Guns of Navarro

#151 Edited by Wacomole (836 posts) -

Does this mean we're going to have to have Bloomberg-type "stock-tickers" scrolling along the bottom of websites like Polygon showing the changes in reviews "SimCity down 4.5, Tomb Raider up 1, Big Rigs up 1.2," etc?

#152 Posted by Lazyaza (2212 posts) -

So basically always online drm = game is fucked. Studios are still trying to use this stuff why? oooh right complete and utter stupdity. I would be willing to bet my money that the city size limits and lack of teraforming were also design alterations from the original plan when EA probably forced Maxis to include the drm.

Fucking ea.

#153 Posted by Dan_CiTi (3510 posts) -

Meh, don't support games like this, especially when they're just another city building game, while very well made in some ways, nothing special. Just play the SNES game or whatever.

#154 Edited by kerikxi (547 posts) -

Great article Alex, you make some excellent points. I definitely agree that we're coddling developers when it comes to shipping incomplete/buggy games. It's just the accepted norm that a popular online game is going to launch broken, and that's utter bullshit.

While I sympathize with the hurdles these companies face in coping with massive demand, that doesn't mean they get a free pass. If your product launches broken, you done fucked up, and you deserve the beating that you get.

#155 Edited by hamjam (27 posts) -

It's a shame these two great titles Diablo 3 and SimCity took the early hits of trying DRM. I hope future DRM titles will be well prepared.

#156 Edited by EXTomar (4943 posts) -

The story going around Blizzard is that they took the load-performance data they got from the Diablo 3 beta periods and doubled it and still fell short. Internal edicts is to take current metrics are to quadruple the pre-release load if not higher.

#157 Edited by skelington_ (292 posts) -

I hadn't heard of Polygon before now - I really like their philosophy on reviews scores; that they are ever-changing and dynamic. I believe that, with the manner is which a game can change over time - due to DLC, online connectivity issues such as those SimCity has brought to the fore, revelations of game-breaking bugs post-launch, patches etc. - in the modern day, plus the standard time-altered perception that a person can have of a given experience, flexibility is absolutely necessary, when called for. I don't think it's a blight on a reviewer whatsoever - it demonstrates awareness and continued relevance.

Jeff: This is just one guy's opinion about the evolution of video games critique, but I would recommend that you have a good, long think about score flexibility. Even more than you already have done!

#159 Posted by Mumrik (1092 posts) -

-should we be reviewing them before they launch?

If they're subject to complicated online DRM like this, or heavily focused on multiplayer on a scale it isn't possible to achieve before launch, then hell no. You're reviewing a different product.

#160 Posted by fatalflame (104 posts) -

Great read Alex, as always. Also excited next week to check out Jeff's column!

#161 Edited by OriginalRune (1 posts) -

As games evolve into services it makes sense to update the review score over time. Considering the tv show format where different seasons can have different qualities so can games these days. If you consider EA's yearly releases of Madden, NHL, FIFA, NASCAR etc as a running service (with only one update per year) reviewers are already there.

#162 Edited by Tom_Shaw (41 posts) -

"Nothing is static.

Everything is evolving.

Everything is falling apart."

Strangely appropriate!

#163 Posted by LucidDreams117 (422 posts) -

As always, another great article Alex. Enjoy reading your writing every time. I agree with a lot of your points. One in particular is about how we shouldn't coddle games. When a game comes out, it should be everything that the developer wants it to be. We shouldn't excuse games because we live in a era of patches and dlc. When I anticipate a game, buy it day one or even the first week, I should play the game without needing to worry if this is complete or all that it could be. Or in this case, having to worry about if it even works at all because a company decided to go online always, and even after Error 37, weren't prepared. This whole week, no matter who or how this was defended, all I thought was: an inexcusable mess.

PS. Looking forward to Jeff's article next week :)

#165 Posted by Y2Ken (1281 posts) -

I'm okay with this score-changing thing if it goes back once the issues are ironed out. Does the game go back to a 9.5 at Polygon if the server issues are fixed and it works fine?

Ultimately that's why I'd rather see a positive review - server issues are a pain, but if they're fixed then the game is as good as the reviewers who didn't account for them said. Whereas reviews that knocked it way down for that have now become obsolete, which is a shame.

#166 Edited by Stepside (510 posts) -

Beautifully written Alex.

