Settling The Score: Eurogamer Expo Panel Talks Reviews

By John Walker on October 10th, 2012 at 8:00 pm.

Now I know why my mum told me to sit up straight.

A couple of weeks ago, at Eurogamer’s Expo, there was one other panel that took place. In a room alongside the megalithic auditorium that housed the developer sessions was a cosy gathering of five games industry figures, discussing the complexities and secrets of reviews. Hosted by Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson, the panel featured PCGamesN’s James Binns, Eurogamer’s features editor Martin Robinson, Ubisoft PR Stefano Petrullo, and shiny-fat-faced, mad-eyed me, attempting to share some realities behind the reviewing process.

The session came about in response to previous years’ Ask Eurogamer sessions always being about reviews and review scores. So the plan was to go a bit deeper, for a panel to discuss it amongst themselves, and to take questions from the audience.

A couple of notes. Mr James Binns, proprietor of PCGamesN, seems to slightly misunderstand my pointing out that our reviews are more popular after a game is released than before. Rather than chasing hits by being “first”, I was observing that the reverse is true – people prefer a review as part of ongoing discussion.

And I think it’s important to be very clear that RPS takes no truck with the suggestion given that a PR or publisher is owed a warning if a game is to be given a bad review. We don’t think that, and we don’t do it.

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66 Comments »

  1. melnificent says:

    Thank you so much, I’ve been waiting to see this panel since I heard it announced.

  2. mbr says:

    Stefano is lording HARD in that picture.

  3. Stellar Duck says:

    Man, he must have some serious buffs going on with all those rings.

    • perfectheat says:

      Haha, that is brilliant!

      Damn me not paying attention, going to the DONTNOD session thinking it was the Company of Heroes 2 session, and missing this because there was no more room in the queue! Just think to be in the same room as those rings AND John Walker!

  4. caulder says:

    Speaking of reviews, won’t you have a piece about the hubbub surrounding Rich Stanton’s confessions on his Twitter last night? Seems very juicy, especially considering some tweets, including some about EA and Activision, went missing…

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      http://www.grcade.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=32062

      Is that what you’re referring to? Very interesting if true.

      Edit: Gah sound like a bot, this was in response to a comment about Rich Stanton, if it is reposted elsewhere it actually is a bot.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      I wonder how many sites will comment on this at all.

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      Cheers for bringing this up, and to ReV_VAdAUL for the link. Well done to Rich Stanton too, although I’m not sure whether he has an abundance of guts or a dearth of brains for being quite so forthright.

      As much I’d be very interested to see RPS do a piece on this kind of stuff, I think they’re generally too diplomatic to do so. They’ve had ample opportunity over the years, especially when they’ve had similar accusations slung against them, and it’s not an avenue they’ve pursued. To be honest I don’t even know if there’s much point – most of us are here in some part because we trust them more than other sites, and they’ve managed to get themselves to the point where they can write what they want (mostly?) unfettered by PR badgering. Don’t know if it’d do anyone any good if they started setting fire to bridges.

      If they do decide to eventually publish something on this kind of thing, though, I hope they drag Rev Stu out from semi-retirement, or whatever the actual fuck it is he’s doing with himself these days besides commenting on Scottish politics, give him a guest slot and have him write it.

  5. DickSocrates says:

    I don’t have time to watch but I shall assume you all settled on the 100 point scale and that reviews must be up on the day of release even if you had to go to GAME and buy it yourself at lunchtime.

    • Ragnar says:

      No, they actually settled on a much simpler 10 point scale. Except for the occasional exceptional game, of course, which goes to 11.

  6. The First Door says:

    I was sneakily watching this panel at work today. I must say it is rather a good watch, especially that bit where John puts a bit of a spanner in the works.

    EDIT: I also found the comment about how the themed websites are a bit rubbish especially timely what with IGN’s obnoxious Dishonored adverts which take over most of the page.

  7. Tuckey says:

    Did they reveal which publisher gives the best bribes?

