War Z Creator Apologizes: 'I Became Arrogant And Blinded By The Early Success And Quick Growth'

The man behind The War Z has apologized to his fans for some of the controversies that have entangled the much-maligned survival horror game over the past couple of weeks.

Here's the full letter he sent to War Z players today:

Dear fellow Survivors,

It has now been more than two months since we launched public access to The War Z. We've definitely had our ups and downs, and I thought that this Holiday break was the right time for me to try to step back a little and think about our journey since it started. This may be a little long, but I would appreciate if you could stay with me for a few minutes as I try to go over the highlights of the game as well as some of the hurdles and controversies, how we have addressed that and what our plans are.

First of all a very big and sincere "Thank You!" to all of you. We are really proud of the community we have formed with you guys. Every day we have hundreds of thousands of players on our servers, and this is a life-changing event for the team and me. We are blessed to have you as members of the community and we are well aware that without you the game would be nothing. 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. This failure to communicate resulted in some very negative feedback from some members of our community, but while it might be easy to label them as "haters" or some other dismissive term, in all honesty this is my fault. I became arrogant and blinded by the early success and quick growth of The War Z, our increasing number of players, numbers we were getting from surveys, etc., and I chose not to notice the concerns and questions raised by these members of the game community as well as others. This failure is entirely on my shoulders and if anything I owe thanks to that vocal minority and admit that I should have paid attention sooner. I chose instead to concentrate on the bigger picture — my dream of turning The War Z from being a game developed by a small indie team into a large online venture, instead of addressing small things first and staying focused on the game issues. At the end my arrogance led us to the moment, when all those small things finally caught up and created a "perfect storm" that affected all of our community members. For that I'm truly sorry and apologise to all of our community as well as the larger PC gaming community that is not yet playing The War Z.

I do not take this situation lightly, and last week events were especially humbling for me. I've experienced a range of emotions, most of which centered on regret for not having addressed some of the issues differently than we did, but we can't change the past. The only thing we can do is to be sure that we won't repeat the same mistakes in the future. I have realised that as the leader of this ship, I missed all early warnings that were saying, "Your community is not as happy as you think they are, you need to alter course." I was too focused on how great we are and how a small independent team got their first game to over 700,000 users in a two-month period. Though that is something to be very proud of, allowing that to overshadow the existing community and their satisfaction was poor judgment.

I want to give you some insight into what our plans are for the future, but before we get to that, I'd like to clear the air with you on several important topics.

Community management and moderation — the problem

Even since the early Alpha launch, this game has always cultivated a large and loyal player base that is very active in the game. Again, thank you for this. Unfortunately, we weren't prepared for this large success and the way we managed the community was not the way it should've been. We relied too much on forum moderators, whose primary role was to punish those who break rules, not to engage the community and guide conversations into productive discussions about problems. There wasn't enough presence of the development team on forums, there wasn't enough updates on development of UPCOMING features. We failed to communicate our position and messaging on the outside platforms such as Facebook, twitter and various online websites, and when we did this we chose to rely more on arrogance rather than being humble and trying to understand why people were saying negative things. We chose to tune out negative reactions to the game, not paying enough attention to them — and this, again, is my fault. We chose to rely too much on numbers — percentage of refund requests, number and dynamic of our daily and monthly active users, etc. Well, in hindsight — those things probably work well for more casual games, but the hardcore PC gaming community is much different and can be very vocal about what they feel. Even when the percentage of players with negative comments is small, as the community grows, even a small percentage can add up to be a very significant absolute number. And it's not just a number — those are real people with real issues they are having with the game. OP Productions (publisher for War Z) and me personally have failed to address those issues effectively.

Community management and moderation — the solution!

