The Context of Opinions

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Syncaine has an interesting post today written in response to one of Tobold’s, the latest in a series of good-natured potshots. (I insist on seing them as good-natured, anyway.) The argument is over how long it takes to ‘properly evaluate’ an MMO, something which has come up before.

Taking the semantic view and going strictly by what ‘properly evaluate’ means to me… it pretty clearly takes a while, likely more than a free trial period or even a month. I’d say that a complete evaluation takes however long it takes to get to the ‘endgame’ and tool around there for a while, however long it takes to see a good portion (but not necessarily all) of the game and fool at least a bit with all of the major gameplay elements.

But of course Syncaine and Tobold are talking past each other here. What Tobold is talking about, semantics aside, is pretty clearly not the time it takes for a ‘complete evaluation’ but the time it takes to form a personal opinion, which is potentially much shorter.

The main reason I don’t have much faith in MMO reviews, particularly of newly-launched games, is that the reviewer can’t possibly have spent enough time in the game for a complete evaluation. Something like Dragon Age, which takes maybe thirty hours for a complete playthrough… well, I kind of doubt it, but I can at least concede the possibility that a reviewer dropped enough hours in to see at least half or so of the game. Something like… oh, I dunno, Darkfall? Not a chance.

The difference is that if we’re talking about a review, the reader has the right to assume that the evaluation is fair and reasonably complete, and the reviewer is paid to ensure that this is so. If we’re talking about some guy shooting his mouth off on a blog or forum, it’s just his opinion, and it may be well-grounded or not. To form a personal opinion on whether a game is fun or not, it shouldn’t take fifty or a hundred or a thousand hours. It may, but sometimes it’s clear that a game isn’t fun in the first few minutes.

The thing is that while the conscientious reviewer may have more data to back up his views, that doesn’t invalidate the opinion of the hypothetical loudmouth who spent half an hour playing a game before dismissing it as a heap of excrement. The difference is context, where on the one hand you have a ‘review,’ with all the fairness and thoroughness that that implies, and one the other you have ‘some guy’s opinion’, which may have been reached after long experience in the game or not. It doesn’t really matter as long as the reader understands the difference.

Besides, how many games have you read a negative review or opinion of, only to find yourself having fun playing it? Don’t be a robot; form your own opinions. And if naysayers want to claim that your opinion is invalid, shrug your shoulders and move on.

The fact that some ‘reviews’ in the video game industry are in fact softball ass-polishing if not outright shilling is another issue entirely.

Also, as somebody who’s brought up the “competing with 2009 WoW rather than 2004 WoW” thing several times, it’s easy for ‘serious’ players/commentators to dismiss such a comparison, which of course is unfair on several levels as well as unrealistic, when taken in the context of the larger history of MMOs and with a broad knowledge of the marketplace and the various competitors. But consider the point of view of a newcomer to the MMO hobby, who arrives today, without any knowledge of the hobby’s history or of the feature sets and varying levels of polish boasted by the various entrants in the marketplace. For him, the comparison is between a just-launched (say) Fallen Earth and a mature five-years-on WoW. Those people greatly outnumber us ‘serious’ commentators.


15 responses to “The Context of Opinions

  1. The posts between Tobold and I lately (at least for me) are all in good fun. That’s what blogging is all about, debate/arguing. I can only think of one instance (the MO charity issue) where I actually thought less of Tobold after a post.

  2. Hey if you ever want to get into Eve I am interested in starting that i played it for a few months its great game.

  3. I think part of the difference is that most people who read blogs read around a bit (I assume).

    In other words people who read Syncaine dismissing WoW will also read Tobold saying it’s good.

    With a review site like Eurogamer people may not read around much or a small piece of bad journalism may distort the numbers. For a while the metacritic score for Darkfall was 2/10. Now obviously since only one site gave it 2/10 that score was just based on one review but gamers will assume metacritic is based on a reasonable spread of opinions.

    Another thing is that 2/10 is not within the normal parameters for game scores. They almost always get 4/10 to 9/10 so this numerical score distorts the average. If another review game it 7/10 (quite good) the average would be 4.5/10 (appalling) so this low number really hurts it.

  4. The problem is SynCaine wants it both ways, he talks about WoW as being seperate and the players as not MMO players which is complete guff.