    • Phantoon says:

      I bet it’s Games Workshop.

      THEY SEND PEOPLE REAL SIZED CHAINSWORDS!

  8. Mordsung says:

    Over the last few years of being involved in the ongoing disucssion and debate about numbered reviews, I came to the realization that my only option was to “put my money where my mouth is”, and as such I now actively avoid any games media that gives numbered reviews.

    Mostly I stick with RPS’s “WIT” for reviews, and I use TB’s “WTF is?” to determine if the game is a quality PC game with proper options and such.

    Are their other gaming sites that just completely skip the numbered reviews?

    • Smuckers says:

      Frankly you’re kind of doing yourself a bit of a disservice by refraining from all criticism that has a score attached to it. Actionbutton.net has some fantastic critiques that actually make you think (though be warned that many of the reviews run near the 10,000 word mark and contain many not obviously related tangents and asides. Especially Tim Rogers stuff but it is some really smart funny stuff.) I’d also reccommend Tom Chicks stuff over at quarter to three. Again, it has scores, but the words are what matter and they’re also pretty great.

      • Mordsung says:

        The industry won’t give up on the abominable practice of scored reviews unless we, the reader, hit them in their pocketbook by not giving their site hits.

        If we reward their use of scores by reading their review, they continue to use scores.

        At the very least if you’re going to go to a score site use adblock to starve them of revenue.

    • Mollusc Infestation says:

      Beefjack are pretty good. They don’t go in for any of that score silliness either.

  9. SuperNashwanPower says:

    I saw a website earlier on today that had a lot of bottoms on it.

  10. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Thats an interesting point made about HOW a game is played, and whether there is a ‘right’ way to play it. RPS has just done its piece about playing Dishonored a certain way, and mentions an alternative way that would lead to forming a negative view of it. I have played many games in the past that I loved because I could be creative, explore and make my own fun. I loved being creative with combat in Far Cry and Crysis for example, reloading to try different ways of taking out a tank or group of enemies.

    How on earth do you allow for that in a review? You are factoring in a person’s temperament, past experiences with games, skill level, willingness to experiment and so on. The person is in effect becoming part of a game. Can a software house in fact come along, like in the Hydrophobia example, and tell a reviewer they ‘played it wrong’? I know when I watched my gamer dad play Crysis, I wanted to point out all the neat tricks with the nanosuit, all the attachments of the weapons and ways of combining them. He wanted to just stand still with his finger on FIRE, because thats his skill level. He could get through it on easy mode – but would he have had more fun if he’d taken my suggestions? Who am I to actually tell him I’m right?

    • Askeladd says:

      Interesting point.

      Well, I think gaming is all about learning in a fun and interesting way. Take Counter Strike for example:
      raising your skill level is the only thing that keeps you playing that game. Competition and getting better are it’s core principles.

      For that reason Call of Duty doesn’t interest me as much.

      PS: a RPG is also about learning – learning the story of the world and it’s mechanics.

    • Dervish says:

      The point of a review is to give your own opinion and analysis, not to figure out truth statements that are all things for all readers. If what you like about a game isn’t that it’s challenging but that there are lots of toys for you to play around with, simply say so and people can decide whether that sounds interesting to them or not.

      Likewise, if you think a game is too hard because you’ve never played an FPS before, simply say so and it will be easy enough for people to decide whether or not to give your assessment any weight.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      That’s part of why it’s so important to understand reviews are subjective. But what I’d assume most websites/magazines try to do is find out what a game is like in general and put a person on it who is likely to know about other games in the same genre. And to write for the audience of the magazine/website. ‘FPSmag’ readers are more likely to know about the various Doom iterations than ‘AdventureTime Magazine’ readers. That, and you can always try to pinpoint things everybody will notice (even if they might value them differently).

