"there may be hope yet" Dept.:
Comments by Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman
Every week our associate editor takes on the big ol' pile of mail for your reading enjoyment...got something to say? Send it in. You just might win a swanky loonygames t-shirt. Letters are presented exactly as they are recieved.
How to keep people honest....
Subject: Rich Wycoff's Expansion Pack Article
I just wanted to say I thought Mr.Wycoff's article was right on. I think the only flaw with the concept is this: redistribution. How does a company insure that such low priced software is not redistributed once purchased and downloaded by someone? At these price points, while it may be affordable to produce such add-ons quickly and with quality, their compactness(relative to downloading) also facilitates their rapid illegal redistribution on the net. Products with a modest budget may not be able to recover any profits before the software can be downloaded everywhere. I do not mean to impy all gamer's are dishonest but reality would seem to make this a risky business model. Are there any ways to ensure secure distribution? Registration for product support via serial numbers would not be enough of an incentive for something with as short a lifespan as described in the article.
Perhaps a serialized registered download, followed by a paid-for matching activation key? Of course you would need to stop the matching key from being distributed with the product too. Oh, well.
Thank you for the good articles. I look forward to reading a response.
The only way Iíve seen that has worked to keep people from illegally obtaining software has been what Half-Life is doing...every single time a game is launched, dial up a server to verify the legitimacy of the copy. There are ways around that, but they are few and far between, and overwhelmingly, everybody I know who plays Half-Life has bought a copy, including those who normally would have warezed it. Itís annoying, the necessity of an internet connection to play a game, but in this case, it seems to work. After all, the amount of money they may be losing to people who donít want to deal with the connection mess is probably less than the amount of money theyíre gaining from forcing people to buy the game.
Hereís to hoping they come up with a better method, though.
We like praise. It makes us happy. :)
Subject: I'm a new reader
guess i'm outta touch with games since i only just today came across loonygames - from next generation - and, well, it's pretty much excellent if only because people's stated opinions often contradict other equally strong and personal views of contributors. keen! thanks for your work,
Thanks!! I think thatís one of the things that sets us apart...we have all sorts of weird opinions Ďround here, and weíre not afraid to state them. A good thing, I think.
The life and times of a reviewer...
interesting article. the end of it definitely wasn't what i thought it was going to be, based on the first two pages, though; a thoughtfully well-written article about game design turns into a mild rant against reviewers and review sites.
to make things clear, i'm a reviewer for Gamers' Alliance (http://www.gagames.com/). i make it a point to review and rate each game on that game's strengths and weaknesses. i take what's in the box, install it and play it, and review it as objectively as humanly possible -- i play, review, and rate the game for what it IS, not what it IS NOT or COULD BE or SHOULD HAVE BEEN or MIGHT BE (once it's fixed).
to this end, comparisons are a bad idea, not a good one (as Sumaleth indicates). sure, you'll want to compare the game in the broadest sense to other games in its genre to give the reader some idea of what to expect, and you could use comparison to make a point it would be difficult to make any other way, but to compare one game to another "straight across" is not only ridiculous but patently unequitable... for too many reasons to list.
finally, i'd like to respond to a little snippet here:
"So not only do reviewers need to be able to differentiate between what comes down to taste/opinion, and what comes down to poor design, but they also need to be aware of the sub-genres that are appearing all the time. Comparison is one of the strongest tools that reviewers have at their disposal, but not at the expense of diversity in game design. If someone wants to make a puzzle game out of a genre that has typically been an action format, they should be encouraged rather than slandered. The same goes for multiplayer-only games. Slamming them simply because they don't have a single player element is to be missing the point. If you cannot make the distinction, you shouldn't be reviewing games."
there certainly are lots of "should be"s (both expressed and implied) in this paragraph. isn't the title of this piece "Can't Please Everyone"? why, then, should that only apply to the poor, beleaguered developers? Having this type of "you should do this and that to please me" passage in this piece is screamingly ironic... don't you think?
