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
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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…

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November 18, 2009 6:53:57 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

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.

 

was about to ask that same question i was like "surely his settings are on low"

anyhow on topic even if you are not a real company the major difference is you and GPG are doing a great job as i have said many time's in other post's this game is gonna take awhile befor it stand's on high to become a god-like game but it will happen just over time which is fine because as i have said i still want to play other game's as well then come back to this game being even better

i still love demigod and all the work and effort going into this beautiful work of art

as for the TB fix and Random deal i wouldn't mind  accidentally  ending up with one of the 2 new one's

and The TB Fix i really never noticed then again i hardly use him only play againest him but really never see him use fire as much as he will use ice (Talking about A.I)

But keep up the great work SD/GPG and let's get those new demigod's finished

 

Quoting _Golgoth_,
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

You left out Dead Space!

 

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November 18, 2009 6:56:20 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Lol frogboy...full credit for the open post, noone appreciates a relaxed no-bs attitude like us kiwis, but seriously..."Stardock isnt a real company?". You'll be hearing that quoted out of context for years.

And I gotta say I can't go agreeing with you on the whole "oh its only been 6 months and look at all the updates" thing. In 1999, the post-release support for DG would have been considered as impressive, but in '09 you gotta try harder. I know its a dumb direct comparison because of budget differences, but look at WoW changes over the first 6 months....literally several thousand distinct fixes, and here we can't even get 10 items' stats changed - 30 lines of code - over 6 months.

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November 18, 2009 6:58:28 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

d ????[/quote][quote who="ZehDon" reply="22" id="2447690"]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!

preorder is against my code as a gamer.

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November 18, 2009 7:04:15 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I love to read about updates and get a glimpse at the work behind the scenes. If the patch takes a little bit longer so be it, better than to rush out a broken ability and unbalance the game for a week or two. The random bug doesn't need fixing tough!

Somebody has to get you a newer graphic card though Frogboy. I cannot believe you have to play on medium settings...

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November 18, 2009 7:30:25 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I'm another one of the relatively 'old timers' who grew up with the same games. I wasn't fortunate enough to work on Total Annihilation, but I was around for its lifetime and was fairly active in keeping up with things. I really like Total Annihilation, I believe it to be one of the greatest games of all time. However, like all fans, I was annoyed at Cavedog for doings things like, not fixing trivial bugs, not keeping code legacy free, and not coming through with ambitious promises.

Some random examples:

  • Bomber scripts having the code for a metal cost per bomb, but not implemented.
  • AI not having working Antinukes, even though they could build them.
  • Pelican's base being below the waterline.
  • The "next week for sure" downloadable minelayers.


In many ways, Cavedog did make statements or lead fans to having expectations that weren't fulfilled. In bad games no one cares. However, in a great game like Total Annihilation (and by extension Demigods), it leads to aneurisms, backlash, and bad feelings for everyone.

I see the same sort of behavior from Gas Powered Games, arguable the heir to Cavedog (a spiritual child if not a direct descendant). I’ve looked at the Demigods LUA and the same sorts of things are visible (lots of legacy code and sloppy notations), ambitious promises for release schedule, and lack of implementation of simple bug fixes (even when fixes for the code is posted on this forum).

I’d imagine this is because GPG is a business built to make a product that performs within a certain tolerance, with an expected amount of players lost due to minor issues. As a company this make sense, why spend resources to change Sedna’s healing coefficient for level 3 priests when less than 5% of your buyers will care, and only a fraction of that would change their behaviors because of it. Even though I can understand why, as a fan this drives me crazy. I’m sure that most of the vocal posters on this board (and most of Stardock) probably feel the same way.

Stardock is having similar issues as Cavedog did back in the day. Ambitious exciting posts were made, some of which weren’t fulfilled. Many vocal fans backlashed because they felt they were promised and owed things that weren’t provided. Eventually Cavedog stopped communicating with the fans. In keeping up with Supreme Commander, Dungeon Siege, and Total Annihilation: Kingdoms, the same thing was evidence, the Creators no longer communicated. It was unfortunate; many fans appreciate the information and are very interested by it. However, the continual negative feedback destroyed the Creators motivations, self-esteem, and patience. It was somewhat tragic, but predictable.

