Behind the scenes fun at Stardock and GPG

By on November 18, 2009 12:24:53 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
+1469

So today we’re playing a lot of Demigod v1.2.  There’s always that “release or not release” question hanging in the air.

Today, there’s 2 “show stoppers” still left. The Torch Bearer’s Ring of fire doesn’t go away (which would make Torch Bearer users happy but not the rest of us) and the other is that choosing a random Demigod will randomly let you play one of the two new Demigods.  That second one is obviously not a show stopper from the player’s point of view but we really do need to get it straightened up.

The time zone difference between Stardock (eastern) and Gas Powered Games (pacific) is what makes this kind of thing tough because, as I write this, it’s 8am there which in game development land might as well be middle of the night.  So then it’s a question of getting the fix in and uploaded, staged, re-tested and released.

To be honest, if it weren’t for the torch bearer thing, we’d be inclined to put it out still and let people “discover” the random demigod “feature” but on the other hand, in MP, it would encourage everyone to play random which might have pretty unfun game results and we want to really give this release a lot of attention since it is just such a big improvement.

Now, one of the other things I thought I’d use this journal entry to address is some of the things I read about Gas Powered Games on the forums.  Now, I work for Stardock, we’re the publisher. This website is run by Stardock.  So naturally, we’re pretty active.  But the GPG team does hang out here reading. They just don’t comment since they’re busy working on the game.

And I mean that.  Every day we’re emailing back and forth. Tossing around different ideas for future updates to Demigod. 

Stardock isn’t a real company.

What many users don’t realize is the difference between Stardock and Gas Powered Games is that GPG is a real game company and Stardock isn’t. 

Let me explain:

At Stardock, we’re really just a bunch of fan boys.

imageSometimes we code the games (Galactic Civilizations). Sometimes we publish the games (Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod).  Our involvement on the games we “publish” is non-traditional. The original designer of Demigod, John Comes, who’s now at Uber Entertainment, would be the first to tell you that the final release of Demigod is nothing like what he had in mind. It’s totally different.

That’s because of Mike Marr (and GPG) and I.   So the toned down generals in Demigod? That’s my fault. I wanted to get rid of generals entirely but from a marketing standpoint we couldn’t.  On the other hand, citadel upgrades and flags were from me.  My suggestions though were similar to the kind of fanboy posts you’d see on a forum. By contrast, designer Mike Marr was the true genius behind turning suggestions into something good.

In Sins of a Solar Empire, Brian Clair (who used to run Avault) and I worked with Ironclad to make massive changes to the original concept of Sins of a Solar Empire.  I basically wanted Sins to be Total Annihilation in space. I have no shame.  Hence, Sins has infinite resources with “metal” and “crystal” (crystal wasn’t in TA but was in StarCraft). Ironclad, of course, were the ones who took our “fanboy” like feedback and made Sins of a Solar Empire into the great game it became and continues to be.

Anyway, the point being, some people on these forums make the mistake of thinking what Stardock does is normal – constantly updating and talking to fans. It’s not. We’re mutants. 

Even now, the only reason I’m not at Chris Taylor’s house is due to the..well the restraining order(s).

 imageBut let me talk about the pedigree here so you can understand the difference between a professional game studio and a fanboy company.

Chris Taylor didn’t just make Total Annihilation. He made Hardball 2 and countless other games.  Their VP of Business Development, Kellyn Beeck, was the guy  who made Defender of the Crown (if you had an Amiga and didn’t play that game then I’m not saying you’re a bad person…okay, yes, I’m saying it, you’re a bad person).

Basically, every person we work with over at GPG are experienced game designers of original IP.

By contrast, at Stardock, I basically just makes games I want to play and have no shame of borrowing from whatever else. 

Galactic Civilizations?  That’s Civilization in space.  If I hadn’t written the original version in college I would have known better than to use the word Civilizations. I picked up Teach Yourself C in 21 days in order to learn how to program so I could make it. Seriously.

Nowadays we would have called GalCiv something totally original like Space: Total War or something that wouldn’t get us into trouble…

Then there’s Elemental which let’s be honest, is really a next-generation combo of Master of Magic, HOMM, Age of Wonders 2: Shadow Magic combined with bits and pieces from lots of other things we like to play including board games.

image The point I’m trying to make with you guys is that the reason we’re all over the forums and making these journals and such isn’t because we’re a good company. There’s no real business justification to do it. We do it because we’re basically just fanboys.  I was writing long posts like this during the Supreme Commander 1 beta (some of you may recall).

Real companies are smart enough not to show you the sausage factory.  Stardock, by contrast, does not.

Most corporate visitors who come to Stardock are shocked at the size of Stardock. Normally, a company that’s grown to our size would have grown up by now.  We just won’t grow up.

The ramifications of real-time communication with fans

Real companies don’t communicate with fans as much for good reason: Too much communication ultimately leads to expectations not being met. We know this.  But as fanboys, hanging out on forums posting what’s going on is what we do.

