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Low Score? Low Paycheck.
May 25th 2004, 22:07 CEST by Caryn

According to this article, Jason Hall wants to base a publisher's pay on the review scores for a licensed game.

Here's a snip:

Hall's strategy now is to turn to game review Web sites -- such as GameRankings.com, Metacritic.com, and GameStats.com -- that aggregate scores given to games by critics at game sites and magazines. Games based on Warner Bros. licenses must achieve at least a 70% rating, or incur an increase in royalty rates.

"An escalating royalty rate kicks in to help compensate us for the brand damage that's taking place," says Hall. "The further away from 70% it gets, the more expensive the royalty rate becomes. So, frankly, if the publisher delivers on what they promised -- to produce a great game -- it's not even an issue."


This is interesting because it's not a model (at least that I'm aware of) that's being used elsewhere at all in the entertainment industry. As the article starts off saying, Hollywood doesn't currently pay its talent according to how many thumbs up the movies get.

So will it work? Will Hall's proclamation ensure quality games made with Warner Bros.' licensed properties? Do the developers on the board think this will work, and is it a model that could be extended outside of a licensed brand?
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#1 by Bailey
2004-05-25 22:09:09
Buh?!

Saving Throw vs Humanity
#2 by Jens Christensen
2004-05-25 22:13:16
thug666@e-mail.dk
Bah!

That's a big trunk. It fits a tuba, a suitcase, a dead dog, and a garment bag almost perfectly.
#3 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 22:14:26
Great idea.  Don't know if it will work in practice or not, but it is certainly worth trying.

I don't see how it would work outside of licensed games, because unless there is an IP owner involved other than the publisher where would the adjustable income come from?

I guess it could be put in place in the publisher<->developer relationship, but publishers have already proven that they'd rather ship highly marketed shit fast than create a quality game.

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#4 by Chunkstyle
2004-05-25 22:17:51
I predict a massive video game payola scandal.  Which will be good for those here who are game reviewers.

Game Developers: Don't forget the zombie monkeys.
#5 by Caryn
2004-05-25 22:17:54
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
So I realized I didn't really post any personal thoughts on Hall's idea in the topic. I shall remedy that forthwith and forsooth, and whatnot.

I have mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, I think it's good that someone is trying to hold publishers accountable for the quality of a game so that they're not just relying on the brand-name power of the license to carry it through to numerous sales.

On the other hand, it seems like its passing the buck. I have been a game reviewer, and now I work for a publisher, so I feel that I have a taste of both worlds. And I think that using game reviewers' scores is putting the responsibility of ensuring a quality licensed game on a group of people that can be (note that I'm not making a blanket statement that game reviewers are all this way) fickle and all over the place in their reviews. Why can't Warner Bros. just have an internal board of people that look at the game and say, "yeah, this is up to our standards of quality." Do they not do this with their licensed properties already? And if not, why not?

On the third hand, I can see the desire to use a group of gamers outside of the publisher/developer system who are experienced at looking critically at games to give an objective view of the game's quality.

There are more problems, I think, with the system that Hall is proposing than good points. Mostly, though, I get the sense that it's passing the buck. Do this sort of thing internally if you're licensing your entertainment properties for games. Isn't that really what he was hired to do?

"See, Canadians believe Jesus walked on water. We just figure it was winter when he did." - Squeaky
#6 by Charles
2004-05-25 22:22:59
www.bluh.org
I think the system is interesting and has potential.  Of course, it won't help the game industry as a whole... but it would be interesting if some licensed games ended up being quality.  

However, I don't see it as being good in the long term.  People get tired of the same old games, so eventually formula games for movie licenses are going to get lower scores... which will force some level of attempt at innovation or change, which as we all know is a dangerous proposition at the best of times.  It could very well have the opposite effect of making sure publishers don't try and use licenses, as opposed to insuring quality games.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#7 by Dumdeedum
2004-05-25 22:29:12
http://www.dumdeedum.com
YF
Great idea.  Don't know if it will work in practice or not, but it is certainly worth trying.

A great idea?  And there was me thinking it was an awful idea, doing what essentially amounts to fining developers for making crappy games won't work.  He might have more success rewarding devs for producing games that review well, ie. carrot rather than stick, but in the end it's still based on review scores which can be bought as easily as your mom.

