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Game Previews Just Game Marketing?

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the unsurprising-but-sad dept.

282

Kotaku has a feature up today written by James Wagner Au, formerly embedded reporter in the world of Second Life. He's now doing his own thing, and he's got a fairly cynical discussion over at the Kotaku site about the real purpose behind game previews in industry rags. From the article: "For the thing of it is, game magazine previews are almost uniformly positive, even for the most undistinguished titles. So it unrolls thus: publisher makes mediocre game; press previews depict mediocre game as being good or at least worth a look; excited gamers read previews, foolishly believe them, start making pre-sale orders of mediocre game; driven by preview press and pre-sale numbers based on that press, retailers stock up on mediocre game; publisher makes money from mediocre game, keeps making more games like it."

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282 comments

color me ... (5, Funny)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903918)

... surprised

Re:color me ... Shocked (5, Funny)

ePhil_One (634771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903967)

Really, I think this guy may be on to something. Lately, I've been thinking hardware companies don't send review sites expensive computers for free out of the goodness of theri heart, I think they are doing it for Marketing reasons. This could blow the whole industry out of the water!

Re:color me ... Shocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904186)

Woah woah woah. Slow down there, Mr. Cynical...

Re:color me ... Shocked (1)

XL70E3 (574496) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904360)

This guy is just saying what every gamer with a clue knows already. I think it is good to rant about this because he has a good point: those web reviews sites don't wanna lose their jobs. So they play along with the devs, not the people. Theres really good reviews sites out there that needs to be discovered. Unfortunately, peeple don't visit them because those site don't have the 'privileges' other prostitutes sites have(screenshots, gameplay info, interviews and whatnot). I,m just glad i read a lot of stuff before buying game, otherwise, man i would be soooo fooled.

Re:color me ... (1)

The Munger (695154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904285)

excited gamers read previews, foolishly believe them, start making pre-sale orders of mediocre game

Yeah... big whoopee. You mean advertising works? Man I never thought I'd see the day. Here I was thinking they made ads purely for self-indulgence.

Gotta listen to him (5, Funny)

black6host (469985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903926)

I'm telling you, everything this guy says is gold. :)

Not necessarily "marketing" (4, Insightful)

77Punker (673758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903933)

It wouldn't make sense to say many bad things about a game before it's even finished; it wouldn't be fair. It does make sense that game writers would tell the eager fans everything they do have to be excited about. Should they write me an article telling me that some budgetware paintball game will have no features and the core gameplay will suck? No. That can be saved for a review. When something rad like Oblivion is being developed, it does make quite a bit of sense to tell me what'll make it so interesting beforehand. If they didn't, nobody would buy the magazine. It's not selling games, it's selling magazines.

Re:Not necessarily "marketing" (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14903970)

That'a good point, but most companies stipulate that you can't say anything bad if you want to preview a game.

Re:Not necessarily "marketing" (4, Interesting)

FearTheFrail (666535) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904091)

I think, then, some of the most informative previews come out when the writers comment on the previewed game like my parents used to talk about me. You've seen it before, the guilty eyes, the sheepish smile, and the "Well, maybe his features will actually be a little refined when he gets older..."

Granted, I haven't seen it often, but in cruising IGN I've seen at least a couple of previews (though, now that I think about it, this could've been 3-4 years ago) where you could tell the writers had that same look on their faces, and while they desperately want to be able to generate some positive hype about this feature or that, all they can offer is hope that things improve in the future.

And really? Truth be told, who wants to read any more than the rare preview to say "omg this game is gonna sucks bad?"

Honesty in previews, candid words and recognizing both the positive and negative in an upcoming game is, indeed, pretty much a dead breed.

Re:Not necessarily "marketing" (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904102)

Well, if I'm a games publisher and I recognise magazines have that need, feeding them previews just means I'll be getting good reviews from the previews. And the point of TFA still stands after you conclude that

Re:Not necessarily "marketing" (1)

Tetris Ling (836450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904103)

A preview doesn't need to trash a game to be journalisticly sound. A simple "The gameplay is good but hopefully the developer will do some serious work on the framerate and loading times." would go a long way.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that previews really shouldn't be positive or negative. They should be an objective look at how far the game has come along, and how far it still needs to go.

Why? (5, Insightful)

mboverload (657893) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903937)

Would you base your opinion of a car on a video of a test drive of a prototype version? No?

Then why would you do it with a game?

Re:Why? (3, Interesting)

Radish03 (248960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903996)

Exactly. Whenever I read a preview of a game that looks awesome, I think to myself "I hope that game ends up being as cool as this looks" and make a mental note to watch for the game later on when it's actually finished and reviewed. The preview doesn't usually do the advertising job of selling me the game. What it does is makes me aware of the game's existence.

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

chris_7d0h (216090) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904198)

Because it's better than simply reading the title and a summary at Amazon.com ?

Really, what's your point? People pre-order cars since most cars are just new revisions / bugfixes to older models with very little changing over each revision (such as the yearly increments of the BMW E46 model for example). I don't think the car business and their merchandise can be compared to the software industry and theirs. Programmers prefer to re-invent the wheel far more often than any other engineering profession.

The gaming industry is a segment of the entertainment industry and as such the same rules governing other practical / utility-industries do not apply. If I pre-order a non-software utility gadget which builds on an existing model (which is often the case), I know pretty much what I'll get. With entertainment this simply isn't true. Thus and apples and oranges comparison.

Re:Why? (1)

UnrealAnalysis (738653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904309)

I'd hardly agree that the wheel is reinvented terribly often in the gaming industry, at least not by the programmers.

Think of yearly sports titles; generally its little more than an updated roster and higher resolution textures and models as hardware capacity or slight engine optimisations allow.

Or how about FPS games? I mean seriously, how many Quake 3 engine based games were there? In this case it's only the artists and game designers re-inventing the wheel

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

UnrealAnalysis (738653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904233)

Because there's far less financial risk involved in purchasing a $45 game than a $20 000+ car.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

krunk4ever (856261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904258)

But it's that 1st review in your car magazine that actually gets you to go test drive a car, which might or might not lead to the final result of purchasing the car. Same thing with video games. You see some demos, look at people's reviews, see some actual game play, maybe even try it yourself, before you actually purchase the game. Of course that's what a "sensible" person would do... On the other hand, we have ...

But my point being, without that first demo or review, you might not even hear of the game at all.

And... (2, Insightful)

__int64 (811345) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903940)

This is non-obvious?

Re:And... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904007)

Patently so.

How could it be otherwise? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14903953)

Can you imagine a world where journalists were objective and direct about unfinished games? "This game sucks, it's full of bugs and there's only two levels!!"