Stardock (again) is having similar issues, but things are a bit more stable. Most of the products Stardock is involved with have a much more stable and mature fan base. Stardock also has a lot more flexibility in its public relations. If a forum Admin at Cavedog was to be honest with some of the bad behavior on the forum, he might be fired. In contrast, if Frogboy wants to enlighten some of the obnoxious twits on this forum, well, I’m sure Brad would forgive him (I’m pretty sure Brad would forgive most things that Frogboy does). I don’t recall if Ron Gilbert made any forum posts, but Frogboy isn’t shy around here. He might arguably be the main community representative (not that I’m dismissing kryo or anyone else’s work). The last thing that really makes a difference is the financial situation, even if Demigods never sold another unit (highly doubtful), it won’t change what Stardock does (for the most part). They are fans, that help create great stuff, and I’ll continue to buy it.

At the end of the day however, Demigods is still a great game. Demigods will still be fun. Demigods is still going to have a place on my hard drive.

P.S. Please leave in the code for Adding/Removing Demigods (i.e., Occulus and the Demon Assassin). Just commenting out the part that includes the new Demigods would be best. I’m going to mod them playable when I get 1.20, and I’d rather it be easy.

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November 18, 2009 7:31:15 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

nt

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November 18, 2009 7:57:36 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

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

 

If your recast is fast enough.

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November 18, 2009 8:03:06 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting -Sorian-,

Quoting gkrit, reply 25so we can have 2 ring of fires active at any one time?
 

If your recast is fast enough.

oh good. thank you.

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November 18, 2009 8:27:31 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting ,
...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...

any which way you look at it, WELL DONE! (when I grow up, I want to be a mutant too...)

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November 18, 2009 9:36:40 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.

Awesome. You are a hero to us all.  Well, except Torch Bearer players. To them, you will henceforth be known as Durloxith, the god of taking away of cool things.

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November 18, 2009 9:48:15 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Patch Thursday? >.>

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November 18, 2009 9:49:22 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

How good of a bonus would it be to have the demigods maybe appear if you pick random all?

Comeon GPG that would be kick ass!

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November 18, 2009 10:13:35 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
...you will henceforth be known as Durloxith, the god of taking away of cool things.

Whoa whoa whoa, wait a second, back it up, you guys can grant people Godhood? I knew I should've worked at Stardock!
*slams face into keyboard*

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November 18, 2009 11:40:38 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

The included mod, "Boots of better speed" was created by yours truly. I left some comments in the mod info file to help some of the newer modders. Anyone familiar with FA modding will be right at home.

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November 18, 2009 11:42:23 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

'How good of a bonus would it be to have the demigods maybe appear if you pick random all?'

rotfl How would you know how to play them? (oh guys give me 15 minutes to read thru all the skills descriptions so i will know what items i should get) seriusly either disable it completly or enable completly. No AI only demigods or restricted group of players demigods. This is pointless, since balancing is such huge, important and hard to get right factor i wont be suprised if new demigods would require a  bit of tweaking.

I am thinking the best way is to release as they are now to public. Then you would get all the feedback you would need in the world . maybe create new section in the forum regarding only balancing new demigods. Gather all sugestions, went thru them, fix what needed to be fixed and update. Then reset stats - since adding 2 new competive demigods is an important event and it will change the way people play the game it requires stats reset. Or maybe disable stats during 'comunity testiing' of new demigods and re enable them after balancing patches (if required, maybe u will get it right first time ) will be reeased.

I am really happy as most of the people here that comunication between stardock/gpg and users have been improved a lot lately.

"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."

this is funny one and made my day . I am happy to instal .91 demigod version on my pc to play againts any stardock/gpg workes. I only ask that i will be erebus and my enemy will pick any assasin demigod. Let me see you trying to fight off my way overpowered  bite (thank god this was fixed!) and my countless army of idol creeps(by buying,casting,selling totems u could get 4*2 priests, 4*2 siege unitis 4*2 mele units = 24 units!)+ 10 of my own night crawlers which i can make almost immortal with horn of battle and drain life!! Se if u guys gona like that game.

Poly i am hopping this week. I got really high hopes. Please if someone can elaborate on this dealay i think everyone would be glad to hear whats happening. Maybe release partial fix for now (such as items prices changes). I bet everyone wouldnt mind waiting for rest of the stuff (such as demigods, new balanced favors, tb tweaks, mods) is we would get desync fix right now. This is one of the most awaited fixes and would seriusly increase positive expierience from played games (last week i had about 10 desync games, some games not showing at all etc)>

Do as u like (u will anyway) we can only give sugestions.

