It should have been evident to anyone paying attention what The War Z actually was. Being fully announced around the same time as zombie-survival game DayZ was gaining traction, it was as close to a clone of that ArmA II mod as you can get. The same ideas, the same character designs and even almost the same name. This was work that made Zygna CEO's shake with jealousy.
And what is it with the letter Z in all of this anyway?
At the time we tried to give The War Z the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Rocket, the developer behind DayZ, let his idea loose too early. Maybe prying ears at a convention years ago overheard his excitement for a new project and decided to jump on it. Or maybe, in the best of all possible worlds, The War Z was developed organically, with coincidence and shabby naming being the main culprits.
Now that The War Z has been released in a state that can only be described as 'a mess', it's fairly obvious what has happened here. The War Z was developed quickly, and rashly, after DayZ gained popularity in an attempt to hit the market before the final version of DayZ would ever see light. This was a copy-cat money grab, plain and simple. But the Achilles heel of this master plan was one so obvious that it's hard to believe Hammerpoint Interactive -the developers of The War Z- didn't seem to realize it was there. Simply put, they didn't have the technical or design sense to pull it off. And like The Three Stooges trying to stage a Reservoir Dogs style bank heist, they shot themselves in the foot before even getting up to the teller.
Case in point. Sergey Titov, the lead developer of The War Z is not new to gaming. In fact he's quite infamous. He was the lead designer behind Big Rigs, the famously awful game who's putrescence provided fertile ground for humorous videos from Gamespot and the stinging words of critics. Put that type of stock into the effort to build a game with the scope of DayZ in a short time period, and The War Z is what you get.
Hammerpoint Interactive is in full-on defense mode at the moment, with gamers angry that they've paid $15 dollars for an empty game and false promises. My own sense is Valve, traditional supporters of grassroots gaming, will probably pull The War Z off Steam if this escalates any further, accusing the developer of misleading customers and not conforming to the rules and regulations of Steam distributed games. That would probably be the best course of action here, before more people get defrauded and before this horse and pony show does anymore damage to the prospects -and reception- of a full DayZ release.
Update: The War Z was pulled from Steam a short time after this article was published.
Update II: Valve is now offering full refunds to those who purchased War Z. This is because Valve is awesome.