Stardock Calls Elemental: War of Magic a Complete "Fail"

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Stardock Calls Elemental: War of Magic a Complete "Fail"

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Brad Wardell of Stardock admits that the studio's latest title was released "poorly" and that he's responsible.

Stardock's in-house developed Elemental: War of Magic has been getting bashed by reviewers and also has a mixed reaction amongst fans. Lead designer and Stardock CEO Brad Wardell isn't hiding from the controversy, and has actually come out saying that many complaints about the game are valid and his own fault to boot.

Elemental: War of Magic is meant to be a spiritual successor to 1994's Master of Magic, a fantasy turn-based strategy game that pitted wizards and their armies against each other in a quest for domination. War of Magic follows much of the same path as Master of Magic, but those that have played the game have come up with a list of complaints, saying it's unpolished, over-ambitious, and that it has poor documentation.

One might expect Wardell to blast back at the complaints, but he agrees with them to an extent. A post by Wardell on the Stardock forums makes it seem like the poor reception to Elemental gave Wardell an epiphany about where the development process went wrong.

"I don't think people yet fully realize the completeness of Stardock's fail on Elemental's launch," he wrote. He says there was a "level of disconnect/poor judgment" on Stardock's part in thinking it was ready for release on August 24. "Lack of time wasn't the issue," Wardell admits. "It was blindness, sheer blindness. We felt the game was finished."

Wardell says this wasn't about an early release, but a "poor" release. He places the blame on himself, saying: "Elemental's launch is the result of catastrophic poor judgment on my part ... EVERY competent software developer knows that the programmer must never be the one deciding whether the program is done. Yet, my love of Elemental broke my self discipline and I began coding on the game itself in vast amounts and lost any sense of objectivity on where the game's state was. I normally only program the AI on our games so I can keep a level of distance from the game itself to determine whether it's 'Ready'. On Elemental, I was in love with the world and the game and lost my impartiality."

Wardell plans to talk more about the issue, but for now says Stardock will "do better" in the future. Considering that Master of Magic is one of my most fondly remembered games of the past, I was looking forward to seeing a spiritual remake in Elemental. The widespread negative comments were a downer, but thankfully Stardock plans to fix the game's issues rather than ignore them with September's version 1.1, which Wardell is calling a "substantial" update that might also come with a planned in-game tutorial. Wardell's honesty gives me hope that upcoming versions will actually have the desired positive effect. Everybody makes mistakes, even game developers, but the results of a game developers' mistakes just happen to be seen by the world.

Source: Stardock Forums, via Blue's News

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I haven't heard anything about this game. Is it on Steam?

That's alright, Stardock. Everyone makes mistakes, and you guys are still awesome!

Hammer_Wizard:
I haven't heard anything about this game. Is it on Steam?

Impulse, a slightly cheaper version of Steam.

Glad to see that he admits a mistake. That's the first step on the road to not repeating a mistake. Hopefully Stardock, which has made some really great games, will do much better.

I just hope this doesn't scare off investors. Although if I were an investor, I would probably choose not to invest in Stardock. From what I've read, when the game was first released, it was virtually unplayable.

But at least they fixed it, mostly from what I heard. Still though, they couldn't have waited a week or two? If they got the patch out so quickly, they must have been working on the bugs and known about them. If so, why release the game when you know it has problems? He says that he "lost his impartiality", but the turn around on that patch is suspicious.

Isn't Stardock the one who had that "Gamer's Bill of Rights" thing that, among other things, gamers have a right to a finished and polished game?

Funny how these things work.

Irridium:
Isn't Stardock the one who had that "Gamer's Bill of Rights" thing that, among other things, gamers have a right to a finished and polished game?

Funny how these things work.

Eh, thus their actually bothering to step up, apologise, explain themselves, and set out to fix things immediately, I guess.

Rather than flat denials and arguments. Besides I'm pretty sure that bill was in reference more to Project-$10 esque DRM, really.

That doesn't make any sense to me. Why should he as a programmer not be able to tell whether or not the game is read for release? Especially a programmer should be able to estimate the work that's left in order to make the game mostly bug, glitch and crash free. I'm a modder myself and just don't see his point there. And there was even a Beta as far as I know, they must've known about a ton issues and still released it even though you're always able to find issues even if you thought it's fine up to this point.

But at least he kinda admits that he screwed up completely :/
"It's done when it's done." - One should always remember these wise words.

