Civ IV was Clearly Rushed


It appears to be quite clear to me that Firaxis was pushed to rush the release of Civ IV by their publisher, 2K Games. However, it should also be noted in 2K Games defense that Sid Meier is notorious for his games being dramatically late, in some cases by years (Anyone remember Magic?)

Of course on the web forums you have the standard bevy of brown-nosers who can never make enough excuses for developers or publishers. It’s never their fault. Somehow it’s our fault that we expect software that we pay for to work as advertised. It is a consumer’s right and responsibility to sound off when things don’t go as they should. Never forget that. If no one complains, nothing gets fixed. In fact, it’s been my experience that the speed of a fix is directly related to the vociferousness of the affected customers.

The signs for this one being a mess are all there. The forums are full of posters listing all sorts of varied problems. There are also problems with extremely popular video cards but they’re not limited to just ATI. Similar problems with Nvidia cards also abound. Then there are some people who got CD’s incorrectly labeled. Those who got the “right” package find that CD1 needs to be in the drive to play even though CD2 is listed as the one that needs to be there.

On the only system where I’ve seen the game work, pulling down the Resolution option shows all the typical resolutions and then literally DOZENS of corrupt entries like “2234321214231*04532432112331”. That’d be some monitor!

There was also no demo before release. Demos of games often help identify key problems before release. The lack of a demo suggests that there was no time for a demo and that suggests that there was simply no time for anything but release of the product.

Furthermore, the debacle on the phone lines is telling. Yesterday you couldn’t get through and long waits ended in recorded messages finally admitting that support is too busy and instructing you to call back in 24 hours. Today signs show the problem clearly. When you call now the first recording is a message asking you to press “1” if you’re calling about Civ IV. In other words, 2K Games is receiving so many support calls for this that they’ve had to resort to restructuring their support system to attempt to siphon off the more prevalent ones by forwarding them to recorded responses. If you have an issue besides the two presented, you end up back in the queue for a long wait followed by a final message stating that they’re too busy and that you’ll have to call back in 24 hours.

What’s interesting about all of this is that this is a classic turn-based strategy game. This isn’t Far Cry, Quake 4, Fear or Half-Life 2. Yet the requirements for this game appear to be beyond even some of those games. Something isn’t right here and it’s not the outcry of the paying customers.

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  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. Civ fans are going out of their way to try to cover up this fiasco. It amazes me to no end. (BTW I am CommanderSpock on the Civfanatics forums.) I’m a Computer science major and I am happy to have found your blog.

  2. Thanks for the nice words. The response by fans is, of course, no different than with any other product that has had similar problems.

    I’ve seen some of the worst products ever produced generate all sorts of “sympathy” support from fans. People just want to support efforts and that’s understandable. It’s the lengths they go to support companies that we’re questioning here.

    Anyone who’s known me a very long time would recall the now somewhat infamous history of the Advanced Gravis Ultrasound sound card. I’ve never seen an example of this paradox more clearly than with this card. It was a consumer nightmare. Stores were getting returns with it higher than anything they’d ever carried and yet a large contingent of supporters kept making every excuse for it. They’d believe everything Gravis told them and blamed the stores, the game developers and “dumb consumers” for its failings.

    I shudder to think of what would have happened there had no one fought against the grain.

  3. Great observations Rich. I too am a member of the aforementioned forums, and I find it fascinating to monitor the debate. It is a microcosm of today’s world – especially in the US.

    Ordinary consumers defending the large corporation on emotioanl grounds when it would be in their best interest to actually examine the product impartially…

    A vocal minority (majority?) trying to voice their opposition and instead of being debated being shouted down by name calling, straw man arguments and rhetoric.

    Granted, it is a game, but this debate really points out the deep divide in our Society today. I am a strong capitalist – but I do not support laise-faire capitalism. I am intelligent, and search out the truth – not accept press releases and ‘independent’ news as reported by organizations whose very existance depends on the largess of the corporations that own/fund them.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this blog, and thanks for stopping over at the Civ Forums and posting such a thought provoking thread. I am going to keep your blog in my favorites and check back in from time to time. I find it thought provoking and refreshing to read your angle on things.

  4. All great points. I would make the argument that the “game” ceased to be a game for just about everyone active in the posting world. Certainly it’s not a game as far as the developer and publisher are concerned.

    Once the consumer laid down money for it, especially those who take the time to post to forums, it also ceased to be a game for most of them. I don’t view my entertainment dollars as a game. I may buy something defined as a game but the act of purchasing it, the virtual contract I enter into with the publisher and the expectations I measure it against are anything but a game.

    Your concerns with biased reporting are very much an issue and one that I’ll try to remember to touch on in an upcoming post. I’ve seen, first-hand, how corrupt the system can be. 95% of what the press sees is not truly indicative of what the buying public is exposed to. During my years as a writer for the various industry publications, I was treated vastly differently than I was when I just came into the spectrum as an ordinary customer. I didn’t have to call technical support or customer service. I didn’t have to worry about defects or getting products swapped out or upgraded. I also got products that were tweaked, enhanced and gone over with a fine-toothed comb by the entity responsible for it.

    All of these things were calculated to curry favor and bend wills. It works far more often than most consumers are aware.

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