Wardell On “Unfinished” Controversy

By Jim Rossignol on August 26th, 2010 at 10:28 am.

The Stardock logo is nice and uncontroversial.
Following yesterday’s energetic discussions of Elemental’s release state, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has issued a statement which can be read in full below. In it Wardell addresses comments made on the Quarter to Three game forum, saying that the remarks about people not buying Stardock games if they disagreed about their state of completion were simply a heated remark to a friend: “This comment was totally out of line and I apologize for it. It was made in the heat of a ~2000 comment long thread and is not how I honestly feel.”

On the issue of the Gamer’s Bill Of Rights, which we initially thought deleted from the Stardock site due to a broken URL, Wardell says: “We stand by it. It is, with some irony, our commitment to no DRM on our DVD release that ultimately caused the rough pre-release experience of Elemental. Several retailers broke the street date and we felt we needed to release our gold version to our customers who had pre-ordered from us as well as to our beta community that helped make the game the outstanding strategy game that it is.”

RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard.

Stardock’s Response to PC Gamer UK and RPS
By Frogboy Posted August 25, 2010 1:52:32 PM

There was an article posted earlier today on PC Gamer UK outlining some of the frustrations that the reviewer had with the pre-day 0 version of the game as well as a problem he was having with tactical battles.

In the article, he quoted an inflammatory forum posting I made on a site I participate in called Quarter to Three. This is a site I’ve been a participant in for many years and many of the people I discuss things on there are personal friends of mine.

During one such exchange with my friend Ben Sones, I angrily responded with a statement “Ben, please stay away from our games in the future. I consider it ready for release and if others disagree, don’t buy our games.”

This comment was totally out of line and I apologize for it. It was made in the heat of a ~2000 comment long thread and is not how I honestly feel. Ben’s a friend of mine and his comment that the game felt like a “beta” to him upset me and I responded inappropriately. I post a lot on many forums and unfortunately, sometimes the things I say are inappropriate or inflammatory.

As the CEO of Stardock, I want to be clear that my comments on the Quarter to Three forums do not reflect my team at large. They were words spoken out of frustration and sleep deprivation and I am truly sorry. We stand behind what we feel is a great product, one that we will continue to support for a number of years.

With regards to a post on Rock Paper Shot Gun, which picked up the PC Gamer UK story, they erroneously point to a 2+ year old URL to a Stardock news item that is no longer active (we switched news systems a year or so ago). Their article falsely implies that we have stepped away from our commitment to the Gamer’s Bill of Rights.

The site, www.gamersbillofrights.org was set up and is run by Stardock. We stand by it. It is, with some irony, our commitment to no DRM on our DVD release that ultimately caused the rough pre-release experience of Elemental. Several retailers broke the street date and we felt we needed to release our gold version to our customers who had pre-ordered from us as well as to our beta community that helped make the game the outstanding strategy game that it is.

However, it also became clear that the pre-day 0 version of the game was problematic as outlined in the PC Gamer UK article. The official day 0 version of the game, what is available right now, should address most, if not all the issues that have been described. That said, as is our long-standing policy, we will continue to release updates and improvements Elemental just as we do for the other titles we develop.

I anticipate us putting out regular updates for Elemental for months or years to come based on player feedback, suggestions, and yes, bug reports.

I hope this offers some explanation as to the events that have come up. I sincerely apologize and feel terrible for the effect my forum posting on Qt3 may have had not just on our fans but also my team that has worked incredibly hard over the past 3 years to produce what we hope, is a game that you will enjoy for years to come.

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277 Comments »

  1. MrThingy says:

    I think it may be time to bring and end to these pre-release purchases in general.

    I remember the day when usually a game had been out a while before I considered picking up a copy.

    I still like Stardock as a company. Surely Brad’s outburst can be seen at least as a re-assuring indication there is still a human at the helm… :}

    • MrThingy says:

      BOOO… I had “cue Grandpa Simpson rant” between “I remember the day” and “when usually” in square brackets.

      BOOO RPS. BOOO and your lack of square-bracket commenting friendliness.

    • dadioflex says:

      Naw, the pre-release Beta is a fixture over at Stardock. The rapid fanboys would be distraught if they couldn’t pre-purchase every nascent game suggestion.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      I once bought a game before it was released.

      Like the time I took the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Give me five bees for a quarter you’d say. Now where were we, oh ya. The important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because if the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones.

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      @Alex Bakke:
      Your onion story is, dear Sir, distubing..

    • MrThingy says:

      dadioflex: True, true. They can hardly complain. Alas, it’s still a bit tough on the John Doe’s that pick it up retail in the store. Looking at a shiny box and expecting a fully finished game.

      But then, I’m old enough to remember Frontier: First Encounters…

      Alex: is it wrong that I can playback that entire episode in my mind? What has TV done to us… D:

    • snv says:

      I dont get that preordering anyways.

      I only buy games after i have tested them myself, never when theyre only announced.

  2. BooleanBob says:

    “Having said that, nobody involved in this has come out of it looking good. RPS’s original take on the article was highly unfortunate. That’s been fixed now, but that’s a luxury unavailable to Brad Wardell, who cannot go back in time and unmake his post on Qt3. All he can do is apologise, which he has done, but that’s just damage control. Stardock have been bitten in the ass by their laughable bill of rights (which sounds good but was also never going to hold up in the face of a commercial reality, and they should have known better than to try and market themselves with it)”

    Hentzau got the truth out of this one in the previous enormo-thread. Without wanting to stir it all up again (seriously, I don’t), if Wardell is ready to apologise for the mistakes he admits to have made in this shambles, I’m a little surprised the hive mind isn’t willing to do the same.

  3. Latro says:

    Well, this is much, much better. Even if I disagree with some things (they risked it with the “buggy” 0-day whatever thingy. And the game is not finished – not in the nebulous fun sense or it doesnt have elves sense or whatever the latest rage is, but for example latest patch made the Summoning book disappear – that is another bit of evidence on the “you didnt test it well enough”)

    But even with that disagreement, this is a good, professional, nice apology that restores a lot of the good faith I had in them. Hope time and enjoying seen Elemental come to form restores the rest.

    • Chris D says:

      Actually the summoning book disappearing is in the changelog for the patch. i’m not saying there are no bugs but that one is deliberate

    • Latro says:

      I know. But that does not mean it doesnt look like the kind of change a well-tested (from bugs to playability to balance and strategy) product has, changing something like that one day from the next. Is not the end of the world, but it shows that it was a bit rushed.

    • Chris D says:

      Fair enough, I misunderstood you. I’ve been reading too fast after trying to get through a 400+ post thread. Good points, carry on ;)

    • Archonsod says:

      It hasn’t disappeared, you need to unlock it with arcane research. It’s adjusted because it was somewhat overpowered for the early game, I wouldn’t really say balance tweaking was indicative of a rush job, you generally need to see the game getting played to identify what the players are exploiting.

  4. Baboonanza says:

    I’m just amazed that the industry never seems to learn the lesson: Shipping incomplete product will cost you worse than delaying to finish the game properly.

    All of the most successful developers of the industry (Valve, Blizzard, etc) follow the ‘finish it then ship it’ methodology and all of the biggest failures follow the ‘get it out the door as soon as possible’ one. Surely it’s obvious by now?

    And if they are really going to continue development it doesn’t even save them any money. Tehy should have just waited until post-christmas / post-CIV and released a good game that would actually sell. Now they have a de-moralised team working on a poorly selling product and a permanently damaged reputation.

    • alh_p says:

      What measure of “biggest failure” are you going by? Your view of the game? Sales? Revenue? I doubt its actually quite as simple for a dev or publisher as it is from a consumer’s perspective.

    • Baboonanza says:

      The ‘biggest failures’ are the studios that no longer exist. People like Troika.

      I agree it’s not taht simple, and sometimes people literally have no choice but to release or go bankrupt. However, Stardock is not in that position. They could have waited until the game was in a better condition and they would have ended up making a lot more sales because of it. I know I would have bought it.

      Releasing was a stupid, short-sighted decision. And I don’t think hindsight was necessary to see that.

      As to the drama surrounding the whole affair, it seems somehat blown up. But again, Stardock asked for this by publicly stating that they were directly opposed to such practices.

    • jeremypeel says:

      The developers I imagine you’re thinking of – like Troika and Obsidian – were/are essentially contractors and as such are servants to the whims of whichever publisher they’re working for at the time. The decision is rarely in their hands.

      Your point still stands though – Stardock are in the envious position of being their own masters and could have delayed the game if they deemed it necessary. Obviously decisions like that come with heavy consequences, but history has mostly proven that the toll for your reputation and pocket can be much greater when releasing an unfinished game.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      EA have shown that games that stick to their original, long announced, release dates sell in the region of 30% more than those that are delayed, regardless of quality.
      That was a few years ago, but im sure it still stands.

