Stardock In “Unfinished” Game Drama

By Quintin Smith on August 25th, 2010 at 12:53 pm.


UPDATE: Stardock’s own Gamer’s Bill of Rights is no longer to be found on their site, which looked a bit odd. But actually you can still find it on its own site here. So that’s that stuff out the window. Anyway, there’s more… That’d be the Bill of Rights featuring the proud bulletpoint:

2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.”

Fantasy strategy epic Elemental: War of Magic was released by Stardock this week, a day ahead of schedule. We’re still waiting on our code (as are most other online gaming sites, judging by the game’s barren metacritic page), but the metaphorical word on the digital street is that it’s broken to the point of being unplayable, having never convincingly left the beta that was available to pre-order customers. Here’s people being upset right on the RPS forum.

PC Gamer are up in arms about it being unfinished in a similar manner to earlier Stardock release, DemiGod, which also came out earlier than its announced release date. PCG go on to quote a post from Stardock CEO Brad Wardell on the Quarter to Three forums in which he responds to a displeased customer, seemingly in absolute contradiction of his own Rule #2:

“…the hostility in this thread exceeds my own tolerance for putting up with said hostility.

Also, to anyone, like you Ben, saying the game is like an “early beta” then well, please stay away from our games in the future. I consider it ready for release and if others disagree, don’t buy our games.”

We’ve contacted Stardock and await review code. Their contact reports that a day zero patch has left them rather busy.

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455 Comments »

  1. The Tupper says:

    “I consider it ready for release and if others disagree, don’t buy our games.”

    Man, that’s up there with Spike Milligan’s “I told you I was ill” tombstone epitaph.

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      RaveTurned says:

      One wonders what business model the CEO has that involves people not buying the company’s product.

    • JustOneWay says:

      People say, “How can you sell this for such a low price?”, I say, “because it’s total crap”
      Gerald Ratner 1991

    • Kast says:

      @JustOneWay Haha, kudos to you, sir!

    • Snall says:

      Lol, I quite enjoy the game- it’s got problems sure- but I like it and it’ll only get better *shrug*. I still say even with the modern ‘patch it later’ attitude that can happen these days were a hellofalot better off than back in the day…*shrug2*

    • Mark M says:

      I love how I told everyone this in the last Elemental post and yet everyone was like NAH BRO ITLL BE FINE.

      This game never showed any sign of being any good at all, but I preordered it out of naivete and nostalgia for MoM. Joke’s on us, I guess.

    • pipman3000 says:

      yeah the race selection in this game is really disappointing. humans with different cloths., klingons some orange dudes with a weird forehead, some smurfy guys who love face tattos, and some ugly grey dudes. i wasn’t expecting this. i don’t know if i should blame the dudes they contracted out to write the background or stardock themselves so i will blame both.

    • Shimarenda says:

      I don’t own and have not played the game, so I can’t comment on its issues. Regarding the post from Quarter to Three quoted here, I can say that Brad Wardell has an acrimonious personal history with that community. I believe both sides bear blame for that, but it’s still something to keep in mind when someone quotes a Qt3 post of him saying something like this.

    • Jordan says:

      I will not ever buy another StarDock release until this CEO is fired forcefully. It’s the only saving grace that SD could perform at this point.

    • Vinraith says:

      Brad actually made a rare apology for that remark:

      http://forums.elementalgame.com/392474

      As to “this CEO” being “fired forcefully,” I encourage you to hold your breath for that to happen.

    • lesslucid says:

      Brad Wardell *is* StarDock. Firing… is not going to happen. In a sense I don’t think it’s even possible.

  2. Out Reach says:

    I really valued Stardock integrity when it released the gamers bill of rights.

    This is a real shame, and now I’m just disappointed in them :(

    • Junior says:

      I agree, it’s rather sad to see one of the champions of the consumer removing their bill of rights from their site.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Did you hear that gunshot?

      That was Stardock shooting themselves in the foot.

  3. latedave says:

    Probably ran out of time and money and had to push it out, if only they’d followed Duke Nukems shining example of waiting until it was ready…

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      Nathan says:

      Digging through the forums, it seems that they either released now or in February in order that they could secure shelf space in retailers on either side of the Holiday launch window.

    • qrter says:

      All of these problems are with boxed retail copies too, right?

      Which means this isn’t really about the actual releasedate/activation date – the buggy code had already been published on disc a while before.

    • Archonsod says:

      The retail copy has been a different codebase to the digital copy, so how stable the version on the disk is isn’t clear. It will be missing some of the balancing changes in the Day 0 patch though, so presumably Sovereigns as magical machine guns and kids mysteriously getting triple figure health points will still be in.

    • spellman23 says:

      What Nathan says is truth.

      Plus, Bill of Rights site appear to still be up,
      http://www.gamersbillofrights.org/

      And Here’s Brad’s response!
      http://forums.elementalgame.com/392474

  4. Schaulustiger says:

    There is a thread on the RPS forums with similar opinions:

    http://rockpapershotgun.com/rpsforum/topic.php?id=3251

    I admit I was fairly excited about Elemental and intended to buy it on release, but I learned from mistakes in the past and waited for some 0-day opinions and, well, I did the right thing.
    I’ll still keep an eye on how things develop, Stardock is known to improve their titles for a long time and Elemental could very well be in great shape a few months from now. The core concept sounds great, after all.

