August is starting to near an end and we wanted to give you an update on where things stand in the world of Demigod. We got two updates out that were largely maintenance updates (bug fixes and exploit fixes). The game stats stuff now works pretty decently (I’m sure there are exceptions but looking at the thousands of games and follow-up testing reveals it’s working much better, we’ll keep at it to keep making it better).
The meat of the updates planned for this month are looking more murky. GPG sends us builds, we put them through QA, QA makes notes and reports and work continues. It’s always hard to estimate the time it will take from the time things “work” and when things WORK. Rematches, Replays, modding, bug fixes, are all in there. I have asked to see if we can modularize things a bit more so that we can get an update that addresses reported multiplayer issues people have reported.
Pacov was nice enough to compile a list of questions to be answered for this month so here goes some answers:
Q: Torch Bearer Attack and Auto-Move at the same time. Why can’t it do this? Bug or design?
A: It depends on who you talk to. IMO, it’s a bug and the suggested LUA script provided should be helpful once it’s looked over to see what unintended consequences may result.
On a side note, I can tell you right now that GPG and Stardock both find it helpful when users mod the LUA code because it really helps us see exactly what the desired behavior and/or change is.
In the Demigod directory there is a file called dgdata.zip which, inside of it, has all the LUA scripts in there. When v1.2 comes out, we will have a new forum area for modding and then follow it up with a library for people to upload their mods so that they’re easier to share.
But people who want to see changes – real changes – are welcome to look at those scripts, play around with them and discuss them with others. We’re happy to look at them and make sure GPG is aware of them.
Q: Can you provide us with any behind the scenes information on how the Sedna + bishop/high priest fix came about (the fix went live on 8/6/2009, but the issue was identified on 5/11/2009)? Can you help us understand the process for getting the fix in place or anything we can do to expedite fixes if the community has identified the exact code required for a fix?
A: There is no straight forward answer to this. The best way I could say is that we (Stardock/GPG) have a long list of things that are prioritized and we get through that list.
Sometimes, we’ll find an issue that we think deserves to be expedited. So for example, on the Sedna issue, that issue..ahem..affected me in a game I was playing on-line so I drew a lot of attention to it. But I hadn’t noticed it until July. The issue was on the “list” since May (and there’s still plenty of things on the list going forward).
Q: Are there currently any new maps planned or in development? If the only new maps we can expect are from the modding tools, will we be able to upload maps for other people to play somehow?
A: Right now there are no new maps in the immediate pipeline. I have been asking for maps that are derivatives of existing maps but new maps are very very expensive to make because of the quality level required.
Q: Can we expect to see any new favor items soon or perhaps see some favor item buffs for the lesser used items? Are the items that were removed due to balance reasons going to return in their original, albeit tweaked, forms or are we going to see all new items in their stead?
A: Yes, I do expect some new favor items to go in prior to v1.2 being completed. We are still evaluating items that were taken out. Sometimes, something that looks good on paper doesn’t work out in online play.
Q: Can you please make the descriptions (tool tips) more descriptive in what they do? (TB's Auras) Would it help if the community provided a list of more detailed tooltips that could be added in a future update?
A: Ideally here it would be helpful if the community organized on this and did this so that we know exactly what is being looked for. Then we can submit it to GPG for possible inclusion. Note, however, that the tooltips wouldn’t be translated.
Q: How does Stardock/GPG handle balancing? Do you watch for player suggestions (subjective but insightful) or do you watch the stats (objective but maybe misleading)? Along those same lines, could you shed some light on whether there has been any thought/discussion in changing any of the demigods skills/stats (Tribute? Violent Siege? Poisoned blood? Bestial Wrath? etc)? How was the gold and experience for reinforcement waves (archers, minotaurs, priests, etc) balanced? When it was adjusted in the last patches, what methodology was used to balance it?
A: Each balance query is taken on a case by case basis. Prior to release, most balancing was done through mathematical modeling in things like Excel spread sheets or simple programs. Post release we’ve simply done it by playing online, reading the forums, etc.
Q: What is the best and most useful way to make constructive suggestions to the developers about features and balance?
A: Forum posts that treat us (GPG and Stardock) as your partners. Often times, we’ll see posts that are, frankly insulting. I won’t speak for GPG on this matter but I will speak for Stardock: Like many Demigod players, many of us left the forums because of the hostility of some of the more…vocal multiplayer players.
The feeling at both Stardock and GPG (and elsewhere – I just came back from a media tour so I know how the gaming press feels about Demigod as well) is that Demigod is an awesome game which took some lumps because it shipped with multiplayer connectivity and weak single player.
So obviously, anyone whose base opinion of Demigod is that it “sucks” or is “broken” is approaching from a position we don’t share and we’re less likely to take input from those users very seriously.
Q: Now that Demigod’s online connectivity is fixed, are you going to try to get new reviews for Demigod?
A: NO. While I agree that Demigod’s launch situation is somewhat unique, re-reviewing it would put the media in a slippery slope position. The fact is, we should have foreseen the multiplayer problems before the game shipped. It’s a hard lesson but one that I think will ensure future games are handled better.
