Being selective

Yes, I know. I am long overdue with this entry. But as it turns out, I too seem to be made  of flesh and bones, and I really needed to slow down a bit. You can only manage that long on adrenaline alone and throughout the last months I’ve been living on awake-time that wasn’t supposed to be awake-time. So now, sadly, my body decided to reclaim some sleep-time and grounded me by giving me the mother of all colds! <coughs> Which in a way is good,because it gives me the time to pen down a new blog entry ;)

For those who don’t know the context of that last paragraph:  We did a Kickstarter campaign, for Divinity:Original Sin. The goal was to collect 400KUS$. We walked away with over 1MUS$ pledged,  a lot of public pressure, and tons of new ideas. It was a lot of work, with little sleep for those running the campaign, but it definitely was worth it and I’d do it again, without any hesitation.

I already wrote a bit about lessons learnt from Kickstarter here, so consider this entry the continuation of that piece, even though it’ more of an open question.

One of the things I started wondering about throughout the campaign was who we should show our games to. You see, I used to think that you should strive for maximum exposure, and try to show your game to anybody who can hold a pen or camera. But after having talked to I guess over 200 media over the last couple of months and seeing their output, I’ve actually come to reconsider that statement.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 18.55.28

Engagor was gifted to us by a backer. It’s a social media tool that allowed us to track how well our campaign was doing, and it also gave me insights into what media had an impact and which media didn’t. Very cool stuff.

It may sound straightforward, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it makes no sense demonstrating your game to somebody who has no interest in your type of game. At best he’ll get the facts straight, but more than often his writing will be detrimental to your cause. And so the question comes to mind – why do something that won’t do you any good?

Perhaps you think you should put up with it because said non-interested-journalist is from popular-website-X, but really, what interest do you have in having a negative article on a popular website-X? Or an article that has its facts wrong just because you and the reporter speak a different gaming language ?

If somebody doesn’t like a certain style of gameplay, he can’t write a decent preview or review of a game that features that style of gameplay. The best you can hope for is something neutral, but if it’s surrounded by superlatives for all kinds of other games, then by definition the neutral becomes negative.

So imho, in the situation where the previewer or reviewer doesn’t like a certain style of gameplay, he has no business writing about a game in that style, and you shouldn’t ask him to either. You won’t ask your doctor to do an evaluation of the quality of your house’s plumbing, even if there may be similarities in the job description ;)

Or to give another example, you don’t want me to review a FPS. I don’t play them, they’re no fun to me, so all I can do is discredit them by either writing stupidities about them or describing them in such a factual way that you’ll start wondering what is wrong with the game.

Give me a RPG though, and I’ll review it in detail and if you like RPGs too, you’ll know if this is something you might enjoy. Not so if you’d ask me to review a FPS – all you’ll know is that you can change weapons and shoot stuff,  that’s about it ;)

Now if you ask my doctor to check your house’s plumbing, he’ll tell you to ask somebody else. If you ask me to review a FPS,  I’ll for sure tell you to ask somebody else. So why don’t  reporters do the same ?

I guess it’s because it’s their job and so they just do it, but that’s really not in the developer’s best interest. It’s also not very nice of the editor who sent them knowing that there’d be a mismatch – he or she should know better, and actually, have the decency of telling you. Of course, certain editors might tell you that you should be happy that they’ll write about you at all, but that’s really not true. There is such a thing as bad publicity.

Because the editor isn’t guaranteed to do it for you, it’s really up to you as a developer to watch out for mismatches.  There’s really nothing to be won when there’s  a mismatch between game and journalist, and the damage to your game may be devastating.  Journalists are herd animals too and one negative article on a popular site can herald a string of negative articles, even if it’s for no good reason.

Observing the results of such mismatchs over these last months (using the Engagor tool) lead me to have my doubts about the sanity of sending out game code to anybody who asks for it. It certainly made me doubt the wisdom of  pushing for previews/reviews on sites that have no natural affinity for our types of games.

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 21.35.18

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 21.35.29

This is where the money came from on Kickstarter. Putting this together with the Engagor data showed us that some sites really aren’t worth it for us, whereas others we didn’t expect do reach part of our audience.

Of course I can’t prevent them from buying the game and reviewing it, but if they do that, I can only assume there’s an actual interest, and then it’s probably ok, though there’s still the next issue to deal with and that’s the editorial quality one.

I’m going to take an example that has nothing to do with my games, but is typical for how imho a lot of former popular publications are responsible for their own decay, and which for I don’t know what reason, really upset me today ( actually, it even got me to write this entry)

Compare this “review” to this one

Spot any differences, other than the medium ?

To my disappointment, reading the first review I learnt almost nothing, not even the name of the reviewer so I’ll refer to him as no-name. I wonder why it was even written. My seven year old does a better job at describing the games he plays, and he certainly isn’t afraid of putting his name under something he writes ;) I know where these type of mini-reviews come from – they are born in magazine land where you try to maximize the amount of content in a limited number of pages – but really, in an online publication? It has no reason for being.

I wouldn’t have been upset if they’d called it “quick impressions” but giving it the label “review”, that was a bit too much.

Here’s the tweet that made me discover it –  “After a series of delays and a Kickstarter campaign, Star Command arrives on iOS. Our review: bit.ly/YCqn1o”. I clicked on it because I was interested in seeing the difference in opinion between Edge & Angry Joe, who’s review  appeared before. Watching his review had given me a good feeling for what the game is, and whether or not I’ll like it. I actually realized from this one review (the first of his I used to help figure out if I was going to get a game or not) that this man does a better job than a lot of traditional publications I know, so I wanted to compare his work to that of the legendary magazine of which I bought so many issues.

Right.

Angry Joe has a bigger audience than most traditional publications and I guess now I know why. Next time I’ll see him tweeting about a review, I’ll click through again. That’s not necessarily going to be the case for the tweets about three paragraph reviews made by no-name.

Anyway, I said to myself – if were Star Command, knowing that my game would be reviewed in such a way by no-name, would I actually send out review codes to no-name? The anwer is: probably not. Review codes really should only be sent out to people who’ll give a game a fair review, you know, of the kind that at the very least describes the game, highlights successes and failures, compares it to the state of the art, and has a subjective appraisal with the author stating his likes and dislikes, very much like what Angry Joe did… not to the 3 paragraphs ones. Yeah yeah, I know it’s idealistic.

Then the little demon inside of me asked – what if you know you made a stinker but are still trying to sell it because you need to earn money to feed your team. Would you actually send out any review codes at al? Well that’s a good question, and one I seriously hope I’ll never have to answer by not making any stinkers. I honestly don’t know what would be the best approach in such a situation, other than trying to fix what’s wrong with the game first.

Anyway, it was observations like the above one that lead me to conclude that we should start screening who we show the game to, and review the quality of their articles, prior to actually demonstrating the game to them. In the past I abstained from doing that, even when I wanted to know, but now I think it’s good practice. We’ve been perhaps too eager for attention past, and happy to show our creative babies to anybody who passed by. That delivered us some good but also quite a lot ofbad results, the most memorable one being PC Gamer UK giving Divine Divinity 56% wheras their US sister magazine gave it 84% and later put it in their top 100 games of all times. The irony ;)

Perhaps there’s another more focussed approach that might yield more benefits. I remain intrigued by the click-through numbers in our Kickstarter campaign and the link between article appearing/pledge counter increasing. It was clear who had what impact, and the results were very counter-intuitive, at least to my traditional view of games media.

To give you an example – There exists no such thing as IGN, the person. There’s only Joe, John and Daisy working at IGN reviewing and previewing games. If there’s a John who like turn-based fantasy RPG’s and played several of them, it makes sense to show him Divinity: Original Sin, if his editor will let him.

But if Joe, John and Daisy think the world ends with Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield, then perhaps we should not send a version to them, because nothing good can come from it.  You wouldn’t offer mushroom-only dishes to a gourmet critique who hates mushrooms and is the editor of “fabulous cooks that don’t use mushrooms monthly” either.

Rather then than waste time on Joe, John and Daisy, we might be better off seeking out the other Gragt’s of this world, people that care about their style of game, are willing to sacrifice time to inform their audience to the best of their abilities (as in, actually finish the games they review), and ultimately feel much more genuine than most “pros”, even if they might be a bit wordy ;)

Sensible or not? I don’t know. Right now I’m mixed on the issue so different insights are more than welcome because you know what?

In a few months I’ll be sending out review codes for Dragon Commander. It’s no stinker, but I’m tending to not send out even beta-code to some of the bigger sites, because I’m afraid there’s a chance they’ll give it to the typical intern (it’s summer) who likes console racing games because big-publisher-strategy-title-whatever will come out at the same time and the “PC-strategy-specialist” will be otherwise occupied.

Let me know your thoughts!

 

  • lazaregus

    I’d say it makes sense. Big publishers are picky too, and their PR team have developed a strategy aroung choosing reviewers. This strategy involving to buy them sometimes. So, there is a line to not cross in this matter. I hope you will stay on the right side of it: advocating ‘fair’ reviews, more than advocating ‘positive’ reviews. And I think that given the size of Larian Studios, it is the best strategy to ‘position’ yourself in the merciless market, if such terms have to be used.

