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Can Game Previews Be Trusted?
April 30th 2002, 08:58 CEST by Rodzilla

I was looking through the 3DAP forums today(crazy me ;) and came upon an interesting thread.  Apparently, Gamespy recieved a copy of the leaked Unreal II E3 demo and wrote up a preview on it.  Now, the author had no idea it was a leaked build, and was tricked into believing it came from Legend, so I'm not blaming them for anything relating to that.  However, not only is the article still up after supposedly being yanked, but the author apparently made things up...

One of the things commented on is the AI for different species:

The AI subroutines for different species can be clearly seen in the game, and Iím 100% sure that any arachnophobes playing this game will be crawling up the walls in sheer fright when they come up against the Araknids during the game. The Araknids attack in swarms, with the smallest being able to be dispatched with little stress, while the bigger ones will act and think more intelligently than you could possibly fathom in a computer game.


Not only was AI missing from the E3 build, but as far as I know, there weren't any characters besides Aida in the hallway.  In addition to this, some references are made to monsters and levels that weren't included in the E3 build.

So was he making stuff up or merely going on previously published information?  If things were made up, how much can we actually believe in previews?  Can we even believe that anything in a preview is true at all, or is it possible to make up an entire preview using facts mixed with speculation mixed with fiction, and a few screenshots thrown in for good measure?  Is this just a Gamespy issue, or could it be happening elsewhere as well?
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#1 by Neale
2002-04-30 09:16:14
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
Frist!

Eradicators! - www.eradicators.co.uk
#2 by Squeaky
2002-04-30 09:21:53
second!
#3 by KookieMonsta
2002-04-30 09:37:45
Third!?
#4 by Kayin
2002-04-30 09:57:19
evilshinji@tokyo-3.com http://www.livejournal.com/users/doubleyoumouf
more importantly, can reviews on the teevee machine be trusted? OMG G4 GAMER'S TV HOT HOT*



*hotness not included.

i like mudpuddles.
#5 by m0nty
2002-04-30 10:00:06
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Ah good, another GSI-bashing thread. About time we had another one of these.

/me heats up some popcorn and cracks open a brew.
#6 by Kayin
2002-04-30 10:05:15
evilshinji@tokyo-3.com http://www.livejournal.com/users/doubleyoumouf
i hate previews. they completely and utterly rape all feeling of getting something new upon happy purchase day. upon seeing a small ad for tales of destiny 2 for ps one, i media blocked myself from any further infection, and the release day was a joyus one indeed. one of the best 2d / 3d rpg's to come along in a long time. bravo, namco, bravo.

secondly, most previews are 90% cock tease hype, 2% content, and 7% crocodile shit. the other 1% are collectable fanboy cards.

i like mudpuddles.
#7 by Kayin
2002-04-30 10:06:40
evilshinji@tokyo-3.com http://www.livejournal.com/users/doubleyoumouf
is. IS. IS. my god, i suck at the english.

i like mudpuddles.
#8 by mixuk
2002-04-30 10:18:41
I suck at it too.

Anysay, this phenomenon has been seen for years on print magazines too. Most of the previews by (for instance) UK PC Gaming mags are BS. I haven't trusted those for years. Actually I nowadays don't really read previews either. Like Kayin, I want to have my games fresh and I don't even want to see that hype-bullshit they are writing.
#9 by crash
2002-04-30 11:18:55
from the topic:

Now, the author had no idea it was a leaked build, and was tricked into believing it came from Legend, so I'm not blaming them for anything relating to that.

amazing. all of infogrames' pr phones and emails down at the same time? at the very same time they couldn't get in touch with anyone from legend? what are the odds of this thing not only falling into their hands... but the odds of them being completely incapable of getting in touch with one single person that might be able to verify it? the mind simply boggles.

"No, really, the real pros in this industry don't even bother talking to the company that's making the game to get previewable code! Who's got the time?! I've got a deadline, mister!"

what i'd honestly like to know--not that i ever will, of course--is if it even occurred to anyone over there to try and verify this.

just... weary.
#10 by "flamethrower"
2002-04-30 11:25:19
emergency url for crash
#11 by deadlock
2002-04-30 12:10:15
http://www.deadlocked.org/
mixuk:

Have you ever read Edge ? I've gotten a few issues now and their reviews seem fair enough, as do their previews. they don't seem to just say 'this game is gonna rok!', they actually point out areas in which the preview code seems lacking, or things that the developers may need to work on.

anyone else read Edge ? How reliable are they ?