    • jeremypeel says:

      That’s interesting, but I doubt those statistics take into account the long-term loss of trust and sales from fans with their future games.

      That might not be an issue for EA, but Stardock depend on a niche audience who care about such things, and they ought to be pretty careful how they treat them.

    • DrGonzo says:

      That statement is flawed. If Troika hadn’t released Vampire unfinished it would never have released at all.

  5. BruceCampbell87 says:

    “RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard”

    STFU . I don’t know why you want to destroy this product.

    • Guy says:

      Sorry, but are you mad? Which bit do you have a problem with? Is shipping an unfinished product and then assuming a day 0 patch ok, in your opinion?

      How is it wanting to “destroy this game”? (Of which, btw, Stardock seems to be doing a perfectly good job all by itself). What, in that quote, is even EWoM-specific? Have you followed any of the debate around this, either here or at Qt3, where those concerned have repeatedly stated that they want this game to succeed?

    • Baboonanza says:

      I agree with RPS. It doesn’t just apply to this game, but every game.

      How can you sell a game in retail, on a disc, knowing that it’s not finished? It’s immoral.

    • CommonSense says:

      I support RPS 100% in demanding that something you pay for in the assumption of being functional for what it’s sold as should actually BE functional, too.

      Would you accept it as normal if you bought a car that wouldn’t start or drive > 10 meters until you got sent around 10 manually to install patches (nowadays that’s actually realistic, given the amount of electronics involved)?
      Would you sit quietly as the restaurant you went to first served you black crisps, then semi-frozen meat, then rotten sideplate before bringing something remotely resembling what you ordered?

      Why is it that in every single thing in life you expect to at least get the core functionality of what is on the labeling/packaging/advertising and can sue for false pretense if you don’t, but in the gaming industry it’s assumed normal to be utterly scammed out of your money and are supposed to be showing total gratitude to even get a single patch addressing issues that completely incapacitate a title?

      This whole thing needs a bit of perspective.
      I’m highly aware of the infinitely more complex nature of ever-expanding code and the “there is no zero bugs” paradigm, but that doesn’t stop me from being aware that games like Prey or other titles came out of development so finished and cleaned up even on a file level(orderly well compressed PAKs instead of the nightmares that are >20k file installs that people like Creative Assembly or Paradox Interactive publish) that I wanted to take a deep bow to the respective team behind it (think of the actual game fun what you will, but the PRODUCTION and FUNCTION was 100%).

      So no, it is not acceptable what is going on and RPS is 100% in the right to point this out.
      Regardless of who is doing it, selling a faulty product should not be accepted and MUST be sanctioned by the people who are supposed to support it with their money.

    • Clovis says:

      While I think BruceCampbell is being a bit too dramatic, I don’t agree with RPS much here. They added a completely untrue coal to an already inflammatory story with the nonsense about Stardock taking down the Gamer’s Bill of Rights. Oh, I guess they did actually fix the original story. Although an UPDATE that didn’t retcon the original wording and maybe apoogized would be cool.

      While requiring a 0-day patch isn’t the coolest thing you can do, I don’t see how it is much of a problem at all. I don’t think I’ve tried to play a PC game out of the box without patching for 10+ years now. Seriously, who goes into a store to buy a (non-gold edition) PC game and has no intention of patching it?

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      “RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard”

      This situation seriously sounds like something people who bought it should complain to the OFT about if they are refused a refund — sounds like it fails to meet the Sale of Goods Act 1979:

      II. 14. (2) Where the seller sells goods in the course of a business, there is an implied term that the goods supplied under the contract are of satisfactory quality.

      II 14. (2A) For the purposes of this Act, goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances.

      II 14. (2B)For the purposes of this Act, the quality of goods includes their state and condition and the following (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods—
      (a)fitness for all the purposes for which goods of the kind in question are commonly supplied,
      (c)freedom from minor defects

      etc.

    • arqueturus says:

      Software isn’t covered under the Sale of Goods act – you aren’t buying any ‘Goods’ merely the licence to use the software as supplied. Hence why every bit of software you buy has a EULA.

    • LintMan says:

      I think RPS has a valid point about the state of the product as shipped on the DVD. Not everyone who buys the game has internet access or the ability get the patches. You won’t see those people complaining online obviously, but that doesn’t make them any less screwed.

      I don’t think Stardock would be happy if all the reviewers used that original boxed release version as the basis for their reviews, but that’s all that some customers will ever see. If Stardock expects everyone to register online to download the patches to actually get the release-worthy version of the game, then that should be a stated requirement on the box.

      Sadly, though, that valid point was lost amidst the “Stardock rescinds gamers bill of rights!” “Brad Wardell tells customers to like it or shove off!” hype. A slight bit of contrition on RPS’s part might have helped this seem a bit less like a hit job to Stardock’s defenders.

    • arqueturus says:

      I ought to say I’m in agreement with RPS’ statement. Just I work in software and deal with these kind of complaints regularily.

      Yeah, I know, pot calling kettle etc :)

    • DrGonzo says:

      Software may not be covered by the Sales of Goods act, but you can return an unfinished game. I know because I have done it at GAME. And there is no way they would do that unless they legally had to. The game in question was Star Trek something or other by Bethesda.

    • Freud says:

      It is basic common sense. Don’t try to sell us unfinished crap and then throw together a day 0 patch while working 20 hours a day for the last month. It rarely turns out well for either company or customer.

      Finish your god damned games before you release them. How hard can it be?

    • DMcCool says:

      Some people might be forgetting the interviews RPS have already done over this game, no doubt creating a lot of sales for it. Actually as soon as I get the word the game is in a fit state, I’m buying it myself, 100% due to RPS, and if I like it a bunch of my friends might get it too.

      RPS have showed real support for the game due to being geniunely interested in it, its the standing up to publishing habits and not glibly worshipping every publisher to try and nab every exclusive that requires some balls. They are just being bloody honest, guys, we are not in headline “STARDOCK HIT BY RPS RELEASE-DATE CRITICISM BLOW” world. That world only exists in bad journalists heads, nowhere else.

    • arqueturus says:

      @Dr Gonzo

      There’s plenty of things that don’t have to be done on the refund and return side of things legally (in general not just software). Game wouldn’t have to accept your return under sale of goods at all. That they chose to accept is a good thing (TM).

      If you took it back saying ‘I don’t accept the EULA’, now that’s a different kettle of fish.

  6. cliffski says:

    A small section of the QT3 crowd can be like rabid tigers descending onto game devs to try and goad them into losing it. I speak as someone who is currently banned from there :D
    TBH, if I had the level of commercial success that stardock enjoy, I would probably refrain from ever posting online as myself. You just attract incredible aggression.
    Game developers aren’t serial killers, however much a bug in a game, or their pricing offends people, theres no need for a lot of the vitriol that gets hurled, usually from people who are happy to be anonymous.
    It would be great if people online complaining about a product could imagine themselves in a store, talking to the manager, and stay a bit calm. I don’t think stardock are exactly evil cackling devs deliberately trying to rip off their customers, quite the opposite.
    YMMV.

    • Mohsin says:

      Well said.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Indeed, well said, and when I say things like “Wardell seems like a dick” it probably makes me look like much more of a dick than anything else. He’s certainly not out to harm anyone, even if me makes mistakes that effect customers.

      Thanks for the thought cliffski.

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      Ah, but Cliff, you have to look at the other way too. Mr. Wardell should be viewing himself as the manager of a store. As a store manager, do you return kind-for-kind with vitriolic customers? You can’t – not and keep your business healthy. At least in the US, there is an expected asymmetric relationship between a customer and a business manager.

      If one customer shows up at Best Buy and makes a scene, other customers will think, “What a jerk” and go back to shopping. If the Best Buy customer service manager starts insulting the customer and loudly telling them that they and anyone like them are not wanted at their store, then even customers that would never behave the way as the irate customer will start to wonder whether they should be putting their dollar somewhere else. And when they go to tell the story to their friends, the jerk in front of the counter will start to take a back seat to the jerk behind the counter. Then the people who hear the story will pass it on as, “Did you hear what the manager at Best Buy did?”

      This may seem unfair, but in many, many cases businesses do need customers’ money more than customers need the businesses’ products. This may have been less true in previous ages, but with digital distribution, overnight air mail, and five other supercenters down the block from where you live, the customer has infinite choice. The same holds true for Stardock’s products – there are other games to be played. Plus, piracy is rampant. Mr. Wardell should never, ever state that customers are unwelcome.