      Borderlands 2, for example, is said to have a really long and tedious start (according to TB, at any rate). But those who have played Borderlands will probably know that there’s much more that follows after. Of course in this particular example reviewers would have a point when they say (like John did) that they have limited time and that if a game fails to deliver in the early parts it isn’t the fault of the reviewer that he didn’t play more than he would on a similar type of game of the same genre.

      Er.. that’s a pretty long sentence.

      • Phantoon says:

        Reviews are subjective!? Next you’re going to say being entitled to an opinion doesn’t entitle you to winning an argument because you could still be wrong!

        (Which should be brought up again as an idea. That was the best thing RPS has ever linked.)

        • TCM says:

          The thing that absolutely pisses me off the most about internet debates is that the person on the losing side has a get out of jail free card in the form of “WELL ITS JUST MY OPINION”.

          If you tried pulling that crap in an actual intelligent setting, you’d be laughed out of the room, with good frigging reason. Because you are a moron holding a completely untenable position with the defense of LALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

          Some things are subjective, like how enjoyable a form of entertainment is. The quality of that entertainment’s production, however, is not subjective.

          The Room might be more fun to watch than Transformers 2, but that doesn’t mean it’s better produced, acted, or filmed.

          [Side note: apparently I am angry at the internet again today. Quick, somebody get a youtube commenter so I can punch them!]

          • Gnarf says:

            Eh. It is subjective. It’s just that “it’s subjective” isn’t a get out of jail free card, it is the premise. And the “just” in “it’s just my opinion” is the stupidest word. We are discussing these things because they are opinions, because it is subjective. That is what is interesting.

            It’s just, if you’re not interested in discussing some opinion, if you have no interest in defending it, explaining it, or anything, then chances are you’re wasting everyone’s time by stating it in the first place.

          • Josh W says:

            Someone needs to make a script for youtube that makes the downvote button on comments produce a slightly digitised scream, for just these occasions.

  11. Joshua Northey says:

    I think your commitment to unnumbered reviews is good considering how silly that system has been.

    The idea of numbering a review sounds good, but in practice it has led to a very odd system. That said there is some value in having a way for people to find quality games without having to read 50 articles.

    Has rps ever considered an un-numbered but ranked list of games for say each year or quarter, maybe split by genre. Would make it easier to find a game when I am looking for “best strategy game I haven’t played”, or “RTS that was pretty good that I haven’t played and was released in last 4 years”.

    • Splynter says:

      In the past they’ve done the RPS Games of Christmas (or something to that effect) wherein they write about the best games of the year. Not exactly what you’re looking for, but close enough.

    • Gnarf says:

      “The idea of numbering a review sounds good, but in practice it has led to a very odd system.”

      Nah. The idea of using a number to indicate roughly how much you like something has mostly just led to the ability to filter and order reviews by them.

      At least, all the hating on numbers I’ve seen so far has been about stuff that does not follow from that idea, and most of it has been plenty possible without numbers (don’t know excactly what you’re getting at though).

    • Ragnar says:

      As you said, the main problem without numbers is being able to quickly, at a glance, get an idea of if a game is good or not. For example, what if RPS doesn’t have a WIT for a game?

      Perhaps a RottenTomatoes approach to game reviews would be much better than the current system. Individual reviews don’t have any numbers associated with them, but by aggregating reviews and figuring out how many of them are positive vs negative, you could still have a quick metric for evaluating quality, and Awesomeness Meter if you will. If almost every review is positive, then you know that you will likely enjoy the game. But if only half the reviews are positive, then you know that you’ll have to dig deeper to find out why reviewers did or did not like the game.

  12. Risingson says:

    “And I think it’s important to be very clear that RPS takes no truck with the suggestion given that a PR or publisher is owed a warning if a game is to be given a bad review. We don’t think that, and we don’t do it.”

    The problem is that when you’re naive enough to think that the PR is your friend – or he behaves like he is so. You have some beers, you talk about things, laugh, and then you receive a game which is pretty bad. And you give a negative review. And then, “That roughness was unnecessary”. “You could have told me so”. “This thing you have done is harmful for me”. That PR cuts relations, talks badly about you and then you realize that human beings can be such bitches.