#167 Posted by RichardNixon (80 posts) -

Guys, I miss Alex.

We never see his face. He could totally drink out of a jar and talk at a camera. I'd be cool with that.

#168 Posted by Xymox (2115 posts) -

@rustysanderke said:

Played a ton of SimCity 4 this week. It will probably outlive the new SimCity.

Me too. I booted up 4 and thought "Hmm...yeah, this'll do."

Same here, until it crashed mid city creation and reminded me that it was a game made in a time where auto saves weren't a thing, making me uninstall it.

#169 Edited by AV_Gamer (655 posts) -

Simply put: I don't agree with holding back on reviews to help the developers and publishers. If they release a broken produce, then reviews should be honest with people who'll likely purchase the game at full price. I remember when Rage came out, and because of people's love for ID Software, many reviews completely overlooked the horrible incapability issues with ATI Cards, forcing many whom owned the video cards to find out the hard way. As a result, many people were upset they couldn't play and enjoy the game like those with Nvidia video cards. I believe it's dishonest journalism not to be honest about the game's release issues, or hold back until the issues are fixed, if they already released the game to the public. If the game isn't ready, developers shouldn't release it, plain and simple.

#170 Posted by SleepyDoughnut (1240 posts) -

This is like what Sessler used to do with Sessler's Soap Box, except in written form and better.

#171 Posted by dudeglove (8274 posts) -

Why is it that Alex can be so obnoxious in person, yet eloquent in his writing? SOMETHING DOESN'T ADD UP HERE NAVARRO

#172 Posted by thugg1280 (90 posts) -

@cincaid: you dont know what you are talking about and have to say i think you are full of it.

but I wish people would put down their rose tinted glasses every now and then.

rose tinted glasses are what you have on to try and act like this kind of stuff is just fine and nothing like this happen in the 80's sorryto brake it to you online DRM is kind of a new thing.

#173 Posted by ScrewyMaverick (5 posts) -

@y2ken said:

I'm okay with this score-changing thing if it goes back once the issues are ironed out. Does the game go back to a 9.5 at Polygon if the server issues are fixed and it works fine?

Ultimately that's why I'd rather see a positive review - server issues are a pain, but if they're fixed then the game is as good as the reviewers who didn't account for them said. Whereas reviews that knocked it way down for that have now become obsolete, which is a shame.

This. If they're going to keep up this review fluidity, then, assuming that the servers are perfectly fine (which, for me they very much seem to be. I played for about 7 hours on Saturday, logging in and out every hour or so to test server stability), the game review should go back to what it originally stood at.

Servers being down and being unable to play the game are shitty and terrible and an enormously amateurish oversight on EA/Maxis' parts, but that doesn't make the game a shitty game all of a sudden. Diablo was fun as hell, whether or not I could play it for a couple days. Same with Sim City.

#174 Posted by aceofspudz (935 posts) -

Maybe Polygon is making a meta-commentary on the usefulness of scores. In the future the score will be randomly generated every time a user reloads the page, but that technology is still in beta.

#175 Edited by Corvak (1172 posts) -

If pre release impressions are necessary, i'd rather they be unscored commentary. In giant bomb terms, a quick look.

Polygon continues to rub me the wrong way, trying to come off as somehow superior to the rest, simply by changing their score. A changing score feels dishonest and honestly, no better than EA's desperate attempts to placate irate mayors.

#176 Posted by Orange_Pork (611 posts) -

I like this column a whole lot.

#177 Edited by Nardak (580 posts) -

Okay this is a cliche image but I cant resist the temptation:

#178 Posted by wardcleaver (173 posts) -

@hailinel said:

Polygon's adjustable scoring policy isn't a solution. For the common interpretation of a ten-point decimal scale, going from 9.5 to 8 is next to meaningless. Dropping from an 8 to a 4 is going from "This game is great" to "This game is garbage" and stinks of damage control on Polygon's part.

Maxis and EA screwed up on this one and they deserve the criticism that they get, but Polygon has done nothing but confuse the situation while making themselves look incompetent. They've effectively rendered their SimCity review score meaningless; when the server issues are finally resolved (whenever that is), does that mean that they'll bump the 4 back up to 9.5? 8? 7? Is there any reason to even give a shit about the review at that point? They've already rendered it a punchline. And what am I supposed to do the next time Polygon reviews an online game? Take it at face value, or wait for the score to inevitably yo-yo while the server kinks are worked out?

