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Lies in the games industry


tiedtiger
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Lies are everywhere and just because to impress starting journalists. A few months back I was at SCi in Paris for a First Look of Galleon. The producer over at SCI gave away a very good show. 'Yóu guys are not gonna believe this! It is... It is. Ah, wel see for youself!' And so we did, we looked and looked and heard him talk about how great, revolutionairy, innovative en just sheer godlike Galleon is. 'Look, he puts his feet ón the stairs!' The 'show' was mostly about the 'uninterresting aspects' of the game. 'Look, he can dive!'. The only thing I thought: Hmm, why focus your 'show' on the stupid parts when you can make me happy by showing me all those 'innovative and revolutionairy' features. May I think he knóws the game is crap and wants to devert my attention?'

The preview I wrote went on and on about these parts of the game. Hey, since it's a first look I may not write 'well, this gameplaythingie is not good at all'. So I gave Galleon (and the producer at Sci) the benefit of the doubt and said something like 'Galleon is strange but might be something very special'. Since the review copy is the same as the first look copy I gave the game a 4 out of 10. It is godawful.

But I can imagine that starting journalists are impressed by the show PR/producer people give away. 'Wow, he thinks it's good so it must be good!'

Same goes for Driv3r. How many 17 year old boys wouldn't sell their soul for a early press beta of Driv3r ánd an interview with the main man behind this masterpiece? I can tell you... a lot of 'em.

Stupid is as stupid does. Is the journalist acting like a moron (and we all know a huge part of the gamingjournalists does just that) than the pr can act like one. Hell, the journalist swallows anything, so why not the bullshit pr story.

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I honestly think that the vast majority of "lies" have more to do with developers biting off more than they can chew. It's no great surprise that each one would like their next game to be the best thing since sliced bread, but sometimes they pitch the bar impossibly high. I suppose that a good example would be Elixir Studios' Republic. The finished product was a substantially scaled down version of the original idea, but that is probably because the technology just wasn't capable of delivering on such a grand concept at the time. In my opinion, this wasn't lying....just more a case of over enthusiasm.

On the other hand, we have Unreal 2........

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That's also a sort of unwritten rule if you havn't played any code, you remain optimistic or indecisive at least. Only if you have played something do you actually hand out criticisms and even then there's still the 'if' possibility.

Nothing mroe than shoot the messenger.

Reviews however... ah now THOSE are different.

*: Maybe it's me but df0's foto's look better than the finished product.

If you haven't played any code and basically ben walked around the company and shown a fw nice graphics, then that's all you should be reporting. And with a cynical eye. We all know perfectly well that when people started trotting out their infinite polygon engines or their emotion drives, and that sort of thing, that it's fucking hot air. We know it.

Either your average journalist doesn't know it, doesn't want to know, or wants to believe that such a thing is possible. Either way, all they are therefore doing by indulging companies like this is giving credence to fairy tales and guff. In otherwords they become just the respectable mouth of said company's PR guy saying whatever he wants.

That is not good journalism, obviously.

It's just feeding the cycle.

This is why I stopped buying Edge a while ago, some time after that Unity feature showed. It was as plain as purple that they were being led by the nose and making a front cover based on the fact that they loved the llama guy and wanted to believe. Now you see people saying "ooh, I can't wait for UNity".

What are you waiting for exactly? You don't know because Jeff Bloody Minter sure didn't know at the time.

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( :) You're still an idiot. )

Stunning defence that.

Keep it up.

PM is hardly alone in being dragged over the coals for promising more than his company can deliver. See also Jon Romero, Derek Smart, Dave Perry, etc. The criticism (at least, sensible criticism) isn't aimed at their already established successes.

As for Minter, the news that he was working on a new, original GC title was noteworthy, regardless of how much you dislike his back catalogue. Indeed, the EDGE cover was presumably largely motivated by Minter's perceived trendiness (this was when those clowns were in charge, of course) but even I'm willing to defend magazines' privelige to put whatever they want on their covers.

But can't you see that it just shows how amateur they really are underneath it all?