    • cyrenic says:

      Gas Powered Games was the primary developer on Demigod. Most of the blame for post release support lies with them, as far as I can tell.

  5. Antilogic says:

    The game is great fun, and with the latest 2 patches released 2 days in a row, its perfectly playable and not beta in my opinion…but they did fuck up this release royally. havent seen a worse handling of PR.

    Credit to them for getting 2 patches out pretty much instantly thou.

    • cypher says:

      Just to say that post a couple of patches I’ve experienced very few problems, and can actualy start enjoying the game.

      I know the bugyness is pretty disappointing- and that we all expect a bit more from stardock… however if you look at the release day version instead of the prerelease version it isn’t awful just a little frustrating. At the end of the day don’t rage about it just walk away and some back to it in a few weeks/months and when its the game you want it to be.

      Oh also I know Brad Wardel is being a bit of a dush but hes just a person upset by some pretty extreme reactions to the game… I dont get why allot of people on the net are reacting like he just offed their firstborn!

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      I dunno, maybe because he put forth the idea that no game should be released unfinished and they did exactly that and tried to hide that they ever said that?

    • Antilogic says:

      Theres a difference between some pretty stupid comments, and reacting like he murdered your first born.

    • Hypocee says:

      You like that phrase. In case you’ve never interacted with a human being, “I will be more reluctant to engage in commerce with that person in future’ is not a typical response to murder.

  6. DojiStar says:

    All I’m going to say is:
    1. I take back everything good I had to say about Stardock on my comments under your previous Elemental article based on how they handled this. Although, to be balanced, they only released early when retailers started breaking their contract to sell it on the weekend.
    2. I’m going to reserve any judgment about the game itself until the actual day zero release is published today. But I’m not very hopeful.
    3. I would strongly recommend people wait until at least the 30-day and 60-day patches are out. Or better still, wait until the expansions are out and there’s a cheap bundle sale in a couple of years. And some decent mods that actually put some content in the game.

  7. Brumisator says:

    *phew*, good thing I’m not interested in this game anyway, I dodged a bullet there.

  8. J.P says:

    Try before you buy, thats the only thing i can suggest about this game, i wasted good money on this piece of shit game.

    From my experience:

    1. Tactical battles dont work… at all.

    2. Alt-tab crashes the game constantly.

    3. Graphical effects get turned off by themselves or dont work at all.

    4. The game looks horrible (look to point 3).

    5. The gameplay is slow to the point of the game becoming a chore to play.

    6. Most of the gameplay systems are either broken or so obtuse that they punish the player constantly.

    7. Tutorial? simple or a simple clean U.I that you can understand? Nope.

    8. Bugs… Bugs… and more bugs.

    These are just some of the issues with the game. Putting it simply… dont buy.

    • mrmud says:

      To be fair the campaign is pretty much a tutorial.
      An incredibly tedious, long winded and obtuse tutorial, but a tutorial none the less.

      Suffice to say that so far I am not terribly impressed by the game.

    • Kali says:

      Is that with the 0-day patch?

      Can’t seem to find a changelog…

    • Shagittarius says:

      Very dissapointed in this game so far. It’s sad to see this game fail. It seems as if FPS games are the only thing that get any time or money put into them anymore.

      I’d like to buy games like this to support something more than 1 game design all the time but when they fail so utterly as this you can’t help but feel ripped off. They will probably go on to say that “There’s no market” for turned based strategy games anymore when it fails due to all the problems.

  9. Kast says:

    Welcome to today’s lecture on Public Relations: How Not To Do It.

    Okay, let’s tot it up. Breaking promises; hypocrisy; arrogance; poor business planning; insulting your core demographic; responding poorly to fair criticism. The whole affair just reeks of… poor, unprofessional management. And for it all to come out so publicly – as everything inevitably does in the Information Age – must be disastrous for Stardock. This can only end in the company’s employees suffering for the behaviour of their boss.

    Here’s hoping the game IS well supported and fixed quickly so those people who have purchased/pre-ordered already aren’t left out of pocket.

    • Martin Kingsley says:

      This. Read everything, HULK-SMASHED with rage and returned, only to find you’d (Kast, in case the ever-delightful comments system insists on making me look more of a tool than usual, yet again) RIPPED THE THOUGHTS FROM MY VERY MIND.

      YOU BAST—

  10. Mungrul says:

    It’s definitely a shoddy release. I stayed away from as much information as possible before buying the game, relying on the fact that past Stardock first-party releases have more than lived up to my expectations (yes, that includes Demigod, which I play as a single-player game).

    Alarm bells started going off during the intro cinematic, which is a series of non-animated vignettes with a few poor pan and scan effects. And indeed, the in-game graphics look like something from at least 5 years ago. But I play Dwarf Fortress, so I’m prepared to cut a game some slack in the graphics department as long as the gameplay is up to scratch.

    The trouble with that is, I don’t know if the gameplay really is up to scratch.
    There is no tutorial at all, and the interface is completely opaque to new-comers, which we all are at the moment apart from those that played the beta. Reading community pages results in the usual advice under such circumstances, that you should go and view third-party tutorial videos, but this really isn’t good enough in a game at this price point and in this genre.

    I’ll give it some time, as it looks like there’s a great game under the surface, but it really can be considered unfinished in its released state.