Well stated. This is exactly what I was thinking.

#179 Posted by CrunchbiteJr (115 posts) -

My issue with the Polygon system is specifically when and where it is used. It feels like here it was used solely because they took flack from an angry userbase/anti EA online cabal and went into damage control. If you decide to use a flexible scoring system then you have to decide upon the mechanics of how and when you put it into place, you can't just do it randomly.

As for Sim City I've had zero problems. Played when I wanted with no wait and am loving it.

#180 Posted by cikame (1073 posts) -

If ever there is a need for modifying a Giant Bomb score, you could add blue stars for more and red for less, then state the reasons underneath at the top so people can get that up to date information at the head of the article.

#181 Posted by BRNK (307 posts) -

I think a lot of you duders are splitting hairs here. Posting updates to a review, advertising those updates via all social channels, writing new content to explain what's going on and how it's effecting the game, and leaving the previous review/score/updates above are all tantamount to writing a new article on the server woes. I'm sure none of you would be pissed at Polygon writing a separate article. Yet for some reason, the fact that it sits below the original review and has a number associated with it makes it a joke? Y'all need to settle down, and get a little perspective.

#182 Posted by bkbroiler (1641 posts) -

Wait, Jeff is writing this article this week? Does he even know how to write?

#183 Posted by blacknight100 (6 posts) -

I have played it for over 30 hours now since Wednesday. The only problems I have had are today, but that is only because they are doing a server update at the moment. Sucks that some people have had issues, but I imagine that this whole debacle is due to a very vocal minority (Not excusing the issues at all, just saying that it probably was not as widespead as it seemed)

#184 Posted by MisterFaulkner (44 posts) -

Normally, I find Alex to be really negative (I think I just don't get him sometimes), but this article was very thoughtful and well written.

#185 Edited by Snigs (55 posts) -

My main issue with the Polygon "update" reviews is the current lack of consistency. To quote their Diablo III review (final emphasis added):

SERVER ISSUES

It's no secret that Diablo 3's launch night went rougher than anyone would have liked, this reviewer and Blizzard included. Things are bad when there's a Twitter account named after your most common error message.

For the first week of Diablo 3's release, it eloquently demonstrated all of the pitfalls of the "always online" requirements that so angered consumers since its announcement. I had repeated issues signing into my account throughout the week - I have three identically named characters in my account because of server-side character storage and creation issues. I was greeted several times by a general chat message informing me that Blizzard was taking down Diablo 3 servers for general maintenance while I was playing the game.

Ordinarily, my position as Reviews Editor at Polygon is that we review a game as it exists on release day, because our responsibility is to our audience. While we do all we can to maintain due diligence with regards to giving a game every opportunity to deliver, we choose your wallet and your time before the benefit of the doubt.

But Diablo 3 is different. It's different because Blizzard has a track record spanning almost two decades of games that have become institutions, and they've also run the most popular MMO around for almost eight years. Put simply, Blizzard, more than any developer around, has earned that benefit of the doubt. I believe that the server issues will be resolved. With that in mind, it does both our audience and Diablo 3 a disservice to dwell on that aspect in this review.

The fact that Polygon never touched that score during any of the Diablo 3 issues which is a stark contrast to cutting the score by more than half of its initial total. Compared to their Sim City updates this points to a complete lack of confidence in EA and, like Alex said, ass covering for a situation they didn't anticipate before first putting up their review. I believe Sim City's issues will also be resolved because EA isn't completely stupid, and I have no doubt that when the issues are resolved Mr. Pitts will bump the game's score back up, but by that time no one will be paying attention to the review--I for one won't care anymore. Pitts thinks that the game, in it's purest form, is a 9.5, and while the server issues really really suck I'd just add an asterisk to the score--or something along those lines--that says wait for an all clear. Bombing the score to a 4 says absolutely nothing about that initial 9.5 except for the fact that this is, indeed, a video game. Lack of consistency. What I am to understand from Pitts? Is this a game that is unsalvageable because of the temporary problems cause by the server issue and will forever to be marred by them? Is there still a game worth playing underneath that eternal server queue once all features are turned back on?

