The War Z: A Lesson in Greed

can't believe people bought it. i didnt. obvious from the first second what was up. take your fucking credit cards away from your dumb kids and stop literally funding the russian mafia.
Games today, are about addiction. People are becoming borderline retarded. All these youtube lets-play stuff etc. And hype people buy in to. Its almost getting scary. Its time for people to start using there HEAD again omfg.
People who aren't careful deserve to pay for their decisions. Not only the customers who got scammed, but also our friend Sergei. I have no doubt he will spend a long time behind bars while being repo-d of the last penny he made in this business venture.
Wait... this guy helped make fucking Big Rigs? An alpha of a game with no collision detection where you drive through building and bridges, the other racers never move, you can literally accelerate to infinite speeds by going in reverse, and the back of the box outright lied about the existence of police chases in the game. It is legitimately known as one of the worst games ever made, quite famously down there with Superman 64 and ET on Atari. Oh and yes, i have played the game.And people give this man MONEY? Forget the death of a mining titan, THIS is why there's no reason to have faith in humanity anymore.
I know im gonna get called a fanboi but someone has to at least try to defend here...i have a group of friends who play thewarZ. They dont hack or exploit, they just have fun enjoying a fairly bad alpha for what it is. Yes, the devs are full of shit and dont have an ounce of ethics between them but the game still has some potential. Personally i prefer dayZ but at times my car magically flies through the air and explodes which causes great frustration which i then take out on easy to kill warZ bums for a few hours before returning to cherno...or taviana...or lingor.
Yep. Not only do people give him money, the gaming media said literally nothing about Sergey's 'pedigree' prior to the Steam launch.
Big Rigs over the road racing is a classic
Considering hes basically Russan mafia, I doubt it.
Oh, also, there are working 100 player servers. Might wanna get your ducks in a row.
Not at the time of the Steam launch there weren't.
I confess I actually was playing the alpha and enjoying it. It was basically what me and my friends wanted, a DayZ with better graphics and a better engine. Sure, there wasn't any reason not to murder and loot everyone who isn't you/your crew, and hacking was rampant, and you were far more likely to find hats than food or weapons, but we secured enough Good Gaming Moments to keep us logging in and exploring. And fundamentally, almost all the bits you'd expect to have WERE there. You could loot, fight zombies, eat/drink, fight players, trade items between characters, you had a global inventory. Obviously each of those bits were varying levels of hugely unrefined but they were all things you could do.I think the power of "well, it's an alpha!" is strong. Every time something irritating or shitty came up, just shrug, repeat it's an alpha, and move on. Promotion screenshots show scenes of gameplay not remotely close to anything available in the game? Hey, it's an alpha, and it's not like promo shots and video being doctored isn't rampant across the industry. It's also a useful tool to shout down people criticizing the game on forums and blogs. Dude made Big Rigs? Well I mean it's probably bad but everyone has blemishes on the record and anyway surely people are exaggerating, no I won't do any research on that I'm a busy man playing this alpha jeez. So it goes.And then the game releases on steam, with no mention of it's alpha state. At that point you can't deny anything anymore, that whole "well a game like this is always evolving and changing!" argument is true in the abstract but that has nothing to do with straight up bold faced lying about the current state of the product you're sellingtl;dr This is a really long and rambling post about how I'm still uncomfortable with having been ripped off, I have glimpsed the Real and it is an unscrupulous russian with my thirty bucks
Hate the guy, but this keeps coming up. he didn't "make" bigrig's he just licensed his engine in exchange for a share of the company.
I consider myself a hardcore dayz fanatic, been playing dayz since may last year. When I first learned about this warz game I immediately recognized a me too clone designed to leech $$ from the popularity of dayz. Sadly by October my dayz mod experience was in a rut due to lack of new content , so I spent $15 on the warz to see how it was. Once in the game world, I realized how barren and empty it was compared to a dayz mod. I'm not angry at spending $15, rather the promises of delivering content that they never planned on delivering.The creators of warz simply cashed in on the need of new zombie survival content before dayz standalone was released. From what I hear, the dayz devs and rocket have been getting threats from angered steam gamers that confused warz with dayz. A lot of people bought warz on steam assuming it was full dayz game and now are posting shit in dayz forums and demanding refunds.
I don't think the article is saying you're not allowed to enjoy the game. Charging people money for a broken tech demo and then telling your customers it's their fault they didn't somehow know that your Steam description was full of shit is the part people shouldn't enjoy.
I love how people downvoted Haplol when he was right. Sergey is a dickhead for all this War Z stuff, but if you're going to criticise him, at least do it without making stuff up. He had almost no involvement in the actual development of Big Rigs.
Sergey Titov is a Goon alt.
It was just an enterprise to fuel our titan swarm.
Here are the ending credits for Big Rigs. Sergey as listed under 'Producer' and 'Programming'. I interpret that as having something to do with 'making' the game, although that's all I'm basing it on. any case, I bought this game and wish I hadn't. Downloaded it, spent an hour getting spawn raped for my granola bars, and then uninstalled it and haven't touched it since. I want my money back.
umnumnum touch my body umnumnum..The war z is dead to me until i hear of new game changes worth looking into
I really feel ok for hacking MW3 now.
He was on the credits, did interviews and puts it on his resume. Now he claims not to have anything to do with it. Unless you worked on Big Rigs and have documents proving he just wrote the engine (which was a sloppy mess in its own right), than his credits stand. I also see that on a few websites associated with WarZ he is claiming to have worked on Gears of War. I checked the credits on that game and didn't see Sergey at all. In fact other than his word I can't find any proof of that claim at all. He creates shovelware and people keep giving him money. It is a sad testimony to the state of our industry.
You should update this article. I have been playing this gameSince steam release. Since your Article date they have upgraded and patched the game tremendously. They got punkbuster anti cheat. Fairfight is doing an amazing job also at removing hackers. They have weekly dev blogs with media and updates on developement and future updates.What so many of you claimed to be a hit and run for cash is turning out to be a game that is not only in constant developement but also has a growing community. They also have been back on steam for quite a while now and even had a steam sale last week where you can get the game for $4. The game is Tons of fun and has been frustrating at times however those times are far in the past. I really think you owe it to your readers to give an updated article on this game because much has changed in the last few months. Also you forgot to mention how they gave out a Ton of GC and free server rental time for the issues they had from the ddos attacks.