We're changing our community management procedures and rules right now. We're going to reevaluate publishing and marketing team performance, and I will make sure that Hammerpoint Interactive developers will have a much stronger voice when it comes to community management and we won't rely 100% on OP Productions to single handedly handle this. Lots of changes will be happening very fast in the weeks to come. One of the ideas that I proposed was to select 10 players from around the world who can represent the player community and invite them to our offices in Los Angeles, to meet the team, check out what we're doing, and share with actual developers their concerns, wishes and thoughts on the game. We also will involve community, to a much higher degree, in the process of making our next map for the War Z (called "California"). We'll be discussing many of the aspects of the map with you and asking for feedback.

We're revisiting our forum policies; we're going to bring on an additional community management team, additional moderators and we'll train them how to respond to things properly. There will still be restrictions on harassment, trash talk, etc. But we'll make sure that every opinion is heard. At the same time, I must also be cautious: we cannot address all issues and there cannot be only one voice. Please accept that. With hundreds of thousands of players playing, talking, chatting, voicing their strong opinions, there will always be diverging opinions. And some issues that are minor ones are sometimes brought to light by very vocal channels. I would even say there is sometimes a beginning of controversy because the game is now so popular. So there is sometimes a distortion between the severity of the issue and the attention it gets. But we will clearly implement steps to better listen to the community.

What is Foundation Release?

The most asked question of the last week was "is this the final release?" My answer has always been that for an online game a "final" release means that the game is dead — so there's really no such thing, you never stop developing, making changes to and adding new features to the game. This is how we came to call the current version of The War Z "Foundation Release." We launched the Foundation Release on December 17, 2012 as our first-stage release that we use as a foundation to build upon. It does include the core features and a fully playable environment. This is our version 1.0, and of course we will continue to improve that version as time goes on. Did we rush to get it done? That is a tough question, but to answer honestly I think that we all pushed very hard to be first to market and in time for the holidays. Our entire team was working late, long hours to iron out issues and include as many features as possible. This is part of the reality of being a smaller, independent game developer. If we had a larger team and more funding we may have done things differently, but I'm not sure. I don't think it was a mistake because our numbers have been strong since day one and, even with the recent negativity, our metrics are really solid and we've been continuing to grow. The negative opinions are always the most vocal, but most players are really enjoying the game and we've been attracting more and more daily active players every week. A lot of the gaming journalists that have been playing the game have also given us some great feedback. I realise that we will take a few hits from some of the traditional gaming press in terms of review scores, but I'm hoping that even they will consider that this game is a living project that will continue to evolve as time goes on. We are very proud of our Foundation Release, and we do stand behind it like we have stood behind any previous version.

What's on the Horizon?

As for what will happen next with The War Z? We're currently evaluating the relationship between Hammerpoint and OP Productions. I firmly believe that Hammerpoint should be playing a more prominent role in publishing/game operating process. We're in a process of adding new key members to our team, bringing on guys who have much more experience operating and growing successful online games and I know this is going to make a huge difference in terms of development. We'll be making some big decisions in terms of leadership for both companies and I will personally change how I handle many things. Above all we will continue to develop and make this game the best that it can be.

I know that to some people my words won't matter much. I understand that. I hope that will change as we move forward and deliver the features that our players have been waiting for. I can promise you that from now on things will be much more transparent, and we'll provide better communication and engage our community to discuss upcoming features way before they appear in the game.

I do believe that we aren't even close to uncovering the true potential for The War Z, and I hope that in the coming year, we'll be able to regain trust from people who were alienated by our actions and we'll be able to move forward and grow the game together.

Thank you for reading all this, thank you for supporting the game and thank you for helping us to change and realise what's important as well as what is not.

I hope you are all having a happy holiday and I wish you the best for the New Year!


Sergey Titov

Executive Producer, The War Z


    The man behind The War Z has apologized to his fans

    I'm really not sure that he has any

      this is by far the most poorly made game iv ever came across in all my years of pc gaming cant even connect to update servers firewalls is off and i have internet whats the prob>?? a poorly made game by this horrible company

    Too little too late

    Last edited 28/12/12 10:06 am

      Indeed! You don't get to be an ultimate dick and then say 'oh sorry didn't mean it'...so if his actions didn't have any financial or fame repercussions, then he was going to stay being that way?! Unacceptable!