    • Corwin

      I’ve reviewed the first 3 Divinity games (which I bought myself) and will certainly be expressing my opinion about D:OS. However, I don’t play strategy games so I’ve already made it known that I won’t review DC as it wouldn’t be fair to Larian. I’ve read reviews on big sites where the reviewer begins by stating he hates RPG’s. Good Grief!!!! I don’t blame Sven in the least for his attitude. The only 3 sites whose reviews I regularly read are the Watch, the Codex and GB. I trust their knowledge. Oh and yes, I write for one of those sites. :)

      • LC

        But the problem is: you can’t even know if your game/RPG gets a fair review at sites like RPGCodex. Just take Alpha Protocol for example. Most RPG fans might know that the game has some serious flaws but many people still think that it is worth playing because of it’s good story and characters. I’ve seen a lot of fair reviews made by the traditional press and also some strange ones. But one of the worst reviews for it I read at the RPGCodex http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=8724 . This review is rather biased, unbalanced and the reviewer more or less doomed the game because he personally was not happy with the gameplay. But imo he passed the line by calling every gameplay element awful instead of just mediocre and stated that the game was ulitmatively a failure which is just not true.
        So you are not immune against biased and unfair even by only giving review copies to RPG sites and press. They can give your game an even worse review if you don’t fulfil the reviewers personal expectations. If the reviewer is a real fan of this type of game you’re creating you might disappoint him in one or more points and it really depends how important these points are to the respective reviewer.
        (Another example: Diablo 3. The reviews range from mediocre to excellent. But there are quite a few old Diablo 2 fans who would rate D3 as an ultimate failure which is just not true. It might not be perfect and it definitely has some serious flaws but it’s still a mediocre-good game in comparison to other games in the genre……)

  • JackDandy

    Up until now I believed in the saying “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”, but to be honest, you make a pretty good point.

    It broke my heart to see quality games with original mechanics like Vanquish get mediocre scores just because the reviewer was some fucking casual. (See destructoid)

  • http://twitter.com/tamcgarrigan Tracey McGarrigan

    Am so pleased you’ve written this. I’m the games editor for Sci-Fi-London, a genre specific site with a fairly large and loyal audience. It’s amazing how much stuff comes my way and that I’m asked to cover which is totally unsuitable for our audience – football, car racing, Russian war games etc. If more games devs/publishers/PRs took time to be selective (and if possible also use the personal approach), I think their relationship with the media would be much healthier as communication would be more open and perhaps expectations would be clearer which hopefully would create a better quality of coverage. We are selective with what we cover at SFL and we always review fairly – be it the good the bad or the ugly – as we value quality over quantity. It makes sense that those promoting a game should take the same amount of care regarding their work and this extends to coverage where possible. Great piece.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Interesting – so we have PR agencies blaming journalists for not even opening their emails and journalists blaming PR agencies for spamming them. And in between devs complaining about mismatches or unfair spread in coverage. One could almost conclude that this is an industry of people complaining ;) But I get your point, and you’re right – we certainly are guilty of blanket mails trying hook the right fish, and I can imagine that if you have to deal with that day in/day out, it perturbs your view of the other side.

      I guess some kind of shared register listing who’s interested in what and who plays what type of game could already go a long way in preventing these kinds of mismatches, and I would think some really bright PR’s actually have such lists, but chances are low that they’ll share them with the rest of us. It also doesn’t help that a job in games media usually is very transient so these lists would need to be updated quite frequently

      • http://twitter.com/tamcgarrigan Tracey McGarrigan

        Well I can’t talk for every journalist Swen, but I do try and open everything and will admit that I’ve uncovered some gems from the blanket emails but overall, a lot of what I get through is quickly deleted as just isn’t right for us to cover. It’s perhaps more of an observation than a complaint ;) It’s also super time consuming to go through every media alert, as is database management which for many people is getting harder and harder to maintain. I totally agree with you that shared registered listings are really useful.

        Did you see that Pixel Prospector recently tweeted out their press directory? I thought it was really useful and adaptable – a great example of breaking down info so games promoters can plan their campaigns effectively :D http://press.pixelprospector.com/

        • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

          Wow! That PixelProspector list is a goldmine and a great start. I hadn’t seen it but thank you for pointing it out. And they have a list of the youtube guys! Cool ;)

          Out of curiosity – how many press mails per day do you receive ?

          • LC

            Hm, that PixelProspector site seems to be outdated though it’s a good thing after all. Take the German PC Games for example: the print magazine is PC only but the online portal s for multiplatform games and even hardware/mobile stuff since about one or two years.

          • LC

            Btw, there is also a list of famous youtube guys and what they usually do on PixelProspector….. ;)
            http://youtubers.pixelprospector.com/

  • AlexF

    Although I see your point I think it is important to send review copies to the biggest outlets out there like IGN, Gamespot, Gametrailers, Kotaku, RPS, etc. People need to know about the game even if it reviews bad. A small review in a big site may get people interested to look into it some more. Personally I go to Gamebanshee for my RPG news, to Rock Paper Shotgun for their excelent articles and PC focus, Gamespot for industry news and to just look at review scores, Gametrailers because let’s face it, people prefer to view a video review nowadays than a written one, and to Kotaku because its blog structure allows for much more gaming news and editiorial pieces than the other sites.

    I think both Dragon Commander and Original Sin are considered AAA games for the industry and as such you will get good coverage. It is also possible that the timing of the release of Dragon Commander is a dry time period for games so these outlets may jump at the oportunity for something new to review.

    Now something completely irrelevant but inspired by the game you used as an example. I’d love to see a good Space-Opera RPG. There are a lot of great space strategy games but very few RPGs. The Mass Effect franchise hardly matches what I would describe as Space Opera. A mix of avatar and ship combat, diplomacy, larger than life setting, warring nations and philosophical ideas that echo that much louder in the emptiness of space. (I know they can’t actually echo since there are no air molecules to vibrate and brind sound to the ear drum but you get the metaphore). The best in the genre that I remember is Infinite Space, a japanese RPG for the DS. Desceptively simple combat with much depth and a great story with character arcs. It’s a sad thing so few people played it.

    If you ever decide to take a break from fantasy settings perhaps you could give that genre a go? If nothing else imagine what would the players be able to do with a space setting addon for the Original Sin engine.

    • JackDandy

      Kotaku+RPS would most probably only look at the fact the game has political marriages with pretty women the ability to ban gay marriage and then proceed to slam the entire thing for being too complicated.

      • AlexF

        I don’t know why you’d say this about RPS. Their preview: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/03/04/hands-on-divinity-dragon-commander/ although not a large article by RPS standards is pretty positive and quite informative. Also they have had several articles that covered Original Sin and the kickstarter campaign.

        As for Kotaku, as I said, I just browse their news and editorials, I rarely read their reviews.

        • JackDandy

          You have a point. I’ll take what I said back, guess I was too caught up in the moment.

          RPS may be riding this political correctness wave pretty hard (So hard I stopped visiting the site) but I will admit they seem to hold some common sense.

          Kotaku is still absolute sensationalist garbage though, in any way you look at it.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Well, I’m not so sure about the millions thing. Compare the viewers for http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRKLYywVvwY with the viewers here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuF8ruhjlTY

      The problem is that these larger sites only give proper attention to you on their main pages if you bring in enough advertising/clicks. If you don’t get that exposure, they bring about less traffic than a smaller site, at least that was my impression during the KS campaign.

      Edit: And they reserve their good reporters for the articles that have advertising behind them.

      • AlexF

        You’ve got to be careful with these kinds of comparisons. Don’t draw conclusions so easily. Gamespot have their own video player so most people who visit it, view the video in their site and not their YouTube channel.

        Check these two links:http://www.gamespot.com/divinity-original-sin/videos/what-you-do-in-divinity-original-sin-will-cost-you-6406452/ and http://www.gamespot.com/features/the-contemporary-comforts-of-divinity-original-sin-6407696/ .

        It’s not only what the video and the article are saying, check the comments. There aren’t many of those but they are overwhelmingly positive. I’ll just quote a few:

        “Definitely worth backing folks. The guys at Larian could really use
        your help to make this an even better game and fulfill their dream of
        self funding producing a game without any of the big publishers involved
        making it a game from and by the gamers.

        Here a link to the kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/larianstudios/divinity-original-sin

        “Proud to back this up! Along with Wasteland 2, Project Eternity and Torment.”

        “Divinity II – Dragon Knight Saga was a little gem that flew under most people’s radars. But not mine.Seems like these guys really get what RPG gamers want, I have high hopes for this one. Gotta support the smaller studios!”

        “Why did I not know about this? How did it slip past me? Looks awesome.”

        I’m sure a lot of the people that commented or even saw the articles and the comments and are now interested in the game would never have taken notice of it if it wasn’t featured on Gamespot.

        I was under the impression that the Gamespot community was mostly people who played modern console shooters and RPGs like Skyrim, only mainstream games. I was proven wrong with the overwhelming amount of positive comments in articles for games like the new Torment or Project Eternity. Either they are as a whole a lot more deep and mature than I’ve given them credit for or the community is so large that it encompasses people who like all game genres, even old-school RPG games.

        I think you should sent review copies to the larger media outlets for Dragon Commander at least. It’s unique, the timing of release is fortunate (not many big AAA games coming out this Summer as far as I know) and you’ll be able to get a better picture of how much coverage by the mainstream press affects sales.

        By the time you are ready to launch Original Sin you will have a much broader picture, judging by the success or failure of Dragon Commander. The release of Original Sin will probably be concurrent or a bit later than the release of the new console generation with all their launch titles so there is the possibility that it will be buried among all those releases anyway, for major sites. You should make that decision then and not now though. I think Dragon Commander should get as much coverage as possible and decide what to do with Original Sin when the time comes, taking into account the things you’ll learn from your first self-published game.

        Also remember, a failure is just another data point. The more data you have the more informed your decisions are.

        If you do decide not to sent review copies to some sites make sure to vet them carefully. For example all gamespot reviews feature the name of the reviewer. All gametrailer reviews are narrated by the same person but the name of the reviewer is mentioned at the start of the video always. I don’t remember for sure at the moment but I think Kotaku also names their reviewers. So it’s not like that Edge article at all. As for IGN I really can’t comment since I don’t follow it. I don’t have a high opinion of it but that may just be prejudice on my part because of their guilty past.