Speaking of dishonest companies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904100)

With the advent of the massive multiplayer online role-playing game, or MMORPG, a crossroads has been reached in regards to relations between the developing company and the customer. Specifically, the controversy centers around the companies Sony Online Entertainment and Lucasarts, and their online world of "Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided." In the fabled saga of the "Star Wars" Universe, there exists an evil Empire bent on oppressing the free denizens of the galaxy through the means of cruelty, totalitarianism, and sheer force. The only people standing in their way are the Rebellion, a small group of intrepid freedom fighters who battle on against seemingly insurmountable odds. When Sony Online Entertainment, "a recognized worldwide leader in MMO games," purchased a smaller company, Verant, it also acquired the project to bring this saga to life in the form of SWG (Business 2). Originally launched with great promise, though lacking in many of the features that were advertised for launch, SWG held the title of the fastest growing MMORPG to date. Then, rival company Blizzard released World of Warcraft, which quickly rocketed to five million subscriptions. That, coupled with the added pressure of gradually declining subscriptions, other competing games, and severe problems with the in-game mechanics led to both companies feeling pressed for success. SOE/LA decided to revamp SWG, first through the Combat Upgrade (CU), then through the New Game Enhancements (NGE). SOE/LA specifically misled their online community throughout the launch, Combat Upgrade, and New Game Enhancements to Star Wars Galaxies, leading to a breach of contract between the customer and the corporation.

One of the major problems with SWG since its inception has been that it was released early, when it was not ready. Initially, customers were promised space travel, battlefields, player vehicles, and player cities, amongst other things. It is important to note that SOE/LA did not deliver these things as promised when the game was launched, and even charged customers to pay for an expansion for space travel, when it was promised as a feature at the outset. When SWG went live, it included only the battlefields, which were disabled shortly thereafter due to technical problems, and were never reactivated again. Other aspects like space travel were added later in SWG's first year. Another blatant lie to customers was that they would be able to begin the path to becoming a Jedi Knight, the fabled protectors of the galaxy, at launch. Jedi in the game were an Alpha-class character, meaning that they were superior to other characters in their skills. Balance was achieved by making the path to the class secret, making it extremely difficult to become. However, after months of people searching for the path to become a Jedi, SOE/LA announced that they had not included Jedi in the original launch and were doing so in the next scheduled publish. SOE/LA left out an important advertised feature and misled their customers into thinking that it did exist. Also, a monthly story arc that promised customer's participation in the fate of the galaxy was also advertised as one of the game's features, and it did indeed run for several months. But, SOE/LA decided to suspend the story arc, and have not reinstituted it since.

Despite all these issues, Star Wars Galaxies was initially a success, and attracted large amounts of customers to its' unique style of gameplay, coupled with the experience of being part of the Star Wars saga. Business Wire wrote that "Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided quickly became the fastest growing MMORPG in North America" (Business 1). The players of the game were especially devoted to it, defending it against it's early critics. The initial success of SWG was due largely in part to three things.
The first was that the game was extremely unique and complicated in its mechanics. Seth Schiesel of the New York Times wrote that "Previously [before the subsequent changes], the game was unabashedly complicated, appealing to mature, reflex-challenged gamers with its strategic combat style and deep skill system" (Schiesel 1). No other game had ever presented such a broad skill system. It allowed players to customize the professions of their characters to an extent that made sure that everyone was an individual with different qualities that allowed them to excel in their area of choice. In addition, the number of playable professions, which was thirty two at launch, gave players free reign to choose what they wanted to be. The second reason for SWG's initial success was its community. SWG attracted players that were mature and desired a challenging, entertaining experience. This led to people bonding together to mutually accomplish their goals, forging a strong community that was unequaled in the history of MMORPGs. The third and final reason for its initial success was that it was Star Wars. While this is somewhat of an obvious point, many players would play any game regardless of the quality as long as it allowed them to take part in the adventure that is the Star Wars universe.

As the game developed, there were some underlying problems that were leading it to decay. Parts of SWG were "fundamentally flawed," and the constant maintenance and updates needed to balance it out were taking their toll on SOE's resources and fan's patience (Adams 1). Problems with the balance of combat in the game led SOE/LA to begin development of the Combat Upgrade, or CU. The original intent of the CU was to balance, not change. It is important to note that SOE/LA once again did not deliver what they promised the customers, changing the nature of the Combat Upgrade as they saw fit with little to no feedback from the customer. SOE/LA saw an opportunity to use the customers desire for something new to sneak in other features that they thought would help improve the game. This reflects the "extremely weak lines of communication that developers and players had," leading to updates that often were the exact opposite of what the players want or what the game needed (Adams 2). In contrast, upper management at SOE/LA stated that "A lot of positive changes have taken effect since Star Wars Galaxies first launched," showing that the discontent of the customers with the changes were not reaching high enough into the corporate infrastructure (Lucasarts 1).When it was released, the CU changed combat almost completely, as well as affecting aspects of the Galactic Civil War (GCW), crafting, and the Jedi Village. All were important gameplay mechanics that instead of being fixed were broken even further by this first attempt to change the game in midstream.

The final aspect of the game that led to its destruction was that even after the CU, which was meant to curb subscriber loss, the game continued to slowly lose subscribers at a percentage that was larger than normal. Why? Changes from the CU had not reached the desired effect, and had indeed made things worse, which led customers to hit the cancellation button. Those customers were migrating to other MMORPGs. Upper management at SOE/LA made the decision that more drastic measures needed to be taken. In Gamespot's interview with John Smedley, he said that "Right now World of Warcraft is certainly owning a lot of online play" (Feldman 8). He was later asked why the decision was made to change the game, and he responded that "we always felt like we had under delivered on the Star Wars experience" (Feldman 1). In their effort to save SWG, they instead ending up destroying it.

The ultimate result of the clandestine meetings between SOE and LA's upper management led to the release of the NGE, which stands for New Game Enhancements. In essence, the NGE changed the game that customers had paid to play for more than two years, and did so by giving them only several days notice. The NGE came to exemplify the point that SOE/LA did not care what they had promised, and instead worked only in terms of future development, not for the current customers. Dallas Dickinson, an SOE producer, said that "it felt like a better idea for us to break with the past and develop the game it should have been to begin with" (Adams 2). John Blakely, the Vice-President of Development at SOE, said that "It was a tough decision we had to make" (Musgrove 2). In retrospect, it also turned out to be the wrong one. Computer Gaming World wrote this of the ineptitude of the management: "SOE tossed everything (including the good parts) into the garbage chute, wholly replacing it with a dreadful set of new game enhancements that actually make things much, much worse" (Davis 1). Dan Adams of IGN.com wrote that "The answer from SOE and Lucasarts is a sweeping change to the core gameplay elements of Star War Galaxies" (Adams 1). The skill-based system of professions was totally replaced with a set of nine iconic professions. Old professions were combined into these new ones, and some were eliminated completely. SOE officials justified this by saying "The only other profession [besides Bio-Engineer] we didn't absorb into one of these iconic templates is the creature handler, and only 1% of our players play that character type" (Adams 3). While this could be true, they still have essentially eliminated months of work for that 1% of players. Computer Gaming World's review of the changes stated "Veteran players will also feel cheated by the bland class selection, which replaces SWG's deep and versatile skill system" (Davis 1). The games interface was completely changed, as was the combat system. Instead of a complicated turn based system of combat, a pseudo FPS, or first person shooter system was introduced. Also, the removal of item decay coupled with the increase in quality and quantity of loot drops destroyed the player-based economy and left those players who pursued crafting professions to be nothing more than a novelty, as opposed to the integral part of the game that they previously were. Even the entertainers, who were one of the most popular professions, were so changed, or nerfed, that they served no purpose any longer. CGW summed it up quite ably when it said "the game's devoted fans...find themselves spurned by the developer's hope that a dumbed-down gaming experience will appeal to wider audiences" (Davis 1).

