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Stardock CEO Apologizes For Elemental's "Catastrophic" Launch

by Adam Biessener on Sep 02, 2010 at 11:05 AM



In a rare display of candor from a developer, Stardock CEO and Elemental lead designer Brad Wardell posted a heartfelt mea culpa on the company's website. In the missive, Wardell takes personal responsibility for the game's unpolished state on its August 24 launch.

"There will be massive consequences for Stardock's game studio. I'll be talking more about this when I get back. But the game wasn't released early. The game was released poorly." Wardell writes. "The point is, the issue here is far far worse than many of you think it is. I wish it was an issue of the game being released too early. That's an easy thing for a company to 'fix.'  Elemental's launch is the result of catastrophic poor judgment on my part."

As disappointed as I am in Elemental at this point – it was vying for "most anticipated game of the year" with Civilization V in my heart for a while there – this is an encouraging sign. Wardell's apology doesn't automatically mean that the game will become something great someday, but it's a step in the right direction.

I've never seen a current employee say the kind of things that Wardell does in this forum post, much less a CEO. Stardock built a reputation as a developer/publisher that runs its business with the consumer's best interests at heart, having faith that the goodwill gamer-friendly policies creates pays dividends far beyond their cost. Maybe Wardell's comments here mean a recommitment to that philosophy. I certainly hope so.

Wardell's post in full:

(I'm up north on vacation typing on an extremely slow connection so bear with me)

I don't think people yet fully realize the completeness of Stardock's fail on Elementa'ls launch.

I'm going to write more about this but not only did we think v1.05 was ready for everyone but we felt v1.0 was too. That's the level of disconnect/poor judgment on our part we're talking about.

If the game had come out in February, it would still have been a disastrous launch because lack of time wasn't the issue. It was blindness, sheer blindness.  We felt the game was finished. And I speak of v1.0, not v1.05.  Blindness.

There will be massive consequences for Stardock's game studio.  I'll be talking more about this when I get back. But the game wasn't released early. The game was released poorly. Head in the sand syndrome imo.  I've read the reviews as much as possible given my hideous internet access up here and I agree with them. We just didn't see what they were talking about. We thought any complaints would be about polish points or something.

The point is, the issue here is far far worse than many of you think it is. I wish it was an issue of the game being released too early. That's an easy thing for a company to 'fix.'  Elemental's launch is the result of catastrophic poor judgment on my part.

EVERY competent software developer knows that the programmer must never be the one deciding whether the program is done. Yet, my love of Elemental broke my self discipline and I began coding on the game itself in vast amounts and lost any sense of objectivity on where the game's state was. I normally only program the AI on our games so I can keep a level of distance from the game itself to determine whether it's 'Ready.' On Elemental, I was in love with the world and the game and lost my impartiality.

We'll do better.