        • LC

          Yeah, but the referral stats from the kickstarter campaign can reveal some real impact of certain publications (at least during the campaign).

          • AlexF

            Yeah but still things aren’t so simple. First Dragon Commander is a very different game than Original Sin. Strategy games, although not as many as before, still get attention in mainstream press. Just look at the success of XCOM or every Total War or Civilization or even how much attention Crusader Kings 2 has gotten from a part of the press, if not from major outlets. At the moment it has an 82 on Metacritic with no negative reviews and only a few mixed.

            Second, it is only natural that those who frequent RPG communities would back a turn based isometric game with focus on exploration and freedom. These are the people who crave for these kind of experiences and there are very few games that cater to them. However that doesn’t mean that other people won’t be interested to buy the game once it comes out. There are those people who don’t back kickstarter projects as a principle and those who may be convinced by review scores or word of mouth when the game is released.

            Moreoever there is a caveeat with selecting which sites to send your game to. I don’t mean smaller sites with a certain focus. For example if anyone sent Forza 4 to Gamebanshee, RPG Codex or RPG Watch I hardly think anyone would spend time to play and review it given that these sites are dedicated to PC RPGs. No I mean general gaming sites. When you start to pick your journalists, well frankly it seems kinda ugly. I mean it seems like you are picking those who would give you a good score and send the early copy only to them so that the first reviews are positive. That’s something that gamers would shun a publisher for doing. Is Larian sure they want to go down that path just because of an awful review on a paper magazine so many years ago?

            If you look at metactitic Gamespot has given Divinite Divinity 86/100, the third highest review of the ones featured and IGN was fourth with 85/100. Not bad scores at all.

            As for Ego Draconis it was reviewed in Gamespot by Kevin VanOrd, the one that wrote the preview of Original Sin. You can dissagree with his review, you can blame them for not reviewing Dragon Knight Saga but you can’t claim that they have sent a second rate journalist with no RPG experience to review the game. I’m looking through his review list and it’s huge, it seems he is the main reviewer on the site and he has reviewed a ton of RPGs giving them a whole range of scores from very low to very high. Now if you don’t send a copy to Gamespot it will seem like saying that you don’t want them to review your game cause they may rate it low.

            It’s a slippery slope and I’d advice against going down that road. Of course there is no problem not sending Dragon Commander or Original Sin to a site with a narrow focus on a certain type of games that those two aren’t a part of, like a site dedicated to MMOs or shooters.

          • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

            I think you’re getting me wrong – I’m not complaining but rather warning of the dangers of getting your game (p)reviewed by somebody who’s not in your target audience. It happens and it does damage, so the question poses itself – is it better to avoid this or to yourself be lead to the slaughterhouse. I don’t think you have a moral obligation as a developer to do the latter, really.

            That’s why I liked the Angry Joe example – he goes and buys the games he wants to review (see his Star Trek review ).

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZB7r9m9vYNA

            That’s exactly what you’d want to prevent the mismatch from happening. A reviewer with an interest in the game goes to buy it and shares his opinion with the world in a well-structured fashion.

            Big difference with the intern who is “forced” to review a game he doesn’t like. Obviously I’m not talking about reviewers like Kevin. I played coop with him and he’s played RPGs before. But if Kevin would be busy reviewing Dragon Age 3, and the other RPG guy @Gamespot is busy with Skyrim 2, I might indeed end up with Racing specialist intern, and that is unfair to my game (compared to DA3 / Skyrim 2).

            I’ve done previews to racing specialist interns, I don’t think they did our games justice.

          • AlexF

            I agree with the sentiment. I remember myself several times reading a bad review or a comment about a game I liked where the writter just didn’t like the genre. I’ve used that shooter metaphore myself a few times (although I’ve played a handful of shooters so I usually say sports games or flight simulators). If you don’t like a game genre you have no reason reviewing a game that fits that genre.

            However to translate that totaly understandable frustration, even more if you’ve actually made the game in question and aren’t just a fan, to a bussiness decision is risky. When publishers don’t send pre-release code to sites for day 1 reviews there is the common perception that there is something wrong with the game and they are trying to hide it. On the other hand sending a review copy only to a select journalists seems like you are trying to pick those that would give your game a high score to artificially get a high metacritic rating for the first week or so.

            Once again, I agree with you in principle but I think Dragon Commander deserves as much coverage as it can get. So as not to be talking out of my ass I went and checked the release days of upcoming games on metacritic for PC, PS3 and Xbox360. There isn’t anything that resembles Dragon Commander comming during the summer period and there aren’t so many new games coming out in general. You may get the racing specialist intern at one or two sites but I believe most of them will give a proper review.

            Then when it’s time to release Original Sin you can examine this matter again based on your experience with the release of Dragon Commander, how well it does and the time period during which Original Sin launches.

            I’m getting the feeling that this blog post is more about Original Sin than Dragon Commander. It is more niche afterall. Dragon Commander has all the bells and whistles like voiced conversations etc. (By the way on a previous blog post I has argued in favor of voicing the conversations for Dragon Commander, I hope you are happy with the decision you made and the audience and critics are happy as well. From the few videos we’ve seen I think the voices do add to the game experience.) If the discussion is a philological one then it’s ok, I agree with you that people shouldn’t review games that they’re gonna hate from the get go. If it’s about a business decision, however, I think it’s better to give Dragon Commander as much coverage as possible. It seems like a great game and people need to know about it. Now if a site assigns it to a reviewer who doesn’t like dialogue or strategy game or a site doesn’t do a review or just does half a page and buries it under other content, then these are valid reasons not to trust them with an early copy of Original Sin. Don’t clip the chances of Dragon Commander though. Even IGN that has almost no info for Original Sin does feature a Dragon Commander video.

          • Bert Geens

            If they’re actual RPG players and have a say in it the intern will get DA3 and you will get the RPG guy ;)

  • Steve

    Think of it like this: sometimes that extra “five thousand dollars” comes out of a pool of millions of dollars, from a site you know won’t deliver much for your purposes, but you received it – all because you chanced a review on a site that isn’t genre friendly to your games (or a genre in general). I think that it has its deep pro’s and con’s that could turn a lot of people away but also turn a lot of people to your game. And it is exactly just that – a chance. Risks are meant to be made, knowing the sacrifice that may come or hardships, but I mean look at your Kickstarter, it turned for the better, and I thin without a doubt, it was your perseverance with your team and organization of the event that helped it to be the success that is and will to come!
    A pat on the back, well deserved mate. :)

  • Mico Selva

    I’ve posted this yesterday already, but apparently Disqus is bent on making my life miserable and my comment did not save correctly.

    These are some interesting thoughts on an interesting subject, Swen. Gaming journalism overall is, let’s say, controversial, as gaming magazines are mostly sponsored (advertising) by companies, whose products they later review. But I have no idea how this can be helped.

    I am not a fan of Angry Joe, and probably never will be, but I have to agree that this “new wave” of gaming journalistists is more credible than large sites publishing anonymous or so called “staff” reviews. At least Angry Joe puts his face behind each review and, whether you agree with his tastes or not, you can at least know what to expect based on his previous work.

    On the other hand, ignoring major sites can result in a major reduction for publicity of a game and accusations of “cherry-picking” reviewers, who You know will review the game favourably (or at least have a large chance doing it). However, as You said, not sending the review code does not mean forbidding a site to review the game. If a major site is interested in reviewing the game they can obtain it themselves, and maybe, just maybe, it will be then given to a reviewer who is more into the genre, and who puts some effort into the review. Far-fetched, but possible.

    Overall, this is not an easy decision to make and I am glad I am not the one making it. Whatever You end up doing, I hope it turns out for the best. :-)

    • Ruinous

      I think if a major site shows the interest and actually makes the approach to review the game then they are much more likely to give it a fair shake, it need not wait until they bring themselves to buy it for review. RPS & PcGamer are huge and without a doubt would treat the games fairly, I’d hope it would be a no-brainer to have them previewing and reviewing the games.

      • Mico Selva

        Which PC Gamer do You mean? Let me quote from Swen’s post above:
        “We’ve been perhaps too eager for attention past, and happy to show our creative babies to anybody who passed by. That delivered us some good but also quite a lot of bad results, the most memorable one being PC Gamer UK giving Divine Divinity 56% wheras their US sister magazine gave it 84% and later put it in their top 100 games of all times.”

  • Thoden Thranathal

    Makes sense to me. You go where your customers are. If you go where your customers aren’t and listen to the complaints of those that are not your natural customers, you will upset those that actually pay your wages and that is a dumb thing to do.

    Customers are the folks that pay money for your services, all others are non-customers and should be ignored. Yeah I know, duh logic.

  • Haba

    As a “consumer” of gaming journalism, I’ve long since stopped reading professional gaming reviews. To much of my chagrin, even our local game magazine “Pelit” in Finland has declined a great deal. Usually I can see how credible the review is not by the score, but by who is reviewing it. If a major game release is not reviewed by the “old school” reviewer who has been writing reviews for the games in this genre for over twenty years, usually that means that I can easily deduct 20-30 points from the review score to obtain a score that better matches my preferences.

    The sad state of affairs is such that I know that I cannot trust official reviews. They are written by people who’ve never even played the games that I hold in high standard. How could anything they say have any worth to me as a consumer?

    Frankly, peer reviews by people who have similar taste as I do are a much better choice. Not perfect (I postponed Divinity 2 playthrough for years due to unwarranted bad reputation of the game), but at least not a complete waste of time either.

    Honest and transparent communication directly to the potential target group works wonders as well. I would’ve never invested as much as I did into D:OS as I did, had I not been reading your blog posts here.

