The Disastrous Release of H1Z1

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h1z1_logoOver the past few days I’ve watched with frank disbelief how the launch of SOE’s H1Z1 has progressed.

The game itself has had a technically poor release, with server problems, balancing problems, the rapid rise of hackers and a lack of servers in the EU.

But that’s not the depressing part, oh no, the depressing part is the abject refusal of a vast swathe of the community to take any responsibility for what they’ve bought..

H1Z1 is an Early Access F2P game which was launched on Jan 15th. The developers, SOE, who are also the developers of Planetside 2 (a game I’ve got a planet-sized soft spot for) stated about 8 months ago there will be no weapons, ammo or similar things sold in the game. That’s good, because selling those things would unbalance the game. It also pleased the community.

SOE later went back on this, and decided to introduce air-drops. The mechanic of how these work has changed, and will undoubtedly change again, but effectively you pay real money for an air-drop to be dropped within the game. The air-drop can include many different things, but often will include a weapon and/or ammo. Anyone can grab what’s in the air-drop, you have to fight for it and the first person to get there grabs the loot. The number of people on the server before an air-drop can be called, the distance it will land from you, the speed of the drop and the speed of the plane are all factors that SOE can/has changed.

SOE have been clear there will be air drops, that they are paid with real cash, and and may also contain weapons and/or ammo. They’ve been clear that is except for one mistake: several nights ago during a live stream a dev was asked if there will be any kinds of purchased weapons and other similar items. He replied no. He later published this apology and retraction of what he’d said. The short version is he’d forgotten about air drops. This is a short video which shows that clip along with some more info:

Having done a fair few live streams myself, I can entirely believe he forgot about air drops during the spur of the moment. Did he make a mistake? Yes, absolutely. Did he do anything out of malice to “scam” players? No, I don’t believe so.

But that’s not been the reaction of a large percentage of the community. I’ve been watching the H1Z1 Steam forums since Jan 15th because H1Z1 is a game I’ve been thinking of getting. A huge number of players have accused SOE of outright lying about air-drops, have posted bad reviews and have hammered the SOE devs, in particular John Smedley, the SOE President.

I’ve a lot of respect for Smedley. He’s put his head above the parapet and is taking the flak from the community – not a lot of President’s will do that, they’ll leave it to the community managers instead. He’s even arranged no-questions-asked refunds for anyone who wants one. That’s beyond what even we at Interstellar Marines have been able to manage – I bet his Steam contact and accounts department love him /sarcasm.

But a lot of people are completely forgetting they’ve bought an Early Access game – it’s not finished, it’ll have bugs, it’ll have downtime and outages, exactly as SOE have said on H1Z1’s store page. If you purchase H1Z1 you’re buying a game that is buggy, will reset, and at some time in the future you’ll be able to play completely free. So why pay for it now if you’re not 100% behind it?

It’s been sad watching the hysteria from many people. SOE may have scored an own goal, but as purchasers and players we have to take responsibility for what we’re buying and check to make sure we have our facts right. Doubly so when it comes to Early Access games that are inherently going to be buggy and have problems.

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