Tuesday, April 21, 2009


One of my new distractions from painting is the computer game Demigod. There's been a good deal of controversy over this game due to the low ratings it's been getting from reviewers. The controversy is because it's generally felt by a lot of people that the ratings are undeservedly low as a result of problems that the developers had no control over, and which are rapidly being fixed.

Specifically, Gamestop screwed up and released the game early. This wouldn't have been a big deal except that the game is designed to primarily be an online multiplayer game, and the servers weren't quite ready yet when Gamestop began to release the game. The result is that the servers got hit hard and weren't able to handle the load. This was multiplied by the piracy issue, but I'll get into that later. So, game reviewers are panning the game for the poor server experience, but the poor server experience wasn't the fault of the developers, and is already much improved. Unfortunately, those low scores will stay on the websites and the averages will stay on the aggregators regardless of how irrelevant they become, which is bound to hurt sales of the game.

That's a shame, because the game is actually pretty good. The easiest way to sum up the game is to describe it as DotA-like. DotA (Defense of the Ancients) is an extremely popular mod for the RTS game Warcraft III where each player controls a single powerful character instead of a whole army. That character levels up during the game, and players also have the opportunity to buy equipment in the game that further enhances their character.

The game can be a lot of fun, but also has a freaking huge learning curve before you stop getting your ass handed to you in random pickup matches. The result can be very un-fun for beginners.

Demigod has fewer character options than DotA, making it a lot easier to learn. Otherwise, it shares a lot of the same gameplay elements. Each game has two sides (light and dark), and the goal is to work together to defeat the other side. Depending on the type of match, that can be by destroying their citadel, destroying all their forts, earning enough points from capturing and holding flags, or killing enough opposing characters. The characters earn cash and experience by defeating other characters, capturing flags, killing "creeps" (weak characters controlled by the computer), and destroying buildings belonging to the opposing side. Whenever a character gains a level they get to choose either a new ability or an upgrade to an existing ability. The maximum level is 20, but each character has more than 20 options, so there are multiple ways you can build each character.

In addition to levelling, you can also improve your character by spending the cash they earn. They can buy items that increase their abilities, or they can purchase upgrades to their citadel which helps the whole team by buffing your side's creeps or buildings or some other team-wide effect.

There's a bit more to it than that, but I don't want to get into too much detail. Hopefully that's enough to give a good idea of how it plays.

So far I've only played one vs. game and it was against a friend, the rest of the times have been solo or coop against the computer. All these experience have been fun, and I suggest ignoring the negative reviews and giving it a try if the gameplay sounds appealing.

Fair warning, there are still some server issues. For the most part we've had minor delays, but there was one point where we had a lot of trouble getting a game going, and it ended up taking around ten minutes from the point we started setting it up to the point we actually started playing. This only happened once though, and after you're in the game things run smoothly as long as no one has their game settings too high for their computer.

Now, about the piracy. At one point Stardock (the game's publisher) calculated that they had many times the number of illegitimate copies hitting their servers as they did legitimate copies. This is bad. Stardock is one of the few major companies that offers minimal copy protection (actually they have no copy protection on the disc itself, but require a CD key in order to patch or access certain online functions). I don't have to keep the CD in the drive when playing a Stardock game, and I would like it to stay that way. To all the asshats who pirated the game simply because they were too cheap to buy it, a big middle finger from me to you.

That said, I think there was probably a significant portion of the "pirates" that were actually people who had pre-ordered, or intended to buy the game, from somewhere other than Gamestop. When they heard about the fact that Gamestop had broke the street date and that there were already people playing the game, they went ahead and torrented a copy, figuring that it wasn't really pirating since they still planned to buy the game.

Unfortunately, this did two things. The first is that it probably inflated the number of actual "pirates," making it more likely that Stardock might review its policy on DRM in the future, the second is that the poor online experience due to the early and unexpected load on the servers probably caused some to reconsider their purchase of the game despite the good gameplay.

In any case, the whole fiasco between the unfairly poor reviews, the Gamestop idiocy and the torrenting freeloaders is what inspired me to write about what is in reality a pretty fun game, despite the bad publicity.

No comments:

Post a Comment