  • Frank Trienbach

    So true ! RPG focused websites will give you high return from players, as you are targeting your audience ;-)

    Beware of stats however. You agreed to make an interview at the Dagon’s Lair (thank you for it), but people watching your interview on the Dagon’s Lair went to your website to pledge from the interview page… on Youtube ! That may be the same for every website which published your video interviews or even your gameplay videos.

    Anyway, about reviews, I completely agree with you. You will get better reviews marks on specialized websites than on general ones where they may give your game to our a reviewer who has nothing to do with your kind of game, and don’t like the style…

    However getting more coverage means you may get a wider audience. I think in fact it depends on the game. Mainstream (good) games will get benefits to be promoted by general websites, more focus games (ie: hardcore RPGs) will get more benefits for being promoted by rpgcodex/rpgwatch/dagon’s lair/ …and so on.

    I personally think Dragon Commander should be better promoted by wider audience websites (as the game is a cross genre style), and Divintiy Original Sin will be better promoted by RPG focused websites.
    (not doing my promotion here, as I’d like to review also Dragon Commander ^^ )

  • http://twitter.com/devitt_e Erik Devitt

    Couldn’t agree more. You don’t hire an electrician to do your plumbing. Sure, some of them might be able to do it but a vast majority of them are going to lack the expertise and just screw it up.

    As others have mentioned, I long ago stopped reading “professional” reviews. Too often they just fuel the hype machine (Diablo 3/SimCity) while ignoring the glaring flaws in the games. I tend to look for other gamers who enjoy similar types of games and see what they have to say about the Pros and Cons of a game and make my own decision based on that info and my own tastes (demos help tremendously when on the fence about picking a game up).

  • nobody72

    I think this is a generic problem and not specific to gaming. It takes real ‘work’ (though hopefully the person enjoys the work if they are in the field) to be a good journalist (whether it be game reviews or reporting world news). Some people just don’t put in the hours to write ‘factual’ or at least informed comments. When I read ‘edge-online’ (before and after listening to angry joe’s comment) I almost get the feeling the author is ‘quoting’ another reviewers comment rather than generating their own first hand experience. I do not know factually this is the case but that is the impression the reviews leaves upon me.

    With regards to the D-OS previews; I have to say I enjoyed the TB’s the best by a wide margin. It seemed very un-bias (both postive and negative) presentation of the current and potential state.

  • Angthoron

    While I very much agree with a lot of what you say about “traditional” gaming press (and I still remember quite well the press reception of Divinity 2), Swen, there’s another facet here to consider, namely, these conclusions may apply well to Kickstarter and pre-purchasing, however, with traditional post-launch buying, the situation may actually be different.

    After all, at this point Kickstarter shows not what WILL sell, but what HAS sold – and the various degrees of support from people/communities that are willing to take a (very well educated!) gamble on a game that will be released down the line, with the features that THEY are helping fund. It’s not the final sales number – I certainly hope Larian isn’t going to settle for just getting $1Mil for what looks like a pretty awesome game full of red imps and hot orcish ladies. This is where the back-burner from the “traditional” sites will help contribute, so I don’t think it’s entirely right to write them off.

    However, it is highly unfortunate that many of the major outlets do not have critics that are well-acquainted with genres outside the mainstream line of action-adventure-rpg-racing-sports line. Granted, TB RPGs have been rather rare of late, but they do seem to be making a comeback, so it would be fairly smart of respective editorial staff etc to actually hire people knowledgeable in the formerly “super-niché” genre branches.

    That said, early alpha access for sites like IGN and some others is probably moot point unless you’re Treyarch or Blizzard with the latest Whatever It Is You Are Milking – The Franchise and is much better spent on smaller communities and the “Web 2.0″ adepts like youtubers, twitterers and what have you.

  • Joel Bylos

    Great post Sven, and I completely agree. I work with MMORPG’s and I find that the same kind of conflicts exist within the review spectrum. Publications often have their “MMO” reviewer – which is a ludicrous proposition to begin with because an MMO can be anything from a social roleplaying game to an action based shooter to a virtual sandbox ala EVE.
    It also clearly doesn’t help that Metacritic is selective about the sites that it uses to aggregate the scores. A review from RPGCodex which might give you a 9/10 for being a great RPG won’t count, while a review from IGN which gives you a 4/10 for “not being a Bethesda game” will be there forever. And then the Metacritic score sits proudly beside your game on Steam forever.
    Specialist sites are indeed the answer, and being selective about who you ask to review your games is a very good way to ensure that they get fair treatment.

    • LC

      This metacritic implemenation in Steam is a real disappointment. I don’t know why not more developers complain about that senseless thing on their Steam site….

      • Bert Geens

        Actually developers/publishers can turn off the display of the Metacritic score. Usually this is done because the game is a stinker and they want to hide that fact.

        But indeed, Metacritic’s value has gone down over time as more and more people figure out how to game its scores. If anything I look at the user score once enough people have rated a game, that score tends to become more indicative of the game’s actual value over time (though by no means a holy grail)

  • LC

    I think the problem with publications is that you have two “missions”:
    first – building up awareness
    second – convincing customers

    Publicationson major gaming sites at release or slightly before release could have areal impact on the awareness that there is a game called Dragon Commander or Divinity: Original Sin. It’s even decisive for the opinion-forming if people think your game is an AAA title or an indie title. There are many people who are only interested in the game if it is treated like an AAA title, at least that’s my experience.
    The realproblem is that building up awareness and convincing customers to actually buy your game might not always be possible together. That couldbe because major gaming sites create awareness for a certain game but give it a bad review afterwards which does noch convince possible customers to buy the game. On the other site, if you only give game codes or PR material to certain sites/journalist many people might not be aware of the game after all and some people might even wonder why themajor sites don’t cover the game and the natural conclusion to that could be that they think it’s “only an indie game which isn’t worth to look into further at the time.

    So in my opinion it’s very hard todecide to whom you should give game codes and PR material. Do you want to risk less awareness in order to get a better review average? Or do you risk some bad reviews in order to raise general awareness?

    Oneway could really be to “select” certain journalists from major gaming sites/magazines from whom you know that they are interested in RPGs or your type of games. Perhaps you could convince them in direct communication that these certain persons cover your game on site/magazine XYZ instead of a trainee or a FPS-only fan.

  • Stabbey

    About a week ago, when I started visiting this blog, I started getting warnings from my anti-virus about it blocking a “Web Attack: Neutrino Exploit Kit Website detected.” What’s causing this? Is this some kind of false positive?

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      I updated to the last version of WordPress because I started receiving plenty of strange user registrations and installed two new security plugins which did a scan and told me everything was ok. Do you still have that warning ?

      • Stabbey

        Earlier this morning I did get it. Just now, no. It only started happening about a week ago, but even since then, it doesn’t happen every time I visit. I am sure that the warning was coming from this site, because the other day I tested it by opening the blog as the first and only browser window and the warning popped up.

        • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

          There definitely is something wrong – working on it.

          • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

            It should be fixed now – we cleaned up everything we could find. Do you still get something ?

          • Stabbey

            Nothing since the first thing this morning, and I’ve been back here a few more times.

  • http://twitter.com/Garrus4Spectre Christian Djie

    Hey Swen,

    first of all, congratulations! I’m glad your kickstarter went so well.

    But on topic: I believe you’re making the mistake of underestimating the consumer. Sure, reviews from major and minor sites are often as bad as you say. However, if the concept of the game seems even remotely interesting to the potential buyer, he/she will most of the time be able to judge the quality of the review and if it it’s not satisfactory, he/she will go on to a different source which gives him/her a better impression of the game. But maybe the bad or mediocre review was the first time he heard about the game, and so LC’s point about awareness is a valid one, I believe.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Yes, but take the PC Gamer UK review of Divine Divinity – a 56% rating is bound to kill interest among RPG players who read PC Gamer UK. Every day I get mail from people who say they’re so happy they discovered the Divinity games, and that they regret believing what they read in magazines like that. I’m not sure I want the we-trashed-this-with-56% type of awareness.

      And they indeed ruin your meta-critic score which like it or not, has an impact on your Steam sales. One reporter with no interest in your type of game working for big publication can ruin your sales and consequently also your awareness on Steam that way- that’s a pretty big responsibility – and the worst part is that he probably doesn’t realise it. Just the other day for instance I was deflecting questions in an interview from a “big name” that asked me what on earth I was thinking making a generic-fantasty-RPG with boring turn-based combat when the likes of Ubisoft & EA are making such great titles ;)

      • Bert Geens

        While I can appreciate your stance as a developer/publisher, my experience as a gamer is a little bit different. (on a sidenote, I think both scores are out of whack, 56% is way too low, 90% otoh is too high imho, but I generally think reviewers throw around high ratings too easily)

        This is of course anecdotal evidence but something I’m noticing is that less and less people seem to attach much value to the reviews from major outlets, they are often biased (someone has to pay those reviewers after all), quality is often lacking (reviews written by the office monkey…). Especially when we’re talking about niche games (like cRPGs, adventures,…) the major sites are all but useless. Metacritic score, especially at release, has been gamed regularly lately, so people no longer trust that either (the user score on Metacritic is slightly better in that respect, but it takes a bit after release before it evens out into something that’s probably sort of representative, that’s a lot of if’s there though).

        The players you can’t convince to pre-order (or back a Kickstarter campaign ;) ) will most likely hold off until the first useful reviews roll in. These first useful reviews tend to come in the form of forum posts, on the developer’s forums, on the Steam forums (there are *always* “Is it worth it?” threads), on blogs, on specialised websites (I (ab)use the Obsidian forums to gauge the quality of many new releases I might be interested in).

