Published on January 19th, 2015 | by AjayLikesGaming6
H1Z1 – A Lesson In Miscommunication
DISCLAIMER: Though we consider the opinions in this article unbiased, it should be noted that KBMOD holds a personal friendship with a developer on H1Z1.
In a culture of outrage, the internet has done nothing but amplify the voices of the outraged. As a digital medium, gaming is particularly prone to online witch-hunts and proposed boycotts. With the introduction of the Early Access formula, the common missteps of the development process are blown wide open and the shift in required professionalism and communication hasn’t been an easy task for developers to adapt to.
Sony’s foray into the zombie survival genre, H1Z1, debuted in Early Access last week with great success – only falling short of Grand Theft Auto 5’s pre-orders. Despite promising sales, the game came under heavy fire over its implementation of paid-for care packages that can drop weapons, ammo, food and a variety of other supplies.
As the game is to be free-to-play on release, this in-game monetisation was certainly expected. Since its inception, the developers took to Reddit and various other social media sites to gather ideas on how best to include these microtransactions without teetering over the edge into a pay-to-win scenario.
Nine months ago, the developers asked for feedback regarding air-drops that would drop food and water. The idea was to create a large level-event that would alert everyone on the server and ideally create a series of intense standoffs. The reception was mixed with many users pushing for a cosmetic focused form of monetisation. Two developers responded to these worries and claimed ‘no way there would be weapons’.
Roughly three months later, Sony expanded on these airdrops again and explained that they would, in fact, contain ‘ammunition, weapons and other supplies’ alongside the previously detailed food and water. Again, it was reiterated that purchasing these drops would not guarantee you access to its contents and that the idea is to encourage ‘instant chaos’.
The feedback was overwhelmingly negative, with users raising concerns over the legitimacy of a survival game with the ability to have items spawn in-game, no matter how contested. Despite this, the proposed airdrops seemed to go unnoticed on the whole.
Five months later, on the day of the game’s entry into Early Access, H1Z1 was met with a bombardment of negativity and outrage over the inclusion of these drops.
So, why did nobody bring these crates into question earlier?
In the leading months up to the game’s Early Access launch, it was stated repeatedly that you could not ‘buy guns, ammo, food or water’. While it is certainly true that you cannot pay money to have these items spawn in your inventory, these answers conveniently avoid the topic of airdrops. Though not outright lies, these answers lack a much-needed ‘*Technically’ attached to them.
One ‘lie’ did slip out just three days prior to launch though, when H1Z1 developer, Adam Clegg, stated on stream, “There’s no way you can get ammo any other way. You can’t buy guns. You can’t get them out of a crate. There’s zero way.”
After the internet latched onto this video and used it to stoke the fires of its rage, Sony began offering users refunds to those who felt betrayed by the inclusion of airdrops.
One day later, Adam Clegg took to Reddit to apologise and clarify that the ‘lie’ from the stream was in fact a misspeak brought on by having to ‘talk a million miles an hour […] to keep the information flowing and to keep it entertaining’. He went on to explain that he simply meant you could not buy a weapon to permanently reside within your starting loadout.
After stating that ‘whether you agree with us or not, that is how we want airdrops to work’, Clegg listed proposed changes to the system to make the chances of rare drops and crate contesting far more balanced.
Though not quite the situation of betrayal and deceit that the internet has spun it as, this level of miscommunication should serve as a lesson to developers about transparency and consistency within a development team. Early Access opens your game to the eyes of the public and the internal conflict of controversial decisions should not be stated objectively until it has been decided on.
It is fine to change a proposed concept but communication is absolutely vital when it occurs. The topic of airdrops could have been spoken about with total transparency and thorough explanation for the past few months. On-stream demonstrations and roundtable discussions may have helped severely reduce the level of misinformation surrounding the concept.
From my experience, the game is far from pay-to-win. While, on a personal level, I would prefer the game to retain its $20 price tag and abandon free-to-play; airdrops do offer an exciting (and optional) twist on the Battle Royale game mode. Though I do have concerns about balance, it’s important to remember that this is week one of an extremely lengthy process.
For an Early Access title in its infancy, H1Z1 shows a great deal of promise. It’s unfortunate that such poor care with communication has overshadowed the overwhelming number of positives this game has going for it.
How do you feel about this topic? Leave us your thoughts in comment section below and be sure to stay tuned for my full thoughts on the game in the next few days.