I just received a 75% off coupon code for Stardock’s Demigod. It’s easily worth that even if you don’t play it online. I only have one code, so it’s first come first serve. Nah, it’s good for as many people who want it. Apparently, whoever refers the most buyers gets a prize. Respond in the comments.
With the portable games behind us, here’s our list for the Fun PC Game of the Year for 2009.
Nat – I never thought I would say this again but I am in love with PC gaming. Another hallmark year with titles such as Dawn of War II, Demigod, Plants vs. Zombies, Empire: Total War, and Torchlight. Valve should be commended for the strides they’ve made in my personal PC gaming renaissance. I don’t like ties, so I need to pick a winner based on hours alone. Borderlands—even with all it’s console conventions, nit-picky faults, and connection difficulty for a co-op title—is my Fun Game of the Year. At fifty hours and counting it fed the loot whoring monster inside me. Torchlight comes in second. A close second. We’re talking a Michael Phelps victory for Borderlands.
Brock – I’ve only recently gotten back into PC gaming to any real extent but I’ll have to give Plants Vs. Zombies my pick for the most fun I’ve had with a PC game this year. I’ve played through it on two different systems, worked through it again with my son and haven’t even scratched the surface of what is available in the bonus/zen garden modes. I’d also give a huge nod to my runner-up, Machinarium, which is a fantastic point-and-click adventure game that oozes charm.
James – I actually only played the game I chose for a short while but I think it deserves to be listed here. Killing Floor is a FPS horror game. Playing this game was reminiscent of Left 4 Dead in the way you needed the help of your teammates and how much fun it was. I only played it for three days but I am considering picking this up, especially because you can get it cheap on Steam. I never thought I would be able to get along without a cross hair to shoot with, but it works!
Will – I’ve always dabbled in PC games, but I have never had a rig capable of running modern games the way they were meant to be played. This means that the majority of my PC collection is made up of older titles (just look at my list of Steam games to see what I mean). Thanks to Steam, I bought Dawn of War II, GTA IV, Borderlands and Torchlight; all of which are up for my FGotY 2009 [PC] award. I gave it to Torchlight because of the loot monger in me (the one that makes me love Borderlands so much). I haven’t put many hours into it yet, but I feel the hopeless addiction setting in. I was initially turned off by the lack of online play, but I got over myself and bought it and am now loving it. Part of me wants to buy a netbook just to see how it runs on one, and to be able to bring the loot hunting with me everywhere I go.
Tony – I, too, am having renewed interest in PC gaming, strictly on the strength of Steam. I wish it had entered in my life earlier, but it came just in time this year. I didn’t play a lot of games, but I’m also picking Torchlight as my FGotY for the PC over Plants vs. Zombies. Not only did Torchlight scratch the loot itch, it also eased me in to using Steam and getting back into the groove of using the tried-and-true keyboard/mouse combo. I still prefer the 360 controller to my mouse and keyboard, but it’s been nice to get to know an old friend.
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.
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.
Some time has passed since I did my 2 Minute Review of Demigod, that I’d figured I’d revisit it again. I’ve caught myself passing over such games as a FREE trial of World of Warcraft and even my old standby Dawn of War II in order to play another quick (sometimes involved) round of this game.
While it is true that at almost a month into the game’s release Stardock and Gas Powered Games are still experiencing some multiplayer issues—something we mentioned in the review. It seems as if they are now re-working or even re-writing the net code to do something differently than what was planned originally.
It’s really surprising that this little fiasco has gotten this far. This is not typical of Stardock to have rushed something out the door broken. The piracy issues did not help initially either. However, what has been typical is their transparency and work to get it right.
As a result, most gamers have had to contend with the single-player-story-lacking-and-no-campaign game. It’s tournament after tournament that is almost reminiscent of the Unreal series. Even the “god-like” announcers sound the same. Has it become tedious and old playing the AI over and over?
Nope. It’s a blast. Why? It’s shallow, but complex.
What’s most interesting about the game is the versatility of each of the eight demigods. Even though there are some RPG elements, you start from a clean slate in each round. This helps you vary your play style for each type of map. It also feeds that wonderful addiction of grinding and leveling up. You do it every single round.
For instance, if you need to capture flags and hold them for a period of time and you are playing the rook (See the Hammer Time! image above.), you can tailor his skill set to match. Simply favor the skills for defense and building demolition. Later on, you may be in a map where the first team to ten demigod kills wins. For this, you would want to favor the damage skills and equip the rook with some armor and fast shoes (he’s dreadfully slow early on).
However, the depth of the character just in the “kill ten demigods” map can go deeper. You’re playing on a team. Some of the other demigods have better “vs. demigod” skills and damage. If so, then customize the rook to defend or lure. Actually, there are times I just create havoc on the map in a location where there’s no action. I leave it up to the AI-controlled demigods on my team to work on the objective. This works because there are instances where the enemy team will go after me thinking I’m easy prey and leave it wide open for us to win.
It’s a neat little trick that the developers did with the AI to make it seem like you’re playing with people. (Of course, the comparison is hard right now in light of the multiplayer issues.) As I play this, the possibilities for complex, strategic team play really excite me. Another thing I do first when a round starts is go to the item store and equip up. I was surprised when I caught the AI players on my team doing the same thing. And here I was thinking I was being smart.