    • scharmers says:

      Cliffski, you’ve been gently touched? Suprised Tom did that…he gives devs a huge leash.

      I mean, if I post even a slightly-suggestive image on Qt3, I spend a week in the cooler. Devs could pretty much post Goatse on the board and just get a nasty PM :0

      anyway

  7. Premium User Badge

    SvDvorak says:

    “Rock Paper Shot Gun”

    Did someone shoot the gun?

    • alh_p says:

      US “English”…

    • RQH says:

      @alh_p: Really? I hope that’s a joke and I’m just missing the sarcasm. “Shotgun” is one word no matter where you spell it. Unless you’re spelling it on Brad Wardell’s computer, I guess.

  8. terry says:

    A disappointing turn of events for a promising game. I’ve been fighting with the Guild 2 Renaissance for the last couple of weeks, which is in a similar state of disarray due to being released before all the kinks were worked out, so I can sympathise with those who took the bullet here.

  9. Colthor says:

    “RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard.”

    Damn straight.
    Especially when said patches require installation of, and activation and patching through Impulse – utterly dispelling any notion of it actually being “DRM Free”. It’s pretty much the same as requiring Steam.

  10. CMaster says:

    Indeed. It does strike me as one of the big issues being that they “went gold” and shipped a game that wasn’t ready, convincing themselves they could finish it in the 2 week interval or so. Which seems a bad idea – you never know what will come up.

    Also, considering the game’s multiplayer was a feature talked about a lot, and the game apparently doesn’t have it, it strikes me that the game is still incomplete.

    Still, I intend to try the demo when they get around to releasing it.

  11. Hippo says:

    What a bunch of bullshit. They released an unfinished game to retailers, and though I obviously know no PC-game can ever be bug free, at launch or not, launching a game with this many problems is simply inexcusable.

    It’s a game that interests me, and I might very well buy it later despite this controversy. However, that largely depends on two things; bugfixes and an european retail release.

  12. Gap Gen says:

    So was the intention always to ship a buggy product at retail and then patch it automatically when people installed it? Is that sort of thing common? I have a relatively fast internet connection so for me that sort of thing isn’t automatically a problem, but I can understand the annoyance of someone who’s bought at retail because they live in the middle of nowhere and then has to download anyway (even if the patch is smaller than the whole thing).

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      It seems like a silly decision either way (unless you’re really pressured for money). If you feel like you can fix all the issues plagueing your product in the time between the decision and release you could just as easily postpone release that much longer and see what your game looks like. I just don’t understand why they went with early release because some retailers said it would be released.

  13. Ashen says:

    Me, I remain a bit uncomfortable with journalism practices involving sniping random comments from random forums and pulling them out of context in an effort to create a headline.

    Elemental may suck, but in this particular exchange, RPS is on the losing side.

    • Chris D says:

      Yeah, I agree. There are valid points to be made but that quote really didn’t help anything. If you were to trawl all our forum posts not many of us wouldn’t find anything to regret. I am slightly disappointed because usually RPS (Hivemind and commenters) are so much better than this.

      Still, it was a long day. Things were said on all sides in the heat of the moment. Hopefully we can all put this behind us and move on.

    • Choca says:

      Meh, I don’t know. This is the era of the Internet, people in the spotlight should be wary of what the fuck they’re saying.

    • Premium User Badge

      iax says:

      I don’t think this qualifies as a total random post. I agree that the “don’t by my games” part is a direct result of the heated discussion prior to Brad Wardells post. Maybe it should have been removed from the quote, because in my opinion, the most important part is when he states that he considerd the game in its current ready for release. You can argue if it would be okay to quote just half of a sentence. And this part is not out of context in any way.

    • Premium User Badge

      iax says:

      I don’t think this qualifies as a total random post. I agree that the “don’t buy my games” part is a direct result of the heated discussion prior to Brad Wardells post. Maybe it should have been removed from the quote, because in my opinion, the most important part is when he states that he considerd the game in its current ready for release. You can argue if it would be okay to quote just half of a sentence. And this part is not out of context in any way.

    • Freud says:

      You are mistaken. This isn’t a random post on a random forum. Brad Wardell has himself written on that forum:

      As I said earlier, I’m not leaving Qt3, I’m just going to cease treating it like some sort of industry pub where I would hang out and complain about the game industry.

      What that simply means is that when I participate here, it’ll be part of my job which means I won’t be around as often and it’ll be in my official capacity as CEO of Stardock.”

      So he was posting as the CEO of Stardock and there is no difference between posting it there or on the Stardock forums. It is of course possible that Mr Wardell forgot all this in the heat of the battle but this is how the brave new internet world looks like. Twitter, Facebook, Forums. It’s all more or less public. The idea that Brad Wardell was in any way ambushed here is absurd. It was a thread about his game he himself started in the official capacity as CEO of Stardock.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      @ Ashen

      Hear, Hear! I agree completely. Wardell was man enough to apologize, your turn RPS! I love you guys, but you made a mistake. An official apology is in order, then we can all go back to whatever it is we do around here.

  14. Choca says:

    “The official day 0 version of the game, what is available right now, should address most, if not all the issues that have been described.”

    Funny, I had two “let’s Alt F4 the shit outta here” bugs in the game since yesterday (and on two different PCs so I’m pretty sure the game is at fault) and I’m fully patched.

    Also, there’s still no multiplayer, so yeah talk about the miracles of the day 0 patch.

    • Latro says:

      It addressed most. Not all. In fact I think latest patch returned some as I’m having more crashes with it than with the previous, but nowhere in the vicinity of the pre-release.

      I think I’m going to go try to learn to play the game and eventually keep playing or abandon it, cause sure as hell that looks more fun than trying to keep up with the shitstorm & cries of RPS HACKS!!! STARDOCK CROOKS!!! WAAAAAAAGHHH!!! :-P

    • Choca says:

      @Latro : “I think I’m going to go try to learn to play the game and eventually keep playing or abandon it,”

      Oh, I’ll definately keep playing it from time to time to see if it ever lives up to its potential, I just think that, right now, it’s not a good time investment.

    • Latro says:

      Bit earlier for me to say, I havent even finished a game on a small world, or got over level 3 with the sovereing. Or hell, married and have children.

      I guess I have to go deeper into the Elemental forums or something to start grasping the game :-P

  15. Snall says:

    I will say the current 1.05 Elemental is much better, needs a bunch of tweaks but plays awesome for me and is VERY damn fun. (Note) I do know some ppl still having problems, crashes, etc, but I think most systems are good now?

    • Snall says:

      And how is patching NOT common now? *shrug* I mean the game def shoulda been more stable, can’t fault that- and they should be held to a higher standard because SD does talk a lot about having all the time, etc- but patching the hell outa games is part of the damn biz now- it sucks but it’s understandable and the infrastructure is here to allow it- so it’ll continue to happen, especially for more complex games.

    • user@example.com says:

      There are two issues here. One is that Stardock have been very clear in the past, with their Bill of Rights, that games should ship in a finished state, and they’ve been known for rather arrogantly claiming that “Oh, well, we’re sure OTHER companies won’t follow this because they’re afraid and it’s too much like WORK to be awesome”, and so this whole affair is rather hypocritical.

      Second is that Stardock are known for very good long-term support and development – people know that Elemental will be a good game in two months and a great one in six, for example, so it’s incredibly disappointing (and upsetting) that they didn’t wait another couple of weeks to actually finish their game, when we know they’re capable of it and will do it in time. See, again, hypocrisy on the bill of rights issue.

    • qrter says:

      Day zero patching is quite common, yes – doesn’t mean it should be, though, or that consumers should have to accept it. It’s a shitty thing to do to customers, and we shouldn’t stand for it.

      Plus that Stardock knows this, and has acknowledged it through their Bill of Rights.

  16. Wednesday says:

    This is a proper bummer. A developer I’ve got a lot of affection and loyalty for, one who produced the utterly marvellous Galciv 2, one who seemed so keen on doing right by their customers release a full on turd.

    Bah, next Portal 2 wont be playable.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stompywitch says:

      “Only the blue portal was ready at release. The orange portal will be provided in a future patch.”

      Of course, if this were console land, the orange portal would be a 400 Fake Currency Points piece of DLC.

  17. BruceCampbell87 says:

    It’s about one or two month that everyone says that the game should have a patch at “day 0″. And for multiplayer?Next Week. Shame on RPS and Pc gamer, really.

    • Choca says:

      “And for multiplayer?Next Week.”

      And that’s supposed to be ok ? I paid this week not next week.

