Elemental Expands With Fallen Enchantress

By Quintin Smith on January 12th, 2011 at 1:08 pm.

Somebody's been playing with an LED and low shutter speeds!

(EDIT: OK, missed this. Fallen Enchantress will also be free to anyone who purchased Elemental before 2010 (Surely you mean 2011, Quinns? – Jim). That’s a Hell of a thing.)

Couple of things. First of all, Big Download‘s assembled the information on Elemental: War of Magic’s upcoming expansion pack, Fallen Enchantress. Who is the Enchantress? Why did she fall down? Was she drunk? We don’t know, but we do know the expansion will add new spells, equipment, new ways of using magic and new areas that must be purged of enemies before you can settle in them. These will include the Bhinadmi Fissure, where a player must walk up to the edge and challenge the Elemental Lord that lives within. Mm! Mm.

Second, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has been making some interestink predictions in an interview with Gamasutra that Elemental is going to end up costing his company money.

Wardell’s opinion relates to Elemental’s notoriously buggy launch. While he states that “Elemental made its money back on day one and has continued to be profitable to this point,” he adds “Based on our projections we anticipate by the end of second quarter 2011 that Elemental will end up losing money overall as our objective is to spend what is necessary to ensure that the game meets the expectations of our customers… While this short-term loss is unfortunate, it is crucial in the long term that PC gamers know that the Stardock name means quality and support.”

Which is a curious thing to say. I’m no PR guru, but mentioning you made pots of money releasing a game that failed to meet the expectations of your customers, but that you’re going to drag the project into the red to fix it… I don’t know.

On a lighter note, did you catch that Stardock hired Civilization V project lead Jon Shafer? That’d be the same boy genius who went from modding Civilization 3 in high school to being the lead on Civilization V in a little over three years. Have you read our interview with him? It’s pretty good!

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56 Comments »

  1. Navagon says:

    “Second, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has been making some interestink predictions in an interview with Gamasutra that Elemental is going to end up costing his company money.”

    He’s only just figured that one out?

    • subedii says:

      It’s not a case of “figuring out” anything. Elemental made a profit, purely off of pre-orders alone. They’re actually choosing to make the game unprofitable by trying to fix it, instead of just abandoning it and moving on. Which really, they could do at any point. There are plenty of companies that have done just that with shoddy releases, and it hasn’t really stopped people buying their next good game.

      After the release of Elemental was botched, I’m willing to give them credit for doing something so few other devs would ever even attempt doing.

    • amandachen says:

      “After the release of Elemental was botched, I’m willing to give them credit for doing something so few other devs would ever even attempt doing.”

      Stardock doesn’t have much choice. Brad has to throw money at this game to fix his company’s reputation. Remember Demigod (and how Stardock coded the most broken part of it)? Remember the Gamer’s Bill of Rights? Right now I wouldn’t buy __anything__ on Impulse, let alone one of Stardock’s games.

    • Navagon says:

      The fact that the game is going to prove unprofitable hasn’t been news since they announced that they’d be spending a year patching the game. But as you say, frightlever, the expansions could possibly drag them back in the black.

      But ultimately it’s a company of failed promises, inexplicably childish decisions and abandoned standards. I simply don’t want to buy anything more from them.

    • Sagan says:

      God you guys are cynical. This man is being nice and you react with such negativity…

    • Navagon says:

      He has a very firmly established track record. There is only so many times you can give someone a chance without being a fool.

    • subedii says:

      Well, no, they’re choosing to say they’re going to make the game unprofitable by fixing it. Sounds like spin to me. They can’t abandon it. There’d be a hole in their release schedule for at least two years. Remember they plan to have at least three expansions.

      Indeed, and as long as those expansions are good and standalone, people won’t care that the original release was crap and will still buy it. Others who do care aren’t going to be giving Stardock any benefit of the doubt on the new release, regardless of whether this gets fixed or not. Or for that matter, Stardock could simply move on to doing different projects, it’s quite obvious this one didn’t work out according to plan. It’d be easy enough to drop this and go in a different direction.

