I know that when I first started Beta 2 I wrote a glowing bit of praise for the game on my old guild's website, advising people that for a beta it was shaping up nicely. I've since been wondering what exactly I should do, should I post and tell anyone thinking about buying it to hold off? Because I know that I was very much looking forward to playing Elemental for the campaign. I actually thought that there would be some meat and potatoes to the campaign that is now being called a glorified tutorial. Okay, so it's not something that was in MoM, but it something that was touted in Elemental. With the game in the state it is, with the GPU not being utilized for a number of people (although they're close to fixing that in house), or the white screens every third battle (could these two things be related? I seem to have both issues) there are undeniable issues with the release version. Or the version that I can play today, right now.
And yet an article in which a reviewer states that, for the sake of the review, he's waiting to try a more stable version than that which shipped is overlooked. I know, it's PC Gamer UK, but PC Gamer had for a long time a policy to refuse re-reviews based on patches and wouldn't review anything other than the software that went gold and shipped to customers and store shelves. They may have taken another stance since I stopped subscribing, I know that broadband is a household term now and it's not the hassle it once was to patch games. However the writer who states that a wheel is round shouldn't be attacked. The writer who says that Elemental might be more trouble than it's worth right now is just making the case that he sees very clearly. He isn't being malicious, and although he may have quoted Brad out of context I do think that it's an odd stance for a dev to take that maybe people should just not buy their products. And I saw a post on this forum, where Brad did very much the same thing, telling someone maybe Civ V was more their speed when they wanted a bit more high fantasy (Really Brad, not even HOMM VI?). Brad could have said, well we're shipping the sorts of mod tools that will allow for customers to create their own realms that lean more towards the traditional orcs and ogres and the like. He could have said, I understand that you find the units in this game to be boring, as they're all human. But it was a design decision that we made, because we felt the story we wanted to tell with our game was one that would be better served with more relatable characters. or something to that effect. I don't know that, had I read all that before preordering, I would still be inclined to do so. That was something I experienced well in context and it still made me step back and say, whoa. I understand that when people seem to be trashing your work it isn't pleasant, but the things you say on the internet have a way of coming back to haunt you. I would imagine that if Brad had an employee who went around telling people not to buy their software, they wouldn't be working much longer.
The fact is that I liked GalCiv II well enough to take a risk and gamble that not only could I be given the chance to have input and help resolve issues with the game by playing the beta, I could also support a company that I felt was deserving of such support. I almost preordered Demigod and decided against it at the last minute as I didn't know if I would enjoy that title. However having missed the previous debacle I thought was over some GPG netcode or something that I could safely assume that nothing Stardock was releasing that was developed in-house would be anything less than completely ready and polished. I don't know the financial state of Stardock, but if they could have waited to release until February from a financial standpoint, then I think that maybe the product would have been better served by a delayed release.
I can understand what happened, as someone who recently spoke about RTW's demise wrote recently captures this well: "... game development is a weird business. A game can play poorly right up until only a few months before release, for a variety of reasons – Crackdown was awful right up until a month or two before it came out (some would say awful afterwards, too, but I’m trying to make a point . Knowing this, it can blind you to a game’s imperfections – or lead you to think it’s going to come right by release. You end up in this situation where you’re heads down working your ass off, not well able to critically assess your own product. APB itself only really came together technically relatively late in its development cycle (and it still obviously has problems), leaving too little time for content production and polish, and lacking any real quality in some of its core mechanics (shooting / driving). It’s not that the team was unaware of these huge issues, but a million little things conspire to prevent you from being able to do anything about them. It can seem difficult to comprehend, it certainly was for me before entering the industry – ‘How did those idiots get X wrong in game Y?’. No team sets out to ship something anything less than perfection, but projects can evolve in ways that no one seems to be in total control of. All that said, it was pretty clear to me that the game was going to get a kicking at review – the gap between expectation and the reality was huge. I wasn’t on the APB team, so I played it infrequently, during internal test days etc. I was genuinely shocked when I played the release candidate – I couldn’t believe Dave J would be willing to release this. All the issues that had driven me nuts about it were still there...
...We also went to beta far too early, wiser heads were ignored when it was pointed out that any kind of beta, even very early beta, might as well be public as far as generating word of mouth. The real purpose of beta is publicity, not bug fixing. We never took that lesson on board. We also made the error of not releasing fixes externally to many of the issues early beta testers were picking up, keeping the fixes on internal builds, I presume to lessen the load on QA. This simply meant that to early beta testers, it looked as though we were never bothering to fix the issues they found, when in fact, they were being fixed, simply being deployed back into beta very infrequently. This lesson was eventually learnt, but only after we’d pissed off a large number of early-adopters."