In response to "Opinions for Sale or Trade" from The Escapist Forum: Amen! When these deals do go down the reviewer is usually shooting themselves in the foot. I've picked up a game before based on some stellar early reviews only to find out it was a well dressed turd. Once that happens though I never trust that reviewer again. Perhaps as an overcompensation I actually tend be suspect of any game that is highly rated by that reviewer afterwards, almost as though their approval becomes an instant black mark against a game. Time and experience helps to weed out some of the crap.
I do think its important not to fall into the rut of believing all reviews are contrived on the basis of pandering to the various publishers. I have bought a few games that were highly rated that I just didn't like. I was disappointed but I went back and read review to see if they points they made about the game valid. If they were and didn't overlook any blatant issues I try to chalk it up to simple difference of opinion.
If you follow a persons reviews for very long you can get a feeling for what kinds of games they like (FPS, RPG, RTS, etc). I think this is very important because there can be an inherent bias simply based on a familiarity for the genre or the personal appeal of the subject matter. I don't think that bias is a bad thing. We are able to speak more knowledgeably about the things we like. As a reader though sometimes its important to recognize this and take that into account when your looking at the review.
In the end I apply my time honored rule of: "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me".
There is another factor here and one that is more subtle, peer-pressure.
If you hate/enjoy a game that has been praised/slammed in all the major outlets are you going to trust your own judgement, put your neck on the line, and submit a review to your editor that bucks the trend? Or are you going to play it safe and follow the herd? What if your review risks angering a major advertiser, are you still so sure that you are only one who has been able to truly see that game for what it really is?
I've seen games where an early review has contained a factual error that has been repeated in other reviews by other reviewers (it was about a feature that was "missing" but was actually pretty easy to find in the menus). I don't think people were deliberately copying the early reviews but having read a "fact", they just assumed it was true and didn't look for themselves. And if that holds true for objective things like menu items, what about subjective things like "there are too many cutscenes" or "the pace of the game is a bit too slow". It's very easy to be swayed, and little things can easily pick up momentum.
In response to "The Rise and Fall of RealTime Worlds" from The Escapist Forum: I never played APB (for which I should apparently be grateful). I did see a demo of the character/vehicle customization engine online, and that looked awesome. I almost wish they had just licensed that out to someone else; it looks like something that could have made a profit.
I don't play any MMOs right now, and I have to confess that even without the mediocre-to-poor reviews, I tend to feel that the last thing the hyper-aggressive, smack-talking FPS culture needs in a game is more players. (Yes, I know APB was mostly third-person, but you take my point.) So for someone like me, the concept was kind of doomed from the start.
It is sad to hear of a promising developer self-destructing under its own weight. From the story, it seems fairly clear that whatever organizational problems might have presented themselves, no one in the behemoth had the foresight to recognize that a crucial factor for the success of any MMO game is the time to fix the inevitable player-discovered inadequacies.
Bravo, excellent article. Rarely do we get this kind of insightful analysis about something that happened so recently. For a subculture so obsessed with the latest review actual journalism work surely tends to bide its damn time.
What a story. That's a The Social Network right there. Though I will say right now, they were building their house on shaky foundation. Crackdown was an OK game, (I'm still impressed with the draw distance, I never saw a single car disappear even after I went for a stroll around the island) but it sold a lot more than it should because of the Halo thing it had that I forget what it was and felt a lot better because it was one of the first games of what was then a new console generation. Without having played APB, I think it has some of the same problems of Crackdown: it focuses on a very loose idea and executes them well without ever bothering to fix the more narrow aspects of gameplay. A game in Crackdown's situations is pretty much the only case in which it would have worked.
Now I want to play it. I probably won't since I don't even have time to play Kingdom of Loathing any more, but it's at least gotten me curious.
Ephraim J. Witchwood:
So what you're saying is they fell because they adopted a more corporate style and the best way to go is to stay indie regardless of how big or rich you get. Makes sense to me, and it explains how Bungie keeps pumping out good stuff (IMHO).
Not quite so. There comes a point where you get so big the 'indie' mentality starts to fail. You can't just act based on the idea that everyone in the company knows each other and completely accepts the company culture when you have over a thousand employees. The trick is to know when to make the switch, otherwise you'll end up putting needless distance between the high-ups and the people actually doing the project as well as burdening the company with having to teach new hires and come up with work for them to do - as in the case we just read - or you'll end causing your company to collapse onto itself when each of its sides grows too big to communicate properly and they lose the daring edge that being inde grants you without trading it for the business foresight being a large heartless corporation grants you.
Also the two biggest examples of companies that get big but remain indiesh are Bungie and Valve and between the two companies the only game I really liked was Portal. So there.