Anyway spin-offs to other mediums always suck whatever you do because the motive is purely money.

#8 by Ergo
2004-05-25 22:31:15
I agree with Chunk. A situation like this would lead to massive amounts of payola-style corruption.

Machina improba! Vel mihi ede potum vel mihi redde nummos meos!
DVDs
#9 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 22:34:14

Anyway spin-offs to other mediums always suck whatever you do because the motive is purely money.


This is wrong on two counts.  Firstly, because there are examples of licensed games that are actually quite good -- even great in a few cases.  And secondly, because the motive is probably purely money even in the original medium.  I mean, god forbid someone should take a labor-of-love piece of art like *cough* Van Helsing *cough* and ruin its good name with a poor videogame...

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#10 by Charles
2004-05-25 22:34:30
www.bluh.org
A great idea?  And there was me thinking it was an awful idea, doing what essentially amounts to fining developers for making crappy games won't work.  He might have more success rewarding devs for producing games that review well, ie. carrot rather than stick, but in the end it's still based on review scores which can be bought as easily as your mom.

Anyway spin-offs to other mediums always suck whatever you do because the motive is purely money.


I think there is a carrot there.  Publishers who allow games to be quality instead of shoving them out the door will be rewarded with greater chances to use licenses, and there will be more competition between publishers to create better games, in order to score the licenses.  There's already a lot of money to be had, even with a licensed game that is crap.  When the money starts rolling in because licensed games are better... well, there's a lot of room for growth there.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#11 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 22:37:17
I'd be a fucking millionaire.

#12 by Greg
2004-05-25 22:53:59
I don't think Hall's idea is a bad one. Maybe his decision to put it in the hands of reviewers is suspect, but the notion that publishers should be accountable for allowing a crappy product to reach store shelves is something worth pursuing. Right now, a crappy product can completely destroy a developer, even when the cause of that crappy product wasn't the developer's but the publishers.

In the end, it seems like he just wants quality, and this is one way to try to have companies take a step back and look for quality over the quick money.

-DKI(ID
#13 by Caryn
2004-05-25 22:59:58
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
#12 Greg
In the end, it seems like he just wants quality, and this is one way to try to have companies take a step back and look for quality over the quick money.

Sure, but why put the judgement in the hands of game reviewers? If a company like WB is licensing its properties out to be made into games, then wouldn't they naturally want to be tightly involved in the process in order to protect the value of their brand? And since I'm assuming they would, wouldn't they ultimately be the best arbitors of the quality of the game and whether or not it meets their expectations? It just seems odd to me that Hall is essentially saying that WB is either unwilling or incapable of making that call themselves and wants game reviewers to be the ones to make such a critical call.

"See, Canadians believe Jesus walked on water. We just figure it was winter when he did." - Squeaky
#14 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 23:01:53
I think Hall is stating movie companies want to push out a game and make the shelf the same day the movie is released to capitalize on impulse purchases before

A. People realize the movie really sucks
B. The game based on teh sucky movie, is even suckier than the movie, and it has Pauly Shore doing voice over work.
C. We all lose.

or soemthing liek that.


Vote Beldar/Primat 2004

#15 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 23:08:21
I think you may be giving the movie dudes too much credit, Caryn.

For example, witness "Enter the Matrix", which by all accounts was created with copious amounts of input from the Wachowski brothers(??) and was fully approved for release by them.  They might know how to make good movies, but does that always translate into knowing whether a game is good or not?

One could argue that is the sort of thing they hired Jason Hall for -- to make those calls -- but then we get back to what Bailey said in post #825 of "The Story Thus Far...".

(For the lazy:

If Jason Hall were to be paid by the scores received on Monolith games, he'd have bankrupted thrice over by now.

)

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#16 by Chunkstyle
2004-05-25 23:11:27
Hall is probably also depressed by the fact that Monolith games are not big sellers, so no bonuses for him, while crap that does sell (Enter the Matrix) gets the phat cash.

