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What Is Going On With Elemental: War Of Magic?

The launch of Stardock's latest game sounds like it could have gone better.

It's been more than four years since Stardock released a game that the company developed itself. After the release of the sublime turn-based-strategy game Galactic Civilizations II (the only modern game in the genre that holds a candle to the Civilization franchise), Stardock altered the role of their company from mere developer to developer/publisher. The company published other developers' games, like Ironclad's great space 4X game Sins of a Solar Empire, as well as created its own PC game download service called Impulse.  
 
Now, after years publishing other developers' games (and working on the occasional GalCiv expansion pack), Stardock has finally released its latest self-developed title,  Elemental: War of Magic, a strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy realm where players will try to build nations as a controllable "sovereign." 


It's too bad that spiders aren't technically bugs, or this image would have been prescient.

The ideas behind Stardock's latest sound promising, but it's hard to hear that promise over the screams and sighs of the players who purchased the game. According to an article on PC Gamer, Elemental: War of Magic is straight-up busted. From broken gameplay systems to a host of bugs and crashes, it sounds like everything that could go wrong with the launch of Elemental did.
 
== TEASER ==As PC Gamer's Tom Francis tells it, Elemental's release got off to a bad start when the game was available for sale on Monday, a full day before the game's August 24 release date. Pre-order customers also received the game on that same Monday. But Elemental's problems only get worse from there; according to the article at PC Gamer, the game is chock-a-block with game-breaking, showstopping bugs. Francis describes some of the problems that the publication encountered with the launch-day version of the game:

  • The game crashes constantly.
  • The game's battle system only works 20% of the time.
  • The game's multiplayer mode "hasn't been switched on yet." Simply put, at this moment, the game's multiplayer function does nothing.
  • AI-controlled races will oftentimes not leave their town or defend it from attacks. That's like a truck race where the other truckers don't race.
 
And according to Francis, that's across multiple testing machines.

Elemental's woes don't stop there; since the game's launch, Stardock has released two patches in an attempt to try and salvage the game. The first, smaller patch apparently did alleviate some of the game's crashes, as well as fixed the battle system. However, the second, larger patch that had "been in the works for a month" made the battle system totally unplayable again. 
 
You read that right; Stardock's latest "fix" to Elemental patched out a key gameplay feature that a previous patch had fixed.
 
 
Just go in and take that town! The AI isn't going to stop you! Because it can't!

Stardock had a similar launch day problem when the Gas Powered Games-developed Demigod (published by Stardock) was released at retail stores five days before its launch date, well before the company had finished configuring the servers for launch. As a result of the Demigod launch fiasco (as well as Stardock's famous anti-DRM stance), the company's servers were swarmed with players who had pirated the game, making Demigod unplayable for the customers who had purchased the game legally.
 
However, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell doesn't seem to think that there are problems around the releases of his games. In the all-purpose thread for Elemental at the Quarter To Three forums, Wardell responded to hostile claims that his company's game plays "like an early beta" by asking players of that mindset to, "...please stay away from our games in the future. I consider [Elemental] ready for release and if others disagree, don't buy our games."
 
Wardell's stance is especially harsh, and in sharp contrast to the Stardock mantra of respecting its paying customers (hence, no intrusive DRM in Stardock games). Elemental could very well be fixed down the road, with Stardock ironing out the rest of the game's issues. But these are issues that should have been fixed before the game was sent out to retail. Constant crashing and broken AI shouldn't be day-one patch material, right? As a result of the game's bugs, Francis told the readers of PC Gamer that, right now, they shouldn't purchase Elemental, saying that the game is currently too broken to recommend.
 
[UPDATE] Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has apologized for the statements he made on the Quarter to Three forums. In a statement received by Joystiq, Wardell issued the following comment;
 

"I've been an active user on the Quarter to Three forums for many years. I know the core participants on that forum well, and after a lengthy and heated debate about some of the issues facing the pre-day 0 version our latest title, Elemental, I spoke hastily and said things I shouldn't have. As a result, I want to apologize to our fans for speaking so harshly. It should be said that some of the issues in question from the PC Gamer UK article, in fact, did not appear in any of our beta testing. We were surprised by these issues and, after working days on end with little sleep, I was very frustrated. I should not have engaged in an online debate about these issues, as my haste to defend what we feel is a great product only served to hurt the fans who have supported us and the team who has been so dedicated to this project."