The reaction of the customers to this bait-and-switch has become something of a legend in the ferocity in which they displayed their new opinion of SOE/LA. Directly after the announcement was made, many players were banned from the official SWG forums for protesting the NGE, or questioning the business ethics behind it. Instead of using this single line of communication to gauge the opinion of the players, and form a suitable plan for future development, the forum moderators crushed any protests and removed those who even mentioned any criticism of the NGE. Instead of containing the anger, the move spread it to other online destinations devoted to gaming. "On Gamespot.com, 50% of players rating the new version of the game have rated it as abysmal," signaling to the potential players that the NGE was meant to attract that this new version is not worth playing (Schiesel 2). Another destination for many fans of MMORPGs is MMORPG.com, and even though the game is rated around a 7 on a 10 point scale, the content of the reviews from the players are sometimes so explicit in their dissatisfaction that they are not fit to print. The New York Times reported that former players "are swapping tales on "refugee" Web sites like Imperial Crackdown" (Schiesel 1).

An extremely important and more direct measure of customer satisfaction, the subscription base, or number of people currently paying for the game, was the primary reason for the changes. Mike Musgrove of the Washington Post said of his interview with SOE that "Blakely said that the changes have already won over a fresh supply of players, though longtime observers of the game say they see a lot less traffic on the game's servers." (Musgrove 3). Rumors abound about the game's population tanking from around 200,000 players to somewhere south of 50,000 players. The New York Times wrote that "many Galaxies players are canceling their accounts and migrating to other online games" (Schiesel 1). SOE/LA has publicly admitted that they expected to lose some veterans. The game's senior director at Lucasarts, Nancy MacIntyre said that "We knew we were taking a significant risk with our existing player base" (Schiesel 2). However, this amount of cancellations should have shocked them to their core. MacIntrye went on to say that "[I] expect the game to return to its previous subscriber levels in the next six months" (Schiesel 2). If this had been the case, SOE/LA should have been touting their subscriber numbers monthly after the NGE, to show upward growth. Since then however, SOE/LA has refused to admit the current server populations, and made the statement that "SOE does not and has never released server populations." This is in direct conflict with the numerous statements made by SOE/LA employees that SWG had upwards of 500,000 players in its heyday only a year or so ago.

MMORPG.com stated in their review of the current state of the game that "the changes that were made were too little, too late" (MMORPG 2). John Smedley, the game's producer, said that "with the changes we're making with Galaxies, I think we're headed in the right direction" (Feldman 2). However, regardless of the merit of the changes brought on by the NGE is the manner in which it was delivered, clandestinely and with total disregard for the same players that had supported the game up until that point. This only goes to prove once again that during SWG's history, SOE/LA have a track record of not delivering what they promise to the customers. Whether that is through technological incompetence, like bugs that prevented armorsmiths from making factory runs of the correct color armor for months, or blatant lies, such as the path to Jedi at launch and the months of secret development of the NGE, they have broken the contract between the customer and the corporation. In the agreement that customers sign to play the game, there is a clause that states that the game is subject to change. However, it is doubtful that customers knew the extent of the corporate lies and money-grabbing schemes that would be protected by this clause. In addition, this EULA, or End User License Agreement, of a game has never been tested in a court of law, which leads to the speculation of whether or not SOE/LA's conduct can be challenged in that venue. Only time will tell. But whether or not that is needed to prove to other customers to stay away is doubtful, since the disenfranchised fans that were alienated by the mistreatment they faced have spread the word to every corner of the digital world that no matter what promise Sony Online Entertainment and Lucasarts make, you can expect it to be broken.

Work Cited

Adams, Dan. "And the galaxy was changed for all time..." Star Wars Galaxies. IGN.com 4 November 2005. 8 February 2005. www.pc.ign.com/articles/664/664704pl.html

Schiesel, Seth. "For online Star Wars Game, It's Revenge of the Fans." The New York Times. 10 December 2005

"Lucasarts announces new Star Wars Galaxies expansion pack as franchise unit sales surpass one million." Lucasarts.com 19 August 2005. 8 February 2005. www.lucasarts.com/press/releases/104.html

"Lucasarts celebrates Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided One Year Anniversary." Business Wire. 28 June, 2004.

Feldman, Curt. "Q&A: SOE's John Smedley on Galaxies' outer limits." Gamespot.com 15 December 2005. 8 February 2006 www.gamespot.com/news/6141213.html

Feldman, Curt. "Q&A: SOE's John Smedley on the kinder, gentler Galaxies." Gamspot.com 9 December 2005. 8 February 2006 www.gamespot.com/news/6140991.html

Musgrove, Mike. "Sadness in "Star Wars" World." The Washington Post. 2 February 2006. D01.

"Star Wars Galaxies." Computer Gaming World. 9 February 2006.

Hinman, Rob. "SWG: New Game Experience Review." MMORPG.com 23 November 2005. 8 February 2006 www.mmorpg.com

Natalya Ba-an
Master Ar

http://mmorpg.com/discussion.cfm?load=forums&loadf orum=433&loadthread=70831&setstart=1&loadclass=103 &fp=1280,1024,1862500265,20060312162921 [mmorpg.com]

Re:How could it be otherwise? (2, Insightful)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904104)

I believe the "review" would be in the context of this is a preview of an unfinished game. Call it a "preview" if you will...

Why are so many posters missing this point? It NOT the goal of this article to point out that previews should be the same as reviews. (BTW: I mean unbiased reviews, because most have the same problems)

Things like vision, core graphics models, levels and premise are MOSTLY completed at the time of previews and can be commented on. But even things that are not finished can still be evaluated on in context of an unfinished game.

Just because it is not finished, does not mean you cannot make ANY critiques at all.

What are you after?? Something like this: (????)