You don't see the Guardian Review, for example, doing big long previews with established authors who have managed to hash out a plotline and a couple of characters and then wax lyrical to the spotty journo about how the novel is going to be Flaubert-squared.

Such previews are celebtrash. All they do is encourage the business to fund the people that get the most media coverage, and in so doing they make sure that the developers who appear to know what they are doing get all the press, whereas new developers who might actually have talent go unrecognised.

It's Hollywood all over again, for exactly the same reason.

TBH, games magazine journalism is beyond hope of recovery. There will always be hype, you just need to be wary of it.

The shame of it being that the hype is the very thing that keeps the game industry getting stodgier. Just like Hollywood.

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If at the end of every interview you had to finish up with "But they might fuck it all up before the game comes out, so..." then apathy would be rampant throughout the consumer market. It'd be like reading the ingredients on a soup can for christ's sakes.

It's the very fact that they persist in printing his or anyone else's half-arsed notions on a regular basis is what I'm objecting to. It just perpetuates the idea that they can get away with it, which they largely can because the reviewing media is nowhere near as powerful as the previewing media.

I can tell a Molyneuxism a mile away, are we seriously suggesting that an industry journalist can't?

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Molyneux oversells everything... now I applaud originality, but, if a game is buggy, frustrating and downright unfinished, then the devco deserves a good slap. I work in the software industry myself and I *know* what it's like to release code of insufficient quality... it can take years to recover. Some thorough specifications, properly planned test strategies, developer code reviews and unit tests etc etc, can make a world of a difference... but it's a cultural change, and one that "dynamic" start ups and small companies don't really have... EA don't realease buggy software... I bet their development procedures are absoloutely sorted.

Oh... and you had a point until you said Metroid Prime was shit... which, regardless of whether the game is your cup of tea or not, Metroid Prime can never be described as shit.

Hence the IMHO :)

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FFS, Miyamoto most likely had very little to do with these games, whether you like them or not. He's a supervisor and from what I gather, he's not directly 'hands on' with more than a couple of projects these days - then again, I suspect that the situation has been the same for at least twelve years. Nintendo's development teams have hundreds of individuals over two continents, don't be so bloody reductionist in singling Miyamoto out.

I don't mean to point at just Miyamoto specifically. He's just a very good counter-example in terms of being well known etc. Pick anyone.

How come Hideo Kojima isn't getting dragged over the coals after the borefest of MGS2 then?

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Loading issues that no-one else seems to have encountered.

Anyone who thinks MP is a 'crap' game should quit gaming now as they will never, ever be satisfied.

No thanks.

There are plenty of superior games that I enjoy just fine. :)

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That's a valid point, but let's member that there are a vast number of people involved in producing Nintendo's games. I still think that singling out Miyamoto so heavily over-simplifies matters. OTOH, as a software develope, a much smaller organisation, it is reasonable to assume that Molyneux was more 'hands on' and directly involved in Lionhead's projects that Miyamoto was with a lot of Nintendo games. I'm not trying to claim that the endless Molyneux-cussin' is justified at all; just that from what he know, Molyneux has more control over the software "his" company produces.

From what I've read and talked to people about, this is not the case. Molyneux is very much in a sort of toe-dipping position where he's not that involved with the day-to-day of his company's games.

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The preview I wrote went on and on about these parts of the game. Hey, since it's a first look I may not write 'well, this gameplaythingie is not good at all'. So I gave Galleon (and the producer at Sci) the benefit of the doubt and said something like 'Galleon is strange but might be something very special'. Since the review copy is the same as the first look copy I gave the game a 4 out of 10. It is godawful.

But I can imagine that starting journalists are impressed by the show PR/producer people give away. 'Wow, he thinks it's good so it must be good!'

So in so doing, even though you are suspicious of his motives, you pander to it anyway?

WHY FFS?

All you're doing is whetting market appetite for a game that you suspected was bad. That's not good journalism, it's just knowing bad journalism.

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For a start, Metroid Prime was nothing to do with Miyamoto. Indeed, it was made in the US by Retro Studios.

If you're going to try and disprove someone, do it right.

Miyamoto over saw Metroid Prime's development at Retro Studios, especially near the end.

