May 2, 2016

Convoluted Solutions to Simple Problems

Going to keep this post short as it is a bit of a rant, but I'll start with the source article and pull quotes throughout my piece:
http://www.ign.com/articles/2016/05/02/why-were-scoring-reviews-in-progress

How about we not try to answer simple problems that introduce MORE problems in the process, eh? The idea that pushing out a review as temporary because the OMG CLICKS, NEED TO BE FIRST mentality seems to rule journalism these days is asinine. Put out smart, quality content and the rest falls into place.

I understand the need in this day and age where the ever-increasing online capabilities of video games require more diligent reviewing to provide accuracy and clarity for the gamer to make better, more informed decisions when making a game purchase. This is the world we live in, develop in, game in. That's all fine and dandy. It is. We understand this as consumers, I understand this as a developer.

It is almost impossible to review an online component of a video game without actually testing the environment in a live setting (barring most non player-interaction systems for online components) due to the simple fact that most online components aren't up until the day a game launches and if they are - how can you adequately review an online component, its performance, stability, etc - without it in the wild?
"we insist on giving every game we review a thorough playthrough, including testing on live servers when applicable, before rendering a final verdict"
OK - sounds good so far...
"More and more frequently we haven’t been able to have a score ready for you when you need it to help inform your day-one buying decision one way or the other, which has frustrated us and disappointed some of our community"
Your community? Try the internet, smh... It's a huge problem (aside from day 0 embargoes, that's just a whole 'nother level of bullshit).
"we believe placeholder scores can improve on that process by clarifying what score we’d give a game if we hypothetically had to do it right at that moment"
Yo, wtf? I get it, IGN. I get it. Even as a developer, I get it. But this isn't the answer. It never was or even will be the best possible answer in this situation simply because it introduces a little something called Anchoring Bias and that is no bueno.

A simpler, more elegant solution to the confusion you will no doubt create, is to simply score the SP and MP components of games separately. You review them separately in your written reviews, right? Why not scores?
"These are not final judgments and will be clearly labeled as such"
It doesn't fucking matter. At all. Most people will gloss over this label and your writers (and readers) will fall to that Anchoring Bias I mentioned earlier.

I suggest this ultra, super, monumentally easy system because it is a system that can work for everyone. Some games have online components so vastly different from their single player counterparts that they can be considered standalone entities altogether in the same universe. This will solve the problem of needing a review score minute one, while waiting on the online component to stretch its legs for the complete review. Most SP/MP components vary so wildly in attraction and overall satisfaction that this would probably be the best method to compartmentalize them from each other since games like BF or COD aren't exactly known for their amazing campaigns and a majority of people purchase them solely for the multiplayer aspect.

"But, Jack, you neglect games like the Souls series where SP and MP are intertwined! GOTCHA!"

No,  you didn't. There's a real simple solution to that, too - WAIT.

I know, I know, clicks n all that. But if your "community" (and by extension, the gaming community at large) is being vocal about it - it could use a solution that simplifies and compartmentalizes the process and makes it easier to understand, not compounds the issue with temporary review scores that change at a later date. That's just... ehhh.

"BUT, JA"-SHUT IT - fine I'll talk about patches and content updates, sheesh.

I feel this is the ONLY time when a review score can and should be updated to reflect patches and content updates, provided the patches and content updates are considerable enough to warrant an update.

"We fixed a bug that allowed the player to clip through wall 3234 on scene 135463a" - is not my idea of considerable.

Game and system altering, expansions, map pack reviews, etc.

Keep it simple. Real simple. That's all you need to do. Compartmentalize the SP and MP when applicable and if not - WAIT TO DELIVER THE REVIEW. Believe me, as a gamer and developer I will appreciate this. We all will. Your community follows you no matter what time you post up an article. I understand the need to be FIRST OMG! but you've got to not let THEM CLICKY CLICK CLICKS get in the way of professional journalism and over-complicate a solution (that really isn't) to a simple problem.