Game genres, game comparisons, and review scores

Bad comparison?This article is really just a big QJ reader survey, but that won’t be apparent until you’ve read it through. The article will go off into seemingly unrelated tangents and digress at moments, so bear with me. Here we go.

Apparently what got a lot of people angered about controversial 1UP’s review (the one for NWN2) is that it compared the NWN2 to Oblivion. To quote:

Worse — and blame this on games like Oblivion — NWN2‘s levels feel pint-sized: Peewee zones inhabited by pull-string NPCs with no existence to speak of beyond their little playpens. Wander and you’ll wonder why the forests, towns, and dungeons are like movie lots with lay-about monsters waiting patiently for you to trip their arbitrary triggers. As if the pencil and paper “module” approach were a virtue that computers — by now demonstrably capable of simulating entire worlds with considerably more depth — should emulate.

Now lets go off on a different tangent for a bit, trust me, it will all make sense later.

Obviously, Mr. Matt Peckham is one that is not amused by the rules heavy nature of NWN2. He said that it just isn’t for him repeatedly in his review. What’s sad about this, is that despite Peckham’s disclaimer that for him the game is a 5/10, and for fans of the game the score would be about an eight or a nine… people still didn’t like it.

For D&D fans who want to play an amazingly thorough PC translation of the system they’re carting around in book form, it’s proba-bly closer an eight or nine. But if, like me, you want less “rules for rule’s sake” and more depth and beauty to your simulated game worlds, you can certainly find more exciting prospects.

More on apples, oranges, Oblivion, sixties camp, game review scores, and you the QJ readership after the jump.

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Bad comparison?This article is really just a big QJ reader survey, but that won’t be apparent until you’ve read it through. The article will go off into seemingly unrelated tangents and digress at moments, so bear with me. Here we go.

Apparently what got a lot of people angered about controversial 1UP’s review (the one for NWN2) is that it compared the NWN2 to Oblivion. To quote:

Worse — and blame this on games like Oblivion — NWN2‘s levels feel pint-sized: Peewee zones inhabited by pull-string NPCs with no existence to speak of beyond their little playpens. Wander and you’ll wonder why the forests, towns, and dungeons are like movie lots with lay-about monsters waiting patiently for you to trip their arbitrary triggers. As if the pencil and paper “module” approach were a virtue that computers — by now demonstrably capable of simulating entire worlds with considerably more depth — should emulate.

Now lets go off on a different tangent for a bit, trust me, it will all make sense later.

Obviously, Mr. Matt Peckham is one that is not amused by the rules heavy nature of NWN2. He said that it just isn’t for him repeatedly in his review. What’s sad about this, is that despite Peckham’s disclaimer that for him the game is a 5/10, and for fans of the game the score would be about an eight or a nine… people still didn’t like it.

For D&D fans who want to play an amazingly thorough PC translation of the system they’re carting around in book form, it’s proba-bly closer an eight or nine. But if, like me, you want less “rules for rule’s sake” and more depth and beauty to your simulated game worlds, you can certainly find more exciting prospects.

Here’s where we get back to Oblivion.

Despite NWN2 and Oblivion being games of the same catch genre, that is RPGs. They are very different games and personally I think that comparisons between them should be made with caution. NWN2 is rules heavy. That’s because games like NWN2 is about the rules. That’s the nature of that type of game. Oblivion is a first person action RPG type of game that emphasizes freedom.

The problem here is that Peckham said that he doesn’t like apples. Then he gives an apple a bad mark for being an apple. No matter how many disclaimers he puts in his review, if his final score of 5/10 is inconsiderate of the game being what it is, people will bring out the pitchforks and call for a hanging.

Mob

Now this is where things get iffy…

Anyone who’s smart enough will immediately say that anyone is free to compare an apple to an orange. They’re still both fruits after all. So in a sense I’m free to compare something essentially campy fun like No One Lives Forever 2 to something dead serious like say F.E.A.R. After all, they’re both FPS games and they share certain concepts, why can’t I compare them?

Personally I think you can. Just don’t give NOLF2 a 5/10 because it’s too ’60s, or give F.E.A.R. a 6/10 because it’s too dark. Yes, you can complain all you like about the ’60s camp in NOLF just don’t let it (or at least try that it does not) show up in your final score, or color your whole review.

Dark vs Camp

You may have noticed the title of this post, so here’s the review score part of the article comes in.

Why does the final score matter so much anyway?

Well, mostly because that’s the first thing that people look at and base their reactions on a review from. You can say as many the redeeming qualities as you can but when your bottom-line score is a dismal 5/10, people will most of the time ignore the good points that you mentioned and conclude that you’re biased about something, when in reality you’re just being honest about what you feel about the game.

Another factor is that a lot of times, the tiny hints of recognition in any review can be masked by a reviewer’s disdain for a game he doesn’t agree with. But that’s a matter of taking responsibility for the language you use.

So where are we now? Okay, here’s this article so far:

  • Just because they’re both RPG doesn’t mean you can compare them just like that.
  • Yeah you can say what you want and compare essentially different things, but toes will get stepped on if you do that.
  • People just don’t notice all the good you say sometimes, and just look at the final score or the issues you’ve had.

So how will I end this loosely tied together bit of mess? Here’s how. I’ll post a yet another quote, this one’s from Jeff Green of 1UP, the guys who sort of got the short end of this whole mess.

Understand one thing: This was a lose-lose for us. We fucked up, and now we were gonna pay. We look stupid either way. Keep it up, and have an article that wasn’t ready keep getting read AND then appear in print, making more and more people unhappy. Pull it, and look like all the things mentioned at the start of this endless post: we’re sellouts , we’re pussies, we abandoned the writer, etc.

Poor guy.

A different QJ blogger has asked before if you’re going to demand that we retract reviews we’re going to post here.

So what do you guys want to see in a game review? Why do you bother to read game reviews anyway? Is it to really trust the reviewers opinion and base your gaming purchases on their scores? Do you guys really do that?

Personally, I’m thinking that reviews are something functional. I’m guessing that you guys just read game reviews so you can get as many game details on it as possible before you make a decision to buy it or not.  To most of you it’s a colored, pre-analyzed, entertaining version of a gameplay details bullet list.

Am I right?

Should we here at QJ try to make the reviews we’re going to post something like that? Should we keep in mind the things we’ve noticed from Mr. Peckham’s review (the loosely related stuff we just listed above), or do you want our reviews to be as scathing and as opinionated as possible? How do you really want us to handle game scores and the comparison of one game to another?

Be sure to tell us, because we try our best to give you guys what you want.

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