GWJ Conference Call Episode 245

Conference Call

Child of Eden, Duke Nukem Forever, Death Rally, Homefront, Game Review, Special Guest John Davison, Your Emails and more!

This week Cory, Julian and Allen are joined by Metacritic and Gamespot VP John Davison to talk about the state of game reviews, the minds of readers and more!

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined. You can also submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563!

Sponsor

CastMedium
Game Thing Daily
Good Old Games

John Davison Daily
Child of Eden
Death Rally
Duke Nukem Forever
Candy Train
Six Gun Saga

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

We Ride By Night - Ian Dorsch - http://www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:21:44

Samarra - Ian Dorsch - http://www.willowtreeaudio.com - 0:41:41

Comments

John Davison and Child of Eden :O Can't wait to listen.

How is using your voice to control your squad in mass effect 3 not a really good thing?
This is how squads are commanded.
Doesn't Shepherd vocalize your squad commands in the two ME's?

John Davidson and Julian on one podcast...going to be an iphone/pad heavy one then huh?

As I listened I kept thinking, 'That guy sounds just like John Davison.'

The Gamespy review for Duke Nukem ended with: Duke Nukem Forever feels like it was rushed out the door.

I personally think the Kinect controls for Child of Eden are great, you guys must hate fun.

John Davison. Nice. Really glad to hear him talk about Metacritic. It's rare to have a discussion about Metacritic that isn't polarized to the max.

The bit about YouTube and channels like Machinima is spot on (well, it's based on fact, so...). Between GB's Quick Looks and Total Biscuit's "Wtf is ___" series, I'm covered for console and pc games, respectively. I really don't care about written previews much anymore, seeing a game is more important to me. So, I'm right in line with the kids. Ha! I'm still hip. Take that you squares!

Edit: Also, I read all the time. I suppose I'm an outlier in all of this.

RolandofGilead wrote:

How is using your voice to control your squad in mass effect 3 not a really good thing?
This is how squads are commanded.
Doesn't Shepherd vocalize your squad commands in the two ME's?

I think the issue is that these same commands can be done with just a button-press. It seems tacked-on, that's all. People have been looking for legitimate uses of Kinect, but all we're seeing are these excuses to use the thing.

Not only is there a chance of Kinect mishearing you, it may actually take longer to say the command than use the controller to select abilities (I haven't actually played Mass Effect, so I'm just guessing...)

Forte wrote:
RolandofGilead wrote:

How is using your voice to control your squad in mass effect 3 not a really good thing?
This is how squads are commanded.
Doesn't Shepherd vocalize your squad commands in the two ME's?

I think the issue is that these same commands can be done with just a button-press. It seems tacked-on, that's all. People have been looking for legitimate uses of Kinect, but all we're seeing are these excuses to use the thing.

Not only is there a chance of Kinect mishearing you, it may actually take longer to say the command than use the controller to select abilities (I haven't actually played Mass Effect, so I'm just guessing...)

I find it kind of funny when there's games like Endwar, released two years ago using voice commands with the headset, and going back a bit further voice commands on PC going back at least to UT2003 (which came out it 2002).

I picked up Death Rally a while ago but never got around to playing it. I should probably fire it up sometime.

Just a quick comment, Cry really asked a great question about how do people make purchasing decisions if not reviews. Kudos for a good one.

Carl

Great, now everyone's going to call me "Cry".

Thanks, Carl.

Scratched wrote:

I find it kind of funny when there's games like Endwar, released two years ago using voice commands with the headset, and going back a bit further voice commands on PC going back at least to UT2003 (which came out it 2002).

And way before that, there was Echelon for the Commodore 64 (and probably other computers of the day) c. 1986, with a headset called the LipStik. Yes, really.

As I understand it, the extent of the voice control was that saying anything into the mic was the equivalent of hitting the joystick's fire button.

RolandofGilead wrote:

How is using your voice to control your squad in mass effect 3 not a really good thing?