    As much as i understand all the controversy, I just don't think it is as bad as it seems. It seems like a bandwagon effect. Up to 100 players, that was actually true. It can have up to 100 player servers, but most people didn't want 100 player servers. Hence, they listened to MOST their player base in what direction to go with their game.

    That was atrocious. Read more like the apple "apology" to Samsung. Shifting blame minority of players. Never fully saying sorry for even half the things that were done.

    Where is the sorry I blatantly lied to you on the steam page?
    Where is the sorry i added a cash grab to make you respawn instantly and then increased spawn times to 5x what they were originally?

    Where is the apology for all the bullshit they pulled including banning forum people for simply voicing their problems?

    This guy deserves to go bankrupt and i hope he never gets another job in the industry again he is scum.

      I think you're over-reacting. The guy didn't kill someone, he made a mistake and apologized for it. How can something like this, create such a malevolent bandwagon? You're all acting as though this guy slept with your mother.

      If anything, the company deserves another shot, we learn from our mistakes and improve on our success.

        He didn't just make 'a' mistake. He made a creatively-bankrupt game that ripped off another one wholesale, filled it with stolen artwork then sold it, lied about it, and then 'patched' it to lengthen the respawn timer so you pay money. I can excuse misguided games, but this is slimy and predatory in the extreme.

        Deserves another shot? This guy's had a whole bunch since Big Rigs and has proved time and again that he's only capable of running an amateurish shitshow. There are thousands of unemployed devs out there and this scumbag somehow still has a job by shamelessly fleecing his audience.

        There is no redemptive element to this mess. Even that letter is a non-apology that blames all the bad press on 'haters' and 'DayZ fanboys' just like his 'apology' for calling campers faggots. Then there are such gems like
        "I was too focused on how great we are"
        This guy will just slink away and steal his next get-rich-quick game.

        Last edited 28/12/12 4:34 pm

          I totally understand we're your coming from, and I agree with you, to an extent, and dont take this as a personal attack, but he he really didnt seem to be blaming the 'haters', he, in fact, said they were the ones who pretty much made him take his head out of his pretentious ass.
          I agree with the rest of your points however, and at least steam was smart enough to offer refunds.

        How can i possibly be over reacting this guy literally committed fraud and now still HASN'T apologize, he is scum period.

        He stole, lied, and then tried to milk every last cent before he got busted and now comes here and basically talks absolute bullshit.

        " oh oh it wasnt my fault i was jsut looking at the big picture, it was a perfect storm of little things that caused this. Oh it was the haters kicking up a storm over little things wah wah wah"

        Bullshite to the extreme, everything he did was a deliberate attempt to capitalize on the success of Day Z and get as many gullible shmucks to pony up some $$ before he got caught.

        OR are you forgetting its "not our fault you read the steam page wrong" Really so 3/4 of what you wrote wasn't a blatant lie?

        This man makes my skin crawl he basically committed white collar crimes here and deserves some kind of punishment i.e. fine or prison time.

    I wonder if he "became arrogant and blinded by the [...] success" of Big Rigs as well? Oh, wait...

    why say sorry? you fucked up big deal! get over it! and make another game or improve the one you already have ^.^

    "I was too focused on how great we are"

    Yep, definitely an apology.

    Last edited 28/12/12 10:58 am

    This isn't an apology at all! What a wanker.

    With a majority of titles that go pear shaped it seems that the minorty are the loudest and fair enough too, especially the way WarZ has been handled...very poorly. The company will pay for that, but how many of us actually go out of our way to praise a good thing. When our favourite TV show gets pulled we get upset, but did we take the time to contact the station beforehand and say; hey thanks for airing "show X" ? I think most of the time we are happy that we are on to a good thing and forget to tell the people who gave a good thing "Hey nice job". WarZ will not be getting any praise anytime soon.

