Thu, Jan 31st 2013 8:09pm
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Oct 30th 2012 11:50am
Game Publisher Stardock Apologizes To Its Customers For Releasing A Subpar Game... By Giving Them Its Latest Game Free
from the well-played,-sir dept
On the bright side, good news travels equally fast when companies do the right thing and take care of their customers. This is one of those all-too-rare occasions when a company goes above and beyond what anyone expects and turns customers into lifelong fans.
The Consumerist has an amazing story of customer service gone exactly right. The company is Stardock, the publisher behind "Elemental: War of Magic," a strategy game that was released as a buggy mess a couple of years back. This (unfortunately) isn't unusual. Games get rushed to market for several reasons and end users are left to either deal with something nearly unplayable or install patch after patch to get their brand new purchase up and running. So, while screwed up releases may not be unusual, what followed absolutely is. Customers who purchased "Elemental" received a letter from the CEO of Stardock that not only apologized for releasing a lousy game, but actually offered something way more valuable than lip service:
Dear Stardock customer,Not only is it highly unusual for developers to apologize for crafting an underpar game, it's even more unusual for them to take the extra step and offer their latest game absolutely free. Wardell takes advantage of the technology at hand to keep the affected users from having to make any effort on their part to get their replacement game ("It's already been added to your account...")
My name is Brad Wardell. I’m the President & CEO of Stardock. Two years ago, you bought a game from us called Elemental: War of Magic. We had great hopes and ambitions for that game but, in the end, it just wasn’t a very good game.
Elemental was an expensive game. You probably paid $50 or more for it. And you trusted us to deliver to you a good game. $50 is a lot of money and companies have a moral obligation to deliver what they say they’re going to deliver and frankly, Stardock failed to deliver the game we said we were going to deliver…
Its design just wasn’t adequate to make it into the kind of game it should be. So we decided to start over. From scratch. We made a new game called Fallen Enchantress.
So even though it’s been two years, we haven’t forgotten about you. This week, we released Fallen Enchantress. It is a vastly better game and, we believe, lives up to the expectations set for the original Elemental. This game is yours. Free. It’s already been added to your account…
Thank you for being our customers and your patience.
President & CEO
Stardock realizes that each game its customers purchase takes a bit of their time and money, and both commodities are in limited supply. This gesture doesn't ask for any more of those two commodities, and goes a long way towards securing something else only available in limited quantities: trust.
Wardell and Stardock are investing in their own future by taking care of their customers now. By doing the unexpected, fans who were burned by "Elemental" will be more likely to take a look at Stardock's upcoming offerings. And even if they felt "Elemental" wasn't that bad, hey... free game! How often does that happen? Either way, a ton of goodwill and positive word-of-mouth is being generated, something no company can purchase.
Fri, Oct 19th 2012 11:37am
from the arbitrary-guidelines-are-the-best dept
Take for instance the recent discovery that Microsoft plans to limit the games made available through its Windows Store and Metro UI. In a broader piece on what a closed Windows 8 platform means for developers, Casey Muratori highlights one of the strict and ultimately contradictory restrictions on game content. Using the 2011 Game of the Year, Skyrim, as a hypothetical Windows 8 candidate, Casey asks the question, would it be allowed on the Windows store and Metro UI.
Because no software can ship on this future platform without it going through the Windows Store, the team that built Skyrim would have to send it to Microsoft for certification. Then Microsoft would tell them if they could ship it.Unfortunately, Casey does not highlight the contradictory nature of this arbitrary rule -- what if a game has both an M rating by the ESRB and an 18 rating by PEGI, as Skyrim does. What will Microsoft do? Will it block the game entirely, region-restrict it to only ESRB regions or make an exception to its own rule and allow it for all the world? These are the kinds of questions that frustrate developers. Apple has had its fair share of arbitrary enforcement of content restrictions and you would think that Microsoft would at least attempt to learn from that example.