  11. Chris D says:

    For me the game is fun for aboout 15 minutes then the framerate drops through the floor. Which is odd because it didn’t do that during the beta.

    I think there’s still a good chance that this will turn out to be good game but increasingly it’s looking like the smart move is to wait a month and see what state the game is in then before buying.

    • alh_p says:

      Hmm, the day 0 is also much buggier on my system than beta 4 was. Still, I’m used to playing a beta version of it so that’s why I’m not scandalised, just mroe fo the same.

      The campaign is appalingly dull, but a skirmish is probably too much too soon for someone coming new to the game.

      I worried back in June that an August release was ambitious but I think stardock kind of backed-itself into a corner. That said, the game needed to be out before christmas, and ideally before Civ5 to make sales.

      Terrible that they took the bill of rights down too -even if it’s not related to Elemental’s release. Makes them look rather bad…

      But that said, my annoyance is tempered byt he fact that they are a small, indie developer and have repeatedly promised to deliver continuous improvement to the game post release (for free).

    • Shagittarius says:

      There is a patch that fixes video memory leaks for certain video cards available now. It sounds like this might fix your issue.

  12. Cinnamon says:

    I’ll wait for the impressions from the actual release/review version and maybe see what it’s like after a few patches. I’m sure that plenty of good strategy games only really came together at the last minute when all the game systems were in place. Although that waterfall style development does seem to be a sort of “seat of the pants” way of making a game as complex as a 4x title.

  13. Feet says:

    It absolutely guts me how much bad press Stardock are recieving over Elemental, and I can’t even claim the press are wrong. It’s not just PCGamer UK, Tom Chick of Fidgit has also been critical of the state the game has been released in.

    It’s a game I’ve followed pretty avidly since it’s announcement over a year ago, on paper I felt it looked like it could be a great game. I played some during the beta and even helped squash a bug or two. I’ve played a bit of it over the last few nights, and it’s a pretty ok game. High praise eh? I mean, it’s not “one more turn” good in all the mechanics it tries to pull off, but the implementation of most is sound enough. There’s loads of fun to be had.

    It’s sad to see that Stardock have released it and given the press no real option but to highlight how unpolished it is first, and even to not recommend it as a buying guide, rather than some of the genuinely interesting and fun aspects.

    • Feet says:

      Having re-read that, I just want to affirm that PCG are absolutely right to recommend people not buy the game in it’s current state. I wouldn’t recommend it myself right now. Maybe in a few weeks when it’s properly polished.

      My problem is – when have post-release patches to fix a game ever “saved” it from poor sales and poor reputation? I can’t think of any.

    • karry says:

      Fallout 2, STALKER, Bloodlines, Witcher…some people even like Torchlight, even though its still retains half of its release bugs. But these are all actually good (or semi-good in case of Torchlight) games. Elemental, in contrast, is a Stardock developed game, which is…

    • Feet says:

      Yeah I think you’re right, alas. Not because “it’s a Stardock game”. GalCiv 2 is universally accepted as an excellent game, but just because even when the proper polish has been applied and the tecnical bugs have all been squashed in Elemental, the game will still only be ok. Just ok. Fine. Acceptable. It’s not going to be a cult-classic, it’s not pushing the envelope. It’s a good time, some of the time.

      It’ll find a niche community of those who paid to be in the beta who will continue to play and enjoy it (possibly myself included), but I don’t think it’ll make a dent in the conciousness of PC gamers in 3 months time when it’s fixed.

    • karry says:

      “GalCiv 2 is universally accepted as an excellent game”

      Unfortunately that is true, for reasons i will never in my life even pretend to understand. I dont see any difference whatsoever between general content quality, UI, design, and atmosphere of GalCiv2 and Elemental. Bad all around in both games. With a discount for GalCiv2 for having actually good performance for its time, unlike…

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      drewski says:

      What, prey tell, are the major bugs in Torchlight? I’ve sunk around 120 hours into it and the only things I’ve noticed have been the odd problem with achievements not triggering properly. A couple of CTDs during extremely long sessions but it seems to save itself locally fairly frequently so that was at worst a bit inconvenient.

    • Nick says:

      Bloodlines was never saved, sadly.

  14. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Tsk, tsk.. now that’s not the way to go about it.

  15. Teliach says:

    The game is a huge pile of broken and half-finished stuff, maybe in some months with several patches it will become better, but for now, would not recommend anyone to waste their money on it.

    And what many people said, the User interface is completly horrid (is so hard to hire a guy to do the user interface that is a designer first and not a artist), but when you add that to the not a single tuturial or explanation of how to play the game, is so horrible to play is insane.

    • Burningpet says:

      Interesting point. i do wonder how many of the UI designers in the video game industry are actually graphic designers rather than concept artists. i often see beautifully drawn interfaces with terrible design.

      “form follows function” should be their first and foremost rule in this aspect. and if they’d study graphic design this would have been the case.

  16. Hippo says:

    Suddenly I’m glad Stardock couldn’t be arsed to release this game in Europe. Saved me some money.

  17. Droniac says:

    Stardock has released two big patches in the last 24 hours so it’s looking good on the support front. It also looks like the day 0 patch fixes a lot of the bugs and the crashes that people were complaining about on the RPS forums. The interface also got a total makeover, but I haven’t actually sat down and properly played it yet so I can’t comment as to whether it’s an improvement over pre-release.

