Conduit Studio Accused of Amazonbombing Conduit Reviewer - UPDATED

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Conduit Studio Accused of Amazonbombing Conduit Reviewer - UPDATED

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Conduit 2 developer High Voltage is accused of Amazonbombing a book written by T. Michael Murdock, who served up a scathing review of the game earlier this month on Joystiq.

The Wii shooter Conduit 2 came out in April and reviews haven't been entirely kind. Few, however, were as harsh as the one written by T. Michael Murdock for Joystiq, who called it "lackadaisical trash," "appalling," and "really, really not" fun, and then capped off the whuppin' with a 1/5 score. I can't say whether or not the game actually deserved such a heavy-handed beatdown, although Murdock did offer [many] specific examples of where things went wrong; but regardless of the veracity of his review, some folks were none too pleased about what he had to say and so they decided to do something about it.

T. Michael Murdock is not just a videogame reviewer, he's also the author of The Dragon Ruby, a novel available on Amazon. It's only received ten user reviews, stretching all the way back to December 2008, but they were all five-stars until May 3, when things took a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse. Four new reviews, posted over May 3 and May 4, gave the book one-star ratings and described it as "just plain embarrassing" and "not worth your time or money," with one reviewer claiming he had more fun reading the directions on the bottle of aspirin he had to take after reading "this below fan-fiction garbage Mr. Murdock calls a book."

Everybody has an opinion, but what makes this an incredibly dodgy situation is that just before the reviews went up, according to Marooners' Rock, High Voltage Creative Director Matt Corso sent out an email to at least one department at the studio regarding Murdock's review and his book. "Michael was kind enough to recently provide us with a Conduit 2 review," Corso wrote. "And so in turn you should all feel at liberty to (of course read it first) and then return the favor by writing a reader review for Michael's book for him." A link to the book on Amazon and an image of the cover is also included.

This is obviously not the most epic Amazonbombing ever seen and given the tiny number of reviews I don't think it's going to have much impact on Murdock's livelihood; on the other hand, four bad reviews out of ten represents a significant percentage and was enough to drag the average score from five stars down to 3.5. But the real concern here is the alleged behavior of High Voltage in response to a bad review. If true, this is shockingly unprofessional and greasy as hell; it's not a response or even a public challenge to the reviewer's opinions, it's a childish tantrum and a direct and very personal attack on the reviewer. Playing games with review scores is one thing and certainly not to be condoned [despite how apparently common the practice is] but going after reviewers like this is just gutless and low. It also leads to some potentially unpleasant questions about whether or not anything like this has ever happened before - and whether it might start happening more in the future.

The evidence of High Voltage's involvement is admittedly pretty flimsy at this point, consisting entirely of a photo provided by an anonymous source and some coincidentally-timed reader reviews of an otherwise-very-obscure novel, although it is interesting that one of the negative reviews is entitled "More like Drag-me Outta Here Ruby!" which bears no small amount of similarity to the title of Murdock's review, "More like Con-don't-do-it 2." We've dropped a line to High Voltage asking for their side of the story and will update if and when we hear from them.

UPDATE: A couple of twists in the tale. First, it's interesting to note that one of the reviewers who slapped The Dragon Ruby with a one-star review also served up a five-star review of Conduit 2. The same reviewer also gave last year's Alpha Protocol a five-star score, however, calling it "an RPG masterpiece," so maybe he or she just has really bad taste. But also interesting [as in "iiiiiiinteresting"] is the fact that since this post was originally made, one of the one-star reviews, written by the Amazon user "Fencer Origins," has been removed. Fortunately, we know how to use Google cache.

"Ugh. What a derivative and poorly written ghastly mess. If God-awful horrible puns and the narrative wit of a hackneyed, emotionally ignorant, self-indulgent World of Warcraft sloth the likes of which could aspire to one day reach the lofty heights of mediocre fanfiction, this may be your book," he wrote. "Throughout the meandering, arduous journey of reading this 'novel', I kept waiting for it to somehow get marginally better or the jokes to get even passably funny, but spoiler alert: it never does. Don't waste your money. Unbelievably bad. Pick up _any_ book by Terry Pratchett and thank me later."

Harsh. Still waiting for a word from High Voltage but at this point, things look fishy, yes? Yes.