Because it does not add to the experience. Because it's embarrassing and annoying. Because it's been done before, in other games, and it was pointless and weird there, too.

I own a Kinect. I want to use it, and love it. But it's not going to happen if the way I get to interact with an RPG is by speaking to select a pre-recorded bit of dialogue. Alas, actually getting to interact with the game world in a visceral way still seems to be a ways off.

How can anyone be surprised that YouTube has a huge effect on how people collect information about video games, before or after purchase? Also, how did Cory end up taking over the first chair in the middle of the podcast? Was there a violent coup?

Demiurge wrote:

Great, now everyone's going to call me "Cry".

Thanks, Carl. :)

Would you like a kerchief to wipe away your delicious tears?

TheHipGamer wrote:

Because it does not add to the experience. Because it's embarrassing and annoying. Because it's been done before, in other games, and it was pointless and weird there, too.

Is it weird to talk to the people on your team in TF2 or other MP shooters?
What makes ME different? In ME they'll actually do what you say

I do agree that choosing the dialog options is stupid since that's not the line that will actually get spoken.

RolandofGilead wrote:

Is it weird to talk to the people on your team in TF2 or other MP shooters?
What makes ME different? In ME they'll actually do what you say :)

Will they? I think they'll act just like my TF2 buddies by shooting at the wrong people and running out and getting killed.

psu_13 wrote:

How can anyone be surprised that YouTube has a huge effect on how people collect information about video games, before or after purchase? Also, how did Cory end up taking over the first chair in the middle of the podcast? Was there a violent coup?

Cue the photoshops of my face on Castro's body...

SallyNasty wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

Great, now everyone's going to call me "Cry".

Thanks, Carl. :)

Would you like a kerchief to wipe away your delicious tears?

Ascot, please.

carljetter wrote:

Just a quick comment, Cry really asked a great question about how do people make purchasing decisions if not reviews. Kudos for a good one.

Carl

my company did some research on this not too long ago, found that word-of-mouth is by far the biggest influencer on purchasing decisions for games. That includes any kind of social media communication as well as traditional WOM.

Demiurge wrote:
psu_13 wrote:

How can anyone be surprised that YouTube has a huge effect on how people collect information about video games, before or after purchase? Also, how did Cory end up taking over the first chair in the middle of the podcast? Was there a violent coup?

Cue the photoshops of my face on Jullian's body sitting on Rob Zacny's lap...

FTFY.

Great podcast again guys. The only reason I look forward to going to work on a Thursday is because I get to spend it listening to the Podcast.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

word-of-mouth is by far the biggest influencer on purchasing decisions for games.

I actually consider the first segment of the podcast the best WOM endorsements around.

The reason I personally prefer YouTube content on games is that I don't have to factor in the reviewer's unstated bias when I'm viewing the video of the game being played. I can see for myself whether the game is up my alley or not, and that matters more in a purchase decision compared to what some guy on the internet says.

Furthermore, the state of review literature on games today is so deplorable and amateurish that some of it may have problems passing an elemental school project's standards. Thankfully, Mr. Murdoch's articles are competently edited and proofread, but not all content is of that nature.

The final blow comes when reviewers tackle games that they do not understand. I cannot trust any in-depth review of Street Fighter IV from Mr. Murdoch because, well, he self-confessedly sucks at it so any review of his won't address my concerns. Cry's input would be preferable, but we unfortunately have the situation where game reviewers are asked to review children's games for the benefit of tweener males, and doing extremely badly in the process; and brawlers being reviewed by RPG fans.

Reviewers are subjective where they shouldn't be and objective where they shouldn't be.

Great to have JD on the call. I know he is a very Americanised Brit but his presence makes me think that the GWJ call would benefit hugely from a more culturally diverse guest line up.

RolandofGilead wrote:
TheHipGamer wrote:

Because it does not add to the experience. Because it's embarrassing and annoying. Because it's been done before, in other games, and it was pointless and weird there, too.

