A Demigod’s Transparency, the Sad Truth

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Lost potential?

Ironically, and not entirely by design, we’ve chatted up a couple of items regarding lost potential in the recent months. It appears with all the online problems and piracy that Demigod might be turning out to be one of those titles.

Stardock’s CEO, Brad Wardell, doesn’t seem to think so. In a post on his blog (ImpulseDriven no less) he gives a state of the union address a month in to the game’s release. In talking about Gamestop breaking the street date:

This wouldn’t normally have been that big of a deal except this happened to be over Easter weekend and the release servers for the game weren’t yet up. Moreover, it also caused the “warez” version (i.e. there’s no copy protection on the game so the warez version meant someone bravely zipping it up and putting it up on a torrent) resulting in over 100,000 people using it – at once – before we were even back from Easter break. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Online play for your online game? Nope. Pirates are causing the problem. It seems as if Brad is putting a little bit of blame on Gamestop and the pirates. They were not ready to handle the load. 100,000 people had the game illegally and 18,000 legitimate users were left out in the cold because the pirates (surprise!) were trying to play online games.

For the first few days, we struggled to migrate people to a different set of servers that only legitimate users had access to.

Ah, the sad truth. Now, who’s fault is it really? If you have a backdoor DRM check (Irony for Stardock. They are Digitally Managing their Rights) wouldn’t it have been wise to have a honeypot for all the retched hive of scum and villainy.

But our woes weren’t over yet. It became pretty clear that the NAT servers (the servers that negotiate the connection between player A and player B couldn’t handle the # of users on the game resulting in a horrible online experience. 

Moving on.

Demigod’s connectivity problems have basically boiled down to 1 bad design decision and 1 architectural limitation.  The bad design decision was made in December of 2008 when it was decided to have the network library hand off sockets to Demigod proper.  In most games, the connection between players is handled purely by one source. For instance, in Supreme Commander, GPGNet handled the entire connection.

Ah, the sad truth. Stardock and Gas Powered Games decided to use a peer to peer type of technology instead of a technology what as Brad calls “most games” use.

It took us a solid week to realize that this was the problem because we assumed the issue was compatibility with routers or ISPs.

Ah, the sad truth. When in doubt, it’s the customer’s or the ISP’s fault. All of them? Actually, it took them close to three weeks to fix it by contacting the developer of the network library and even pulling in the Impulse team on it. Essentially, they’ve had to re-write the network code and/or the way all the connections happen on the fly. Updates to the game have been numerous.

A couple of other items are mentioned in the post.

Q: What is publisher Stardock planning to do for Demigod players?

A: The plan is to send out an email this week to users who purchased Demigod prior to today with a coupon for 50% off of Demigod that they can give to their friends.   In addition, next week we will begin sending coupons for other things on Impulse to active Demigod players to help ensure a vibrant multiplayer community. We plan to keep doing that periodically.

Awesome. I already know who I am giving mine to. Some people have stated that this is a sign that Stardock has not sold as many as they would have liked. The piracy has cut in to the sales.

Ah, the sad truth. They’re wrong. According to NPD, even with the crazy launch Demigod came in third its week of release. It’s still currently in the top ten a month later. The coupon will only increase their sales.

Q: What about a demo?

A: We’d probably already have a demo out if we hadn’t been messing with this.  But yes, there will be a demo.  In all likelyhood, it will probably be a multiplayer only demo since we want to reassure people when the demo comes out that connectivity is totally nailed and bullet proof.  This is different than our original plan which would have been a single player only demo with 2 demigods and 1 map. So we’re still thinking about how to do this in a way that has the most benefit to us and potential customers.

Ah, the sad truth. It makes me really wonder why there wasn’t one to begin with. I think they may have suspected something was up. However, pre-release demo’s are not usually Stardock’s thing.

There are a couple more common questions that Brad answers including more demigod types, his response to sales and reviews (a little under pace to Sins of a Solar Empire, and it’s their fault initial review scores are low), and his outlook (it will surpass any game they’ve done so far).

Even though we’ve focused on some sad truths, the transparency of this company has been nothing but stellar. Almost daily Brad has informed the gaming masses what they are doing and continue to do with this game. Could we imagine some other big name developers (and Stardock is not, really) doing the same thing?

I think not, and that’s a sad truth.

Find a friend with a coupon and get this game. The single-player tournament is still fun, and multi-player games are getting better.

Comments

  1. It’s a shame that Stardock’s exercise in good faith is biting them in the arse as hard as it is. Even if you don’t take everything he’s saying at face value, you have to admire them for trying to get out in front of this and actually saying what is going on instead of hiding behind marketer-speak.

    And thanks for the coupon! I want to play the game (assuming my rig will run it) and would be more than happy to take it for a whirl.

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