  18. mootpoint says:

    On Elemental: I sincerely recommend reading Tom Chick’s diaries of it, in addition to the comments, where some people from Stardock has replied in a thoroughly more civil manner than above.

  19. Tei says:

    The game is unstable, and the interface is complex, pretty and unfriendly, but is activatelly getting all the problems fixed.

    The game is not a disaster, is just that has been released in beta state.

  20. Tuco says:

    I preordered this game almost a year ago. Bad choice.
    It isn’t just bugged as hell, is very poorly designed and executed and it looks like crap.

    God, even master of magic and Agoe of Wonders 2 in their own, pixelated way, were far better looking than Elemental and incomparably more fun.

  21. catska says:

    Oh look, Stardock released another buggy, unfinished pile of garbage and broke their own ‘rules’ that they blast other developers for. It’s nice to see people are finally waking up to what an incompetent developer they are and how big of a con artist Brad Wardell is.

    A trip down memory lane:

    Remember when PC gamers started fighting back against DRM and Brad Wardell swooped in on his magic carpet to promise everyone that piracy wasn’t a problem and that they would never use DRM?

    Remember when demigod came out, got pirated more than it sold in its first month and got utterly crippled by its online service being flooded, leading to Stardock developing their own new DRM? Oh but wait its different because it allows you to transfer ownership!

    Remember when Stardock released what was basically a press release dictating how other developers should release (Gamer’s Bill of Rights) and support their games, only to go on and release two unfinished, beta state, games in Demigod and Elemental?

    Remember when Demigod had such an outcry on the Stardock forums and around the web at what a sorry state it was in at release that they released an embarrassingly staged video of ‘board meetings’ where they came up with ‘action plans’ to fix the game? Also remember when Wardell got so fed up of criticism he started banning paying customers from the game’s official forums for voicing legitimate complaints?

    Remember how no one would even know Stardock existed outside of shitty desktop modifiers if they didn’t swoop in at just the right time to capitalize on the space 4x niche after moo3 crashed and burned?

    • StingingVelvet says:

      You just said everything I would have. It’s funny when people paint Wardell as a consumer crusader because every time I look up “frogboy” on the Impulse forums he is attacking someone for disagreeing with him or telling people he was never against DRM.

      He’s also fond of this “then don’t buy my games” line, I have seen him use it before. I remember one thread where someone was pointing out that “Goo” is DRM and Wardell told him if he thought Goo was too much DRM he didn’t want his business.

    • Johnny says:

      Remember when Demigod was developed by Stardock?
      Me neither. It was developed by Gas Powered Games.

    • Chucrute says:

      Stardock was responsible for the multiplayer code. Exactly the part of the game that was broken on release.

    • catska says:

      Stardock was responsible for the part of the game which was broken, of course they washed their hands of it and claimed other issues caused the giant clusterfuck to happen.

      Obviously when the shoe was on the other foot, and Sins of a Solar Empire was a huge success, commercially and critically, they took all the credit for that one and not IronClad, the real developers.

      Again, Brad Wardell is the biggest con man in this industry and watching him sell an image to PC Gamers who see what they want the industry to be like is absolutely disgusting.

  22. PatrickSwayze says:

    This is why Steam is better.

  23. Morte says:

    I was pretty hyped on this, but at the last minute avoided, I just sensed something was up. After Demigod I’m losing faith in Stardock, and the bill of rights now looks extremely embarrassing. Whatsmore, (I just have to say this), the ceo comes across as a total whinger.

  24. MadTinkerer says:

    Y’know, some developers really need to learn that sometimes it’s okay to delay a game a month or two if not-delaying will result in this sort of thing. Especially in the last five years now that updates are easy to beam out to all of your customers via Impulse/Steam/whatever.

    Iatedave: “Probably ran out of time and money and had to push it out, if only they’d followed Duke Nukems shining example of waiting until it was ready…”

    Yes, but Valve Time always works. Programming for PCs is fundamentally more complicated than programming for consoles, and if you try to put state of the art graphics in your PC game you will always have to fight armies of bugs and glitches resulting from non-standard hardware. As an amateur developer (who thankfully has yet to make anything in 3D and thus has been spared the complexities of it, but even 2D ain’t easy if you’re doing it from scratch), I know this far too well, and that’s why I will always forgive delays in PC games. Even Episode 3.

    I do hope this is a post-patch gem so it can be worth my money in a few months. GalCiv 2 was wonderful out of the box. GalCiv 2 was also 2D. There might be a connection there.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      I’m pretty sure they wanted it out before Civ5… that must have been the big factor in getting it out ASAP without even working multiplayer or battles.

    • Archonsod says:

      The tactical combat works. And the multiplayer is there, they’re just not turning it on till the end of the week since their IT staff had to work this weekend.

  25. scoopsy says:

    I just hope that people take Brad Wardell up on his advice. Unless gamers vote with their wallets and don’t buy Elemental, nothing will change with the way Stardock operates.

    • Luxxicon says:

      When the stores broke the release date he and the whole team came in all weekend and got a partial release out of the pre-orders and Beta testers, then continued to work like mad to get things ready for the day 0 patch. They were trying very hard to treat their customers well. A comment taken out of context when it was targeted at a friend who (Brad felt) cheapshotted him while being sleep deprived… I wish more game companies worked that hard to “do the right thing” by their customers.