Do you know what Microsoft's answer would be?
I do. It would be "no".
This is not speculative; it is certain. Skyrim is a game for adults. It has a PEGI rating of 18. If you read the Windows 8 app certification requirements you will find, in section 5.1:
"Your app must not contain adult content, and metadata must be appropriate for everyone. Apps with a rating over PEGI 16, ESRB MATURE, or that contain content that would warrant such a rating, are not allowed."
And that's the end of it. No Skyrim for the Windows Store, unless of course the developers go back and remove all the PEGI 18-rated content.
To further highlight the problem with this restriction, Casey lists four games that are in competition to be 2012's Game of the Year. Of those four games, none would be allowed on Windows 8 for the same reason, they got an ESRB M rating and a PEGI 18 rating. Microsoft has set itself up to exclude some of the best selling games of the future. Hardly a way to attract the support of developers.
by Michael Ho
Thu, Oct 11th 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- French researchers are working on software that can learn how to play a game just by watching humans play -- and their software has mastered games like tic-tac-toe and connect4. More complex games like chess are a bit too difficult, but maybe someday learning algorithms will be able to take on arbitrary games. [url]
- Playing Rock-Paper-Scissors with a robot hand doesn't sound like a particularly winnable game -- especially when the robot cheats all the time. This robot only takes about a millisecond to detect what a human hand will play, so the only winning strategy for humans is to try to come up with deceptive ways to play RPS. [url]
- A panel of judges couldn't tell the difference between a computer player and a human player in an Unreal tournament (in a strange kind of Turing test). Non-player characters controlled by algorithms are getting more and more human-like, and pretty soon humans won't even need to play video games anymore.... [url]
Fri, Sep 21st 2012 4:39pm
from the it-wasn't-me,-it-was-the-one-armed-man dept
In the first filing, Zynga moves to have a bunch of language from EA's filings stricken as it feels that much of it is "redundant, immaterial, impertinent and/or scandalous." It feels that a lot of the information presented, such as third party disputes, games and comments that do not pertain to EA's specific claims of copyright infringement, are simply included to paint Zynga in as negative a light as possible.
Zynga also specifically rejects the idea that The Ville infringes The Sims Social by attempting to show that much of what EA claims to be infringing is either a natural part of a life sim or part of an evolution in design of other Zynga created games. This can be found in the second filing in which Zynga shows successive screen shots of its games YoVille, Cafe World and The Ville. Each with very similar UI elements.
Next, Zynga brings in a comparison of Zynga's CityVille and EA's SimCity Social games. It does so to highlight that even EA gives in to tropes and design choices common to the genre it works in. Coming off this, Zynga makes the claim that this lawsuit is nothing more than EA's response to being unable to compete in the social gaming marketplace.
Finally, we have the third filing in which Zynga makes its most bold claim yet.
Zynga claims that EA CEO John Riccitiello wanted to establish an illegal "no-hire" agreement with Zynga that would prevent the company from hiring employees away from EA. The filing says Riccitiello had grown upset that many EA employees had moved over to Zynga, and had gone "on the war path" to put an end to the talent bleed.If Zynga's accusation is true, then EA's attempt at establishing such an agreement is serious business. These types of agreements, in which the companies agree not to hire anyone that applies, if they work for the competing company, and will often report the employee to his/her boss, are generally very bad for workers and quite possibly illegal.
The company also says EA filed its lawsuit in August not because it believes Zynga copied The Sims Social, but because the company wanted to discourage its employees from jumping ship.
These agreements are so serious that the Department of Justice had been investigating a number of tech companies, including Apple and Google, for this practice back in 2010 with evidence finally surfacing earlier this year.
Of course, EA believes this claim by Zynga is just a smokescreen.
