I haven't really paid The War Z much consideration over the course of this year. It always looked to me like a crass capitalization of the success of the DayZ mod for ArmA II--which itself is getting its own full-fledged game release sometime in the future--and not much else. So perhaps this lack of initial interest is why I'm so taken aback at the crazy amount of backlash the game has received since its release earlier this week.
Much of that backlash seems to stem from either obfuscations of the truth, or outright lies tied to the zombie apocalypse survival game's initial product description on Steam. Developer Hammerpoint Interactive cites, among other things, up to 100 players supported per server, access to private servers, learnable character skills, and multiple maps spanning anywhere from 100 to 400 square kilometers. None of these things turned out to be true. In reality, servers were capped at 50 players, there was only one (considerably smaller than advertised) map in the game, and no skill trees whatsoever.
As of last night, Hammerpoint had altered the product's description to reflect something closer to reality, but amid an apparent onslaught of complaints from players who purchased the $15 game from Steam, Valve has pulled the game altogether, issuing a statement to Kotaku that referred to the game's release as "premature" and "a mistake."
From time to time a mistake can be made and one was made by prematurely issuing a copy of War Z for sale via Steam. We apologize for this and have temporary removed the sale offering of the title until we have time to work with the developer and have confidence in a new build. Those who purchase the game and wish to continue playing it via Steam may do so. Those who purchased the title via Steam and are unhappy with what they received may seek a refund by creating a ticket at our support site here.
Hammerpoint boss Sergey Titov has been defending his game in a variety of interviews, including a particularly stand-offish conversation with GameSpy's Dan Stapleton, telling him that only a small percentage of players were complaining about the game's quality, while defending the original product descriptions. In a thread on The War Z's forums, Titov essentially chalked up the response to Day Z fanboys (his words, not mine) bitter about The War Z's existence.
Titov has since responded to Valve's statement on the matter, telling Kotaku, "We're making sure that our Store page is 100% correct this is why. Bottom line – our end goal is to have satisfied and not angry customers, so this is more important for us than everything else."
Titov, it's worth noting, has something of a checkered history in the game industry. He's credited on a number of different games, including the original Gears of War and League of Legends, but he's also purportedly the brain behind Stellar Stone, the sort-of-developer of Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing, otherwise known as the worst goddamn game ever made.
I don't know if Titov is a snake oil salesman or just supremely misguided in his understanding of how game development ought to work--I have a guess, but probably oughtn't share it here--but whatever the case, the damage seems to be done. Whether or not The War Z ever lives up to its original promises is largely irrelevant, and if the game ever does come back to Steam, it's hard to imagine players flocking to a game that's received such a critical drubbing both in the press and by its own players.
For what it's worth, if The War Z does end up back on Steam, I'll definitely check it out and report back on just what the hell is going on with this thing.