Thanks again for comunicating. Keep it up.

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November 18, 2009 11:58:41 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

I am sorry to make and offtopic here, but the 1.2 post is locked

- Added support for ignoring players in-game. Supported commands: /ignore /squelch Please tell us (or at least me) more about this one. it is not clear to me.

Also other things i adressed in my posts before:

- will you give us option to make not ranked games in custom/multiplayer mode? as i said before it is critical to test coming mods, new builds, train noobs, fight ur own premade and many more.

-will moded games give you expierience and count towards rankings? This could give unfair advantage to people who are created mod over the first time users (i dont need to tell you how big advantage regulus gets when fog of war is switched off - i know its stupid example, but still example)

- are those favors will be still added?

Spirit of the Fallen: Assassin only
5000 Favor Points
1000 Health
8 Health Per Second

Haste Anklet: Assassin only
5000 Favor Points
17% Increased Movement Speed

-Consider changing cooldown on blood soaked wand from 2 seconds to 1 or instant. Seriusly 2 second cooldown is ruining this items, healing 1000hp is only usefull till lvl 12-15. So i think it deserves a little bit more tweaking. By doing this i think people will use this item a lot more, which will give us more valid builds.

Thanks i hope to hear from you guys soon

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November 19, 2009 12:12:59 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting ZehDon,

Quoting Frogboy, reply 35...you will henceforth be known as Durloxith, the god of taking away of cool things.
Whoa whoa whoa, wait a second, back it up, you guys can grant people Godhood? I knew I should've worked at Stardock!
*slams face into keyboard*
Yea I just recently became face god, god of all faces and faces of all gods.

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November 19, 2009 1:10:39 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Stardock is like the Salesforce.com of computer games.  They're so customer-focused it's almost weird, but part of that is that they see themselves as their own customer.  I love this type of corporate culture, and think it ends up making some truly remarkable products.

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November 19, 2009 2:11:44 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

All random would be awesome.  Everyone could play everything, instead of the same people picking the same thing every time.

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November 19, 2009 4:11:03 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting -Sorian-,
The included mod, "Boots of better speed" was created by yours truly. I left some comments in the mod info file to help some of the newer modders. Anyone familiar with FA modding will be right at home.

Why am I not surprised?

Quoting Makito1,

You left out Dead Space!

Im 17. Too young to play Dead Space ^^ (translate as I dont have it and neither do any of my mates)

Quoting Frogboy,

Awesome. You are a hero to us all.  Well, except Torch Bearer players. To them, you will henceforth be known as Durloxith, the god of taking away of cool things.

I wonder how long it would take to fill cataract with fire...
Could you release the 'bug' as a mod? ^^

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November 19, 2009 4:12:20 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting heavenlysynn,
Get rid of generals.... I ought to assassinate you!!!!!!

Oh and I loled at the irony

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November 19, 2009 7:48:58 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting -Sorian-,
The included mod, "Boots of better speed" was created by yours truly. I left some comments in the mod info file to help some of the newer modders. Anyone familiar with FA modding will be right at home.

Thanks, Sorian!  I was hoping there might be something available to give me a clue about modding!

Hmm... it's Thursday and SD can't wait to green light the patch for today... I'm sure of it...

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November 19, 2009 7:54:25 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

well its 12am here so ... doubting ill get the patch tonight (unless its been delayed again?).

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November 19, 2009 8:03:53 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

Quoting gkrit,
well its 12am here so ... doubting ill get the patch tonight (unless its been delayed again?).
What do you mean? Frogboy wanted to release it yesterday, but there were 2 bugs which prevented him from doing so. -Sorian- fixed it yesterday and GPG may have sent a new build to Stardock yesterday afternoon/evening (in their timezones). If so, Stardock could quickly check those things and release it today in the afternoon or evening.

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November 19, 2009 8:11:41 AM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

well its 12am friday here. so its hard for me to judge when things are actually going to happen. but seems like TB has had some sort of tweak (more like alteration which hasnt rlly changed much) with circle of fire (i think... coz i just checked it out and the cancelling happens differently).

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