Frenchman Apologises For World War One

By Tim Stone on November 16th, 2008 at 10:33 am.

Here’s something you don’t see every day. French strategy house AGEOD have responded to complaints about the state of their shoddy-but-no-worse-than-a-lot-of-other-games-rushed-out-of-the-door-to-meet-an-optimistic-deadline wargame World War One  by apologising and offering disgruntled customers a complete refund. In a message that betrayed every tenet of the Secret Publishers’ Blood Vow, studio head Philippe Thibaut failed to blame Microsoft, Nvidia, or ATI for the problems, or subtly suggest the grumblers were technically incompetent, ungrateful, or stuck in the past. He didn’t threaten or rant, sulk or soft-soap. He refused to plead poverty, ignorance, fire, famine, flood or pestilence. In short, he did The Decent Thing. As Rock Paper Shotgun’s laziest contributor am I allowed to instigate the RPS Fair Play Awards? If we encourage this sort of uprightness, it may just spread.

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24 Comments »

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  1. Serzus says:

    How noble of them. I’d personally prefer (had I bought the game) a magical fairy dust patch that fixes everything, but money is good too.

  2. Sarcastic Internet Man says:

    An Anglo-Saxon would never give in to reality like this. No wonder the French are thought of as spineless surrendering people.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    “Frenchman surrenders” isn’t news.

  4. TheLordHimself says:

    If they accept a refund do they have to return the game?

  5. Rob Zacny says:

    Hopefully this kind of attitude will spread, but I do worry that his apology made the situation seem worse than it is. Until I read this post, the only thing I had heard about the game was that “it’s so broken the publisher is offering a refund”, which managed to kill a lot of my interest in the title.

    I hope that when the “all clear” sounds regarding this game, it gets a similar level of publicity within its target community. Otherwise I fear the incident will teach the wrong lessons.

  6. MetalCircus says:

    “m I allowed to instigate the RPS Fair Play Awards? If we encourage this sort of uprightness, it may just spread.”

    Do it!

  7. MetalCircus says:

    oh blast my C+P skills

  8. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Frenchman Apologises For World War One

    Finally! Ve’ve been vaitink for zis!

  9. Agrajag says:

    @Rob:
    Completly agree. This looks like a complete PR backfire. Now the main thing that people will know is – “Oh that game that sucked so much, they had to pay the customers back?”
    I don’t see how they’ll ever re-publish this or another game again. I think it would have been better to bite a criticism over broken gameplay and release a patch. Or even offer some partial refund.
    It’s a blessed move to say “sorry we shat in your computer”, but not a smart financial move.

  10. Tim Stone says:

    “This looks like a complete PR backfire…”

    AGEOD have built up a very loyal, happy fanbase through excellent games like American Civil War and Birth of America. Because WWI wasn’t a) developed internally and b) swept under the carpet when flaws came to light, I can see them hanging on to a lot of those customers.

    Yes, ideally they shouldn’t have released the game in such a parlous state. They did, and Philippe swallowed his pride, apologised, and offered the refunds. In the circumstances, I think the response was a PR masterstroke. How many other publisher/developers would be prepared to do the same?

    Oh, and patches are in the works.

  11. Jaz says:

    It’s Tim Stone! Hi Tim Stone! Your name is one letter away from Time Stone.

    It’s actually a really clever PR move if you consider Tim’s point; offering a full refund and working on patches would make me hang on for a while, wait and see how the wind blows. Plus, fans of turn based strategy are used to the prospect of sitting back and watching, stroking their beards a little. Why aren’t RTS fans the same way, necessarily?

    I think people always respect a bit of decent customer service. A full refund is pretty rare in this industry, but even if it does kill them (unlikely), look what happened to Vampire: The Masquerade? Troika didn’t even get to really talk about the fail before it devoured them.

  12. Troy Goodfellow says:

    It’s a good move, though Thibault did put the blame on the “Italian developers” and made sure to distance WWI from AgeOD’s previous games, most of which were quite good. Birth of America, for example, is probably one of the best wargames of the last five years and is a pleasure to experience.

    But there’s really no good reason for an independent wargame company to rush out a title so they can make some sort of empty symbolic Armistice Day release target. The game is not only broken, it’s underdocumented and unclear. They don’t have shareholders to answer to or retailers eagerly awaiting their shipment.