As a practical matter, our position is that time is on Demigod’s side. People may disagree but we have the capability of contacting virtually all Demigod players whenever there’s an opportunity to do some tournament or get games going or celebrate a new update.
We would like to see more and more Demigods made over time but a lot of that will depend on how much it ultimately costs for us to get these 2 free demigods out and if it costs a lot whether users are willing to help shoulder those costs. If they’re not, then obviously we wouldn’t be able to afford to make more.
But the Demigod engine is state of the art and we see it at the beginning of its evolution. Anyone who knows Stardock knows we’re very patient as anyone who downloaded the recent GalCiv II (a 2006 game) update could tell you.
Q: What is being done to handle the “jerk” factor in Demigod games?
A: This is a growing issue in online games. As a 38 year old guy who is married with 3 children, I can tell you that it really irritates me to go online after work and have my game ruined by by some kid whose being a jerk.
That’s why we’ve been working on Ready to Play:
The idea is that people set up a profile of what type of gamer they’re like and what types of people they like to play with and then when they launch a game (not just Demigod but TF2, L4D, WoW, DoW2, etc.) it will broadcast to their friends and their “recommended” friends who can then join them.
This way, people can start to get games going with other people who share a similar idea of what is “fun” by doing some basic profile compatibility.
Internally, we’ve had fantastic results with Ready to Play already, particularly in helping get groups together on older games (Rise of Legends being an example).
Ready to Play is going to go into beta in September but we think Demigod players will particularly benefit from it.
Q: What do you think of the idea of splitting custom games into two sections: random team and arranged team? Would it be possible to have a ranked/unranked lobby or option for the game host to select?
A: I like the idea. But here’s where things get dicey in all these ideas: In Demigod, anything that requires new UI is particularly expensive to do. If I could come up with some nice marketing spin around that fact I would so there it is. If it requires a new screen or a new game flow then it’s not a good thing.
So while I like the idea, what we would want to do is ideally let the community come up with how they would like this to work that doesn’t split the community up or require new screens.
Q: Is there currently any work going into improving Demigod and minion path finding?
A: YES. This is on the bug list for v1.2.
Q: Are there any plans for improving the Minion User Interface based on feedback from the community?
A: No. Should there be? Maybe, I can personally list a zillion things in any of our games that I could imagine changed/improved/etc. So there it is.
Q: Can you provide an update regarding the progress being made towards improving the online ranking and stat tracking?
A: The update made to Demigod earlier this month appears to have made substantial progress towards making stat tracking work better.
That said, all the stat tracking in the world is useless while exploits exist which continue to be an ongoing battle.
Q: Has there been any progress on the ping-spiking issue detailed here (http://forums.demigodthegame.com/352593). A small portion of the player base (including myself) have put Demigod on hold, as we cannot play games with more than X (where x is a number between 4 and 8, with the median being 4) players in them, despite solid connections. Many of us have tested the game with worse connections in another area and the same ISP, and had no trouble running the game.
A: Ping spikes are almost always due to someone in a given game not having enough upload speed. Even more specifically, it’s almost always some DSL user in Europe who gets 600kb/sec downloads but some tiny number uploaded. Beyond re-designing the MP for the game, there’s no real solution other than for those users to try to avoid games with too many players.
We plan to develop tools for Elemental that will let people know their upload speeds. In that game, we plan to be total bastards and simply not let people play online MP if they have low-end connections. Some of those tools will likely come back for Demigod though because GPG are nicer people than us, we probably won’t be blocking users who have poor upload speeds.
Q: Are you able to provide your current Demigod to-do-list?
A: Yes. Kryo maintains it, I’ll look for the link for the public version.
Q: Are Demigod character ideas (in the ideas section of the forum) looked at for inspiration?
A: Yes. The two new demigods were influenced from forum posts (not mine though unfortunately ).
Q: Is it possible to create or connect to a game via the command line for Demigod (I.E demigod.exe -multiplayer -(login) -(password) (GameName))
A: Yes, will have to look it up though but that’s how Impulse is able to do it.
Q: What ability surprised you during play testing in a good way.
A: Flag locking. I can’t say how effective it is but I know I enjoy it.
Q: What is the biggest surprise in player play styles (I.E. we never thought people would like Regulus that much.)
A: Queen of Thorns using bramble shield on Unclean Beast. Seeing people come up with great strategies is something we all love seeing.
Q: Will the SDK require Granny to create new models.
A: Yes. Ultimately, to get new Demigods in, the user will need Granny.
Q: What abilities should the FrogBoy Demigod have?
Well for those of you who are interested here are the 2 Demigods I’d like to see made:
Demigod 1: Humanoid Monk (Assassin)
Melee with a pole.
Power 1: Totems that increase damage done to enemy units in area by 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%
Power 2: Totems that increase the experience received from killing enemy units by 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%
Power 3: Distract (instant interrupt on targeted enemy unit)
Power 4: Whirlwind: Spins around doing an area damage effect to enemy units
Skill Tree Path: Looting: Gets 20%, 30%, 40% more from killing enemy units.
