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Thread: Big rant about game reviews!!

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    Big rant about game reviews!!

    This is not a rant about scores themselves, or even the fact that often a reviewer barely even plays the game for more than half an hour before sitting down to write their 'review' of it. It's something a little different, and it's about how not all games are created from an equal footing.

    My gripe is about the way reviewers treat smaller games and game developers. Both professional reviewers, and user reviews, I feel that they are missing the point when it comes to this, and it's such a shame, because these people have such a huge amount of 'power' when it comes to steering people away from and towards certain games. These reviews can have a huge impact on the success or failure of a game. So it's a major issue when one or more of these reviewers give a review with a negative spin. They have great responsibility, but in some cases, are not using it responsibly.

    So what I'm getting at is that these reviewers are completely missing the point and are being completely unfair when judging/reviewing games made by small development teams. It's one thing to be a harsh judge of a big budget game like Crysis for example, but it's another thing to do that to a small game. The kind of games I'm talking about are things like Age of Wonders, Darkfall Online, Sins of a Solar Empire, Mount & Blade, Gods: Lands of Infinity, Minions of Mirth, Space Rangers, etc. Even to some extent, games like Call of Juarez too. There are quite a lot of these games which are made by smaller companies. Sometimes it's thirty or so people, but sometimes it's 3 people... This is in relation to the big development companies who massive budgets which afford them all the latest technologies and tools, an almost endless amount of time to develop and then polish their game, and enormous teams of the best staff they can get.

    Now I'm not suggesting that anyone gives a biased review, what I'm suggesting is that these people at least use their brain a bit before they blurt out their review. The "user reviews" show a real lack of any kind of sense. Most of them show the typical child like response to something. This game rulez or this game suckz. There is not much in between and there is absolutely no thought behind their opinions. With professional reviewers, many of them are so up their own bums with self admiration at their own writing skills, wit, and impressive vocabularies, that they forget that they have an important job to do.

    So time for examples, lets start with Minions of Mirth (or MoM for short). It is a MMORPG that you can also play offline, and it has some very unique features that are a real breath of fresh air compared to the other 99% of MMORPG's on the market. I've played almost every MMORPG on the market, big and small, korean/jap or western, and everything in between. Minions of Mirth is in my top three for providing me with the most fun, even compared to games like World of Warcraft.

    The thing is though, this game was made by THREE people. Not 300, not 30, not even 13, but 3 people in total... A husband and wife partnership and their friend. Their budget was around $20,000 US dollars. This is in relation to big MMORPG's which have a budget in excess of $40 MILLION dollars. That's two thousand times more money....

    So when I read reviews of these games and they talk about "dated graphics" and "lack of polish" it really annoys me. It's not a fair comparison, and it's stupid to judge the games against each other. It's the equivalent of a PE teacher, telling a 13 year old kid with really promising football skills, "You suck mate, Ronaldo would run rings around you".

    Admittedly it's hard to review them because everything is relative and you have to describe the game and it's bound to come up somehow that it's a cheap little RPG and not in the same league as something like Oblivion for example. But there should be a way of doing this objectively and not making it seem so negative. Sure if it's got some really crappy design decisions or just isn't fun at all, then call it out, but that just isn't true of most of these games. I've seen people complain about some of these games having primitive animations, not enough music, and limited facial customisation for example, and I have to question people's intelligence when they start doing that. They make out like the developers made an oversight, or they are not talented enough to make it or something. It's missing the point.

    The point I'm really trying to make here, is this. Most of these big uber games today, the likes of Oblivion, Neverwinter Nights etc, they all have massive budgets and it's because they started long ago when a game could be made relatively cheaply and it would still be a triple A title. They made good money and had more to spend on their next title, which afforded it to be bigger and better looking so made even more money, and it escalates to the point where today we have incredible games like Fallout3 etc, with cutting edge graphics and masses of content and polish thanks to the massive teams working on the games. These small companies that start up today, with just a few people and humble budgets, if they keep getting shot down by narrow minded reviewers AND gamers, they will never succeed and they will never get to show you what they can really do! So us gamers are getting screwed out of some great games.

