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URL: http://www.loonygames.com/content/2.11/totb/


Vol. 2, Issue 11
February 8, 2000 Thinking Outside the Box:

Reviewing the Reviewers

by Paul Steed


Greetings. I bet you’re hitting that refresh key right now because there’s no way this edition of Thinking Outside The Box is a new one. Well for that I have to apologize. You see the absence of updates had been mainly to do with the fact I’ve been pretty busy working on Quake III Arena. Now that it’s been wrapped up I’m on to our next project. For me it’s pretty light work so I’m freed up to start doing regular TOTB columns again. Thus workload is one reason I haven’t updated. The other is just plain disgust.

Yep. I said disgust. I’ve been at id now for almost three and a half years. During that time I’ve ridden the roller coaster as I’ve been acclimated to this phenomena called the Internet and virtual community of the Quake-related fan base. At first I dove into the fray like I always do with a smile, a roar, pecs flexed arms stretched wide as I flung myself into battle. I hacked and slashed my way through the dreaded .Plan Wars, bludgeoned my way past the Crackwhore Skirmish and survived the wrath of the rabid horde of Angry Mongol Mod Makers. But alas my extroverted, straightforward, confrontational attitude proved too much for the mainly conservative leadership on the net and my voice at id was squelched. No more Plans for You, Keyser Soze!

Not a problem. Enter loonygames. Let’s do some thinking outside the box for awhile shall we? Editorials and tutorials seemed to work better for those panty-bunchers and people seemed to breath easier knowing that Steed was on a leash (wait...has he cussed yet?). Alas, work caught up with me and I had to suspend and eventually stop updating TOTB. Silence allowed me to remain free of distractions. Then I made the mistake of reading a few message boards. Uh...yeah. We all know how I feel about that. Now I avoid the forums unless I’m led there by the nose to enlighten the unenlightened. Fine, no problem. Disgust didn’t form even then. I now realize the people living on the message boards are simply harmless entertainers who hopefully aren’t reading up on how to make mail bombs or hoarding weapons in their parent’s basement.

Nope. Disgust settled in when I started reading reviews of Q3A. Disgust settled in when in a thunderous smack in the face moment of revelation I realized just how spoiled certain people have become in the community. Now don’t even think I’m going to name names or name sites. It’s not that I don’t have the testicular fortitude, I just don’t have the time to do the research and mention everyone whose opinion I value less than the telemarketer who called me this morning. Maybe one day I will make that list and offend everyone equally. It’s just not worth it, though.

Suffice to say I’m happy so many people decided that another game that came out the same time as Q3A kicked major boo-tay in the gameplay department (read: Congratulations UT). That game’s unsurprising popularity isn’t what filled me with revulsion. It’s the point that I realized NO ONE could be pleased. NO ONE. Think about it. I used to make art with DPaint on a 386.25 and watched the transition from games being on eight floppy disks go to one CD. Those were the days that some people predicted we’d not get past 55 MHz for at least another year...a 486.55 that is. Back then people were easy to please. No hardware acceleration. Sprites were still representing people, aircraft and starcraft. Now today there exists a huge range of sophistication from hardware to software preferences and opinions.


Now take your average game reviewer. What kind of system do they have? What kind of knowledge do they have? What kind of experience do they have? Do they represent the average consumer of ANY game sold today? Hell, no. They don’t. Let me let you reviewers in on a little secret...you are not normal. You do not represent any form of normalcy. You are the freak of the freaks. You are the hardcore. You are the person who (possibly) gets paid to play games and vomit your opinion of them to the far reaches of the cyberspace universe. Don’t get me wrong. It takes one to know one. I am anything but normal. Just ask my therapist.

During the testing of Q3A I continually shook my head at the seemingly endless parade of web pimps and crack players who came in to play test. Don’t get me wrong, these are guys I generally think are cool, intelligent, talented and fortunate people. But does their opinion really matter when they represent the creme de la crème? The elite of the elite? These are the people that care only about one thing: stomping your face into the ground under the heel of their mighty mouse. They want to hear your lamentations as you become a red stain in the corner of q3dm1. They are the subset of the subset. Their opinion should be heard, notes taken and applied to those parts of the game that rate in an official competitive capacity.

Now you want some real feedback? Go to the mall, grab a wide variety of people running a gamut of age, race and social station, offer them twenty bucks and a free t-shirt, have them come over to the big black monolith, set them down in front of a windows background with a couple icons to click on and tell them to play our damn game. Then maybe questions like ‘what do I do first’, ‘why do the menus look like this?’ ‘Why do I have to type things in at the console thing?’ And, ‘just what the heck is a tilde?’ Could maybe have some impact on the game’s development.

Reviewers are like this as well. They are yet another sub-strata of the elite gaming bourgeois. When cranking out those well thought, well written, completely meaningless, steaming piles of...excrement who exactly do game reviewers represent? The generally computer illiterate public who doesn’t know a motherboard from a skateboard? I say thee a resounding NAY! They usually represent that sleek 9 percent of people out there who have the knowledge and desire to tear apart their computer, put it back together again, analyze the Quake source code, spec out a mod or two, play capture-the-rocket-flag-arena and then go have lunch.

Okay, yeah I am exaggerating and yeah I know many reviews are articulate, well-written valid examples of criticism...and they’re welcome. But come on. You know as well as I do too often making a review is more about making the reviewer famous and the site popular than making an accurate, useful observation on the product being reviewed. Most reviewers can’t see the forest for the trees. In fact, many are firmly face-planted into a mass of BARK. Have some sense of relative comparison guys. Look at things objectively instead of whatever the flavor of the week sways your opinion towards. Games are commercial vehicles to make businesses and individuals money. Get it? Understand the commercial part?

I agree Q3A has its weak points. You don’t think we as developers know that? But nothing is perfect and the game wasn’t rushed. We were sick of working on it and spent five months longer on it than we did on Q2. Still, we are very happy with what we accomplished. We took a one sentence game description and turned it into a pretty damn fun experience...for a normal person who likes playing computer games. However, as Plebian as you think the game was dumbed down, at its heart this game was made to make the community happy. If you think about it, how many other games are out there that are essentially a game development toolbox with the quality level of Q3A?

Anyway. Disgust has prevented me from updating TOTB and I apologize. I felt the need to just stay away from my web browser period, ruminate over the source of my irritation and annoyance, form a suitable body of commentary and jump back on that horse. But venting my views on this subject has been very therapeutic as I knew it would and I feel immensely better. But...

*I want to be clear that I don’t hate reviewers, I don’t hate mod makers and I most definitely don’t hate our esteemed community*

So when you feel the need to send me the flames, keep your arguments to the point at hand and you’ll get a lucid (yet appropriately reciprocal) reply: I think most reviewers lack perspective and objectivity when reviewing games. That is the statement I am making when your hopefully post-pubescent mind boils all the chaff away, not that I’m unhappy because Q3A was outflanked by anything...because it wasn’t.

Thanks for listening and next update will be the first part of a very long tutorial on creating, animating and putting your own character into Q3A. Chin up, beer glasses full, bro.


- Paul Steed is a 3D artist for for id Software.


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