  26. Garg says:

    Dammit. I sure hope at least Civilization 5 is great then.

    • dantokk says:

      Mmmm…along similar lines I wonder if Civ5′s imminent release influenced Elemental’s launch window.

    • Delusibeta says:

      AFAIK it’s more of a case of Stardock either launching now or in February, after the Christmas rush (of which you can argue Civ V is a part of) to ensure shelf space (and to not get overshadowed by a big game e.g. Civ V).

  27. Ashen says:

    The crashes, missing graphics, weak tutorials, horrible AI – all of these will be patched, probably sooner than later.

    There are however far worse problems with Elemental. The entire design (or lack of thereof) is completely directionless. Instead of cohesive set of rules that mesh together (see: Master of Magic), it’s a mish-mash of random features haphazardly thrown together without much rhyme or reason. This, I’m not sure if they’ll be able to fix and certainly not soon.

    That said, the game has bears that shoot fireballs.

    • Tei says:

      bears that shots firebals? thats nothing…

      theres a bug where a faction leader is a dragon, you can mate with it, and have hybrids dragon-men, that are seriusly OP…
      this is fixed on today patch.

    • Archonsod says:

      The drake was an easter egg for the beta version. It ruled the Snathi, who fans of GalCiv II would recognise as the malevolent squirrel race.

    • CoyoteTheClever says:

      To be fair, those are more the charming sort of bugs we laugh at in Dwarf Fortress than gamebreakers.

  28. Jimbo says:

    Only my ‘Don’t pay more than £30 for a PC game’ policy stopped me buying this from their site yesterday. Now I won’t buy it at any price, because that guy sounds like a dick.

  29. ArglBargle says:

    This is sad. And disappointing. And then sad again.
    And then a very shocking testament to Mr Wardell’s hypocritical way of marketing things.
    And lying outright. And being utterly terrible at PR.
    And judging the state of a game you are involved in making.

    I know of author’s blindness when creating, but if you have to learn how to play more from AAR type forum posts and guessing, then you’ve reached Paradox Interactive levels of “as it was released” uselessness and defaulted on your own hypocritical demands/claims, as the RPS article rightfully points out.

    And then sad again. Such high hopes, both for Stardock and the game, crushed.

  30. bit_crusherrr says:

    lolwat

  31. Risingson says:

    But people, do read the entire thread! There are so many Elemental supporters that it inspires me lot of tenderness :’)

  32. markcocjin says:

    It was always risky for a developer publisher to put up a bill of rights for videogames but I guess Stardock’s boss had to do something to catch everybody’s attention. It’s like they set a trap for themselves. They put themselves in a position where there was basis to gauge their failure. That’s like a smoker announcing to everyone he knows that he’s never lighting another one again.

    And never say bad things about a rival company that’s generally known to be the good guys. Yeah Valve sounded like they dissed the PS3 but that’s really now what they actually said. Look at how they’re now saying that PS3 is better than the 360. In the context of what they’re talking about, that was basically true.

    Something about throwing fireballs at people from inside a grass hut. Or something like that.

  33. bwion says:

    Well, it’s not exactly unprecedented for a PC game to be released in a buggy state. This is why I don’t pre-order games and rarely buy them til they’ve been out a while. (No, I don’t pirate them either.) Well, that and I have a huge backlog of games as it is.

    And, of course, it’s the nature of the internet that every game that has even minor flaws will be branded as unfinished, unplayable, an insult to all gamers everywhere, etc., by someone, somewhere. (I’m not saying that the complaints are exaggerated here. I clearly don’t know. Just that such complaints *do* tend to be exaggerated, and are probably worth looking at through that lens.)

    But Stardock’s public response to what is (unfortunately) a very common phenomenon surrounding a game’s release is troubling. I’m sure it’s a very stressful time for them but, well, I’m expected to keep doing my job and not melt down publicly when I’m under significant stress at wok, so they certainly don’t get a free pass on those grounds.

  34. Bhazor says:

    Then credit hastily taken away for releasing a game that needed to be patched twice in two days. Theres good customer support and then theres hastily covering your arse to maintain some credibility.

  35. suibhne says:

    I was ready to pull the trigger on this a few days ago, but all of the player input led me to reflect on the finitude of human life and the questionable judgment of playing an unfinished, slipshod piece of work in the years remaining to me. I still hope it’ll get tightened up for me to consider a 6-month purchase, but it sounds like a total mess right now.

    My biggest concern is all of the feedback I’ve seen about the inconsistencies in the ruleset. I can more easily tolerate a buggy game than a poorly-crafted ruleset.

  36. BruceCampbell87 says:

    I think that the articles by pc gamer is unfair. Most of the problems are just fixed with the first patch. Stardock has a particular “partnership” with his fan. They don’t have problem to test the game for a day or two. And give feedback. Do you want destroy a game like this, HUGE, because what? Bah.

    • pakoito says:

      This isn’t a blockbuster like HOMM or CiV, it’s a long time seller, so they advise you to wait until it’s finished to buy it, following the “is the game great after a year?” rule, also applied to Oblivion, Dragon Age or other big projects.

      PS: Demigod wasn’t good even a year in. I hope they still give new patch and heroes as they promised even though the game sells crap. MUA HA HA HA

    • Luxxicon says:

      Demigod was developed and supported by Gas Powered games.

