub Rosa, is probably my favorite game of 2012 (in a close tie with Kerbal Space Program).
posted by anthill at 8:03 PM on December 19, 2012


Malor writes "I'd say that any game you can host on one average-ish computer, no matter how many clients it has, by definition is not an MMO. Regular old desktop PCs with a quadcore processor, 32 gigs of RAM, and enough outbound bandwidth can support scads of clients in many games. We're not yet to the point of being able to run a WoW-class server on a single PC, but in another five years, maybe we could. At that point, WoW-class games would no longer be MMOs. "

This is retroconning that doesn't seem to be warranted but even then you could probably host a WoW server with hundreds or thousands of players on a high end desktop PC nowadays considering you could run a private server on a desktop machine for years with more than a hundred users. You'd have to pimp it out with disk and network but it'd work. That doesn't make WoW not a MMO.
posted by Mitheral at 8:09 PM on December 19, 2012


I pretty much knew WarZ was not quite on the up and up when it was basically announced after all the talk and press DayZ was getting. Similar name, check. Similar but lesser gameplay, check. DayZ isn't perfect (the inventory in particular), but it had more on WarZ from just watching streams, plus the microtransactions bugged me in this type of game.

Not to derail, but I know people who play mmos that aren't made for permadeath, in very harsh permadeath ways, DDO most commonly. Only enforced by themselves, and they have a blast. DayZ has basically permadeath, starting over to nothing.

My other game, Dragon's Tale, is a gambling MMORPG. (I'll make a post about this when we announce our Beta, soon.) The games within can be played for anywhere from fractions of a cent to thousands of dollars: players set their own risk/reward in order to keep the game fun.

How is this different than a gambling game that certain laws will be different than other games? Unless that is in fake money, not real money. Not coming down on you, just curious.
posted by usagizero at 11:11 PM on December 19, 2012


but getting a buggy, half-finished game is something you should probably be prepared to happen

Fuck, no. If you want to be a professional games studio, finish your games before you sell them. Just because they is big and you is little is no excuse to half ass it.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:17 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Post scandal PC Gamer interview: The War Z interview: Sergey Titov responds to backlash, sale removal from Steam
posted by mapinduzi at 12:16 AM on December 20, 2012


From the people that brought you the critical darling Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing!

Wow. I thought that was just a "Worst game ever" joke- I didn't know Sergey Titov was producer on both games.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:46 AM on December 20, 2012


My only thing is I don't love zombies that much. I'd like a Battle Royale / Lord of the Flies / Mad Max mod that plays like Day Z.

I'm going a little off topic here, but on the subject of things we'd like to see, I'm going to keep saying this until someone with more game programming skill than I have does it:

I would pay copious amounts of good money for a Dishonored/Assassin's Creed/Thief-style game set in Elizabethan London. You've got:
The list goes on...it's a fantastically rich setting, and as far as I know no one's taken full advantage of it yet.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:54 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interestingly, I've been looking at some other videos of The War Z, and the alpha stage seems to be more feature-rich than the release, in some ways. Certainly players seem to be having more _fun_ - although we're obviously talking about a self-selecting group of players who are already interested enough in the project to record "Let's Play" videos of a game that hadn't been released. Also, they had sunk considerable time into the game - getting over the barriers to entry Totalbiscuit encountered fairly early on.

It's possible that once the release went live (and by extension the cash store went live) difficulty was tweaked upwards to incentivise people to buy weapons and items (item drops seem to be more common in the alpha as well, although this could/would also be to make it easier to gather feedback on their performance) - making the friction at the start of the game unbearable. Which is not great game design or great F2P mechanics, but... well. See above.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:10 AM on December 20, 2012


Well, buy-to-win is fucking bullshit and any game that requires it is a scam, but what can you say, we live in a fallen world.
posted by Artw at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The War Z's hours-long respawn times, married to a micro-transaction resurrect for "convenience" is pretty much all that you need to know.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:04 AM on December 20, 2012


snuffleupagus: "My only thing is I don't love zombies that much. I'd like a Battle Royale / Lord of the Flies / Mad Max mod that plays like Day Z."

Have you tried out the Wasteland mod for ARMA II?
posted by the_artificer at 9:36 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, man. This sounds awesome. Thanks!
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:41 AM on December 20, 2012


By the way, if you want to play Day Z (not this War Z thing), the very-cool free Arma OA mod, with nice people, we have a semi-private server one of our members over at Mefight Club is running. Come on over and frustratedly fumble with your inventory!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:16 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, god. Literally the worst inventory management system I have ever seen, even before shit just starts randomly going puuh.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:48 PM on December 20, 2012


I am ashamed.
I once willingly installed Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing as a demo, back when I was trying to get back into gaming. I couldn't get into it.
I thought it was me.


I had no idea it was the Flavortown of computer games.
posted by Mezentian at 6:05 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait...flavourtown sounds like a good thing, what's the problem?
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 8:36 PM on December 20, 2012


"Hello, can I get a refund for War Z?"

\bye

(disconnected)

posted by boo_radley at 9:33 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Came in here to make a "War Zynga" joke, but they all turned out kind of sad instead of funny.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:41 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Found my way onto the dayz server after an hour or so of messing around with version levels, but no one was around. I spawned up along the northern coast at night, and there were a few Zs milling around the only silhouetted structures I could make out, so I went up into the trees and logged. I'll be back tomorrow.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:49 PM on December 20, 2012


I find Day Z too be too punishingly hard right now. The zombies can see far too well, you spawn with no weapons at all, and there is no in-game mechanism to punish griefers.