    • Premium User Badge

      iax says:

      @BruceCampbell87
      What you are obviously neglecting is, that there will be people who will buy the boxed copy of the shelf and who have no idea about what has been said in a forum months before release. Thus it is important, that there are publications that give advice to customers and if the game can’t be recommended at the current state than I prefer them to tell me about it and not just sit there and hope it will be patched later on.

    • Nick says:

      Stop sullying the name of a great man.

  18. Sorbicol says:

    I’ve been reading these comments threads for a while now and have finally decided to join in.

    As has been stated above, Any company that thinks it’s acceptable to be releasing unfinished games (especially as unfinished as Elemental clearly is) needs to have a rethink. It’ pretty clear from the start that Stardock knew this game wasn’t going to be ready on release, but lacked the balls to pull it back. That strategy is clearly backfiring on them now from where stand.

    Wardell did a interview in Gameshark not so long ago (I think this is the link: here where he says that most beta releases these days are essentially the finished product and are generally used to suck people into a game and then buy it. So he’s almost admitting that the beta for Elemental was a mistake as the feedback they were getting was more “the icons should be this colour” rather than anything really useful about gamebreaking bugs.

    Reading between the lines that almost reads to me that Stardock / Wardell don’t really have a QC process worth of the name and were generall expecting the beta testers to do it for them. For me a beta is about gameplay more than technical fixing these days – the beta testers should really be there to see if the actual game plays well as opposed to trying to break it. Seems to me that Wardell thinks otherwise, so the development team are probably spending too much time making cosmetic changes to the game rather than making sure the underlying code is working properly – something that gets reinforced if you watch the tutorial videos on the elemental forums.

    There are some other interesting things in that interview (including Wardell’s opinion on Multiplayer, which probably explains why it’s not ready yet either) and his tendency to ignore his PR people too.

    I, like a lot of other people really want Elemental to be something special – and I think a lot of the complaints are because those people who are playing it can clearly see it should be, it just doesn’t work. Yet. I’m sure they will fix it, and I’m sure the game will be as good as it should be, but I’m not going to buying it until everything is working.

    • Wilson says:

      @Sorbicol – Actually I think Wardell’s commented on that in the dev journals somewhere. I might be wrong. The Elemental Beta was very much a beta, not like most betas you get now, where they are generally as much demos as actual betas. I don’t know how much useful bug fixing info they got out of them, but they could certainly have done with a few more months of testing. I’d really like to hear why they didn’t just hold it back longer.

    • Sorbicol says:

      @Wilson

      Yeah I hear what you say there, but considering the general level of layperson “beta” testers out there, I think Wardell is being a bit naive if he thinks that calibre of person is going to be able to do “proper” beta testing for a product. To me that’s where a strong, skilled QC department comes in. Also beta in that state should really be stopped and worked on, no? In this case Wardell appears to have just thrown it out there regardless.

      Let face it, most people are moaning because there are serious problems with a game that they all want to be really good. In an odd sort of way, that’s a good thing! I’m sure once all the issues are fixed that a lot more people will buy, but as a way for getting in new customers they’ve made a monumental cockup.

    • Wilson says:

      @Sorbicol – That’s true, pre-order beta-testers can’t substitute for a proper QC team. And many people in the beta did say it wasn’t ready for release. Wardell’s response was “lots of people in the Sins of a Solar Empire beta said the same thing, and it was fine at release”. I took him at his word for that, but it seems he was very wrong this time.

    • LintMan says:

      The beta testers were finding lots of bugs in Elemental, but a lot of the feedback Stardock was asking for was actually on gameplay mechanisms: the character creation system, the magic system, the research system, the city building. Some of those things were being introduced for the first in the beta and then receiving huge changes based on player feedback, in *June*. My impression was that Brad thought the feedback was very valuable, and it certainly was being used. The problem was that there just wasn’t enough time allocated to have many beta iterations to really refine/polish things, and many of the things the beta testers were reporting – especially UI issues – were not getting fixed during the beta, so they were reported again and again by different testers. I think that’s a lot of the stuff that went into the Day0 patch.

    • Nick says:

      Also pre-order beta testers pay to beta test, “real” testers get paid.

  19. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    And what to those people that don’t have an internet connection? (or a good one at least)
    What do they get? They get stuck with a broken game they bought for $xx.xx that they can’t play.
    They are the people I sympathize for…
    If it doesn’t say ‘Internet Connection Required’ The game should be in a playable condition..
    RPS I completely agree with your stance on this.
    Peace

  20. Hentzau says:

    “RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard.”

    Which is logical, and it’s fine to go after developers that release their games with a plethora of bugs and AI issues as it’s not an acceptable practice no matter how tight your shipping date is. I just find it a little odd that you’re choosing to do this for Elemental but not, say, for Empire: Total War.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Maybe not taking a stab at Elemental in specific.. they don’t name it as the only one, their wording suggests multiple titles are guilty of this..
      Sadly as much as I love the Game ArmA 2 was pretty broken at release, and I know there are many more, it just seems too commonplace these days, which is why Games reviews are in such High demand…
      ‘Oh dw about that we can patch that back breaking bug out with a day zero patch, just get the game on the shelves NOW!’ <– ..

    • Hentzau says:

      I don’t think RPS have a vendetta against Stardock and they did bring it on themselves with that bill of rights, but if the motive for this is calling developers out over broken games then you either cover all of them or you cover none of them, because to do anything else would be to single out certain developers unfairly. There’s several PC game developers who are serial offenders in this regard and I look forward to reading a similar article the next time one of them puts out a major release. Maybe it’ll encourage them to knock it off.

    • Wilson says:

      @Hentzau – Yeah, I’m assuming the original article was because of the Bill of Rights. That said, what was that other game that was released in a really bad way? Was it GTA4? Anyway, I remember it because I think PC Zone did a glowing review, but then a huge number of people couldn’t get the game to run because of bugs, and PC Zone had to publish a defensive editorial saying that they hadn’t run into any issues on their machines. I mention this because of the PC Gamer article cited in Quintin’s post, and I’d be interested to see the articles PC Gamer did about GTA4 and Empire: Total War.

    • Optimaximal says:

      GTA4 was called out by RPS (amongst several other sources) for the hideous install procedure, Rockstar Social Club and excessive system requirements.

      That said, there were definitive differences between the review code and the release code, as many PC reviewers have stated when asked how their review experience differed from customers.

    • Wilson says:

      @Optimaximal – It was, but if RPS had taken a quote from another source which hadn’t, there might be a problem.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It wasn’t a review directly posted on RPS, but RPS did link to Quintin’s review of Silent Hunter 5 on eurogamer.net, where he said:

      “Silent Hunter 3 was a buggy game at release, Silent Hunter 4 more so. But this is something else. I cannot believe they shouldered this game out the door.”

      The requirement for a constant online connection has also been discussed, both in that review and in a separate RPS post. There hasn’t been a follow-up on the current status of the game — 2 quick patches that barely fixed anything, then Ubi pulled off the dev team to work on HAWX, leaving it up to the modders to make the game playable. But still, that’s calling out a company for releasing a badly incomplete game with authentication issues.

  21. BruceCampbell87 says:

    @Choca: Yes,it’s ok, because they don’t lie about this thing What about fable 2 with a lot of bugs?What about killzone2 with a coop mode never released?What about EMPIRE TOTAL WAR HUGE BUGS, that you must play with the darthmod, if not is unplayable?

    • Choca says:

      Yeah I’m sorry but I don’t really care if some other games sucked too when they were released, that doesn’t justify anything. It’s just a fancy way to say “who cares if we suck, everyone does anyway”.

    • rocketman71 says:

      Fable 2?. Killzone 2?. My god, these rabid fanboys don’t even know where they are. This is a fucking PC site!.

      And stop defending the indefensible, man. Releasing a buggy, unfinished POS is bad. It looks worse because Stardock said they’d never do it (and it’s the second time already), but is bad just the same. Day 0 patches are NOT acceptable, even if sheeple buying games that use this method have validated it for the big publishers.

      Multiplayer?. Is a part of the promised features. The game comes with no multiplayer, ergo… UNFINISHED. No, next week is not ok, and given how they’re releasing all of this, it’ll probably be bug infested as well.

      Also, could you please stop tarnishing Bruce Campbell’s good name?. Thanks.

    • Wilson says:

      @Choca – Of course it doesn’t excuse the state of the game, the point is why didn’t RPS make a post about it for those other games? I’m assuming it’s because of the Bill of Rights thing. I don’t mind that, Stardock have failed their own criteria for many people. That said, Quintin’s post had a more damning tone to it than I believe was necessary. That coupled with the fact that he didn’t seem to do a great deal of fact checking as to the state of the Bill of Rights, is why some people are upset and perceiving it as an attack on Stardock. The question is, why highlight Elemental? I think the answer is ‘because Stardock made the Bill of Rights’, but the tone of Quintin’s post was a little inappropriate I think.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Empire is pretty much unbroken now, although last time I tried the battle AI is still pretty bad – haven’t tried Napoleon, though.