Is it weird to talk to the people on your team in TF2 or other MP shooters?
What makes ME different? In ME they'll actually do what you say

I do agree that choosing the dialog options is stupid since that's not the line that will actually get spoken.

Given the current limited state of natural language processing (i.e., the ability for a computer to reasonably interpret intent from context), yeah, I think there is a significant distinction between talking to a human and talking to a machine.

Even if Microsoft's Kinect tech somehow made that issue go away, is the goal we are running at in our RPGs really to feel like we are playing an online multiplayer shooter? I suppose that might be in line with Bioware's latest offerings and efforts, but it's not the experience I am looking for.

LarryC wrote:

The reason I personally prefer YouTube content on games is that I don't have to factor in the reviewer's unstated bias
...
Furthermore, the state of review literature on games today is so deplorable and amateurish
...
The final blow comes when reviewers tackle games that they do not understand.

1) I think the popularity of YouTube is part of a shift back toward primary sources that's made easier by the internet and made all the more worthwhile given decades of journalism as a whole that styles itself as "objective reporting" while it barely qualifies as either. Eventually I think we'll see more of a swing back as we start to find a balance between curated (or crowd curated) content and just drinking from the firehose. There's a lot of stuff out there on the internet, and more than I think most people have time to comb through for the good parts.

2) I need to make the point that, as bad as things are, games journalism is really much, much better than it was at the turn of the millennium. We mostly remember the good bits from the "good old days," but seriously—those folks needed some editorial support in a bad way, even in the print mags.

3) Seriously about the "objective" thing. The journalistic community needs to give up on the pretense of objectivity and learn to admit and openly claim bias. That's why I appreciate someone like Julian writing about games, even fighters: He's more than willing to admit that he wants to be excited about new things and that he's not very technically skilled at games. There are plenty of folks who can relate to that, and those who can't know about it up front.

I'm with TheHipGamer. My wife looks at me strangely when I'm talking over XBL, god knows what she'd think if I started talking to the screen in 'stilted, limited voice commands'. (I'm thinking LARP style 'lightning bolt' scenario's/ridicule)

Our hobby/obsession cops enough flack, lets not add to it.

So far I am 'amused' with my Kinect. I love the way it brings a smile to my kids' faces when they kick the ball for the "big roars" in Kinectimals, and it gets my fat arse off the couch more than it would normally too, so that's a plus.

I am yet to find the 'defining' point/game for the peripheral, but in the meantime, I'm still willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt and I remain hopeful. Once my work deadlines even out, I'll be getting myself some Child of Eden time in. I'm hoping to be more in line with Redwing than the CC crew though.

LarryC wrote:

The final blow comes when reviewers tackle games that they do not understand. I cannot trust any in-depth review of Street Fighter IV from Mr. Murdoch because, well, he self-confessedly sucks at it so any review of his won't address my concerns.

You're not suggesting that the reviewer's skill should play a part in the review itself, are you? If so, I could not disagree more.

Understanding a game or genre is much different than being good at it. Let's go back to fighting games as an example: I understand the complexities of how combat systems work, from constructing a move set all the way to analyzing frames. That doesn't mean I'm *good* at SF4, though. I'm at best competent.

That's a plus in my favor, though -- I can write about the quality of SF4 from a perspective that takes the average gamer and the hardcore fighting guy into account. Is that the same thing as objectivity? No. It's just a wider perspective.

Babble babble babble... my point is, I don't think the guy reviewing Shadows Of The Damned has to be the king of shooters, or the girl reviewing RIFT needs to be able to calculate DPS on an epic-level 2H sword in her head. Knowing and liking a genre is important, but skill shouldn't factor in very heavily.

Make sense?

I'd love to see what an Objective Review looks like--I imagine it'd be a spec list, and the declaration "This is a game."--though generally it seems to be defined as "a review which conforms to my opinions".