    Many of these games have far more promise to me at least, than the big games. Yes Oblivion was pretty cool, but it's combat system is pure arcade action and barely has any depth or strategy to it at all. Compare that to some of the ones I mentioned above which have full on AD&D or Final Fantasy style combat systems, I find them far more enjoyable to play. I would MUCH rather play games like that, and so would many other people. We are screwed though, because these low budget games have a hard enough time... and then shallow reviewers and gamers come along and judge the graphics and lack of polish on these games, and spread it all over the internet for the entire world to see. Half their potential sales get pirated, and the other half gets shattered by these damning reviews. As a result, some of the great games I mentioned above, will never have a sequel. The few that will, will have less of a sequel that they could have had otherwise. Just the other day I was reading a preview of the new Call of Juarez game. I loved the first game and thought it was a real breath of fresh air compared to the usual mass produced FPS's. But the previewer went on and on about how the first game was unpolished and had some features that weren't too great and so on. Yeah smart ass, if you gave the tiny Polish developer the same budget of FarCry 2 for example, they would have been able to afford another 6 months of development time to polish all these rough edges to a high sheen, and it would have been a far better game. But because of reviews like that, it probably scared away countless potential customers who would have all been paying for it and allow their next game to be bigger and better and more polished. I suspect Call of Juarez 2 will be another good game, and like the first one, I'll probably find it far more interesting and memorable than the likes of Crysis... but I also suspect it will have yet more rough edges because they are simply pushing the envelope of what is possible on their kind of budget. At least they are surviving and progressing though, they are lucky. Many of these smaller games are shot down early and were never given a fair chance.
    Last edited by Cazzie; 02-05-2009 at 04:30 PM.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Ok, I actually read all of that!

    IMO, most game reviews are more or less correct, depending on your sources, however I do understand some developers run on minuscule budgets, but the same rules still apply to them.

    In this very big world we are overwhelmed with too much choice, and busy consumers with little time on their hands want to play the best games available. The same principle applies to pretty much everything, why would a consumer pay £20 for a table made by a local shop when they could pay £40 for a better designed, more aesthetically pleasing table from a large reputable well known company?

    I honestly think these small developers would be better off putting their ideas forward to large organisations.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    A table isn't a good analogy because there is far more complexity to a game than a table. My point is that these bigger budget games, are not necessarily better. More "aesthetically pleasing" yes, but is that your most important criteria in gaming? Personally I would much prefer a game that doesn't look as pretty but is far more fun, creative, and involving than the big, pretty, but ultimately shallow game.

    As for selling ideas, that doesn't really work. Most of these big companies already have very smart people who could potentially come up with far more interesting games. They don't though because they are fairly stuck in the mainstream. They have huge budgets, but huge costs, which is only balanced by the huge money making potential. They are however very restricted in what they can make though if they are to cover these costs. Smaller companies don't have as many restrictions, and are in a better position to experiment and make more interesting games for different niches.
    Last edited by Cazzie; 02-05-2009 at 04:47 PM.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cazzie View Post
    A table isn't a good analogy because there is far more complexity to a game than a table. My point is that these bigger budget games, are not necessarily better. More "aesthetically pleasing" yes, but is that your most important criteria in gaming? Personally I would much prefer a game that doesn't look as pretty but is far more fun, creative, and involving than the big, pretty, but ultimately shallow game.

    As for selling ideas, that doesn't really work. Most of these big companies already have very smart people who could potentially come up with far more interesting games. They don't though because they are fairly stuck in the mainstream. They have huge budgets, but huge costs, which is only balanced by the huge money making potential. They are however very restricted in what they can make though if they are to cover these costs. Smaller companies don't have as many restrictions, and are in a better position to experiment and make more interesting games for different niches.
    The table was a simple analogy, is the table strong? Will it last long? Is it wobbly/buggy?

    Let’s be frank, most high budget games are fantastic, there are very few which are awful, so immediately your argument that high budget games are just aesthetically pleasing but are ultimately shallow is pretty crap, of course this will always boil down to a matter of personal taste, even when the majority of people will like it.