Early in the summer of 2012, the free ARMA II mod ‘DayZ’ skyrocketed in popularity soon after release. Within months it had over a million players and people were buying ARMA II simply to play DayZ, resulting in ARMA II topping the charts of Valve’s Steam store for four months straight. Obviously, the zombie genre was peaking and there was plenty of money to be made.

Enter The War Z. Announced on July 19th by Hammerpoint Interactive, The War Z set out with one goal in mind: cashing in. The War Z was to take the zombie genre into the hallowed lands of MMO-dom,  promising open worlds of 200-400 km2, strong role playing elements, dozens of unique skills that could be learned and improved, and up to 250 players per game server. To the DayZ populace, this sounded a bit like Valhalla come early.

Who is Hammerpoint Interactive, though, to promise the world to the zombie obsessed? Well, it is hard to say, as Hammerpoint Interactive has no website of their own - strange in this day and age, particularly for a game developer. What we do know is that it’s leader is Sergey Titov, former Technical Director at Riot Games. Even then, though, a quick glance at Sergey’s LinkedIn profile shows literally no mention of Hammerpoint Interactive. Sounds legit.

Since his 21 month stint at Riot  (2006-2008), Titov has been a busy bee. Among other games he has been involved in through his role as CEO of Arktos Entertainment Group (the company that ends up funding most of the fly by night development teams, like Hammerpoint Interactive), Titov helped build “Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing” (the worst game created in recent memory, if not ever) and The War, Inc: Battlezone - a free to play , online multiplayer shooter. We’ll come back to that.

