The War Z Alpha/Beta Impressions

The War Z Logo

I’m currently playing The War Z in what is either an Alpha or Beta version.  Honestly, I have no idea.  Given my experience with the game so far, and my history with Day Z, I thought it would be helpful for me to share my thoughts on the game so far.

Overall Impressions

The War Z is a much, much, much more polished game than Day Z.  War Z is faster-paced, and slightly less realistic.  The gun-play is excellent, the movement is smooth, and performance is great (although I have an issue where sometimes my computer locks up when I load into a new server).  The War Z gives me a constant sense of imminent danger, and lots of anxiety when I see other players.  With a few important additions and tweaks, this can be a fantastic game.  More after the break.

The War Z server browser
Does this look like a MMO?

Is The War Z really a MMO?

A topic which I have to address is whether or not The War Z is a MMO.  It’s not.   I have no idea why the developers are marketing it as a MMO, or why anyone would ever pretend to call it one after playing.  It’s as MMO as League of Legends, Call of Duty, and Diablo 3.  Servers function exactly like you would expect a FPS server in BF3 or CoD to function.  They have caps at 40 right now — perhaps higher and lower later on — and are temporary sessions.   Characters persist across servers, much like your Call of Duty upgrades do, and inventories are stored per character unless you transfer gear to a global inventory inside a safe zone.  That segues nicely into my next topic.

Safe Zones

Safe Zones are an interesting addition.  There are three safe zones on the Colorado map.  Entering one disables your weapons, makes you invulnerable (so no one can snipe you from the outside), and allows you to log out and access your inventory to store things globally.  I think they provide a nice area to lower anxiety levels and relax for a second.   They are all quite a distance from any notable areas, like big cities, and aren’t a place where players will duck into to avoid being killed.

The War Z characters
When you die, you have to wait an hour to revive that character. You can have up to five characters right now.

The Map, Guns, Itemization

Colorado is the only map available right now.  It’s big, but not Day Z big.  I expect to see more maps in the future, and if they add even two more maps then I would think the playable area is plenty big.  The worst part about all these games is running places.  I love a big world, but Zombies are really only present in areas that would be populated with people.  That’s realistic, I suppose, but makes a 15-20 minute run rather dull.

Itemization is coming along nicely.  There are many weapons (I think more than Day Z has) and they all ‘feel’ good.  Guns are more common than they are in Day Z, but the ammo is far more rare.  Food and Drink are required to survive since you start to lose health without them, but drink is more common than food.  Finding items is really only a matter of finding a town or city and hoping that someone hasn’t beat you there.

I would like to see vehicles added to the game, and more locations to find items.  My general experience with the game thus far has been less about surviving against zombies and more about finding items.  That feels backwards to me.

The War Z marketplace
The cash shop isn’t bad. I think they should focus on selling cosmetic items only obtainable in the shop.

Cash Shop

The marketplace is a little weird.  You can buy in-game items like food, drink, hats/masks, scopes, ammo, and melee weapons.  Thankfully you can’t buy a sniper rifle or anything like that.

Nothing in the cash shop is worth buying with real money, but there’s also an in-game $ currency to buy things.  Nothing game breaking.

Since the game is a standard buy to play, I would think the items sold in the cash shop should be skins and other cosmetic items.

Bandits are King

The penalty for being a Bandit is … oh wait, there isn’t one.  Players shoot first, and never ask questions.  This is the biggest failing of both Day Z and War Z.  There is absolutely no incentive for a player to not shoot someone and take their stuff.  Like I mentioned before, the game is all about finding items.  If Zombies were more of a threat, maybe people would cooperate.  Right now the only cooperation is between  those in voice coms working together to simply be better bandits.

There are a ton of features that can be added to The War Z to improve the game.  Right now the bare bones are solid: Find guns, shoot other players, and take their stuff.  Where Day Z lacks the basics, The War Z excels.  This is why I’m optimistic that so much more can be done to make this a really great open-world survival game.

I’ll continue to play and update you guys as things change.

  • Your definition of an MMO is too static.

    If you hate the status quo, open up a little bit to new ways to do it. The term MMO was coined when dudes were dialing each other up on 28.8 modems to play Duke Nukem 3d. A game where you will be able to have 250 players on a server (once it gets done), is pretty massive. 40 minute run to cross the map? Pretty massive.

