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On Totalbiscuit's "Day One Garry's Incident Incident" - an Indie Dev Perspective.
by sean lindskog on 10/22/13 08:30:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

A controversy has exploded in video game land over the last couple days.  Totalbiscuit is a famous games critic.  You may have heard of him.  He made a harsh video review about a game he didn't like.  The game devs responded by forcing the removal of Totalbiscuit's review from YouTube.  This involved a copyright infringement claim, and things got nasty.  This is a huge deal because YouTube may completely shut down a reviewer's channel forever, if enough copyright claims are filed against it.  It threatens a reviewer's livelihood.

So, there's some serious issues to discuss here.  Freedom of speech.  Freedom of the press.  Fair use of media.  Consumer protection.  Censorship.  Totalbiscuit covers this in his commentary on this incident

But that isn't what I'm here to talk about.
It's something else.

Here's a quote from Totalbiscuit (emphasis added by me):

Unfortunately, every day we have to sit there worrying, will some company decide to abuse the copyright claim system to destroy my livelihood today?

Another popular youtube guy, Francis, also chimed in with this:

YouTube has saved my life, and it terrifies me that with this system in place, it's possible all of this will disappear tomorrow morning." 

and this:

Your dream, your livelihood, your future... everything you're aspiring to be can go *snap* like that.  It's terrifying.

That's powerful stuff.   It is terrifying.  How do I know?

Many video game developers live this every day of their lives.

Many of us, especially indies, have made staggering sacrifices to pursue our dreams.  Financial, mental, emotional, relationship.  Many of us pour our life energy into our creation.  We dream for success.  We dread failure.  Failure is catastrophic.

Especially indies, who rely almost exclusively - not on multi million dollar marketing budgets, but on the people who review and talk about their games.  A review by someone like Totalbiscuit can completely change the fortune of an indie developer.  And I mean completely.

The power of these reviewers' actions can create careers.  It can probably destroy them, too.  

So, this is a rare moment.  A moment where the tables are turned.  Game critics may feel, for once, a sense of what devs feel all the time.  What it's like for another person to have amazing and terrifying power over your life.

Let me personalize this story a bit. 

I'm an indie dev.  I made a space game called Salvation Prophecy.  It's faired ok - it released on Steam earlier this month.  Lots of people are enjoying it.  It has received a lot of good reviews (mostly from players and the indie press), and some bad reviews.  That's fair - there's a lot of interesting things going on in the game, but it is very low budget, and starts a little slowly.  And full disclosure, I heard somewhere that Totalbiscuit tried Salvation Prophecy, and didn't dig it.

So, a few days ago, I saw the biggest review about Salvation Prophecy it has ever received.  It was a Gamespot video review by Kevin VanOrd [edit: correction - Kevin was just narrating the review, it was written by Tyler Hicks].  I clicked it, and this was the first thing I heard.

In space, no one can hear you scream.  And when it comes to Salvation Prophecy, that might be a good thing.

Ouch.

And Gamespot being Gamespot, this is now the top google search result for Salvation Prophecy.  Those are the first words people are likely to hear about my game.

Now, even though Tyler didn't like the game, I think he did a lot of things right in his review.  He chose good footage for the video.  He ran down the game's features pretty well.  He played the game right to the end, which was really cool of him, and even found some things he liked along the way.

But there was one thing that really sucked.  He repeatedly bashed the game for being too easy.  I think we can agree, a combat-focused game like Salvation Prophecy is all about challenge.  If it's not challenging - based on your individual skill at the game - it's not going to be fun.  This is what difficulty settings are for.  Salvation Prophecy has full featured difficulty settings.  The hard difficulty setting is designed for people who are very good at games.  People like, for example, video game reviewers.  People like Tyler.  It astounded me that he didn't try (or at least discuss) the difficulty options before bashing the game's difficulty.  This oversight on his part likely contributed to that scathing opening remark about my game.  And that remark may have a big effect on whether a player ever decides to try Salvation Prophecy.

So, what's my point in all this?