For instance, a real company would have had Demigod v1.1 be that May release that fixed the online multiplayer issues – btw, on a game that has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, only around 25,000 users even logged to play multiplayer between release and June (we had 10X that many pirates trying but they didn’t get access to the MP stuff after day 3 but that’s another story). 

So as big of a deal the online multiplayer shenanigans was to us (i.e. us fanboys at Stardock and those of you into this stuff) in the “real world” only a small percentage of users were even aware or cared. 

Then Demigod v1.2 would have been released in July (which was called v1.1).

In September v1.3 would have been released (which we called v1.19)

And then this month v1.4 would have been released (which we’re calling v1.2).

In other words, a steady stream of improvements to what is, without a doubt, an outstanding game.  But the journals tend to make it look like the updates are late or few and far between but they only seem that way because Stardock isn’t a real company and lets people see, in near-real time, what exactly is going on.

imageGPG has been continuously supporting Demigod since day 1. They’re working as a professional game studio that has been, consistently, releasing a steady stream of improvements and enhancements for the game. Staffed with industry veterans, they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  Every day, I get a half dozen emails from people at GPG – and that’s nothing compared to what QA/Support do back and forth with them.

It’s only when you look back and realize that Demigod’s only been out 6 months and you look and see how much better the game has already gotten (and it was good to begin with) and how much better it continues to get that you realize just how much effort GPG has put into supporting the game.

Anyway, I need to get back to “testing” Oculus some more.  Then I have to try out Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy and there’s a new build of Elemental.  Then I need to see if IconPackager 5 is ready for release this week and see how things are going with yesterday’s release of WindowBlinds 7 (I made a quick video demo here). Then I need to see how the Live Writer integration into Neowin.net is going and see if the WinCustomize skin queries got updated to improve database response and then there’s some new moves to be updated for the Elemental pen and paper game we’ve got going and then I think I’ll write some blog on some topic that will get us into trouble and then…

Locked Post 66 Replies +4
Search this post
Subscription Options


Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 12:26:45 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Thank you again for the insight and I might add, thank you for leting us know what the show stoppers are.  It makes total sense and I can understand the decision.  The selfish part of me says: "put the TB code back where 2 rings would both dissapear and release since I don't play TB much anyway "; but I realize you guys and GPG are better than that.  I look forward to 1.2 whenever it comes. 

P.S. dont' fix the random bug... it'll make for some cool games!

Cheers,
ThanatosESC.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 12:28:39 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

hi there,

 

usually i just read your entries (and enjoy them a lot), but this time you got my attention. since i grew up with all the games you mentioned (and DotC as well, yes, i did amiga) and loved them a lot, i can totally get your point of being a fan-boy company and quite honestly: it´s refreshing to see that there are still companies like that out there.

i worked for GT Interactive (when they were still around) so i was a happy tester of total annihilation and loved total annihilation 2 (supreme commander) a lot as well ...which puts me in the same restraining order-thingie for chris taylors house.

 

i just wanted to say: keep up the great work and if you have a chance: drop a line to the ESL (e-sport league) since they kinda dropped demigod (which sucks in a competitive way).

cheers,

andré

 

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 12:29:23 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Awsome post. thanks for keeping us informed. (Now, go get me my sins of a solar empire beta that you currently seem to have avalible for your own use... )

Space: total war... ROFL.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 12:42:20 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

It's communication like this that keeps me a Stardock fanboy. When I first got Sins of a Solar Empire, registered, and came here to the forums and saw this kind of stuff I was in total awe with respect for this company. So, I quickly gobbled most everything they developed or published. Keep up the great work.

And like PBhead said. Give us the Diplomacy beta please.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 1:00:15 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Get Sorian to fix that ring and gives us 1.2. Please

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 1:36:05 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Yeh fix the ring

The random thing is fixed as well... Remember?

And yeah the whole fan-boy thing makes a lot more sense. But I like you more than EA and their games fill up my desk (Battlefield 2, Crysis, C&C, Battle for Middle Earth 2) so be proud

But I would try to be more bland and restrained when it comes to posting about patches

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 2:10:54 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Thanks again for all the info again, Brad! 

I think I might very well speak for everyone when I say if you CAN get the tb fix in and can’t get the randomly play as a new dg, PLEASE RELEASE THE PATCH.  I agree that some will act like complete jerks with this, go random and quit populated games if they don’t get one of the new ones, but surely not all.  Methinks anyone pulling that in one of my games would not be playing with me again.  I think we can pretty universally say that we’d all like access to the new Dg’s as soon as possible.  Even if its only by going random initially, its far better than nothing and MUCH better than another week without a patch + an even greater delay until we can get the new Dg’s out in the wild. 

 Pretty please? 

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 2:34:20 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Yea the ring of fire thing is a pretty big, but I'm assuming simple problem. (I bet it was sorian. hehe  )

If you can get TB working normally, then yes release the patch. The random DG isn't a major problem and may end up giving you some bonus feedback. Really all random games aren't that bad. In fact that's normally the craziest games.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 3:41:41 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting regabond,
The random DG isn't a major problem and may end up giving you some bonus feedback. Really all random games aren't that bad. In fact that's normally the craziest games.

all random

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 3:54:54 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Actually random games are some of the best games I play and encourages players to play this game as a strategy instead of a skill test. Because playing an opponent who normally doens't play sedna makes it so that sedna isn't playing as normal. So your regular tactics if you were UB may not work because that sedna is using yeti's or some other build.