  37. Vinraith says:

    I’m trying to think of a large, , deep, ambitious grand strategy game that was in a proper state on release and I’m coming up blank. It’s kind of the nature of the ultra-complicated beast, which is of course why Brad should never have made that promise to begin with. I’m still very much interested in Elemental, but I’m in no rush.

    • Bhazor says:

      The Civilization series, most Anno games, Gal Civ 2 and the original Medieval Total War were all released in solidly functional states. Any patches were mostly balancing or compatibility fixes.

      But yeah, I agree that grand strategy games and long rpgs must be a nightmare to beta test effectively.

    • Garg says:

      Civ 4? Ok maybe not that ambitious, as it had the previous civs to fall back on. Frankly I’m not sure elemental is that ambitious, and its not like its got a high tech high res engine to gobble up expensive art assets. I could forgive a few bugs and niggles around the edges here and there for this kind of game, but the reports suggest something more severe and harder to excuse.

    • Vinraith says:

      Civ hasn’t been ambitious for some time, the Anno games aren’t grand strategy, and Gal Civ 2 had serious problems at launch.

    • cliffski says:

      sequels are always easier than new IP, you often are building on tried and tested code that works.

    • LintMan says:

      @Bhazor – IMHO, Gal Civ 2 was a bit of a mess at release also, including IIRC a bug that caused some people’s high-end video cards to overheat. It took about a year post-release before it was patched up to being what I’d call well-polished. It’s to their credit that they kept plugging away at it post release for so long, but at release, I remember being disappointed at its state and seeing lots of upset posters in the forums.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yeah, Gal Civ II had a few major issues on release. The core of the game was still there though. Personally I find Elemental the same, the core game is good, the only real problem is it needs some polish (the UI in particular). The spell list could do with an overhaul, but they’ve always said the quests and spells in the release are get-you-by stuff until the day 30 patch after they’ve had a chance to assess the feedback. Although it’s nice to see they’ve took notice of those of us who complained the spell lines were too generic.

    • Vinraith says:

      It’s not about whether Elemental is buggy or not, frankly, it’s about presenting that information in the most needlessly slanted, inflammatory way possible. My real worry here is that PC Gamer, and by repetition RPS, just contributed to the premature death of an extremely promising game. Torpedoing early sales of a grand strategy game because of a (typically) buggy launch has generally been the province of the big, brain dead game sites (your IGN’s and Gamespots) who lack sway in the kind of community that’s interested in these games anyway. I thought RPS and PC Gamer had more sense, they certainly have the capacity to do a lot of damage. A warning to wait a bit for patches is one thing, that’s just being helpful, but a major headline reading “don’t buy this” or a piece purporting to expose the (non-existent) rescinding of the gamers bill of rights? Out of context quotes from 82 page forum arguments? Accusatory comparisons to games developed by completely different people? What the hell is this? Two web sites I greatly respected have just done a great deal of harm to their own reputations for fair, thoughtful, informed games coverage. I hope they both see their way clear of this.

    • Vinraith says:

      That wasn’t supposed to be a reply, though I’m confident the error was mine.

    • Hypocee says:

      As Tom Francis – the (excellent and pathologically responsible) writer responsible for the PCG article – mentioned, you’d have to go a long way to find a bigger Stardock fan than him. Aside from the tens of thousands of words he’s written about it (including a literal book[let])I recall the 2009 PCG Top 100 podcast, where he goes out of his way to pick GalCiv II as the game he’s most proud of pushing up the list singlehandedly. If there’s a slant here it is not against Stardock, and the article is a warning to ‘stay well away’ from the launch and wait for patches, not to avoid the game. Heck, you could argue that his stated intention to delay his review until SD have had a chance to patch up is corruption against consumers.

  38. Wilson says:

    I enjoyed GalCiv 2 a great deal, and I liked Sins of a Solar Empire as well. Hence I preordered Elemental (mainly to get into the beta). I’m quite disappointed with how it is now, but I’m hoping the game will see some substantial patches in the future. GalCiv 2 was supported very well, and since Wardell seems to be invested in this game (emotionally and because he likes it, I’m not talking about the monetary side here) I’m quietly hopeful. But yes, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy it at the moment, but do check back in a month or so and see how it is then.

    Also, I find Brad Wardell an interesting character. He cares about his games, and he does engage with the community, which I think is great. However, he can be rude and careless as well.

    I didn’t buy Demigod, and I had a good opinion of Stardock. That will change if Elemental doesn’t receive the attention it needs and deserves now. The removal of the Bill of Rights from their site is not a good move, but I haven’t given up yet.

    • oatish says:

      My man I am in the same boat. I am a fan of GalCiv2 and Sins so I generally am a Stardock supporter. When I heard they were doing Fantasy 4x years back, I was already on board.

      After some time as a “casual” (ie. lazy) beta tester and finally playing build v1.05, it seems they have released to us a less than complete game. A lot of the grandeur they talked about closer to the announcement of the game is totally absent. I do enjoy the “frontier-settlement” vibe and I am learning to appreciate what it *is* not what they said it would be but the feature list shrunk almost as a quick as the original Fable’s…

      The thing I am holding out on is while we are all playing Civ5, they will be patching this thing up with a fever so our return is all the better. And hopefully those mod tools add up to something – this may be the start of some lego 4x fun

  39. Dude says:

    Game probably needed a month more of dev, guess what will be released next month at the same approximate date? Civ5… No wonder they want to be out now…
    No one noticed that? Civ 5 is probably their biggest treat, delaying the game would have put it right against it.

