Imperator: Rome prepares to carpe diem cras

Title Imperator: Rome prepares to carpe diem cras
Author Nick Diamon
Posted in News
When June 21, 2019

Imperator: Rome, the sequel to Europa Universalis: Rome, has been having a tough time..

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Seems to me that Paradox is heading dangerously close to a “design by the masses” philosophy,which never bodes well.

It’s one thing to buy a game blind and then bitch about what you got, but with all the previews, dev diaries, Let’s Plays out in advance, anyone who bought the game expecting a totally different experience and now wants it re-designed after the fact shout be SOL.

I was keeping an eye on this, too many games on my playlist at the moment, but I am much less likely to buy it if they start changing things to suit the whiners.

The game is rightfully criticized for a wealth of baffling design mistakes, lack of content, etc.
Games don’t get a 30% rating (or whatever it is by now…) on Steam due to people not understanding what the game was about - at most, that would account for maybe 10-20% of the negative ratings.
This also isn’t a case of review bombing for non-game-related issues.
No, the game really is severely lacking.
One of the indicators of this early on were streamers. Once paid promotions were over, larger streamers of Paradox (or similar) games all went back to EUIV, CK2, Stellaris, etc.
Very quickly, not a single person was streaming Rome… not the sign of a good game.

The funniest/saddest thing (depending on how you look at it) about it all is how much this was praised in “mainstream” media, but actual gamers mostly loathe it. Just goes to show how out of touch with each other games journalists and consumers have become.

That is an interesting thought. Usually, I also think that once designers do not have a vision of their own (or don’t stand by it), but start making compromises to appeal to the masses, the game itself is pretty much lost.
On the other hand, this is a case where years-long fans of Paradox and their games simply dislike the game for (mostly) valid reasons. The game just failed at many objectives it set out to achieve - and only a deep redesign of core mechanics could fix it.
So I think that in this case, the necessary steps to fix the game coincide with gamers also asking for changes.

Also, this isn’t some indie company which can afford to stand by their vision, even if many people complain about it - one of the advantages of being an indie dev, as long as enough people like what you do, it doesn’t really matter what others think.
For large corporations, the “enough people like it” bar is MUCH higher.

I so regret preordering this for full price when it just came out on Game Pass and the game isn’t worth learning until at least 6 months from now and probably quite longer (more likely Q2 2020).

Valuable lesson learned I suppose.

We all made this mistake at some point for some game ;)

Imperator would be a wonderful game if CK2 and EU4 didn’t exist.

This is not what I saw on Steam. I saw a huge chunk of postings (very harshly) criticizing Paradox for their general DLC and business practices by people who clearly did not play much (if any) of the game. My impression was that there were extremely few posts by people who actually played the game and had any substantive criticism, it was so bad that I stopped reading the reviews altogether because it felt completely useless if you wanted to learn anything about the actual game.

You misunderstood the criticism, then. Or they were poorly worded - which, given that we’re talking about Steam reviews, is very, very likely…
With Steam reviews, you kinda have to look beyond the wording for the actual problem. That’s a general problem with allowing everyone and their mum to write reviews, but I digress.

The problem is that the game plays and feels like a rather empty Paradox game shell, ready for - and designed from the ground-up - to be filled with content via expensive DLCs. Everyone who played the game just a bit will see that immediately - and is then free to criticize Paradox for their guaranteed incoming DLC parade. That’s what you are seeing here.
They could have developed the game a year longer, add more content, but chose to release now and add more content later, for a price. Closed beta feedback must have told them as much (would be weird if that, too, was entirely different than release feedback)…

Due to their “content adding policy”, Paradox has only themselves to blame for this perception. And it is very much related to the game, because Paradox releasing DLCs adding together to hundreds of dollars has become a natural law - everyone knows it will happen, and thus it can be criticized.

Or, maybe, we will be seeing a change in consumer behaviour due to being fed up with this. But that’s probably just wishful thinking on my part.

It would be more positively received, that’s for sure. It’s not different enough from either CK2 (which I like to call Medieval Sims) nor EUIV to not be strongly compared to those - and just loses by a large margin to both of them. That’s one problem - too similar to previous games.
The other, related problem here is that this is a bit similar to Civ6 on release just being much worse than Civ5+DLCs.
That’s just a natural result of the DLC policy - a new entry in the series will have to stand against predecessor+DLCs.

If Rome was really unique in its gameplay, it wouldn’t have this problem.
Stellaris didn’t have this problem, either - it had other problem on release, though.

There was a post a few years back where Johan (or someone from PDX) said every EU4 DLC sold more than the one before and there was this massive untapped market out there for their games. And he was right - CK2, EU4 and Stellaris have all crossed the 1M+ mark (albeit many at a discount) but still, for a developer of niche, dense historical games where sales in the tens of thousands is good (no matter the price), that is astronomical.