This game has been in development for 2 years now and is set to go gold in 2 months. Currently it is only a cuboid polygon that is moved about with the mouse (with many controller bugs) on a white background. However, we feel confident that this will be THE BEST GAME OF THE YEAR, based on the marketing fluff we were given.

Most of the beta testers of SWG knew what was going to happen on release...

Re:How could it be otherwise? (5, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904276)

How about something like this (I made this up):

"In Joe Bob's Grand Adventure you'll be playing Joe Bob as he fights to regain his Pickle farm from the evil Artichoke-Industrial Complex. In the build we played there were some bugs here and there, but the game was comming along nicely. The levels looked good and were interactive and had plenty of little touches making them seem alive and real, and the shooting mechanic felt very good. The AI provided some challenge (except for a few known bugs) and the game seemed fun. The world is enganging and the story is well presented. The game has a large number of weapons, but some currently feal very similar. The game is shaping up for a November release."

or "In Joe Bob's Grand Adventure you'll be playing Joe Bob as he fights to regain his Pickle farm from the evil Artichoke-Industrial Complex. In the build we played there were some bugs here and there, but none severly effected gameplay. The levels looked rather drab and flat, with detail akin to a game from 3 years ago. There was no interactivity to speak of, and the shooting mechanic had serious flaws in the accuracy of aiming. The AI, while working, provided little challenge and was prone to getting stuck on the simplest of objects (like a stair). The scenerio is very similar to about a dozen other games; and the story seems almost bolted-on to the action and completely incidental to the game. The dozens of weapons play almost identicle, many even looking very similar to others. The game is expected to be released in November."

The first was of a game that shows promise, the second was of a game that had some obvious problems. Let's look at what a "normal" preview looks like:

>"In Joe Bob's Grand Adventure you'll be playing Joe Bob as he fights to regain his Pickle farm from the evil Artichoke-Industrial Complex. The game world is full of interesting characters and enemies all with AI that will be very realistic. In the build we played we ran around and shot stuff and since we didn't want to kill ourselves afterward, this will obviously be a "must have" game. The levels looked great, based on the pre-renders they showed us, and are supposed to be fully interactive using a real-time-inverse-kinematic-physics-engine. There are dozens of weapons in the game, along with what is promised to be the best online multiplayer for a console to date. You'll want to reserve your copy now so you can buy it when it comes out in November."

It doesn't matter how boring or bug ridden a game is, they always get glowing previews. The only time you even see bugs mentioned in previews is in the previews of games that are expected to be great (due to lineage). You might see something like "In PGR3 we encounted a few small glitches but the game is already a blast to play." In a buggy game you'll see previews like "In Driver 3 you'll be able to drive around a GTA like world." Notice it doesn't mention that if there was a feather in the road it would stop your car dead if you hit it (example based on memory).

The reviews themselves don't help either. The "average" game seems to get a score of about 80%. A game has to be really bad to get even a medium-low score (40-50%). I think we should force reviewers to use a bell-curve system to fight "Review Inflation."

Hmmm, great in theory... (1)

KiwiRed (598427) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903954)

But you have to bear in mind that they're trying to fight two of the mightiest forces in history: Marketing and Money.

That said, as a gamer I'd describe it as the 'good fight', and I'm behind them on this one. (The most disappointing game i've played recently has been Star Wars: Empire At War - proof enough for me that even the Star Wars name can't save a mediocre title. And no, I never played Galaxies.)

OOOOH child, things are going to get buttsecksier (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14903955)


Pretty obvious (1)

keyne9 (567528) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903957)

That's why previews are largely worthless. To paraphrase H.J.Simpson, "(More) Tomb Raider? How can I lose?!"

I'll answer the first question.. (5, Insightful)

onion2k (203094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903960)

Why do games, for the most part, unrelentingly suck such ass?

Because making games is hard.

See also: Websites, records, television programmes ..

Anything that involves a creative input is difficult because thats the way we're made. We love to think of ourselves as wonderfully creative creatures all very capable of coming up with brilliant new ideas day and night .. but that's simply not the case. Thinking up something original is exceedingly tricky. Games cross a bridge between technical innovation and creativity .. that makes them doubly difficult. And on top of that it's (perceived to be) a big money, big profit, prestigious part of the IT industry .. and that attracts just about everyone regardless of their level of capability.

So you have a difficult creative process blending with some hardcore technical requirements being worked on by just about everyone who wants fame and money.

To be brutally honest, the article should be asking how the hell any games are any good, not why most are bad.

Re:I'll answer the first question.. (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904017)

Actually, the reason most games (movies, CDs) are bad is because once a medium goes mainstream (with big money behind it) a degree of risk-averseness sets in. That is, once something makes money, milk it for all it's worth because trying some thing new might lose money instead. There's plenty of creativity available ... the problem is getting that creativity past the money people. The motion picture industry is a prime example of the long-term dangers of that kind of thinking: eventually the buying public gets bored with your retreads. When that happens, they stop shelling out hard-earned dollars for something they've already seen a dozen times before. However the movie studios, judging from several recent public statements, appear to be waking up to this: I'm not sure the music outfits have the wit to figure it out for themselves. But that's okay ... the market with figure it out for them.

Re:I'll answer the first question.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904045)

I agree with what you say, but it's not the whle story. Having done a bit of all of the above, games design, music and film media production and software projects the common theme I've noticed goes roughly as follows...
Actually creativity is easy. Realising it is a fine line though. There are powerful forces in opposition in creative development. On the one hand you have the creative engine, the coders and designers who are extremely progressive and ambitious. On the other side you have very conservative forces of marketing, management, PR and the suits who generally seem to impede creativity at every juncture. A good project is one where these forces balance well to promote realism, the suits temper overambitious artistic and technical energy without actually stifling it to the point of failure. Problem is as industries mature, and especially so with games and film, the conservative forces now dominate. Nobody wants to take a risk on something that might actually be paradigm shifting, better to err on the safe but mediocre side. This is very frustrating to genuinely original thinkers. I've found that the best work is in small, new and ambitious outfits. In the bigger companies you get the same old crap, the suits talk the project up to the public, and talk the project down to the team. It's a cruel deception because in the end, both parties, developers and users are frustrated and disappointed my conservative thinking. Good games companies, like good artists and scientists take risks.

Who buys? (2, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903961)

Who pays £40 or whatever for a game without reading several reviews about it, or having played it first? I don't get it, but apparantly it must be lots and lots of people.

No problem though - hang back a little, and you get to buy a game once the reviews are out, the servers are up and the patches are released.

Re:Who buys? (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904027)

wait long enough and pick it up in the pre-owned or bargain bins... :)

Re:Who buys? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904057)

Actually, yeah, I forgot something - you can save a few pounds if you don't buy it immediately too - and often the expansion packs get bundled with the main game. No need to wait 2 years or whatever for the bargain bins. I guess there are some gamers who have to have the latest games but I'm happy with a *good* game, and it doesn't matter to me if it was released last week or in the last 18 months or so.