This is a predictable subterfuge aimed at diverting attention from Zynga's persistent plagiarism of other artists and studios. Zynga would be better served trying to hold onto the shrinking number of employees they've got, rather than suing to acquire more.Regardless of whether these claims are true or not, this shows just how far this legal dispute could go over the coming months. Here we have two powerhouse game companies fighting over something that really in the end will have no bearing on the future of the games industry.
In the end, what do we actually get out of dragging two companies' reputations through the mud? What will either company get out of winning this lawsuit? If EA wins, it will get to claim that it slayed the big bad cloning monster and Zynga will slink away and only clone the games of much smaller companies. If Zynga wins, the games industry as it is now will continue forward exactly as it had been. Either way, nothing substantial will change. So again, what's the point?
by Michael Ho
Mon, Jul 30th 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Various economic figures can be used to try to predict how many medals each country will earn in 2012. The USA is expected to get somewhere between 99 and 113 medals, and China is predicted to come in second place with 67-98 medals. [url]
- The London Eye will be lit up like a mood ring during the Olympics, based on Tweets and a bit of sentimental analysis to gauge positive and negative commentary of the Games. The analysis is sponsored by an energy company, so it'll be watching for words like "Olympics", "London 2012" and the hashtag #energy2012. [url]
- Researchers from the Center for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK will be studying the 2012 games to look for significant changes in athletic performance. They've developed a "performance improvement index" to quantify things like: how sprinters are running faster than ever before or that javelin throwers are in a performance plateau. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 15th 2012 5:31pm
Interesting Strategy: Rockstar Games To Dump Cheaters Into A Game Where They Only Play Other Cheaters
from the trolls-with-trolls dept
Anyone found to have used hacked saves, modded games, or other exploits to gain an unfair advantage in Max Payne 3 Multiplayer, or to circumvent the leaderboards will be quarantined from all other players into a "Cheaters Pool", where they'll only be able to compete in multiplayer matches with other confirmed miscreants. In the event we decide to absolve any of these cheaters for their past transgressions they may re-enter play with the general public, however a second offense will result in their indefinite banishment. In either case, we will be removing invalid leaderboard entries to ensure that the players at the top of the charts have earned their spots fairly.I am a little curious about the appeals process (it would be awesome if they built an in-game courtroom...), but overall, the solution seems a lot more sensible than outright bans. While some are wondering if some players may prefer this "Cheaters Pool," I don't see how that's a problem. It basically allows Rockstar to offer two different versions of the game, in which the skills required are slightly different.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, May 31st 2012 7:31pm
from the better-than-ever dept
We've been following the Humble Bundle for a while, both because it's an interesting business model experiment and because the games are awesome. For the uninitiated: the Humble Bundle is a pay-what-you-want package of cross-platform, DRM-free indie games that gets re-issued regularly with a new selection of games plus a bunch of extras like soundtracks and concept art. Each package is available for a limited time, and the proceeds are split between the developers, selected charities and the people who organize the Bundles. They have pulled some impressive revenue numbers in the past, and the most recent bundle has yet again broken records, raising $1-million in the first five hours.
In some ways, the Humble Bundle is a "give it away and pray" approach, and not necessarily a model for the entire industry—but it also serves as a fantastic example of how to connect with fans and encourage them to spend money. Firstly, all games included in Humble Bundles are DRM-free and available for Windows, MacOS and Linux. Secondly, they put a lot of emphasis on the fact that your money is going straight to the developers and the charities—and they give you precise control over exactly how it is divided up. Thirdly, they offer added reasons to spend more than the minimum one cent: for $1 dollar you get a key to unlock the game on Steam, and there is usually a bonus game or two (or more) that is only available if you pay more than the average contribution (which of course also serves to keep pushing the average contribution up). That feeds into another great tactic: they reveal a bunch of live-updated stats about the Bundle as it sells, including sales and average contribution breakdowns by OS (notably, Linux users always have the highest average) and a leaderboard of top contributors. The leaderboard has regulars, too, like Minecraft developer notch, and the "HumbleBrony Bundle" (a group that does a collective fundraising effort within the Brony community), both of whom contribute to the tune of thousands.
