Shameful behavior on the part of PC Gamer

So a little set up. Stardock Software’s Elemental game launched on Tuesday. That was the official launch date, anyway. But some retailers started selling it early. Stardock proved the old adage “No good deed goes unpunished.” by deciding to let anyone who’d pre-ordered the game download a late beta copy and start playing it at the same time.

It was probably a misguided idea, because you only have one opportunity to make a first impression and beta software won’t do that for you.

Anyway, that’s kind of neither here nor there. Elemental is out, for good or bad. I’ve had fun with it, other people call it unplayable. So who knows.

PC Gamer’s Tom Francis had bad luck and wrote a post entitled Elemental�s disastrous launch: stay well away in which he basically said the game doesn’t work and you shouldn’t buy it. Fair enough so far: he reported his experience with the software. His experience was *vastly* different from mine, but whatever. The game didn’t run on his two systems and it ought to run for everyone, so his criticism of the game was valid, assuming he was running the final version and not that pre-release version (which I suspect he was, but again, I’ll leave that be).

Had he stopped there, I wouldn’t have reason to complain, but he used his criticisms of the game as a launch pad to attack Stardock’s Brad Wardell, twisting words and taking quotes out of context. Now, my sense is that Brad Wardell is not a person I’d want to sit around having a beer with. He’s shared some views over the years that I don’t really agree with. Not, y’know, Orson Card level stuff, but just things that gave me the sense that he’s a difficult guy to be around.

But I’m playing a game that he and a bunch of people made…I’m not dating the guy and I don’t think his personality is relevant when talking about a game.

Francis says:

They�re not even apologetic: CEO Brad Wardell says on the game�s site that they�re �definitely glad� people played the pre-patch version because of all the useful crash reports they got.

What Wardell said was:

As some of you know, some retailers broke the street date and to make sure our beta testers and pre-order customers didn�t get the short end of the stick, we released an interim build of Elemental (internally called Gold Edition++).

It turns out that this was a blessing in disguise because we have gotten a tremendous amount of useful feedback from those of you who got the game before release. The results of this comes in two parts.

The day 0 version, as most of you know, is the version that was originally expected to be the first version most people would ever play. We�re definitely glad, however, that people got to play the pre-day 0 builds because we got a lot of very useful feedback and some crash reports that were not known about.

In context is sounds quite different, doesn’t it? No, they aren’t apologetic…they’re grateful that fans d/led the early version and helped them identify some bucks that they could squash for the launch day patch.

But Francis didn’t stop there. Oh no! Instead he went to a 3rd party forum ( where Wardell hangs out, singled out 1 post from a long and heated thread and used it to back up his attack on Wardell. Wardell has 2,272 posts on that site…clearly it’s his hang-out spot. It’s a damned shame that a game developer can’t use his real name on online forums without fearing someone using anything he says against him.

So the reaction to this post was pretty much the same reaction you’d get by throwing bloody chum into shark-infested waters. Stardock has now displaced Activision as The Ultimate Evil of Gaming and people are saying they’ll never buy another Stardock game because of Wardell’s attitude.

So great, everyone who works for Stardock loses because Francis has a stick up his ass about Brad Wardell. Oh, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun jumped in on the action too, doing what they could to fan the flames.

Now Wardell’s outburst on QuarterToThree wasn’t the smartest thing a person has ever done. But he did man up to it and issued an apology. I’m not sure what more you can ask of a person than that they apologize publicly, in a case like this.

Hours later, PC Gamer did add, without comment, a link to Wardell’s apology post. Rocket, Paper, Shotgun couldn’t be bothered, apparently.

Y’know what? Gaming is a fucked up industry. Francis’s post is irresponsible and unfair, in my opinion (again, not talking about his criticism of the GAME here). But what’s sadder is how many gamers, or at least commenters, jump right into the mayhem without pausing to try to learn the whole story. How quickly the mob turns. How fickle we are.

The whole issue has been incredible disappointing to me.