Re:Who buys? (1)

DarthChris (960471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904055)

You make a good point here.

When I was younger, I used to jump on this hype. But I've been burned too many times now to buy a game until I've played it for myself - a game might be great, and have really good reviews etc, but I simply might not like it (Rome: Total War was an example of this).
So in answer to your question: the people who buy are

  • those who haven't been burned enough times
  • those who haven't been playing long enough to remember the classics
  • last but not least, clueless parents.

The price of a games is also ridiculous nowadays. More and more often I see games released with an RRP of £40 (sterling; ~$60-65 US) in shops, which IMO is too much regardless of how good it is.

Re:Who buys? (1)

robgamble (925419) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904080)

Agreed, and while you're at it, downloading a DEMO of the game is a really good idea. An example, BloodRayne 2 looks brilliant but I played the demo and found the cemera is maddeningly chaotic. Some people may have no issue with this, and so they will enjoy the game but for me the title is a waste of money. I wouldn't know that without having played the demo.

Re:Who buys? (1)

Tetris Ling (836450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904131)

Well, you do that, and I do that, but a lot of my friends don't care enough to read the reviews, especially if the game has been heavily hyped beforehand. And for all the times I tell them to wait, and I'm right (Episode III, Path of Neo, etc), it only takes one game to live up to its promise, and they're right back to buying games without waiting again.

Remember, (and I'm not being sarcastic) not everyone is as smart as you.

Re:Who buys? (3, Informative)

Khuffie (818093) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904283)

Well, it depends on the game really. I for one know I'll be buying Twilight Princess before reading any reviews. I wait on most other games, but there are certain titles that I know I'll love regardless of the reviews.

This industry is unique? (1, Redundant)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903964)

Don't most manufacturers of most any product try to influence reviews? Even to the extreme of bribery and/or psuedonyms?

Re:This industry is unique? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904105)

Magazines are in the advertising business, and manufacturers don't buy advertising from magazines that publish bad reviews of their products. Similarly most "product of the year", "editor's choice", or "readers choice" awards are bought and paid for.

The good news is that this behavior can easily be exploited to your benefit. Just phone up any magazine and inquire about pricing for their advertising and mailing lists, then mention you'd like to see some examples of their publications, and they will usually offer you a free subscription.

The Droids We're Looking For. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14903969)

Have the masses really become so media illiterate that it needs to be explained to them that crap is crap?

Tune in next week for evidence that no real women look like TV weatherpersons, global warming might actually be happening, and that Bush is lying about that, too.

Christ on a flatbed.

Breaking News: Water is wet (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14903973)

Also reported today the sky is blue, foods give you gas, and hitting the ground from a fall hurts.

Re:Breaking News: Water is wet (1)

Buran (150348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904281)

Actually, it should be a concern if the press isn't doing its duty and presenting the facts in an objective manner and disclosing all possible sources of bias, such as financial donations. A reporter has a duty to the readers of his or her stories, and a biased article that sweeps problems under the rug is very much a cause for concern -- and it's even more troublesome when it happens consistently and no one speaks up about it.

Re:Breaking News: Water is wet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904333)

God damnit, I think I speak for all of the Slashdot community when I say Shut the FUCK up

Thanks...

Easy to Criticize (4, Insightful)

Trojan35 (910785) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903975)

Hard to get a solution.

Here are your options:

1) Gamers get positive previews and find out what games will look like, how they will play, but will not hear any of the negatives.

2) Gamers hear nothing of new games and have to wait for reviews of the games after they are released. Or worse: purchase based on number of TV ads they see.

Given those, i'll take option #1 anyday. It's not fair to game developers if they will get ripped for framerate issues when they let editors take an early playtest. There's lots wrong with the video-game industry (such as bought REVIEWS). However, overly-positive "previews" are not one of them. They're par for the course and an acceptable trade-off.

Re:Easy to Criticize (2, Interesting)

urbaer (778997) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904113)

They're par for the course and an acceptable trade-off.

Looking at Edge 142, (thier preview section is called 'Hype'), most of thier previews run through what's in the game and what the developers will need to do to the game before release to make it decent. A few choice quotes:
"... appears to do little of consequence and little to offend, but will that be to little to justify its price?"
"Having only played through the initial levels in a tightly restricted early beta test, it would be dangerous to jump to conclusions..."

My point therefore is go find a mag that doesn't gush over previews, they exist. I've found that multiformat mags are a little less gushy than single format mags, but hey.

Re:Easy to Criticize (2)

Perseid (660451) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904164)

I can excuse not disclosing negatives - many of them will be fixed before the game goes gold. But almost every preview I see in almost every print game magazine proudly announces these games as if they're going to change your life when they're released. I don't even read previews anymore. I might skim the pictures but that's about it.

Re:Easy to Criticize (1)

Buran (150348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904298)

3) Gamers get actually-objective previews of new products, allowing them to make educated choices. You know, the option that is the best one, since it actually fixes the problem.

In all seriousness.... (3, Informative)

TomHandy (578620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903979)

Really, I don't expect anything from a game preview other than to get an idea of what an upcoming game is going to be about, what it might look like, what kind of gameplay or innovations it will feature, etc. Granted, some of the hyperbole can be distracting (i.e. "this game is going to REDEFINE FPS's!!!!"), but it's not generally something I read a game preview for. Honestly, the biggest thing I care about is screenshots and online videos (something which is of course handled much better online than in magazines)..... I don't think I'd ever pre-order a game though or even buy it on the first day though (unless I was reasonably confident it would be good) until I read more final reviews, and also read more user reviews and impressions.

Love the honesty (1, Interesting)

brennz (715237) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903982)

"the circle jerk is complete"

This is how I feel about World of Warcraft, AKA FactionQuest AKA World of PVEcraft, AKA one of the most unambitious mediocre games ever published.

In WOW, endgame content basically consists of endless faction farming, nonstop instance grinding, and totally shitty PVP based primarily on gear.

I'd give my left nut for a revamp back to the original Ultima Online (which, strangely, had far superior endgame to most of the modern MMORPGs).

Gaming companies now are just going to follow Blizzard's lead for the next 5 years churning out shit games with polished UIs and somewhat decent netcode, instead of making something novel, inspiring and nonrepetitive.

That article hits the money.

Re:Love the honesty (1)

EEBaum (520514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904187)

I think the real problem here is that there is no endgame. When you run out of "content" in an MMORPG, it should say "Congratulations, you've beat the game! Here's the page of high scores." That really doesn't help keep the subscriptions coming, though.

Either that, or "winning" the game could give you access to a more exclusive server or class of character or something.

