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Xbox Live Indie Games Rating Manipulation

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the hey-microsoft-want-to-buy-a-metamod-system dept.

XBox (Games) 49

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft seems to be turning a blind eye to the Xbox Live Indie game area. Certain indie developers have found a way to abuse the independent game ranking system in order to down-vote popular indie titles while up-voting their own. Due to this, games are falling out of the valuable top 20 slot and the value of the ranking system is jeopardized."

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49 comments

Freakonomics! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35717722)

Clearly the cheaters did not read that book and do not understand that short-term gain done in such a way will ultimately lead to long-term failure. Is it wrong to cheat? No. Is it wrong to cheat in this manner? Not at all. Would they have benefited even more by cheating another way or producing a game worthy of being in the top 20? Absolutely.

This just in... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35717728)

When money is on the line, people are self-serving. Color me surprised.

Re:This just in... (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 3 years ago | (#35720478)

Is it self-serving to take actions that ultimately leave both you and your competitors worse off? I'd call it simple stupidity.

Re:This just in... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 3 years ago | (#35721856)

Only in the long term.

Next month and the month after that, you get to cash a bigger check than the next guy...

Re:This just in... (1)

Ferzerp (83619) | about 3 years ago | (#35721578)

Where is the story on the apple version of this?

It happens on any type of "user rated" environment where the players are so small that no one cares. I had an iphone long ago, and I learned very quickly not to trust the ratings system at all. Too many times I'd read the reviews and half of them would be 1 star ratings that say "App X is superior to this". Something tells me that those people weren't independent users. Especially when half the reviews were made up of the same exact message.

Re:This just in... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 3 years ago | (#35724118)

One major difference is that you have to download (often also buy) the software you want to rate on the app store. On the XBLIG marketplace it's possible to rate games without even owning a 360 or the game so it's possible to set up a ton of accounts and vote with all of them.

UH-OH !! MICROSOFT NOT PLAYING BY RULES ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35717730)

This is a crime. It must be punished. I say, we all drop Linux and pirate Windows. That'll teach Microsoft to cheat !!

Re:UH-OH !! MICROSOFT NOT PLAYING BY RULES ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35719200)

Here! Here!
Arthur! Arthur!
Brahma! Brahma!

It's been going downhill for a while now (2)

richtaur (1234738) | about 3 years ago | (#35717732)

First they rebranded the XNA website as App Hub [msdn.com] to help push Windows Phone 7, then they had XBLIG displayed after avatar clothing They did at least attempt to help support independent developers [joystiq.com] somewhat recently, so they have shown some sign of caring.

Sad but thats what marketing is for (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35717762)

Unless you were one of the first games to launch on the platform or you had massive brand recognition, its effectively impossible to climb the "Top Sellers" or "Top Rated" charts which is pretty much the only way to market the game post-release.

Its not just Xbox Live Indie games either, Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network games all suffer from the same problem. Castle Crashers was one of the first Xbox Live Arcade games and its proven to be nigh impossible to dethrone both on the "Best Selling" and "Top Rated" charts. Final Fantasy VII-IX skyrocketed to the top of PSN despite the age of the games and the age of PSN and hasn't budged since.

Re:Sad but thats what marketing is for (3, Informative)

Moryath (553296) | about 3 years ago | (#35720032)

Castle Crashers was one of the first Xbox Live Arcade games

Uhm... say what now?

Xbox360: released November 22, 2005.

Castle Crashers: released August 27, 2008.

Almost THREE YEARS of Xbox Live Arcade games separates the two.

This has been a message from reality. As an additional message: please stop smoking crack.

Re:Sad but thats what marketing is for (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#35720844)

As I understand it, for the entire life of the original Xbox and the first few years of Xbox 360, only established companies with a secure office and experience developing commercial games for some other platform qualified for developer tools. XNA Creators Club (now App Hub) didn't come until years later.