Jafd! Warren! Stop bickering or I'll be forced to change your opinions manually!
#12 by Durzel
2002-04-30 12:16:52
durzel@barrysworld.com http://www.superficial.net
I've seen and "played" the leaked E3 build and there is nothing to it, certainly nothing that really merits a preview.  It's barely more than a nice looking PC demo.

Having said that it doesn't surprise me that gaming mags et al forgo the trivial matter of factual data when there is the vaguest possibility of getting one over on its competitors.  The less scrupulous magazines (both online and offline) have been doing it for years.
#13 by "Anonymous"
2002-04-30 12:46:44
The E3 demo did have a Skarjj (sp?) in it. All he would do was run away though.

More interesting though is how a Master Of Orion 3 alpha was put onto the cover disk of Australian Pc Powerplay.  Im more than shocked that m0nty didn't cover this on BigKid.

http://moo3.quicksilver.com/official/news041602.html

Arach
#14 by Ashiran
2002-04-30 13:18:25
Previews should be banned. I never EVER saw a preview that actually was correct and well informed without screaming 'hype!' from every line.

And the the little piece about made up AI. Previews and reviews have been doing that for as long as I can remember. With each new game the AI is claimed to do wonderous things and be smarter and better and that is never true. No, not even for Black & White.

Which makes me wonder why anyone would want to subscribe to the Gamespot Complete idea.
Previews I don't want. Interesting newsbits are nice but seeing the huge size of the gamingscene I probably will be interested in 5% of all that news. And reviews you can find everywhere for free.

It sounds like a gaming mag to me. And gaming mags are usually crap.

I don't care if you have a big penis, it doesn't mean you can eat all the biscuits!
#15 by InsideWhat'sLeft Behind
2002-04-30 13:36:58
I'm more upset with reviews in their present sorry state.

"This game is nothing new, it's unoriginal and it more or less sucks, I give it 72%!!!"

Why do all reviewers' grading scales start at 50-65 and not 0? A 6/10 (60/100 or equal) game would, IMO, be a decent game, easily playable. Seriously, how many reviews with a score below 60% do you see out there?

"It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquistion of a student who would be a fine pianist." - Sergei Rachmaninov
#16 by ADoomedMarine
2002-04-30 13:41:35
http://www.planetmaxpayne.com/
I never trust previews as more then likely the things you read about are changed in the final versions so you get hyped up over nothing.

Although you do get to read up about the awesome things that could be in a game.
#17 by ADoomedMarine
2002-04-30 13:49:01
http://www.planetmaxpayne.com/
#15

Because Reviews have always been based off a higher percentage scale then normal things.  In School 60% would be alright but that is below average in a game review.

70% - 80% is classified as average and 80% - 90% is classified as pretty damn good.  A game rating 90% - 100% would mean it is pretty extraordinary.

I have seem some reviews score in the 20% marks at several gaming review sites but that is rare.

I think the reason for this is because having a too wide range scale would mean it would be harder to rate a game so they end up tending to be bunched around the 60% - 100% mark.

Except when these use x/10 scale where it's a much smaller range and it's easier to rate games like that.
#18 by Matt Perkins
2002-04-30 14:13:54
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Here's how it works for me...

I read previews on games I'm interested in or have been told might be interesting...  I read one or two...  then I quit reading them. (it's been a long time since I've read a Warcraft III preview now, even though I can't wait for the game)

I think along with everything else, they have their place.  I just wish those who preview would be more honest about the games at the time.  Don't make it all happy happy just because the developers say such and such features will be in it.  (like reviews/previews about dungeon siege that said the great user community it has and all the mods out for it...when the tools aren't even released)

The next LP quote is mine, dammit!
#19 by LPMiller
2002-04-30 14:24:38
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
The next LP quote is mine, dammit!


Shit wizard, I can't work under pressure like that. I'm just a fad anyway. I'm like pet rocks!

Will warez for food.
#20 by LPMiller
2002-04-30 14:24:55
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
And if you use that in a quote, I'll have you killed.