Re:Love the honesty (4, Insightful)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904224)

which is exactly what City of Heroes chose to do. When you reach level 50 (the maximum level) on at least one character, you unlock the ability to make a new Archetype of character called a Kheldian. They are available in 2 flavours, and offer challenging gameplay through both regular missions and special unique Kheldian origin missions.

Really, I think the problem is that people expect a game followed by an "Endgame". The *GAME* is the process of getting to 50, not what you do when you get there. If you don't like the proces of leveling up and developing a character, then don't play the game. I am constantly hearing of people who start a game, find a way to powerlevel through to the end of the game then whine that there is no content and that they are bored. Of course they are fucking bored, they bypassed 95% of the game to get to the end. Its like renting a DvD, fast forwarding to the last 5 mins and then complaining that it was a boring movie and didn't make sense.

I think designers need to start designing games that are enjoyable to play as a process, as a journey, and fuck the people who think the game starts when they get to the end :)

Re:Love the honesty (1)

B0red At W0rk (876713) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904305)

Richard Garriot's new game Tabula Rasa will bring back all the missed freedom of UO and more (here's to hoping).

Next you're going to tell me... (2, Funny)

smaerd (954708) | more than 8 years ago | (#14903983)

...that people that post about video games are shills.

That said, Madden NFL 06 is pure engineering genious. The new QB Vision Control and QB Precision Placement really brings you into the game. NFL superstar mode brings you into the world of top talent.

Overall, Madden NFL 06 will totally change the way we think about console NFL games.

Re:Next you're going to tell me... (1)

Nataku564 (668188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904310)

I see the attempt at humor, but unfortunately I know people who sound like this, and they aren't trying to be funny.

James Wagner Au is an idiot (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904001)

He used to write for Salon.com and I blame him entirely for the "Black & White" hype disaster. Guess the big fancy web zine fired him and now he's writing for a second-rate blog. Way to move up in the world, James! Next stop: three-star commenter on Joystiq.com!

Oh, Nostalgia... (4, Funny)

ucaledek (887701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904004)

Remember the good old days where we had unbiased gaming previews and reviews with none of those terrible corporate sponsorship problems? Wait, that's right I grew up on Nintendo Power. Their review of "The Wizard" was dead-on. That was the greatest film ever!

Re:Oh, NEStalgia... (1)

iroll (717924) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904093)

Man, that does bring back memories... memories which, in hindsight, are both sad and frightening. "Nintendo Power" was the first magazine which was actually delivered to me, addressed to my own name, as opposed to "family" or a parent. I was pretty proud.

Article is an incomplete argument (5, Interesting)

tengennewseditor (949731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904005)

Previews are necessarily positive because the media doesn't have access to the final game and has to take the developer's word. There's no opportunity to be critical, so they're just hype, but everyone knows that.

Reviews ensure that developers have a reason to make the game as good as possible. If previews drive sales too, then it allows developers to take more risks -- because an ambitious game that ultimately fails will have a good preview writeup and sell enough not to be a total loss.

The author is trying to posit an implied (but untrue) connection between previews allowing mediocre games to sell and all games 'sucking.' Mediocre stuff sells in every entertainment industry that exists -- if only the best games sold then the market would be too risky to enter.

Re:Article is an incomplete argument (1)

wpanderson (67273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904038)

Previews are necessarily positive because the media doesn't have access to the final game and has to take the developer's word. There's no opportunity to be critical, so they're just hype, but everyone knows that.

You'd think that, but look at the number of previews that are critical: "Oooh, this game is gonna rawk", "we can't wait to see this game" (subtext: neither will you), "even at this early stage ...", and so on. This has happened for years, even back in the 8-bit days. As someone said below, how is this news?

Re:Article is an incomplete argument (1)

tengennewseditor (949731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904087)

That's not a critique, that's hype. Some previews are critical but it's pretty rare, and it's usually along the lines of "The only thing we wish they would add is multiplayer, but we're going to have to wait and see."

In other news... (1)

DoktorSeven (628331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904021)

Water is wet.
The sky is blue.
Politicians are crooks.

How is this news?

Hmmm (1)

wpanderson (67273) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904024)

Is it just me, or does this read more like pimpage for a new upcoming feature on their (Kotaku's) website? The fact is very well known that the bulk of the videogame press - EDGE excluded - shill for publishers, especially when high profile, high budget titles are delayed or don't meet development expectations. Actually, I'm surprised that the normally-sane Kotaku is making a big thing of it. That /. is interested does not surprise me.

Next on Slashdot: Movie critics shill for movie studios, film at 11.

Game Previews Just Game Marketing??? (0)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904033)

Hello. Did you just wake from 3000 years of cryogenic suspension?

Soooo (1)

taskforce (866056) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904062)

So it unrolls thus: publisher makes mediocre game; press previews depict mediocre game as being good or at least worth a look; excited gamers read previews, foolishly believe them, start making pre-sale orders of mediocre game; driven by preview press and pre-sale numbers based on that press, retailers stock up on mediocre game; publisher makes money from mediocre game."

He missed out "???" before "Profit."

Other possible explanations... (2, Insightful)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904070)

You might notice that a lot of reviews rate the games out of 100. I think people already have a slant about that sort of system based upon school. At school, when your efforts are rated out of 100, it feels like there's very little difference between somebody who's gotten 20 and somebody who's gotten 45. I think it's similar with how people look at games. Look at some of the reviews that fanboys put out for their games. They'll say it's worth a 78, for instance. Try to get them to explain exactly what it is that merits that exact score. What kept it from getting a 79, for instance, or what made it four points better than a 74. Chances are they probably can't, but fanboys, being what they are, like the supposed sophistication about rating something out of 100 and have to choose a number that feels right, rather than one that reflects accurately what the game deserves.

As for reviews being overwhelmingly positive, many trade publications operate on this principle, too. Even if you want to say something sucks, you want to put a slightly positive spin on it to keep people spending money on your industry. Besides, you can't always be honest about how you feel when part of the funding for your journal or website comes from advertising, and those advertisers also happen to produce products that you're reviewing.

I wish more places would just adopt a star rating. Rate something between 0 and 5 stars, with 2 stars being an average game. That way, we're talking about the equivalent of an average game getting close to 50%, but the stigma of failing isn't always there.

The ultimate example title: MOO3 (4, Interesting)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904073)

I always rate the credibility of a game reviewer on the INVERSE of their score for the game Master of Orion III, which was widely acknowledged to be an awful title.

Yet you'll find reviewers who give it quite a good score "4.3/5". And they'll wax poetic about some of the worst and repetitive features of the game. "I always turn up the speakers when I've gotten a diplomatic message to hear the wonderful alien voices."