I guess I just won't trust their scores that much anymore. Who cares is Starcraft 2: HotS is a 10, lets bump it to 6 because PETA just gave me a "save the zerg pamphlet" that I can't stop thinking about every time I play, but look, that one 13 yr old insulted my mother, 5.5!

#186 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

While I agree with Alex for the most parts, that static review scores are in order, some games are exceptional when it comes to longevity and post release content support - these games retain a sizeable and active community for years, some few even for decades.

While it's hardly reasonable to revisit those games with every patch, I believe they deserve to be reassessed at some point. For example Battlefield 3, which will release its final piece of post release DLC tomorrow, that's definitely a game that should be revisited and reassessed as a whole, at this point - circumstances permitting.

As far as I'm concerned, DICE's post-launch team and Battlefield 3 as a whole, deserve a huge round of applause - for an outstandingly well done job. Such a great a post-launch support experience - content and patch-wise - I've never witnessed in anything else but top tier subscription MMOs. EA/DICE have done us right - after all.

I guess that's true for all popular online games with lengthy post release DLC schedules, as well as the few superpopular F2P games like LoL and TF2 with their perpetual content support, all of which aren't really Giant Bomb's bread & butter - and likely extended coverage is outside the realm of reason and feasibilty for its staff-size.

Nonetheless - would it be asking too much, to get more DLC content covered with Quicklooks or TNTs? There's been tons of quality DLC content for huge games, that haven't gotten any coverage whatsoever, and more often than not, I'll care more about DLC for games I love, than most new releases.

#187 Posted by CannibalFerox (296 posts) -

Always online or not...

#188 Posted by YoungBuck (207 posts) -

I'm also of the belief that a game's launch should be indicative of a developer's best effort. When you first put a game on store shelves, you should be putting your absolute best foot forward.

Preach!

#189 Posted by buzz_clik (7026 posts) -

@alex: Nice Fight Club reference, with an even better article to follow. This whole thing has been mad interesting to watch, with what I'd consider landmark activity (for better or worse) from all corners of the industry. I bet years from now, this launch will be called out as "remember when..." fodder in podcasts and articles, both for the disasters and reactions that have ensued.

Moderator
#190 Posted by rpratts (76 posts) -

Thank You

#191 Posted by kinnonyee (33 posts) -

You know, it's interesting. I talked with Arthur Gies (Reviews editor) for a bit about it on twitter. I like Arthur a lot and I think he does a really good job in his reviews. However, in this case, I asked him if he felt that Polygon would have been better served to have started with a lower review score and ended with a higher one. Suffice to say, he didn't feel it was necessary and that Polygon had stated their review process thoroughly in their cubric. I didn't really agree with that since I felt that Polygon had accidentally left out important information (the server state and how that affects the game) by publishing a review so early.

I don't mind that Polygon is approaching reviews differently. Really, that's just Polygon's style and I think it can give people something different, which I applaud. What I think though, is that since Polygon does have the ability to change a score, they should really be accounting for launch issues, since scores can be revised later. Russ Pitt's initial review is almost a preview to me since he basically talks about what ideally Sim City could be, if it works properly.

Suffice to say, Arthur and I disagreed, but I think in this case, and in the future, Polygon is courting a lot of controversy if they continue to go down this review path. It's not like there are going to be fewer games that are "always online", and I doubt this is the last time we'll see a game with server issues.

#192 Posted by Kohe321 (3533 posts) -

A great read as always!

#193 Edited by Brackynews (4094 posts) -

@dudeglove said:

Why is it that Alex can be so obnoxious in person, yet eloquent in his writing?

Your answer is just a bathroom mirror away, dude.

Hahaaaaa sick burn. Betcha thought I'd forgotten your Minecraft-egging ways, Herr Handschuh?

And speaking of server issues, Minecraft. That's a thing. A relatively small team, coping with a relatively exponential usage curve. Alpha/Beta it all you want, but people paid money, and they essentially had multiple release days. In my experience Mojang kept the lights on far more often than not, and we had the fallback of a purely offline single player. (And for the uninitiated, yes bad things happened when Mojang servers were down.)

If you are designing a game for multiplayer that's fine. If you need regular DRM pings to keep the business suits off your back, that's your soul and your career choice. But if your "social-enabled" game explicitly requires cloud-server computing for the game to function... I think that needs to have a cigarette-warning sized notice on the box. This game on this platter-cloud is not in fact a complete product.

