MMORPG: The War Z continues to grow in popularity. What do you think is the game's appeal to players?
Sergey Titov: Well of course there is the zombie factor, but apart from that I think that players enjoy having the freedom of exploration within an open world and the freedom to utilize the tools within that world to create their own style of play. For example, some players prefer the "lone wolf" strategy of exploring the map and scavenging for items, avoiding other players and opting only to engage zombies. Others prefer PvP: either going at it solo and stalking other players or grouping together for larger scale firefights. Either way, the game has appeal to both styles of players.
MMORPG: The new content includes the full deployment of the Colorado zone. Give us some background on what players can expect.
Sergey Titov: “Colorado” is a codename for our first game world/map. We’ve just recently opened up all of the map areas, and in next month or so we’ll be adding more interesting detailed areas on this map. Even now, the map is offering a variety of environments for players to explore and play – we have two relatively big cities that feature high rise buildings that you can enter, we have a cool looking ski resort area, military installation, etc. There are areas that are high in the mountains that have snow covering terrain and objects.
MMORPG: You are also upgrading clan support with the newest patch. Can you tell us what clans can expect to see?
Sergey Titov: We’ve launched our initial version of the Clan system with our last content update. Since then based on feedback from our community we’ve adjusted Clans, making the whole feature more friendly and flexible to our players. The next step we’re working right now on adding customization and clans recognition to in game characters.
MMORPG: What are some of the key lessons you learned from Alpha that you are now bringing over to the Beta phase?
Sergey Titov: We’ve had a blast since we’ve launched our first public Alpha on October 15th. In less than 2 months we’ve got over 500,000 registered users, with over 100,000 players playing the game every day. We’ve experienced some of the typical problems that popular online games have at launch, starting with extreme overload of our servers, and ending with DDOS attacks on our infrastructure. We’ve managed to handle them all, which is quite an accomplishment for a small, independent developer and publisher.
In the last two weeks, we’ve changed a lot in our backend infrastructure: we’re moving to a completely new sever support system that will allow us to allocate servers at different regions as we need them, we’re bringing a new generation of anti-hacking engine, and we’ve changed our development priorities to add features that players really want.
MMORPG: A public Alpha Test is very risky, what steps did you take to ensure it was a great experience for both players and your development team?
Sergey Titov: We took a pretty slow approach – first of all we didn’t open up the whole map from the start, but instead as we got closer to the beta, we’ve been moving more and more map content from our development servers into public server, also changing the map based on feedback we’ve been getting from users.
A second issue was that we really didn’t know how players will react to the Marketplace – the store where you can buy in-game items for either cash currency or in game obtained currency. For us it was a gamble – while all of our experience told us that people will like it, at the same time with The War Z we’ve been dealing with much more hardcore audience than the typical MMORPG crowd. Yet it turned out to work well – most of our players are really excited about the Marketplace and are using it actively.
MMORPG: Some players have mentioned concerns about customer service (refunds, etc). What are you doing to address these issues?
Sergey Titov: We have procedure in place that allows us to measure overall satisfaction of our customers. To put it simply – we’re going out and asking them if they like certain aspects of our service or not. So far we’re enjoying around 87% satisfaction rating – which is quite a good figure. Yet, we realize that people who are not satisfied with the service for some reason – they’ll be most vocal in our community. This is why if we see that there’s “more than usual” negative feedback about a certain topic, we’re reaching out to ask our players. What they don’t like, how they want to change things. And we act upon their responses.
After all – The War z is a service to our consumers and the only way for us to keep growing as a game and as a company is to actively communicate to our users and make sure that we address issues they may have.
MMORPG: Tell us about some of the new items being added to the game in coming weeks?
Sergey Titov: With latest content update we’ve added more civilian weapons like .22 guns, more melee weapons, and we’ve changed the balance of loot spawns to make it more generous to players.
MMORPG: Can you talk about some of the perks that veteran players can look forward too?
Sergey Titov: Recently we’ve stopped selling the “original” game packs – Survivor, Pioneer and Legend. There’re still a few available at various retailers – for example brick and mortar Gamestop stores have some availability of those packs. We also, as a sign of our recognition, added $10 to $20 worth of in game currency for those players – basically we recognize that they helped us a lot by providing their feedback during critical Alpha phase and we wanted to make sure that they will be recognized in the game.
Unlike new customers they’ll retain special forum badges, in game recognition, etc.
MMORPG.com: Can you give us an idea on the timeline for the game? What will we see in the near future?
Sergey Titov: We’re launching what we call the “Foundation Release” on December 17th. IE –we won’t be in Beta anymore, yet as with all online games now days this will not be the end of the development, but just the beginning. It just means that at this point we believe that game has all the BASIC features we want to see there. In late December or early 2013, we'll turn on Stronghold servers hosting and it will mean that completely new meta gameplay begins.