      That’s the thing, they very easily can abandon Elemental, and I’ve seen devs do it before with other games. Crikey, I’ve seen devs try to pass off clearly bad, unfinished games as simply “misunderstood” by the market. “It’s not FOR you” being a common refrain, and typically when a dev something like that, it appeals to the fanbase and they’ll have plenty of fanboys to back them up in doing so.

      I can appreciate that they acknowledge this wasn’t a good release, and are working to fix it. They could just as easily dump the whole thing and not give a crap. “Reputation” may or may not be important to Brad Wardell, but who cares anyway? It’s already obvious even from the posts in this thread that anyone who purchased Stardock’s games off of their rep simply aren’t going to trust them anymore, and with everyone else, it never mattered in the first place. Them fixing the game now does jack all to change peoples opinions now, and why should it? The people amongst their fanbase who already feel betrayed certainly aren’t going to change their minds, and likely won’t be pre-ordering new titles anytime soon.

      So yeah, they could easily dump it, and at this stage, and I don’t see what difference it would make. Nobody’s going to give them the time of day on this iteration of Elemental even assuming it gets fixed at a later date. That ship’s already sailed.

    • Archonsod says:

      “They can’t abandon it. There’d be a hole in their release schedule for at least two years. Remember they plan to have at least three expansions.”

      They’d have a gap in their game release schedule, but that’s not Stardock’s primary business. Besides, they’ve pulled staff from another game to focus on Elemental so there’s no reason they couldn’t have reversed that to get the other game out sooner. Rumour is said game was Gal Civ 3, so it would certainly make sense from a fiscal perspective to have went that way instead.

      Although I’d question what Brad is basing his figures on, giving he’ll be expecting people to pay for those expansions, and of course the inevitable “complete” version at some point.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      I’ve been a fan of Stardock for years. I bought Gal Civ II to support their non-DRM choice. I bought both expansions. I’ve bought Sins and all expansions. I bought Demigod, and have never actually played it for more than a few minutes. I pre-ordered Elemental.

      I am done with Stardock. Yeah, it’s great they’re fixing the game, but after so many years of loyalty they basically screwed their hardcore supporters by releasing such a broken title and will never EVER pre-order from them again. And I will only but stuff on Impulse when it’s much much cheaper than anywhere else.

      I’d have bought Europa Universalis 3: Divine Wind from there, if it would actually work with the Steam version. (And anyone who blanketly claims the GamersGate version of DW works with the Steam version is talking bollocks as I found out the hard way.)

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Sup playas.

      Yo we put some bugs in your bugs so you can enjoy some bugs while you bug out about the bugs.
      Also we accidentally the same with the expansion.

      I have heard that Fred Wester, CEO of Paradox, approves of this message.

      Sorry, but I really cannot take anything Frogboy related serious anymore.

  2. Memphis-Ahn says:

    “I’m no PR guru, but mentioning you made pots of money releasing a game that failed to meet the expectations of your customers, but that you’re going to drag the project into the red to fix it… I don’t know.”
    Much better than them saying they’re not going to do anything to fix/improve the game because they’d make a loss.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I think what unsettles me is the unintentional hint that releasing the game when they did was a wise business move, even if they intend to fix it afterwards.

    • Feet says:

      Indeed, slightly weird way of saying it granted, but I see it as a positive thing in that Stardock believe there is a good game in there somewhere and it’s worth investing in further to make sure their customers get to see it. Along with employing Kael of FfH fame and Jon Shafer they’re certainly doing their best to make it so.

      Personally, I still have my doubts that it’s possible to fix the problems without starting pretty much from scratch, but I’m certainly more willing to give them the benefit and load the game up again when this new update is released.

    • MrMud says:

      The reason it sold so well on day 1 is of course that people had such high faith in Stardock. A faith that has now been dented if not ruined. It would be a smart business move to get that back.

    • subedii says:

      It’s not really a case of them saying it was a better business move to release earlier and fix later. If that were the case this wouldn’t be a situation where they’re losing money.

      To all intents and purposes, there were just problems with how close they got to the project and couldn’t really see the issues it had. The fact that it got panned in the games press wasn’t expected or planned for, it was a shock to them, one that they only really came to terms with after taking time out to look critically at the project and the complaints.