Metroid Prime is boring, bland shit. Mario Kart: DD is terrible, slow and boring, especially when put next to the SNES and N64 versions.

Miyamoto himself has little to do with the titles anyway, so heralding him as a God of Games tm, is frankly pathetic. Nintendo's output recently has been boring to say the least, bar a few titles such as Wario Ware.

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Incidentally, Lionhead are looking for Game Designer Apprentices to follow in Molyneux footsteps. You'll even get to work along side him as he teaches you the trade! Imagine that. You could be one of the people who say "This will be the greatest game ever."

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Ever heard of a First Look? Or a Work in Progress?

Let me enlighten you: FL/WIP has often: choppy framerate, not all speech, bad lipsync, weird motion capture, bad physics, replacement music etc etc.

When playing a FL/WIP you must not, I repeat not 'attack' the game on FL/WIP flaws/bugs in the preview. You can only say 'well, this game can (!!) be good yaddablah'. A preview is there to give the reader information ('it is a racegame with 72 cars and 50 stages. ranging from new york to roosendaal, you speed over tarmac and past high buildings') about the game, not to sum up all the bugs and flaws in a obviously not finished build.

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Loading issues that no-one else seems to have encountered.

Anyone who thinks MP is a 'crap' game should quit gaming now as they will never, ever be satisfied.

Actually others have mentioned how it takes up to 10 seconds for a door to open, even in a corridor with nothing in it but two doors. The game knows you can only go one of two ways.

I was rather satisfied with Billy Hatcher, Halo, Tekki, Phantom Crash, Aggressive Inline, DOAXBV and a whole host of other games. Just because I don't like popular game x, doesn't mean I don't enjoy gaming.

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I think the reason people attack Peter Molyneux so much is that he's so good at getting himself featured on TV/in magazines and sounding convincing when he claims how brilliant his games will be. And we get sick of it.

Miyamoto on the other hand just seems like an amusing Japanese genetleman who'll play the Mario Bros. theme tune on a guitar when you see him on TV rather than put on a serious face and try and explain why you are all wrong about Metroid Prime being crap.

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Me, strider, and a few others were talking about Nintendo in the way that they seem like a nice happy family that want you to join and give you lots of lovely games, and make you happy. When in fact, they're a massive corporation, who aren't your friends, and can still be shit.

Nintendo fanboys...are the worst.

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I've yet to find a magazine which doesn't err on the side of optimism in previews before damning games in reviews. It is more than a little annoying, and I'd prefer a more balanced approach, but on the other hand it would be very depressing to read a preview for Metroid Prime 2 that read "The new Zelda-style light/dark worlds system will probably be as poorly exploited as the multiple weapons in the first game, and the spider-ball shows little sign of returning to Metroid II-style freedom".

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Absolute bollocks.

Well, exaggerated perhaps, but not bollocks. It's more like five seconds and it only happens with one particular door (the one from the landing site to the Chozo Artefact Temple). Every other Quake II-style "Loading lock" has a twisty tunnel or some enemies in it to hide the loading, it's just that one shows up.

Still better than loading screens, though. Quite an achievement to have a loading system not far off Halo without the technical aid of a hard drive.

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I've yet to find a magazine which doesn't err on the side of optimism in previews before damning games in reviews. It is more than a little annoying, and I'd prefer a more balanced approach, but on the other hand it would be very depressing to read a preview for Metroid Prime 2 that read "The new Zelda-style light/dark worlds system will probably be as poorly exploited as the multiple weapons in the first game, and the spider-ball shows little sign of returning to Metroid II-style freedom".

Well, you've gotta be at least vaguely hopeful that a game can live up to developer's boasts I suppose.

However, Games tm do quite a nice line in previews. They do tend to point out areas of concern.

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Well, you've gotta be at least vaguely hopeful that a game can live up to developer's boasts I suppose.

However, Games tm do quite a nice line in previews. They do tend to point out areas of concern.

That still doesn't address the point that the mags are playing into the hands of liars above honest talent.

