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Driv3r thread kicks off


Soo Denim
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Not sure if everyone has seen this but its bloody funny and well worth a read:

http://forum.gamesradar.com/viewtopic.php?t=43524

basically the xbox reviewer comes on admits that the score for Driv3r was given on the knowledge that the early code they were reviewing though full of bugs would be fixed for retail, then all hell breaks loose.

I mean honestly I thought that reviewers had stopped falling for that old chestnut of a PR trick. "yeah mate, I know its crap now but it will be great come retail!"

J

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That post in full:

Well then. Our review score for Driv3r seems to have created quite a stir and with half of

you baying for blood and demanding a response from XBW, I thought I'd brave the forums. Ulp.

First off I'd like to totally refute the suggestion that magazines, and specifically XBW,

take bribes - monetary or otherwise - to inflate review scores. Sure we might get the odd

T-shirt sent to us or a pint bought by a PR but never, in 4 years of working at Future, have

I ever given a game an inflated score because a/ I've been ordered to or b/ I've been thrown

a bung. Sure I've over marked games - 9/10 for MOH: Rising Sun in OPS2 I will freely admit

was a grave error of judgement but an honest mistake. But that's another story entirely.

Further to this, the allegation that there is some grand conspiracy between ourselves and

Atari - 'you give it a nine, we'll lob a sticker on the box and a page in the manual' - is

again wrong. The sticker was agreed on only after the review had been written and sent to

press.

So to Driv3r. It's a great game and we stand by the review. Our staffie played it to

completion and loved it, as did the man who wrote our tips guide. However, with regard to

the technical issues raised on this forum then you may have a point. Because of the long

lead times for magazines and the fact that it was an exclusive review, the code we reviewed

from was not final. We were made aware of some bugs in the game and were promised that these

would be sorted by the time of release. I cannot comment on whether these were fixed or not

but I have an unopened boxed copy of the game on my desk and will endeavour to check it out

this evening - there's been too much footie on for serious gaming sessions at home! If it

transpires that what was supposedly going to be fixed wasn't, then we will speak to Atari.

But like I say, can't comment on that yet. That said, the old PS1 games were greeted with

rapturous applause and they were pretty ropy technically in places - slowdown and pop-up

aplenty - but had the killer gameplay that we believe has carried over to the latest Driver

incarnation.

So with this in mind perhaps a 9 was a little too enthusiastic. Perhaps. But for

gamescentral to score it a 3 is just plain rubbish. A 3, or even a 6, would suggest that the

game is fundamentally broken and the gameplay offers little if anything in the way of

enjoyment. This is simply not true, far from it. If we were to review from the boxed copy

and found that all the technical issues had not been resolved then I believe we still would

have scored it an 8 or 9 but again, this is pure conjecture and I'll comment when I've

played it.

At the end of the day, Bob, much of this is surely down to personal opinion and taste. Can I

point you in the direction of OXM's Shadow Ops review in their current issue? This is in no

way a personal attack on Gavin Ogden (we'll leave the petty bitching to Xbox Gamer) but 8/10

is, in our opinion, a very very high score for the game. We've only just gone to print with

our review so I wont give out our score but I only mention this to illustrate that games,

like most things in life, are so often down to the reviewer's/gamer's taste. An another

example - I'm currently having a heated discussion with the boss about Leilani and whether

she's hot to trot or not. She is, he's entirely wrong, I am entirely right.

Right, I'll stop rambling on now. Hope this goes someway to answering your points. I await

responses with extreme trepidation...

Please note this post is speaking for XBW and not PSM2.

Nick Ellis

Deputy editor, XBW

Reviewing unfinished code as an exclusive review on the promise that the bugs will be fixed before release is the highest form of cuntery.

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No, shooting a puppy in the face with an Uzi, then proceeding to nick some old dear's pension followed up by having sex with your best mate's girlfriend and laughing in their face when they catch you both at it because you know you've also keyed his car and poured sugar in his petrol tank is something nearer the highest form of cuntery than the example you provided.

This is just another bit of games industry skullduggery.
;)

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I find this funny.

'woops I gave a shit game a high score'

When you review a game you're influenced on various factors. Your opinion might change a month or two later when factors around you have changed, you've played a few better games, and you can objectively review it to yourself again.

You could, for example, be in the middle of a dry season for games, and then suddenly an entertaining shooter turns up for review. You have a lot of fun, and there hasn't been a shooter on platform x for ages, and hey this game's really energetic, with neat little touches! And so, a 9/10 you give it.

Then a couple of months later, when a steady flow of games is coming out prior to Christmas, you realise that, in fact, the game you gave a 9/10 was probably in your own ranking system a 7/10 at best. But that problem was that you couldn't truly objectively review it down to the games situation on the console at that time. Everything is subjective, naturally, and part of it is to do with your own situation.