    • Wilson says:

      @Dude – They could have waited, I think Wardell said the next retail slot was next August. That might have been a better move, in hindsight. Obviously they wouldn’t want to compete with Civ 5 (even though the two games are very different really) but waiting until next year would have achieved the same thing, and the game could have been more polished.

    • Dude says:

      One more year is a big gap to recoup your development expenses. I agree it is not the same as civ5, but it is the same kind of game.
      To be honest I have played the game yesterday with the pre-day0 release and it was awful, now the day-0 patch has improve the game greatly, still a bit buggy but far from unplayable like a lot of people claim. Maybe I am just lucky but I tried it on two rigs, one mid-spec, one low-spec and it works quite well.

    • Wilson says:

      @Dude – Yeah, it runs ok for me as well now. A year is a long time, but it seemed like they had plans to release in August if they couldn’t make this release.

    • Wilson says:

      @Me – I’ve accidently been spreading misinformation. The next retail date was actually late February next year (as mentioned by a poster later in these comments), I was being very dumb about what month we’re in now.

  40. postmanX3 says:

    Wow, I just bought Sins of a Solar Empire the other day (yes, I’m very, very late) and now I’m beginning to regret supporting a company with that badly egotistical of a CEO.

    • Wilson says:

      @PostmanX3 – That isn’t all he is. If you read some of his dev journals on the site (regarding Elemental but I liked his ones about GalCiv 2 back in the day) you get the impression he does care about his games. Even if he can be abrasive and rude, there is a positive side to him too. So good and bad, like most people.

    • Garg says:

      Yeah with Brad it’s important to remember you’re buying a game, not a friend. So he may be a prick, but that isn’t what matters really. Since Sins of a Solar Empire is great thats no problem.

    • Archonsod says:

      I don’t see what’s so egotistical about saying “if you don’t like our games, don’t buy them”. In fact, I’d say it was simply stating the obvious.

  41. DuckSauce says:

    Hmmm, I was interested to play this when I saw articles about it earlier on RPS, but the price and the things I’m hearing certainly keep me at bay.

    I think I’ll sit things out and wait until the price is halved at least, assuming I will still care to buy it then…
    So for now…
    “please stay away from our games in the future. I consider it ready for release and if others disagree, don’t buy our games”

    I will stay away. Enjoy not having my money.

  42. Random Stranger #46 says:

    I realized that with their last update, the stardock client runs for itself at startup, so I uninstalled that shit and I’m not going to look back. EVER.

    • TCM says:

      That is an option you can turn off in the preferences panel.

    • Tei says:

      Is really weird that windows don’t ask for the admin password to make a app start with it. I think is a giganteous hole.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Which is addressed by UAC but why bother thinking for yourself eh?

  43. TCM says:

    Let’s be fair here: The guy’s not getting a lot of sleep.

    Being on the eastern timezone, for every day since release, he’s on the forums at 11:00 AM, and his last posts tend to be around 5…AM.

    • BruceCampbell87 says:

      indeed. I think it’s ridicolous attack Stardock, really.

    • Sobric says:

      @BruceCampell

      Why? They’re a games company who’ve failed at a comfortable release of one of their products, and not for the first time. Worse, they’ve renegade on their own promises in their “Gamers Bill of Rights”. Then their CEO goes out and makes utterly insane (from a business standpoint) remarks to his own customers.

      They’ve obviously had problems not of their own making (i.e. the retailers), but they haven’t handled the situation very well before or after.

    • jalf says:

      Let’s be fair here: The guy’s not getting a lot of sleep.

      Being on the eastern timezone, for every day since release, he’s on the forums at 11:00 AM, and his last posts tend to be around 5…AM.

      But talking about his sleep schedule is not fair. That’s not what his company is selling. It’s not what he’s charging money for, and it is none of our business.

      The only *fair* thing is to talk about the game that they want us to buy. Is it worth buying, yes or no. Is Is the support customers are getting good enough? And if not, then criticizing Stardock is perfectly fail.

      I don’t give a damn how much sleep their CEO has been getting, and I don’t see how that is at all relevant.

      I you want fairness, then stay on topic and defend Stardock’s decision to release a game in the state it’s in, or Wardell’s decision to be an ass towards his customers. That’s fair. Bringing in other topics is not fair, whether they count in Wardell’s favor or against him.

    • bwion says:

      Well, if we’re being fair, again, I’m expected to keep my temper in check when I’m at work, and certainly never to be rude to customers, no matter how stressed I am and how little sleep I’ve had.

      Mind you, I’m not a CEO, or anything close.

  44. qqq says:

    I think people are being a bit harsh.

    Stardock has done some good things in the past, the bile aimed at them right now is a bit undeserved, even though I do agree that they built much of their reputation on attacking other developers (“oh, look at us, we don’t use protection, oh no, because we are awesome and we care about you, everyone else is crap” etc. etc.).