So you could see around 2013 PDX started to view their games not just as products but platforms where they had a quasi-subscription model going - you keep paying us money and we keep providing you new content. There have always been vocal discontents on the PDX forums about this, and you could pick any recent PDX title and see negative reviews based on DLC on their Steam page.

The PDX response to them has always been to agree to disagree - from the PDX view they are making lots of good content for games that otherwise wouldn’t be made if they didn’t have a steady income stream from DLC sales. The DLC is priced fairly for what it contains.

But the market has changed a lot since 2013 - hell things have changed a lot since 2016 when Stellaris and HOI4 came out. People are a lot more cynical about being asked to continually feed money into games - FTP games with lootboxes, pay to win and cosmetic packs have become so much more prevalent and dominate in the marketplace. I think that has been enough to tip the vocal minority into the majority.

So when Johan complained he couldn’t understand the reaction when Imperator had more content in it at launch than EU4 or CK2, that felt like a voice from the past. It didn’t make sense why you would complain that PDX did so much marketing to tell people “what was in the game” when, more than any company, PDX has built its games around being a platform that people don’t just buy, but buy into.

This is exact behavior that turned me off Paradox developed games. Made me reluctant to get AOW Planetfall. If Paradox forces Triumph to become like Paradox, then I’ll be done with anything Paradox until they get new ownership.

At least Stardock gave folks a full collection option, if Paradox did that I wouldn’t have the issues with them that I have currently.

Paradox and Stardock have different development models, though. The amount of content added to EU4 or CK2 vs GalCiv 3 or Ashes of the Singularity isn’t comparable.

Besides, a point that often gets overlooked is I would say 80-85% of the new stuff that goes into Paradox expansions is made available to everyone in free updates.

That is a gross exaggeration. Or you include stuff like greyed out buttons telling you can click on them when you buy the DLC…
Or you include the general changes that are released as patches, usually because the expansions come with some new mechanic that requires the base game to change in order to allow the specific DLC content on top. This does not happen out of goodwill, but more than likely technical necessity.

Either way, DLC content is definitely NOT 80% available without buying the DLCs, and they could develop their games a lot more similar to something like Stardew Valley or RimWorld or other games that continually change/improve over time without trying to make you buy DLC after DLC…

Not that I wouldn’t own almost all (non-cosmetic) EUIV DLCs, mind you. I’m part of the problem here :/

No, I do not think I misunderstood the criticism and I don’t think that most of the most vocal postings even contained anything I would call “criticism”. What I saw was the (unfortunately) typical internet/steam hatred fueled by a generalized opinion these posters had developed over time about the company that created this game and not so much this specific game and its features (or lack thereof),

I think criticism of Paradox’ business model is ok and people are free to not buy their games because of it. I have no problem with that type of criticism but what I saw upon Imperator’s release was some type of shitstorm/review bombing starting literally minutes after release by people who clearly had no chance to verify if their preconceived notion of Paradox was even warranted for this specific game.
So, coming back to your original posting - I believe that Imperator in good parts became a victim of the attitude a lot of people have formed towards Paradox (and I’m not debating if that attitude is right or wrong) and not so much because it was/is such a bad game.
I, for one, am not crazy about a developer that is easily willing to throw his ideas overboard because the masses demand something else. If the masses would have a good track record of providing valuable feedback in a consistent way with an eye on the bigger picture and beyond what they like “right now”, I would be more hopeful. In a nutshell: I don’t want any battle royal mode in Imperator :-)

“The first big improvement update [f]or Imperator: Rome comes on June 26th.”

The good thing about Steam reviews is that it’s easy to see if there was a “bomb” effort or if it’s been consistent.

That doesn’t look like a bombing. That’s fairly consistent and seems to track with the peaks in sales.

Yes, I sure do love the 80-85% of new stuff that came out like in the Common Sense expansion where you couldn’t develop provinces unless you paid for the DLC, which made the game significantly worse than pre-patch/dlc.

That point gets overlooked because it’s a terrible point. They rip up existing systems, replace them with a reworked version and then lock them behind the DLC. Sure you get new ‘content’, but it’s mostly unusable/unavailable unless you buy the associated DLC.

Development behind DLC was a misstep for sure, one they eventually corrected.

Moving Estates into patches instead of DLC for EU4 was a good move.

It was a ‘misstep’ they repeated dlc after dlc though, which does give some insight into the paradox patching/dlc mindset.

Removing/reducing existing gameplay systems to add new content that is feature locked unless you pay, isnt some sort of amazing customer-oriented vision that you sort of portray it as, nor does adding busywork necessarily mean a game is improved (whether EU4 or particularly Stellaris).