Game Developers: Don't forget the zombie monkeys.
#17 by Caryn
2004-05-25 23:12:06
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
Yes, he's saying that. I understand what Hall is saying: publishers rely on the brand power of a license to carry the weight in sales, and thus often cut corners on quality. That's really not the issue.

The issue is that he's saying that he's going to use the opinions listed at GameRankings.com to determine what to pay the publisher who licensed their property after the game has been released and reviewed. This seems backward to me. If Hall is so concerned about the quality of their licensed products, then why isn't he instead forming an internal review team that oversees development of their licensed products and gives a thumbs-up to finish production on them if they meet spec? And if he's doing that already, then why would you have low scores on a game they oversaw and then place the blame on the publisher? Again, it seems like passing the buck.

"See, Canadians believe Jesus walked on water. We just figure it was winter when he did." - Squeaky
#18 by Charles
2004-05-25 23:12:12
www.bluh.org
I would elaborate on YF's point by saying that perhaps the movie studios are at least smart enough to know that they don't know about making games, and are more willing to leave the process in the hands of people who know.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#19 by Jibble
2004-05-25 23:12:37
Wait a minute...that's no Hulka...the signal's coming from Indiana!

Fetch this space frisbee, human.  Fetch it, and gaze upon your ruined world!
Crapsifter v0.2 beta
#20 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 23:13:44
Where do you think I live Jibble?

#21 by Charles
2004-05-25 23:14:03
www.bluh.org
And also, one man in charge of a project isn't necessarily able to guarantee that a title is fun to anyone but himself.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#22 by Caryn
2004-05-25 23:14:33
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
#15 Your Friend
For example, witness "Enter the Matrix", which by all accounts was created with copious amounts of input from the Wachowski brothers(??) and was fully approved for release by them.  They might know how to make good movies, but does that always translate into knowing whether a game is good or not?

Maybe not, but they did hire Jason Hall specifically to head up an internal portion of their company dedicated to games made out of their licensed properties. I'm assuming Hall would then hire qualified people from the gaming industry to work in this division. So shouldn't this division be capable of, and expected to, ensure the quality of licensed games before they get released rather than using post-release scores to punish publishers/developers after the fact?

"See, Canadians believe Jesus walked on water. We just figure it was winter when he did." - Squeaky
#23 by Your Friend
2004-05-25 23:14:35
I find GameRankings.com to be fairly accurate, just like I find RottenTomatoes.com to be fairly accurate.  So why not use it in this capacity?

While I agree that individual reviewers of both games and movies may have a high likelyhood of being annoying twats, the consensus they form is generally accurate.

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#24 by Gabe
2004-05-25 23:18:26
http://www.dartpublishing.com
the consensus they form is generally accurate

Right.
#25 by Sgt Hulka
2004-05-25 23:19:23
LOL

#26 by TheTrunkDr.
2004-05-25 23:20:43
And also, one man in charge of a project isn't necessarily able to guarantee that a title is fun to anyone but himself.

While I agree with that statement, the fact is that that system has worked quite well for movies for years now. Perhaps studios should hire Directors for their games.

I kid cause I care.
#27 by Chunkstyle
2004-05-25 23:22:21
Like Peter Molyneux?

Game Developers: Don't forget the zombie monkeys.
#28 by Thrrrpptt!
2004-05-25 23:26:37
http://www.jmadigan.net
I can see why people think this is a good idea at first blush. People in my line of work do something similar all the time to measure job performance (at either the individual or department/team level): 360-degree feedback. The idea is you get not only performance feedback from your boss, but also from peers and people outside your organization, like vendors and customers. The similar idea here is that a dev team's performance is determined in party by ratings from a subset of their customers.

It's a good system when done well. The problem, though, is that when you do this kind of thing you usually standardize your measurements so that everyone is using the same tools to make the same measurements against the same standards. Game reviewers are haphazard in comparison. They use different criteria, different scales (e.g., 100% vs. 5-star system), different standards, different weightings for various features, and different approaches. They aren't standardized or consistent, so by definition they are bad measurements when used for a purpose like this.

A much better approach to the same end would be for a publisher to develop their own game rating system and ask a sample of game reviewers to complete them, anonymously, independent of the reviews that appear on/in their websites/magazines.