    I have a love hate with WarZ (I haven’t logged on a couple of days), but it is interesting to say the least.

  • World of Tanks won Best MMO of the Year.

    So… basically, defining MMOs is about as useful as defining “casual gamer” and what an RPG is “supposed to be.” I actually agree that an MMO should at a minimum consist of a persistent world, but the days of our cultural monopoly over the term is long gone.

  • I don’t care if suddenly the whole world starts calling McDonalds fine dining. That doesn’t make it true.

    If you loosen the definition enough, every online game is a “MMO”. Sorry, that doesn’t work for me.

    Call of Duty is not a MMO. League of Legends is not a MMO. Diablo 3 is not a MMO. The War Z is not a MMO.

    To say otherwise is pure deception.

  • I feel like I read a couple times now that we need to broaden the definition of MMOs as games are evolving. It should be the exact opposite – games which clearly used to be outside of the realm of MMOs are now encroaching into the previously defined MMO space by adapting more and more multiplayer features. However, such adaption does not make them what we used to define as an MMO. The result should be that we start defining MMOs more narrowly in order to recreate the “borders” that used to exist between games of different genres.

  • I consider COD an MMO. It’s just a PVP MMO that has cut all the useless grinding crapwork out.

    Same way with WOT (which has 20 players per match tops). In both these games you have persistent characters that develop over time based on xp.

    The fact that they avoid technological limitations with very abstract persistent worlds does not toss them out of the MMO genre. At least not if you are actually open to real innovation.

    Massively Multiplayer Online.

    At any given time there are tens of thousands of players playing COD or WOT (element 1), with each other (element 2), on the internet (element 3).

    Seems to fit the definition.

    If you want to rename MMORPGS to Rather Large Persistent World With Long Character Development On a Hamster Wheel Role Playing Game Where No One Actually RP’s (RLPWWLCDOHWRPGWNOARP) feel free, but it doesn’t really roll of the tongue does it?

  • I thought you would be more upset about the cash shop. For me, if they dont change it, its a deal breaker. A survial zombie game, is all about, well surviving. If you can buy food and all the basics you need to survive, its getting too easy, and gives cash shop users a clear advantage.

  • MMO = Massively multiplayer, the standards of Multiplayer games back in the day (Unreal, quake et al) was anywhere from 12 – 64 (I used to play quake2 64 player FFA DM on standard maps … was awesome btw :P). So that is basically the standard MO (multiplayer-online).

    So MMO would mean massively multiplayer, meaning that anything over the standard 32-64 players at one time could constitute massively multiplayer. WarZ have stated they will be introducing larger servers over the 40 player ones they have now, which would constitue an MMO at least.

    I think you confuse MMO for MMORPG and/or persistent worlds.

    Back to the actual topic of the game though. WarZ is a fun game for a while.

    Positives
    Decent-ish graphics – Obviously with a large world you need to comprimise with graphics but im sure this is still a massive work in progress. I would prefer to see allot more inside the ‘enterable’ buildings as currently they are completely empty most of the time.
    Guns feels ‘decent’ – compared to DayZ the weapons feel allot more solid, although I’ve only encountered a few but they all seem fairly well weighted in terms of damage output ect.
    Feel – Feels allot better than I expected really, some animations could do with (allot) of tweaking but apart from that the game feels pretty solid – I just hope they continue to add more things (consumables, foods, weapons, tools maybe even some sort of dead-island-esque crafting?).

    Negatives
    Small area, I know it’s beta and eve half the colorado map is cut off right now but it seems allot of people hemmed into a small area, this concentrates the player vs player interactions (meaning … I spend allot of time getting shot at and waiting for my characters to revive :P). Even with double the amount of area (and tripple the player count) I still think it might be a touch too cramped when the server is at max player count.
    No incentives to kill zombies, if I wanted to play a PVP game I’d go and play a proper fps. I’m not opposed to pvp interaction at all – infact it ramps up the fun somewhat but it’s mainly supposed to be zombie survival game, when the zombies take almost no part in most of the game you know you have a small problem. They have mentioned cash drops from zombies which will then in turn be able to purchase stuffs at the safe zones but this isn’t implemented right now. I think this single thing could change the game quite dramatically.
    Not enough variation in loot and not much to do with it.

    All in all it’s a pretty good game to start out with, they need to do quite allot before it’s ready for launch imo though.

