Thursday, 14 July 2011

About Post-Launch Reviews

What do you do here?

Over the last few years I've noticed a major flaw with the standard review formula: games are reviewed once at launch, and then never again. Ten years ago that was fine — games shipped the way they shipped, and if there were bugs you worked around them or exploited them. But more recently, it's become common for games to be updated at least once or twice after launch. The problem with the old review formula is that if the game is reviewed at launch and then never again, the review does not take into account any fixes or content additions that the game has received over time.

One of the best examples is Team Fortress 2. TF2 launched in late 2007 with six maps, seventeen achievements, and a handful of weapons for each of the nine classes. The game received high praise, with review scores averaging 92% — very respectable indeed. But since then, the developers — Valve — have added over 40 maps, 350 achievements, 130 weapons, 150 cosmetic items, new game modes, a store, bots and training, item crafting and trading, a video editor, and plenty of other features over the course of two hundred updates.

The question is, if Team Fortress 2 launched in its current state, would its review scores still average 92%? One of the only complaints at launch was the relatively sparse amount of content — a complaint which been completely murdered, and Valve is still adding content to this day.

So that is the long-winded origin and purpose of this web site: to review games months to years after they have launched, taking into account any fixes and updates to the game, and free of the launch day hype.

Why don't you post a review score? What's with the format?

I don't agree with numerical review scores, but not for the reasons you might think. If you take a look at Metacritic (or similar sites) you'll notice that great games are rated 80 or higher, good games are upwards of 70, average games range from the sixties to sometimes the low seventies, and bad or terrible games are below 60.

But that's not how it should be. On a scale of 1 to 100, “average” should be 50. Most reviewers rate games on a system similar to school grades: 60-70 is average, 70-80 is good, 80 and up is great. It makes sense if you're used to the school scoring system, but it's awfully limiting — there are relatively few games that are actually bad, but the space allotted on the scale for “bad” is greater than half the scale, leaving only a tiny bit of space for average, good, and great.

I don't want to give numerical scores because if I did, I'd either have to follow a system I don't agree with, or I'd be faced with people constantly misinterpreting my scores by comparing them with the standards. If my “average” was 50 and everyone else's was 70, if you didn't go out of your way to learn my system, you'd think I rated it poorly.

Instead I only make three recommendations: you should play it, you shouldn't play it, and maybe.

Recommendation of “maybe”? What does that mean?

It means that I didn't think the game is a must-play, but neither did I find it lacking. Alternatively, it might mean that it's a great example of a polarizing or niche genre. As an example: Medal of Modern Battlefield 7 might be a perfectly competent war shooter, but if you don't like war shooters, you're probably not interested.

Can I post a link / quote / repost of your review to my site or blog?

Yes, feel free. If you do, please leave a citation or link to the original review somewhere in your post.

On a related note: if linking or quoting my reviews, you may not assign a numerical score based on the "feel" of the review and credit me with that score, the way Metacritic does. I avoid posting scores for a reason, so I won't have them tacked on to my reviews by a third party. 

What kind of games do you review?

I'm primarily a PC gamer, so I'll mostly be reviewing PC games, though I also own an XBox360, a PS3, and all the Nintendo systems. My preferences lie towards action-oriented games, especially with science fiction themes or stories, but I'll try almost anything.

What's the review schedule?

Once a week on Wednesdays. I'll also post random news updates, articles, comics, or links, but those aren't on a regular schedule.

How thorough are you?

I play every game to completion of the single player mode (when applicable) but I often ignore multiplayer. I'm an explorer, so I try to experience all the single-player content the game has to offer before writing a review.

Where do you get your images?

I take all the screenshots myself to avoid any copyright issues with linking to someone else's screenshots. You can see them on my Steam account here. And since I take screenshots of games as I play them, you can get a sneak preview as to what reviews are in the works.

What are your computer's specs?

I'm currently using an Asus laptop with the following specs:
Intel Core i7-4700HQ @2.40GHz
NVidia GeForce GTX 870M
Windows 8.1
1920x1080 display

I don't agree with your review. It's biased.

Well, like all human beings, I'm biased. There are some things I like more than others, and my reviews reflect that. I'm not trying to offer a definitive evaluation of the game — I'm telling you what I think of it, and you can play it (or not).

Actually, if you don't agree with my review, I'd love to hear why. Post a comment telling me where you think I made a mistake. If your comment is thoughtful and well-written, you might even change someone's mind.

You should review _________.

I'll consider requests, but remember, to review a game I have to buy it and play it. I don't get fancy advance review copies, nor do I want them, because that would negate the whole purpose of the site. I'll need both the time and money if I am to accept requests. I also reserve the right to deny requests for any reason. I probably won't, but I reserve it anyway.

What's this "Donate" button?

I do all this stuff on my own time. No one pays me to write reviews or maintain the site. That's what the Donate button is for. If you like the site and want to see it continue, consider donating so that I can continue to review games and keep my hardware up to date.

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