UPDATE NUMBER TWO: Eric Nofsinger of High Voltage responded to our inquiries and acknowledged that Corso did in fact write the email in question. He also said, however, that "four negative Amazon reviews does not constitute any sort of retaliation/Amazonbombing," and noted that Corso encouraged people to read the book and then review it, rather than just hammer on it blindly. Furthermore, he said that Corso wasn't responsible for any of the Amazon reviews himself and "absolutely was not the first person to suggest something like this."

"Sure, it's a tad unprofessional but if you knew Matt personally as I do, you would know it was nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek jibe at most," Nosfinger said. "And for that, I apologize on behalf of High Voltage Software."

"When this 'news' flared up this morning, I informed Matt about what was going on," he continued. "He apologized and went on to say, 'My mind really wasn't in that dark of a place when I wrote that. In fact I seriously considered buying the book myself. I wanted to know how good it really was that this guy felt so in the right to trash our game and give away the ending like he did. And then post a plug to his book at the end, implying that we suck and he is totally great. Then I forgot about it, and got busy with other stuff. But I can see why some people might try to read more into this. But I did mention that people should read the book before giving a review.'"

Regardless of Corso's original intent, I know that if my boss suggested, wholly sincerely or otherwise, that I "review" the work of someone who had just publicly demolished something I'd poured my heart and soul into, I'd be mighty inclined to cut loose on it. That probably says more about me than it does about my boss but people who work under any kind of spotlight have to be aware of the potential consequences of shooting from the hip, especially when it comes to the internet. This kind of thing gets around in a hurry, and the internet doesn't forget.

Two more negative reader reviews have since disappeared from The Dragon Ruby's Amazon page, by the way, and I wouldn't be surprised if the last one left goes away soon too.

Permalink

More companies need to be like VALVe and realize that a lot of your problems go away when you actually consistently put out quality work at great value with constant support.

If you make a good game it will get good reviews. There's no sense in putting out a bad game and then getting offended because people don't like it. If they actually are behind it shame on them.

Note: for reference I haven't played the game, although I do own a Wii.

I don't really get the feeling he meant they were supposed to be mean towards his book tbh, since he wrote "after you've read it of course" And since it's only 4 new reviews, maybe the rest are actually reading the book ;)

Idk anything about Conduit 2, since I haven't played it and I don't know anything about Murdock's The Ruby Dragon book.

So if the game is bad/good or the book is bad/good, I have no opinion on it at the moment.

Bags159:
More companies need to be like VALVe and realize that a lot of your problems go away when you actually consistently put out quality work at great value with constant support.

Or just get childish and attack anyone who dislikes your work.

What? That's bad?

Oddly enough i went to the page and became intrigued by the book. Seems that the review bomb backfired, as it will of course give publicity to the book and the 1 star reviews will likely be reversed by amazon shortly.

More reasons not to trust user reviews. Is it just me, or is this sort of thing becoming more common now?

has anyone noticed the recent upswing in developers getting mad about reviews? it seems to be taking over the industry these days. the gamers and the ones making the games are starting to form a rift...

hey, JUST LIKE THE MOVIE INDUSTRY!

looks like gaming IS going the way of movies after all! with critics that hate their products more and more and are getting less tolerant

I've got that game so all I can say I'm not exactly against his review for it (granted I haven't read his 1 star review). I don't think his book getting dismiss like that hardly matter due to having very little reviews on it so it wasn't exactly popular in the first place.

Bags159:
More companies need to be like VALVe and realize that a lot of your problems go away when you actually consistently put out quality work at great value with constant support.

If you make a good game it will get good reviews. There's no sense in putting out a bad game and then getting offended because people don't like it. If they actually are behind it shame on them.

Note: for reference I haven't played the game, although I do own a Wii.

I dunno, Valve got Metacritic bombed on Portal 2 by people over nothing. So it's not a bullet proof vest against all problems, sadly.

Jumwa:

Bags159:
More companies need to be like VALVe and realize that a lot of your problems go away when you actually consistently put out quality work at great value with constant support.

If you make a good game it will get good reviews. There's no sense in putting out a bad game and then getting offended because people don't like it. If they actually are behind it shame on them.

Note: for reference I haven't played the game, although I do own a Wii.

I dunno, Valve got Metacritic bombed on Portal 2 by people over nothing. So it's not a bullet proof vest against all problems, sadly.