And on the other hand, you may underscore a game and look back on it in a few months and think "Y'know, that's matured with age, and it's actually really rather good." To make an analogy: when the Jaguar XK8/R was launched, journalists all over the land called the styling staid, unadventurous, not sporty enough. Seven or so years later and it's matured to be one of the best-looking cars from the '90s, and this is something that's pretty much acclaimed the world over. So why did they say they didn't like it in the first place? Because the situation was different the first time round, because the car market was different, because Jaguar the company was different, because - and this is important - the newer model has a few more touches which make it a better car.

And of course, if you're promised by a reputable publisher you have had good dealings with in the past that the bugs will be fixed, you'll just ignore them. If it did go to release and the bugs had been fixed, then what? You'd look as if you were lying, and you'd cause a lot of people not to buy the game under false reasons. A publisher would maybe give you a game and say "This is a near-to-gold copy. All the content, cars, everything will be the same for the final version. There are these bugs, listed here, and this is what we're fixing for the final gold." What're you going to think? If they've acknowledged the bugs in the first place you have no reason to suspect that they WON'T fix them. Sometimes these factors run against journalists, and outcrys come. But I think they're unjustified.

Just a bad combination of circumstances, really.

And please note that I've never read the magazine in question, nor played Driv3r, nor have I ever received a game from Atari (unfortunately :P).

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I think that, if they're given 'review code' and then told that it's unfinished, they shouldn't treat it as review code. They should write it up as a preview instead. Alternatively, they could take them on their word (literally) and review it as final code. If the bugs and things get fixed afterwards for the retail version, then they can re-review it, if they choose to, or at the very least offer an explanation/apology. That's what they should do anyway if it's the other way around; if they ignore the bugs because they "should be fixed before release" and then they aren't, they shouldn't lie about it. Ultimately, telling the truth is going to help their reputation more than a lot of disappointed consumers being given bullshit explanations when they question it. At least if the reviewer assumes the worse from the beginning, no-one is suckered into anything and they can praise it (if it deserves it) as and when they're ready to.

Hmm... didn't mean to ramble that much!

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Reviewing unfinished code is nothing new. Didn't EDGE famously do it with Turok? Hence the reason a dinosaur shown in the screenshots disappeared from the final game.

Well, often magazines use pre-release screenshots to fill up space. I remember CUBE's "omfg we play gamecube pso first ahead of everyone else lolz" preview was them playing the Dreamcast version, with some screenshots re-used in the final review.

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I think that, if they're given 'review code' and then told that it's unfinished, they shouldn't treat it as review code. They should write it up as a preview instead

They probably do that because they know the majority of readers don't care about the content of the review and only look at the score, therefore having a 'review' with a number at the end attracts more people than what would seem like yet another multi-page preview - no matter how in-depth it is.

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To be honest, reviewing pre-release code has never particularly bothered me*.

If it's a question of reviewing a game that has a week's work of tweaking to go, and not reviewing a game so your readers have no buying guide for over two months after the game's released - thus possibly being ripped off** - I'll choose the former, thankyou.

The question is *how* pre-release.

I've played Betas from EA games months away from release which are indistinguisable in normal play from the finished article. And anyone knows how much can really be done in a final week of tweaking (i.e. Not hugely much). The handful of bugs that can be removed will effect the final judgement in no way comparable to the quality of the actual game.

If the bug IS big enough to effect the score hugely, it'll never be fixed in time. And if the bug is small enough to be fixed, it won't be sizeable enough to affect the score.

My general advice to anyone who finds themselves reviewing something of this ilk, is if a publisher considers the game suitable as review code, you treat it as finished code too. All bugs present are bugs.

No, it's not ideal. But, as I said up-post, there's a strong utilitarian argument in favour of it. And there's nothing to say because you're reviewing slightly earlier code that you can't slag it to death - these are separate issues, and I've hammered early exclusive code to death on several occasions. Justifiably, as the games were total shit.

To be fair, most reviewers will be caught out by a publisher going "It'll be fixed" at them once in their career.

But only once.

Re-scanning this particular one, it appears I've woken up in the mood to cause a little ruckus. Pah. We should all just grow up a bit.

KG

*What bothers me is magazines making a big deal about "We only review finished code". Everyone - even the saintly AP - does it occasionally.

**Or, alternatively, a genuinely great game disappears from the shelves and becomes unavailable as its sales window has disappeared.

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My biggest problem with all of this is the fact that everyone excepts it. I know we are talking about big business and that advertising revenue, covers, exclusive reviews et al hinge on these kinds of deals. I also know that I haven't trusted most reviews of big releases for a few years now, I get most of my reccomendations from here or ntsc-uk.

But (and sorry for how 80's this sounds) won't someone think of the kids. I know this is a naieve view but little johnny make £5 a week on his paper round he uses a games mag to make an informed gaming decision (just as I used to 20 years ago) to spend his £45 on. He trusts his review to be fair. Now I maybe living in a utopian world here but surely there still is some kind of journalistic integrity burning within Mr Ellis. So come on all your journalists stand up against this, we know you don't do it on purpose but that the powers of evil force you to whore your journalistic integrity.