"As the CEO of Stardock, I want to be clear that my comments on the Quarter to Three forums do not reflect my team at large. They were words spoken out of frustration and sleep deprivation and I am truly sorry. We stand behind what we feel is a great product, one that we will continue to support for a number of years."
 
Furthermore, a game representative for Stardock has commented on the Elemental forums stating that the game's multiplayer mode should be enabled sometime next week. 
 

Now, a couple words on multiplayer.  The servers are up but we are not going to enable multiplayer until next week. Part of this is, to be honest, team exhaustion. The early release meant a lot of people who were expecting this weekend off to rest from the grueling last few weeks had to come in.  So we’re going to let them get a couple of days off later this week and open up the MP next week.

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Posted by MattBodega

It's been more than four years since Stardock released a game that the company developed itself. After the release of the sublime turn-based-strategy game Galactic Civilizations II (the only modern game in the genre that holds a candle to the Civilization franchise), Stardock altered the role of their company from mere developer to developer/publisher. The company published other developers' games, like Ironclad's great space 4X game Sins of a Solar Empire, as well as created its own PC game download service called Impulse.  
 
Now, after years publishing other developers' games (and working on the occasional GalCiv expansion pack), Stardock has finally released its latest self-developed title,  Elemental: War of Magic, a strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy realm where players will try to build nations as a controllable "sovereign." 


It's too bad that spiders aren't technically bugs, or this image would have been prescient.

The ideas behind Stardock's latest sound promising, but it's hard to hear that promise over the screams and sighs of the players who purchased the game. According to an article on PC Gamer, Elemental: War of Magic is straight-up busted. From broken gameplay systems to a host of bugs and crashes, it sounds like everything that could go wrong with the launch of Elemental did.
 
== TEASER ==As PC Gamer's Tom Francis tells it, Elemental's release got off to a bad start when the game was available for sale on Monday, a full day before the game's August 24 release date. Pre-order customers also received the game on that same Monday. But Elemental's problems only get worse from there; according to the article at PC Gamer, the game is chock-a-block with game-breaking, showstopping bugs. Francis describes some of the problems that the publication encountered with the launch-day version of the game:

  • The game crashes constantly.
  • The game's battle system only works 20% of the time.
  • The game's multiplayer mode "hasn't been switched on yet." Simply put, at this moment, the game's multiplayer function does nothing.
  • AI-controlled races will oftentimes not leave their town or defend it from attacks. That's like a truck race where the other truckers don't race.
 
And according to Francis, that's across multiple testing machines.

Elemental's woes don't stop there; since the game's launch, Stardock has released two patches in an attempt to try and salvage the game. The first, smaller patch apparently did alleviate some of the game's crashes, as well as fixed the battle system. However, the second, larger patch that had "been in the works for a month" made the battle system totally unplayable again. 
 
You read that right; Stardock's latest "fix" to Elemental patched out a key gameplay feature that a previous patch had fixed.
 
 
Just go in and take that town! The AI isn't going to stop you! Because it can't!

Stardock had a similar launch day problem when the Gas Powered Games-developed Demigod (published by Stardock) was released at retail stores five days before its launch date, well before the company had finished configuring the servers for launch. As a result of the Demigod launch fiasco (as well as Stardock's famous anti-DRM stance), the company's servers were swarmed with players who had pirated the game, making Demigod unplayable for the customers who had purchased the game legally.
 
However, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell doesn't seem to think that there are problems around the releases of his games. In the all-purpose thread for Elemental at the Quarter To Three forums, Wardell responded to hostile claims that his company's game plays "like an early beta" by asking players of that mindset to, "...please stay away from our games in the future. I consider [Elemental] ready for release and if others disagree, don't buy our games."
 
Wardell's stance is especially harsh, and in sharp contrast to the Stardock mantra of respecting its paying customers (hence, no intrusive DRM in Stardock games). Elemental could very well be fixed down the road, with Stardock ironing out the rest of the game's issues. But these are issues that should have been fixed before the game was sent out to retail. Constant crashing and broken AI shouldn't be day-one patch material, right? As a result of the game's bugs, Francis told the readers of PC Gamer that, right now, they shouldn't purchase Elemental, saying that the game is currently too broken to recommend.
 