      There’s a really good interview with Brad Wardell about this, shortly after Elemental released, at flashofsteel.com (strategy game website). Well worth listening to to hear how Wardell views the entire thing and how it went wrong.

      http://flashofsteel.com/index.php/2010/09/08/three-moves-ahead-episode-81-elemental-post-mortem-with-brad-wardell/

      Another really interesting interview at Gamasutra is with Jon Schafer (Civ V lead dev, and and before joining Firaxis was pretty heavily into modding Civ games, IIRC he made some fantasy mods). The big question being why he would leave a lead dev position at Firaxis to work at a smaller company like Stardock and a less well known game like Elemental. It’s not the kind of career move you’d expect someone to ordinarily make. Also well worth a read:

      http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6252/shafers_next_step_from_civ_to_.php

      EDIT: Well that was a bit redundant. Guess I’ll leave it in anyway.

    • amandachen says:

      “To all intents and purposes, there were just problems with how close they got to the project and couldn’t really see the issues it had. The fact that it got panned in the games press wasn’t expected or planned for, it was a shock to them, one that they only really came to terms with after taking time out to look critically at the project and the complaints.”

      Yeah, it was a shock to them. So what about all the feedback from beta-testing that was ignored?

    • Sagan says:

      @amandachen: Listen to the interview. It simply is not true that they ignored beta feedback.

    • zipdrive says:

      Quinns, I really can’t see how you’d read THAT in wht he says.

      Stardock messed up big and now they’re working (hard) to repair the damage done to their reputation. It neither makes them saints, as some fan-boys think, nor cold-blooded business vultures, as the cynics above make it to be.

    • Archonsod says:

      “@amandachen: Listen to the interview. It simply is not true that they ignored beta feedback.”

      They didn’t so much ignore as rebuff it. Didn’t matter what the issue was, there was a magic “It’ll be sorted out / work / alright in the release build” answer. A lot of the changes since the release were things which had been highlighted in the beta.

    • subedii says:

      Indeed. There were definitely problems with the management of the project, and the way they handled the beta was proof of that.

      What’s bizarre is how people are trying to ascribe some kind of malicious intent to their actions, both then and now. As if this is supposed to somehow be the ideal situation that they’re happiest with. It wasn’t their intention to release a bad game and get bad press. And if they had understood that the game wasn’t ready, it wouldn’t have been released.

      They messed up horribly, on quite a few levels. That’s bad.

      They’re trying to fix it. That’s better.

      If nothing else, I’m at least curious as to what Jon Schafer’s going to bring to the project.

    • amandachen says:

      Who told me to listen to the interview? I heard it months ago, and Brad seems very confused and keeps contradicting himself. Nobody knows the full story, maybe not even Brad.

    • Hallgrim says:

      @Subedii: “What’s bizarre is how people are trying to ascribe some kind of malicious intent to their actions, both then and now.”

      They released a crashing, bug ridden game that didn’t contain one of the main features touted on the box and on their online store (Multiplayer) for weeks (months?) after release. Reviewer after reviewer was simply stunned at how poor the product was, and they refused to give full refunds to some of their customers (like me… call the waaaahmbulance!).

      Malicious isn’t the right word… deceitful? Manipulative? At some point, if you tell people you are selling them a “game”, and the game has “multiplayer”, haven’t you done something bad if the “game” is horrid and the “multiplayer” is absent ? Granted, they didn’t sell me an empty box, but I never would have purchased the game if I knew it wouldn’t contain a full featured multiplayer (i.e. if I knew Wardell was completely talking out of his ass for more than a year before it was released). What’s the right word for a figurehead, and a company, that does that sort of thing?

  3. Wonko the Sane says:

    Did you mean to link directly to the interview story rather than the front page of Gamasutra?