    The “don’t buy our games” bit is a rare slip up from Wardell, who usually is very considerate and looks like he’s trying hard to answer everything. I am sure that he’s under a lot of stress right now and posted something before counting to 10. When you’re under a lot of stress, you should always count to 10. I’d be unemployed if I didn’t do that.

    Still, I’m shocked how some people with extraordinarily good reputations (the Bioshock gang, Stardock) have suddenly seen the Internet turn on them in a matter of days and have seen their status go straight from ‘angels’ to ‘demons’ with no in between.

    That’s the Internet, I guess.

    Anyway, I really hope that Elemental gets sorted out, because I really, really want to play a game like that.

    • Hallgrim says:

      I’ve seen Wardell lose his temper and flip out a number of times, frequently with the “you guys are just too stupid to talk to now I see something I must attend to over there!”.

      He does try to reach out to people more than the average CEO/developer/whatever, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t act like a bipolar asshole on a regular basis. That, combined with releasing an unfinished product that violates many of the “rights” that he claims gamers have (and criticizes other developers for not following) is the reason why people have “turned” on him.

    • Lobotomist says:

      I agree

      And this is coming for someone widely considered troll and hater.

      I also have the game. And while it has its problems , its far away from being catastrophic or unplayable.

      With several patches and its potential for mods , it could become real classic.

      But this wont happen

      Internet practically killed this game. Its new hip to hate game. And reviewers love this.
      To write bad reviews and not get burned by angry fanboys. Its a great opportunity for them to show they are “unbiased” and “objective”

      This way the game will be unprofitable and there will be just minimal support.

      The end.

      Same thing happened with Alpha Protocol. It was so burned by reviews that many people didnt even want to try it.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Yeah Lobo, and, err… APB.

  45. tekDr agon says:

    Elemental was supposed to be the flagship product to launch their steam-like DRM/Store/Online mluti-player deal. Wonder what that thing’s fate will be. If Elemental is dead in the water for now, their overlay will have so little uptake that it’ll seriously suffer.

  46. Ginger Yellow says:

    I’m on both sides of the fence on this one. It’s absolutely not ready for release, both in terms of bugs and design stuff like the UI and “tutorial”. They’ve obviously pushed it out to get in ahead of Civ V. Understandable from a short term business perspective but terrible from a marketing or long term customer satisfaction perspective. Stardock/Brad are doing themselves no favours by claiming it’s ready for release. But on the other hand if you can get past the problems and are willing to put the work in to understand the mechanics it’s a really, really cool game. I’m perfectly willing to wait for them to provide the patches post-release as I know I’ll be putting a lot of time into this game over the next year and beyond. But I fear it’s going to do Stardock an awful lot of damage in the meantime. IT’s a terrible shame that two of the companies producing some of the most interesting PC games around (the other being Paradox) seem to be shooting themselves in the foot like this.

  47. Dreamhacker says:

    OUCH! Just OUCH!

  48. Ginger Yellow says:

    This from Tom F is dead on:

    “I’m certain Stardock will fix Elemental. They may even keep working on it until it’s as good as their last game, Galactic Civilizations 2. But putting junk like this in a box and charging money for it is not okay, however rapidly you try and patch it afterwards. It punishes you for being a fan, it punishes you for buying on day one, it punishes you for pre-ordering, and it punishes you for having faith that a great company like Stardock wouldn’t ask you to pay for a game until it’s fit to be played”

    • Wilson says:

      @Ginger Yellow – Yeah, that’s about right really. Fans will just have to wait and see what happens in the future. I wonder if a big apology in the near future regarding the state of the game would make the situation better or worse?

  49. Oliver says:

    I think they rushed Elemental due to 2 things: the shelf-space issue they`ve discussed before, and Civ V. How can they compete with the biggest TBS this year, if not to beat them to retail.

    The sad bit is that this was actually supposed to be out either earlier this year or last year (can anyone else remember…) I believe. So for Elemental to be in this shape at this time is pretty crazy.

    As for the bill of rights… perhaps they`re working on a new one that says We`ll release our games when we want, how we want! Buy them anyway, puny humans!

    • Archonsod says:

      They didn’t rush it. Day 0 patches have been the norm for Stardock since GalCiv II, It’s their “DRM but we’re DRM free honest” trick. The game comes out with no DRM on the disk, but there’ll be a sizeable patch available only via Impulse to encourage people to buy and register rather than pirate.

      And they’ve had a timeline since the initial beta of what was added when. Day 0 (1.05) should be the completion of the basic game, there should be a huge content update in thirty days or so with a bunch of new quests and the like, and a second large update scheduled at sixty days down the line.

      Although the PCG article did make me chuckle “stay away from the boxed copy”. If you’re in Europe or Asia, you have no choice.

    • Morte says:

      PCG say ‘stay away’ fairly generically enough to warrant your comment ‘stretching the truth’ at best. Are you finding the disappointment hard to take?
      Having hovered over this purchase for a whole torturous week before release, (and residing in Europe), I can say, the box is available in Europe, just not on the shelf. But really, who cares, a release is a release in these digitally downloadable days.

  50. Navagon says:

    Stardock really have turned to crap over the past few years. It’s a shame that they’re being lead by such a tosser. They’ve had some good ideas, were once customer-focussed and Impulse wasn’t a bad client before they completely withdrew support for regions outside North America (known collectively as THAR BE DRAGONS). So yeah, just leave them to their own devices now. They ain’t worth the attention.