    There are a few games which I personally think are a lot of fun and most people disagree, along with the vast majority of review magazines/sites, but it never stopped me playing. I used to play an online game which has closed down as they could no longer financially sustain it. At the time it was great fun, but looking back at it now, it was an awful game, it was only fun because the small community who played the game were all very friendly and had lots of laughs.

    Anyway, back on topic, game reviewers are not going to rate a game with a different set of rules just for a niche market that may enjoy the game, they try and cover for the majority of gamers.

    Maybe instead of ranting you should write your own review website for a niche market.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cazzie View Post

    So when I read reviews of these games and they talk about "dated graphics" and "lack of polish" it really annoys me. It's not a fair comparison, and it's stupid to judge the games against each other.
    Isn't that the whole point of reviews though? Presumably small budget games can compete on price or innovation/risk. But how they get there is irrelevant - the end result it what counts and all a game should be judged on.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    i disagree with deludedguy and that most big budget games are good thats just not true a good amount of big budget games have sucked

    anyone for DEUS EX INVISIBLE WAR (first that springs to mind) that was a big budget game also could argue for crysis that frankly it was a bit poo.

    however i do agree that reviews are about right

    The only gripe i have is about games that get 10/10 or 100% as surely some games are good but perfect no way i remember halo being one fo these and gran turismo prologue got 100% in a review i read WTF!! its a large demo that costs money.Although most of the max ratings seem to be from gaming magazines for the ps3 and xbox.

    and not all low budget games get a rough haul beyond good and evil for example


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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Quote Originally Posted by danroyle View Post
    i disagree with deludedguy and that most big budget games are good thats just not true a good amount of big budget games have sucked
    Name some, and then I can name you all the big budget games that havent sucked so that you can actually realise its a small amount that suck.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Game reviews. Or reviewers?

    Take PC Gamer. They have indie sections or reviews. They play nearly every game that comes out. The point of the review is to help us make the best possible decision on where we spend our hard earned cash and to get the best for our money. With a team of 5 people. They usually release their title as a budget game. It would be a bit foolish to compete with companies with a higher budget and ask the same price for their game.

    Dated graphics and polish are all part of the review. It plays a big part in immerssion and contributes to the overall score that the reviewer awards that game. This score is used by us to compare to other titles in the genre and helps us get the best for our money.

    But a good reviewer will always tell us if the gameplay sets it miles ahead of more polished and prettier titles.
    People have a mind of their own on this. Maybe people with old PCs won't care or prefer the budget title. But someone who has spent money on beast of a PC will find graphic a big deal.

    But anyway, I have not bought PC Gamer since their review of GTA IV gave it top marks for gameplay but failed to warn about all the bugs and performance issues. Which I found out about on Hexus

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Quote Originally Posted by danroyle View Post
    DEUS EX INVISIBLE WAR (first that springs to mind)
    First that springs to my mind too while I was reading the OP's post.

    -----------------------------------

    Having said that, as others have said, I don't think it is appropriate for any reviewer to rate games by another standard. I want to play the best game for my money and very limited time, and if a game genuinely lack polish, then it is quite irrelevant for me if the game was made by a team of 3 or 300. I do not see that as 'narrow minded-ness', but simply a case of being practical. However, I tend to not limit myself to one review, and I have no doubt that if the game do have some genuine redeeming features, that it would be mentioned in at least one reviews. After all, game reviews are still quite subjective, I for one am fine with SNES days graphics, lots of people are playing and enjoying online flash games and games on their mobile devices as long as they are 'fun'. And I am sure sure that at least some reviewers share those values.

    And perhaps that is what smaller developers should focus on. Because at the end of the day, I'll re-iterate, what matters to many gamers is whether a game is fun and good value for the time and money invested. If a game from a small developer has one or two good original idea compared to bigger titles, then but loses on eight other points, then I am afraid that it does not deserve a better review. Unless of course, the point where score better is an universal agreement that it is more fun overall. But that has to be a near universal agreement. It's not good enough to say that you find it more fun and a cult following find it more fun. I am sure it has happened to all of us, finding that a game ended up being less successful than we feel it deserve (there is at least one 'Most under-rated game' thread in this forum), but it doesn't necessarily come down to people's 'narrow-mindedness'. I personally hold SiN in much higher regard than Half-Life 1 (minus mods), but I guess I am the outliner in this case.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    I think all reviewers should automatically give anything made by AMD a better review and ignore the bad points of their products because they are smaller than intel.
    How is whether a game is made by 3 poeple or 300 people relevant to a buyer? Its if the game is good or not.
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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Lets be honest... an MMO made by 3 people just isn't going to be all that good.