  • Day Z I believe is planning on having up to 250 person servers, so it would pass on that alone. However, the raw # of players is not the whole story. If I get a shotgun on one Day Z server, I can take it to another Day Z server. This is a big difference from independent and unconnected servers.

    My point is that War Z and COD have persistent abstract worlds. Your actions in one server are recorded and your character advances in rank or gains gear that persists even when you go to a different server. This is much different from old school FPS, where the games were consequence free.

    My larger point is that I hear a lot of people claiming they crave innovation, it’s all they want in— and then they can’t see any innovation because anything that doesn’t look exactly like what they already have is kicked out of the genre. It’s innovation guys— the whole point is that it isn’t what you already have.

  • Nice writeup as I was wondering about the particulars. I do wish there was some incentive as well to corporate some. I can see playing this as well and seeing how long I can survive but I imagine if I’m constantly coming up against small groups slaughtering me and the only way to play is to get in a small group to slaughter others, i’ll probably get bored quickly and move along…

  • its not an mmo.

    People saying League of Legends and Call of Duty are an mmo need to wake up or study gaming, because otherwise i’m going to say they’re 14 and started playing games in 2009.

  • @Cthreepo: The cost of the food/drink/ammo vs. the relative ease of finding it in-game is like a punishment for anyone using it. I’m not worried about it right now because of the cost vs benefit. High Cost / Low Benefit = Ok.

    @Toxic: I think you’re really, really confused or you’re reaching way too far to cram something into a definition.

  • When all you got is “shutup you stupid noob”, you’re just reacting out of prejudice.

    Explain to me how COD does not meet the elements of the phrase “Massively Multiplayer Online game”.

  • I’m not reaching at all. Nobody has presented anything but bald rejection of my points; not a single argument as to why those games do not meet the definition of MMO. There are four elements to an MMO, and CoD, DayZ, and WoT meet all those elements, just meet them in a different way than World of Warcraft.

    I’m approaching the term MMO without saddling it with a bunch of baggage from EQ and WOW. I’m trying to get you guys to think creatively about the genre. Since all I hear these days is about how boring and lame and derivative everything is, it seems like a really good time to pull apart what an MMO really is.

    A lot of people have tacked on a lot of unexamined prejudices and expectations onto the word MMO, which is leading to this weird pocket of gamers who are sick of what they define as MMOs, and yet reject anything that is not exactly like what they are sick of because it doesn’t meet their definition of an MMO.

  • I said you were confused, not a stupid noob. You’re validating Exelion’s hypothesis right now.

    MMORPG’s pioneered the category. The term “MMO” or “MMOG” came after. “MMORPG”, and for a very long time “MMO”, represented an online virtual world akin to EverQuest, Asheron’s Call, Lineage, and other games like them. Since then, MMORPG has become a sub-genre of MMO.

    MMO has expanded over the years to incorporate many other sub-genres. MMOFPS, MMORTS, and even many Social Games, are just a few examples.

    Planetside is a MMOFPS. You log in, your character progresses, the world is persistent (meaning it stays when you log out and is not player-run and there is only one big one for everyone — or one for many thousands of players).

    Call of Duty is a FPS. It lacks the permanence, persistence, and “massively multiplayer” elements. Battlefield 3 is a FPS. MAG (200-300 people) is a FPS. These aren’t MMOG’s.

    The War Z, in its current state, doesn’t even have the character progression like CoD and BF. The only persistence is your inventory. Joining a server of 40 or 250 people and bringing your can of beans from the last server you were on doesn’t change The War Z from a survival shooter game to a MMO.

    The War Z will also feature player-run servers. These can be private servers with passwords. There’s nothing persistent or “massively multiplayer” about a game that lets you have your own passworded server.

    MMO Examples: World of WarCraft, EverQuest, Asheron’s Call, Planetside, Darkfall, Runescape, Free Realms.

    FPS Examples: Call of Duty, Battlefield, Quake, MAG, Tribes

    I think The War Z and DayZ fall somewhere into their own category. Perhaps ‘Survival Shooter’ or something else. But they are closer to FPS than MMO. There’s nothing creative about calling an apple an orange, or trying to get a square through a round hole. It’s futile, silly, and if taken too far — deceptive.

  • Pshh, CoD isn’t just an FPS. It’s also an RPG. You “play” the “role” of a soldier in the “game.” It’s also a real-time strategy because you have to come up with strategies in real time when fighting.