[UPDATE] Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has apologized for the statements he made on the Quarter to Three forums. In a statement received by Joystiq, Wardell issued the following comment;
 

"I've been an active user on the Quarter to Three forums for many years. I know the core participants on that forum well, and after a lengthy and heated debate about some of the issues facing the pre-day 0 version our latest title, Elemental, I spoke hastily and said things I shouldn't have. As a result, I want to apologize to our fans for speaking so harshly. It should be said that some of the issues in question from the PC Gamer UK article, in fact, did not appear in any of our beta testing. We were surprised by these issues and, after working days on end with little sleep, I was very frustrated. I should not have engaged in an online debate about these issues, as my haste to defend what we feel is a great product only served to hurt the fans who have supported us and the team who has been so dedicated to this project."


"As the CEO of Stardock, I want to be clear that my comments on the Quarter to Three forums do not reflect my team at large. They were words spoken out of frustration and sleep deprivation and I am truly sorry. We stand behind what we feel is a great product, one that we will continue to support for a number of years."
 
Furthermore, a game representative for Stardock has commented on the Elemental forums stating that the game's multiplayer mode should be enabled sometime next week. 
 

Now, a couple words on multiplayer.  The servers are up but we are not going to enable multiplayer until next week. Part of this is, to be honest, team exhaustion. The early release meant a lot of people who were expecting this weekend off to rest from the grueling last few weeks had to come in.  So we’re going to let them get a couple of days off later this week and open up the MP next week.

Edited by Droop

 Pretty cool look. First time I've heard about this game ;o 

Also, why does a game like this get a (pre)release? :|

Edited by ajamafalous

Man, Wrestlemania 21. What a terrible game.
 
 
I remember making a sick ring entrance with some music on my Xbox hard drive, though.
 
 
 
 
EDIT:
"Francis describes some of the problems that the publication encountered with the launch-day version of the game: crashes constantly.

  • The game crashes constantly."
 
Might want to do some editing there.
Posted by ModeratelySizedBomb

I Stardocked with a hooker once. ONCE.
Posted by Ooblix

Sounds a lot like the disaster that was Demigod.  Does Stardock not have QA or what?

Posted by DragonBloodthirsty

Ouch.  I picked up Galactic Civilizations 2, and it was alright.  I'm glad for the heads up regarding Elemental.  If the company manages to fix it and make a big enough announcement, I'll consider looking at it.

Posted by august

I find Matt Kessler's news articles to be of a high quality.

Posted by frsty13

Between the Demigod debacle and this, I've lost a lot of faith in Stardock.  Demigod was at least understandable on their part...nobody should have been playing before the release date so their servers weren't ready.  This, however, sounds more like a product that had no right to be released yet.  I understand that not every company can have a "it'll be out when it's ready" stance like Blizzard and Valve have, but this is clearly poor management of their time and resources on Stardock's part.  If they didn't have time for sufficient testing, they should have known to cut features long ago.

Posted by MRutter

Really disappointed with the launch release, and I pre-ordered the game months ago on a E3 pitch to get alpha/beta access - never doing that again.

Posted by Lore_Weaver

I bought it on Monday on Impulse and I haven't experienced any issues with it at all.  I've played for hours, it's never crashed, the AI is pushing back the boarders of my empire, the tactical combat is fantastic.
 
From what I understand, these issues are related to the boxed copy only.

Posted by Jimbo

Apology accepted.
 
It's good (and smart) of him to hold his hands up and apologise for his comments, because after reading them earlier I would just straight up have not bought anything from them again.  You just can't take your customers on like that, not really under any circumstances, but especially after putting out something as unfit for purpose as this apparentlyis.

Edited by NoXious

I wasn't even aware of this game, looks awesome! Shame the article is so negative.
We'll just hope for the best...

@Lore_Weaver said:

" I bought it on Monday on Impulse and I haven't experienced any issues with it at all.  I've played for hours, it's never crashed, the AI is pushing back the boarders of my empire, the tactical combat is fantastic.  From what I understand, these issues are related to the boxed copy only. "

And then you read this - and you start seeing why folk are leaving the PC gaming behind.
How two different versions, AND machines for that matter, can influence a games release so much.
Posted by MisterMouse

woah that is crazy to release a game in that state.