Stand up be counted if its shit say it is and be dammed with the advertsing revenue. If not our entire industry will take a step backwards the modern consumer cannot be fooled for ever and sooner of later they will realise you are talking crap. Magazine editors around the world are worried about losing sales to the internet, surely this is possibly due to the fact that the reviews are often far more honest!

J

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Oddly, that's the other piece of advice I always give to new games writers - you're spending people's money. Remember how much effort you had to, as a kid, to scrape together thirty-forty quid or whatever. You're spending that kid's money, and if you recommend some awful shit, he's (YOU!) are going to be distraught.

But yeah: If your name is on a review, you're clearly responsible. If your Editor has somehow bullied you into writing something to fulfil some nefarious contract, get him to put his name on it. If your boss is a corrupt bastard, there's no need for you to be too.

Me? Been lucky. Never been in that situation. The joys of only being into games no-one but us lot really give a fuck about.

KG

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But yeah: If your name is on a review, you're clearly responsible. If your Editor has somehow bullied you into writing something to fulfil some nefarious contract, get him to put his name on it. If your boss is a corrupt bastard, there's no need for you to be too.

Me? Been lucky. Never been in that situation. The joys of only being into games no-one but us lot really give a fuck about.

KG

You say you've never been in that situation. You are lucky if that's true. When you are, it's not quite as easy as you make out to do anything at all about it. It really can be down to the Editor. He does have the power to change scores, or in fact anything he likes, after the writer has written the review.

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You're working with the editor. If he changes your score, you ask your name to be removed. If you're not aware of him changing your score, you're not paying enough attention to the proofs as they move around the office. If he refuses to have your name removed, fuck the stupid job. Any editor who isn't willing to do even that small thing for a trusted employee isn't worth working for - and, more importantly - will fuck you over in a more pained and awkward way later.

(And I've never worked under an Editor who didn't remove my name from something I didn't want to be associated with. After all - why not? It's no skin off their nose)

While I've never been in a "You must give this game X% score" situation, I've certainly got my name removed from reviews for a variety of reasons. And quit working for people who altered my scores without informing me.

KG

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Surely if a games publisher gives you unfinished code to review, with a list of bugs they claim will be fixed before release, you should mention the fact in the review? Otherwise you risk looking a real prat when the game is released with the bugs still in.

I mean, if he's saying he would have scored the game lower if he'd reviewed the finished product, instead of basing the score on what the publishers said it would be like, he's got no-one to blame but himself.

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How many of us actually go by reviews in any mag now anyway? The last games I've bought have either been continuations of a series (Deus Ex: IW and Hitman Contracts) or onn recommendation (Ninja Gaiden, Prince of Persia) from these forums.

Moot, of course, because it's the non-forumite who'll get jipped. But an interesting one because word of mouth remains the strongest selling point for me.

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You're working with the editor. If he changes your score, you ask your name to be removed. If you're not aware of him changing your score, you're not paying enough attention to the proofs as they move around the office. If he refuses to have your name removed, fuck the stupid job. Any editor who isn't willing to do even that small thing for a trusted employee isn't worth working for - and, more importantly - will fuck you over in a more pained and awkward way later.

(And I've never worked under an Editor who didn't remove my name from something I didn't want to be associated with. After all - why not? It's no skin off their nose)

While I've never been in a "You must give this game X% score" situation, I've certainly got my name removed from reviews for a variety of reasons. And quit working for people who altered my scores without informing me.

KG

I appreciate what you're saying but I still don't think it's quite as easy as you make out. The extreme measure of leaving a job, particularly one you otherwise love, is simply not an option for a hell of a lot of people. Once again, I can't help but feel you've been lucky.

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I dunno: If you love your job more than you hate lying to people and stealing kid's money by proxy, fuck you, y'know? Go work in Advertising or something. Seriously: It *is* that easy. It's just that most people don't even *think* about what they're doing once they're working for a mag.

(If an Editor has a choice between losing a member of staff and just not putting their name on a review... well, it's a pretty dumb editor who chooses the former)

KG

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I dunno: If you love your job more than lying to people and stealing kid's money by proxy, fuck you, y'know? Go work in Advertising or something. Seriously: It *is* that easy. It's just that most people don't even *think* about what they're doing once they're working for a mag.

(If an Editor has a choice between losing a member of staff and just not putting their name on a review... well, it's a pretty dumb editor who chooses the former)

KG

Kieron,

I completely agree with you, but I must stress that I don't blame the Editors for this insane situation we currently find ourselves in. It is the money men and in particular board members who put pressure on the head of production who in turns gives shit to the senior editor who gives it to the editor who then changes the journalists score or whatever. As a journalist you are at the bottom of the bitch pile (now thats a mental image!) but unless something changes in the uper echelons of power the first thing they will notice is declining sales!

J

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