But I guess this is what gamers want. The other day on Twitter someone accused gaming journalists of just being there to provide free marketing to game companies. I tell you what, if the other option is this kind of hatchet job against individuals, I’ll take marketing. At least it focuses on the games.

Also check out Darren’s take on the situation at Common Sense Gamer.

Update: Looks like Rock, Paper, Shotgun finally caught up with events. Not that it’ll undo the damage they’ve already done.

7 thoughts on “Shameful behavior on the part of PC Gamer

  1. Game’s journalism is an interesting creature. Sometimes hard to separate marketing out as so much info has to be banded from the studios, not nearly enough space for real investigation.

    As for elemental, definitely still going to pick that up. I was sold when they announced it just from loving Sins of a Solar Empire. Initial twitter feedback sealed the deal. If only my new machine would ship so I can run it.

  2. Great post. The gaming industry do eat our young. It’s a shame that some games never get a fair chance because of a simple PR mistake or a broken street date.

    Someone tries to do the right thing for their customers and for their trouble they are crucified. Game journalism is truly some of the most mean-spirited out there short or political. Or maybe not.

  3. Just for the record, I played about 150 turns into the campaign tonight on the ‘Day zero’ patch and had no crashes, glitches or other problems… and had a blast. Been a while since I sank my teeth into a good turn-based strategy game!

  4. I am one of those people who found a bug with the 0 day patch. Lemme tell you how it went down:

    In the campaign, I was unable to progress. I mentioned this on Twitter, which was picked up by Stardock stongman Zoomba who asked for me details. i explained, he identified a “quest completion out of ourder bug” and asked for my save game file. I emailed it to him, and he routed it to the dev team.

    Had this been another company, here’s how it would have gone down:

    In the campaign, I was unable to progress. I mentioned this on Twitter, but heard nothing from anyone. I went to the forums, where I found I was not the only person with this issue. The thread was over ten pages long about this single issue, and there was no word from the developers or anyone official from the company. We have no idea when or if this will be fixed, so at this point I can’t continue the campaign.

    Which scenario sounds more familiar? Which experience makes you want to side with the company?

    I’ve received FULL REFUNDS from Stardock when software I purchase from them did not work. Contrast that to “other” digital distribution networks where I’ve seen a game go ON SALE the day after I bought it from them, only to be told, basically, to “go fuck myself” after I inquired about the possibility of getting the sale price since I had JUST purchased it the day before (a practice that most brick and mortar retailers have been doing for decades at least).

    Stardock has ALWAYS done right by me, personally, since the days when I first purchased my Object Desktop subscription many, many years ago. I don’t usually subscribe to personalities, so I can’t speak to Wardell’s or his behavior except to say that people make mistakes and may shoot their mouths off, but rarely do we see them publicliy apologizing for them (I’m looking at you, Mr Dr Smart).

    No game releases in perfect conditkon. None. Elemental is NOT unplayable. I switched over to free play until my issue can be addressed, and I’m OK with that because I’m purchased to play the GAME , not just a narrow sliver of it’s featureset. I’m mature enough to wait patiently, un,ike this PC Gamer dbag who apparently can’t be bothered to actually, you know, TRY to play and review from the point of view of a consumer and not

  5. It’s unfortunate that gamers are having issues with Elemental, but the writer of that pcgamer article was way out of line in my opinion. It’s one thing to express frustration over trying to play a game they want to enjoy, but to try and steer gamers away from the game with an article that’s not suppose to be a review is plain wrong.

  6. While there’s no arguing that some people have experienced bugs, I’ve not seen any issues myself yet except for some slugishness in the UI, but I’ve only played the campaign mode so far. That said, I was pretty surprised at the tone of the PC Gamer article, it read more like something I’d expect to see on Eurogamer. RPS picked it up to in a similar manner and was just as surprising to see there as well.

    Ironically, my PC Gamer subscription is up so and I had a resubscribe form sitting on my desk.

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