Will warez for food.
#21 by "Fallon"
2002-04-30 14:31:23
noneof@yourbusiness.org http://comingsoon
Previews cannot judge a game like some of you want - that is what reviews are theoretically for.

Previews are therefore a waste of time - they look at incomplete code, refuse to make bad judgements, and embellish the truth. It is unfair for a preview to work correctly - judge a game - as it's unfair and will end up being inaccurate.

No previews for me, sir. Not today.

Fallon
#22 by Bailey
2002-04-30 14:32:39
Hrm...

Anyway, game previews are great for the kids and all, but all I need for a preview is screenshots to show me the game is pretty, and a demo to show me the game is worth looking at twice. Reviews are fine, (in theory if not in practice) but shelve the previews. I really don't need some first year journalism school dropout whose gaming resume goes back all the way to Quake gushing over how the newest FPS clone is going to be "the bestest game ever!" or what have you.

If you use that in a quote, I'll have you killed. - LPMiller
#23 by piramida
2002-04-30 14:35:44
<andy mode>GSI = fagot! Warez monkeys strike again. Totally unbelievable excuse for basing a review on a warezed copy. Kill kill kill</andy mode>

No, really.

signatures are stupid.
#24 by Buster Brown
2002-04-30 14:42:00
ted_kennedy@drunkenbastards.com http://www.hollandrules.com
In a perfect world, all previews would come with free wooden shoes!

My Camera is packed with Gummi Bears!
#25 by Hugin
2002-04-30 14:47:33
lmccain@nber.org
/me weeps for his topic..
#26 by Matt Perkins
2002-04-30 14:59:50
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
#21 by "Fallon"
I'm not asking for them to entirely accurate, but a lot of late in the game previews are done on mostly finished builds of the game.  They can start to give impressions of how the game play is, how things feel, whether it's going to be fun or not.  Not just screenshots and hype.

"And if you use that in a quote, I'll have you killed." - LP Miller
#27 by MCorleone
2002-04-30 15:01:09
I agree that there is a problem with the shift in review ranges.  Yes, I have rarely seen a shitty review, as in, sub-50% for a long time.  I seem to find the ones that do get those scores are always the really shitty budget titles, and then they only seem like obligatory shit reviews.  Almost like they have a quota to fill like a medical exam:  "Okay, in this month's reviews we'll have 12 A's, 8B's, 6C's and the rest of them will get D's and F's" and they shoe-horn the games into whatever block they have left to fill.  

What I have found, however, with the shifting review ranges, is that my acceptance level has shifted with it.  For instance, I will heavily scrutinize a game that got a review in the 60's, and I won't even look at a game < 60.  I mean, with so much bullshit in game reviews these days for a game to actually GET a < 60 review it really has to be ass.

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#28 by MCorleone
2002-04-30 15:13:41
I just read something in that forum that was linked from the topic:

The author of the preview said

Make your own mind up, but that's the CD I received. I haven't tried the leaked alpha (I didn't know there was one until I read this! hehe), so I can't compare the two.


Okay.  That cements it.  He absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt reviewed the leaked alpha and knew about it.  You expect us to believe that someone who works for a gaming site, who reviews upcoming games, didn't know about the leaked alpha?   To quote Ace Rothstein from Casino, "If you didn't know you were being set-up on the second win then you're too stupid to work here, if you did know then you were in on it.  Either way, you're OUT!"

Distancing himself, "hehe", beyond the realm of logical possibility proves his guilt.

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#29 by Durzel
2002-04-30 15:17:02
durzel@barrysworld.com http://www.superficial.net
i hate previews. they completely and utterly rape all feeling of getting something new upon happy purchase day.

An an aside, I totally agree with this point of view.  Back when I was waiting for WWF Smackdown: JBI (don't laugh) to come out on the PS2 I followed all of Gamespot's buildup religiously.  About a week before I bought the game I had started to lose all enthusiasm for getting it, mainly because by then I had been told everything there was to know about the game - what happens when you reverse arm drag Undertaker whilst wearing blue trunks on a Thursday.

It seems reviewers nowadays have no qualms about revealing every single nuance of a game if it demonstrates to others that they have a "full build" of the game, or suchlike.  Gone is the mystery in game previews.. :(
#30 by jafd
2002-04-30 15:18:50
In School 60% would be alright

...


