Since its initial announcement last summer, Sony Online Entertainment’s game – H1Z1 – has had an immense following. What interested players wasn’t the idea of killing zombies or fighting other players for scarce resources (though that was icing on the virtual cake, so to speak), but the promise of a much more realistic survival game set-up.
Sony Entertainment advertised the game as one where players shape the world around them as they struggle to survive. Certainly, there would be an emphasis on looting, but the game would also boast of the ability for players to craft equipment and even build entire compounds in order to help them get the advantage on the harsh world around them. What really sold this idea to gamers was that the game was going to be both free-to-play, and avoiding the common problem amongst MMOs of becoming pay-to-win. However, as gamers have found out with H1Z1s early access release, something was lost in translation.
Upon starting the game – if they were able to get that far due to some unforeseen technical problems – players were given a few choice items to begin their ordeal of surviving. Amongst their meager possessions were things like a set of clothes and a flashlight for when the game transitions into night. Yet, that wasn’t all. Those that bought the game in its early access state were also given ‘air drop tickets’ as a bonus. What that means, for those of you that aren’t overly familiar with MMO mechanics, is that, for a nominal fee, the owners of these tickets could call in an air drop that would give them anything from food and building materials to an assault rifle and enough ammunition to make scavenging unnecessary.
Since discovering this before unmentioned feature of the game, there has been a massive outcry within the gaming community. Some players are so upset with the blatant backtracking that they are calling for a refund of their purchase – something wholly unheard of in the world of Steam and other game distributing sites.
Because of the community’s strong backlash at the airdrop feature, one of the lead developers, John Smedley, released a defense of the inclusion of the airdrop feature as well as an explanation as to why the contested feature was not, at the time of the announcement of the game, classified as a pay-to-win feature: “I fundamentally disagree with the argument. In terms of us not being honest about it – untrue to an extreme . . . 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.”
He also went on to explain how the developer team responsible for the game plans to make the drops more contestable (larger possible drop area, slower drop speeds, etc.) as well as making the possible rewards of the drop more variable with the stronger equipment – such as guns and ammunition – much more rare. At the moment, the community seems to be divided on how well the game meets its promises, but that may all change depending on which side of the pay-to-win spectrum Sony Entertainment falls on.
By Holden Easterbrook