All of this clearly works well to encourage participation and support, as the ever-growing numbers confirm. The current Bundle still has nearly two full weeks to go, and with such a huge rush in the first day, it's sure to be the biggest one ever.
by Michael Ho
Thu, May 31st 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Educational apps are on every platform, but should parents really expect to pay more than couple bucks for a kid's app? Parents should also remember to make sure their kids can't rack up huge bills from in-app purchases. [url]
- Experience points instead of grades sounds like an interesting idea, but a 4.0 grading scale is a much more established system -- and it's a bit more standardized. Prof Sheldon notes, "There will always be a portion of the class who will not be motivated to learn no matter what an instructor may try..." [url]
- Can every class be taught as a video game? There are a bunch of startups like DimensionU that are going to find out soon enough. [url]
- To discover more interesting education-related content, check out what's currently floating around the StumbleUpon universe. [url]
by Leigh Beadon
Tue, May 22nd 2012 5:10am
from the how-nice-of-them dept
Of the many misguided DRM restrictions that software developers have employed over the years, "limited activations" are among the most arbitrary and bizarre. In an attempt to avoid the simple fact that all software is infinitely copiable, developers release software that can only be installed a limited number of times—supposedly striking a balance between multiple legitimate installations (someone with multiple machines, or who simply goes through computers quickly) and the fact that many people will lend the disc to a friend. Of course, such a balance is impossible: there's no upper limit on how many times some purchasers might need to legally install the software, and there's no lower limit on how many additional copies can be allowed before some people will give them away. Any number you choose is at worst completely meaningless, and at best a very weak compromise.
Rikuo sends in a good example of this: to celebrate the release of the game Crysis 3, the studio has raised the activation limit on the original Crysis from 5 to 50. It seems like a nice gesture, but it doesn't really make any sense—why not just remove the limit entirely? The game is nearly four years old and cracked copies are easy enough to obtain, and it seems like they aren't that worried about piracy, since otherwise I don't imagine they'd make the limit so high. But the real slap in the face is that, when you get down to it, this is still them restricting your legitimate use to their arbitrary terms. Rikuo sums it up:
On the surface, this is good news. But, when you stop to think about it, it gets silly. Here's why.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who ran into the limit. Suddenly, this game we had dropped good money on, no longer worked. I and others are constantly swapping in and out PC components, or upgrading to entirely new systems. Each and every time this happens, it eats up an activation. So, for a good while, we had a game that by intentional design, refused to work. Now, all of a sudden, Crytek has graciously said, yes, you can play the game. This is quite simply obnoxious. When you get right down to it, Crytek held our games hostage and only now is letting us play them again.
We are the people who play Crysis on PC. To do so, you need a powerful system. To have a powerful system, we are more than likely the type who are constantly buying new components, buying new systems. We absolutely HATE IT when we have a game that refuses to work simply because we bought one computer too many, or swapped out our graphics card or CPU one too many times. When that happens, we have to spend time hunting down a crack from dodgy websites, virus-scanning them to make sure they're safe and then running them.
Crytek, do not hold our games hostage. It may seem like a good thing that now we can install the game 50 times, but its still a finite limit. Things happen. Windows could crash and I might end up having to reinstall it. I could get new components or a new computer. When considering new purchases, I do not want to have to keep track of how many times I'm allowed to play the games I've bought. I do not want to have to wait for you to say "Oh, ok then, since you've been good and bought Crysis 2, I'll allow you to play the first game again". That is not how it should be. I've already paid for the first game, my ability to run it should not be contingent on the reveal of another game being in development.
Indeed. Once again, the only people the DRM affects are legitimate consumers—and they are forced to dive into the pirate ecosystem for cracks even though they didn't pirate the game. Adding a zero to the already-arbitrary activation limit doesn't mitigate this insult to customers so much as it rubs it in.