  13. Lunaran says:

    How well off is this studio? A lot of indie places like this, especially those with niche audiences, usually live paycheck to paycheck so to speak when it comes to releases. A blanket refund for one title essentially means “didn’t get paid this week”, and with economic things the way they are right now that could cross the line from surrender to ritual seppuku.

  14. Nick says:

    First the enhanced edition of The Witcher and now this.. it’s nice there are two developer/publishers that can admit mistakes were made. I second the call for Fair Play awards.

  15. Tim Stone says:

    “there’s really no good reason for an independent wargame company to rush out a title so they can make some sort of empty symbolic Armistice Day release target… They don’t have shareholders to answer to or retailers eagerly awaiting their shipment.

    Yes, the Armistice tie-in was a bit tacky and may well have been their undoing.

    As to them not having retailers to satisfy, WWI is being distributed by companies other than AGEOD (Matrix, Ascaron…) so contractual obligations may have contributed to the debacle. Perhaps it was another CMSF situation – who knows.

  16. Erlam says:

    It’s a brilliant move. Why? Had they said “Sorry, we’ll patch it!” this wouldn’t have been news to me. Now, I’m considering buying their stuff, because I have the assurance that my money will be well spent. Either the game will be good and I’ll enjoy it, or it’ll be bad and I won’t have wasted any money.

    They stand by their product. That’s good.

    To quote my sig-o: “If you buy a pie and it’s bad, what do you do? Get a refund. If you buy jeans and they’re torn, what do you do? Get a refund? Why do we just shrug and accept it when a game doesn’t work, and won’t take a defective game back?”

  17. Troy Goodfellow says:

    The Matrix thing is a good point, but it’s not like they are known for hitting release targets. Empires in Arms, for example, was years late – they eventually stopped estimating a release altogether.

    I don’t know enough about Ascaron to comment on how they roll out titles.

    CMSF is an interesting comparison. It was broken in the review version, then some people were told that the review version was not the real review version before it became clear that there were larger problems throughout the game, most of which are now fixed, 10 patches later. I recall a lot of heated comments about people who ragged on the initial review release, but not many apologies to people who bought it in its original state.

  18. Gabanski83 says:

    I don’t know; I think it’s rather noble of them to come clean and admit they rushed it out, and that it’s in a poor state. To be fair, I’d not heard about this game before now, yet after looking at it, I’m quite intrigued by it. If they can fix it up, I’d be quite interested in purchasing it.

    How broken is it? I mean, what’s wrong with it, roughly?

  19. Pantsman says:

    Frenchman apologizes for World War One? Well it’s about damn time. :P

  20. Tinter says:

    Compare this to a certain other indie gamemaker that released a game with substantial technical difficulties and then practically begged people to buy it regardless.

    I think this is the right move- AGEOD isn’t just an indie developer, its very niche and they need to keep their fanbase on board as it is never really going to grow overmuch.

  21. Rob Zacny says:

    My God, it’s an actual wargaming discussion at RPS. And here I thought we only did high-concept shooters. I would also like to see more of this in the future, in addition to fair play from gaming companies.

    I don’t doubt that AGEOD will come through this with its customer base intact. From the conversation here, at the Wargamer, and the AGEOD forums, the company has loyal fans who are quite proud of Mr. Thibaut’s stance.

    However, there are a few things about this that still do not sit well. The first is that this seems to confirm that, even in the case of good companies with responsible leadership, you can never really count on a game working properly out of the box. It’s great that AGEOD is fixing this, and I look forward to hearing more about this game once it’s in fine working order, but it is still disappointing.

    The real problem, though, is that it seems to have taken a major stumble followed by a gentlemanly response to get more people talking about and paying attention to this company. AGEOD, like a lot of wargaming companies, deserves more attention and a broader audience.

    It is a pity that this is how a lot of people will hear about them. I just hope more people are like Gabanski83 and follow up on this game and this company.

  22. Jaz says:

    “My God, it’s an actual wargaming discussion at RPS.”

    They did bring in Tim Stone to talk about it…

  23. Cigol says:

    …and they should bring him in more often, kicking and screaming if they have to.

  24. Bobsy says:

    Personally I blame Archduke Ferdinand for irresponsibly getting shot. He’s been strangely quiet on the whole matter.