The Alpha

The alpha test of The War Z began on October 15th. There was much made of the announcement and subsequent alpha in relation to DayZ - many saw it as an obvious attempt to cash in on a new market in gaming. Sergey Titov denied that DayZ had much of anything to do with the development of The War Z, stating that his game had been in development before DayZ even came out. However, this is where “The War, Inc” really begins to come into play.

On May 16th (one week after DayZ began making headlines in the gaming press on Kotaku), Sergey took to The War, Inc. forums and postulated the concept of making a zombie version of the multiplayer game. Hammerpoint Interactive, the ‘development studio’ behind The War Z (and obviously not the same studio as The War, Inc.) seemed to come into existence the same day that the game was announced, with Twitter, Facebook and Youtube accounts all being created around the same time. Also of note is the fact that the game’s website,, was registered in late May of 2012 - shortly after floating the possibility of development on The War, Inc. forums

These facts, and Sergey’s way with the truth, did not discourage many, however. DayZ was popular for a reason - the gaming community yearned for zombie action. As a result, thousands flocked to The War Z, dropping real cash for the privilege of testing Sergey’s reskinned shooter. By all accounts, there were a genuine few who felt that the game had promise: most, however, did not. It’s Alpha status was nearly unplayable, with some popular figures in the gaming community outright throwing their hands up in disgust at The War Z’s condition. Negative feedback, however, was not what Sergey and his Community Moderator, a man known as KewkD, were looking for. Posts critical of the game were frequently deleted on sight by the moderators at, while many players also fell victim to bans from the game for no provided reason at all.

With nearly all dissent smothered by the watchful KewkD, The War Z continued trucking along. Hands on demonstrations were given to various members of the gaming media, who seemed at times to struggle to say a good word about the game. With DayZ Standalone on the horizon, it must have swiftly become apparent to Sergey that the time to strike was soon - very soon.

The Launch

On December 17th, The War Z was put up for sale on Steam. While it had apparently been known by members of The War Z community that this was simply a ‘Foundation Release’, a la Minecraft or the upcoming DayZ standalone, no mention was made of the current state of the game on the Steam page. Instead, it listed all of the features that The War Z hoped one day to achieve, listed as though they were present in the current game. To break it down simply, here’s a screenshot:

Naturally, gamers did not take well to this. Several critical threads were made on the game’s Steam subforum - threads which were immediately deleted by none other than KewkD. To add insult to injury, the Terms of Service specify that by agreeing to play the game, customers also agree to not being able to get a refund - for any reason.

Given all this, it seemed simple as to what Hammerpoint (aka Sergey) should do: issue an apology, correct his game page on Steam and offer refunds to those who purchased the game under the impression that it was everything he claimed it to be.

Damage Control

Instead, Sergey at first doubled down on scamming, going so far as to defend the accuracy of his Steam page in an interview with GameSpy. However, it became apparent that this wasn’t going to work. The War Z, shortly after ‘launching’ on Steam, had skyrocketed to the top of Steam’s sales chart. Thousands upon thousands of players had descended upon The War Z, thinking themselves just mere clicks from post apocalyptic nirvana. What they found instead was a game with more bugs than a Tijuana motel, with none of the features promised.

Sergey then issued an apology, but even in this he failed to take full responsibility. His apology was aimed at players who ‘misread’ the information available on Steam. No mention of refunds was made for the masses. Instead, Sergey decided to just tidy up the Steam page a bit. The mob was angered, however, and not to be swayed by the smooth talk of a game developer who essentially blamed them for his mistake.

