'War Z' Game Producer Lists Non-Existent Features, Blames Customers' Eyesight And Overactive Imagination

from the self-immolation-as-'customer-service' dept

As has been discussed here many times, screwing up in public is rarely pleasant, but if the one screwing up takes fast, direct action to respond to the problem and handles complaints with the right blend of contrition and forthrightness, damage will remain minimal. Not only that, but considering that contrition and forthrightness are a rarity in an era where companies sue individuals for writing bad reviews, this sort of action often sees the erring person/company earning praise and new customers for taking the road less traveled.

For zombie-shooter “The War Z,” everything that could be handled badly was, starting with a rushed development cycle that resulted in a game that underdelivered and overpromised. Things went from bad to worse when executive Sergey Titov decided to blame his games' issues on the now-angry customers.

The first misstep was releasing the game in beta state while still expecting customers to pay between $14.99-49.99 for the dubious privilege of traipsing around an underpopulated MMO with only the promise of more and better features somewhere down the road, most of which will require additional payment. Considering the game went from alpha to “worth actual money” in under two months (beta began on October 10th), the supposedly “worth paying for” version seemed a bit, well, unpolished, to say the least.

It seems that the description put on Steam was a touch… exaggerated, perhaps listing what the game is eventually planned to include, rather than what’s in there right now. And it didn’t even mention that the game is not yet beyond beta. Claiming to feature “areas between 100 to 400 square kilometers”, the game in fact currently only has one map, and it’s 72 square kilometers.* It listed itself as having private servers, which it does not. And it sold itself as having skills to buy with experience points, despite the game having no skills at all. An imaginary “hardcore mode” was listed, and it claimed the complete rubbish that 100 players could join a server when the limit is 50.

*According to PCGamesN, the actual size of the map is considerably less than that — 9.7417 sq km.

Pretty much nothing was true other than you could, if you so desired, throw money away on a beta version masquerading as finished product. Naturally, customers were unhappy and took the the forums to express their displeasure. That's when executive producer Sergey Titov waded into the fray, offering the sort of apology that lays the blame at the feet of those being “apologized” at.

“We’ve taken steps to correct this and format information presented on our Steam Store page in a way so it provides more clear information about game features that are present in the Foundation Release and what to expect in the coming weeks.

We also want to extend our apologies to all players who misread infromation about game features.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun suggests this might be a translation issue (ha!). Perhaps Titov meant “miswrote.” Gamespy followed up on Titov's statement, giving the producer a chance to actually apologize for the missing features. No dice.

“I’m sure there’ll be people who will look into small details and will say “no I was mislead,” where in fact they imagined something to themselves without checking details first.”

RPS thoughtfully grabbed a screenshot of the empty promises for posterity, giving all of us a chance to “imagine” a set of features that aren't actually included in “The War Z.”

Titov also added: hey, if you don't like it, go get a refund. Well, sure. That's what the process is for, even if getting a refund for digital purchases is about as fun as playing an insta-fail escort mission that involves herding story-dependent cats through a catnip-laced minefield.

So, naturally, people made attempts to get their money back, only to find out that the terms of service (whatever wasn't copied directly from the “League of Legends” terms of service) now contained language stating that agreeing to the TOS waived their right to a refund.


All of this added up to “The War Z” being removed from Steam and Steam itself is offering refunds to unhappy customers.

Because of these actions, Titov's reputation is currently being burned to the ground (often with Titov himself pouring the gasoline) and sown with salt, something that could have been avoided with an actual apology. Kotaku's roundup of news surrounding “The War Z” grows longer by the day, detailing further hole-digging by the producer, including asking forum users to “upvote” his game at Metacritic (where it currently carries a 1.5/10 rating) as well as preventing members of the game's Steam message board from detailing why they have quit the game.

All it would have taken is for the producer to state the game had been prematurely released and pulled it back until it could actually meet the specifications it posted. Or failing that, released with an altered, realistic set of features. Instead, Titov decided to accuse customers of “misunderstanding” a completely unambiguous features list.

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Comments on “'War Z' Game Producer Lists Non-Existent Features, Blames Customers' Eyesight And Overactive Imagination”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I hope not. Playing the hours and hours of a game and then just being disappointed by the last few mins of it isn’t grounds to get a refund, any more than if you go to the movies, watch the whole thing, then walk over to the box office and say, “I didn’t like the end of that movie, I want my money back,” you’re not going to get anything.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not that people didn’t like the ending, its the fact that ME3’s developers were on video, marketing the ending of the game as not being cookie cutter, as your choices mattering to the final outcome.
Which it didn’t. Granted, the rest of the game may or may not be fun to play (I haven’t played it yet), but when a game developer promises X, and I don’t get X…that means false advertisement. In that case, I’d certainly feel entitled to a refund, just like here in War Z.

zegota (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Bullshit. Your actions certainly contributed to the ending — the entire game was essentially a denouement, and it played out VERY differently depending on your choices in previous games. Just because the last 5 minutes weren’t changed doesn’t mean it was false advertisement. And being disappointed in a game’s execution is far different than a game that out and out lies about quantifiable features (and ‘your actions contribute to the ending’ is not very quantifiable, which is why the whole ME3 argument is so heated).

