WARZ Is A Failure
There is a line from the movie Gladiator that encapsulates the opportunities that WARZ in Oct 2012 and the utter failure WARZ was turning into in March of 2013. That line is: Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.
That sentiment is very true when it comes to games; especially online games. Win the crowd.. and you win your success. The success of online games is ALL about community support. You can have mediocre features but if you nurture and grow your community, you can achieve great success.
You might ask yourself why this is even noteworthy in The Syndicate's history page. It is mentioned here for several reasons. First, because this game had HUGE potential and MASSIVE initial hype and it utterly and completely squandered those with bad decision after bad decision. Second, The Syndicate actually reached out to them early in their process and then throughout their series of tragic mistakes with advice that, in every case, was the exact right advice to follow. In every case it was ignored and in every case the community lashed out at them, often very vehemently, for not doing exactly what we attempted to advise them to do. They were sooo close to success... yet utterly lost the crowd.
But.. we are getting ahead of ourselves with this history lesson. To understand WARZ you need to first understand DAYZ, the mod. There was a mod called DAYZ that was built on top of the Arma 2 engine. It was a great mod and super popular with over 1.3 million players at its peak. But the underlying engine was a very trusting engine and thus allowed MASSIVE amounts of hacking and cheating. Players could instantly kill entire servers; destroy everything other players worked for; spawn vehicles in the air and drop them on you; teleport players high into the air and drop them etc. So the DAYZ team began working on a stand alone version and the mod's community looked for something else to play. Along came WARZ and it was a blatant rip-off of DAYZ in nearly every way. But, the community, by and large, didn't care. It promised to be DAYZ "done right". No hacking! Better zombies! Better loot! Skills! Private Servers! Global Inventories! More than 1 character slot! There were a whole list of features that made it SEEM so much better than DAYZ. And, according to the developer, more than 500,000 people bought the game.
And then.. the bottom fell out. From Oct 15th 2012 (the day their "Legendary" subscribers got into the game) through March of 2013 (the time of this history article being written) it was a series of massive mistakes. It is those mistakes which make this an interesting piece of history because those who do not learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them. So to that end, here are a few of the massive ones that they made:
1) System Changes Without Community Feedback - A 'good' example of how to do this is WoW. When Blizzard changes a system they publish detailed patch notes well ahead of time. They put the changes on their Test Center servers. They let you copy characters there. And then they adjust based on player feedback. When WARZ changes a system they just implement it; often very buggy; and often without telling the community, even after it is implemented, on what they actually changed. Instead, the community finds out when the servers come back up and the game is radically different. They explode on the forums and the WARZ staff generally ignores them.
2) Communication - WARZ had the absolute worst communication of any game we have ever participated in. They rarely gave information to the community and when they did it was often very light on details. A 150MB patch might have 5 bullet points of 10-12 words each to describe the changes. They would say things like "Lowered some loot spawns and raised others." Or the servers would crash and no comment would be made about the cause, solution, timing of recovery etc.. It was absolutely bizzare as the community was calling out for information and none was provided.
3) Ignoring Feedback - The WARZ community was very passionate. They knew what they wanted. They knew what they enjoyed. And they shared it. The WARZ developers routinely ignored that and often did the opposite. The community would start a poll. The poll would result in 75% to 95% of the community in support of a direction. The WARZ developer not only would not comment to the poll but would often implement features that were the opposite of what the community just expressed it wanted.
4) Attacking the Community - The saying is "the customer is always right." We all know that within the gaming community, there are plenty of trolls who are just jerks and never right. So when I talk about attacking the community, I don't mean the trolls (but even in their case, there is a right and wrong way to deal with them). The WARZ team had a habit of making people, who expressed issues and concerns, into the bad guy. There would be game breaking bugs in play; people would post to ask if what they saw was a bug or not; the community guy would jump in and tell them they were wrong and it was 'just them' and then close their thread. If they started a new thread to seek clarification or help on getting around the bug, he would send them a PM on their forums telling them to cease that or he'd ban them. In the end, their issues would be actual game bugs that would get fixed (but almost never included in the patch notes) but the community took a black eye for asking about the developers bug that they never acknowledged. It was really a poor way to make your customers feel important to the process or feel like their legitimate issues were being taken seriously.
So in closing, at the time of this article, WARZ is barely hanging on. Server populations are at about 1500 concurrent users at peak time. The community is in open rebellion on the forums. But the real "silver lining" in all of this is that Hammerpoint has shown us the exact wrong way to develop a game and manage a community. It is so horribly wrong that its almost unbelievable. So, if future developers just do the opposite of everything they did and that we discussed above, you almost can't help but become much more successful than WARZ did.