The next day, December 19th, Valve pulled the game from Steam, announcing that they would be issuing refunds to those who wanted them and that the game would only be made available again via Steam when Valve “had more confidence in a new build of the game.” Valve moderator al also announced that he would be looking into the behavior of the moderator on The War Z’s Steam subforum, stating that Valve ‘takes seriously’ allegations of censorship, as well as stating that criticisms of the game are allowed, so long as they are respectful and do not result in personal attacks against developers, moderators, or fellow players.

The Panderers

Sergey Titov can, no doubt, be cast as the villain in this drama. However, as every good villain does, Sergey went beyond a simple evil deed or three. He took advantage of his environment, particularly the people out for themselves. He reskinned a game, cashed in on an emerging game genre, and abused the trust of thousands of players - and then he took advantage of the gaming media’s propensity to pander. Several gaming media outlets had covered The War Z to some extent, prior to the obviously attention grabbing drama that has been unfolding since December 17th, and actually had kind words, with the occasional koolaid fueled glowing praise, for the product.

Nathan Meunier of IGN wrote on December 14th, just three days before the proverbial shit hit the fan, that The War Z was an “interesting, gripping experience,” as well as a “fascinating social experiment in primal human nature.” The latter quote was in reference to the Bandit/Friendly dynamic that players of DayZ would recognize in a heart beat, though in retrospect it seems that both quotes (if taken out of their original context and plopped into the context of this article) could still be applicable today. He did qualify his praise for the game by providing the usual disclaimers of ‘this is still a beta’ and ‘there is some evening out to do,’ but for the most part the tone of his piece indicated that this would be a game worth buying.

Beau Hindman of Massively (a Joystiq subsidiary) was able to get hands on time with the game at GDC 2012, back in October. His article, released October 12th, featured slightly more effusive praise for The War Z, based on his playtime alongside Hammerpoint Interactive’s Alex Josef. Beau had many kind things to say about the game, despite it’s early development status. “The lighting in The War Z works beautifully and realistically.” When Alex Josef set the game to night, Beau stated that “with my headphones on, I was actually a bit scared. I could only imagine how frightening it would be...alone in my house. I’m not sure I could do it!” He was also happy to parrot the claims of Hammerpoint without a shred of disbelief: “Players converge on massive maps that will support up to 250 players at a time!”

With the amount of exclamation marks, one can’t help but wonder if Beau is a journalist, or a Justin Bieber groupie. To top off Beau’s attempt at copywriting, we have this gem:

What impressed me so much about the game was not only how smooth and polished it was for an early version but how immersive the game felt. I could lose hours and hours to this one.

Tim Turi of GameInformer also fell prey to the same bug that bit Beau Hindman. While he was slightly more careful in his review, published in the December 2012 edition of GameInformer, to point out that some features were only ‘promised’, he still made bold proclamations that don’t seem to hold up under any kind of scrutiny. 

“The War Z alpha build is simply more fun to play than DayZ,” Turi stated. He then goes on to recount, with a similar breathless enthusiasm, a tale of survival that seems like something I read about DayZ when that first came out. “The War Z still has time in development, but already moments like this have me itching to see what else may happen. If you’re intrigued by post-apocalyptic stories that focus on the human element rather than the disasters themselves (i.e. The Walking Dead, The Road), try forging your own experiences in The War Z. You can pay to access the alpha now.” The tone of the article, naturally, suggests that paying for alpha access is a good idea.

Finally, at least under a cursory search for War Z reviews, there is Alex Cocilova of PC World. His two page review at times attempted to restrain itself, but mainly failed. It closed with this (emphasis mine):

Overall, the game looks terrific despite the typical alpha bugs that I expected to see. Some of the textures were odd, the water reflected at a strange size and the zombie animations weren't entirely fluid. But I felt the atmosphere and the panic of being surrounded while my last few bullets fluttered away...At $30 with free DLC it isn't a high-risk gamble for consumers, and from what I've seen the game seems likely to be a hell of a lot of fun. 