    Of course this is pure fiction.

    • Phantoon says:

      Except all the anecdotes about it being the case.

      But anecdotal evidence isn’t evidence, or something.

  13. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I want to say I rather disagree with Mr. Binns when he argues that reviews aren’t the right tools for the job when looking at the changes a lot of games go through. This, because even something as subject to change as an MMO needs a review the interested reader deserves but it simply can’t be a review of what the game will have on offer in perpetuity (or in most cases of all the content it has to offer at that specific point in time given the limited time reviewers have). But that’s never been the case, of course. That does obviously mean there need to be certain caveats made clear to the readers but it’ll certainly be more worthwhile than no review at all (if it’s at all good, that is).

    I’m not quite sure what Mr. Binns replaces reviews with, though. I may have missed that bit.

    • Naum says:

      Agreed. It is very possible that Mr Binns’ vision of games as a continuously evolving, unreviewable thing comes true in the foreseeable future, but for now we’re certainly not there. With the exception of MMOs, what happens after a game is released is either bug fixes or feature patches (including DLC). The former isn’t too big an issue, since these days games rarely have real show stopper problems (or at least that’s my impression); and if it is indeed an issue, every person with a brain will make further investigations when an old review complains about bugs. Feature patches, meanwhile, usually don’t change the game in such a way that day-one assessments would suddenly become completely invalid, and if they do, the update just gets its own review or an addendum is made.

      All in all, while I recognise the issue of games evolving and reviews usually being very one-time things, I don’t see how any of the resulting problems could not be fixed by a bit of common sense on both the journalist’s and the reader’s end.

    • Gnarf says:

      It kind of sounds like there’s some assumption there that if we review a game then that is the review of the game and that is our final verdict on that game. Which I guess is kind of how gaming magazines and sites tend to operate. And it might be difficult to do things differently so long as they consider it very important that reviews come out at the same time as the launch of something.

      There is nothing wrong with reviewing a game as it is now. And then if it changes enough to warrant a new review later, review it again.

  14. MondSemmel says:

    The PR person was pretty likable. Then again, as John, I think, mentioned, that’s why they get hired. Anyway, I agree that games should mention their playing times. If not in absolute terms (i.e. ‘this game takes 10h to beat on average’), then at least on a scale of short/medium/long/epic.

    RPS reviews do a pretty good job on that, I think. But I wish devs/publishers themselves were better at it.
    For example, I played BasketBelle today. It was ~45 min of playing time, start to finish. I’m not complaining – the game is great, and a gaming session of 45 min fit excellently into my day today – but I still wish I had had a rough indication of that before.
    RPS mentioned that game at launch, for example. Had they known that the game was so short, I
    think they might have been more likely to review it.

  15. Radiant says:

    What is sidestepped in the [first half I listened to so far] sit down is that one of the reasons I come to RPS is the quality of the writing.

    I think what has happened over time, for a variety of reasons, is that a lot of games sites have the most atrocious writers on staff.

    To the point where the entire purpose of reading the review is to look at a score and validate a purchase/emotional investment.

  16. Radiant says:

    Also why do reviewers not compare a game directly against it’s peers?

    You can do so much by directly addressing the preconceived perception of a game rather than dance around the elephant in the room.

    What I mean by this is… well look at this review of Jennifer Aniston.
    http://www.fametracker.com/fame_audit/aniston_jennifer.php

    Trust me.

    You have the wonderful dissertation and then the ‘score’ at the bottom.

    [Or for equalities sake Zach Braff http://www.fametracker.com/fame_audit/braff_zach.php

  17. Craig Stern says:

    Wait–did James Binns really argue that game reviews don’t matter? Ben Kuchera might have a bone to pick with him over that: http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/the-power-of-review-scores-why-critics-have-more-control-than-we-think1

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      At some point he says (something like) reviews are not what he feels to be the right way to look at games the way they can change. I assume he means a final verdict kind of thing and he specifically mentions MMOs as an example. He also mentions he does something else instead but I’m not entirely sure what.