With there being eight characters, I had initially thought it would have been hard for the developers to balance the game. I’ve not really found this to be the case. The exponential depth and the fact that you are on random teams each round make it even or at least appear to be. With that, it’s not wise to be locked into a particular style or setup with each demigod.
There are some achievement items that you can earn that carry with your profile for the entire game. However, you can only use one per round. These are uber-powerful items that can tip the scale even more for your demigod or the team. I’ve not really given them a chance yet. I’ve had too much fun playing each demigod and learning various builds of their skills.
Demigod has been a real surprise once I got past the learning curve. I mentioned in our review that the lack of tutorial would be a detriment. Now, I’m not so sure. Learning under pressure and by playing mostly single-player games has helped immensely.
Maybe the online connection issues are not so bad after all.
NOTE: Originally this game had a rating of “Rent.” However, that’s being changed to “Buy.” The reason should be obvious in the comments below. However, my stance on the tutorial still stands. Stardock is an exemplary company, and I’m sure they may address that as well (they have with other releases). I stand corrected. The original review text has remained unchanged.
A god has fallen. Will you fight to take his place?
That depends if you’re willing to accept the title as a complete game, and if you’re willing to teach yourself how to be a demigod.
DO: You are a demigod assassin (just you) or general (you and minions) who is competing to fill a vacancy in heaven middle-management. (This is more detail than the game gives.)
TYPE: RTS/RPG hybrid
PLATFORM: PC—Windows (Impulse and retail)
MEAT: Playing on Team Fortress style maps, you learn on your own to control your demigod to capture flags, spawn points, control points, and to attack and defend enemy units. Basically, it’s an RTS where you play one character. Throughout the battle, you can level up, upgrade your demigod’s skills, and add status effects. Earning experience, favor points, and “gold” garner you currency for upgrades. What you earn in the single-player game does not cross over to the multiplayer game and vice versa. However, this does not really matter. Apparently , you paid for a part of a game you cannot play. Good luck getting a multiplayer game to work. Oh, did I mention that multiplayer is the apparently main focus of the title?
The game has nothing in the way of story and campaign. You play in AI controlled tournaments of which there are eight rounds. Think Unreal Tournament. Winning gets you the chance to…play it again. There is a skirmish mode, but with most RTS games that’s a given.
PERKS: controlling a demigod is satisfying; excellent presentation and design; each one of the eight demigods is fun and unique; deep RPG elements for the demigod teams and the demigod itself; interesting sound effects; no DRM;
SCREAMS: TUTORIAL! Where is it? (see my final comments below); for multiplayer to, you know, work; for a campaign; to be a Windows Live title instead of a “new” tech; for more than eight arenas;
VERDICT: Buy. I cannot recommend enough how enjoyable this game is. My onnly wish is that it showed you the game mechanics and it’s a shame that the potential on an interesting single-player campaign is wasted.Rent. Before you get all antsy, I know you cannot rent a PC game. I’m saying this because I think it’s an excellent game—just not out of the box. Granted, the street date was broken by a day or two, and Stardock is working on the multiplayer issues, but c’mon. I’m not giving any slack for launch issues to anybody anymore. Also, if it’s a Games for Windows title, why not use Live? Instead we get a “new” peer-to-peer Impulse technology. I was not able to play a multiplayer game at all. Once all these issues are addressed, I think this would be an “Buy” title.
I was able to play a single-player tournament in under ten hours. Most of that time was spent learning how to play and what does what. The real kicker is that the upgrading and leveling takes some reading to learn what it does. The game runs in the background while this is happening. Yep, I replayed a lot. Also, here’s a quote out of the included guide:
Let’s face it, the two most annoying ways to learn how to play a game are the user manual and an in-game tutorial. Anyone who has ever introduced a group of friends to a strategy game has probably not told them to take a scholarly review of the manual or had them played through some hackneyed in-game tutorial mission.
…and then the guide proceeds to tell you how to play by basically describing the key commands. Gas Powered Games and Star Dock are assuming too much. It doesn’t help that they contradict the quote above either by making me give the guide a “scholarly review” to see how to play.
I have come across some great PC games lately (expect some reviews soon) and I want to pass along where I either purchased them or where I’ve found them discounted. They’re not super cheap, so don’t get your hopes up, but I do initially recommend all three.
I’d be willing to play any of the titles with anyone who has them. Co-op is a blast in all three.
Dawn of War II
When it comes to RTS games, Relic is the pretty boy on the block right now. This game oozes atmosphere and style.
Just released this week, it’s my new PC passion. Think of it as chess meets an RTS meets an RPG meets huge lumbering beast and you get this gem.
I’d also recommend BattleForge, but it’s not being discounted right now. I’m not a big fan of collectable card games or micro transactions. However, this game comes with $30 in credit on top of the initial decks of cards you get. Essentially, you don’t need to pay extra to play—and play well. Take a CCG and marry it to an RTS and you get this game. It has 2, 4, and 12-player co-op.
Buttonmashing is getting nothing out of this other than, hopefully, people I know would want to play online.