Demiurge wrote:
LarryC wrote:

The final blow comes when reviewers tackle games that they do not understand. I cannot trust any in-depth review of Street Fighter IV from Mr. Murdoch because, well, he self-confessedly sucks at it so any review of his won't address my concerns.

You're not suggesting that the reviewer's skill should play a part in the review itself, are you? If so, I could not disagree more.

Understanding a game or genre is much different than being good at it. Let's go back to fighting games as an example: I understand the complexities of how combat systems work, from constructing a move set all the way to analyzing frames. That doesn't mean I'm *good* at SF4, though. I'm at best competent.

That's a plus in my favor, though -- I can write about the quality of SF4 from a perspective that takes the average gamer and the hardcore fighting guy into account. Is that the same thing as objectivity? No. It's just a wider perspective.

Babble babble babble... my point is, I don't think the guy reviewing Shadows Of The Damned has to be the king of shooters, or the girl reviewing RIFT needs to be able to calculate DPS on an epic-level 2H sword in her head. Knowing and liking a genre is important, but skill shouldn't factor in very heavily.

Make sense?

I would agree that the skill of an individual shouldn't matter in a review but the reviewer does matter and so it plays a part. If any publication had Julian review Street Fighter IV that would be a mistake. I'm sure he would write a great subjective review that would be witty and charming but how much would a fighting game fan care about his review? How much should they care? Justin Wong and Gootecks' thoughts on Street Fighter IV would clearly be more important to fighting game fans just like Julian's thoughts on a new board game would be more important to board game aficionados.

I think the more a game is an actual game the more the reviewers understanding/skill plays a part in how their reviews are perceived and I think that's fair. In a "game" like Heavy Rain or L.A. Noire it doesn't really matter as there are barely any game elements in those games; the entertainment you derive from them is mostly passive. But something like chess, Starcraft or Street Fighter? The entertainment in those games is the actual game part. In those instances I think it's fair for the reader to want basic understanding of the mechanics and depth and even fairer for a reader to seek someone out with full understanding of the mechanics and depth.

The great thing about the internet is we aren't funneled through these publications anymore. I can just pop on twitter or Youtube and see what Gootecks thinks of Super Street Fighter IX: Hyper Tournament Edition: AE and skip over Julian's thoughts.

Spoiler:

I wouldn't skip over them Julian!

I'm so sorry Cry, the 'o' key on my laptop must be weak.

Cheers,
Carl

Demiurge:

Perhaps the emphasis on skill was an unfortunate mistake on my part. I don't require the reviewer to be competitive at the game to give him credibility, but he at least has to know what the hell he's talking about. I mean, I've read reviews on IGN criticizing a Dora game for being simple and repetitive. I mean, really? It's literally a game designed for five year olds. It has to be simple and repetitive. Just because a teenaged male has zero chance of appreciating it doesn't mean that it's a badly designed game.

If a Dora game were on the chopping block, I would want someone with experience in handling and entertaining a wide variety of children to be on that assignment. Having formal training in child education and entertainment would be better.

This also goes for games like Muramasa, the Demon Blade. I know of no reviewer or review article that played that brawler on Shura, which was the setting Vanillaware recommended. On Musou, the game's so easy that it loses all of the technical aspects of the brawling, which is basically like setting life bars to infinite in Street Fighter. Shura itself is pretty damn easy as technical brawlers go; most reviewers said that it would be really tough to play through it. None of them collected all 108 swords, which is necessary in order to truly finish the game.

If a reviewer played Street Fighter for three hours, never having played any fighting game in his life, would you consider his opinion at all seriously, or adequate to inform potential buyers and longtime fans?

Starcraft received a similar treatment. Few reviewers of the game ever made it to Diamond - not asking for Masters here. Some competence in the game is necessary to appreciate and relate how the multiplayer's been balanced, so some experience going from Bronze to Diamond is necessary to convey the proper impression.

TLDR: I agree. Professional mastery of the game is not necessary. All I'm asking for is some basic competence at the game they're reviewing.