  22. BruceCampbell87 says:

    it’s not a prob because this time is working to fix and improve the game every day, every hour (the last fix was done at 5AM). This is an indipendent studios, we must support, not blow out in this way. I lost confidence with RPS definitively. This campaign is a shame

    • sneetch says:

      “indipendent studios” my ass, they publish games, they run their own online digital store, they’re not some struggling indie dev and they sure as hell should have delivered a complete game at launch, patches are fine but broken incomplete software is not.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      BruceCampbell87: That sounds like we should forget all mistakes indie developers make. No, no, no. This would only ‘help’ them to get money who otherwise wouldn’t have bought their products at that time and at the same time wouldn’t pressure the fact that these mistakes should be learned from so they (and others) don’t repeat those.

      What they need is journalism. Objective facts with opinions clearly stated so people know which is which, stating both the good and the bad (like, say, reporting on the fact that Brad Wardell speaking out on that forum was a really unwise move and why that is so, for example). And no, I don’t think RPS intended to take down Stardock or whatever.

      Moreso, RPS isn’t there to defend devs.. it’s a blog where a couple of blokes write on games. But there’s plenty of support (in the sense of coverage, for example) for indies around RPS.. it just doesn’t approach blatant fanboyism. And it shouldn’t.

    • Premium User Badge

      oceanclub says:

      I’m sorry, but if you think RPS’s job is to shill for broken software, I suggest you find another site.

      P.

  23. G Morgan says:

    Brad Wardell being aggressive and insulting to customers is not in any way a new ‘thing’. He’s notorious for being bipolar online – accessible and easygoing until you happen to piss him off, when he turns into a slavering maniac. Encouraging people not to buy his product, and bragging about how rich he (and his company) is, is very much in-form. A cursory bit of poking about on Google will turn up more examples.

    • Lobotomist says:

      What would you rather have ?

      A game creator that communicates with gamers with passion , as a human being and with full emotions.

      or

      Double talk , marketing , public relation drone ?

      Most of sheeple , we all know, can only digest the later.

      But i for one , love getting the info honestly and straight as it is.

      Brad said “If you dont like the game. Dont buy it.” .And you know what? They are even refunding people that want to return the game.

      This is fair and square. Its a person that really loves his game.

    • G Morgan says:

      Brad has said a lot more than that. He’s bragged about his wealth in response to criticism and mocked his own customers. He’s ranted and raved. He’s injected politics into his own business, even implying at one point that he would fire his own staff based on political affiliation if forced to make cuts. I know all that and I have only the most tangential interest in the company – I’ve never been on Stardock’s forums, if they exist, or the Quarter to Three forums.

      Would I rather interact with a corporate mouthpiece or a passive aggressive asshole? I think that’s what we call a false dichotomy.

  24. aquarion says:

    I agree, kind of.

    Independent studios should get less flack when this happens, they’re running a game on a smaller team, and attempting to compete on the same level of polished professionalism as the people with billion buck budgets.

    Thing is, they do. If Blizzard, EA or someone released a game in this state, it would be slated enough to retile every roof in christendom. People would be throwing around lawsuits. And there have *been* better ways to cope with this kind of launch issue, and Stardock have dropped the ball on it twice now (once with Demigods, which never recovered).

    Take a look at zombie cow, for example. Earlier this month they released a new game, Privates, which had massive, game destroying issues on a large number of their users. What they did was say “Oh shit” and put out a blog post with “This sucked, we’re sorry. We will send our entire back catalogue, for free, to everyone who sends us a unique game issue”.

    I don’t expect Stardock to do anything that drastic, but ZC is two blokes and that was their response to an issue with a *free* game. What Stardock appeared to do was to attack the people who were pointing out the flaws, claim it was only on a minority of systems, that they hadn’t seen them, that that everything was fine. Zero day patches all around.

    And this isn’t even one rule for the rich, either. When Bobby Kotick says something that can possibly be taken the wrong way (Apparently he has a PR issue with what happens when you dry humour and print media) the gaming press explodes with “ACTIVISION MAKES DICK MOVE” in exactly the same way. CEOs in every industry end up being the spokespeople for their company whenever they say anything that can be critiqued, it’s not a new thing.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “Independent studios should get less flack when this happens, they’re running a game on a smaller team, and attempting to compete on the same level of polished professionalism as the people with billion buck budgets.”

      I disagree. I buy lots of indie games, but there’s a difference between a game studio that charges $5 or $10 USD, and one that asks for $50 of my money, like Elemental. That means they’re promoting it as a AAA grade title, and I have to balance the cost against other AAA games coming out soon, or currently available at that price point. If they want to charge money like the big boys, they have to accept the same level of scrutiny and criticism for a flawed product and a botched release.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    I don’t understand all the fuzz about this situation.

    PC Gamer’s Tom Francis (who, IIRC, is an avid GalCiv 2 fan) warned about the bad state of Elemental’s retail version (the version that is on store shelves in the US). He specifically stated that the game might be in a better state at some point in the future, but right now he wouldn’t recommend purchasing it. He also added a quote from Stardock’s CEO from a forum – in which said CEO stated that he posted, in fact, as Stardock’s CEO – where he says that he considers the game finished and ready for release.
    RPS links the PC Gamer article and that quote and warns again.

    Now, seeing the feedback on the official Elemental forums and elsewhere, I can safely assume that even after numerous post-release (!) patches (when taking the retail version in account) stuff is still borked, crashes/memory leaks/slowdowns occur with numerous setups, features are not well explained or not at all, the AI is doing crazy things and people widely say that it might be a good game in a few weeks or even months.

    I, as a customer and someone who was interested in Elemental since I first heard about it, am thankful for being warned that this game is not in a state where I could have a flawless gaming experience. In that light, a CEO stating the exact opposite without acknowleding that the retail version has numerous issues up to the point where it prevents people from playing longer than a few minutes, is very bad PR. And such a quote, wherever it was written, does not need more context as it stands on its own. After all, when you’re a CEO and post under your real name on the internet, it will always be relevant and considered news-worthy. I mean, you’re the goddamn CEO!

    If it wasn’t for PC Gamer’s and/or RPS’ strong warning, I probably would have bought the game without checking the official forums and/or other news sources and be thoroughly disappointed. Now I’ll check back in a few months to see what changed and then decide again on a purchase.

    Thanks RPS, you did everything correct. Oh, besides not double-checking on the whole “Bill of Rights” thing, but you updated the news accordingly.

    • Severian says:

      @ Schaulustiger

      Yes, agree with you completely. This is why I read game journalists. If not for articles like these (and the linked forums where I could read about players’ direct experiences), I very well might have purchased Elemental on Day 1 and been a bit upset about its condition. These articles have warned me that I should wait a month or so to see how everything pans out. As a consumer, I appreciate receiving this information.

  26. 2ds says:

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for publishing this (I’m sure other parts of the hive mind were behind it) I was pretty disappointed with your last post on this subject, it’s exactly the sort of thing I don’t come to this site for.

    Maning up and admiting you may have made a bad decision and actively correcting it is something that is not as common as I like.

    I think you’re right to not be happy about shipping incomplete games but yesterdays post was not the right way to say that (I do acknowledge you added information to that post as it became availible but I saw the original one).

    I’m looking forward to your review.

    Also the people questioning the release date, aparantly they either had now or feb 2011 when they were promised shelf space by the stores, they aparantly shot for now and it may have been a mistake. It’s all very well and good saying they don’t have money trouble and they should keep working on it until it’s done but Duke Nukem didn’t have money trouble either… not for the first 5 years anyway.

  27. Stevo says:

    Sorry but some people here are a little short of facts on a lot of matters. Multiplayer is in the game. However as Brad has addressed he’s not happy with the stability of it. So we have the people that are complaining about the bugs and how their should be zero bugs in this game(laughable idea) then complaining about where the multiplayer is despite it being told from on high that it’s not of a quaility that they are comfortable with. Do people really want them to enable it today and it be another buggy mess and then get off complaining about that?

    RPS and PC Gamer have really gone down in my opinion with this whole situation. Every PC Game in the world is buggy and that doesn’t mean that sites like yourself or PC Gamer slate it till the cows come home. You’v been singing praises for Arma2 for god’s know how long. Ever try playing that vanilla style? Did you ever come out and critise BO for releasing the original Arma in a completely unplayable state until 3gbs worth of patches fixed it?

    Or how about Empire Total War that was cheered on despite numerous day zero bugs that impeded players including one that wiped peoples saves. But hey you know it’s Creative Assembly we love them and we ll do the same when a buggy Shogun 2 comes out.