For the average consumer of video games looking for a quick rundown of The War Z, these four examples (and doubtless there are more out there at lesser-known sites) likely spelled disaster on December 17th. If I see a hitherto unknown game hitting the top of the Steam charts, I’m pretty likely to google “[insert game here] review” to get a feel for it - not necessarily to make my purchasing decision (that would be silly), but to at least gauge whether or not it is a bad game that even the media won’t touch. Reviews are one of the top three reasons we even have a ‘gaming media’ to begin with - for four such outlets of relatively high standing (or at least reach) in the community to drop the ball so terribly hard, one has to wonder what the hell is going on behind the scenes. 

The Noble Few

There is now emerging, however, a counter-movement to the dreadful quality of ‘journalism’ in the gaming media. Some, like, are new to games but not to journalism; others, like GameSpy and PCGamesN, could be considered the other way around. These three sites have, in their coverage of The War Z and Sergey Titov, managed to at least mitigate the damage that the koolaid drinkers have done to the term ‘games journalist’.

Erik Kain, a contributer at, provided this excellent breakdown of the various ways in which Hammerpoint Interactive and Sergey Titov in particular have sought to dupe the public. Sourced information, side by side screenshot comparisons and even explained how it was that Valve allowed such a thing as the botched ‘foundation’ release happen. His piece is well worth a read.

GameSpy, a site not exactly known for hard hitting journalistic endeavors, managed to get an interview with Titov within a day of the Steam release. Instead of tossing softballs or taking the developer at his first word, Dan Stapleton hammered on the face of Hammerpoint in an attempt to get him to admit to some wrongdoing. The attempt was largely in vain, but the attempt was well worth making - and something that many more people should have been doing well before The War Z ever became a trending topic in the industry.

Finally, an honorable mention must also be given to Steve Hogarty over at PCGamesN, who did the hard math on The War Z’s only map and discovered that it fell short of the advertised ‘100 square kilometers’ - well short. Colorado in fact only clocks in at around 10 square kilometers of playable area.

Each and every one of these individuals has done their own small part to stem the tide of terrible ‘journalism’ in the gaming media. It isn’t a cure, by any stretch of the imagination, but by asking hard questions, getting hard answers and presenting the facts of the matter, these people (and others like them) are helping the reputation of gaming journalism far more than any number of exclusive previews one can see on Massively, GameInformer, or their kin.

The Aftermath

Following the heated developments of the Steam launch for The War Z, Sergey Titov steadily retreated from his bold statements in the GameSpy interview. Eventually he even proffered a full apology to the community. For many, though, the damage has been done and is nigh on irreversible. In recent days, The War Z has become the target of hackers: The War Z’s DNS entries have been allegedly corrupted, their authentication servers DDOSed, and even parts of their code corrupted. Whether this is in direct relation to the somewhat shady practices of Hammerpoint and Arktos Entertainment, or simply a matter of being ‘easy prey’ for malicious entities on the Internet, it will be surprising (to say the least) if The War Z continues on much longer. 

And that may be fine by Sergey Titov. After Hammerpoint Interactive cleaned up in the initial 24 hour bonanza on Steam, it was ‘bought out’ by another Titov owned enterprise - Arktos Entertainment. Whether this is part of a shell game, designed to protect the profit from potential loss to litigation, or simply a consolidation of hats, the end result is this: Sergey Titov made millions of dollars reskinning a marginal Free to Play game, getting certain gaming media elements to hype the reskin, and then launching it under false pretenses using a loophole in Valve’s Steam Approval process.

There are more than a few lessons to be learned here. First, if a game sounds too good to be true, it might just not be true at all. Second, certain gaming outlets have proven themselves time and time again to be completely unreliable providers of purchasing advice (be it through their own over enthusiasm or other, less honest circumstances). Third, Valve will have to take a look at their game listing approval process thanks to this. And finally, despite the success of some games like Minecraft, it is probably wise not to invest in what are essentially alpha builds of games. Especially if the developer doesn’t even have its own web presence.

Just a dude