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/portal-2

Critics: 95
Users: 83

It looks fine now to me; metacritic seems to have deleted a lot of the, "hur it's a 0 and I didn't play it but valve are fgts" comments. It was only really low for the first few days; and low reviews on the first few days were not going to prevent VALVe fans from buying Portal 2 on day 1. Seriously, are you going to let a review that reads, "it's a 0 because it's really short and oh my god day 1 dlc" affect your judgment?

It's nothing compared to MW2's metacritic:
http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-2

Critics: 86
Users: 37

Although I always take user review nubmers with a pinch of salt, and official review numbers with a handful of salt. I read a bunch of reasonable reviews and look for re-occurring themes.

I think Murdock himself wrote the negative reviews about his own book to catch momentum from the massive spin review-bombing is getting lately. He knew that this publicity would drive sales of his book up based on the backlash against these people. High Voltage are but innocent victims in a game spun by this machiavellian mastermind.

doublepost

Hey, not his fault that Conduit 2 sucked! Are they really so butthurt about a number that they have to make his numbers look infinitely worse? Why not put out quality games instead of trying to over-compensate for something? Sorry your TMI sucks ass, High Voltage (Cookie for the reference!), but there IS such a thing called admittance. At least admit that you made a sub-par FPS game and all will be forgiven.

*sighs*

You have such potential, High Voltage. Don't squander it, and don't get pissed off at other people when you do.

Lono Shrugged:
I think Murdock himself wrote the negative reviews about his own book to catch momentum from the massive spin review-bombing is getting lately. He knew that this publicity would drive sales of his book up based on the backlash against these people. High Voltage are but innocent victims in a game spun by this machiavellian mastermind.

Hmmm, you could be on to something... but how do we know you yourself are not a High Voltage employee?! How do we know you aren't here to trick us into thinking Murdock gave himself the bad reviews!!??

DUM DUM DUM!!!

Daaammmnnn... I had high hopes with High Voltage, but now with this childish behavior... I was thinking on renting The Conduit 2 the next weekend, but now I don't even want to rent it. In fact, I think I won't look at them the same way I did before.

Instead of making childish Amazonbombs, why not make better games in the first place?

Bags159:

Jumwa:

I dunno, Valve got Metacritic bombed on Portal 2 by people over nothing. So it's not a bullet proof vest against all problems, sadly.

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/portal-2

Critics: 95
Users: 83

It looks fine now to me; metacritic seems to have deleted a lot of the, "hur it's a 0 and I didn't play it but valve are fgts" comments. It was only really low for the first few days; and low reviews on the first few days were not going to prevent VALVe fans from buying Portal 2 on day 1. Seriously, are you going to let a review that reads, "it's a 0 because it's really short and oh my god day 1 dlc" affect your judgment?

It's nothing compared to MW2's metacritic:
http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-2

Critics: 86
Users: 37

Although I always take user review nubmers with a pinch of salt, and official review numbers with a handful of salt. I read a bunch of reasonable reviews and look for re-occurring themes.

I wasn't arguing the effect of the Metacritic bomb of Portal 2, (though it's user score is still unduly influenced by those 143 negatives that were based on inconsequential reasons) heck I don't even look to Metacritic, I just check with a few reviewers I trust . I doubt the silly book review thing will effect the reviewer who gave Conduit 2 much either. It'll probably make his seemingly unknown book more widely seen if anything.

You can argue that it didn't hurt Portal 2 much, and I'm sure the effects weren't great, my only point was that making a great game isn't a guarantee against all problems. There'll always be a few nutcases out there with a lot of time and pent up rage they want to unleash safety across the internet.

Not to mention all the gamers and reviewers who believe that a game is bad just because it doesn't meet their specific tastes. I've seen a lot of great games laid into and derided by professional games journalists even over arbitrary personal tastes.

Fanboy:

Hmmm, you could be on to something... but how do we know you yourself are not a High Voltage employee?! How do we know you aren't here to trick us into thinking Murdock gave himself the bad reviews!!??

DUM DUM DUM!!!

I could post photos of my forehead proving I have not been lobotomized. Also I don't have a cat with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome so how could I have done the texturing?

Scarim Coral:
I've got that game so all I can say I'm not exactly against his review for it (granted I haven't read his 1 star review). I don't think his book getting dismiss like that hardly matter due to having very little reviews on it so it wasn't exactly popular in the first place.

Its possible that the 5 Star Reviews on the book aren't actually written by people who read his book anyway and could just be done by either him and his friends to make it seem like he wrote a good book.

