Elemental War of Suckage: Was it Scrumfail?

I’m a huge advocate of scrum and agile project management, but there are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there that really don’t know jack shit about Scrum and have had a 2 day training but no real project experience, know less about Agile theory as a basis of why Scrum is what it is and can’t even spout the Agile Manifesto on command (sorry you HAVE to be able to do this if you think you know agile software development) and a lot of companies that try to dip their toes into it and get burned because they do not by any definition understand the fundamentals.   That said, a lot of game companies are moving to the scrum model, some Blizzard folks were at my training in March with Mike Cohn, and I can only assume Torchlight was managed via some form of scrum (I’d be very curious to confirm this if anyone knows).  So game companies have had success with the methods.

With the disasterous failure of the initial release of Elemental War of Magic basically tanking the game for now and the future (who will care about this in 18-24 months when it’s fixed?), I want to know if it was a game company trying to do Scrum for the first time, assuming that the rapid development and approval cycle would lead to a good game?  It’s tough to tell, but with the constant releases of screens and gameplay to the public early on, I’m betting this was a factor.  It’s not THE factor though: granted you had the owner of the company working as a developer, designer and product owner for the game per his admittance (honesty is nice to see in the industry), and that would taint any type of project method, whether waterfail or scrum.  Who on his team would tell him–” boy boss, this game sucks bad and is fundamentally not fun and lame and you tried to copy a game design from 1994 that sucked in the first place?” Only someone who is quitting that moment.  What’s more, because the team may have been doing scrum, team member happiness can be at it’s maximum possible during the development process– adding to the “this game will be great” pollyannishism because team members know what they need to do, what the goals are and have a massive level of autonomy to get their shit done (this makes good developers happy and the bad quit and go somewhere where they can be mediocre together with others via the Waterfail method).  We’ll have to keep watching to see if any clues drop as to their development methods.  Oh and see Keneda’s review here.

Elemental: Where’s The Magic?

Elemental: War of Magic is now about one week old and up to v1.06 and is no where near balanced or complete, but hey it doesn’t really crash anymore. This game is getting glowing reviews from hard core fans because in the future it will have good mods and will be patched by the developer to deliver on the idea that it is the spiritually successor to Master of Magic. What the flying fuck is wrong with people? $50, that is what you just paid for the hope that the game is functional some day. Bullshit.

Put simply, this game plays like a jokeshop of broken concepts. To prove how broken the game is I played several games where I purposely upgraded my military only and won handily over the computer. I ignored the other 4 tech trees completely, save for getting level 1 diplomacy for road building. I only cast summon spells and won. I didn’t use something like 50 or so other spells because they are completely POINTLESS. The only thing you need to win are superior numbers of units, that’s it. A player putting more points into magic is just wasting capital, military trumps magic EVERY FUCKING TIME.

3 years to make this game. The developer spent 3 years to make a shitty CIV clone with useless features.

So here is the feature list from the Elemental website along with my comments to help explain the reality behind this turd:

“A strategy game in an RPG world.”

The most limited RPG world because of the worst balancing problems EVER! You start the game with one “super” unit, your sovereign. This character has 8-10 stats you can lv up over the course of the game as you win battles. BUT only one stat allows you to gain mana and thus cast more spells per turn, breaking your choice of what to lv up. So you just put all your points into the mana stat every time you level. And then magic is really useless except for the summonable units, so what the fuck? BROKEN, zero RPG elements. You can give your character items, in fact you can give them UNLIMITED rings and necklaces that provide bonuses for combat. But who cares because you never really want to use your RPG style characters in combat, its MUCH better to just use the military units. BROKEN.

“Randomly Generated Maps.”

As far as I can tell this is true and works. The game has two modes for viewing the map, a 3d view and 2d view. You’ll quickly stop using the 3d view because of movement issues, you’ll think that you’re telling your units to move to one area, only to find you can’t click there or some other type of interface bullshit failure. So you switch to 2d view, which actually looks cool and works well, with minor “hey is that a spot I can move, click click click click, no, no i can’t move there? what the fuck? okay i guess i can’t move there”.

“10 Unique Factions.”

Doesn’t fucking matter! You can win with military only quickly and effectively every time, no diplomatic enemy will ever out diplomacy you. No AI will use magic to fend off your unit stack EVER. Factions = Fucked.

“In-Depth unit and character design.”

Character design that is unnecessary and clunky in implementation. Seriously you never need to design a custom unit ever.

“Tactical Battles.”

Fail! You only need to do one or two tac battles early on. once you get your unit stack up to 600+ attack you can beat anything without having to waste time in tac battles. There’s nothing of benefit in tac battles, zero.

“Rich, story-driven campaign developed by Random House’s Del Rey.”

AHAHAHAH this is a complete fucking joke. The campaign is boring and initially full of bugs. There is no sense of urgency in the campaign, so you can just sit back and build up your unit stack and once again steamroll through the fights with increasing boredom.

“Incredible replayability.”

No. Magic sucks, diplomacy is a jokeshop, RPG elements are meaningless, only military matters. There is so little to replay for it’s sad.

“Single player or Multiplayer (up to 16 players).”

Pretty sure multiplayer is still disabled/unimplemented I think. And if does work, who the fuck would want to try to play this busted ass unit stack vs. unit stack mess?

“Plays on very low end hardware.”

The maximum number of people can see how unbalanced and devoid of fun the game is.

“Takes advantage of the latest hardware.”

? To do what? What does it do on my new fast computer that is great? I had to turn of 3d map mode just to be able to see the map clearly and move my units around, the game forces you to play “low rez”, how is that taking advantage of the latest hardware?

“Massive modding support.”

Who cares about this now. I paid $50 for a fun, working game now.

“From the people who brought you Galactic Civilizations and Sins of a Solar Empire.”

I should have known Elemental was going to be all concept and zero delivery. I tried to play GC and couldn’t because it felt like shit. SoaSE, I tried to play the tutorial and got so fucking bored I quit. I’ve done that 3 times, what a bunch of fucking ass taco.