Thrrrpptt!
blog
#29 by Charles
2004-05-25 23:41:38
www.bluh.org
This part of the Hook article is the golden truth:

Ideally all scheduling and budgeting is also done at this time, but as a rule this tends to be a clusterfuck of epic proportions where the final cost and timeline will look nothing like what people expect. It is accepted, and even expected, that a game's development process will be unpredictable, which hurts both parties -- the publisher is comfortable asking for features and changes at almost any time, thinking "it's just software" and assuming that any impact on the schedule will be minimal.  A movie studio would rarely introduce a key new character half way through principal photography, yet the equivalent happens nearly almost all the time in games.  This fluidity also acts as a crutch for the developer: when the game starts to slip, they will often rationalize that this is expected, and thus will give extremely optimistic (or blatantly false) projections to the publisher in an effort to secure the deal, and then will summarily ignore the terms they promised, on the assumption that the publishers are locked in at that point.


"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#30 by Charles
2004-05-25 23:42:32
www.bluh.org
While I agree with that statement, the fact is that that system has worked quite well for movies for years now. Perhaps studios should hire Directors for their games.


I wasn't arguing that that shouldn't happen, I'm just saying that objectively, the person in charge can't really decide whether or not something is good.  It is usually going to be good to him, even if no one else cares.

A dictator is necessary for efficiency, at the very least.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#31 by Charles
2004-05-25 23:43:49
www.bluh.org
A much better approach to the same end would be for a publisher to develop their own game rating system and ask a sample of game reviewers to complete them, anonymously, independent of the reviews that appear on/in their websites/magazines.


That would be a great system.  In fact, someone should start up a website which compiles game rankings based on exactly that system.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#32 by Matthew Gallant
2004-05-25 23:55:35
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
If I was a developer, I would be livid about someone putting my paycheck in the hands of a consensus of videogame critics. That's just horrible. I'd rather have an array of royalty rates laid out in a field and have it decided by cow plop bingo.

"All I've ever wanted to be is a monkey of moderate intelligence that wears a suit. That's why I'm transferring to business school!"
#33 by Charles
2004-05-26 00:03:37
www.bluh.org
But we aren't talking about the Developer/Publisher relationship, we are talking about the Publisher/License owner relationship.

"I'm not asking for much; just a job that meets the minimum legal requirements set forth by my country."
#34 by Matthew Gallant
2004-05-26 00:06:31
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
It filters down.

"All I've ever wanted to be is a monkey of moderate intelligence that wears a suit. That's why I'm transferring to business school!"
#35 by hangedmanAG
2004-05-26 00:06:47
www.livejournal.com/users/hangedman_ag/
In theory, I don't care for this idea.  In reality, I fucking hate it.  Movies studios are notorious for screwing people out of royalties.  Writers, directors and liscence holders have to regularly sue studios for royalty checks.  Studios will crow that a movie is a big blockbuster and made hundreds of millions of dollars one minute and then get on the stand and say, with a straight face, that there are no royalties because the film made no profit.  In my view, a studio can't be trusted with a grey area such as what Hall is purporting.

Throw in the fact that most studios are part or head of large media conglomerates that own magazines that may review their games.  Plus, they could set up shadow reviewers to affect a score one way or the other.  Also, throw in that many wonderful games do poorly and terrible games do well and blah, blah, blah.

Terrible idea

S'right
#36 by Your Friend
2004-05-26 00:23:20
You may think it is a good idea to attack Jason Hall's idea, but you'll be sorry later when Jason Hall comes to your house and beats the living shit out of you.

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#37 by Shadarr
2004-05-26 00:24:10
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
I still can't get over the fact that Jason Hall is the one taking the industry to task over crappy games.
#38 by Your Friend
2004-05-26 00:25:54
You're gonna get a double helping of ass whooping, Shadarr.

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#39 by Squeaky
2004-05-26 00:26:58
Teh KiNG of TEh MONsTarS!!21 is gonna unleash the fucking fury on the game industry!