    Really guys you’v let a long time reader down with this carry on.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Do people really want them to enable it today and it be another buggy mess and then get off complaining about that?

      I thought the point was that they should’ve waited with the release until they have issues like that properly sorted out.

    • Stevo says:

      They couldn’t though the high street retailers had the game on the shevles a day early. Like Multiplayers there like actually there it’s simply not enabled. Arma 1 & 2 campaign was there but completely unplayable if the community was told “Hey at the moment it’s unplayable but the data is actually on your machine give us a patch or two and you ll be able to play it with as much fuss as you would” would the community go in uproar? No it wouldn’t.

      It will be enabled next week probably a hell of a lot more stable condition then it would of been. Hell if they had released it and people complained that they had game prevent bugs surely that would be the same as it not being there at all?

    • Robert says:

      If I buy a game in the store, I want it to work. I don’t give a shit about why the version in the store is broken. I don’t want to pay good money for that. Arma/total war have absolutely no effect on how I experience this. if it’s not done yet, don’t sell it. Or put it on the freaking box/website. I often think people exagerrate consumer rights, but in this case…

      And here I’m not even touching on the need to log in at their servers to get stuff working. Which is a Steam-like DRM. I found the link with the Bill of Rights fitting.

    • Donkeyfumbler says:

      If you were a long-time reader then you’d be taking a more balanced view of all this. More like you’ve found your way here for the first time through after reading some stuff on the QT3 or Stardock forums.

      The only problem with the original story was the whole ‘Bill of rights has been pulled’ conspiracy angle which was overly sensationalist and turns out to be mostly wrong (and was fairly quickly updated).

      Otherwise I see no problem in RPS pulling up Stardock for releasing an unfinished game when they had gone out of their way to garner publicity for themselves with a bill of rights effectively lambasting those companies who had done so before (yes, which would include Bohemia Interactive and the Creative Assembly).

      Are you saying there is some kind of vendetta against Stardock by RPS (who by the way are the only reason I knew this game existed thanks to their positive coverage in the past)?

      Are you saying that because there weren’t enough people pointing out the flaws in Arma II and Empire Total War then no-one should point out the problems with Elemental?

      Really – what are you saying here because it seems to make no sense to me?

  28. Jens says:

    I remain uncomfortable with journalist practices that involve sloppy, if any, research and deliberate bias/drama/fact mangling in favour of a scoop.

    At least Brad Wardell eventually manned up for his unfortunate part in the events. I still don’t get the feeling though that RPS even think that they could have done any better, all righteous indignation over at the QT3 forums and suddenly non-committal coverage here. I couldn’t care less about PC Gamer UK, but RPS being one of my favourite gaming sites, this really irks me.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      RPS made three assertions in the original post:-
      1. Elemental is unfinished
      2. Gamer’s Bill of Rights says unfinished games shouldn’t be released
      3. Gamer’s Bill of Rights is no longer to be found at Stardock’s news page.

      From 1 and 2 we can infer (though RPS did not explicitly say this) that Stardock have apparently been hypocritical.
      So point 3 is wrong, or rather, the obvious implication to be inferred from it – that Stardock is attempting some kind of Orwellian revisionism – no longer stands up. We’re left with the H-word.

      I’m not really seeing the “bad journalism” angle here.

  29. Wilson says:

    I’ve just read in the other thread that all RPS was behind the original post, not just Quintin. With that in mind, my comments above referring to ‘Quintin’s post’ may be inaccurate. I wasn’t aware that it was a team effort.

  30. Delusibeta says:

    As I said on the other thread, it’s all about getting people to register with Impulse and thus rendering the Gamer’s Bill of Rights (specifically, point 4, no third party downloaders required) roadkill.

  31. monkeybreadman says:

    “RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard.”

    Just the death rattle of physical media

    • jeremypeel says:

      Huh? Do you really think that statement represents a dying “physical media” or are you just trying to upset some ex-PC Gamer journos?

    • user@example.com says:

      monkeybreadman means that DVD releases are dying, because what’s on the disk is going to be obsolete by the time you get it installed. If you’re already downloading patches on launch day, why not just download the whole thing? Yes, bandwidth issues, but that’s why physical media is mostly on the way out, not already dead.

      If it does die, someone’ll probably come up with a Print (Press?) on Demand option for buying games off Steam or wherever, so you only have to authenticate it online and not download gigabytes of data.

    • monkeybreadman says:

      I meant DVDs. Although magazines are part of that same trend.

      Personally i’ve never been someone that ‘having the dvd in my hand’ is important, they just take up shelf space.

      For developers they clearly make a decision that we’ll fix those while the dvds are printing, its just streamlining that every business does. Its the retailers that are to blame, of course they’re doing the same thing but they’re only pushing developers to digital download only everytime this happens.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Oops, I did get the wrong end of the stick there. Sorry monkeybreadman, completely agree with you.

      It’s funny, only a couple of years ago I cared about having the physical product, but now I can barely remember why.

  32. Donkey says:

    RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard.

    I’m uncomfortable with shitty journalism

  33. leeder_krenon says:

    no surprise that the right wing nut jobs at Stardock have trouble with public relations.

  34. Derek Smart says:

    This is pure bullshit. These a$$hats have done this now TWICE in a row. First Demigod, now this.

    If EA, Activision or their ilk continued to pull this shit, the execs would be beaten, shot, crucified and burned to a crisp – just to be sure.

    This is the sort of thing that gives PC gaming a really bad name. The last prick who did this, I fired him, then kicked him right out of the company a few months back. We simply cannot have this sort of shit going on like it was business as usual.

    Of course, Brad gets to take the fall – and rightfully so since obviously gets to sign off releases. But the fact of the matter is, if you’re going to publicly take the fall for something that your inept programmers (who should be out of a fucking job), you should do something internally about it. Like, oh I dunno, fire their asses?

    This is pure bullshit.

    Assholes.

    • Stevo says:

      Stardock didn’t make Demigod they published it. Publishers don’t go around making patches and adding content.

      Another mis-informed poster.

    • Optimaximal says:

      GPG developed Demigod whilst Stardock did the whole backend network infrastructure and netcode. One part of the game fell over almost immediately…

    • Stevo says:

      You mean the part where their servers DoS because of the numbers of pirates they had? So company releases 10,000 copies of a multiplayer game and has it’s servers set up to deal with those 10,000 initial users.

      Suddenly the servers are shot with over 20,000 users depsite their being only 10,000 physical copies available.

      You saying that when developing netcode people should try and accomodate pirates? Stardocks netcode didn’t kill Demigod the pirates did.

    • Tei says:

      @Stevo

      Wen reality and servers are in conflict and the servers burn. You blame reality, I blame the server.
      Is not reality that has to change so servers don’t crash, is servers that has to be acomodated to fit reality.
      More than that, you will never change reality, so the only thing you really can change, is your server. Put a good network enginerr on the thing, follow his advices to filter the “evil” trafic out, and make the whole thing work.
      The other option, hire wizards to change reality, is unavailable.
      Business should work in the real world, not on the fictional world of how you love the world to work.

      Derek has a point here.

      And probably more than a point, since all the bugs that the game suffer, seems to indicate the game has a unstable nature. Is not a stable codebase, and will not be stable for months, and probably will never be as stable as something similar, like MoM or CivIV. This is poor programming. Derek say fire people, but that is too sinple minded, maybe is not the people, but the process. Or something.

    • Stevo says:

      No developer in their right mind would divert tight enough captial to expand a server to accomdate pirates though it makes no business sense.

      It’s not like the BF:BC2 case where their physical and digital copies far proceeded the servers it had to accomdate service. In that case if you release a million copies of the your game but your server can only deal with half of that well that’s your own fault for not having a server that’s not able to cope with the copies available.

      However why should a dev for any game say right we need to put x amount of cash into upgrading our servers to accomdate our servers for pirates? That’s when piracry directly hurts the average consumer when a server can’t cope with pirates overloading a server intended for a paying customer.

    • unaco says:

      Mr Smart… What are you doing here? I know someone invoked your name in the previous thread, but that was just once… I thought you were like the Candyman or something, and it had to be 5 times, in a mirror. Go away and make a decent game, please! You have so much potential, such great ideas and, dare I say it, alot of talent… all of which have failed to show through in your games thus far.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      When it comes to releasing unfinished games, Derek Smart is the expert.

    • Jimbo says:

      Piracy isn’t the paying customer’s problem to deal with at all, it’s the publisher’s problem to deal with. The publisher has an obligation to make sure their infrastructure is up to the task of serving their paying customers, regardless of how much piracy there is.

