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Stardock alleges former marketing manager impaired Elemental: War of Magic's launch, files suit [Update]

Xav de Matos, @Xav

Michigan-based developer Stardock is suing its ex-marketing manager Alexandra Miseta for over $1 million in damages, alleging actions she made during her employment impaired the quality of Elemental: War of Magic.

According to documents filed with a Michigan Eastern District Court on July 30, 2012, Stardock claims that when Miseta resigned her position without notice prior to the Elemental's launch, she destroyed and/or stole promotional materials, trade show information, and analytics data that the developer says was vital to supporting the game's release. The dev claims these acts occurred three weeks before the game's release. Stardock also alleges that Miseta, who is currently employed as accounts director at Chevrolet, refused to return a company-issued laptop and running undisclosed side businesses during work hours at the developer.

Panned by reviewers when it launched in 2010, Elemental: War of Magic was riddled with bugs, a complicated interface, and a host of other problems. Currently the game's average review score sits at 53 on Metacritic.

Following its launch, company CEO Brad Wardell said Elemental's issues stemmed from the disorganized nature of the developer. "If someone had an idea, we'd say 'Oh sure, go ahead! Throw that in!,'" Wardell explained during a GDC 2011 panel called 'Failure Workshop.' In a statement made in September 2010, Wardell placed blame for the project's failure on the entire Stardock staff, claiming a fair share of responsibility himself claiming that he lost objectivity acting as a programmer and the executive in charge of deciding when the game was ready to ship.

Gallery: Elemental: War of Magic | 24 Photos

"Every competent software developer knows that the programmer must never be the one deciding whether the program is done. Yet, my love of Elemental broke my self discipline and I began coding on the game itself in vast amounts and lost any sense of objectivity on where the game's state was," he wrote on Elemental's official forum. In his multiple attempts to explain or apologize for the game's failure, Wardell never specifically named any employee or cited any employee's actions as the cause for Elemental's disastrous launch. In one example where an unnamed developer's decision led to a broken character class, Wardell pointed to a lack of oversight as an issue.

"This is a game with swords and stuff, and one of the races had no armor to wear. As it turns out, at the last minute, one of our developers said, 'Hey, you know what? I'm gonna make this little cosmetic change. What could go wrong?,'" Wardell said.

"There was no structure, there was no project manager ... we didn't feel we needed one! Our team is so tightly knit," Wardell lamented during the GDC 2011 panel.

Stardock eventually laid off a number of employees due to Elemental's failure and later announced an expansion to the game (free to buyers of the original) as an olive branch to loyal fans. At the time of layoffs, Wardell said that Elemental's launch showed a weakness in Stardock's quality assurance process. "...we thought the game was ready which merely shows, I think pretty obviously, that we will need to change the way we do QA on major new releases as well as how we handle our own betas," he told Joystiq.

Stardock's claim against Miseta includes alleged violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Common Law Conversion, Statutory Conversion, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and Breach of Contract. As well as seeking over $1 million in damages, the developer is asking for interest, costs, and attorney fees.

Update: Alexandra Miseta's LinkedIn profile lists a number of glowing recommendations from former co-workers, managers, and PR associated with Stardock. For the most part, recommendations listed were made in June 2010. Elemental launched in August.

Update 2: Court documents discovered reveal a separate litigation between Alexandra Miseta, acting as plaintiff, versus Stardock CEO Brad Wardell, as defendant, between July 2011 and April 2012. Reasons for that case are unknown and searches for information have yielded no results. The case details may not have been publicly released.

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