        This is also why I abhor the current trend to cut content from games and offer it as a “pre-order bonus”, to me that seems like you *need* to sell as much copies as possible before people get to find out from actual players, not just shills, how good (likely: bad) your game actually is…

        • http://twitter.com/twincast2005 TC the Space Marine

          “(on a sidenote, I think both scores are out of whack, 56% is way too low, 90% otoh is too high imho, but I generally think reviewers throw around high ratings too easily)”

          Well, the problem with video game scores for as long as I can remember has been that 50% doesn’t signify mediocre, but terrible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Safeword-Bear/100000987250369 Safeword Bear

    I disagree with you here Swen.

    Let’s pretend I didnt play Divine Divinty growing up and I didnt instantly throwing all my money out of my wallet like ninja stars at my screen when I saw your kickstarter. Let’s pretend I am your average kickstarter backer who knows very little about your product.

    The first thing I do is read the pitch and watch the video. Either it grabs my attention, or it doesnt. If it doesnt, so long and thanks for all the fish. If it does, however, im gonna google up some reviews.

    There is no one review that is going to make up my mind for me. I will read 1 or 2 before I make up my mind. And I really do think there is no such thing as bad publicity. If I read a bad review, before I let it influence me I am gonna look at more of the articles written by that author. Are they jsut a bad journalist? Do they show a preferred genre? What do the comments have to say about the persons writing.

    In any case, a bad review like this would get me looking deeper into the game. Iwould go from 1 or 2 articles to 4 or 5 for that little bit of extra assurance. For your kickstarter event, specifically, I didnt need outside sources. You had such an entertaining kickstarter campaign that I was already excited. But again, taking my bond with Larian studios out of the picture, the more i read the more excited I get. The more excited I get, teh more money I throw. A bad article may just get me to read a little bit more than if I just went with my gut reaction and the first two articles I read, pledged soem money and forgot about it.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      That’s a novel way of looking at it. The “problem” with IGN & Gamespot reviews is indeed that they pop up first when you do a search, and if you suffered from a mismatch, you would expect that a low rating from them could kill the interest. But you’re saying that’s not the case. It’s hard for me to judge that one because my day job brings me in contact with many reviews, but I’d be curious to hear if others have the same reaction. I do know of myself that if I see three negative reviews I think that something is bound to be wrong with the game, even if I know at a rational level that that might not necessarily be the case.

      • http://twitter.com/shadowriku90 Shadowriku

        Regarding this topic I rembered of this research by Google published last year:
        http://www.google.com/think/research-studies/understanding-the-modern-gamer.html

        It shows, along other data, how the amount of research a singe person do in regards to videogames was increasing. It seems to lack “hard” numbers but considering the source it probably have at least some relevance.

        • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

          Thx for the link – downloaded it & put it on my reading list.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Safeword-Bear/100000987250369 Safeword Bear

        Oh absolutely, three negative reviews would suggest there is indeed somethign wrong with the game, and I would lose interest. But if the initial feelign of the game is interest from me, and then I find a good review, and a bad review, that bad review will spark more investigation on my part. And that investigation could potentially get me even more excited, to the point where I start at 40, then move up to 80, and then get caught up in the final push for a million and throw $135 at you! Children dont need to eat EVERY day, right?

        Again, thats more you and your teams ability to turn a campaign into an experience, but I think finding 3 good reviews and 2 bad reviews says more about the game than finding no reviews at all. :-)

    • http://twitter.com/dwelfusius Katrien Cornelis

      Hmm.. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it would drive me to research the game more, but I can say that even if I wouldn’t have known larian and the first review i found from them was F.E 56% from PC gamer/DD I wouldn’t care.I mean will i take it into consideration, ofc, but thats it.Even 3 “bad” reviews are no dealbreaker for me.I just look at the game, gather as much intel as possible and try to extract my own set of pos and negative opinions and scale them on how important they are to/for my specific needs/preferences.

      BUT I also wholeheartedly agree that it’s probably quite naive to think/hope everybody goes about it like that. In that light i think there is something to be said for better no coverage than completely unpassionate(good or bad) or incorrect coverage,even if it is from the “major” players.

      Kind of sad, there was a time when RPG was..IT..I mean, that it wasn’t really a valid option as a game reviewer to have nill interest in them..just because they were SO omnipresent (ah the golden era ^^) .. But then it was over, I think screenies from FPS (yuck) and racegames just pop better.

    • http://twitter.com/twincast2005 TC the Space Marine

      Eh, seeking more than one impression I guess a reasonable percentage of people do (though a lot fewer than you seem to think), but bothering to look for preferences throughout the articles of any given writer? Seriously?

    • Raze

      I had a couple bad reviews turn me off a game I was slightly interested in, but which I only noticed because it was on sale. It seemed interesting at first glance, but could have been just a straight hack and slash action game (which, personally, I can find boring if there isn’t something unique about it or some feature done particularly well). When the first two reviews I read seemed to confirm the worst, I wasn’t inclined to do any more research. However, after seeing some positive comments the next day, one of which linked to the demo, I did check it out. The reviews were not inaccurate, per se, but a couple things with the controls and combat worked much better in practice than the descriptions implied, and of course some opinions are ambiguous if you don’t know the reviewer’s work (‘boring combat’ could mean it is actually boring to click on opponents and then wait for the combat to end, or it could mean it is not a micro-managed twitch fest with special moves and dozens of key combinations to memorize).

  • Arutha77

    First of all, congratulations with the effort put into the kickstarter campaign and please keep on making great games. Howeevr, about the issue at hand, I’m not so sure I agree with you. It cuts both ways and there is an ethical argument to be made here.

    If you as the developer only get good reviews because they are from reviewers that prefer the type of game you make, I can imagine you’re happy.
    But suppose I am not one of the die-hard RPG enthousiasts, but rather a gamer of the same type as the reviewer you want to avoid. In that case, for me your game will probably not be worth the high score you have “contrived” to get.I might still buy it on the basis of that high average review score (after all, if you think some people won’t buy your game because the scores are too low, some might also buy a game just because the reviews are great) and might feel cheated afterwards.
    You’re almost (I acknowledge that there is a difference as that gamer has no impact on let’s say metacritic scores that follow your game for all eternity) doing to that gamer what you don’t want the reviewers to do to you.
    Does this make sense?
    PS Don’t be too quick on drawing conclusions on the webiste referrals. Most RPG-fans would have known about your kickstarter from different sources and to be honest I don’t know from which website I came from when I made my pledge but it probably wasn’t from the site (gamebanshee) where I got the most information on the game and made the connection to most of the updates from.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      All I want to ensure is that it’s a level playing field, and if it’s not, then I want to know and I think I have the right as a developer to protect myself against it.

      I’m specifically targeting the disinterested reviewer who is “forced” to (p)review a game in a style he doesn’t like. Obviously I’m not talking about reviewers that have played several RPGs, but what happens if that reviewer is busy reviewing high profile RPG 1, and the second RPG reviewer is busy with high profile RPG 2? Well, some media, especially the larger ones, will give your RPG to the racing specialist intern, and that is unfair to your not so high profile RPG. It’s also damaging, and I don’t see why you should cooperate with that.

      • http://twitter.com/twincast2005 TC the Space Marine

        Heh, I hadn’t even read your reply before I wrote mine. Funny how we both went for racing game specialists. =)

    • http://twitter.com/twincast2005 TC the Space Marine

      “But suppose I am not one of the die-hard RPG enthousiasts, but rather a gamer of the same type as the reviewer you want to avoid. In that case, for me your game will probably not be worth the high score you have
      “contrived” to get.I might still buy it on the basis of that high average review score (after all, if you think some people won’t buy your game because the scores are too low, some might also buy a game just because the reviews are great) and might feel cheated afterwards.”

      Erm, no. If somebody’s looking at an RPG, it’s reasonable to expect they want to know if it’s a good *RPG*, not if it’s good in terms of the criteria for a racing game or whatever and vice versa. That at the very least should be a given even for people relying on Metacritic scores.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Ailantan Ailantan

    I would like to see TotalBiscuit review on Dragon Commander, as he is professional commentator of Starcraft tournaments, and i know he like turn based strategic games. He already made preview for you on Divinity: Original Sin for kickstarter campaign.
    I like that he is honest with his reviews, and knowing his experience in rts style of games, this review would hold more value for me.

    • LC

      I would like to see some multiplayer (and singleplayer) review for Dragon Commander from AngryJoe and TotalBiscuit playing against each other. It’s always fun to watch them in tournaments because they are both very competetive. And I would also like to see that for D:OS later when they have to play together in co-op. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/Ailantan Ailantan

        They can make a tournament out of it, I’m not sure, but can you compete with more that 1 person?

        • Raze

          IIRC multi-player is up to 2 vs 2.

  • zam zam

    All of your screenshots are taken with a mac. Why don’t you release the next two Divinity’s for the mac platform. ;)

    • LC

      Original Sin is already confirmed for Mac…. ;)

  • LightningLockey

    This is a tough one as if all the RPG journalists are busy, then the game (p)review goes to a journalist that isn’t busy and only likes FPS games and thinks RPGs are a waste of time. I would definitly keep a journalist diary keeping track of magazines, websites and specific journalists that have helped and harmed your product. An example…
    Gamespot had the journalist Paul do a great review and helped promote the product because he is a Divinity and Ultima fan.

    Gamespot had the journalist Wendy do a terrible review, mainly because she hates violent games and should stay at Farmville.