    If a player only plays Darkfall and hasnt played anything else is he/she not an MMO player? It is stupid. Perhaps they decide to check out another MMO and unsibscribe for a month only to return to Darkfall, are they a Darkfall tourist?

    Whilst I like alot of Syn’s stuff I think alot of his WoW hating is just gum flapping to get that extra thousand hits on his stats. I cant deny it gets conversation going but it is just the same old discussion revamped every 2nd post.

  5. If it really gets thousands of additional hits maybe I should start hating some!

    I kid, of course. Judging from the traffic on my two Aion posts, bashing the thing would likely net me more traffic. But I don’t have the patience for that kind of thing.

  6. Do it! Do it!

    Bah I really should have listened to you ala Aion, its not a terrible game but it could have been so much better and seemed slap dash with their ‘westernisation’ of it. I’ve looked for sub number stats but havent seen any released whats the x-fire stats looking like for Aion?

  7. Its Xfire numbers are still very solid, but trending very mildly downward. I’d expect it to stay roughly where it is for at least a few months yet. NCSoft picked a good time to release, if nothing else; there’s nothing on the immediate horizon that will really threaten it, and its closest competitor is probably WAR, which is currently rehearsing its death-rattle. Also bear in mind that Aion’s numbers will continue to be padded by Asian players who are accustomed to tolerating that sort of thing.

    As far as potential future anti-Aion rants… well, I may work one up for the podcast. I rant better via voice than in print. 🙂

  8. nice one I’ll listen out for it, As for Aions numbers staying stable…. Im wondering how much the recent released video impacted on that. Clever play by NCSoft imo

  9. I’m not reading too much into the release of the video Pit, like I mentioned to Rer after he posted something similar on my blog about the timing of the video, I can’t fault a company for trying to keep their player base and attract new players with a bit of eye-candy. Isn’t that what promotional videos and the like are for ? It just shows me that the dev team is in it for the long haul and are already hard at work at tweaking and improving the game to keep the player base interested and engaged.

  10. I almost forgot to add that I’m pretty sure that the numbers, while they may have been slightly impacted by the release of the video, have been and remain pretty solid in regards to AION. If you would have listened to the “all-knowing” bloggers, AION should be a wasteland by now… which of course, it isn’t. I’m still enjoying the game and plan on doing so for some time to come. That being said, I’m still looking forward to trying Star Trek and The Old Republic when they come out. Who knows? If I get bored (it’s been known to happen) with AION, I may just give FE a try.

  11. Hey Moj, yeah i wasnt dissin NcSoft for the video, I think they are playing a blinder. I’ll bet my bottom dollar if they had released it before I left I would still be playing

  12. I kind of doubt the video had much impact; the people who wanted to try Aion probably already have, and while it may have changed a few minds, I doubt it was very many in the grand scheme of things. It was an impressive video, admittedly, although I found myself wondering why a game less than a year old needs a graphics upgrade already. And also how the game I played managed to look nothing like that.

  13. “The problem is SynCaine wants it both ways, he talks about WoW as being seperate and the players as not MMO players which is complete guff.

    If a player only plays Darkfall and hasnt played anything else is he/she not an MMO player? It is stupid. Perhaps they decide to check out another MMO and unsibscribe for a month only to return to Darkfall, are they a Darkfall tourist?”

    Number of DF players who have only played DF? Likely zero. Number of WoW players who have only played WoW? Millions.

    If 10% of all DF players try new MMO X, how big does the queue get? If 10% of WoW players try the same MMO, what’s the queue like?

    If I’m a VC with a lot of money and no clue about the MMO market, do I chase the DF population or the WoW population? Now after a few failures maybe even a clueless VC will begin to understand that the WoW population != MMO player population, but there have been some costly lessons so far (TR, WAR, Aion, SW:TOR maybe?)

  14. ‘Number of DF players who have only played DF? Likely zero. Number of WoW players who have only played WoW? Millions.’

    Agreed why is that? Could it be the majority of people new to MMOs are probably attracted to the fact it is always in the top 10 best sellers and is the most famous?

    People are highly unlikely to be saying ‘Oh look at that game Darkfall, everyone is talking about it, it looks great’ more like’Darkfall? Ah the game SynCaine is paid to talk about’ 😉

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