Originally they would change skins and turn into 'bandits', which actually made sense- people who wanted to survive cooperatively would be clearly survivors (although they could still betray you), and long-term PK'ers would turn into bandits, and could go off and do bandity things. Now there's no way to know.

The main dev, "Rocket" says this is a feature, not a bug, and derides anyone who wants to play cooperatively as a "care-bear".

In my opinion, the devs of War Z and Day Z both disrespect their players.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:31 AM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, the thing is that ArmA and OFP before it have always been realism heavy milsims. And IIRC Rocket was hired to work on ArmA before he did DayZ. So, from the perspective of someone attracted to hardcore sims it does sort of make sense that you can't immediately distinguish someone benevolent from someone malevolent. And, when you think about it, that's what some of the most interesting tension in fiction and cinema about post-apocalyptic survivalism is driven by. For instance, The Road.

I guess it's like that for me: I enjoy trying to be a carebear in DayZ even if the game insists on punishing me for it? Why? Because I'm one of the good guys, and I'm carrying the fire.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:13 AM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, good for you, but back when I played Day Z pretty heavily (oh, seems so long ago, now), I and my buddies got backstabbed so many times that every single other person instantly became an enemy on sight. The chances that they would want to cooperate were just so vanishingly small, even on a private hive, that it made no sense to even give them the chance to betray us. Of course, then most of them turned out to be cheaters who couldn't be killed anyway, and I just stopped playing.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2012


The cheating is a real problem. And that's the chief concern for the standalone version. As you observed, it's the cheaters who are most often the backstabbers. If the various exploits weren't so easy and widespread, then things might be different. Despite the mantra that you should never get attached to your stuff in Dayz, I agree that its supremely frustrating to lose it to an invulnerable cheater.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:20 AM on December 21, 2012


Starting with a hatchet would be...fabulous.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:32 AM on December 21, 2012


The hatchet is probably my most used weapon in DayZ. Doesn't run out of ammunition, doesn't ring the zombie dinner bell/alert other players when you use it. I've also had really good luck with it when people try and jump me with shotguns/Enfields/Pistols, but AKs/M4s not so much.
posted by the_artificer at 9:20 PM on December 21, 2012


When I used it, I might as well have been waving a banana at the zombie. Then it wheeled around and hit me, making me bleed at an alarming rate for a mere punch, until I gave up and used something with more firepower.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:19 AM on December 22, 2012


No refund because it's your fault for buying the game.
Date ban will be lifted: Never fucking noob.


These people are just... incredible!
posted by boo_radley at 11:37 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's Rocket and Total Biscuit discussing starting weapons, team dynamics, etc in DayZ. 1. 2.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:01 AM on December 23, 2012


The trademark application by OP Productions for the name “War Z” has been SUSPENDED because the trademark office feels that the name is too similar to the name of Paramount Pictures upcoming movie “World War Z”.

(Photo)
posted by boo_radley at 2:18 PM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love how in the post-delisting he's all THIS IS EVERYONE'S FAULT EXCEPT VALVE'S (subtext: PLEASE DON'T BAN OUR SHITTY FLY-BY-NIGHT OPERATION FOREVER, VALVE.)
posted by griphus at 2:36 PM on December 23, 2012


I'm surprised they put as much work as they did into this scam. You'd think they'd do better to take preorders on a game that was never developed in the first place.

At very, very least, they should have kept mum instead of openly showing disdain for their customers. There will be lawsuits.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:06 PM on December 23, 2012


VALVE, PLEASE BAN THIS SHITTY FLY-BY-NIGHT OPERATION FOREVER.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I’ve sold preorders to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by gum, it put them on the map!"
posted by griphus at 3:59 PM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Lisa needs a sniper rifle!"
posted by boo_radley at 5:08 PM on December 23, 2012


dunkadunc: "I'm surprised they put as much work as they did into this scam."

Isn't it just their free to play game "War Inc" with zombies added in?
posted by the_artificer at 5:45 PM on December 23, 2012


Open Letter to The War Z and PC Gaming community from Sergey Titov
posted by the_artificer at 6:13 PM on December 27, 2012


So though I'd include gaming as a hobby on my list of hobbies because of [x] amount of time spent playing games (where [x] is a decent amount of non work or sleep time), I wouldn't say that I've been in touch with gaming culture in a while. So please correct me if I'm wrong, but when I read this from the above linked open letter:

The most asked question of the last week was “is this the final release?” My answer has always been that for an online game a “final” release means that the game is dead – so there’s really no such thing, you never stop developing, making changes to and adding new features to the game.

I couldn't help but think this was ass-covering bullshit. But then the comments seem to have eaten it up. Am I just way out of touch?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:27 PM on December 27, 2012


Self selected audience?
posted by Artw at 8:32 PM on December 27, 2012


Yeah, you kind of have to take it as a given that the folks attentively monitoring the dedicated forum for a given game are going to trend enthusiastic. Not universally necessarily (and I think the bigger the company the more likely the large cohort of attentive protestors, viz Blizzard during Diablo III woes), but, seriously, do you feel like signing up for the War Z forums and keeping an eye out for new posts from the devs just so you can get in early with some beefing?
posted by cortex at 10:40 PM on December 27, 2012


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