    Gamespot itself isn’t bad, just that one journalist that should have never been given the game and put in that situation to begin with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abel.bascunanapons Abel Bascuñana Pons

    I agree with what you say and Frank Trienbach’s comment. Focusing on specialized sites should be the thing to go for as you are aiming for that audience. Another thing is if you want to reach gamers outside the genre, or as in the case of Dragon Commander, you think the game could appeal to a wider audience due to its core mechanics. I also think it might be difficult to find the “right” journalist with enough background to review you game on major sites. The only think I can say is that I guess Dragon Commander, as well as all Larian games, is mainly aimed to core gamers. There might not concessions to casual gameplay. If the latter was the case, then you’ll have it easier to get good reviews on major sites, but that would be going against your philosophy as studio. Finding the right balance in this question is not easy.

    I understand Metacritic scores can affect you if you are pitching to a prospective publisher for your next game to get additional funding, I hope it’s not the case! Steam should drop the MC counter of course, as I don’t think gamers outside the genre do a proper research to verify its truthfulness (not the ones into the genre).

    Also I think it’s important that you use your Charisma stats and momentum from the KS campaign and Divinity series to overcome bad reviews done by interims or unprepared journalists by associating Larian and Sven Vincke with synomym of good CRPGs or RTS games. Like Lord British back in the time, Chris Avellone or Brian Fargo. This means that being a VIP can inconciously make reviewers to not dismiss your games like a disposable product crafted by an unknown developer and treat them with the proper diligency. It is Bioware because of Mass Effect or Mass Effect because of Bioware? I think the latter has prevalance on the game journalism, and then the saga or new games from your studio can speak by themselves to those journalists and general public because of their quality and get nice momentum once the initial resistance (getting you or your studio to be more publicly known) is overcome.

    Now a request: the data you showed is priceless to me and I think to many others that want to launch on KS. Last month I run a cancelled KS campaign for a CRPG and these insights help a lot. If you could do a postmortem of your KS campaign that would be awesome! Thanks for your great articles and sincerity. And add me on Linkedin please! =)

    Abel B.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-S-Macy/569200475 Eric S. Macy

    You gotta keep your metacritic score up, that’s the first thing people will look at when they see your game in the steam store. If that means not giving early review copies to people who you know will review your game poorly then so be it. Especially since if you get a couple positive reviews early then all the other people who review your game later won’t want to look stupid so they will have to give it a good score as well.

    It may seem slightly unethical but everyone is manipulating the system one way or another so you really don’t have a choice unless you don’t want anyone to buy your game.

    I hope I don’t sound too negative or jaded, I just don’t see why you wouldn’t do everything you could to make sure your game sells well after putting so much hard work into it. Although as you mentioned if you thought that your game sucked then you would be in a much more difficult ethical quandary. Since your games rock its only fair they get the recognition they deserve.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nawaf.mesad Nawaf Mesad

    Pros and cons to both, as you’re obviously aware. If you keep trying to be as open about this and why you’re doing it, maybe even linking to what you wrote here, I think you’d be in a better position to pick the reviewers you consider best suited to your game.

    One of the things I really liked about what you did in your kickstarter, was give a lot of “small-time” reviewers a chance to interview you and talk with you about your game. It made it possible to see the same things from different angles.
    It also showed you always answering in a mostly relaxed but slightly nervous fashion that showed how confident you were of your game. It was easy to see that you only worried about the impression it would leave, but not about the game itself. That’s important, too.
    Seeing that made it even more apparent that you’re being up front with all of us.

    So what I’m trying to say: While I’d pick my reviewers a bit, at least making sure they weren’t uncaring about the game, I’d make sure to give the game a lot of exposure. I believe that the many “small” interviews had the greatest effect, taken together.

  • Tran Le

    I will tell you straight up to never submit review code to Polygon.
    Not only do they champ at the bit to defend their PR and publisher buddies, so-called ‘reviewers’ like Arthur Gies also are antagonistic towards the very gamers that they’re suppose to champion for.

    Gies’ recent review for Star Drive for example is particularly infuriating read …

  • OoopsHello

    I do remember Bioware (which has a lot of haters following them with passion) that has been accused of selecting reviewers. A reviewer don’t review well your game so you won’t send him anymore any of your game. I do understand it’s not the purpose of the rant, but it can be quickly interpreted in a wrong way and it can lead to ambiguity.

    I mean it’s not easy to select yourself who is able to review your game or not. I’d say it’s a dangerous game to try do that. For sure reviewers that don’t know a genre and review it is a problem. But I don’t think it’s to developers or publishers to solve the problem.

    • http://www.facebook.com/abel.bascunanapons Abel Bascuñana Pons

      What I meant is that if you have a track record of good games, with previous good reviews, you also must take this to your advantage when sending your game to the journalists. Bioware got his name on top due to Baldur’s Gate, and the Divinity series as a whole are an awesome IP to promote it as a whole package. During the Original Sin campaign, I think this element wasn’t promoted to its highest to take advantage of it. If some journalists knew that Original Sin came from a reputed saga, they may have taken the review more seriously, that’s my guess.

    • LC

      There is a simple solution to that. Don’t give press/review copies to anyone (apart from some exlusive people or example). This would have two benefits:
      1) Reviewers would have to actually buy the game if they want to make a review on it -> most people would only buy it if they think that it will be worth the effort (“natural selection”)
      2) You would also minimize the thread that your game will be available on the internet for pirating even before release…..
      It would have some risks as well, no question. Some “major” sites could be upset because you don’t send them free review copies or because you only send some to selected people/boards. But every decision here has its pros and cons, it’s all about your personal stance at the whole problem (and the industry) and if you want to play by the rules or make your own rules. The first step was becoming self-publishing and coming to kickstarter for fan-funding, the second step could be a new way to address the established gaming press (a way you already went down during the ks campaign)…..

    • Martin Ockovsky

      You create amazing RPGs and you gain a lot of fans and fanboys. Then, when you start to make crappy RPGs many of those fans can get really angry and they transform in to haters.

      Bioware deserves it. I “hate” them now. They were my favourite developers, now I don’t like them at all. I’m not following them everywhere and spread the hate, and I think it’s kinda childish from those who does. But on the other hand, I understand them.

  • Anskier

    You make some good points but I would be careful – If you only listen to people who like your game you can be blinded to serious problems in it.

    A good example of this is I think Stardocks game elemental. Throughout the making of it they tended to ridicule and dismiss criticism, only listening to those who told them how good everything was and how they were doing everything right. This lead to them being as far as I can tell genuinely surprised by the negative response to their game.

    So even if you manage to cherry pick reviewers that will only give you good reviews, this may not be a good thing if you have the consumers who buy it not like it. If you only allow those who give it to those who give positive feedback you may end up trading a short term positive buzz for a long term poor reputation.

  • http://twitter.com/DimitriCockx Ekuar

    Great article Swen. I almost never read the “real pro gaming sites” they always disappoint me or misinform me. I search the web, YouTube and feel comfortable with that. The last months I follow guys like Jesse Cox, TotalBiscuit and Force. I don’t always agree with them but they say what they think and stand by there words. They don’t care what companies think about them, they just do what they love and it shows. It’s like Larian, you guys do what you love and that shows. People will see that and support it.

  • CromWelp

    I understand the sentiment but there are two issues I have with the example of Star Command. Firstly, Star Command is a mobile game, and it’s likely Edge (and other online publications) don’t dedicate a lot of resources to mobile reviews since they have such a small audience. When a game is only $3, people are more likely to buy it than to research it. Secondly, this was Joe’s first mobile review, so he would be very conscious with regards to how it goes. He’s creating a show, not just a review, so there’s the entertainment layer on top of the fact that this is his first review of a mobile game. If Joe puts out a boring show, he has everything to lose, but if Edge puts out one crappy article, who cares?

    You might think this is a good thing, but then there’s the problem of should a review be entertaining, or simply dry and analytical. Myself, when I write about a game I love on PCGMedia, it is lengthy and eloquent with tons of detail, but really this breaks many rules. You have magazines who give 90/100 to most products and talk enthusiastically regardless, but this jeopardizes honesty and almost becomes marketing rather than analysis. I mean, you have to have it both ways. If we can talk in colour about the positives, than the negatives must also be allowed such colour and fervor. That has its own problems.

    Digressing slightly, but yes, this was in my opinion a slightly cherry picked case. Mobile reviews have always classically been smaller – or they don’t exist at all – and in this case, this was Joe’s first one so he wanted to present a great debut review on this platform. Otherwise, there are other issues such as if you send a “fan boy” to a project, you get a “fan boys” article, which has all the detail, but none of the possible issues.

    Really the only way to get anywhere is to send clear and cogent journalists who are prepared to be surprised. People who genuinely love gaming. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about Dragon Commander, or Original Sin, but I can appreciate craft. I know how games are made, and what makes a good or a bad game in certain genres. Seeing WELL MADE games is exciting, regardless of the genre, or style, and I think a good journalist will understand this. You don’t have to be ‘neutral’ (or, I think rather, you mean dry in tone) just because it’s not your genre or forte – I picked up Dragon Commander and was blown away, and then I went to the other side of the table and picked up Original Sin and was equally blown away – two contrasting genres, two very well made games.

    This is a classical problem: is a specific games journalist a games journalist, or a gamer with a pay cheque? Too enthusiastic and you overlook problems that should be noted; not enthusiastic enough and you make the game sound underwhelming. Joe has a TV show to run, so of course everything he reports on is over the top enthusiastic, or over the top angry. I think this analysis slightly devalues written work, although I know you personally don’t since the RPG Watch/Codex (can’t remember which) article was lengthy and grand.