Re:Sad but thats what marketing is for (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 3 years ago | (#35724194)

Both XBLIG lists are populated with software from all eras of the service. The top rated game is Cthulhu Saves The World which was released last December and #3 is Oozi which came out only days ago. There isn't much in terms of brand recognition on the service but people do get attracted by titles like "fart wars" or whatever. They get downloads but not high ratings.

They'll just do what they did for themselves. (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 3 years ago | (#35717778)

Notice that in the last big dashboard update, they got rid of the ability to rate full games? If you bought a game, stuck it in, played it and hated it, you could rate it out of five stars and it would display an average score on any game you looked at through the dashboard.

They conveniently removed that and I've never heard it discussed in the months, since.

Re:They'll just do what they did for themselves. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35722668)

And this has pissed me off, why can't I rate that Bulletstorm seemed like utter tripe? Even though I'm a big open source person I do like some of the things MS has done with Live, sometimes they do the right thing and it seems nearly like a theme for XBox 360 and Live. They usually do get it right in that arena. Removing full game ratings is getting it wrong, though. I don't give a crap if Kane and Lynch 2 doesn't sell a single copy.

A bit premature to say it is ignored (4, Interesting)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | about 3 years ago | (#35717858)

You can hardly say that Microsoft is turning a blind eye to this only 3½ working days after announcing that they are looking into it. It will take time to process the logs to find the trends and then make some changes so this cannot happen again. The blogger from TFA has had longer to come up with some figures and still only says that he has a "personal hunch" that the figures have been manipulated based on what he thinks the games should be rated.

If you look at the first blog mentioning this they single out the fans of College Lacrosse 2011 to be the bad guys and yet the graphs shown a week later have the lacrosse game dropping in the ratings. With any rating system, I assume that there must be some attempts to fudge the figures, so it seems quite plausible that the blogger may end up being correct. But my point is that it takes time to find out what is really happening. They have to be more sure than just saying that something looks fishy before they take action.

Re:A bit premature to say it is ignored (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35717994)

Yes, I was a bit skeptical when I saw it was linking to some unknown site, a site which lists itself as in beta, I thought could this be yet another site just trying to get off the ground with a bit of sensationalism?

Then I read the article, and the answer is yes. All that's actually happening is fans of one game are voting it up, whilst voting other games they don't like down. Sure non-XBox users can sign up for an XBL account and vote too, but really, how many people seriously give a flying fuck enough to do that?

When they said "manipulation", I figured some developer had found a way to exploit the system using some exploit or something, but no, it really is just a little fanboy bitch fight from a site trying to make a story out of nothing.

Re:A bit premature to say it is ignored (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 3 years ago | (#35720154)

All that's actually happening is fans of one game are voting it up, whilst voting other games they don't like down.

The real problem is that there is zero accountability in the system to stop fraudulent voting, though. If I'm a fan of Game X, and I tried Game Y and hated it, I can give them bad reviews. If I am a fan of game X, and think it should be on the "highest rated games", should I be downrating the current highest-rated games merely to give my favorite a boost? Well, I'm being dishonest if I do. I should at least try the game first.

If someone is making fraudulent logins and downrating over and over (which is what the article writers suspect), is this a problem? Yes. And if a game which has a previously steady rating level over several months (I'm leaving out the usual "company X paid the magazines for a good review and put an embargo on reviews below X level, real-world reviews say otherwise about a month after release date phenomenon) suddenly gets a slew of one-star reviews, then it's not unrealistic to wonder if shenanigans are afoot.

Re:A bit premature to say it is ignored (1)

flowwolf (1824892) | about 3 years ago | (#35729662)

Don't be silly. Bloggers are professional conclusion jumpers. Research and credibility don't pay credence to their business model.

The solution (5, Interesting)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | about 3 years ago | (#35717866)

MS should scrap the web front end for submitting game ratings.

Instead, it should only be possible to submit a game rating from the XBox itself, using an account that's unlocked at least one achievement from the game.

Since the XBLIG games are only accessible to people with an internet-enabled XBox and a Live account, that shouldn't disenfranchise anyone who's actually got a relevant opinion.