  18. porps says:

    a review panel without yahtzee? what a missed opportunity.

    • TCM says:

      Yahtzee is a pedantic sod with a poor sense of humor and ridiculous standards for what makes a game enjoyable.

      He isn’t a reviewer, he’s a comedian, and a fairly mediocre one at that.

      • LionsPhil says:

        He’s the best reviewer working in the industry outside of this website glorified blog. Underneath the bitter presentation are a series of reviews that isolate the annoyances that harm the games, and that is incredibly useful consumer advice to me because I can compare that against the things that bother me. He’s even explicitly pointed out several times for those struggling to understand that opinions are not binary that he can rag on a game that’s determined to avoid greatness for three minutes but still like it overall. (In other words, he avoids the usual Edgy Internet Reviewer trap of thinking that he has to hate everything.)

        I have bought games on his advice and not been disappointed. He’s attacked my sacred cows and he’s not far wrong.

        How good he is at doing it on his feet in a panel, though, no idea.

        • TCM says:

          Bile and vitriol are occasionally funny, but rarely constructive. I honestly can say I don’t enjoy Caustic Critics, because I don’t want to have to dig through dumb jokes to get to actual meat. Even if he has a good point somewhere in a review, it’s tiresome to sit through, and mind-numbing to listen to.

          As for his point about liking games even if you can dislike large parts of them, yes, I certainly agree. Again, though, focusing your entire review on the negative parts of a game, and your own jokes, while barely paying lip service to what you enjoy about it, or even _what the game is_, is neither informative nor interesting to see.

          If he’s the best reviewer the games journalism industry has outside RPS, then it’s in a much worse state than I thought, and is in desperate need of actual talent.

          Though really, my distaste for Yahtzee is probably exaggerated by the fact that I didn’t like him to start, and I was told that if I enjoyed video games and had half a brain, I HAD TO LIKE HIM HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE YAHTZEE YOUR TASTE IS TERRIBLE YOU MUST BE RETARDED HOW DO YOU NOT LIKE YAHTZEE HE IS SO INSIGHTFUL AND INTELLIGENT HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE ZERO PUNCTUATION.

          I guess being bitter at the fanbase and letting it effect my judgement of the work is kind of hypocritical of me, though, given I am part of three of the largest, most obnoxious and annoying fanbases ever. Oh well.

        • JackShandy says:

          “I think a lot of RPG people read good writers like HL Mencken and Hunter S Thompson and get all excited by things like ” Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. ” and think “I want to write as good as that” so they write hysterically hyperbolic shit they don’t even believe because they think that’s the way to write well.

          What they seem to miss is:

          1.Thompson wrote that because he actually believed it
          2.Thompson wrote that because he actually believed his target deserved it–like if someone asked him about it he wouldn’t go “Relax, Dick, I’m just messing with you.”

          and, most importantly

          3. There is so much shit to write about that actually is totally extremely fucked and deserves both barrels that you’re just wasting ammo and crying wolf by blowing your stack every time you see a die notation you don’t like. Part of good writing is precision. Not just the scale of the words but the appropriateness of them. Just whaling on people and then claiming you can because, hey, you whale on everyone actually makes you worse at writing and being funny.”

          -Zak smith. This is exactly my problem with Yahtzee.

        • DiamondDog says:

          I’m a little flabbergasted that anyone would watch Yahtzee for his critical eye. Since when did shooting fish in a barrel make you one of the best reviewers in the industry? The level of criticism in those videos can be found on any number of gaming forums, being spouted by nerds that think cynicism makes you sound intelligent.

          Obviously it doesn’t help that I find him entirely unfunny and genuinely tiring to listen to. That kind of thing is just down to personal taste.

          If he really does have some interesting and forthright views, I wish he’d just get to the point, instead of wrapping them up in fart jokes and some vaguely maverick, anti-establishment bullshit. It’s like Jim Sterling Mk II. Does he do any writing outside those videos?