Its kinda of ironic seeing master of magic had exactly the same problems at launch

Was originally at least slightly interested in this game as it looks similar to the old PC game "Lords of Magic" (I've never even heard of Master of Magic... but sounds kinda like the same :D).

But damn what start...

GoGo_Boy:
Was originally at least slightly interested in this game as it looks similar to the old PC game "Lords of Magic" (I've never even heard of Master of Magic... but sounds kinda like the same :D).

But damn what start...

Oh man I miss LoM so much x.x Such a wonderful bit of atmosphere..

Fensfield:

Irridium:
Isn't Stardock the one who had that "Gamer's Bill of Rights" thing that, among other things, gamers have a right to a finished and polished game?

Funny how these things work.

Eh, thus their actually bothering to step up, apologise, explain themselves, and set out to fix things immediately, I guess.

Rather than flat denials and arguments. Besides I'm pretty sure that bill was in reference more to Project-$10 esque DRM, really.

Reading the Bill of Rights now, I can't help but think it's just a large "Yah Boo Suck!" towards Valve.

Fensfield:

GoGo_Boy:
Was originally at least slightly interested in this game as it looks similar to the old PC game "Lords of Magic" (I've never even heard of Master of Magic... but sounds kinda like the same :D).

But damn what start...

Oh man I miss LoM so much x.x Such a wonderful bit of atmosphere..

Yeah and I really digged the gameplay. Would love a new game that holds true to it. Of course everything just better, especially the battles would be great with major improvements (the pathing e.g.^^).
But darn was it a lot fun :/

Edit: Basically like Starcraft to Starcraft 2 just with the Lords of Magic franchise.

There definitely trying to fix things at least, they've released a load of updates in the last few weeks and drawn up a long term plan of things the community want fixed and added which is good.

Molyneux, take lessons from this guy, don't wait to hate on your games and say it was poor choices when the sequel is already announced, say it right after release...! Then actually fix issues, not introduce more...

GoGo_Boy:
Was originally at least slightly interested in this game as it looks similar to the old PC game "Lords of Magic" (I've never even heard of Master of Magic... but sounds kinda like the same :D).

But damn what start...

Master of Magic was a half way between civilization and the later might and magic games. You built units in your cities and sent out settlers to build new cities like civilization. You could hire heroes and cast spells like might and magic. It came out 3 or 4 years before LoM which was similar but had much simpler game play.

I've been playing the game since release and know I've paid it over several times it's worth by now. I've gotten a few crashes and been disowned by the AI many times over. It doesn't feel 'full' but it was finished and polished enough to give me loads of fun.

Compared to other $50 games I've bought -- F3 (which I can't play without cracks because regular game crashes), Total War (can't play without using a 2 year old video-driver) and Napoleon Total War (more like $15 expansion pack) Elemental has been incredible.

Title is pretty misleading towards his real quote.

EDIT: Ah yes, I started playing my LE after day-0 patch. Stardock is well known for their extremely generous patches and free DCL.

Considering that this article is the FIRST I HEARD OF THIS GAME. Yeah, yes it is a complete failure. -.-

Wow - I bet that took some Gusto from him - Well, they need to get to work on improving pronto!

Irridium:
Isn't Stardock the one who had that "Gamer's Bill of Rights" thing that, among other things, gamers have a right to a finished and polished game?

Funny how these things work.

Self-induced delusion isn't the same as Activision'esque DLC greed. The guy says he got caught up in it and wanted to spread his joy to the world, then later realized he dun fucked up. Given that they're correcting the situation I'd hardly call foul on this one.

GODAMNIT its good to see someone step up and take responsibility once in a while, instead of blaming everything under the sun except themselves.

Humility? In my developers!?

You can find out more about all this here http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/09/03/blindness-caused-elemental-release-fail/.

There was quite a big thing about it around the Stardock fanbase. The guy doing the apologizing right now actually caught a load of shit when he started shouting at people on the forums for complaining the game was broken. Since then he's back-pedalled and realised it was a massive screw up. It's a shame really. I like Stardock stuff normally, although I doubt this game would interest

Wait.. last I heard this was still in alpha testing, it was already released? Oy. I'm glad they lost my pre-order.

Galaxy613:
Considering that this article is the FIRST I HEARD OF THIS GAME. Yeah, yes it is a complete failure. -.-

So massive marketing is the sign of a good game? It's the mark of an intended blockbuster, but not of a good game.

I was excited for Elemental but didn't pre-order, and I'm glad I did. I'll wait and see. Stardock proved that they're willing to stick with games long past release (GalCiv2) and they've said that Elemental is no exception, and that they want to do right by the fans. I admire that a lot more than developers who don't deliver, don't even talk about the problems, and release a few DLC's and then stop supporting the game.