Re:The solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35718078)

Your logic makes too much sense, quality assurance must be penalized instead, it's the only way.

Re:The solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35718534)

Consider the case though, where someone just plays the trial of the game and rightly judges the game as being garbage. They could not receive an acheivement as they have not bought it, but they should be allowed to express their opinion. XBLIG game don't support achievements, so that wouldnt work for them.

I agree though, that as a minimum they should have a gamertag and have downloaded the game.

Re:The solution (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#35720862)

I agree though, that as a minimum they should have a gamertag and have downloaded the game.

Unlike most PC games, many Xbox 360 games support multiple controllers on one system. So why shouldn't having a gamertag and having played the game at a mate's house count?

Re:The solution (1)

flowwolf (1824892) | about 3 years ago | (#35729710)

Using the idea of having at least one achievement from the game, then shouldn't playing it at a mates house give you that one achievement?

Re:The solution (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#35732512)

Not if it's an indie game. Only native games have achievements. Besides, do all such games give achievements even in multiplayer?

Re:The solution (1)

stikves (127823) | about 3 years ago | (#35725090)

Yes this is a more balanced approach.

Although it can still be manipulated, but at least you'll have to wait to the download to finish, and game to launch.

Re:The solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35718554)

MS should scrap the web front end for submitting game ratings.

Instead, it should only be possible to submit a game rating from the XBox itself, using an account that's unlocked at least one achievement from the game.

Since the XBLIG games are only accessible to people with an internet-enabled XBox and a Live account, that shouldn't disenfranchise anyone who's actually got a relevant opinion.

Indie games don't have achievements.

Re:The solution (1)

blueZhift (652272) | about 3 years ago | (#35722180)

Now that's an idea! Game ratings from people who have actually played the game. It would also be great to see the achievement profiles of the raters. That way you can see ratings from people who've played deeper into the game rather than single achievement drive-bys.

Seriously... (2)

Spyware23 (1260322) | about 3 years ago | (#35718176)

It's been what, twenty years of top downloaded/most votes lists, and we still can't make a fair system? Shiiit. Android market, the appstore, now this, they all suffer from the same flaws and drawbacks. Why can't some interface/social-schmocial people figure out a way to get this right?!

Re:Seriously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35718210)

A lot more then that! 10,000 years of human civilization, and people can still lie? When are they going to get on that?

Re:Seriously... (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 3 years ago | (#35718524)

Sadly the flaw is not the system, it is having trust in people to act in good faith. All this proves is that people can't be trusted with an open system. This is more damning on the indie game fans than the system itself, though really it is hardly suprising, when money is involved no community seems to be beyond a little corruption if left unchecked. Until you can figure out a perfect way to make people not behave in a bias fashion this will always occur, if you do figure out such a perfect system I am sure you will also be an instant millionaire.

Re:Seriously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35735006)

Sadly the flaw is not the system, it is having trust in people to act in good faith.

Any system that trusts people to act in good faith is severely flawed.

Re:Seriously... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 years ago | (#35718924)

Why can't some interface/social-schmocial people figure out a way to get this right?!

Because the Internet does not provide a way to positively ID and track its users. And it shouldn't, either.

Re:Seriously... (1)

flowwolf (1824892) | about 3 years ago | (#35729794)

He's talking about the fact that all market UI designs are horrible. Top Paid and Top Free lists do not cut it and those are the two categories all of these marketplace/appstores are pivoting the entire user experience off of.

Re:Seriously... (1)

crunch_ca (972937) | about 3 years ago | (#35719204)

Amazon's pretty good.

They make it easy to browse and discover content. They also have suggestions (if you like this, you might like that). Certainly they have a top N list, but it's certainly not as important to have your book in the top N as it is on an app store.

A somewhat misleading summary... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35718208)

Just to be clear: the developers of CL2011 asked their fans to vote up CL2011; they didn't ask them to vote down other games and have since put up a note on Facebook asking their fans to play nicely. So this appears to be down to overzealous loony fan-boys, rather than anything else.