I just found me a bottle of blues
some strange comfort for a soul to soothe
dvds
#40 by Shadarr
2004-05-26 00:33:54
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
Perhaps Paramount will hire Derek Smart to oversee licensed game quality and improve media relations.
#41 by Dethstryk
2004-05-26 01:39:33
jemartin@tcainternet.com
I'd love to base my paycheck on a bunch of fat nerds living in their mother's basement, writing reviews for their super cool gaming journalism website.

"hey look at me, i'm DJ Dethstryk, The Square Who Is Not Cool™!  i've never heard of Fringe Band X or Scratch DJ Y!  haw haw haw!"
#42 by EvilAsh
2004-05-26 01:45:26
evilash@eviladam.com www.eviladam.com
I think it's a stupid idea. Seriously.. How many movies have come out with low critical fan fare.. But have been blockbusters anyway or have been very profitable. How many consumers REAlly really worry what a critic says? There are some games that folks will buy sight unscene. And the game will still make a ton of money. License properties are probably one of the worst type of  games development to get involved in. Because it depends on who is going to give the ok and it depends on how much flexibility is given to the development house. I mean how good would have Lord of  the Rings have been if the Tolkien license was far more restrictive? I mean was anyone here seriously going to watch Lord of the Rings based on reviews?

Fans will get a game no matter what. if the game gets good buzz from those fans the game will sell on its own without the aid of Critical reviews.

On 2002-04-18 04:47:00  Some Sick fool said this.
"awww yeah, buzz baby, buzzzzz just for me."
#43 by Shadarr
2004-05-26 01:47:26
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
There are some games that folks will buy sight unscene.


Grammar nazi question.  Obviously "unscene" is wrong, but should it be "sight" or "site"?
#44 by Ergo
2004-05-26 01:50:58
sight unseen

Machina improba! Vel mihi ede potum vel mihi redde nummos meos!
DVDs
#45 by yotsuya
2004-05-26 02:22:58
psyht unsceen

That's a beautiful way to go. Shot by Yot. In more ways than one. -mgns
I wear my sunglasses at night.
The NEW Official PCMLB League Page
#46 by lwf
2004-05-26 03:01:42
This guy actually teaches english to kids, omg!

Fear is the dark room where the devil develops his negatives.
#47 by Dethstryk
2004-05-26 03:17:01
jemartin@tcainternet.com
I rate him a 1.0, and that is what he gets paid an hour now.

"hey look at me, i'm DJ Dethstryk, The Square Who Is Not Cool™!  i've never heard of Fringe Band X or Scratch DJ Y!  haw haw haw!"
#48 by Funkdrunk
2004-05-26 03:49:01
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
This concept reminds me of performance incentive based contracts in sports.  You do better, you get paid more.

Dunno.

Funk.

we rocked his butt with a 12 inch cut called disco kryptonite!
#49 by Gabe
2004-05-26 04:00:31
http://www.dartpublishing.com
Funkdrunk, but what's "do better"? Enter the Matrix sold really well, but using Jason Hall's metric it would make less money. Seems like the performance incentive is to make a game that sells so that you get more money.

If you care about the art or whatever, work that into the IP contract. Refuse to allow a sub-par game go to market and work with the publisher and/or developer to make sure it isn't sub-par. Leaving it up to a bunch of idiot reviewers is silly.
#50 by Funkdrunk
2004-05-26 04:32:39
jflavius@bellatlantic.net
#49 Gabe
Enter the Matrix sold really well, but using Jason Hall's metric it would make less money. Seems like the performance incentive is to make a game that sells so that you get more money.


Agreed.  But the thing about making a game that "sells" isn't dependant on the strength of the game itself.  It's a combination of factors, including marketing and advertising.

If you care about the art or whatever, work that into the IP contract. Refuse to allow a sub-par game go to market and work with the publisher and/or developer to make sure it isn't sub-par. Leaving it up to a bunch of idiot reviewers is silly.


Oh, I agree with that as well.  But many jobs have performance based incentives, and to that end, I do not have a problem in trying to make some for the game industry.   However, I think using something like an arbitrary set of websites each with their own bias is foolish.  The only way performance based metrics can work is when they can be clearly defined (1000 yards rushing, 1500 total yards, 35 stolen bases, etc).  Which I'm not sure is possible in the game industry.

Funk.

we rocked his butt with a 12 inch cut called disco kryptonite!
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