Of course, reviewers are a critical part of the game industry.
Of course, they should be honest in their reviews.
Of course, the internet can be cruel, and this is what we sign up for as game devs.

People are drawn to loud, brash voices, and shoot-from-the-hip opinions.  For reviewers, it may seem fun, or cool, or empowering to make pithy remarks about a game.  They're good headlines and attention grabbers.  And sure, there are a few horrible games beyond redemption.  But the truth is that most games have good qualities and bad.

So when you, the YouTube celebrities, the giants of internet gaming commentary, with the loudest voices and biggest audiences, talk about a game, take some care.  Play the game thoughtfully.  Even if you don't like it, consider - are there things that other people might?

Yours may be the defining voice for a video game.

Your words may make or break someone's dream, someone's livelihood, someone's future.

This is how it feels to be us.


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Comments


Michael Joseph
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You make a good point. One hopes that a reviewer will be fair and open minded and will play enough of the game to make informed comments. One also hopes that well known critics like Totalbiscuit got to where they are because they are genuinely good at those things and because they're ethical and not just because of their personalities and voice talents.

That said, I don't think a single review can hurt a game just as I don't think a single take down notice is going to hurt Totalbiscuit. Developers who try to censor bad reviews of their products aren't going to last very long.

sean lindskog
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Thanks Michael.

Yeah - it may be tough to quantify how much a single review affects a game. Although I have been guilty myself of making some pretty quick, snap decisions on a game based on a single review.

K Gadd
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The difference is a single takedown CAN hurt Total Biscuit, because legal structures like the DMCA and policies like YouTube's takedown policy are merciless and poorly considered. 3 takedowns can permanently disable an entire Youtube account, for good, and as TB pointed out in his Youtube video on this subject (which you really should have watched before commenting :) ) many innocent reviewers and let's players have had accounts permanently banned as a result of meritless takedowns. The 'IP rights' system on the modern internet is, in general, biased in favor of big companies and against small-time creatives.

As game developers we're not as vulnerable to the IP rights system, since it's very hard for someone to stop us from selling copies of our games or putting up demos - we're not subject to the whims of a company like Google. Of course, if you sign a deal with the devil and rely on walled gardens like the iOS app store to sell copies, then you're in the same shitty situation... and people have written about this in the past.

Ultimately trying to compare the effect of a reviewer's review on a developer with the sort of thing TB is talking about here feels like whining. Yes, reviews hurt devs a lot, but the magnitude and nature of the damage is nothing compared to an entire YouTube channel being permanently taken down in response to some part-timer at Sega doing a google search for the word 'Shining'.

sean lindskog
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Hi K Gadd -

I've learned over the years that it's tough to have a good conversation with people when you accuse them of whining.

But if you'd like to read or contribute to a good discussion on this, check out E Zachary's post below, and its responses.

Scott Lavigne
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Being passive-aggressive is about at the same level as name calling.

sean lindskog
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Irony at it's finest. :)

Stanislav Costiuc
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Not going to argue with any of your points, agree with everything. In fact, this can be applied to lots of different professions and vocations over the world.

However. Sometimes the output of one's work is not of high quality or not to everyone's liking. That happens. A game can be not as good as we'd like it to be (or not many people enjoy it), or, in case of Totalbiscuit for example, a video may be of low quality or people just don't watch it (this happened to him and he lost money on that, because, well, this stuff happens). But it can be recovered from, one way or another.

At the end of the day, reviewers (btw, on a side note, TB never positioned himself as a reviewer, since his series is about first impressions only) are targeting the product (by providing their honest educated opinion, be it positive or negative), not the developer. Unless the developer is, excuse my language, an asshole.

And that kind of reputation is a lot harder to recover from than a bad quality product. Not to mention that it's much more damaging. The accusations of censorship, falsification, lies in public statements, abusing the system, that Wild Games faces are not invalid (and I can only imagine how employees who had nothing to do with those, which is I think most of them, feel right now).