The TB thing i think is a bigger problem than random demigod games. TB all the sudden lays out extra damage. He needed a small buff this could be it. (that is if i'm understanding the problem right, it basically means if the cooldown is less than 10 seconds and he casts it then it stacks up) Which this in my mind this isn't a problem. It's a little more AoE but not an overly high amount. Besides it would be cool when a ring of flame all the sudden grows bigger.

My point is if you can't fix it. OH WELL. It would be nice to have to have more random games and TB would positively benefit form this. And not many people would complain about it (if i'm understanding this) it really isn't as strong as people might think it is.

If i'm not understanding it (which i dont' think i am). Read through this again skipping the parts about TB.

And I guess other people have restraining orders from Chris too. I'm not alone

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 4:00:18 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Is this Oculus screenshot low detailed, or is the Oculus model low detailed ????

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 4:12:01 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Xavior:  I think you might be misunderstanding whats going on with the TB.  What you're talking about is actually what they're trying to accomplish with the TB.  Before, if you laid down a second circle of fire it would disappear when the first one did.  What they want is for the second one to end 10 seconds after you cast it so you can have two going at once without worrying.

 

What is going on now (from what I've read) is the circles are never ending.  If this is true, I think we'd all like to see it fixed before the patch is released... though I'd love to see screenshot of Cataract completely covered by fire circles.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 4:13:11 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Is this Oculus screenshot low detailed, or is the Oculus model low detailed ????

My video settings are set for low.  Note the shadows and lighting is disabled.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 4:22:46 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I can't wait to play Occulus.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 4:32:23 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I must disagree with you on a point Frogger. Your unconventional approach with community/company communication is why I will purchase every Star Dock game that is released and proclaim SD as one of, if not the, best publisher(s). It is probably the primary reason I continue to play DG and while I was too lazy to read beyond your post, I'm sure others are expressing the same; Even if they have not I'm certain that is the case for the vast majority.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 4:41:55 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

You're too modest Frogboy. 

Thanks for the background information.  

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 4:59:08 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

You guys are awesome.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 5:36:38 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

 

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 6:13:42 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

The Torch Bearer’s Ring of fire doesn’t go away

meaning it goes beyond how long its supposed to be active (beyond 10 secs)? 

or

if two ring of fires are possible to make, none of them are cancelled out?

 

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 6:29:39 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Get rid of generals.... I ought to assassinate you!!!!!!

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 6:31:56 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting gkrit,

meaning it goes beyond how long its supposed to be active (beyond 10 secs)? 

or

if two ring of fires are possible to make, none of them are cancelled out?

 

The second seems like the obvious answer, since that was an issue.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 6:34:05 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Frogboy, I think it's fair to say that while the 'Professional' game companies have their benefits, they play it 'safe' which usually involves treating their customers like Mushrooms - if you follow my meaning - and while you might not see many posts on their forums claiming that they've lied because they missed their own deadlines, you don't see people pre-ordering their games just to support the company either. I broke my own 'No Pre-Orders. Ever' Rule pre-ordered Elemental not because the game whole-heartedly appeals to me - to be frank I play maybe one game of Civ4 every 4-6 months - but because I like the company that is developing it. I'm extremely cynical and skeptical about the mainstream development of the video game industry, and if you can win me over, you're doing something right.

Keep doing what you're doing!

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 6:40:39 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting JagerJack,

Quoting gkrit, reply 19
meaning it goes beyond how long its supposed to be active (beyond 10 secs)? 

or

if two ring of fires are possible to make, none of them are cancelled out?

 
The second seems like the obvious answer, since that was an issue.

i think they shouldnt cancel out. so i say leave it as is. your spending the mana and time to cast it, so why should you be restricted to only 1 circle at a time? it may allow tower raping to be done a bit more easier but thats the build ud be investing in.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 6:45:17 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

The ring of fire thing was odd. Luckily I was able to find a solid repro. the bug only occured when you clicked on the Ring of Fire button while you were already casting. Fixed it this morning. Hopefully we will be sending SD a new build later today.

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
November 18, 2009 6:48:22 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

so we can have 2 ring of fires active at any one time?

Reason for Karma (Optional)
Successfully updated karma reason!
Stardock Forums v1.0.0.0    #101114  walnut1   Server Load Time: 00:00:00.0000766   Page Render Time:

Stardock Magazine | Register | Online Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

Copyright © 2016 Stardock Entertainment and Gas Powered Games. Demigod is a trademark of Gas Powered Games. All rights reserved. All other trademarks and copyrights are the properties of their respective owners. Windows, the Windows Vista Start button and Xbox 360 are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies, and 'Games for Windows' and the Windows Vista Start button logo are used under license from Microsoft. © 2012 Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. All rights reserved. AMD, the AMD Arrow logo and combinations thereof are trademarks of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.