  4. Schaulustiger says:

    I still don’t know how to feel about Elemental. I made the mistake of buying it early and couldn’t even get in the game until a patch came out a week or so later. When I was able to play, I quickly realized that the game was a mess – and I mean it: every part of the game felt disconnected from the others, the UI was horribly unintuitive, battles were a chore and the AI was nonexistant.
    I gave the game another try after the 1.1 patch and while it has definitely improved, I still didn’t have fun. I can’t really put my finger on it, I like the genre, I like the basic idea, I even dig the art style, but Elemental just doesn’t click with me.

    I’m still following the ongoing improvement process and I’m curious about what will come with the first expansion. The upside is that I can always take another look as I get Fallen Enchantress for free. I still think they’ll have to revamp huge areas of the original game to get the game in an enjoyable state, though. This won’t be easy, but Brad Wardell seems determined to at least try.

    • Sabin says:

      I played maybe an hour of this when it was first released (another preorder sucker). I haven’t touched it since. I was toying with loading up 1.1 since it was finally the game they thought they had released… I still didn’t know if it’d be any good. I saw a lot of positive changes, but it still seemed like they were just getting the basic systems nailed down and now needed to test it and refine it (i.e., we finally had a solid beta build in my mind, 6 or so months after release).

      I’ve thought about downloading and firing it up. Thanks for saving me the time. I think I’ll wait for the next big change like I’ve been doing afterall.

    • Horza says:

      I, too thought “surely they can’t fuck up the MoM concept” and preordered (and I bought the fancy expensive version) =/ So far I’ve played it for a few hours and I doubt if it’s even fixable.

      After preordering Elemental and MOO3, I will need a lot of convincing before I preorder a 4x game again.

  5. Wolfox says:

    I don’t know myself how I feel about Elemental (or, to put it better, I know exactly how I feel about it NOW, but I’m curious about what is going to happen to it in the next few months), but I’m certain about something:

    I’ll never, EVER again pre-order anything from Stardock. I don’t trust them enough, not anymore.

    • Wilson says:

      @Wolfox – I’m in pretty much the same position as you, and intrigued as to where the game is going. Don’t we actually get the first two expansion packs because we pre-ordered? I know anyone who bought the game pre-2011 (or whenever the cutoff was) gets the first expansion pack, but I thought I read somewhere that pre-orderers will get the first two expansions free. If they are both good, and they really polish up the main game, it might give me the confidence in them to pre-order again. But they’ll have to really make the game shine for that to happen.

      EDIT: Here we go – “Until the end of THIS MONTH (October 31), anyone who purchase Elemental: War of Magic, will get the first two expansions for the game for free (as well as our normal long-term support for the game itself).” That’s Wardell, in this post: http://forums.elementalgame.com/399482

    • pakoito says:

      Way ahead of you, they already swindled me with Demigod and no, there was no extra expansions or long term support for that.

    • Wolfox says:

      @Wilson – if they fix Elemental and turn it into a great game, I’ll be happy. But after pre-ordering Demigod on the promise that it would have good single-player – a promise that went unfulfilled – and after pre-ordering Elemental because they promised it would be a “Master of Magic killer” – which is everything it’s NOT – I will NEVER pre-order anything from them again. They lost my trust completely on that regard, in that I don’t know if they’ll live up to their promises anymore. How can I pre-order anything when I don’t know if what they say will become true?

      I’m not saying I’ll never buy anything from them again (though that is basically where I am right now – I’m even avoiding Impulse altogether, because of a lot of other failed promises regarding that platform); I’m just saying that I will wait for them to release any new games, and see if the games live up to the promises made about them, before I buy anything from them again, if ever.

  6. DOLBYdigital says:

    This whole situation really stinks but I hope they are able to polish it into an enjoyable game. We need more devs that are dedicated to the PC like this so it stings to see something like this happen. Hopefully they can fix it up and get even more sales to help pay for the future development.

  7. Chris D says:

    Has anyone played this recently? Has it become fun yet?

    • Maykael says:

      BLAM THIS PIECE OF CRAP!!! (sorry! I just couldn’t help myself..)

      I really hope that Shafer will have an impact on this and will make it good. It’s very curious how many of us here want to like Elemental, see that we have every reason to like it, but somehow don’t really like it. I hope that they can figure out what they fucked up about it, beacuase (sorry again!) I can’t…

  8. frags says:

    Does the Enchantress have a magic spell that fixes the game?