Posted by Xiemos2

The CEO...got caught up in an internet forum debate? ..Really?
 
The fuck.

Posted by DrPockets000
@august said:
" I find Matt Kessler's news articles to be of a high quality. "
I absolutely concur.  Every new one he writes gets better.  Well done Mr. Kessler!
Posted by Spoonman671

I've been looking forward to this game.  I guess it's a good thing that I spent all my money fixing my car and didn't have any to buy this game at launch.  I'll probably pick it up in a few months once things have been ironed out.

Posted by Nomin

I can hear the thousand smug faces of developers slighted by the PC gaming's outspoken guru who has apparently figured out this anti-piracy thing. Amongst other mantras he has laid out as the solution to be successful in this harsh market, he should have followed his own advice, sort of: 
 
Rule number one: make a game that does not crash.
Posted by Exar

lol wut
 
I've been playing Elemental for the past two days, and haven't encountered a single problem or crash. I'm talking 8-9 hours at a time, even. This game is awesome, and has some pretty amazing ideas worked into it. Stardock <3

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

It's really hard to believe that this is the same team that made Galacitc Civ 2.  It's apples and... well... rotten fish belly-up in a sewage pond.

Moderator
Posted by kwyee
I'm actually glad for the drama because Elemental is now getting way more press coverage :)  

I was one of the pre-orderers who got the game early and my experiences don't quite jive with the Mr Francis'.  I've been playing for ~10 hours across 2 machines:
  1. The game crashes yes, but only once every couple of hours or so. Bad, but not 'constantly'
  2. Battle system has never broken for me
  3. Multiplayer is coming in about a week.  But does anyone buy 4x games wanting to play multiplayer within the first week? 
  4. The only AI controlled races that are 'dormant' are the minor races, not the majors who smack me around.  A lot.
 
Even with these problems, it's a really fun game with a lot of ideas that nicely spice up the 4x genre.  And Stardock's commitment to GalCiv 1 and 2 even years after release show their dedication and have earned me as a long-time customer.
Posted by KarateKid

I realize this is a news article, but I do not have any faith what so ever in PC gamers reviews and will withhold judgment until I either try the game for myself, or I see a giantbomb QL or review of it. And to be honest I think Matt should have tried the game out for himself before posting this to confirm if he had the same problems himself.

Posted by TheYear20XX

Nice Big Rigs callback.

Posted by TekZero

Stardock already won be over with GalCiv 2.  I'll wait till the problems get fixed then I will give this one a second look. 

Posted by FenrizDude

Ouch...

Posted by warmonked

I really admire Stardock for their pro-PC Gamer stances, but I gotta say... I've never thought any of their games are good.

Posted by MisterMollusk

Eh, I'll just do like I did with Demigod: wait a couple months and then have a blast.

Posted by ajamafalous
@august said:
" I find Matt Kessler's news articles to be of a high quality. "
Posted by Olivaw

I was kinda excited for Elemental, too.
 
Guess I'll have to wait for it to get better before I pick it up.

Posted by Carlozz34

such a shame, will but it anyway though

Posted by ectoplasma

I see you're getting payed by words.

Posted by IncredibleBulk92

Heh I remember hearing about this game like a month ago for a preview.  Sounded like it was quite a ways off. Guess it was.  Sounded pretty cool though.   
 
Stardock just don't seem to give me much faith as a company.  Their supposed to be a published but they claim that the main problem with their game is that they either released it this week or wait for next year? My calender has a few more months than theirs it seems.  Who knows, if there's a crazy sale and somebody promises me that it's been fixed maybe I'll buy it but I doubt that day will come. 
 
Sorry Stardock, you can only blame yourselves.

Posted by Zor

Already bought the game, and it is kind of fun... by kind of, i mean i have ran into a few bugs that (while they usually don't stop the gameplay (except for the rare crashing) they do affect it) annoy me. 
So i decide to hold back on playing the game for a few weeks while they patch it a few more times.