    Broaden your horizons, Keen, think outside the box and look BEYOND your prejudices.

    Don’t be a status quo apologist, man.

  • haha, how wondrously poignant, Graev.

    so I guess now is about time for the fairly clear topical point to be ignored in favor of semantic squabbling while everyone sighs and gently shakes their heads.

  • Sigh. It’s an MO not an MMO but call it an MMO if you want.

    Anyway thanks for the thoughts I will start looking out for this game which I’d previously paid no attention to.

  • “Call of Duty is a FPS. It lacks the permanence, persistence, and “massively multiplayer” elements. Battlefield 3 is a FPS”

    Permanence and persistence are not necessary elements for a game to qualify as a massively multiplayer. Although COD has those traits, as your character gains permanent and persistent traits that transfers from server to server. Same with World War Z. I see no reason that privately owned servers, especially ones that persistently portray the same world as in WarZ, would disqualify a game.

    If you took a WoW server and made everyone get off for a while, how long would it take for it to return to the same state it would be in if no one had ever played on it? Except for open world raid bosses, like 4 hours tops, right? A day or two if someone just killed an open world raid boss. It’s not really any more persistent than a given level in COD. The only thing that is truly persistent in WoW is the money and items the players have on them. This is also true of COD and WarZ.

    Massively multiplayer elements is vague. I don’t know what that means.

    You are arguing that by tradition games called MMO have x, y, z. But MMO is just a term invented by marketing to hype up games. I’m saying fuck tradition and let’s get to the roots of what differentiates WoW from CoD, and really when you get down to it, I’m not seeing much of a qualitative difference (If I had to describe the differences, it would be that COD cuts out all the crappy parts and gets you down to the fun bit). I’m going down the road that leads to paint splatter ending up in art museums, but it’s an interesting discussion.

  • On a side note, since so much of the gameplay in WoW occurs in instances, which are totally sealed off from open world, and where there’s between 2-30 players, you could argue that WarZ, which lacks instances afaik, is more of an MMO than WoW. The open world is just a bridge (and an unnecessary bridge since all of that can happen with instant ques now) between various instanced levels.

  • @Toxic: Calling The War Z an MMO is marketing hype. Originally calling EverQuest MMORPG was an attempt to give something a descriptive label to best describe what the game is like.

    At this time we’ll just have to disagree. I want to return the topic to The War Z, and not about trying to teach people what being an MMO means. Suffice it to say, on this website we will use the term ‘MMO’ correctly.

  • Yeah, but you aren’t.

    You say MMO but you mean something else entirely than the what the words actually mean.

    What I’m hearing is that to be an MMO the game must have:

    1) have a company owned server that is on 24/7
    2) some ill defined, know it when you see it # of players who theoretically can occupy the same space even if this is so rare as to be non-existent.

    Neither of those is required for a game to meet the elements of a Massively Multiplayer Online Game.

    If you want to bang around complaining about how nothing ever changes because anything really different gets rejected for being different, you are free to wallow in the endless hype/disappointment cycle you’ve been in for the last 4 years, but this is same process that leads to older people who refuse to use computers or get new lightbulbs because they don’t like the shape or the color of the light. This refusal to adapt is also accompanied by a smug dismissal of that new fangled crap, even when that new fangled crap would actually be an improvement.

  • Genre defining. Serious business.

    In all seriousness, though, I fail to understand how you are implying that by not classifying CoD as an MMO that somehow we are denying change and ingenuity.

    That is seriously an odd thought process. How does your mind equate any of that to the category it falls into? I mean, really?

  • I’m with Graev on this one. The category “MMO” has had an inherent meaning for almost two decades. There’s no need to expand the category to start covering games that already have a clearly defined category which existed well before MMO.

    Where The War Z is concerned, make a new category. “MMO” has inherent meanings not at all fitting or associated with The War Z.

    With all due respect, Toxic, it’s time to move on.