At the end of the day, I think what we have to take from this is: work hard, try your best, and if you fail - use your experience to better yourself and don't be an asshole to others because you're gonna damn yourself into oblivion.

E Zachary Knight
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There is a big difference between YouTube's "3 strikes" policy over copyright infringement and a prominent reviewer in a sea of reviewers giving you a poor score.

It takes very little for YouTube to kill your account. It takes one or two baseless actions of retribution or revenge from a slighted game developer and you are dead. A single email or form filled out on YouTube and your account is killed.

Let's look at some of the examples that TotalBiscut shared. There was the Sega incident where they sent DMCA notices for every Shining Force video on YouTube whether footage was used or not in order to artificially inflate its own search rankings. Many of those videos were clear fair use, many more had no footage of the game whatsoever. Because of Sega's actions, some of those channels were killed in an instant.

Then we have Nintendo's efforts to kill monetization of its games on YouTube. The example TB gave was over a minute long clip of a game trailer in a 2 hour video. Because Nintendo claimed that 1 minute, the whole 2 hours could not be monetized.

And I haven't even gotten into the who Content ID fiasco in which music rights groups make claims on owning the copyrights on birds chirping in the background of nature videos or the sound of babies giggling. There are so many false positives and it is near impossible to fight the claims. Each Content ID claim brings you that much closer to YouTube doom.

No let's compare those cases of instantaneous death to your story of a single loud review in a sea of reviews bringing doom to your game. Does a bad review of your game block access to your game from potential customers? No. You game is still available to buy and play. But a single copyright claim on a video removes all access to that video for everyone forever.

If you get a bad review, that is hardly the end of the world. Shoot, you could get numerous bad reviews and still make out ahead. But a single copyright claim kills a video dead.

So no. There is no comparison here. You claims may have merit, but you have ways around it. You can patch what reviewers complained about. You can point to other reviews that are more favorable. You can improve your game development skills. But there is nothing a YouTube reviewer can do to fix a copyright claim on a fair use video. Nothing. There is no recourse but to get the accuser to relent. And that rarely happens.

Michael Joseph
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Shouldn't youtube\google receive much of the blame for rubber stamping copyright claims?

i dont know anything about monetization of youtube videos. Are you required to give some exclusivity right to google? Otherwise I see no reason the video should be lost forever. If you've done nothing illegal then you should be able to find someplace else to host or distribute the video and point your followers to that source instead. Granted, you might not get any revenue that way...

E Zachary Knight
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I don't blame YouTube/Google so much. The real problem is the law that puts them in a position that if they don't rubber stamp every copyright claim, they can be held criminally liable for the actions of their users.

As for just moving to a different service, name one service that has the pull, mind share and user base that YouTube has and I am sure people would flock to it. But even then, those services will face the same legal liability and we will be back to square one.

As for the video not being lost forever, that is true. The video is not lost forever. But the community is lost. The discussions are lost. The rankings are lost. Everything associated with the video are lost forever. Kind of makes it pointless to have the video.

Imagine if you made a game. millions of people bought your game. Then as you were gearing up to release your next game, a comet strikes and kills all those original fans. You still have your game, so you should be okay, right?

sean lindskog
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Hey Zachary -

I completely understand your sentiments. I almost didn't post the article, because I was worried people would (mis?)interpret my thoughts as you have.

So yes, in some ways it is completely different. In one case, people are just doing their job (providing reviews of games), and in the other case there is a bogus YouTube policy at play. That absolutely makes them very different.

The point I was trying to get across was the complete sense of vulnerability that developers, especially indies, feel in regards to their work, and their future. This is a particularly profound emotion that, regardless of the reason, is a crazy thing to experience. And that is the core of the similarity I'm trying to point out here. It's a rare moment where reviewers share that emotion with devs.

And sure, we can compare the severity of the situations. You say this:
> If you get a bad review, that is hardly the end of the world. Shoot, you could get numerous bad reviews and still make out ahead. But a single copyright claim kills a video dead. So no. There is no comparison here.