Posted by Seraphim2150

I've been playing it today, only thing I noticed was the AI not defending its town 
 
So far, I like it. Feels like fantasy Civ

Posted by masternater27

It's too bad, the setting and art style conspire together to actually make me kind of interested in a pc strategy game

Posted by GetEveryone

Fidgit had a great article on this.

Posted by commandercup

Wow the game looks cool. I should probably go and check this out.
 
@KarateKid: What's the point in being so harsh? As you said yourself this is merely a news article and there's no point in making judgments on publications... I personally love, trust and read PC Gamer. The problems are obviously there as even Stardock is acknowledging them... do you not trust Stardock itself?

Posted by kwyee
@IncredibleBulk92 said:
" Heh I remember hearing about this game like a month ago for a preview.  Sounded like it was quite a ways off. Guess it was.  Sounded pretty cool though.    Stardock just don't seem to give me much faith as a company.  Their supposed to be a published but they claim that the main problem with their game is that they either released it this week or wait for next year? My calender has a few more months than theirs it seems.  Who knows, if there's a crazy sale and somebody promises me that it's been fixed maybe I'll buy it but I doubt that day will come.  Sorry Stardock, you can only blame yourselves. "
This 'this week or next year' has to do with retailers' release schedules.  They plan at least 1 quarter in advance, so if you miss your date, your next chance to ship will be the following quarter.  
 
I think market-wise, it would have been better for SD to release Elemental next year since Civ5 is coming out in a few weeks :|
Posted by Aleryn

Oh well, that sucks.  Though I'll keep tabs on the game, since a lot of great PC games have started out really broken.  Then get patched to playing fine.

Posted by mosdef

Can someone explain the caption under the spiders picture?  im not that smart.

Posted by Sinkwater

I will wait for the inevitable Impulse Christmas sale.

Posted by CosmicQueso

Gotta say, I was done with Stardock when they released Demigod with absolutely no tutorial.  I still have no clue how to play the game, which I paid full price for off of Impulse. 
 
For a company that likes to run out hyperbole on gamer's rights and other such nonsense, the fact that they do so little to help their paying customers use and enjoy their products make it really easy to stay away from Elemental and all the other games they publish. 
 
I know some folks are really into GalCiv and all that, that's cool.  There are just far too many other options that sound better than trying to research and slog through, fighting a game just to learn how to play it.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

Did anyone bother to read the Elemental Forums?  This game isn't crashing.  There
are about a dozen minor issues that I read about but no crashes.  There was a day 0 
patch released yesterday I believe & the game should work, at least the single player.
 
It's news to me about multiplayer being disabled but that's alright with me.  You can
order the boxed set\download from Stardock, so basically when you use your boxed
version, you login to the Stardock system & it should update it with the patch.
 
So again: Last minute drama & game not broken. Nothing to see here folks!  Move along. :-)

Posted by Hamz

Man this totally sucks on multiple levels. 
 
I hope Stardock can grasp some positive publicity out of this. Can't help but feel something like this could have a lasting negative impact on their reputation. Extremely shocked by how downhill this all went.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor
@GetEveryone said:
" Fidgit had a great article on this. "
 
Posted by erinfizz

I hope everything gets ironed out soon, I'm looking forward to this game.

Posted by radioactivez0r
@mosdef said:
" Can someone explain the caption under the spiders picture?  im not that smart. "
The joke is that the article is about the bugs in the game, so if spiders were bugs, that picture would be much more relevant.
Edited by ryanwho

I was hoping between Disciples 3 and Elemental I'd get to play a decent under the radar game this month. Seriously, does anyone betatest anymore? And I get being passionate about a project, but this is the case of someone being too close if he's literally telling people "if you're the kind of person who mentions when a game has problems don't buy our game". Is he having a laugh or what? Take a week off, develop some distance from the project, and come back with a clean perspective.

Posted by crusader8463

As a die hard Sins of a Solar Empire guy it broke my heart to read that article. I had been following this game for some time now and couldn't wait to play it as everything they said about it sounded god dam amazing. I hope these fixes get ironed out asap.

Posted by artofwar420

Fak, that game was looking sweet. I really hope they get it together.

Posted by HypoXenophobia
@CosmicQueso said:
" Gotta say, I was done with Stardock when they released Demigod with absolutely no tutorial.  I still have no clue how to play the game, which I paid full price for off of Impulse. 

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