    Holy shit this is long. Anyway, the tl;dr version: you make full production games, not mobile games, and most major magazines don’t treat mobile game reviews seriously. You will very rarely see a full production game review of that length. Is that the way it should be? Absolutely not. It depends on the depth, not the platform imo. But these example perhaps are flawed. Joe is running an entertainment TV show, and that was his first mobile review, and Edge clearly hasn’t appropriated a system for proper mobile reviews. I don’t see this specific case as indicative of a systemic problem. Although /most/ gaming journalists are notoriously shit. Myself included to an extent.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      I know they have better reviews, but in this case I’d already seen the Angry Joe one, and as I wrote, it was the enormous contrast that triggered me together with them announcing it as a review via twitter. Imho, you cannot call that a review, though of course everybody is free to have his own definition. Personally, I prefer somebody either doing something well or not doing it at all. I thought Edge had the same opinion about games, so they should apply that to their own craft too ;) I’d be more happy already if they’d called it a mini-review, but then I wouldn’t have clicked on their twitter link.

      My point really is: a) I want RPGs to be reviewed as RPGs, not as FPS’, b) Everybody is free to review, but as a developer, you don’t *have* to participate in something that will not do your product any good i.e. if you see your game will be (p)reviewed by the racing specialist instead of the RPG specialist, you have the right to refuse this because it’s not fair, especially if the publication has a RPG specialist that’s busy with one of your competitors’ games. If the publication goes ahead with it, there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, but then the publication deserves to be criticised for its practices. One of the Dragon Ages was coming out while I was doing a preview tour with Divinity 2 in the US, and I actually preferred one publication cancelling my appointment over the other putting me in front of the … racing game intern (seriously).

      • CromWelp

        Racing game intern. Ha! Isn’t it funny, in contrast, how a major publication will dedicate literally weeks of time to an MMO, but a few days to an RPG. That surely is a systemic problem.

  • http://blackphi-ramblings.blogspot.com/ BlackPhi

    In my view the primary issue for a game review (as opposed to a preview) is whether it is a proper, well-written review, rather than the reviewer’s own game preferences.

    Obviously from a hype point of view the overall score is important, but as a prospective game purchaser I will usually go to read a review on one of the big sites (usually Gamespot) if I am considering a game that I don’t know much about. Even if I disagree with everything the reviewer says, if it is a good review I should end up with a reasonable idea of the sort of game it is, whether it is horribly buggy, and whether it is worth me expending time and effort finding out more.

    The review from The Edge that you link to above is simply a badly written review: it tells me nothing I need to know. Reviews generally on that site (although usually not as badly hacked about) appear similarly uninformative. Basics like genre and sub-genre, and what is distinctive and interesting about this particular game within that genre should all be covered. The video review from Angry Joe, on the other hand, covers many of these basics in the front panel, and has a structured and informative review in the video. I suspect that Angry Joe does something similar, although possibly with less enthusiasm, for any style of game he reviews: he’s a good ‘writer’.

    So, when targeting your efforts around release, I would suggest going less by which reviewers like your genre and more by whether they are good review writers. Also, I think you need to keep a mix between video reviews and old-style written reviews – videos let you see the game, but the written word is far quicker and easier to digest.

  • leandro vian

    Amazing post Swen, I totally agree with you about this topic. The disparity in reviews and game analysis is chocking, I’m pretty sure everyone already got into a situation where seeing the actual game or reading a second review, tottaly changed what he knew/expected.

    Keep the good work.

  • Peter Enis

    I a sentence: Yes, I’m also not trusting the big game outlets anymore. This happened because of numerous suspicious actions like giving well funded gameplay-average AAA games 10 out of 10′s just because the other sites did so too

  • Godwin

    Yes very nice blog! I am very happy that genuine-ness is actually important, and agree that hobbyists have a certain flavor that will appeal to the hardcore fans of the genre.

    On the other hand, you also want to win over fans of Battlefield 4, broaden their horizons.

    I guess the ideal will be getting no-name so enthusiastic with your game he forgets his normal review routine and writes from enthusiasm.

    So yes, I’d be carefull and maybe make it very clear you want a ‘quality’ review, but I’d also not try to be too exclusive. After all, there are many niche reporters who cater to a niche market, but you want to reach as many people as possible (maybe your game is the first of a new genre that they learn to love).
    A lot of people have little time, and for them to be able to have one website (say IGN), to follow just about everything that happens, is extremely convenient. I also think a LOT of people know to take reviews with a pinch of salt and in fact just use them as pointers that make them aware of new titles, for which they then look up more info on all sorts of sites (and let’s plays on youtube for example).

    Greets,
    Godwin

  • Martin Ockovsky

    I stopped reading huge gaming sites long time ago. Their opinion is the absolute opposite of mine. Gamespot gave better score to Fallout 3 than to Fallout 1 & 2. That’s ALL I need to know about the quality of their reviewers. And I never understood how IGN can be so influential game site, to me it look’s like they are reviewing games for 5 years old.

    I was reviewing the new Tomb Raider, and there was quite an outcry. Because guys knew that I’m RPG gamer. I played it because I saw all the remarks about how it will be survival game and I KNEW it wouldn’t. So I made a review, when I objectively talked about mechanics, and I gave it two scores. 6/10 for guys like me who don’t like cool hollywood effects, and 9/10 for those who does. There was quite a drama:D

    What I wanted to say is, you are right. Everyone has opinion about everything, that’s all right. But gaming sites should have reviewers dedicated to their preferred game genres. And if they are too cool and don’t like proper RPGs then they shouldn’t review them at all.

    So you are right, send codes just to the reviewers who really likes game genre which you create. They still can give you low score if they think you deserve it, but that’s OK.

    Sad part is, you shouldn’t have to deal with stuff like this, editors should know who should write the reviews, but what can you do. Gaming is mainstream now and the biggest gaming sites are more often filled with mainstream gamers, and not “true” gamers.

    • LC

      LOL, another (PC) game elitist, or “true” gamer. There is nothing like that only different people liking different stuff. So you’re just one of the cool guys if you don’t like “mainstream” games?

      Games should be fun first of all, no matter of which genre they are. Sure, you have to “pick” some genre for your game to just give the people some hint which kind of gameplay they could expect but it’s also someting you should avoid to some extend because people tend to think in genres instead of mechanics and gameplay.

      The worst reviews can be written from the reviewers which indeed like the genre in which the game is categorized, especially if it’s something with elements of more that just one genre (like for example Dragon Commander with RPG, turn-based and RTS elements). Some RTS and RPG “professionals”/fans tend to make some type of mechanic reviews checking a list of points which an RTS/RPG should have.

      There is no proof that there are worse reviews from “mainstream” sites than from “niches” sites for example. I’ve read good and bad reviews from both groups to even some extreme extend. I see the bigger problem in the categorization of the games. If you are one of the 2-3 “major” releases in the respective months you can be quite sure that you will get some very decent reviews from even the major “mainstream” sites. That’s quite different if you are just number 5 or 6 or 7 on that list of releases and there is one little time for game journalists to play the game and write decent and lengthy reviews about it. In that case it might be better to relate more on some kind of “niche” sites because they have more likely time to give the respective game the attention it deserves for a proper review.

      So my suggestion @Swen: you should decide dependent on the situation you are into with each respective release:
      1) If your game is most likely among the 2-3 major/most expected release titles of the month and the other two games are not of the same genre than your own game you have a high chance of getting fair reviews from the major gaming sites and magazines. In that case you should send reviews copies to them as well for better awareness.
      2) If there are more than 2-3 games which are more expected by most people/gaming sites (some major AAA titles) than your own release title and if one or two of them are even of the same genre you should really think of not sending reviews copies to the major sites because they will probably don’t have the manpower and time to make a fair review of the game. In that case it might be better to rely more on the niche sites or youtubers (which should always be addressed, even in option 1)

      • Martin Ockovsky

        I never said anything about elitism, nor do I think that some kind of elite player or what have you. I hate the word cool and I don’t consider myself to be cool in any way, shape or form.

        But the truth is there is difference between mainstream gamers who buy games because they see nice ad in TV and between gamers who actively pursue this type of entertainment. If you don’t see it, that’s your thing, I don’t care.

        “The worst reviews can be written from the reviewers which indeed like the genre in which the game is categorized, especially if it’s something with elements of more that just one genre (like for example Dragon Commander with RPG, turn-based and RTS elements). Some RTS and RPG “professionals”/fans tend to make some type of mechanic reviews checking a list of points which an RTS/RPG should have.”

        Not at all. If someone doesn’t like RPGs because he doesn’t like to read a lot of dialogues and he just likes to shoot stuff, then he is not suited for reviewing RPG. Because he will be bored and his review will be negative regardless of qualities of that game.

        I won’t try to change your opinion, but I think it really faulty one.

        And if the game reviewer in mainstream site is mainstream gamer then he is good reviewer for mainstream players, not for the “true” players.

        • LC

          It is true that nobody should review a game of a genre which he doesn’t like at all. But normally each “mainstream” site has someone who likes RPGs as well, that’s the core reason for my post above. If you manage to get that person your game might get a fair review.

          And again I think that your segmentation between mainstream players and true players is wrong (and in fact elitist per se, if you see it or not). Tbh people’s motivations are not that simple but the main reason for playing games is the same for every player: to have fun (apart from some professional multiplayer gamers who play for money). “Mainsteam” means that you are part of the common trend or the common taste. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You can pursue playing games very seriously and having a mainstream taste at the same moment. Or you can just like variety and play games of different genres, types and core audiences (like I do). Am I not a “true” gamer because I also like mainstream games? I know people at big gaming sites (which you would possibly call mainstream) who play P&P role playing games and CRPGs for more than 20 years. How does that fit to your black and white world of mainsteam and true?

