Bohemia Interactive and Dean “Rocket” Hall recently announced the release of the Early Access Alpha client for DayZ on Steam. The announcement of the release excited thousands, disappointed many and of course, attracted the greatest of internet trolls. Outside of the ridiculous refund requests and general Alpha-related complaints there’s another kind of reoccurring thread and discussion across the internet, the comparison of DayZ and The War Z (now known as Infestation: Survivor Stories).
I’m going to refer to The War Z as its previous title throughout this article as that was the name of the game when Sergey Titov and his questionable development team lied through their teeth to separate gamers from their hard earned cash. Let me prefix this next statement by saying I do not hate The War Z as a game. It has many strengths and qualities but it was the manner in which it was sold that I have a problem with.
To put it bluntly, they lied. There is no other word to describe it so I’ve borrowed an image from Reddit that shows the complete crap they sold to players when the game was first released on Steam, this is before it was taken down by Valve following a huge number of complaints.
The lead developer, Sergey Titov, then posted an official response that was insulting and slightly comical.
“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.”
Interpretations? It quite obviously stated the game included features that it did not. You can’t read that wrong, you can’t make the mistake of seeing “100 Player Servers” and only expecting 50. It was fabricated information to pull in buyers quickly, and it worked. It was the best selling game on Steam at the time.
So now that the facts surrounding the deployment of The War Z are clear, I’ll move onto the background of the game. Slightly backwards way of doing things but that’s how I roll! The War Z was actually created using the exact same engine used in another game worked on by the same developers, War Inc: Battle Zone. Originally forum mods and certain developers claimed that this was not the case, stating it was a different engine created by the same developers. However, the internet is not really the best place to misinform people as there are plenty of folk that will dedicate their time to proving it wrong.
The below images from imgur demonstrate just how obvious the comparison was. Exact same models, exact same effects and the exact same vehicles have been used throughout the game. Some of these images were officially labelled in press releases as screenshots, prompting many popular media outlets to post them under that category. However, many of the actions shown in the images below were not possible in the game whatsoever. They were fabricated images using in-game resources. This included everything from showing characters duel wielding to showing 200 zombies on-screen at once, none of which was possible. This is nothing new, even the biggest names in gaming do this, but they make it obvious. They don’t pass them off as viable in-game actions and scenarios when it’s just not possible. Excusing the likes of Aliens: Colonial Marines of course.
The support for War Inc: Battle Zone stopped almost immediately after work began on The War Z, which took less than 6 months despite developers saying otherwise. Prior to stopping support for War Inc the developers promised to introduce a better skill system and usable vehicles, also both promised to The War Z and to this day, have yet to be fulfilled properly.
As if that wasn’t enough it appeared the developers also lacked in the imagination department as they apparently stole images from the popular TV show, The Walking Dead. The main promo image for the game was compared to a number of characters seen in the critically acclaimed show and, well, you be the judge.
That would usually be enough controversy to bury any game and although The War Z is nowhere near as popular as it was back then, it’s still available and releasing regular updates. The game continues to disappoint many with its heavy approach to micro-transactions and the ridiculous level of hackers and KoS, but it’s a game many have come to call home. I haven’t even touched on many of the other problems, such as developers banning innocent players for no apparent reason before launching a price reduction sale, but I think the evidence above speaks for itself.
In the interest of fairness I’ll now attempt to compare each stage of The War Z directly to DayZ were possible, the irony of this isn’t lost on me considering the point of this article. The Early Access on DayZ was only launched on Steam a couple of days ago but with a very different approach. Instead of filling the page with questionable information, the developers filled it with so much truth it was painfully obvious. Check out the image below, these warnings are featured in 3 different locations:
Bohemia Interactive then included a features list, which is the norm for all Steam releases. However, unlike The War Z, every feature listed is currently available in-game, although somewhat buggy. One of the features is even sold short as servers can support more than 40 players:
And finally for the Steam Store Page, highlights of upcoming features. It is made very clear that the developers have big plans for exciting features that have not yet been implemented and could take more than a year to do so:
We’d all rather hear the game already has awesome features, and it works flawlessly, but that is not what the developers have chosen to do. They’ve given players the information and we, as gamers, choose whether or not we support development this early. Dean “Rocket” Hall, the creator of the ARMA II mod and DayZ Standalone also posted this quote BEFORE purchase was available:
Buying early will be a recipe for disappointment. It’s a chance for those who want to be part of that whole process. For them, the process is as much a part of the game as the whole experience. For many, this is the opposite of what they want. To enable a smooth launch, we’re really targeting it at a core audience who want to get deeply involved in a very barebones experience that is a platform for future development.
He even told players it would be a disappointment, actually encouraging them not to buy it. He also streamed for a very, very long time in the build up to the Alpha release, giving all the long-term fans all the information they needed to make an educated post.
Sadly Rocket and Bohemia Interactive are not totally innocent in the eyes of many players. I was at the EuroGamer 2012 conference where Dean Hall stated that it would “definitely release before Christmas, we can’t afford not to”, so I’m not blind to the wrong information over the last year or two. However, if you read the Q&A from that same conference, many of the features and answers are still true today.
Many have also criticized the developers for changing the price after many claim figures such as $15 and $20 were thrown around. Although this may be true, you have to consider that all of this information was before release, before you had the opportunity to throw your money at them; they have not attempted to mislead players at all following the actual Alpha client release.
It has also been made very clear, from the very beginning, that the game would use a modified version of the ARMA II engine with many of the assets and models available in the game. Another difference to The War Z and Hammerpoint Interactive with their attempts to deny the obvious.
DayZ has come under heavy criticism for the state of the Alpha but that’s to be expected from the average gamer. Those that have had prior experience in the Alpha testing phase of games will more than likely be quite impressed with its technical stability and vast performance improvements. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see some more content but when it comes to the foundation blocks required to build a great game, DayZ SA Alpha has them in place.
Whether you agree with paying for Early Access for Alpha’s or not, the next time you take to the DayZ Steam forums and suggest players purchase The War Z instead, be sure you know what you’re endorsing.