Dear Diary

The Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords Website (thanks Frans) has an update on what's going on at Stardock now that their space strategy sequel is shipping. They describe the time their employees have been volunteering to cope with the surprising demand for the game, along the way offering a little insider gaming knowledge that seemed a bit startling: "To put things in perspective, my friend at Blizzard told me that they have over 1,500 people who just do support. Not art. Not coding. Just customer support."
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14.
 
Ouch
Feb 27, 2006, 22:21
14.
Ouch Feb 27, 2006, 22:21
Feb 27, 2006, 22:21
 
Jeez Fourpak, you really got roasted. But what you did say was kinda stupid. Sure, they came in without pay, but in the end it's THEIR product that's on the shelves. Not the company's.

I think that if Galciv2 sells well, there's probably a nice bonus in it for those guys. But in the end, why not come in on your day off to make sure that the game gets out the door well? If you're willing to put in 100 hour weeks, coming in to help box shit up seems mild by comparison.

Cliff, I found this on today's journal, regarding crashes. Don't know how true it is, I run the game with everything turned to max, and I don't notice my GPU getting hot really, but then again I run a pretty massively cooled system.

You might want to check your GPU temp?



As some have noticed, we've been pretty much living in the forums. The support team has been keeping statistical track of how many users run into problem X, Y, Z.

In our non-game stuff, any serious problem that affects more than 1% of the user base is considered serious. Anything that affects more than 5% of the user base is considered critical.

One problem that has fit just over the serious but just below the critical has been game crashes. And the logs have confused us because they don't make sense. Why would these people have the game crash? Crashing should be reproduceable to some extent.

And yet, here we are with about 2.5% of users running into interittent crashing.

The update (1.0D1) made the game better for most people because it fixed bugs that were found. But for some people, it actually crashes on them more than 1.0D - digital release). Why? We had done some performance optimizations but it's really straight forward stuff.

But then..

Hmm...

During development, one of our mantras was to force everyone to run and test on lower end hardware so that we could "know their pain". Too many games come out these days that require state of the art hardware to run. So we mostly played and tested on lower end hardware. (not exclusively by any means, I did all my AI testing on a state of the art machine with an ATI X1800 in it).

But we noticed something in the logs -- most of the people who had these random crashing issues had really REALLY good computers. A statistical anomaly. A couple of people noted that the game runs their GPU very hot. VERY hot.

This week I've been playing the game and monitored the temperature on my ATI Control Panel applet (which, coincidentally, is built using licensed Stardock technology from the other side of the company ). My GPU's temperature was 85C! That's really hot!

But it's no biggie for me. I have a Dell, it's got 50 fans on it. But what would happen on a machine that wasn't as well vented? I know what would happen: The game would start crashing -- randomly. And it would happen relatively quickly because it reaches that high temperature within 10 minutes give or take.

So why don't other games do this? That depends on the game of course. Some games, like Halo, throttle their FPS. Other games simply don't use nearly as many video card features do.

I know strategy games are notorious for crappy graphics, but GalCiv II uses it all. I mean ALL OF IT. Specular Lighting? Check. Bump Mapping? Check. Zillions of lighting passes? Check. Stuff I don't even begin to understand? Check.

If you read the entry that showed a screenshot of that Bird of Prey in teh game, that should tell you somethign about the engine. One of my graphics guys told me that model may have over a million polygons.

The art team found a whole bunch of Star Trek models that were designed for video production (i.e. NOT for being displayed in real time). They literally had 20 different ships in the game, each with an absurd number of polies. They ran. To put it in perspective, a typical ship in GalCiv II only has around 600 polygons. So there is a lot of room to grow.

Which brings us back to our heating problem. What can be done? The answer it seems to me is frame rate throttling. So that's what I did:

if(ulElapsedMilliSeconds < 10 && bThrrotleOoption == TRUE)
Sleep(5);
EnterCriticalSection(&g_csD3DDevice);
Draw3D();
LeaveCriticalSection(&g_csD3DDevice);

By doing this, my temperature stayed at around a more normal 65C. We could probably be even more stringent. I mean, if the time between the last frame is less than 10 that means the game's running at >100fps. Realistically, anything over say 40 to 50fps is probably pointless.