Well, High voltage just got the animosity of a client, here. Oh, and I am going to buy said book asap. Corso must really be an evil genious mastermind.

In fairness, having read the descriptions of the book, it does look like a load of bollocks that isn't worth anywhere near 5/5 stars.

Still, judging a book by its cover and all that...

Not his fault your game sucks (to him). Attacking his product because he didn't like yours is childish and stupid.

Jumwa:

Bags159:

Jumwa:

I dunno, Valve got Metacritic bombed on Portal 2 by people over nothing. So it's not a bullet proof vest against all problems, sadly.

http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/portal-2

Critics: 95
Users: 83

It looks fine now to me; metacritic seems to have deleted a lot of the, "hur it's a 0 and I didn't play it but valve are fgts" comments. It was only really low for the first few days; and low reviews on the first few days were not going to prevent VALVe fans from buying Portal 2 on day 1. Seriously, are you going to let a review that reads, "it's a 0 because it's really short and oh my god day 1 dlc" affect your judgment?

It's nothing compared to MW2's metacritic:
http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-2

Critics: 86
Users: 37

Although I always take user review nubmers with a pinch of salt, and official review numbers with a handful of salt. I read a bunch of reasonable reviews and look for re-occurring themes.

I wasn't arguing the effect of the Metacritic bomb of Portal 2, (though it's user score is still unduly influenced by those 143 negatives that were based on inconsequential reasons) heck I don't even look to Metacritic, I just check with a few reviewers I trust . I doubt the silly book review thing will effect the reviewer who gave Conduit 2 much either. It'll probably make his seemingly unknown book more widely seen if anything.

You can argue that it didn't hurt Portal 2 much, and I'm sure the effects weren't great, my only point was that making a great game isn't a guarantee against all problems. There'll always be a few nutcases out there with a lot of time and pent up rage they want to unleash safety across the internet.

Not to mention all the gamers and reviewers who believe that a game is bad just because it doesn't meet their specific tastes. I've seen a lot of great games laid into and derided by professional games journalists even over arbitrary personal tastes.

Okay, let me rephrase that then. Making a great game is the best way to almost always avoid most problems developers seem to have lately.

To be fair, the positive reviews were probably all written by his mates, so it all equals out in the end :)

I would imagine it is more likely that the negative reviews were written by High Voltage fans rather than High Voltage itself, It's not unreasonable to think that High Voltage may have atleast 4 fans.
However if it is true then High Voltage studio is petty and childish and this course of action would suggest that they probably don't have the qualities to make a good game.

Let's be honest here; what are the chances this book isn't completely awful?

Were they expecting The Conduit to receive amazing reviews, then?

At least FencerOrigins has good taste in other books

Haven't read the novel being trashed, but it's almost a sure thing that anything by Terry Pratchett is better anyway.

Well deserved, the bad reviews I mean. Conduit I/II is sincere trash to put it lightly.

The same reviewer also gave last year's Alpha Protocol a five-star score, however, calling it "an RPG masterpiece," so maybe he or she just has really bad taste.

Maybe calling it an 'RPG masterpiece' is a stretch, but Alpha Protocol was still miles ahead of some of the games that were nominated for Best of 2010 on this site. Just saying.

Meanwhile, Conduit 1 was utter trash, so I'm not surprised that there was a bad review for number 2. And considering the attempt at sub-3D Realms style of marketing they tried to pull with it, I also wouldn't be surprised that they stooped this low to get back at anyone who dared to trash their product. High Voltage certainly seems like it's staffed by flea-riddled monkeys who had been given meth and forced to watch a 24-hour marathon of Glenn Beck.

Funnily enough, I just went and checked and all but one of the negative reviews has disappeared.

The 'amazon bombing' of those idiots who went on fox news and said Mass Effect made little boys think women are objects while never having played them, while also staying ignorant to the fact women are playable characters, they deserved it.

I'd say anyway, it's an idiot going on TV and publicly showing their ignorance in the subject, while insisting things should be done against it. But ...a reviewer dishing out a bad review? That's what you do that for? ...Grow up.

Sounds like they were actually trying to thank him by suggesting they read his book, and everyone took it wrong way.

mariofan1000:
Sounds like they were actually trying to thank him by suggesting they read his book, and everyone took it wrong way.

You cant be serious.

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