Compare/Contrast the following reviews. Who would YOU go to for the truth next time?
#1: http://www.stratosgroup.com/reviews/games.php?sele cted=0303moo3 [stratosgroup.com] "4.3 out of 5"
#2: http://pc.ign.com/articles/386/386281p6.html [ign.com] "9.2 out of 10 and Editor's Choice Award"
#3: http://www.avault.com/reviews/review_temp.asp?game =moo3&page=3 [avault.com] "3 out of 5"
#4: http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/masteroforion3 /review.html?q=master%20of%20orion [gamespot.com]
"6.7 out of 10"

Re:The ultimate example title: MOO3 (2, Interesting)

soupforare (542403) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904176)

I love how not one of those reviewers had MOO3 down as less than average.

Re:The ultimate example title: MOO3 (2, Insightful)

sholden (12227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904327)

Isn't the average 9/10?

Re:The ultimate example title: MOO3 (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904262)

The truth is, they don't even bother with testing the games they rate. They run them for half a hour, grab a few screenshots and write an article. Anything more would require actual effort.
In this case, they assumed that a sequel of one of the greatest games of all time (MOO2) will be great; checking this assumption would require paying their editors, something that goes against the principle of cutting all costs which have anything to do with quality.

And in summation... (1)

Jubetas (917500) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904074)

the entirety of /. says "No duuuuuuh!"

Re:And in summation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904271)

A-DOY!

Sounds like.... (1)

DrackenFireBreather (691905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904095)

the movie industry for the past few decades (or any other big media outlet), and now they're melding closer and closer together, big surprise that anyone that has an interest in the industry would say anything bad, then they'll never get a free-preview of the publishers next big game. Yeah, pardon my cynicysm....

Previews: the reality (5, Interesting)

payndz (589033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904122)

Speaking as a former games magazine editor, I can say this with authority. The reasons magazines do all those more-or-less uncritical previews on upcoming games is...

To fill pages.

No kidding. When you start the month, you have anything between 100 to 164 pages to fill. (Certainly where I worked, the editor had no say in the total number of pages - that was decided based on projected advertising revenue and the whim of the publishing director.) The advertising department says they expect to need X pages. You know fairly well how many games will come in for review based on the release schedules, and can allocate pages based on that. You have all the standing pages - news, letters, cheats and guides, house ads, subscriptions, etc.

Anything left over has to be filled. And the nature of the games business means they either have to be filled by either wacky filler features (which the magazine writers love because it gives them a chance to be self-indulgent, but the readers generally couldn't give a shit about)... or you have to talk about games that haven't come out yet. They might be lengthy interview-based stories, or they might be based entirely around the latest set of screenshots that have become avilable. Either way, they're previews.

And the sad fact is, if you preview a game that's still some months from release and get all snarky about the lame concept, the horrible control system or the blatant swipes from other games, even if it's deservedly so... the publisher is likely to tell you to fuck off when you ask for final review code down the line. Which will leave a hole in your predicted number of pages for the review section. You can fill that either by extending other reviews, even if the games aren't worth the extra space, or throw in another last-minute filler feature... or add another preview. Either way, you quickly learn to walk the fine line between gentle mockery and actual criticism, and to keep the latter until you actually have the game in your hand.

Jerry Seinfeld said it best. "Magazines are another medium I love, because 95% is simply based on 'How the hell are we going to fill all this blank space?'"

Re:Previews: the reality (5, Informative)

Buran (150348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904318)

And apparently, you just don't care about actually telling the truth in your articles and serving the people who pay to subscribe to your magazine, because I don't see anything anywhere about writing objective, fair articles but I see lots of bragging about happily filling the pages with bullshit.

I wrote to PC Gamer once to politely correct a photo error in one of their articles, and they published my letter -- and made fun of me, comparing me to a fictional character on a TV show. For politely correcting an error in the way that one is supposed to do when writing to a magazine or newspaper editor! In the same way in which I've found errors in the NY Times and Time magazine and written to them -- and either gotten a very polite, grateful response from them or seen the correction published in the errata in a future issue.

That one act meant I did not renew my subscription and I have never subscribed to a gaming magazine since -- because some asshole doing the same job you do proved that his profession didn't deserve any respect.

Grow up and do your fucking job. You know, the thing they teach in journalism school about, I don't know, following the rules of journalism ethics.

Game Interviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904127)

This comic says it all :-)

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/01/20 [penny-arcade.com]

Re:Game Interviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904223)

oh yeah, the comic was referring to this interview:

http://www.1up.com/do/feature?cId=3147131&did=1 [1up.com]

There's a great penny arcade... (1, Informative)

xx_toran_xx (936474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904129)

Re:There's a great penny arcade... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904158)

Sorry man, your post is clearly redundant. Not only is the content of your post same as mine, but your time is also the same.

OBVIOUS tag needed (1)

JANYAtty. (678934) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904159)

Marketing. And here in America. I am shocked.

You are kidding right? (0, Redundant)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904160)

This is some new discovery? Hasnt this been f-ing obvious since day one? Geesh..

On demos and previews (1)

Borg453b (746808) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904169)

I wholeheartedly agree. Two occuriences in the recent past confirmed this.: after downloading game demos of: "Bet on soldier" and the recent "Starship troopers" game, I was appalled to find that no online magazine or game portal had felt a need to express the lack of quality in both products; granted; demos are not final releases.. but they are supposed to hit at the quality of the final product. These two product demos were inexcusably poor, and yet noone noted that, spare a few users in game portal forums. It is time to waver the stinkers high early, to stop encouraging this evil cycle.

Here's how the publishing idustry works (3, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904172)

It's not just games magazines. It's all magazines. A large portion of their content is made from press releases. They have a magazine to fill up, and regurgitating press releases is a cheap easy way to do it. When all the papers were waxing lyrical about the Segway, did the journalists think "Wow, that's a cool toy. Let's find out about it"? The papers want you to think that, but what most likely happened was a P.R company sent a load of photos and bumph, and the editor got an office junior to rewrite it into an article.

But these are only previews. The purpose of a preview isn't to tell you what a games like. The sole purpose of a preview is to inform you that a game exists. This is not a bad thing. Gamers want to know what's coming. They just have to understand that a preview is not an opinion peice, but a promotional piece. To find out whether a game is any good, wait for the review.

Previews = Hype (1)

Kittie Rose (960365) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904191)

Previews are the best way to get a hype machine going. If respectable magazine X says that a game is going to be great, people will think it will be great. The payoff on this is enormous. But are games reviewers really that corruptable? Music magazines hardly even require this anymore, as people are already too far sucked into the "machine" of the music industry to say anything bad about it. I don't think the games industry is in near as bad a state(and isn't as comparable due to the fact that "underground" games are rarely as good) but it could be a sign of it worsening if it is.

Hmmm (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904195)

This should be from the "No Shit Sherlock Dept."