Promising multiplayer and delivering a single player game, for instance, would be a quantifiable false advertisement and grounds for a refund. Or in this case, promising multiple maps with large areas and delivering a single small one.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I liked ME3, but I will agree that their marketing was misleading on the ending. They said specifically that the outcome would be driven by your decisions. It is true that most of the third installment was driven by decisions in that and the first two games, but the ending was driven by – the ending. I understand why some people were a bit disappointed.

That Crazy Freetard says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Features are added and cut throughout the development cycle of any software. Besides, to prove false advertising you have to show that their remarks weren’t true under any number of interpretations. That one’s decisions make a difference at the end, shit you could just say that’s something that’s true of all games.

What Titov did here is just egregious by comparison.

Jake says:

Re: Re:

Probably not, but this is a somewhat different scenario; it’s one thing for a product to be merely bad, and marketing departments have a certain amount of wriggle-room when it comes to using hyperbole, but telling a barefaced lie in the promotional materials brings all kinds of laws into play that give buyers a more or less automatic right to their money back.

Starke (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, Mass Effect 3 wasn’t released on Steam, for one thing, so asking them for a refund would be… a little weird.

And, yeah, there were some people asking for refunds, over it, or threatening to boycott EA/Bioware/Origin/whatever as a result.

That said, it didn’t reach the same levels as this one did. In large part because ME3 (mostly) the game it claimed to be. There were some really idiotic or flat out misleading statements in the lead up and advertising, but nothing quite like what we had with War Z.

The game claimed to have 100 player servers, when it launched with server population caps of 50, it claimed to have multiple maps ranging from 100 – 400 square km each. It shipped with one, that they claimed was 100 square km, but, from people actually examining it, it looks like it’s most likely a little under 10. It claimed to have private servers, that wasn’t functional. It claimed to have a skill system, that didn’t exist at all. (I know the article covered these, but still.)

To put this in perspective, with Mass Effect 3, the best analogy would be if all the stuff that was on the box was still there, but the game itself contained only what we saw in the demo.

Rather hilariously, after the game went on sale on Steam as a “foundational release”, there were still notifications in game saying that features were still part of an alpha state, and would be subject to change.

As much as I loathe what Bioware did with ME3, they did deliver the game they said they would. It was just, like all writing from Bioware, terminally idiotic.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Even that seems kind of euphemistic, or at best unclear: “Along with that thanks, though, I need to admit that we failed to effectively communicate some of our plans and actions to both our existing players and to our new prospective players.” Is he saying all those things were supposed to be a list of future features and were accidentally worded as current features, or what? He didn’t explain how the screw-up happened, which I imagine is what a lot of people want to hear.

out_of_the_blue says:

Isn't this just innovative use of crowd-funding?

He outlined a proposal and sought funding with some apparent promises that were in fact negated by the “TOS”, had it been read (I guess; timeline seems vague from above). And now those who participated in this bit of creative marketing seem to be claiming they were rooked!

Yet Cushing seems able to maintain a “caveat emptor” balance and isn’t calling for the well-deserved lynching. Hmm.

My bet is that “Titov” — IF that is his real name — is now set for life and doesn’t care.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Isn't this just innovative use of crowd-funding?

“He outlined a proposal and sought funding with some apparent promises that were in fact negated by the “TOS”, had it been read (I guess; timeline seems vague from above).”

Well, if you call putting a “completed” game on Steam which wasn’t actually completed innovative, I guess it is.

Also, the TOS only negates refunds. But it doesn’t negate the rest of the issues with the game. Namely things that were not stated as being in the game and yet weren’t actually there. In most ventures this would be considered “bait and switch” and refunds would be required by regulatory agencies/laws.

My bet is you’re an idiot and Titov, who apparently has done some equally shady things before is NOT set for life and very much cares now. The internet doesn’t forgive and doesn’t forget. He’s pretty much fucked himself out of video game development. No one will risk buying a product and all because much like you, blue, he doesn’t have a clue about how to conduct business or treat customers or remotely understand how this interwebs thingy works.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Isn't this just innovative use of crowd-funding?

I sincerely hope to fucking God that this is someone else parodying Out_of_the_blue…


You are now at the same level as bob when it comes to paywalls and not recognising what isn’t a paywall/crowdfunding. The War Z developer sold a final product as containing X, Y, Z. At no point did he say it was crowdfunding ? la Kickstarter.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Public Relations 101

this sort of action often sees the erring person/company earning praise and new customers

I remember this being explicitly taught in business classes & reiterated in countless business books, and it amazes me how few companies understand the importance of admitting to mistake and rectifying them.

Personally, I view this as a sign of a company (or person, for that matter) that has its act together and that I’d like to do business with. Every company screws up. What’s really meaningful is how they react to screwing up.

Caleb (profile) says:

Hilarious Train wreck

This train wreck is even more hilarious and tragic when you realize that “The War Z” was rushed to completion as clone of the “Day Z” mod to try to capitalize on the mod’s positive press and community as the mod tried to make it’s transition to a retail game.

The tragedy is in the confusion caused by consumers and reviewers that don’t know how to read causing problems for “Day Z” because they didn’t realize that “The War Z” was made by a totally different group of people.

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