But this way, people's machines will stay cooler. And there will be another benefit: Laptop users again. I'd like to put in a thing that lets us REALLY throttle it for low power usage. I.e. >25fps is throttled (optionally). This way, I could play the game on my ThinkPad all the way from Michigan to California on a plane trip.


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13.
 
No subject
Feb 27, 2006, 09:33
Fugazi
 
13.
No subject Feb 27, 2006, 09:33
Feb 27, 2006, 09:33
 Fugazi
 
All I can say is the game is great and I am glad that Stardock is being rewarded for their efforts.

The CRTC needs to be destroyed.
12.
 
No subject
Feb 27, 2006, 03:40
Dev
12.
No subject Feb 27, 2006, 03:40
Feb 27, 2006, 03:40
Dev
 
FourPak:
LOL. You have no clue about what you are speaking about do you? Stardock has been around since the OS/2 days (since you probably dont know wtf that is, that means 10+ years), and whats kept them going isn't actually games, its utility software.

Anyway, my personal experiance from my purchase of Gal Civ 2 has been pretty good. I had a minor account problem from a previous stardock purchase and chatted to a guy who fixed it in 5 mins.

And the game itself is very fun. I've never seen ship design done this way. You can literally make your ships look like anything you want, add all sorts of "jewelry" pieces to them and attach weapons to any hardpoint you want.

11.
 
No subject
Feb 27, 2006, 00:33
11.
No subject Feb 27, 2006, 00:33
Feb 27, 2006, 00:33
 
Good to hear that this game is a success.

10.
 
Re: .
Feb 27, 2006, 00:13
10.
Re: . Feb 27, 2006, 00:13
Feb 27, 2006, 00:13
 
yeah that's 'nice', check back in 5 years and see if those same people feel the same way about working weekends for free, or see if they still have jobs that weren't outsourced to Bangalore.

Small 'mom and pop' companies like this rarely succeed over the long term before they either fall on hard times financially and go under, or are gobbled up by some corporate takeover. i know cuz i worked for 2 such game companies that were started in people's living rooms, grew to a certain size and then disappeared. The owners got rich and everyone else got... other jobs.
This post made me so angry that I actually felt I needed to hunt down my Blue's News password so I could post on the computer I was reading this on.

If you took even a half-second to do a bit of research you would find that Stardock, while not a large company by any means, is a very well-established company that has done consistent work on desktop software and games for over a decade. They're not a large company, but a majority of the people that work in their offices (they have one in Michigan, and one in Europe, if I can recall correctly) have worked there for quite a decent amoun of time - especially when you consider the turnover rate for these kinds of job. Stardock is a very close-knit developer, it's true, but one of the main things which separates them from other developers is how much they do and how much they listen to their community.

Then again, why actually research a post before you spout your "experience" in situations which, really, don't apply. Not to mention that none of us particularly care about your failures.
This comment was edited on Feb 27, 00:20.
9.
 
Re: .
Feb 26, 2006, 21:22
9.
Re: . Feb 26, 2006, 21:22
Feb 26, 2006, 21:22
 
don't forget Without Pay too.
yeah that's 'nice', check back in 5 years and see if those same people feel the same way about working weekends for free, or see if they still have jobs that weren't outsourced to Bangalore.

Small 'mom and pop' companies like this rarely succeed over the long term before they either fall on hard times financially and go under, or are gobbled up by some corporate takeover. i know cuz i worked for 2 such game companies that were started in people's living rooms, grew to a certain size and then disappeared. The owners got rich and everyone else got... other jobs.

'Nice' while it lasts but it never lasts.
Let me guess, you probably hate EA too? So you hate the big guys, you hate the little guys, is there anyone you don't hate? I'll tell you something. Those people who came in on their days off probably did it because they were proud. Yeah, odd concept, right? But GalCiv2 has already sold approximately 10x the amount of copies they predicted. Those people are not going to be suffering in any way. Trust me. If you spent any time frequenting the message boards the GalCiv developers hang out on, you'd probably have even the slightest understanding that these guys love what they do and would do whatever it takes to see the game succeed.

My suggestion to you is that you not fucking open your mouth without having any actual knowledge about the subject you're speaking on. Another odd concept, i know, especially when it comes to the internet. Everyone loves to claim they know shit about something, but few actually do. Guess which you are?