Skill Tree path: Dodge: Gets a 10%, 20%, 30%, 40% chance to dodge.
Demigod 2: Dinasaur like creature (General) Projectile Catapult Evil.
Power 1: Long range trebuchet type power. (Kind of like Regulus but it strikes an area for an area effect)
Power 2: Tail slam, short range area effect on towers or units alike.
Power 3: Flag lock for 10s, 20s, 30s, 50s
Power 4: Stun (slams its tail down on the ground causing nearby units to be momentarily stunned - 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s.
Skill tree path: Spikes: Causes attacking units to take increasing amounts of rebound damage.
Skill tree path: Enhanced HP (gets extra HP)
Maybe it’s a good thing that Mike Marr is the brain behind new demigods and not me.
Q: How can the community help Stardock and Gas Powered Games to make Demigod better?
A: Make the community a more positive place to be in. When people have a problem or want a change, don’t assume that we “know about it” but rather be specific. Reporting something you don’t like is easy. Suggesting a workable solution is much more helpful.
Q: How much does Stardock make off a retail purchase using Impulse versus how much you get from a local store purchase.
A: Typically, you can take the store price, divide it by 2 and that’s what the publisher gets. On digital distribution, you take the price and multiply it by 0.7 and that’s what the publisher gets. Since it’s on Impulse, multiply it by .98 instead.
Q: Was there a long term feature implementation plan put in place before Demigod shipped (replays, team features, etc.) or was it created based on the input from the community?
A: Both. One of the dirty little secrets of Demigod that isn’t really that secret is that Stardock hadn’t published any multiplayer centric games. So when Demigod release candidates appeared without “replays” in them we thought nothing of it. Much higher on our list were things like clans (which are still on the list).
A lot of what gets put into a game and when has to do with what shared resources are in place.
For example, because the Impulse team had to be used after Demigod was released to come in and fix the multiplayer shenanigans, further updates to it are now tied to the schedule of Impulse. I.e. when there is time in their schedule.
The same is true on new Demigods. 3D assets like Demigods require concept artists, 3D modelers, riggers, someone to texturize them, someone to create the FX for their spells, design of the skill tree, the LUA scripters, etc. These are shared resources obviously and so it becomes extremely hard to estimate when some of these things will be done.
In a pre-release game, all those resources are dedicated just to the game. But post release, obviously, they’re split onto other projects and that’s one of the reasons why things take a lot longer to get done than they “seem like” they should take.
Q: Are Gas Powered Games happy with the direction Demigod is headed?
A: I can’t speak for them. I can say that the challenges Stardock and GPG had with the Demigod launch brought us closer together. As I glance at my inbox, I see typically get 2 or 3 emails from GPG per day on the status of a build.
I’ve gotten two emails from GPG while writing this from two different people on two different topics for instance. One was about battling cheese tactics online and another was discussing feedback on replays.
Now, where Stardock and GPG are obviously different is that GPG is far more professional than us. They’re true pros and so tend to keep their cards closer to the vest. Whereas, we tend to be very public to the point of recklessness at times as this post makes pretty clear.
Now that said, I know that Chris Taylor has said publicly that he wishes Demigod had had more single player content. Some people in the beta know of the SP game concept we had designed for the game but there just wasn’t budget for it.
Q: Seeing how Supreme Commander received an expansion pack, of sorts, will we realistically see an expansion pack to Demigod? Any thoughts on whether it will it be a retail release or downloadable content?
A: It’s hard to say. One of the things is that both Stardock and GPG’s schedules are extremely tight and while expansions are fun to do, they are (industry-wide speaking) not nearly as profitable as new titles. That’s one of the reasons why you see games going to “DLC”. Much cheaper.
Now, personally speaking, I would love to see new Demigods released after the free ones at $8.95 apiece. If you buy them, you get to play them in your game online or single player. If you don’t no problem either you will see them in your games you just won’t be able to choose them.
But I also know that such a thing will aggravate a lot of players who expect that kind of content for free. After all, if Dota or LoL or HoN has a gagillion heroes or what have you why shouldn’t Demigod? And of course, we know the answer, the cost of the assets are much different and at the end of the day, the game industry is littered with well meaning studios who didn’t make sure their income exceeded their expenses.
Q: What have you learned as both a Publisher and a Development company from Demigod, both in terms of its release and the community that is growing around it?
A: I think the biggest thing we learned is that the publisher needs to be the publisher and not get involved in the coding even if it’s well intentioned. It simply creates confusion between the teams over who is responsible for what and that can have catastrophic results when there’s a miscommunication at the developer level.
Q: Frogboy has a new Avatar, was was the thinking behind the change? Can we expect constant Avatar updates?
A: I needed a higher resolution one to test Ready to Play.
Q: What's on the other side of the portals?
A: Chris Taylor’s chicken coops.