    If reviews where based on how many people made it you would have to work out your own scale of how good a game is based on its score and number of staff on the dev team, it sort of defeates the object or scoring games really.
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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Quote Originally Posted by DeludedGuy View Post
    The table was a simple analogy, is the table strong? Will it last long? Is it wobbly/buggy?

    Let’s be frank, most high budget games are fantastic, there are very few which are awful, so immediately your argument that high budget games are just aesthetically pleasing but are ultimately shallow is pretty crap, of course this will always boil down to a matter of personal taste, even when the majority of people will like it.

    There are a few games which I personally think are a lot of fun and most people disagree, along with the vast majority of review magazines/sites, but it never stopped me playing. I used to play an online game which has closed down as they could no longer financially sustain it. At the time it was great fun, but looking back at it now, it was an awful game, it was only fun because the small community who played the game were all very friendly and had lots of laughs.

    Anyway, back on topic, game reviewers are not going to rate a game with a different set of rules just for a niche market that may enjoy the game, they try and cover for the majority of gamers.

    Maybe instead of ranting you should write your own review website for a niche market.
    Whether big budget games are fantastic or not is irrelevant. I never said all big budget games are shallow, I was making an example. Although many of them are when compared to other games within their respective genres, and I can defend that all the way.

    As for the different set of rules thing, I already said in my first post that I'm not suggesting they bias their reviews, I'm suggesting they treat them more objectively and with a bit more lateral thought. When reviewing budget town cars, a motoring journalist would never hold a Ford Fiesta up against the same standards of an Aston Martin Vanquish. The same should be true when reviewing games, and not doing that shows a lack of professionalism and a lack of real thought. If for some weird reason they insist on comparing everything against the standards set by big budget games, then they should at least compare the prices of the games too, and I never see that happen. It's a biased approach and they are doing far more harm than good.

    Quote Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
    Isn't that the whole point of reviews though? Presumably small budget games can compete on price or innovation/risk. But how they get there is irrelevant - the end result it what counts and all a game should be judged on.
    Exactly but that doesn't happen! A review by definition is a study of something, but the majority of these reviews are far from being a study. In most cases, no credit is given to innovation and the price of the game is almost never even mentioned! The reviewers bowl in to the review and whiz through it with only the most superficial of glances.

    Look, the fact is, if you care about games, these small companies need support. It's easy to criticise them because they aren't as impressive as the big, powerful, glossy mainstream competitors, but you can destroy them by insisting on holding them up to those standards. Is that what you really want?

    Using the old table example from earlier, you can go and buy a table from a big manufacturer. You get it home and set it up and realise you don't like it, and you call and get an automated message. You press 2, you press 4, and the voice tells you that you can only get your money back if the table is still packaged which it obviously isn't. Alternatively you could go to your local furniture maker. You buy a table and aren't completely happy so you call. The owner of the company answers the phone and offers to come to your house. You make him a cup of tea and he sets up the table for you. You still aren't completely happy, so he goes away and makes the exact modifications you want. In the end, you get a table that is far more to your liking than the big mass produced table, and yet it cost you less too.

    My point is, not everything is black and white. It might seem more logical to go with the big corporation, but sometimes you have to go with your heart instead. You might even have to make some sacrifices... but at the end of the day, these small companies will try far harder to impress you, and they will reward you for your support. If it wasn't for real gamers who saw the value in independent companies and independent thinking, games like Mount & Blade would have gone nowhere fast. That game exists today only because people supported it through Beta. It's easy to wade in to a review and compare the graphics against Oblivion and write it off as cheap and basic looking, but it's completely missing the point. It's in our best interest to be a bit more flexible with this stuff so that we can uncover the great things that lie beneath in these kinds of games.


