Sony's DayZ-inspired zombie MMO H1Z1 launched its alpha yesterday on Steam Early Access, where it received quite the backlash.
Like a lot of massively multiplayer online games, the servers weren't up to snuff at launch and many users were plagued with login issues. Not exactly a rousing reward for those who just plopped down upwards of £14.99 / $19.99 to play an early build of what will eventually be a free-to-play game.
While these issues are being ironed out, there's a bigger problem many folks have with the game: it includes arguably "pay-to-win" micro-transactions in the form or air supply drops containing guns and ammo. This was a big shock to a lot of people as president of Sony Online Entertainment John Smedley was so adamant last spring that it wouldn't allow players to purchase important items such as guns, food or ammo.
Complaints against airdrops were so commonplace that SOE is now offering refunds to anyone who feels misled by this form of monetisation. "If you feel like the airdrops are an issue for you, you may immediately request a refund to email@example.com," Smedley said on Reddit.
But you'd better act fast, as he noted, "This offer applies 'til Monday and it applies only to people that have purchased the game as of 10:30am Pacific today, 16th January 2015."
"Please note that this is going through us, not Steam," he added. "Which means it's a little more work so please be patient with the actual refund (it may take a day or two)."
Smedley then praised Valve on Twitter for its flexibility in this situation. "We've asked Valve to allow self-refunds this weekend. They are awesome to work with. We'll let you know more as we do."
Despite the backlash, Smedley is adamant that the airdrops were a miscommunication rather than an outright lie. He took to Reddit to explain his side of the story with the following passage:
"We've been showing it [the airdrops] clearly in all of the streams we have been doing. I made a point of personally doing it during last Friday's streams. We want them to be server events... so we make sure the whole server knows they're coming and I've personally been killed many times after I paid for them myself. So I fundamentally disagree with the argument. In terms of us not being honest about it - untrue to an extreme. Quoting an eight month old Reddit post after numerous streams and interviews where we've been quite public AND putting it front and center in our 'What to expect document' which was right on the purchase page just makes this blatantly unfair IMO.
"So if you think it's P2W don't buy it. Don't play it. But I have to say wait until you've personally tried them before making the call. We included airdrops in both the $20 and the $40 versions just so you could see for yourselves.
"But to clear up the misconceptions - 1) You cannot call in airdrops until the servers are one quarter full. 2) You can't call in airdrops without generating a ton of zombie heat. 3) the airdrops are random in what they deliver. 4) you are not guaranteed to get a single thing out of the airdrop you called in. You could die trying and you're out the money. 5) We fly the plane in very slowly and loudly.. we also stream green smoke from it you can see from very far away. This is all I'm going to say on the subject. We've been straight about it. We've called attention to it publicly and it's something we've decided we want in the game. It makes it more fun. It can shake things up. Please don't judge based on knee jerk reactions. Try it. Or watch more streams with people doing it.
"Now with all that being said - we're going to be making some big changes to them in the next day or so:
"1) Dramatically widening the radius they come in - it's too small from what we're observing. 2) Making sure the chance for guns is a much lower chance so they are much more rare. 3) Upping the minimum number of people on a server to even allow air drops. It's set at 50 right now and we're going to at least double it. We are serious about these being server events and contested. 4) Making the plane fly even slower."
Reading the What to Expect document in question above, the airdrops are listed as the eighth bullet point in a list of 15. Here's the exact passage referring to them:
"We have made the decision to allow paid for airdrops into the game with things like guns and other things being randomly selected as part of the airdrop. We're making them highly contested and building a whole set of rules around this, but you should be aware that our goal is to make this a way to keep things interesting on the servers but still be contested. If these offend your sensibilities just know that they are going to be there. We have gone out of our way to make sure the airdrops are contested in-game and that you can't simply expect to easily walk about to the airdrop and grab it. Even if you paid for it. "
Do you think that's clear enough, or is it buried too far in the fine print for a game that's alpha currently costs £14.99 / $19.99?