8.
 
Re: .
Feb 26, 2006, 19:21
8.
Re: . Feb 26, 2006, 19:21
Feb 26, 2006, 19:21
 
Stardock is kind of an odd game company, because the bulk of their revenue apparently doesn't come from games, but from some kind of utility software.

7.
 
Re: .
Feb 26, 2006, 18:44
7.
Re: . Feb 26, 2006, 18:44
Feb 26, 2006, 18:44
 
I also worked for a mom n pop bedroom-started company once, called lionhead. they got real big, but if I had to buy shares in lionhead or stardock right now, Id be betting on GalCiv2. Its superb.
I did get the patch, but if anything it crashes more now, although thanks to the autosave its not a disaster. Seems to happen occasionally at the galactic council screen doodad.
6.
 
Re: .
Feb 26, 2006, 16:50
6.
Re: . Feb 26, 2006, 16:50
Feb 26, 2006, 16:50
 
a good and happy story...
makes me wanna go out and buy a copy...
What a nice article
nice? Nice?? uh... r-i-g-h-t... sharing is caring, we should do it for the children, kumbaya, peace, love, perfect astral harmony...

***suspicious, he mouses over "Peedee" and sees Posts: 1, recalls other recent 1-5 post authors suggestions to buy a certain game and wonders if Blue's is being targeted by scientologist game company manipulators***



edit: re the article itself -
1500 members in -Customer- Support doesn't sound right; maybe the total Support Division, which could include Tech Support, Internal Support, and half a dozen other Support sub-Departments might have 1500 total staff.

also
So people came in, on their day off, without encouragement, without being asked to, with their families, to package up boxes to send out.
don't forget Without Pay too.
yeah that's 'nice', check back in 5 years and see if those same people feel the same way about working weekends for free, or see if they still have jobs that weren't outsourced to Bangalore.

Small 'mom and pop' companies like this rarely succeed over the long term before they either fall on hard times financially and go under, or are gobbled up by some corporate takeover. i know cuz i worked for 2 such game companies that were started in people's living rooms, grew to a certain size and then disappeared. The owners got rich and everyone else got... other jobs.

'Nice' while it lasts but it never lasts.

This comment was edited on Feb 26, 17:16.
5.
 
Re: .
Feb 26, 2006, 15:58
5.
Re: . Feb 26, 2006, 15:58
Feb 26, 2006, 15:58
 
Cliffski, did you get the patch? It fixed one very common crashbug.

Creston


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4.
 
Re: .
Feb 26, 2006, 15:30
4.
Re: . Feb 26, 2006, 15:30
Feb 26, 2006, 15:30
 
you and me both, I have a regular crash bug, but im still happy with the game
3.
 
Re: .
Feb 26, 2006, 15:25
3.
Re: . Feb 26, 2006, 15:25
Feb 26, 2006, 15:25
 
Specifically their Totalgaming customers. To be honest I'm enjoying the game so much I'm finding it easier to forgive and forget.

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http://www.gp32x.com/
2.
 
Re: .
Feb 26, 2006, 14:55
2.
Re: . Feb 26, 2006, 14:55
Feb 26, 2006, 14:55
 
Well, you should go out and buy a copy because it's a great game, but so far I have to say Stardock has been EXTREMELY supportive of their players. Questions get answered quickly, bugs are acknowledged and then posted in a "Known issues" thread, they tell you whether or not they've fixed it yet, or whether they're still trying to replicate it (hard to fix otherwise), you just KNOW where you are, and what the state of the game is.

They just released a bonus pack that added like 50 new things you can add to your own ships, most of them are truly awesome.

I also was able to download all the collector's edition stuff, even though I didn't order it. I think it may be because I got the digital download though.

I know Spume says that they used to be very bad with their customers, but so far I have to say they are TRULY excellent.

Creston


Avatar 15604
1.
 
.
Feb 26, 2006, 14:27
1.
. Feb 26, 2006, 14:27
Feb 26, 2006, 14:27
 
See, now there's a good and happy story that makes me wanna go out and buy a copy of GalCivII. What a nice article.

This comment was edited on Feb 26, 14:28.
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