  9. Jorum says:

    Stardock recognise the quite serious damage the shambles that was Elemental at release did to their previously very good repuatation, and the dissapointment most of their customers felt (coming from the highs of GalCiv2).

    From a future business point of view I don’t think they have much choice but to spend what it takes to make Elemental at least close to what it was hyped and hoped to have been and salvage some face and community good feeling.

    Knowing Stardock I would also many of the staff feel there is a certain amount of personal pride (or embarrassment) involved.

    All in all it may work somewhat – it is certainly more encouraging than what many other publishers would have done in similar situation.
    (i.e tough shit, we already have your cash.)

    • Urael says:

      I concur. It’s a tough decision to make, pushing yourself into the red simply to salvage a reputation, but it seems to me that’s Stardock’s ONLY choice to remain as a viable games company in the future. There’s now so much bad press about their games that customers are no doubt vowing never to buy anything from them again – as evidenced by several comments already on this short (at time of writing) thread.

      Their only hope is to rebuild to a stage where people are willing to take the purchasing risk and hope that good word of mouth can get them, if not all the way back to where they were post SINS (once that level of trust has gone it’s impossible to reclaim) then at least far enough back to remain in business.

      I’m still interested in buying Elemental, but not until at least the first expansion pack. And even then only after I’m sure it’s got the game into a state resembling what was promised. Stardock have made some truly brilliant games, and I want that to continue. I bought Demigod yesterday – on sale through Impulse for $4.99 until the 14th – as a small way of showing my faith in them. They’re making all the right moves – I’m willing to at least see how they recover from this.

  10. Yargh says:

    I want to like Elemental, and once people start telling me it has become fun to play the I may well buy it.

  11. Reapy says:

    Right, I pre ordered like a tool based off gal civ2 expectations (even then, galciv 2 used to crash for me randomly because I made the ‘mistake’ of having an ATI card). I read up on the updated journals and followed the game and was actually shocked when I saw the release date announced. I held off on playing it, then all the bad reviews hit, and I decided to just not even touch it until maybe the first expansion comes out. I already did the pre order crime, so I figure I can treat it like its still in development and when I finally do give it a whirl I won’t have too tainted a view from hating it previously.

  12. mrjackspade says:

    Well I find it extremely fun to play. Sank two solid weeks into v1.1 over the Christmas break and aside from the occasional ‘out of memory’ crash, the gameplay positively rocks. If they’d released v1.1 initially I’m sure it would have been one of the games of 2010.

    Think Civilization but with RPG, hero characters, custom unit design, open-ended research, quests, MAGIC etc etc. So many more options, and fantastic depth (e.g. there’s no way you’ll finish the tech tree even in a huge game so you often choose to specialise your army and units – and any of the five tech branches lead to totally different but hugely powerful options).

    It’s not where near as buggy as people make out, and I never once encountered a game-breaking bug. The AI is excellent on the hardest mode, and will swamp you with units. That said, there are a couple of exploits that the AI can’t handle (true of most games it has to be said) but if you avoid those it’s quite a challenge.

    Can’t wait for more patches. What the game really needs is a functional multiplayer so you can play coop with a couple of friends agains the ai.

  13. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    Wardell pushed the Enchantress down the stairs. You heard it here first.

  14. Jeremy says:

    Yeah, I feel like the game is coming along, but I wouldn’t necessarily give it “game of 2010″ status where it’s at right now, but hey, to each their own. I would say if you haven’t bought the game yet, to continue to hold out until 1.2 at the very least, which is a patch to the base game. There are still some improvements that need to be made in terms of city building, improving economy, balancing warfare (one group of well equipped heroes can win you the game) amongst a number of other things. In my opinion, it seems like there are a few big things that would need to change, but mostly just an endless amount of minor tweaks. That can be the hardest part at this stage of development, because you’ve got a fully implemented project that now needs to be tweaked across the board, it’s hard to get an objective viewpoint on it.