what it boils down to is this: i review games based on what comes in the box. if i have preconceptions, i make a note of them at the beginning of the review, so the reader knows where i stand and can figure any bias into what i say. i rate the game based on the game, making note of any "flaws". (by flaws, i mean things that are in every game of this type/genre, and that's about the only comparison i make. for instance, when you're playing a first-person-shooter, you shouldn't be able to see through walls unless you have some kind of super power or x-ray vision or something. that's the kind of "flaw" i'm talking about.) my job as a reviewer is to give the game buyer a feel for the things they'll find if they should choose to buy this game. I do NOT tell them if they're going to like it, however; i simply inform them as to what it's like to play this game.
and Sumaleth? a lot of the "slamming" going on in reviews has to do with unplayable or broken aspects of gameplay (some recent examples include AI problems, multiplay problems, and level load-time issues). maybe developers and publishers SHOULD BE spending more time on QA and bug-fixes before booting the game out the door, hmmmm?
well. you can't please everyone, i guess.
I review games as well, sometimes as many as 6 or 7 a week, so I certainly know the drill. And I totally agree with you, to a point.
First off, Iím a first person shooter junkie. I admit that, third person annoys me, strategy mostly bores me. However, I admit that much in reviews, and can recognize what is a good game in any genre. For example...Warzone 2100...a game hard core strategy fans will probably find to be a bit too simple and easy, but actually was a lot of fun, and easy to pick up for me. Will I keep playing it? No way. But I had fun playing the demo, and said as much.
I had to review a tennis game last week. I HATE tennis, and tennis games alike. Playing the game was truly boring for me. But this was good for what it was, and I recognized that much.
Slamming games, when appropriate, is something I think reviewers are obligated to do. People trust reviewers opinions of games, and design or not, all that matters to the gaming fans is gameplay. Lets face it, when youíve played enough games, even in a genre you donít like, you can tell what is good and what isnít. Design flaws sometimes need to be pointed out as well, games that try to be too much can fail as well. Developers need to pick their battles, and make sure what they ship is a solid, well put together game. But, reviewers need to recognize their own prejudices, and review a game solely on its merits.
And the winner of this weekís loonygames t-shirt...
Subject: Save-game API - Dean Mathias 1-15
I recently was going through your archived issues and and I had time to read Dean Mathiases article on a free, open, and STANDARD API for game developers to use to save user-dependant data.
All I can say? "It's about time!"
Quake is pretty good this way, allowing .cfg files, and letting you move the save-game files between any two installs of Q2, if they're of the same version.
But, even Q2 lacks a save-config to CFG command. And it's the best for this.
Many games store save data in one big file, so all ten or so save-game slots are in one big file. Good luck trying to send that one specific save-game to a friend. I can think of a way, but it involves swapping files while the game is running. Not a userfriendly interface.
And some games have taken to storing all your config data in the registry. This should be discouraged. Not only does it slow down it down a bit to dump 30k of text into it, but it's not something the average person knows how to find. How many people know about regedit? Not a significant fraction of the gamers. And if you did export that branch of the registry, would your friend want his settings overwritten by yours? Assuming he trusts you enough to import your .reg file... :)
Games all need to support some basic things, multiple users. Different save-games and config files for each (no overwriting your roommates saved games). Descriptions of the save games (Gloom Keep 14/45), user descriptions ("Just fought the shambler") and screenshots. All of this needs to be easily portable, yet easily modifiable.
What makes more sense than convincing people to use a standard API which does this, and puts all of the info into a user-defined area?
I'd have suggested that all the save stuff be stored in seperate files, and then zipped into one, for each game (screenshot, save files, etc). Any user probably has Zip registered to some unzip util, and it prevents massive cluster slack.
But, considering someone wrote an API, then I'd urge people developing to use it. And it's an open project. If you need a feature it doesn't have, write it and submit it! Free software makes the world go around!
Way to go Dean, great idea!
I said in a previous mailbag how much I agree with the need for a standard API, and let me say it again....PLEASE DO THIS! Iím getting a new computer next week, and while that thrills me, the thought of losing my saved Shogo and SiN games is killing me. Half-Life, I know I can transfer (assuming I didnít kill it when I patched the game...another gripe there), but the idea of starting over just isnít appealing. I think this is a wonderful idea. How logical the implementation is, well, thatís another story. But doesnít it always seem that way with great ideas? :)
|Credits: MailBag logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. The MailBag is © 1998 Stephanie Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and not nice.|