      They can either accomodate or filter out the pirates, at their discretion. So long as it works for me, the paying customer, then I don’t care how they deal with their piracy problem. If they can’t manage that (most publishers seem able to manage it), then they simply shouldn’t take my money for a service they can’t deliver.

    • Warskull says:

      @Stevo:
      The whole piracy and early release thing was a smoke screen and you bought their bullshit. The piracy thing was fixed in under 24 hours. They just moved the server and updated the legit copies via patch so the pirates were pinging it for version checks. Turns out the game still didn’t work at all, on top of that the pirates actually had better gaming experiences since they used hamachi and gamebattles to bypass the non-functional lobby code and get into the game.

      @Derek:
      I am beginning to think more and more that it isn’t the coders fault and Brad is just plain delusional. He seems to actually think Demigod was a good game.

    • catska says:

      The same apologists here who are rushing to defend Stardock and Mr. Wardell would be furiously mashing their keyboards on internet petition websites if it was EA or Infinity Ward who released a game in this state. The fact that its Wardell who has proclaimed himself to be the lord and savior of PC gamers who will part the seas of retail and lead them to the glorious holy land of digital distribution is clouding their rational thought process.

      The worst part is if you look back at interviews he’s given over the years, patches are a tool they use to get people to sign up for impulse and thus use internet authentication to register their game. Its a very clever way of actually having DRM while at the same time being able to say you don’t. Release a game that requires you to get on the internet to patch it because its basically unplayable without it, also give them a copy of impulse on their computer while they’re at it. Clap Clap for Stardock.

      To the people saying this is a non-issue due to the ‘day 0 patch’:

      1. The game has had numerous patches by now and is still a buggy mess that wouldn’t be worth the time it takes to install.

      2. The problem here is that they shipped a product IN THE BOX that is UNPLAYABLE. Do any of you even realize that there are people who buy games and play them on non-internet connected computers? That they are completely fucked in this situation? I don’t give a damn what patches you have ‘in the pipeline’ (Brad Wardell’s imagination), you don’t ship unfinished beta code to stores and expect people to buy it and then not complain that its broken.

  35. Langman says:

    There does feel like some hypocrisy going on with RPS here; Rossignol’s PCG review of Empire:TW last year made no mention of the fact it was unfinished and the campaign nigh-unplayable on release, yet here you are making a big deal of exactly the same situation with Elemental.

    I’m slightly confused, to be honest. At what point in the last year did you suddenly become uncomfortable with this particular industry practise?

    • Walsh says:

      I don’t recall there being a zero day patch for Empire Total War. Only one feature was missing multiplayer, which they said for a long time that it wasn’t going to make the gold release.

      Thanks try again Stardock fanboy.

    • Langman says:

      Don’t be silly.

      Empire was released unfinished and CA knew it was unfinished. Everyone knew it was unfinished. It’s no different to this situation.

      And no, I’m not a Stardock fanboy. Never bought a game from them in fact. But there is definitely an inconsistency here.

    • monkeybreadman says:

      Empire was unfinished at release, and it really needed a day 1 patch. Remember AI naval invasions? neither do i cuz they didnt happen.

      Of course that didnt get mentioned (by any site review not just RPS) although most people realised after a couple of hours play

      I’m not calling shenanigans just Empire is alot shinier than Elemental

    • Freud says:

      Many gamers, myself included, has changed our views of CA from buy at release to wait a few months before even considering buying. I do agree that big companies (or perhaps it’s big publishers with big advertising budgets) gets a free pass too often.

      My biggest gripe with CA is how dumb the AI is, even after them creating 5-6 games by now. It seems they aren’t competent or willing enough to make it as good as it should be. There is no way their games should get 90% in reviews because of this.

  36. sebmojo says:

    Cross posting Kieron’s final comment on Q23, below. Very thoughtful and measured, IMO. Tom Chick really was the one who came of the worst out of this little slapfight.

    KIERON WRITES:
    ============================

    Just to clarify…

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TomChick
    ========================================
    By the way, I’m glad Rock Paper Shotgun has seen fit to both edit and update their post. I haven’t seen it since it was originally linked. But more than anything Kieron has said, that implies to me they know they screwed up.
    ========================================
    I said that we’d edited it in areas we weren’t happy with in my first post to you. The areas we weren’t happy with aren’t related to the core story. They certainly aren’t related to using the quote.

    And, as others have said, a plain statement introducing you to the fact we’re on the Internet is actually relatively diplomatic compared to what I was responding to. I deleted several more noxious takes, and considering I was high on booze, that’s some going. It’s probably a good example of the whole point. I know I’m in a public space and have to be careful with what I say. Even booze does not confuse that. Which is lucky, considering how boozed I often am.

    That’s what I mean about it being the Internet. This is the Internet. If someone considers something relevant, it will be linked to. If anyone in the world can find the quote, it’s not in any way “off the record”. We’re on the public record, forever here. I do miss the relative anonymity of the early Internet. I often talk to fellow writers how we used to just throw stuff out there we could never do now. But those days are gone and we have to deal with it.

    At its heart, it’s a simple disagreement here. You don’t think the quote was relevant to the story. I do. And I don’t believe for a second that there’s no quote from a developer here you wouldn’t use as a story. Let’s say Charles started a thread explaining why he really hated Assassin’s Creed or something. You’d link to that. I don’t believe you if you say you wouldn’t. And – perhaps just as importantly – if you still say you wouldn’t do it, you’re 100% wrong. It’s about as newsy as videogame news gets.

    I don’t think the thread is going anywhere from here. We just don’t agree with one another and I suspect we should just get back to talking about the game. And now I have the game, I can actually play it. Hurrah!

  37. mrmud says:

    The game is still a bug ridden and completely opacque mess but I havent had any serious game breaking bugs happen.

    And when I stopped playing the campaign and started a custom game, it actually became pretty fun to play.

  38. Turin Turambar says:

    Forget all the controversy about RPS vs Qt3 vs Brad Wardell.

    There is something else to focus here.
    The new Stardock game, after GalCiv 2, the one it was supposed to be the spiritual successor of MoM, is fucking mediocre.
    (yes i have the game, and i am loved GC2 and MoM).

    • Wilson says:

      @Turin – I’m underwhelmed as well. I’m just hoping that post-release patches and support will make it into the game it should be.

    • karry says:

      Take off your rose-tinted glasses, GalCiv2 was mediocre as well.

    • Turin Turambar says:

      “i am loved” ? lol, good english botch.

      Sorry karry, I liked GalCiv 2. It had some problems (generic races, obscure economy) but it was much better than Elemental.

    • Wilson says:

      @karry – In your opinion :)

      And it got a lot better as time went on. GalCiv 2 is still one of my favorite games.

  39. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Waaagggghhhhh!!!!!

  40. l1ddl3monkey says:

    I call it the Microsoft Model; over the years Microsoft got us used to paying for stuff that may or may not work “as intended” out of the box and then conditioned us to expect to wait for them to catch up and fix something we’ve already paid for.

    I can’t think of anything else where you would accept this model of delivery: “Oh yes Mr Liddle sir, your new car is ready but the lights don’t work yet, we’ll send someone round to fix those in the next month or so”.

    It’s rubbish. I think the law should be changed to allow you to simply send back software that doesn’t work as described for a refund just like you can with anything else you spend your hard-earned on that turns out to be faulty. Ideally it would even be illegal for providers to willfully sell you something that they know does not work properly (which where I come from is usually called a “con” or at the very least a “rip off”).

    Unfortunately those water tight licencing agreements you “click to accept” every time you install something means you’re literally accepting the responsibility for it (as well as agreeing that it can continue not to work as expected indefinitely and we’ll keep your money, ta very much).

    Software buyers are the biggest mugs on the planet (I of course include myself in this). No wonder piracy is so popular; doesn’t work? Don’t care, I didn’t pay for it.

    • Stevo says:

      That would never in a million years work and would basically completely right off the Game industry in one giant stroke.

      Seriously i could go back with a game that i spent 5 days playing to near completion and return it stating “Oh yeah i was near the end of the game and this item in my inventory just suddenly disappeared, that’s a bug i want my money back”

      And how can you properly test software on a giant scale (talking hundreds of thousands to the milliosn of different variables of different hardware/software of a pc) and put a stamp on your game to say that it will work on everything?? It’s simply impossible and cannot be done.

      Developers should be held though to fix a title when broken to the point where it is playable.

    • Frye says:

      Good point. Even NASA can’t get their software to work without bugs. Even last week a multimillion-dollar satellite got bricked. Of course they have no way of testing software in the field so they have to get it right in one go.

