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Stardock CEO details "nightmare" Demigod launch

Wed 20 May 2009 7:50am GMT / 3:50am EDT / 12:50am PDT
Development

Around 100,000 sales hampered by poor online design, piracy and early release

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has candidly discussed the bungled launch of Demigod, which suffered a series of disasters due to poor design, piracy and early retail release.

The game was sold early in some stores before the game's servers were online, leaving users without connected play, while a hacked version of the game was also uploaded to torrent sites. On top of that, once the servers did go live, online play suffered from technical problems that Wardell admits were the result of a bad design decision by Stardock.

With broken online play, reviews for the game were critical, with the title scoring an average of 77 per cent on Metacritic. Wardell expects that ahead of the release of the game in Europe, the title will have only sold around 100,000 units.

"The difficult launch definitely hurt the game. There’s no way around it," he wrote on his blog. "Besides upsetting a lot of people anxious for a good multiplayer game, you also have the fact that those early negative reviews are going to linger."

"That’s the breaks. One could argue we released a game that wasn’t done (we thought it was done) and that’s what you get," he added.

Demigod was released early by GameStop due to a "miscommunication between their corporate HQ and their brick and mortar outlets," said Wardell. "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."

A hacked version of the game appeared around the same time, resulting in 100,000 people trying to play the game. Stardock migrated legitimate users to another server, but for 48 hours the game was unplayable.

The biggest problem for the game, according to Wardell, was a netcode problem due to the game using peer-to-peer connections, and as a result “it was a nightmare to get games going online.”

"We’ve learned that you can’t treat networking as just another thing to plug in like you would a sound library or even a 3D engine. It’s a whole different animal," he said.

The company hopes to have the majority of problems fixed within the next couple of days, and is offering a 50 per cent off deal for users to pass to friends.

"A lot of Demigod’s long-term success depends, in my opinion, on whether we’re able to 'perfect' Demigod’s online experience before a viable alternative shows up," added Wardell. "Right now, Demigod has the luxury of being one of the few modern RTS games that is so well suited to playing online."

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