  • Things change. With virtually every game having an internet option now, other games have encroached on MMO territory and now share a lot of the same characteristics. The traditional MMO is essentially the same thing it was 15 years ago, but with better graphics. If you want innovative MMO gameplay, that’s not going to come from a company that is dropping 100 million to launch an MMO, but to meet the expectations of players you have to spend 100 million to construct a traditional MMO. I think the traditional MMO is in the same situation as the smartphone; we’re past the point where you’re going to be able to radically change the product. It’s marginal improvement from here on out. And people complain the iPhone 5 wasn’t innovative enough, but nobody can really explain what more they want out of the thing. See the parallel? Innovation is not coming from Triple A; and I think a little slack should be given to small companies trying to do innovative things on a budget. WarZ is an MMO on a budget. Their decision to limit expense by allowing private servers and develop the game on the small end of massively does not expel them from the genre.

    What I see on this blog is a lot of rejection: F2P is awful, this game isn’t really an MMO, that game isn’t really an MMO, while out of the other side of the mouth is a lot of whining about how every MMO is the same, and demands for innovation with a complete inability to say what you actually want. I see a lot of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. I’m trying to spark a real discussion that might generate ideas about what innovation in the genre would really mean, and maybe get people to see that by limiting the genre to just what you’ve seen before, or what people in 1992 thought an MMO would be is self-defeating.

  • What does it matter what labels you slam on to it? I can put a sticker on my old Ford, that says “Racing car” but that doesnt make it true. Well, arguing over what box to put it in seems silly.

    I’m still uneasy about that cash shop. I know the stuff you can buy is easy to get, but the whole point of an survial (!) mmo, is to find stuff that help you survive. Not buy it. Why dont they make a shop with skins, outfits and stuff like that?

    Being able to buy stuff, even if its easy to get, sucks all the fun out it. Why the heck even have a cash shop like that, when you plan on charging a box price? You can buy food, bats, drinks, bandage. Everything you could ever want, expect a gun. You can buy bullets, which can be hard to find at times. So, to say that it does not give an advantage over a player, who has to find all these things by him self, while running the chance of getting killed by other players or zombies, is not true in my book.

    War Z looks like an attempt on easy cash from a new and popular genre

  • @Toxic: I don’t think you even know what you are talking about anymore. You seem to think that saying something isn’t an MMO is implying that it is bad. All it means is that it’s not in that genre. It’s not an evaluation of any kind in terms of the quality of the game. I don’t understand how you can’t separate those concepts.

    From what I understand you seem to think that if we include CoD in the MMO category that somehow it improves the genre? I don’t even know, man, you are making no sense.

    You are seriously over thinking things and as far as I can tell you are the only person on this island of thought.

    Take Keen’s advice and just move on. I seriously doubt you will find anybody who can follow your line of reasoning.

  • Sure including COD in the genre would improve it immensely. Instead of being entirely made up of life sucking grinds with bad graphics and boring combat that are all the same, you’d have a fun PVP game you could play for half an hour at a time. It would do immense credit to a really tired and creaky genre.

    I realize you aren’t attacking the quality of the game, but you are excluding it from the genre while simultaneously wanking constantly about how all MMOs are the same and they all suck. I guess I’m equally confused as to why you guys can’t open your minds a little bit when at least half the MMO blog posts on here are how everything sucks.

    The overall theme of all my posts on this blog is trying to get people to actually think about what the genre is in a deeper way. Every time I get this wall of WTF. Maybe I’m crazy and I certainly write too much. Maybe you’re a bit dense. I dunno. I am getting bored so maybe I will wander off.

  • It seems to me that from all the descriptions you use that you just straight up don’t like MMO’s (or at least what the majority of people consider MMOs), which makes it very confusing why you are trying to stuff things into the MMO category. Like my joke post earlier stated, if you try hard enough you can put any game into any category.

    You seem to look at genre as deep and thought provoking, like trying to look at a piece of art and describe how it feels. Even earlier you likened your discussion to the kind of obscure splatter art that not everybody gets. It seriously makes you look like you are trying too hard or just took an art/philosophy 101 class. I don’t know why you are looking for depth for the sake of depth, but it’s just a categorical way of separating games.

    And insinuating that the majority of people are dense and only you get it does indeed make you look crazy.

  • Hey thanks for the detailed write up guys. I have been following WZ mostly thru the facebook page and have been very hesitant to say the least to buy a key but I am a bit more confident now after reading your thoughts.

    I am sorry to see this posts comment thread turn into a debate about the definition of MMOs instead of actually discussing the game a bit more. The term MMO is just a marketing label and I have never paid much attention to them.. all that ultimately matters to me is if a game is fun and worth the time.

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