          • SiHy_ says:

            Wait, cynicism doesn’t make you sound intelligent? Oh god, my whole life is a lie!

          • DiamondDog says:

            I find cynicism is easily replaced by good old fashioned grumpiness.

  19. Muzman says:

    There’s one bit there where John says that after a while you can tell pretty quickly whether a game is good or not, as part of general growing reviewing expertise etc.

    I feel like I’ve noticed a tendency in more long term reviewers to become more impatient with games sometimes precisely because they’ve done so much of it. It’s vague as hell I know, but we blame console kiddies for streamlining and cinematic trends in games. I think journos are often as much to blame for that too. The desire to impress quickly and put on a good demo at a trade show etc is as much about the press as the audience (and you actually do see journos at shows standing there slagging off a game for not amusing them in the minute and a half they’ve got to look at it, scoring themselves snark points along the way. None of the good ones do thins, but some of the popular ones have). I even think it’s to the point that a lot of now revered classics would get quite bad reviews from seasoned reviewers now, not just because mechanical standards have changed (or maybe that’s part of it too).

    I’m sure RPS folk would counter by saying, say, “No, I would still give (eg. Thief) a good review because its craft and potential would be obvious early on and more experience enables me to see that sort of thing more clearly”. And they may be right. There have been times when I thought some game was copping a bit of a dismissive line and not being given a chance just because it’s not slick enough up front. Too many reviews on the spike, not enough time etc.
    Hard to be specific about right now, so I dunno. Could be nothing I guess

  20. Muzman says:

    The other separate thing that interests me about this panel is just what’s it’s about. They had to make one about reviews because that’s all anyone wanted to talk about. Which is fair, but I think when it comes to the relationship between journos and developers/publishers/PRs reviews are only half the story (or less).
    It’s outside the discussion but I’ve always wanted to see more actual journalism from games journalists.
    Especially in interviews and so on. I don’t know if that would make it tricky, but this industry is pretty opaque and seems to like it that way. It’d be interesting to have more discussion of a game in context. The trouble is it’s probably gauche as far as the typical press/producer relationship goes.

    I don’t mean hard core investigative journalism (although a bit of that wouldn’t hurt either). My little example is Red Faction: Armageddon. Here the developers appeared to be taking out much of what people enjoyed about the previous game and it caused endless “Wha? Buh?” in the comments and probably hurt the game’s sales. The stuff on the minds of commenters was surely on the minds of journos too but no one asked them about it during promotion. I guess it is tricky to confront nice people who are just trying to sell something with the idea that they’ve got it all wrong and you might just get some “We’re confident in our awesome game and you’ll love it” fluff in return. But just asking a question that’s out there is something and it is rarely done.

    (I should point out that RPS does do exactly the sort of stuff I want to see in interviews and articles more and more, so good going)

    • TCM says:

      Games journalism developed in a weird vacuum independent of actual writing talent or skill for following stories.

      Within the past few years or so, we are finally starting to see actual journalism, and the primary response from internet commenters is frothing rage at their company of choice not being treated fairly or objectively.

      • Muzman says:

        Heh, well I guess we get the journalism we deserve to some extent too.
        Going the good route will always have my attention/axe/bow etc

        • ianos says:

          It’s difficult to get much out of devs in the lead-up to a game’s release – they’re media trained, they have it drilled into them what they’re supposed to talk about and to what extent. I interviewed Jim Boone, one of the leads on RF: Armageddon, before the game came out and while it was a great interview, it wasn’t particularly hard-hitting in any way.

          Though I did ask him about Freespace 3. Sorry.

          It also comes down to what we’d been shown. The demo I had played before I spoke to him – all I had seen of the game apart from the vague trailers – was an open, above-ground area of unlimited destruction. What opinion was I supposed to draw from that? It’s pretty much going in blind – the deck is stacked heavily in favour of the PR side of things a lot of the time. It’s difficult to wade through it.