I don't read previews. Well, perhaps, -one-; usually right after playing a demo and right before buying a game.

However, I'm clearly not an important member of society. Feel free to ignore me.

This is no time for a slow PC!
#31 by MCorleone
2002-04-30 15:20:19
Jung And Freud Do...

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#32 by Arach
2002-04-30 15:22:05
http://www.ng-gamers.com/
"with so much bullshit in game reviews these days for a game to actually GET a < 60 review it really has to be ass."


What pisses me off that a 60% game should translate into "Only slightly above average". We only see sub 40% reviews for games that are crimes against humanity.

Oh. Previews come across as mindless hype I assume because Mr Gaming Media really can't be critical about a game in Alpha/Beta. Which means we get crap that just reads like it's straight from marketing. A preview should only answer two questions. "What is this game?" and "Why should I give a rat's ass?".
#33 by Durzel
2002-04-30 15:23:46
durzel@barrysworld.com http://www.superficial.net
I mean, with so much bullshit in game reviews these days for a game to actually GET a < 60 review it really has to be ass.

Either that or the publishers haven't lavished enough exclusive material on the reviewers.

Can anyone remember when Funcom blew their top when - horror of horrors - reviewers gave Anarchy Online dismal scores? (kinda hard not to given its horrendous state back then).  And then, if I recall correctly, Funcom started telling reviewers that they could only review the game if they were prepared to say good stuff about it.  Ok, so thats paraphrased pretty badly - but that was the gist.
#34 by MCorleone
2002-04-30 15:34:08
Uh oh, I seem to recall George B saying long ago, in a previous incarnation of PC, that reviewers would not have the ability to take their own screenshots or say negative things about Duke when it comes out.  Flamey got into a big argument with him and I don't recall how it turned out.  George, at the time, said that 3dR would be issuing their own "press pack" of approved screenshots to use in reviews.  Obviously we'll have to wait and see if they're still sticking to that plan...

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#35 by Funkdrunk
2002-04-30 15:43:28
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
MCorleone

That was the whole incident that made us run Andy off.

It was Scott and Andy, and Scott said he was thinking of going that route, but hadn't decided at that point.  Andy paraphrased Scott, and wrote a register article about it.  And hung his head in shame and slinked off.

Funk
#36 by Duality
2002-04-30 15:44:17
Dualipuff@yahoo.com http://stratoscape.ath.cx/
jafd:
I'm glad I wasn't the only one wierded out by that statement.  IIRC (its been years since I've gotten a score that low :P) 60% was failing.  How that can be alright ... *shrug*

lpm is the new pet rocks.
#37 by Funkdrunk
2002-04-30 15:52:27
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
MCorleone

I made a mistake.  It was George and Andy.

I found the I'm right, you're all wrong thread Andy started after everyone pointed out what he did was wrong.

Funk.
#38 by MCorleone
2002-04-30 16:05:12
Ah yes, Funk.  Andy rather than Flamey.  Both of those actors used to be transferrable in the same role.  

Thanks for the link.  That should burn some reading time :)

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#39 by InsideWhat'sLeft Behind
2002-04-30 16:14:23
#17, yeah I know that's how it is, and sort of why, but it still doesn't make it right. I want to be a world dictator...

"It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquistion of a student who would be a fine pianist." - Sergei Rachmaninov
#40 by Ed
2002-04-30 16:21:33
coj@funkatron.com http://www.funkatron.com

What pisses me off that a 60% game should translate into "Only slightly above average". We only see sub 40% reviews for games that are crimes against humanity.


From back when I did a little bit of freelance writing for a couple game magazines (this was 1992-1994), I had the impression that the percentage scores were generally in line with academic scoring.  So a 60% would be equivalent to the F you got on that book report you wrote about Prima's Earthworm Jim strategy guide.
#41 by Funkdrunk
2002-04-30 16:28:33
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
MCorleone

Not a problem guy.  In fact I found the first post linking to the register article.

I guess I'm bored here at work today.

Funk.
#42 by MCorleone
2002-04-30 16:37:05
Heheh - Maverick in 347...  Thank God I have nothing to do this morning :)

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#43 by MCorleone
2002-04-30 16:37:53
Oh how quaint, that Register link still works...

