Update 17 January, 2015: Sony Online Entertainment's Adam Clegg has taken to the H1Z1 sub-Reddit to apologise for the mistake on his original Stream and to clarify the Airdrop contents and loot probabilities.
Original Story: There doesn’t seem to be a day goes by lately where a gaming drama doesn’t unfold. Whether it’s #Gamergate, Guild Wars 2’s Gem fiasco or Elite: Dangerous’ change of approach to an offline mode, there always seems to be something agitating a gaming community. Sony Online Entertainment finally created their own scandal yesterday on the Early Access launch day for H1Z1.
For anyone who hasn’t been following H1Z1 closely, it’s a new free to play horror survival game from Sony Online Entertainment. In the same vein as Day-Z, you play a survivor alongside hundreds of others, intent on scavenging and lasting for as long as you possibly can. As a free to play title, like all SOE games, a big part of H1Z1’s development has been the discussion on monetization and how in a survival based game SOE are going to earn income. What was always preferred by the community and often stressed by SOE was that H1Z1 wouldn’t be pay to win and players wouldn’t be able to strengthen themselves through microtransactions. Instead, income would come from primarily cosmetic items such as clothing or emotes so that the game remains both fair and equally competitive rather than how big your wallet is. When food, ammunition and weaponry are the main source of survival, the last things players wanted were for these goods to be purchasable.
One specific microtransaction in H1Z1 and one which has been discussed at great length is the Airdrop. The intention behind it, according to SOE, was to create a server wide event when one is purchased. A plane will fly overhead that can be seen and heard by all, before dropping goods onto the map in the vicinity of the purchaser. Key to the Airdrop being fair is the fact that anyone is able to loot the crate when it lands on the ground, meaning that there’s a great deal of potential for players to pursue the parachuted goods to see what’s inside.
Unsurprisingly and when H1Z1 launched yesterday, many players quickly purchased the Airdrop to see what was inside. Of three Airdrops that have been opened, all three contained weaponry and ammunition.
- Tan Military Backpack
- 12GA Pump Shotgun
- 18x Shotgun Shell
- Tan Military Backpack
- 21x .45 Round
- Tan Military Backpack
- Waist Pack
- Land Mine
- 2x First Aid Kit
- 90x .223 Round
- M1911A1 (he had already grabbed it on screenshot)
The reason why this has annoyed the community so much is because Sony Online Entertainment have, throughout H1Z1’s development, insisted that weapons and ammunition won’t be purchasable because it would fundamentally undermine the purpose of the game. While I personally have no problem with Airdrop's supplying weaponry and ammunition, I can fully understand why some of the community are aggitated. There’s been a variety of information from SOE that state opposing things about Airdrop's. Game development is fluid and things change but unfortunately for developers, once “official” information leaves the lips of an individual, players aren’t quick to forget it.
Eight months ago John Smedley took to the H1Z1 Reddit to discuss microtransactions and one of his specific points was Airdrops.
We will NOT be selling Guns, Ammo, Food, Water... i.e. That's kind of the whole game and it would suck in our opinion if we did that.
Smed further went on to state in a PCGamer interview about H1Z1 back in April 2014, he confirmed that:
“We will NOT be selling Guns, Ammo, Food, Water... i.e. That's kind of the whole game and it would suck in our opinion if we did that.”
As recently as January 12, 2015 Adam Clegg, one of Sony Online Entertainment’s game designers stated, alongside NGTZombies, the following:
Adam: There’s no way you can get ammo - any other way. You can’t buy ammo.
Adam: You can’t buy guns.
Adam: You can’t get them out of a crate.
Adam: There’s zero way - you have to find them in the world.
NGTZombies: So where would I find ammo other than the Police station?
In contrast to this conversation, the H1Z1 official webpage states the following under point 8 of the “WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM H1Z1 EARLY ACCESS”
8) 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.
Considering the original publication date of the Early Access page was 1/15/15 and four days ago a developer was stating the opposite, I anticipated that at some point Smed would be rearing his head in the H1Z1 sub-Reddit to discuss Airdrops and the fact they contain incredibly valuable supplies. Sadly and as a far as damage limitation goes, his reply was far from measured or understanding:
I'm going to weigh in here on this subject. We've been showing it 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 8 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. (here's the link - https://www.h1z1.com/dev-updates/h1z1-what-you-can-expect-in-early-access) or you can just go back to the steam page. 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 1/4 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.
Despite his prickly response and him completely failing to grasp what his team has been saying when on a PR push (including himself), I’d have to say that I actually side with him on this matter. An Airdrop containing what it does and the community reacting hysterically to it (as most of the Reddit community are) is doing a disservice to the true intention behind the Airdrop, irrespective of SOE’s original design choice for them not to contain weaponry. Worse, this level of hostility also completely undermines the fact that H1Z1 is currently being tested. As it currently stands the whole concept of an Airdrop being a server wide event is being undermined by the fact that players couldn’t get onto servers, zombies weren’t working as intended (most simply didn’t move) and the Airdrop landed too closely to the original requester. These three things culminated in what is effectively guaranteed loot that unquestionably strengthens your character. This isn’t what was intended and Smed has clearly stated this.
For Airdrop’s to have any value and to encourage the purchase of them (SOE inevitably need income from H1Z1) players need some incentive to buy them. Unless they contain something of value, players will simply choose not to buy them. Some players certainly won’t like the sound of that, but I consider the ruleset that Sony Online Entertainment have wrapped around Airdrops is more than fair. Irrespective of whether you hand over $5.00 or not, nothing in the crate will be guaranteed to you. If Smed implements all that he states, Airdrops truly will become an event for the server where everyone turns to the skies and heads in the direction of the plane, as quickly as humanly possible. Eventually and I’m sure it’ll reach this point quickly, players will work together to ensure whomever called in an Airdrop won’t benefit from it and that is definitely a good thing.
What has annoyed me the most in the sorry saga (and it’s very much still ongoing) is the fact that so few of the H1Z1 community have even taken a second to breath and assess what Smed has said. His team worked through the night to stabilise the game and identify as many issues as possible and before they could even catch their breath, all hell has broken loose. Before players condemn Airdrop's in their current form they really should take a moment to analyse the wider gameplay aspects that they’ll offer and how in the long run, a randomised crate of loot that will attract all and sundry is far from pay to win. In fact, it's quite exciting.
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