(however, it has been suggested that several other developers have gone down the fake-account-vote route to try and boost their initial ranking. There's certainly been a number of recent games rated at 4+, which I'd personally rate at 2 or 3. Though to be fair, I am a bitter and jaded gamer...)

In any case, Microsoft need to fix this sharpish, as the problem isn't restricted to XBLIG, but also applies to XBLA and the rest of Microsoft's DLC empire - it's just more visible on XBLIG as the average number of votes/game is low. In fact, the odds are good that there's at least one marketing company ready and willing to drop a votebomb, inbetween spamming social networks with tales of how great basic_bejewelled_clone_5 is...

Re:A somewhat misleading summary... (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 3 years ago | (#35724460)

I think XBLIG isn't exactly getting the most accurate ratings anyway, people will vote something up just because it has nice production values for an XBLIG game even if it's not even remotely competitive with what else is out there (some XBLIG games are competitive with the rest of the gaming market). Also boobies will boost the ratings.

And? (1)

alexandre (53) | about 3 years ago | (#35719936)

Who cares?
There is only something like 75 games...
it's not 10000, you can try them all before buying!
It's not like people who produce for the App Store don't buy their own apps...

Re:And? (1)

PwnzerDragoon (2014464) | about 3 years ago | (#35723140)

Sure, there are only 75... if you ignore the 1,670 other games. Most of which are utter garbage, which is all the more reason to have a reliable rating system.

Re:And? (1)

alexandre (53) | about 3 years ago | (#35793316)

A truely reliable rating system would be nice, but I'm afraid that in such an extreme proprietary environment it would have to be made on the web, independantly to be trustable...
Microsoft just doesn't know how to do things right anymore.

But yeah, the more opinions the better :-)

And on that glorious day, 23 comments later (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35720418)

no %#!%s were given?

Indie Games (1)

JMZero (449047) | about 3 years ago | (#35720692)

I'd say their larger problem with Indie Games is the lack of quality control.

I'm happy to play a small game. But there are many games on there that are pretty much "I figured out how to draw a sprite, time to publish!", or worthless variants on other trivial games.

More content is fine - the problem is that these little turds take up spaces in the new release list (a valuable source of advertising) - and the problem feeds on itself. I think a lot of gamers have given up looking through the new Indie games - and that makes developers less likely to have a go at the platform.

I know if I was developing an XBox Live game, I'd try to find out how to get listed as a "real" arcade game and do what it takes to get there.

Re:Indie Games (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#35720898)

I know if I was developing an XBox Live game, I'd try to find out how to get listed as a "real" arcade game

Please allow me to rephrase what I've heard from CronoCloud and other Slashdot posters whom I have asked about this. In order to get out of the indie games ghetto, first you have to start a corporation or LLC and lease a secure office. Then you have to develop and sell copies of a game for PC, iOS, or Android in an unrelated genre. Do you have the finances to do this?

Re:Indie Games (1)

JMZero (449047) | about 3 years ago | (#35721988)

Yes I do, thanks for asking!

But I don't intend to. All I'm saying is Microsoft could make Indie games a lot more successful with a bit of quality control, some loosening of restrictions, and some better discovery tools (to be fair, all the "app stores" need better discovery/categorization tools).

Re:Indie Games (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 3 years ago | (#35724528)

The hurdle for XBLA is very high, you practically have to sign up with a big name publisher (even though digital releases shouldn't need one...) and get one of their limited number of release slots to get on there. Developers often start out on WiiWare (even if they never actually release a game on that service) to get the attention of those publishers as that has a much lower barrier to entry.

XBLIG is really meant for amateurs and I think that's fine, sometimes you can find something interesting on there.

Re:Indie Games (1)

JElder (1849586) | about 3 years ago | (#35730502)

It's how games started, and some of the most famous games and programmers in the past started - little more than technical demos.

What Indie Games? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35721844)

They really don't care about the indies. They have not even gone through the trouble of making them available over here. I'd have bought a few if I could.

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