Another new game is released with obvious bugs and glaring issues. This time it’s Sword of the Stars 2 that is the latest new release to be plagued with multiple release problems, with issues ranging from missing features to the beta version being uploaded for distribution on release day!
These days, many new PC games and more than a few console games are released in a state that requires immediate patching before the game can even be played. It has become a common occurrence and one which, while lamented, is rapidly becoming common in this day and age. However a game publisher releasing the beta version of a game and saying it’s the final release : well, that’s a little different.
That is exactly what Paradox and Kerberos did to fans of the Sword of the Stars two days ago when the newest iteration, Sword of the Stars 2, was released with little fanfare via Steam. Little fanfare? The fanfare was so minor that not one member of the gaming press has received a review copy. Within hours the forums of Steam, Paradox and Kerberos were being inundated with complaints about bugs, crashes, slow gameplay and missing features. It seems that somehow the wrong build got uploaded onto the Steam servers by Kerberos, and instead of the brand new release build players got a 14 day old, pre-beta 5 GB uncompressed build of SOTS2. Understandably, the fans were not impressed, and theories began to appear about the state of the game and the lack of publicity for it.
Kerberos and Paradox both swung into action quickly, placating fans by uploading a new build of the game to Steam by midnight the same day. Now this should have been the end of it – the correct release build uploaded and Steam automatically updating customers installs. Instead however, it was found that the release build was not much of a improvement from the beta version customers had already received. The supposed release build had almost as many crashes and bugs as the first build, and many fans were complaining it still felt like a beta version. Comparisons were made to Master of Orion 3 : fans of that game will remember how disappointing that game was at release.
So now Kerberos and Paradox have some very disgruntled customers to deal with, and it remains to be seen as to whether they can rectify the damage done so far. Many customers are demanding refunds already, however both companies appear to be putting in the overtime trying to rectify the situation.
Paradox Interactives CEO put up a post on the Paradox forums acknowledging the issues with the game and pledging that “I can personally guarantee we will work on the game until it works as it should be, and in the meantime all I can say is that we should have done this better.”
Kerberos’ CEO Martin Cirulis also came out with his own humble post explaining how the whole situation was unacceptable and effectively his own fault. He stated “When the switch got thrown on the wrong build, costing many of you an extra big download and letting loose an extra buggy code base, I was in traffic instead of giving the yay or nay myself.” Kudos to him for accepting the blame and realizing exactly where the buck stops.
However Cirulis also pointed out exactly how bad the state of Sword of the Stars 2 is in, “Thanks to various factors we are now sitting on top of a pile of blown apart code and unstable features,” and that they will be putting in major effort to get the game up to scratch with “2 or 3 updates a week over the next month or so”. He also stated that Kerberos will be going perhaps a little further than expected to make it up to their customer base when he said “what I can tell you is that by the end of this period you WILL have more additional content than you would have under more ideal circumstances. Every update will go out with some thank you for your patience…some badges, extra maps, new nose art, more background entries.”
While those sort of promises may make the more cynical minded gamer roll his eyes, those who remember the release of the first Sword of the Stars game will recall the mixed reviews that game garnered before latter patches and expansions made the game into one of the biggest 4X games ever, and Cirulis has pledged that same level of support for SOTS2. However he isn’t naive enough to believe that such promises and compensations will please all players of the game and has openly acknowledged such, “If you demand a refund then I completely understand and you can be assured, the cost of that will make it directly to us. We will feel your ‘voting with your dollars’, you can be sure about that and we accept that as fair play.”
The mood on the forums now is very mixed, with fan attitudes ranging from pledging their patience and support, to others demanding refunds. The general consensus however is that there is a great game in there somewhere just waiting to get out. So now the ball is well and truly in Kerberos court. The question is, will the fans stay around enough to give Kerberos a chance to actually shoot for goal?