GoGo_Boy:
That doesn't make any sense to me. Why should he as a programmer not be able to tell whether or not the game is read for release? Especially a programmer should be able to estimate the work that's left in order to make the game mostly bug, glitch and crash free. I'm a modder myself and just don't see his point there. And there was even a Beta as far as I know, they must've known about a ton issues and still released it even though you're always able to find issues even if you thought it's fine up to this point.

But at least he kinda admits that he screwed up completely :/
"It's done when it's done." - One should always remember these wise words.

It's done when it's done is great and all but take Team Gizka as an example that it's important to set deadlines and milestones. The project was essentially canceled because the team just got fed up and the audience lost interest after like what 6 or 7 years after the initial release of Kotor II.

So yeah good mantra... with some provisions.

I for one am glad the project lead can own up to the games flaws and is working to rectify them. If only all companies had this attitude of consumers first.

One thing early buyers like me will be getting is that we'll receive the first expansion for free (of course, development on that won't start until all the issues with the current game are ironed out).

To weigh in on the state of the game so far - I haven't encountered any game-breaking bugs with the game so far, although others have, so it's situational. The main problem with the gameplay right now is the UI - I know I wouldn't have been able to get far without reading the forums. Beyond that, some AI weaknesses and certain imbalanced items/abilities can make the game too easy.

Despite this, I still find the game somewhat enjoyable to play, and once the UI and balance issues are addressed, I know I'll be putting in a lot more hours.

GoGo_Boy:
That doesn't make any sense to me. Why should he as a programmer not be able to tell whether or not the game is read for release? Especially a programmer should be able to estimate the work that's left in order to make the game mostly bug, glitch and crash free. I'm a modder myself and just don't see his point there. And there was even a Beta as far as I know, they must've known about a ton issues and still released it even though you're always able to find issues even if you thought it's fine up to this point.

The problem as far as crashes are concerned is that Elemental uses a new internally developed graphics engine (Kumquat), and the crashes they're getting tend to be for extremely specific hardware configurations. Even with their open beta, there were still apparently problem-inducing configurations that slipped through the cracks, or were just so specific that nobody knew they even existed. Given time, they might have been uncovered, but without a concerted effort to find them, the programmers just wouldn't have known.

Pretty awesome to see someone man up and accept a mistake.

I do hope they fix the problems and make some good money off of this game, I like Stardock, they're not bad people.

And this is just another example as to why Stardock is one of the best developers the gaming community has to offer. Even when they totally screw the pooch they find a way to make good on it and come out smelling like roses.

Galaxy613:
Considering that this article is the FIRST I HEARD OF THIS GAME. Yeah, yes it is a complete failure. -.-

It's ignorant statements like this that make me sad for the future of the game industry. According to the logic of "it's only good if I've heard of it," games like Final Fantasy XIII, Wii Sports, and Kane and Lynch 2 are obviously better than games like Cave Story, Earth Defense Force 2017, Dwarf Fortress, and Recettear. If publishers ever get gamers to believe that rhetoric, which seems to already be the case according to the previous comment, we'll have nothing in the future but post-processing, $20 DLC, and fetch quests.

Xanthious:
And this is just another example as to why Stardock is one of the best developers the gaming community has to offer. Even when they totally screw the pooch they find a way to make good on it and come out smelling like roses.

I'm not smelling roses. Morale is looking pretty low over on the Elemental forums, and a team at Stardock was just laid off who were about to start work on the next game. It sounds like Elemental is financed by other sources of revenue at Stardock and support for that will remain strong. FWIW, in this broken state (mainly it's the impenetrable UI I have issues with) I'm having fun playing it.

EDIT: Bah... I was just unable to finish a game on a tiny map due to a repeated crash whenever I advanced a turn in late game (but it was fun up to then). Looks like I'm now waiting for patch 1.8.

sleepykid:
Humility? In my developers!?

It's more likely than you think!

Yeah, good on frogboy to admit his mistakes. I'm having fun with the game, but I can certainly see why they need to rework it. Feel kind of sorry for the guy though. He was confident enough in the quality of the game that he bypassed PR, and compiled a region version for a reviewer he was friends with. I can't imagine what it's like to be that sure of a product that clearly has this many problems.

Hammer_Wizard:
I haven't heard anything about this game. Is it on Steam?

No, my guess is that it's on Impulse, basically Stardock's steam.

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