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 (quartertothree.com) 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.