Everybody loves to play armchair game reviewer and guess what kind of scores a game might get before it comes out, but the folks at UK company Vertical Slice claim to have it down to a science.
Are we game reviewers really so predictable? Now I know there are some games out there that everybody assumes are going to get good reviews - I would be surprised if Halo 3: ODST and Modern Warfare 2 did poorly on the ol' Metacritic later this year - but come on, we can't be that easy to read. Right? British company Vertical Slice apparently thinks so very much: they're boasting that they can predict game scores up to a year in advance.
"People think you can't predict a game based on quantifiable data," director Graham McAllister said. "What we can do is get these estimators. Some people will just have a hard job believing it. We have analyzed the statistics to death, thorough and rigorous, and what we're saying is, 'You may not like it, but this is the best model that anyone has come up with to date.'"
The "estimators" Vertical Slice is talking about are some pretty heavy statistic and science work. Not only has the company "reverse-engineered" game reviews to see which phrases correspond to particular scores of reviews, but they've used intense biometrics to measure how people respond to games. After 30 seconds of play, they say, they can figure how where a game will fall in terms of its review score.
"Biometrics is our big thing; we hook people up to equipment that will measure your heart-rate or skin response," McAllister said. "If someone says, 'This is the scariest game ever,' we'll be able to say, "Really? Well, we don't think so." And we'll be able to prove it."
The point isn't to make game reviewers look like idiots, though. It's to help developers figure out sooner how they make their games, see where their games are going. "There's no reason why you would not want it," McAllister said. "The return on investment is potentially huge. At the minute, our clients range from PS3 developers to iPhone developers."