    Arrogant man is Arrogant.

    Some of these comments above are the perfect example of why many FPS gamers give me the galloping sh*ts these days. Some of you sound like a bunch of CoD playing tween punks with your youtube flavoured vitriol! This company made some pretty significant mistakes, granted. Titov acted like a tool and is now apologising for it, as well he should, and they will take a hit in their coffers for this. But for some of you it isnt enough. You're determined to spoil the experience. You act as though he's committed some unforgiveable sins against you directly. No one's been killed. He's not using sweatshop labour to make this game. He's not banging your gf. So stop acting like a bunch of spoiled brats with an inflated, undeserved sense of entitlement! Especially you KingPotato. You really must be a spud from that rant! Seriously, I too am dying to see how this game pans out too because, like Day Z, the concept is brilliant (if somewhat derivative), but acting like an angry child because "Wah, I was mislead" or "Wah, it wasn't perfect from the second I logged in!" does nothing for the game and only makes you foolish. You think this is the first time a game has mislead the public in some way??

    If you have constructive input, go to the War Z forums and let your ideas and remedies be heard! Nothing is going to be fixed if you don't go to the source. Kotaku isn't an active participant in the game, so I have to ask, why are you wasting your time here being angry at the top of your voice. The minority of internet tough guy haters (and half the time they've just brat kids with no sense of moderation) have been too vocal for too long. If you care so much, get a refund or go to the source to help. If you need an outlet to vent your tween angst, go back to playing to playing Generic Tactical Shooter: Modern Borefest and vent your hate there, otherwise, there's always Youtube, the internatially recognised forum of hate on the web. If you still want to waste everyone's time, may I suggest fornicating yourself with an iron rod?

    This guy was responsible for the broken mess that was Big Rigs. He was a scumbag before Warz.

    Where's the sorry, I reskinned one of my old games, and turned it into a zombie game, with the same format, same look, just reskinned, also for stealing coverart.

    Where's the sorry, I mislead a large majority of my players on features, not the 'vocal minority'

    Where's the sorry, I made up the facts on the 'surveys' we had, and provided no facts on what surveys or results they had.

    Where's the sorry, I obviously lied about developement time, and was simply opportunistic on DayZ's success?

    Where's the sorry, we're obviously trying to gouge money out of you in a feeble and obvious cash grab? (although you could debate as to whether that's an apologetic point), regardless

    Time and time again, he continues to lie between his teeth. It's obvious this apology, is simply to try and stem the tide of negativity towards himself. From their opening move, it's obvious to see that this developer does not care about their community. One does not simply do a 180, and just care about their community. It has to be a goal ingrained from the start, and the feeling I get from reading this 'apology' is that nothing's changed. The fact that they spoke nothing about the patch to the respawn, the way that they handled cash shop items and balance of power, and a load of other very prominent critizisms, it's not an admission of guilt that they dun goofed, it's a sorry for the sake of a sorry to hope that it soon blows over.

    Don't support terrible developers like this, don't proliferate inaccurate advertising, don't encourage developers to blame their problems on a 'minority misreading features' or a 'vocal minority', as a scapegoat to escape criticism.

    glad I read this non-apology and the comments, I'd have bought the game otherwise. He can't claim all the users proves his and the games greatness, it only proves there's huge demand for a decent Zombie game and I'm hearing this aint it. Hope Day Z is paying attention

    Paraphrase: "We're very, very, truly sorry for making money hand-over-fist with our broken game and microtransactions. We're so very sorry and we love you guys so much, so please for the love of god don't take those meanies Valve up on their offer to refund the game."

    "minority"? I would believe that for most games but I've actually not heard a single person actually enjoying the game?

    Also, I've not played it myself but from things I've read, the "problem" and "solution" addressed here doesn't sound like what players were actually upset about? Looks like War Z is a definite failure.

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