          Anyway, if I might indulge myself somewhat: the month after Red Faction was cancelled as a series, I bagged a fair few interviews (Volition and ex-Volition) and did this feature. Which I think is pretty decent Real Journalism:

          https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1I6nFuiP8ctM2VkNGFlMjctODJkMi00ZDAzLTg3ZDEtZmIzMTAzYjFjMTY1/edit

          (That’s not my title. I wanted it to be ‘Hammertime: Stop’.)

          /self-promotion

          • Muzman says:

            Cool. Would have liked to hear more about the interference in Armageddon, but that’s where my tastes lay (potentially nice workers revolt parallel too). Not the thrust of the piece really.

            You can have my Utter Nobody’s stamp of Real Journalism, for what it’s worth though.

          • Josh W says:

            Responces! (That will probably be lost to the depths of the past, but whatever)

            I don’t think red faction’s weakness was that geomod was unsuited to gameplay, I think it was that it’s effect on the game was irreversible:

            It occurs to me that someone has made a game that makes geomod-like terrain destruction and exploration into a gameplay element; minecraft.

            But the fact that minecraft makes it possible to mine and then to rebuild from the debris means that minecraft destruction is reversible, you can get out of a hole you dig, or build a bridge over a chasm.

            Geomod destruction must be combined with something that builds matter or it will lead to levels that become totally empty, just as shooter mechanics alone will lead to the level being empty of npcs.

            My solution is simple; give the player a freeze gun. This makes enemy characters brittle, and so smashable like rock, and also allows you to freeze lava back into rock.

            Add geomod to basic fluid models and infinite lava sources, then you have the potential for a much more expressive game, because it has a pair of verbs that counteract each other.

            There are other solutions; just as some games stop you killing important npcs, you could make it so that there is some indestructible skeleton of paths that helps you complete levels, similarly to if you kill everyone but the quest-giver in games, etc etc. but nothing as purely deals with the general problem as this.

  21. Cryogenian says:

    Ar one point Martin Robinson says that (paraphrasing)”the quality of games has increased, because they cost so much to make”. I think he confuses “quality” and “production values”, which seems to happen quite a lot. I don’t think those two concepts are even alike. You can have a game with amazing quality in terms of mechanics design, engaging storylines, an so forth, which still doesn’t have tesselation or even 3D graphics, for that matter.
    I yet have to play “To the Moon” – but I’m very excited for it. Is it at risk of seeming “low quality” because it didn’t take millions to make?

    • InternetBatman says:

      I would say that even the quality of mediocre games is higher now than it was in the past. You have less games that outright don’t work, pre-existing engines have relatively well defined problems, and there are so many conventions in place that making a decent game is paint by numbers. Making it interesting is something different entirely.

  22. tigerfort says:

    The first time I encountered the “are review scores getting inflated” question, the games being reviewed were for the BBC micro, and it was 1986. (I hasten to add that I wasn’t either the one being asked or the one doing the asking.) Some things never change.

  23. InternetBatman says:

    I think equal attention needs to be placed on the issue of hype, whether a score matches a review, and taking an editorial stance on larger games.

    I used to really enjoy PC gamer, but when they called Dragon Age 2 a candidate for the best RPG of the decade, and then later reprinted complaints about it, or when they gave ME3 a great score and then published an article the next day bitching about the online integration, it makes them seem corrupt or incompetent.

  24. Josh W says:

    I love the idea that PR’s job is to reduce the variance of review scores.

    One way to do that would presumably be to so clearly communicate the nature of the product that only the same kind of people review it, leading to a personality to the review, a certain brand of subjectivity that ranks the game at a certain value.

    It’s basically there to make games journalists feel that they know their field, and know when they are stepping out of it, thus discouraging them to make “this is rubbish I don’t understand it” reviews, and also encouraging interesting and insightful comparisons.

    In other words, it is to encourage the formation of genres that speak to your particular game’s strengths.