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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Elemental: War of Magic - Drama Cleansing thread

Default Elemental: War of Magic - Drama Cleansing thread

September 7th, 2010, 11:22
Yet another Brad Wardell post explaining what happened and answering other questions, including (apparently) emails that he kill himself and other idiocy. The intro:
On August 24th, Stardock released the long-anticipated PC strategy game Elemental on scheduleÖ
Except, of course, thatís not quite what happened. Stardock released the game a couple days early to beta testers and pre-order customers Ė the same version reviewers were given (v1.0) and the results were painful in two basic ways:
1. The new engine that Stardock developed turned out to have a lot of compatibility problems resulting in crashing and out of memory errors for a significant percentage (Iíd go as far as to say as many as 30% of users Ė which is a gigantic number Ė anything over 5% is considered unacceptable). Itís not commonly known but the engine in our previous games (GalCiv II, The Political Machine, etc.) was developed originally in 1997 and enhanced over the years. Nowadays, most companies just license their engine from Gamebryo (Civilization V, Oblivion, Fallout 3) or the Unreal engine. You are now seeing why they do.
2. The above ensured ruinous reviews but even without them, the game UI and some of the game mechanics just didnít live up to peopleís expectations, and AI issues.
The purpose of this blog is to help answer questions so that we can move forward.
So here are some of the questions / comments Iíve gotten in emails and private messages and on various forums that Iíll try to answer.
More information.

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September 7th, 2010, 11:22
Let’s do the things that need to be done going forward to have fun and create something that will stand the test of time.
I'm sorry guys, but I like this guy. I might be fooled easily, but everything he said made sense. I never really paid any attention to Brad before because I noticed many many years ago that all the devs say the same thing over and over again. This game is awesome. It's next gen!!! It's got blah blah blah. I might check out a PR statement or two just to see what they are shooting for, but that's it.

This guy, however, is different. Yes, some could say preachy, arrogant, foolish and bunch of other things, but at least he's different. He really does seem to care. If I want to be cynical then I could say it's all a marketing ploy, but I prefer to take him at his word just for the simple fact that not many companies would own up to their mistakes *cough* EA*cough*.

So here's hoping that his last statement actually comes true. That he does fix this game and it stands up to the test of time like MOM. With that said, I now leave you to your ranting. I've said enough about this game, now it's time for me to shut up and see if he can put his money where his mouth is.

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I'm still just a rat in a cage.
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September 7th, 2010, 11:33
Until I see the game they promised, or something like it - I'm not gonna let sugar-coated words persuade me of anything. I've been burned WAY too much in this industry.

Peter Molyneux/Derek Smart ring a bell?

Whether he lied on purpose or not, he did lie - even if it was just to himself. When the game I already paid for is on my harddisk, then I will start thinking about appreciating who's behind it.

The primary reason I don't accept this on faith, is that his public image has been absurdly arrogant, and his very plain refusal to face criticism from anyone - even the beta testers that they picked themselves.

Then he fires his own people, because his mistakes made them too expensive.

His "apologies" all smack of veiled excuses like "we made our own engine", as if that's supposed to make the fact that they released a completely broken game in the face of countless warnings from inside OK.

Nah, I'm sorry - but even though I'm sure Brad is a fine guy in private, he's not going to get anywhere on words alone.
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September 7th, 2010, 12:17
"With Elemental’s MP, the system works because from day 1, Elemental’s servers are just hosted by Stardock."

What is he talking about? The game still has no MP! Some arrogance!
Last edited by Elwro; September 7th, 2010 at 13:22.
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September 7th, 2010, 18:02
He's very good at playing 'the man of the people', no doubt.

But, if you think about it, if he knew about the flaws in the game at release his options are :

1. Admit to knowing about the state of Elemental at release = deal with bad sales + tremendous hit to reputation.
2. Deny knowing anything about release condition, ignore bad reviews and pretend the game is great and people are stupid = deal with bad sales + tremendous hit to reputation.
3. Deny knowing anything about release condition, grovel for the mistake and promise to make up for it to fans = deal with bad sales + lesser hit to reputation because people see you as 'taking responsibility' and can hope that their bad purchase might one day be redeemed.

It's simple, by taking all the blame on himself, in fact by self-flagellating, he disarms many of their anger and ensures he loses the least customers in the long run. He's doing it so well that people are trying to convince him to stop being so hard on himself. It's the best PR tactic in this situation. Nothing can change the fact that Elemental's release was a disaster, all he can do now is manage customer perception of the event. EA's big enough to shrug this kinda thing off, Stardock has to be more cunning.

No pleasant speech can change the fact that multiplayer has never worked, and it's nearly inconceivable that they didn't realize that and release knowingly.

Also, he's talked about how performance issues are at least partially caused by AI programming that results in a lot of N^2 operations, ie quadratic functions ( see Big O Notation). That's related to raw CPU speed, not any specific driver or hardware. If they tested on a machine a moderate CPU, it should have come up that it was performing like crap.

If Elemental is ever a good game, I'll buy it, I don't 'hate' Stardock. I'll just rely on the word on the street rather than trust their reputation.

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September 7th, 2010, 18:23
Originally Posted by Elwro View Post
"With Elementalís MP, the system works because from day 1, Elementalís servers are just hosted by Stardock."

What is he talking about? The game still has no MP! Some arrogance!
The systems apparently work, but are not yet enabled. At least that's what they claim.
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September 7th, 2010, 18:28
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Then he fires his own people, because his mistakes made them too expensive.
That is the nature of failures in privately owned companies. He has to keep the company profitable and the only way is to decrease costs when profits are too low. Maybe there are other ways, but most of the expenses in most companies are staff costs.
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September 7th, 2010, 19:16
The systems apparently work, but are not yet enabled. At least that's what they claim.
Yes, all that negative PR, they wouldn't want to make the situation worse by…enabling a perfectly working feature that's already promised on the box…

I know people want to believe in Stardock, but the stories have too many holes.

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September 7th, 2010, 20:33
A video game reputation can never be repaired. Never. Ever.

History proves that.

Vanguard.
Hellgate.
Istaria.
SWG.

Never. Period.
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September 7th, 2010, 21:12
Also…

Darklands (even though it eventually worked).
Fallout 2 (even though it eventually worked). Whoops. Maybe it can.
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September 8th, 2010, 07:16
Still enjoying the game. Performance gets bogged down once you're past 8-10 cities, but otherwise playing as advertised. I suppose I could see the gameplay as weak but it sure feels like GalCiv in medieval garb. Have some significant disadvantages this game, but playing reasonably well. Not sure how dynasties play out in the game, but I've got one kid married off and a pair of grandkids wedded.
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