    Quote Originally Posted by TooNice View Post
    I want to play the best game for my money and very limited time, and if a game genuinely lack polish, then it is quite irrelevant for me if the game was made by a team of 3 or 300.
    But the best game is not necessarily the game with the most polish is it...?

    Unless of course you are the kind of gamer who goes for style over substance.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jay View Post
    Lets be honest... an MMO made by 3 people just isn't going to be all that good.
    That's not honest at all, that's your assumption based on absolutely no information at all. Why don't you actually PLAY it before you judge it?

    People like you are your own worst enemy.
    Last edited by Cazzie; 03-05-2009 at 09:27 PM.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!



    Sigh, I guess we agree to disagaree....go back to playing your low budget game and I will go and finish playing Fallout 3 and maybe later go raid something in WoW.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cazzie View Post
    That's not honest at all, that's your assumption based on absolutely no information at all. Why don't you actually PLAY it before you judge it?

    People like you are your own worst enemy.

    hmmm

    Looks like we are both making assumptions here.

    I think maybe this is some sort of plug disguised as a genuine post.... another assumption, I know.

    To be fair it looks pretty decent.
    Last edited by Jay; 03-05-2009 at 09:40 PM.
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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cazzie View Post
    Exactly but that doesn't happen! A review by definition is a study of something, but the majority of these reviews are far from being a study. In most cases, no credit is given to innovation and the price of the game is almost never even mentioned! The reviewers bowl in to the review and whiz through it with only the most superficial of glances.
    Really? You must be reading quite different reviews to me then. Innovation is always looked for in reviews I read - in fact a lot of games get marked down, despite the fact they are great, simply because they fail to do much new. Likewise price is nearly always taken into account in terms of value for money.

    Look, the fact is, if you care about games, these small companies need support. It's easy to criticise them because they aren't as impressive as the big, powerful, glossy mainstream competitors, but you can destroy them by insisting on holding them up to those standards. Is that what you really want?
    The standard of having a game be fun and value for money is exactly what they should be being held up to. The last thing a small company needs is being lied to and someone pretending they have talent if they don't. If they make games that suck then it's better that they find out pronto and change careers to something they are better suited to.

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    Re: Big rant about game reviews!!

    Quote Originally Posted by DeludedGuy View Post


    Sigh, I guess we agree to disagaree....go back to playing your low budget game and I will go and finish playing Fallout 3 and maybe later go raid something in WoW.
    What do you disagree with precisely?

    I don't suppose you used that name because you are in fact roleplaying a deluded guy? If so, my congratulations on the realism.

    You can arrogantly look down your nose at me all you want, but don't feel too secure in your smugness. I've enjoyed Fallout 3 too, with maxed out settings and on a big widescreen monitor. I also had a level 70 Boomkin in WoW. I enjoyed them both but I enjoy other things too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay View Post
    hmmm

    Looks like we are both making assumptions here.

    I think maybe this is some sort of plug disguised as a genuine post.... another assumption, I know.

    To be fair it looks pretty decent.
    Why would I be plugging several completely unrelated companies?

    Quote Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
    Really? You must be reading quite different reviews to me then. Innovation is always looked for in reviews I read - in fact a lot of games get marked down, despite the fact they are great, simply because they fail to do much new. Likewise price is nearly always taken into account in terms of value for money.
    There's no doubt the quality of reviews varies but that doesn't make my point any less valid. You only need to use metacritic to see what I'm talking about. One of the games I enjoyed recently for example, PC Format gave it 51%, and PC Review gave it 92%, the latter being the one that also comments on it's price. Another game I played, an RPG, has a gamespot review where he tears it to pieces. It's obvious that not only does the reviewer unfairly compare the game with modern big budget standards, but he just doesn't even seem to like fantasy RPG's in the first place. I bet should he review a classic like Baldurs Gate or Ultima Online and I'm sure he would rip them to pieces as being cheap and nasty looking and having annoying fantasy characters.

    Quote Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
    The standard of having a game be fun and value for money is exactly what they should be being held up to. The last thing a small company needs is being lied to and someone pretending they have talent if they don't. If they make games that suck then it's better that they find out pronto and change careers to something they are better suited to.
    That's not really the point though is it? These games I'm talking about to not suck. They just don't have the production values of the big budget games.

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