"At the time, we thought we had a real blockbuster on our hands. Our primary competition were the guys doing League of Legends, and the advance press was that we had the more interesting product. Ha! Now those guys own the universe, and nobody’s even heard of Demigod. In the end, our game was hobbled by the publisher, who insisted on handling the networking code on their end, but didn’t have either the time or the manpower to do it right. They ended up just shipping it broken. So we had this great multiplayer game that nobody could actually play when it shipped. That pretty much killed us."
That is a ridiculous, inaccurate statement. From top to bottom.
Let me put one fact out there that should put everything else in perspective: Stardock became the publisher of Demigod less than 9 months before it shipped. The game had been designed and largely developed long long before then. Perhaps a software developer can chime in to help explain to others the significance of that.
First, when Demigod was designed and being developed, there was no League of Legends. It wasn't on the radar. Demigod was designed as an RTS with gameplay similar to DOTA. Here's the announcement they made. What little metagame it had was not part of the original design but added, later, by us.
Second, Stardock did not write the network code of Demigod. I've seen non-technical people on the net say this but never anyone who should know better. Demigod uses the same network code as Supreme Commander.
What Stardock did write, late in development, was a proxy server that would help connect those who didn't have a direct connection and do match making. And it worked fine until you got tens of thousands of people on it at launch time. The infrastructure and coding was expanded and within a few weeks that had largely eliminated that problem.
Suggesting that server overload at the launch of a network heavy game is what kept it from beating LOL is a tremendous insult to League of Legends. Nearly every network game, including LOL, suffers teething problems when they first launch. The bulk of Demigod sales occurred long after the launch. Designing a MOBA style game does not, in itself, make you a realistic competitor to LOL, HON, or DOTA2. There's a lot more to it than the game design.
League of Legends has been a spectacular success because it was designed, from the ground up, to be what it is: a massively multiplayer competitive league game. Demigod was not. And it shows.
Unlike LOL, Demigod uses peer-to-peer networking like all of GPG's other games. That's very common design for RTS's and not a criticism of GPG. And it works fine when you have 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 games (or you're on a LAN). But 5 on 5? All 10 people have to connect to all the other people? And they might be in other countries?
Moreover, Demigod's network code, which worked fine with Supreme Commander, passes Lua scripts back and forth. Try doing that when you have 10 people playing and that all 10 have to respond before the game can tick -- and where some of those people might have +400ms ping times.
I'm not faulting GPG for doing this. Demgiod wasn't deigned to compete with LOL because there was no LOL when Demigod was being designed. It was an RTS with a designed inspired by DOTA.
And even if none of those technical issues existed, the fact is, LOL has an immense league infrastructure that none of us ever envisioned at the time. GPG and Riot were not competing to make the world's first dedicated competitive online game. Only Riot was. And that means they had a business model (Free to play), a content stream ready to go, a worldwide network of servers for handling match making, scoring, rankings, team rankings.
Certainly, we tried to tack on more meta game features to Demigod after release. And we paid GPG to make two additional demigods. But Demigod, a very good RTS, couldn't compete with a game that was explicitly designed to be a competitive league game on a massive scale.
The fact is, League of Legends is so successful because Riot Games has done an amazing job on it. They put together a business model and a design specifically to create a massively multiplayer online competitive league game and have executed on that plan spectacularly.
Rather than blaming us, the proper and accurate thing to do would be to congratulate Riot Games for doing a good job.