As news breaks about War Z being unfinished, even through it found it’s way to digital shelves, there are deeper problems with the game that just haven’t come to light. Yes, Destructoid and Kotaku are both correct in reporting that the game is far from being finished, and that it’s nothing more than a glorified beta. Yes, Hammerpoint Interactive is trying very hard to make this turd shine as brightly as they possibly can, but there is a lot more under the surface that hasn’t come to light yet. Like who is Hammerpoint Interactive? Why did they ban a bunch of accounts recently?
For those that don’t know, War Z is the name of a new zombie survival game that has been released to Steam’s digital shelves for 14.99 USD. Hammerpoint Interactive touts their own game as being “the world’s first zurvival mmo Zombie Game.” Continuing on with their quote, “You may have played Zombie Games before – now it’s time to live one.” If you think about it, and knowing about the Arma II mod DayZ is, this is very egotistical coming from a developer that is completely unknown.
Our own Video Producer, Josh, was excited by the game knowing the amount of hype that Day Z had when it first appeared. He decided to buy into the beta, at the $25 USD level. Not only being able to play in the beta, but he was also given 3 guest keys for 24 hours to give to his friends and 15 USD worth of in game currency. Like anyone else, he downloaded the game and played it for about an hour.
He returned the next day, and when he tried to log in he was greeted with a message that said he had been banned, from the beta. Josh isn’t the kind of guy to go into a game looking to hack it and cheat his way through it. In fact, with only an hour worth of playtime to his name, he found it difficult to believe that he was banned for cheating.
As just about any one of us would do, he contacted customer support, only to find out that a different company is handling customer support, Xsolla Support, a company known for payment transaction services. After asking why he was banned, he was given a blanket statement:
The response given was very cookie cutter, and very professional even though it wasn’t from Hammerpoint Interactive, or anyone really associated with how WarZ runs. He has since gotten a hold of WarZ support, and hasn’t heard from them at the time of writing. His original message to support was on December 15th.
We found out that Josh wasn’t the only person smacked with the ban hammer on December 14th. In fact anywhere from 250 – 500 players of WarZ were hit with a ban and a blanket statement saying they were cheating. When people started to take to the WarZ forums asking about why they were banned and if they were going to get their money back, because the game was still in beta at this point in time, the forums turned into a war zone.
Things got so bad that the forums were put on lock down. Players weren’t allowed to open new threads on the forums, new players couldn’t register on the forums, and posts about being banned from the game were being deleted as fast as possible as forum moderators were starting to drink deep from their powers. Reasons for banning people went from professional blanket statements to rude, vulgar and unprofessional taunts, two examples from earlier in the month are pictured below.
One of WarZ’s former moderators, Devin Hutchinson, took to other forums out there to report on the unprofessional actions of other WarZ moderators. He revealed that most of the PR and Community management for WarZ is being taken care of by unpaid volunteers saying, “I then made a post on the forums about how I knew this was coming; and I was sorry and would [no] [longer] be supporting a company that did not support their unpaid volunteer Moderators that spent over 100+ hours answering THEIR CUSTOMERS questions and concerns as well as relaying them the ideas the community had for their [cruddy] game.” Devin also publicly stated, “They randomly ban accounts that have a certain amount of time spent playing in-game, knowing they are hooked on the game so they re-buy the game” (found here)
Why don’t they employ a community manager? Wouldn’t it be better to have a paid professional taking care of customers and dealing with the messy work of bans. And it’s not like smaller indie companies don’t employ community managers. Putting that much power in the hands of unpaid volunteers is not a good business model.
The crux of the issue isn’t that they just rushed a game through beta to pop onto digital shelves. It’s all the questions that we are left with, starting with who the hell is Hammerpoint Interactive? I have never heard of a studio/development team not having a website, let alone not having a facebook page, twitter account, youtube channel, or even a twitch TV channel. The War Z twitch TV channel is run by Arktos Entertainment who is the publisher of the game. Also, Sergey Titov the head of Hammerpoint, is also the head of Arktos Entertainment, OP Productions (who is credited at the bottom of the War Z website, Online Warmongers, and War Inc. (The game that War Z is ripped from). Hammerpoint Interactive isn’t even the company listened on the War Z’s domain registry.
This whole situation and the game stinks of foul play and appears to be nothing more than a cash grab. This is also one of the few reasons why buying into a game before it’s even released is a bad idea. Shady company, shady dealings, and games that don’t live up to their promises. The best advice I could give here for anyone, is make sure you know who you are giving your money to before you buy into a game early. You never know exactly what is going to happen to it. Josh lost his 25 USD, so you shouldn’t have to.
War Z was removed from the Steam store this afternoon. I am curious to find out how many folks that bought it on steam got a refund. We also are working on something else having to do with Hammerpoint, look for that in the coming days.