      I remember the ‘unofficial oblivion patch’ fixing about 1200 bugs mainly to do with scripts and unforeseen events. That was 1200 bugs fixed AFTER all the initial testing, official release and official patches.

    • Archonsod says:

      “I call it the Microsoft Model; over the years Microsoft got us used to paying for stuff that may or may not work “as intended” out of the box and then conditioned us to expect to wait for them to catch up and fix something we’ve already paid for.”

      Erm, I remember buying games for 8 bit systems which contained bugs. Except of course in those days they never got patched.

  41. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    I’ve only ever pre-ordered one game – Fallout 3.

    This sort of nonsense isn’t going to change that any time soon.

    • user@example.com says:

      I preordered the Orange Box, played around with TF2 for a bit, uninstalled the TF2 beta and never went back.

      But then, I only wanted Portal and Episode 2.

  42. ts061282 says:

    Here’s the real story: Patch-to-play Stardock’s ad hoc copy protection.

    • Donkeyfumbler says:

      If that were true, I’d give them more credit for this mess but the 1.05 patch was available for pirated versions not long after the legit customers got it.

  43. Navagon says:

    1. It seems like you guys are trying to duck addressing the fact that the bill of rights was never actually removed.

    2. Publishers need to realise that devaluing games (either through required patches or overbearing DRM) actually lowers sales. A lesson that Stardock should have learned with Demigod.

    • Sorbicol says:

      I think the point most people are trying to make is that regardless of whether the “bill of rights” was removed or not (and clearly it wasn’t) is that it clearly states that gamers should have the right to play finished products right out of the box, and elemental is clearly anything but a “finished” product. That’s called making a rod for your own back, and it does Stardock no favours what so ever, regardless of the reporting about it.

    • Optimaximal says:

      They addressed the first problem when they revised the original post here.

    • Jimbo says:

      Forgive me if this isn’t correct (I have no way of checking now), and not that this was even the main thrust of the story, but didn’t QS’s post initially say words to the effect of “Stardock’s Bill of Rights has been removed from Stardock’s site”? Which it has, right? It’s now on some other site that doesn’t carry any obvious Stardock markings and isn’t found via Stardock’s site?

      I’m not really seeing what RPS are supposed to be apologising for. Maybe I am misremembering the original wording.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Google “stardock bill of rights” and you get this link http://www.stardock.com/about/newsitem.asp?id=1095
      (the link used in RPS’ orginal post). Note the ID number? 1095 has been deleted. 1090-1094 are fine, 1096-1100 are fine, but this one is missing. Weird huh?

      RPS pointing out this oddity is actually totally irrelevant because Stardock is, FACTUALLY, violating their own bill of rights.

      “Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.” NO MULTIPLAYER
      “Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.” GAME CRASHES VERY FREQUENTLY WITHOUT ZERO DAY PATCH

      All these Stardock defenders act like RPS committed some terrible mistake because the Bill of Rights was available at some other website, when the plain indisputable facts are that Stardock is breaking their own pompous rules.

  44. Tom O'Bedlam says:

    This conversation needs less use of the word ‘sheeple’, seriously, its getting like the david icke forums here.

  45. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    Shitstorm aside, who else is looking forward to a Wot-I-Think for Elemental?

    It seems like Kieron got his review copy and given the fact that did an absolutely marvellous review for Darkfall after a similar outrage, I expect this to be very interesting. Plus, it’ll shift attention back to where it belongs: the game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stompywitch says:

      Yes, but… I’m not interested in a WIT of what it’s like now, I want to see opinions on the game it eventually becomes.

    • user@example.com says:

      RPS, assuming Elemental doesn’t catch fire and sink without a trace in the next month, please do a WIT on it some time next year! It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Coverage of the game is in the works now.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’d like to read a RPS review, but with a game developer like Stardock that’s constantly tweaking the title, it’s going to be a constantly moving target, isn’t it? And the developer will never be happy with the review, because it will be — “wait, you haven’t seen the latest build! Wait ’til you see what’s coming on the next 60 day patch cycle!” And if a reviewer posts constant updates about the game’s progress, that can step over the line into lots of free promotion, compared to a game released in a more stable condition.

      Anyway, just some random thoughts there, and I’m looking forward to what RPS says about the game. Especially, what’s said about the slippery concept of whether the game is “fun” or not. Another thing I hope a “Wot I Think” focuses on, is whether the player can actually understand what’s going on under the hood. GalCiv2 was fun, but that game did bury some of the mechanics pretty deep, and not always exposing enough useful information to the player. From some of the feedback I’ve been reading, it seems like Elemental is like that in spades.

  46. Antilogic says:

    “RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard.”

    Why? If all goes to plan, which in this case it clearly didnt, then it simply means that it allows the team making the game to make an extra polish pass on the game at best, and to extra time to fix some game-breaking bugs at worse. Its not as if without the day-0 patch you would get the game any eariler then before anyway.

    • Hippo says:

      Antilogic: I don’t know… because they didn’t write “Unfinished software. Internet connection needed for patching to the finished version” on the box?

    • Antilogic says:

      Meh, everyone has a net connection these days, I honestly dont see it as an issue anymore.

    • Kid A says:

      1 in 5 Americans doesn’t have an internet connection. And America got a box release.

    • Kid A says:

      1 in 5 Americans don’t have an internet connection. And America got a box release.

    • Antilogic says:

      Well for those of us who lived in civilised countries net connections are considered a human right these days ;)

    • monkeybreadman says:

      I bet my grandmother those 1 in 5 americans are not going to buy it, ever.

  47. JKjoker says:

    “RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard.”

    i think this is the most important lesson here, i can understand the outburst, and i appreciate that he was man enough to apologize in an open letter but Wardell did not apologize for releasing the game in such state (in fact they seem to deny the severity of their bugs even tho they are rushing like crazy to fix them), it was not a fluke, mistake, QA problem or undetected severe incompatibility problem, no, it was intentional, they sent the game to be reproduced knowing it didnt work (and the fact they’ve been working on the day0 patch for a month is irrefutable evidence), just an expected consequence of the patches as DRM approach

    now, im pretty sure Stardock will patch this game (a question remains if theyll patch it to the extend it needs tho, patches that radically change user interface and the like are rare) because theyve always done that so far, but this is a common practice in the industry which is often followed by NOT patching the game and dropping support on release (often because it didnt become the third coming of modern warfare they were stupidly expecting, but in some cases, like everything by Atari and Sega just because they are dicks), i cant in any way support this abomination and i will encourage everyone never to buy a game on release every chance i get from now on

    • Wahngrok says:

      Interesting fact: The UI in the 0-day patch is quite different than in the gold version because the code was split over three weeks ago as Brad stated in the Dev journal. So you can expect patches doing radical things for Elemental. Also – like Blizzard and Valve – Stardock has always had a good track record of patching games even after years.

  48. scoopsy says:

    Brad really does make it look as if he’s just talking to Ben by starting his quote from there, when the original is:

    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.

    It’s so bizarre to see someone quote himself out of context. Have to say that I’m pretty much done with Stardock.

    • Torgen says:

      That’s the take-home part of this whole sad mess.

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

      Apparently the CEO thinks his customers should unquestioningly hand over their money and believe his “Iraqi Information Minister” antics and Mel Gibson attitude.

  49. Turin Turambar says:

    “RPS remains uncomfortable with industry practices that involve shipping incomplete gold code, requiring – and assuming – day zero patches as a standard.”

    Uh… the problem is not that the game needs a day-0 patch to be good.

    The problem is that, even with the day-0 patch the state of the game is still poor!
    So it’s not like the game needed one patch (day-0 patch), it’s more that it will need 5 or 6 more patches.

  50. Mac says:

    So basically the disk release has a form of DRM which gives you a broken experience until you patch it up … how is this any different to DRM that requires you to register? In fact it is worse – as it gives people buying the disk version a broken product … it’s a good job it wasn’t released on disk in the UK, as i’m not sure how it would cope with the law regarding “of merchantable quality” and “fit for purpose”.

    It appears to be an A1 lesson in how not to launch a product – I can see that they were under pressure to hit a release window given other releases due out in the next few months, and avoiding SC2 – but statements, no matter how retracted, onto a public forum telling people not to buy your game if they disagreed with you is naive at best and grossly incompetent at worse.

    Having been bitten by Demigod, which incidentally still plays like a dog, and is little fun compared to the likes of LoL, and these comments from Brad – I will just pass on this and every other Stardock game. They deserve all of the lost sales they get!

    • scoopsy says:

      I’m not terribly familiar with how Impulse / Stardock operates – is that truly the only way to get patches?

      If so, ouch. You’re absolutely right.

    • Klaus says:

      Haha. Good point. I had similar thoughts regarding GalCiv2′s patches.