It is taken as FACT in most developers that they are obliged to lie. It is FACT that they make sure they produce a build of a game that is sufficiently tarted up to impress a journalist. It is taken as FACT that they make sure their staff are all working on 'exciting' and unbroken bits of their games when the journalists come to call. It is FACT that these companies all engage in outright deception, and then joke about it themselves when the publisher leaves.

This applies from the top of the chain to the bottom of the chain, certainly in the UK and, I can only assume, abroad.

And the reason is that they know FULL WELL that the journalists will print at least some of the guff, even if the preview is years ahead of any playable code, or anything at all. And by getting exposure, they get funding. Developers all play this game with journalists. Not one of them is honest, or even interested in being honest, because it pays to not be.

In my perfect world, games magazines would stop this blatant prostitution and only do previews for games that have hard-and-fast release dates. And they would spend a lot more space on news, reviews, interviews and articles than previews and other forms of essentially free ads. (minus the cost of getting the journo in, lunched and out of course).

But it's not an imperfect world, and magazines obviously do previews because gamers lap them up. Therefore there is only conclusion to draw from all this:

Gamers are morons.

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Well, you've gotta be at least vaguely hopeful that a game can live up to developer's boasts I suppose.

However, Games tm do quite a nice line in previews. They do tend to point out areas of concern.

Yeah, from the (few) issues I've read they had a solid, balanced outlook from the outset- point out the flaws and major areas of interest together, rather than (as is the case in practically every other mag) just the potential things.

But, and this is directed at Neuromancer, often an insanely interesting game appears, years from actually getting anywhere, and all you really have to work on is a featurelist and the developer's rep, and it would be daft to just leave an entirely fascinating prospect out of a magazine just because it's not got its release date yet. Obviously this has to gradually phase into the tangable as playable code turns up and it becomes clearer how the ideas are turning out.

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But can't you see that it just shows how amateur they really are underneath it all?

You don't see the Guardian Review, for example, doing big long previews with established authors who have managed to hash out a plotline and a couple of characters and then wax lyrical to the spotty journo about how the novel is going to be Flaubert-squared.

Maybe the goal of most (if not all) games magazines is not what you would want it to be.

Games magazines' primary function right now is informing readers about the games they can buy. They want to know what these games have to offer them, when they're coming out - and they want to hear games are still getting better and better every year, because they want to hear their hobby is still the coolest hobby around.

Oh, and even if I were to write for this Guardian Review of yours, about games, I wouldn't want to be cynical. I'd want to tell my readers games are a valid form of entertainment and possibly a high art. My enthousiasm for games is what me got into this job. And the medium still needs spreading the word in mainstream media.

In the end, 'games journalism' just doesn't exist right now. What we do is being a 'games critic' at most - probably you should just say you write for a magazine or website about games.

In these rare cases where you really act like a journalist, interviewing sources, getting a truly new story out of nothing - even then it's not really games journalism. In those cases you're just a journalist who happens to report about games...

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There have been a lot of good points raised in this topic about bullshit, journalism, previews, gaming personalities, etc (kind feels like a rehash of the Half Life 2 issue of Edge, which contained the biggest set of developer-sourced lies in it's cover story ever!)

But I have to say I like unrealistic (lying?) claims about games in previews, because they are a glimpse of what could and should be possible.

Example: Blinx 1. 'Control Time'. I though 'that's a great idea, will they be able to pull it off?' All it turns out to be is a sequence of lock / key setpieces superfically using time contol, and a stupid, superfluous 'record' feature wrapped around an average game. But it got me thinking about the possibiliities, and how time could be used well. It fired up my imagination. And then when Prince of Persia came along, and used time in a limited by skillful fashion, we all (?) loved it.

Example: Fable. I don't believe this game will offer 'unlimited replay' or 'adapt to suit the player' in any meaningful way, but I believe the latter concept is one we can expect significant development around in the next few years. Fable won't deliver, but it's high-concept statements from the developer (lies?) have again fired up my imagination. Perhaps I will be the first person to deliver games where the onscreen avatar dynamically reflects the player's personality and choices?

Who knows, but I love previews as 'flights of fancy'. As a games developer, they get me thinking about new creative and technical possibilities. Even if the original developer doesn't deliver on their promise, you can bet that someone will do it, down the line.

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