When the game isn't out yet......, reviewers have nothing to go on except what the developer lets them see/tells them. Now....if you were the developer do you think you'd be saying "we have some concerns over our gameplay being mediocre.....so I'd hold off on buying our title until we see what the whole thing comes together as"? I mean, I can't exactly blame them. What I CAN do is blame the people who write previews and judge things to be the best thing since sliced bread without analyzing some of the features and seeing how similar it is to whats out there.

A perfect example of this was the farce of those supposed "Video Game Awards" that just happened....I don't even remember what they were called, but what I do remember happening is that games that weren't even released yet were winning awards like Game of the Year and other such nonsense. If you thought written previews were bad....man...it was scary how much of a marketing spectacle it was. They should have called it "Crap we're going to lie to you about and ram down your throats Awards".

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904369)

I agree, and now that you mention it, I think there's something fishy about those "Oscars" as well...

Previews are *not* reviews (5, Interesting)

Lewisham (239493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904210)

I did some writing for a couple of print magazines in the UK. As the new guy, I'd be handed the stuff no-one else liked writing, and that included previews.

Every editor I spoke to told me to be positive. This is not the same as jacking up hype from the PR guys: I never even spoke to them. Most of the time they'll talk to someone higher up because they don't know who I am, and then I'd get the preview handed off to me. Most of the PR junk we recieved was exactly that: junk. I found it difficult to make any more favourable words simply because I had a Spiderman Web-Shooting Gun.

The reason I was told to be positive is that there is no reason to be overly critical of preview code. Most preview code looks like ass, plays like crap and has some show-stopping bugs. That's because it isn't finished. The idea of preview code is to show ideas and direction to the journalist. Exciting games get more column inches because they show better ideas and promise, *not* because their code didn't suck. And a lot of games that have very poor preview code brush up. Development is organic. You can't be critical of every piece of code that comes through the door: it's all crap. You pick out the good bits, show it to the reader and say "you might like this when it comes out." Some games are of interest to more people than others, and might get more column inches.

Until a game ships, it never deserves derision, just encouragement. It would be very ego-centric to kick the shit out of every game that I recieved just because I could in the name of "truth".

The very simple reasons (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904226)

Imagine there are 2 game mags at the store. One has a preview of the Ultimate New Game you've been waiting for. One doesn't. Which one do you buy?

Right.

Now, how do you get a preview? Unless it's available for download (well, if it is, every mag's gonna have it, so let's ignore those for now), the game company has to send you the necessary goodies.

And now the big question: Will they send you their next preview if you write "This sucks! Bugs, flaws and no interesting gameplay, even if they spend another year on it it will STILL suck!"?

No. They'll send it to a magazine that hypes it into heavens and back. And the magazine that has the article about the preview sells more copies than the one that doesn't.

Sipmle as that.

I think it's not THAT bad. (4, Insightful)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904235)

What magazines lack is a "crap" column. Most reviews rate games with 70-100%, but most of these games deserve this rating. It's just that games rating lower don't get reviewed - they get very little press at all. The editors play a little, decide this is a shit, don't bother writing a review and taking up space in the magazine, then move on to the next title that is more interesting.

People complain about how many bad games are released nowadays but they forget shitty games were like 80% of the market ALWAYS. Thing it, they got forgotten and we don't remember them anymore. You remember Zork and HHGTTG from Infocom, but you forget a dozen of more medicore games they released. You remember Revenge Of The Mutant Camels, but where's Herbert's Dummy Run? Quake is there, a dozen of Quake knockoffs is forgotten. And press rarely bothered to mention them too.

Though I agree - we're at a crisis moment. Making a game to be of quality comparable with the market leaders is way out of reach of small developer groups. And big players want to play it safe, so they dump innovation. There's fewer good new games than there would be at any moment of the gaming history in the past. And magazines write reviews comparing games to the average. Quake 4 is still at upper 95% of the quality of currently available titles, it's just the quality of currently available titles is at about half the level the quality was in times of Quake 3.

There's just so many convienient metaphors... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904237)

"Once bitten, twice shy."
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

I'm sure there's more but I'm not a native english speaker. If people believe in that crap, let them. It's their own bloody fault if they do.

Re:There's just so many convienient metaphors... (1)

balloonhead (589759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904350)

I'm sure there's more but I'm not a native english speaker.

You're from the US then?

Could you imagine... (1)

Aqua OS X (458522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904241)

Could you imagine if the software or auto industry did this, then we'd... ohh wait... never mind.

Oblig. Simpson's quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904242)

Doh!

Edge seems quite good about this (1)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904249)

As a lot of posters have already said, it's not really fair to trash a beta version of a game as you can't tell what will or won't be fixed before the gold code release. But I have found Edge magazine (I am not affiliated in any way) to be quite good on this front. They will often mention buggy code/poor framerates/poor gameplay in the beta, but always mention the fact that they hope this will be fixed before full release. I think this is the best we can hope for.

And? (1)

whorfin (686885) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904254)

I work in the software industry as well (not games), and we send out 'press kits' that include detailed product reviews, and all the rights to use the content without attribution. I've seen on more than one occasion a "real" review that was the exact copy of the reviewer's guide. I'd be surprised if the game previews didn't come with the same sorts of materials.

obligatory "drawn together" reference (1)

lortho (700090) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904259)

Xander: "Mom, Dad... the previews for my game 'Xander III' in the game magazines are just marketing!" Dad: "Well, son, I think I speak for both your mother and I when I say..." Parents: "a-DDUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

James Wagner Au... (1)

Tim Browse (9263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904278)

...now there's a name I haven't heard in a while.

I'll just let Old Man Murray [oldmanmurray.com] do my talking.

Or just read this [salon.com] - I challenge you to make it past the first page.

Simple solution (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904297)

Just don't pre-order games. If no one pre-ordered any games (or pre-ordered anything, for that matter), the overall quality of all games would go up. The need to have any game "right now" is a primary reason why games are released too early. If people generally didn't care when a product was released, then we'd all be better off.

Isn't this the broad trend in journalism? (1)

RunFatBoy.net (960072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904303)

This problem isn't just specific to the games industry. Media outlets are increasingly directed by their coporate owners and have become more of a pre-sale hype machine than anything else. This is why it is all the more important that we have bloggers; individuals who don't have financial ties to the development companies and who will offer a more objective opinion. -- Jim http://www.runfatboy.net/ [runfatboy.net]

Game Software Business: A Losing Proposition (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14904336)

They're in a race that cannot be won. Game development cycle stretches into years with budget into millions, but has six to twelve months of shelf life and price point of about $40 a copy. A dud can bankrupt a company Application software (think M$ Office) on the other hand has shelf life of up to three years and price point of at least a hundred dollars.

O RLY? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904347)

Captain Obvious' head just exploded.

Hi (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14904348)

Welcome to 10 years ago
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