          There can be bad reviews (or unfair ones) at every site, mainstream or niche. I’ve seen both. The thing is that even at niche sites (like RPG only sites) the reviewer can like or dislike a certain type of games of that genre. Or he could just dislike one central element of the game and doom the whole game for that. I’ve experienced that. And at the same time some reviewer from a major gaming site could make a good or bad review which depends much more of his analytical and writing skills than on his personal taste. In fact, you don’t have to like a game as a professional gaming journalist but you have to be fair nevertheless. If you write in a clear fashion what you liked and disliked while playing and why people can make their own picture if the game is for them or not. You’re only doomed if someone writes a review who doesn’t like your game AND is a bad writer/journalist AND/OR doesn’t have much time for playing the game and writing a proper review. That’s the real problem: getting the real person at the right time at the editorial teams……

          • Martin Ockovsky

            For the last time, I’m not elitist, I don’t consider myself to be a better “player”. You are offending me by that.

            I think you misunderstood me. Of course mainstream media can have (and most of the time actually have) reviewers for every genre. And many of them are skilled journalists. But mine taste in games is most of the time really different than theirs. I believe more in the quality of the niche sites, you can see how deep their reviews are. But I’m not saying that every game site which isn’t mainstream is good and every mainstream site is bad. Not at all.

            I just think that mainstream gamers are looking for something else in games. And I don’t say that they are worse than me or anything like that. But I concentrate on the game mechanics and it’s really important to me. For them not so much. Skyrim is kinda bad RPG but it became mainstream because of the dragons and whatnot and now most of the mainstream players consider it to be the “best game ever”.

            But this has nothing to do with what Sven said. The bottom line is that he should consider which gaming site he’ll sent review codes to.

  • Cmelda

    I remember back in the days (1998-1999 ?) that i read a review in one paper magazine (yes, no internet reviews, good old times) where the reviewer started with something like “i don’t play FPS and i don’t like that genre” and he was reviewing some open-space FPS (i think it was Unreal: Return to Napali) where he give it minus points for being open (he wrote down that he doesn’t like open spaces in FPS). I like FPS (my first was Wolfenstein 3D) and i played almost every old/newer FPS (Catacombs, Blake Stone, all Wolfenstein addons, all Build engine games,…) and when i read a modern FPS review and reviewer give it minus points for being “difficult” (Serious Sam 3 review) or being just OK (this in most cases means little marketing campaign like TV ads, city bilboards or constant hype). You could apply this behavior on all genres, e.g. RPGs and your Divinity 2: Ego Draconis (really great RPG with fantastic world and really nice graphics but with less marketing, like Dragon Age). Look on some reviews (i know you probably saw them all) and compare big marketing RPGs with less marketing RPGs (but equal in game quality). This is game journalism in its pure beauty. :)

  • rai

    imo traditional paper journalism is not the only form that you can reach out to people and second whilst traditional forms can spread the news quite broadly but how many times now woulg you instead youtube a review or quick first impressions of a game and see the gameplay shots and in game music that cannot be expressed with flowery words that might be opposite of what it sounds like to you? also which one would leave a broader impression on the public in general? written words or verbalised words plus gameplay footage? also under what pretext is a reviewer reviewing a game on, is it for money or because they have interest in that particular genre? or even, a peaked interest in a mechanic that has caught their attention, in which case they would be outside of their usual genre comfort zone. also youtube reviewers like angryjoe or totalbiscuit or jessecox etc have to put their subscribers and their word to every game they make a video impressions on with consequences of losing viewers that in turn means they did it wrong very very badly too so reviews impressions have to be very detailed researched and evidenced either by footage or by actual gameplay experience and give justifications and possible rammifications why it could happen. noone wants to ever be told great game must buy end of story unless you show people why with proof of it in action. im not trying to say ignore big company reviewers but its more about how do you get your information best everyday and what supplements do you add to each respectively. for example from one video review you look to another video review to find their consistencies and differences which you also naturally do with traditional paper magazine review unless the name of just one company makes the difference for yourself alone which will then just rely on that particular reviewer’s impressions and their field of interests.

  • Gavin

    I wonder how much of this comes down to the age of the reviewer, as well. For instance, I have heard people complain about Minecraft and how they simply “cannot get over the lame graphics” only to learn later that they were 8-10 years old when the PS2 came out.

    Let that sink in for a moment. A gamer who is 21 in 2013 – old enough to drink alcohol! – played his/her first game on the PS2.

    So now you put them in front of an “old school RPG” and… what? What do we really expect here? While some of us were playing Mario in 8-bits, their parents went on their first date. While some of us were talking to our friends at school about last night’s session of NBA Jam, they were still in diapers. While some of us were playing Starcraft multi-player on dial-up, they were learning how to count to 10. While some us were playing Divine Divinity, they were still a few years away from puberty.

    So really, what can we expect when such young gamers are put in front of a game that is far beyond their frame of reference? The big game series they remember are Halo and CoD and Mass Effect, not Wolfenstein and Baldur’s Gate and Final Fantasy. They actually do not know anything about the 2D era, and so their perspective is completely different. It is also perfectly valid. They do not like the types of games that I like, mostly because they grew up in a different era. Minecraft’s graphics really are lame compared to Halo. Fact. If Halo’s graphics represent the minimum level of fidelity required for them to enjoy a game, who am I to judge?

    But even if I do not judge them as gamers, or as people, I should still be critical about their perspective and they should be critical about mine. Young gamers do NOT want me to review Mass Effect 3 for them! And I do NOT want young gamers to review D:OS for me! Mutual respect and consideration does not require us to agree with each other. Sometimes the best way to respect people is to not force your way into every aspect of their lives.

  • Asg

    I do understand your frustration, Swen. But this is a minefield.

    I’m a reviewer, and I do not work for developers or publishers. I work for my site. I would much rather write about something that actually interests me (like rpgs) then something else, and it’s also in the interest of our site. Our articles are more interesting to our readers when we really know what we’re talking about. It’s therefore not random who gets to (p)review what. But it is not (and should not be) up to the developer or publisher to decide. Some publishers are indeed picky about who gets what. Usually by forgetting to ship copies after one of their games gets a bad review (talking about a low score on a blockbuster here, not low quality of the review). Or when they know that the hype of a game exceeds the quality of the actual product. We notice.

    If you told us that we could get a copy of your game, but only if a certain person was going to review it, we probably would not review it at all. Maybe we’d even write an article explaining why we’re not reviewing it. We can’t allow developers/publishers/whatever to dictate editorial decisions. It would compromise our integrity (and yes, integrity is actually very important for most of us).

    Swen Vincke: “And they reserve their good reporters for the articles that have advertising behind them.”

    Is this a fact? I don’t know how the big international media is handling it, but it is certainly not the case here. I’m writing for a mayor site in a small country though. Not competing against English speaking sites. But as a reviewer I don’t even know who’s paying what and when (until I see the ad on our site that is). I’m simply telling the editor what articles I’d like to write, and are assigned work based on that.

    I also believe it is of value to be seen several places. The readers are more likely to think a game might be of importance if they see the title mentioned by different media. They don’t even have to read the articles for you to get some value out of it.

    LC: “There is a simple solution to that. Don’t give press/review copies to anyone (apart from some exlusive people or example). This would have two benefits:

    1) Reviewers would have to actually buy the game if they want to make a review on it -> most people would only buy it if they think that it will be worth the effort (“natural selection”)

    2) You would also minimize the thread that your game will be available on the internet for pirating even before release…..”

    LC: This is a terrible idea. For professional websites it would not be the reviewer who buys it. It would be the site. And only if the game is actually considered to be important enough (regardless of if the game is good or bad). Add to that the fact that whoever is going to review your game now thinks you have something to hide and want to avoid press discovering that your game sucks before the launch. And people will have access to early code through the KS (including a lot of reviewers) anyways. You’re not likely to stop bad press. Either media ignores your behavior (if they don’t find your game important enough), or they’ll get a very negative impression of Larian.

    You could, maybe, send an email to the sites, and ask if they’re interested in your game. Then ask if they have any reviewers interested in old school rpgs available, so you could ship the game directly to them. I think even this is pushing it, but I’m pretty sure you’re opening a can of worms if you try to hand pick people within a site yourself.

    TC: “Erm, no. If somebody’s looking at an RPG, it’s reasonable to expect they want to know if it’s a good *RPG*, not if it’s good in terms of the criteria for a racing game or whatever and vice versa. That at the very least should be a given even for people relying on Metacritic scores.”

    TC: Yes and no. Some of the best games through history have been remarkable because they’re not following the precise recipe from previous successful games of the same genre. Half-Life, Deus Ex etc. I see a genre as an information label, not as a clearly defined set of rules. The score tells us if it is a good game. It can’t possibly be a crappy game but a good rpg. I don’t buy that. But you’re obviously better suited to write an informative and interesting article if you’re experienced with similar games.”

    I actually go to metacritics and read some of the worst reviews first. If they are well written, it usually tells me more about the game than something which sounds like it’s written by a fanboy. I’ve also bought games after viewing Zero Punctuation. Go figure.

    I’m actually quite into racing games as well, btw. ;)

    • LC

      Yeah, I see your point. Larian will probably be blamed for being selective. Reviewers who won’t get a copy will call it an intervention in their journalistic freedom and they would be right. Game developers depend on reviews, at least to a certain extend and they cannot avoid the risk of getting unfair and just bad written reviews completely.

      So what to do if the decision to offer less review copies is a too high risk of getting even worse publicity than by bad reviews? How about the complete opposite? Don’t offer review copies just to the big sites and magazines but offer them to them and on top of that to as many RPG sites and “serious” youtube people as possible. With a strategy like that the mass media couldn’t complain about “unfair” treatment but you would probably rise the average score of reviews just by increasing the number of them. And as a nice side effect you would also increase the awareness of your games. There is the possibility that a major site will give D:OS or DC a bad or unfair review but the effect would be much less critical if at the same time many other sites and even some famous youtube guys state the complete opposite. One bad reviews is almost a catastrophy if there are only three other reviews. But one bad review is just a bad review if there are 20 reviews in total…….