Build a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of the night.  Light a man on fire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life.
#44 by Whisp
2002-04-30 16:59:13
#43 MCorleone
Keep in mind also that the original Register article didn't include the context of George's remarks.  It was quickly changed, but the first edition represented the comments as being official announcements from the company, when really they were just him discussing his thoughts.  I think there were other "corrections" as well, but at this point I don't remember any more.  

I really think Andy did a lot of damage to PC's relationship with dev's that day - what he did meant they had to start watching what they said here the same as anywhere else.  Maybe they should have been already, but I think they used to be a lot more open. Maybe it's just the nostalgia talking though.

-Whisp
#45 by steve
2002-04-30 17:25:37
www.manic-pop-thrills.com
There's nothing inherently wrong with previews, but there is a lot wrong with how they're written. Most of the people doing them aren't "lying," per se, they just don't think of how they should be writing things.

For example, unless you specifically see a feature, you should never describe it as if it exists, or offer any evaluation. So if a build of a game you're seeing has no AI, you can say, "Though not demonstrated, the developer says the AI will mimic real human behavior perfectly through its patented neural net technology." Unfortunately, most previews say things like, "The AI will rock! It's totally realistic! They people act like people!" And most gamers find those kinds of articles more interesting, because they want to be excited by upcoming games, not depressed.

What you do in a preview is report what you see, and report what they developers hope to achieve. That's about it. Keep it neutral, let them hype the game if they want, and the article is fine.

Of course gamers get more excited by "Oh my god, this game is AWESOME!!!" but whatcha gonna do?

And most previews aren't done from actual code. They're written from screenshots, sell sheets, and interviews. Which makes evaluation even more pointless. When that's all you have, you write reports. "Here's the game, here's what they plan on doing (levels, etc.), here's a few screens. End of story."

I don't believe you should criticize games in previews as you're essentially "reviewing" incomplete software. However, I think skepticism is fine, though you should offer the developer a chance to respond because, again, this isn't a complete product. In the AI example above, you might follow up the comment about the AI with, "Though many games have touted this advanced type of AI before and come up short, programmer Scott Miller says, 'I can give you a list of books that demonstrate my techniques. We just do it better than everyone else.'"

People that want criticism in previews often are opposed to reviews of "beta" software, so how is it different?

My life is a patio of fun.
#46 by Scott Miller
2002-04-30 17:28:27
scottmi11er@hotmail.com
George, at the time, said that 3dR would be issuing their own "press pack" of approved screenshots to use in reviews.  Obviously we'll have to wait and see if they're still sticking to that plan...

We did this very thing with Max Payne.  We only released a limited number of screen shots.  We're doing and will do the same plan with DNF.

Now then, once the game is released, anyone can take screen shots and post them.

So, looking back, do we all see how the idiots completely over-reacted on the bogus story of "3DR will control the press."  It was good for a laugh, though.

"A game should not be judged only on its appearance. It should be played before drawing conclusions." - Miyamoto
#47 by Matt Perkins
2002-04-30 17:31:37
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
steve:
You hit it on the mark, what I was trying to say.  Don't review the early copy of the game, but don't hype it either...  use that same jaded feeling (not the full jaded theory, but the idea that most games that come out aren't huge successes) most gamers have and keep the game in perspective.  Give us, the reader, and idea of what the game is really starting to feel like...

I think the more you can get developer comments in the preview, the better...  If a feature isn't in there or isn't working as they say, ask why, give us reasons, so on...

The overall lack of anything sounding like truth is what kills me in previews...  be honest, the rest will follow.

"And if you use that in a quote, I'll have you killed." - LP Miller
#48 by Neale
2002-04-30 17:31:58
neale@pimurho.co.uk www.pimurho.co.uk
You mean 3D Realms aren't the new nazis?

Eradicators! - www.eradicators.co.uk
#49 by Bailey
2002-04-30 17:35:34
They were rumored to be the old nazis, but that seems to be the extent of it.

Now I'm obligated to interrupt my leisurely afternoon and get into a street fight.
#50 by Greg
2002-04-30 17:38:42
The topic: Can Game Previews Be Trusted?

The answer: NO!

EOD!

Greg

-Swallow it all and be glad, for a shilling I've paid and a shilling's worth I'll be having!
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