    So, in short; wait to hear back from those who have the game already, and can report on 1.2 and the upcoming expansion to let you know if the game is ready. I have had some fun with it, but more in the sense that a beta tester might have fun with a game.

  15. bilharzia says:

    Since they’re going to release this a standalone it may as well be called “Elemental 2″; and they’ve hired an almost comedically perfect team to deliver it.

  16. Tuco says:

    Not to be too much a graphics whore, but as a disappointed beta tester and customer I really, really think that this game needs an heavy cosmetic revamp too, on top of all these gameplay issues fixed.

    It really doesn’t look any good, to put it midly, even compared with those decades old games it pretend to compete with (Master of Magic and Age of Wonders Ii both look and play way better).

  17. BobsLawnService says:

    More PR flipfloppery bullshit. Sometimes I wish Wardell would just shut up and realise that he is hopelessly out of his depth. The GalCiv games and Sins were solid little Indie games but everytime he has tried to do more he has failed miserably. (Think Demigod.)

    Releasing Elemental in that state to get it on the shelves before Civ 4 was the most cynical attempt to exploit the good will of fans I have ever witnessed. Then as soon as he realised that he was going to be called out on it thanks to that stupid Gamers Manifesto that he wrote (His little soap box just gave him that little extra distance to fall.) he started flailing around in the press like a retard. Righteous indignation (“If you think it isn’t finished then don’t buy our games in future.”), self flaggelation (“I was too close to the project, boo hoo. It’s all my fault”) passing emotional blackmailville somewhere along the way for the very hell of it (“Because all the big bad reviewers gave it low score I’m going to have to lay my second team off. See what you did!”)

    Seriously Brad, cut it out. The act is becoming farcical. Rather hire someone who knows how to run a decent sized company.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Apologies for replying to myself but the way he handled the beta just backs up my previous post. When all the beta testers mentioned that the UI was absolutely awful he stopped releasing betas, told everyone the UI would be fixed for release and that was that. I’m betting there waere some betrayed feeling pre-Order beta testers who discovered that the UI was still awful when they installed the release version.

      It’s all horrifically cynical and sociopathic.

    • amandachen says:

      Yeah, he did end up looking a bit of a clown.

      And the main reason he made a profit on the game (on release) is that Stardock kicked up a fuss when pre-orderers asked for refunds. So much for the Gamer’s Bill of Rights.

    • Hallgrim says:

      arg arg arg I can be a prick arg arg

    • BobsLawnService says:

      But Hallagrim, am I wrong?

    • Arcturus says:

      I think it is good for those who bought the game that the decision has been made to actively support the game -the ugly fact is that they could have abandoned the game or offer limited support (as per the infamous “3-patch policy” of TW games under Activision, for example).

      I do not necessarily like the rationale offered or the way Mr. Wardell chose to show he was sorry for the debacle and was taking responsibility for it, perhaps it was too theatrical for my tastes.

      To me, that the beta testers were ignored (I’ve no reason to doubt that, though I was not part of that team) is the most serious and worrying aspect of this situation.

    • Hallgrim says:

      @BobsLawnService: No absolutely not. I was talking about myself after I deleted a pretty spiteful post about my experiences trying to get a refund from my preorder.

      @Arcturus: Back when Demigod was released, I read multiple people saying that Wardell was alternately condescending and belligerent when it came to dealing with critical feedback during the beta. I dismissed it at the time, but it certainly can be seen as part of a trend now.

  18. wonkavision says:

    I doubt I’ll ever download the two “free expansions”. I’m tempted to just delete Elemental right now, while I’m thinking about what a terrible disappointment it’s been.

    BTW: Your site told me I’m posting comments too quickly and to slow down. This is the first comment I’ve posted.

  19. RegisteredUser says:

    Quintin, I find it EXTREMELY revealing what your Freudian slip-typo says about how you feel about Brad.

    “Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has been making some interestink predictions”

    I agree though.

    I think – after this debacle – that he stinks more than he thinks, too.

  20. ds77 says:

    Lots of hate for Elemental here. I have to say at first it was terrible beyond terrible!!! But with all the patching that has been done, I love this game! It really is fun. I think it can only get better.

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