It’s pretty easy to draw comparisons between DayZ and The War Z. The former started life as a mod for military simulator ArmA II before becoming a big hit and encouraging its creators to develop a standalone retail release of the game. The War Z came along a bit later, and attracted an audience by using the same “survivors trapped in the zombie apocalypse” gameplay premise that DayZ popularized. Hammerpoint Interactive, the developer of The War Z, was quick to rush the game to retail but it was pulled from Steam a mere two days after its debut when fans realized that Hammerpoint had greatly exaggerated the game’s feature set. At that time The War Z was an unfinished game, akin to a beta test, fans claimed, and it took intervention by Steam creator Valve Software to force Hammerpoint to start offering up refunds to anyone dissatisfied with the game.
Amidst all of this controversy, Dean “Rocket” Hall, creator of DayZ remained relatively quiet. You’d expect him to be furious at Hammerpoint for so blatantly swiping his clever video game idea, and it wouldn’t have been shocking had Hall written a lengthy, angry screed against Hammerpoint for what the company had done. Yet that never came. Until now, anyway.
In response to a Reddit post, Hall has now opted to clarify his feelings on The War Z, and as you’d expect he is not pleased.
“I am angry about the WarZ. I’m very angry,” Hall writes. “I’m quite hurt personally because anyone can see how similar the words are, and while the average gamer knows the difference individual people don’t. I’ve had family members/close friends mistake the difference and confront me about what they believed was unethical behavior they thought I was making. I really don’t think anyone can understand just quite how exasperated that can make you feel when you’ve gambled everything on something, put your whole self and reputation on the line. So it hasn’t made my life very pleasant and I disagree entirely with the conduct and how consumers have been treated.”
“I think the word “scam” is such a loaded word that isn’t really relevant in the discussion, much like the word “terrorist” is a very loaded word and very much dependent on point of view,” Hall adds.
In an unexpected twist though, Hall explains that blame for this debacle doesn’t fall entirely on Hammerpoint as you might expect. Instead, Hall claims that games journalists are at fault here. Previews hyping The War Z prior to its release were far too positive and made no mention of the game’s objectively incomplete state, Hall believes. “The people I would lob criticism at would be some in the gaming media who take fairly dubious claims from a developer at face value without saying ‘is that really correct?’ and asking for backup claims,” Hall writes. “There are many media who were saying how great the game was they ‘played’ in pre-alpha, only to say something completely different a few months later about how terrible the game was. I think that’s the absolute worst.”
Obviously we’re a bit biased on this topic, but Hall has a legitimate claim. The games media did hype The War Z prior to its release only to realize it had been taken after the game was available to the general public. Sadly for Hall (and games developers as a whole), this is not the first time something like this happened nor will it likely be the last. We’ll continue to do our best to never lead our readers astray, but it’s always important to keep the phrase “caveat emptor” in the back of your head when reading anything about video games.