What's going to happen when I want to OnLive a game like SimCity? How many layers of connection issues can we peel back to even determine the fault? I'm convinced it's a conspiracy to keep BCompSc grads employed. There's no way to solve these problems from a business standpoint, you just have to keep throwing manpower at it until some metric says to take the servers offline.

#194 Edited by dudeglove (8274 posts) -

And speaking of server issues, Minecraft. That's a thing. A relatively small team, coping with a relatively exponential usage curve. Alpha/Beta it all you want, but people paid money, and they essentially had multiple release days. In my experience Mojang kept the lights on far more often than not, and we had the fallback of a purely offline single player. (And for the uninitiated, yes bad things happened when Mojang servers were down.)

If Maxis pulled the same shit as Notch did with the "holiday time" he took over the course of alpha/beta, this would be as bad as, I dunno, the ME3 uproar. I know Mojang is "indie" n'all, but - seriously - if you sit down and calculate the amount of time Notch spent working on the game relative to how much time he spent fucking around with other people's money, you'd probably want to murder that fat fucker.

#196 Edited by cicatrix1 (8 posts) -

@snigs said:

My main issue with the Polygon "update" reviews is the current lack of consistency. To quote their Diablo III review (final emphasis added):

The fact that Polygon never touched that score during any of the Diablo 3 issues which is a stark contrast to cutting the score by more than half of its initial total. Compared to their Sim City updates this points to a complete lack of confidence in EA and, like Alex said, ass covering for a situation they didn't anticipate before first putting up their review.

The updateable review scores were not yet implemented in the Polygon system during the release of Diablo 3.

#197 Edited by AGold (26 posts) -

I've had very few issues playing SimCity. In fact, I've been having a blast. Maybe it's me, or maybe it's because I have a life and that having anticipated launch issues, I really was not that upset when things were so bad the first couple of days.

This is the SimCity game I've always wanted. I love playing with friends, working together to accomplish goals. Playing alone can be just as much fun, although juggling 4+ cities can get a bit daunting. Even if you don't like it as much as another version, you have to admire the ingenuity and design work here. And even with some of the server side systems gimped for the time being, these systems all work so well together it really is quite amazing.

Any game that is MMO is going to have launch issues. I thought most of us have come to accept this lol. People who get this upset by this should probably just wait a few weeks to purchase games such as these, because it's going to happen to them all until enough people know how to prevent these things.

#198 Posted by smfE (31 posts) -

glad i didn't buy on launch day. so i got it today and it's running fine in europe

#199 Posted by BawlZINmotion (714 posts) -

The always-on part of SimCity pretty much killed any form of purchase from me. In addition, I think EA is fast becoming a virtual arcade.

#200 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (3024 posts) -

The answer for how to review has to come down to each site preference, but has to reflect the actual game.

CHOICES:
A) Do they score - as is - without taking into account it might get better...which means they wait two days after release before giving a score. [Loss of page views at critical launch period]

B) DO they score the game as closely as possible anticipating problems as well as what will likely get better releasing a score on launch or before. [Loss of "live product" experience thus their score is about a theoretical game not the actual game buyers have or experience Thus a score would likely never account for Maxis removing 'Cheetah mode' and thus CHANGING the game drastically this week.]

C) Score the game as it is presented by the publisher for review, but reserve right to re-score the game on the fly within the launch window if they score does not reflect the actual product. {Score come out on time, but game is dinged if the game doesn't work as advertised.]

That third choice Alex seem to see as TOO accommodating to publishers, but I see it as the opposite...its an accountability check. If you fudge/lie/fix the experience in a way the changes the critics and public's experience you get your score discounted. How much the score lowers is up to the website.

If Tomb Raider which was reviewed earlier than launch by most sites, arrived in players hands BROKEN should it really keep all those 10/10 or 90% scores, really? Since when are reviews things written in stone by Jehovah? Any website that says, "Yeah, well the game worked for us a week ago...you folks at home need to accept this score as-is." should simply stop getting readers/page views.

Bottom line: Any site not adjusting their SimCity score if their review occurred on launch should be seen as doing a disservices to their readership. Broken is broken, something broken like SimCity or TES Skyrim (for PS3) should have its score eliminated or changed.

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