You appear to be saying losing a single video is WORSE than having the most prominant review of your game be a bad one. If so, that's crazy talk. ;)

Now, losing your entire YouTube channel would be a very bad for a reviewer. That's more comparable to the risk of launching an indie game. In either circumstance, you're in for some major life changes. A reviewer can work in other forms of media outside YouTube. An indie can quit being indie, and get a real job. But either way, it seriously sucks.

Finally - yeah, a single review probably isn't going to sink a game. But trust me, when you're talking about people like Totalbiscuit, it's pretty huge. A good TB review can absolutely mean instant success for an indie game. A bad TB review gives you a rocky slope to climb.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Zachary. Even though I don't always agree with your opinions, you always have an interesting take on things.

Paul Speed
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I think it's because the comparison is just so incredibly lopsided as to be almost ridiculous that makes it hard for us. I know you don't mean it this way but it comes off as sour grapes.

It's like saying you understand how a brain cancer patient feels because you bumped your head once. To persist in the comparison after it being pointed out only makes it look that much worse. Now, if a single review caused your game to be removed from the market place... then we could talk. But bad reviews? Everything drives traffic, even the negative press. So there is no comparison whatsoever except to say that someone's gunshot wound finally makes them realize what a hangnail might feel like. (But the gunshot might not kill them!!!)

Heck, "In space, no one can hear you scream. And when it comes to Salvation Prophecy, that might be a good thing."

...I know a bunch of people that might have made that video go viral just on an opening like that. Even I was curious what could be so bad about it. I can't be the only one that looks into these things to prove the reviewer wrong.

Sorry for the soap-boxy rant. There is an opportunity to turn that bad review into a boon if you spin it right. Maybe this article is the way, I don't know.

sean lindskog
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Hey Paul -

The whole point of writing this wasn't to discuss strategy of dealing with a bad review. Sure, that's an interesting topic, but that is not at all the jist of my blog.

I'm disappointed my story came across as sour grapes to you. I felt more like I was sharing a moment where I felt particularly powerless as a game dev. I would much rather be talking about the more positive reviews and player reaction to the game. But sharing that less proud moment was an attempt to explain these feelings.

Do you disagree with that main idea? The feelings of vulnerability of making and releasing an indie game? And how this sense of vulnerability is currently being shared with YouTube reviewers?

Salvation Prophecy hasn't failed - it's doing ok. But neither has TotalBiscuit lost his YouTube channel. So I don't agree with your brain cancer vs. head bump analogy. If instead you compare the worst possible outcomes - failure of an indie game vs. loss of a youtube channel - those both seem pretty bad. Certainly not a bump vs. cancer situation here, either.

Again, I'm not saying we're in the exact same boat by any means. It's all about experiencing similar emotions. I highlit parts of the YouTuber's quotes to emphasize this.

I'm not sure how many of you folks are indie developers yourselves. Maybe everything I'm trying to describe does seem melodramatic unless you've been there.

Marvin Papin
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Copyright is important, but yes that's press, so no dev should censor any review or sensor every reviews (but saying to google to not delete account because it's only about their games and their own decision).

Note that pushing people to remove their reviews can be useful : Devs of the Stanley Parable made a special demo to not show any part of the game. That's their COM and apparently, that's important for the game.

But except that particular case, that's a shame for devs to reviews selectively due to press liberty and this act must be echoed to avoid future abuses.

I don't know if there are any "statu quo" about copyright vs press liberty (moreover in video game) but there should to allow people to give their opinion without infringing devs liberty (review should be short, i'm more doubtful about full walkthrough).

Finnaly, Youtube should give us more options about claiming for video removal.

That's all about censorship vs devs liberty (I think)

E Zachary Knight
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Sean,

I am going to tackle this based on this statement of yours. Everything you wrote seems to spring from this thought.

"The point I was trying to get across was the complete sense of vulnerability that developers, especially indies, feel in regards to their work, and their future. This is a particularly profound emotion that, regardless of the reason, is a crazy thing to experience. And that is the core of the similarity I'm trying to point out here. It's a rare moment where reviewers share that emotion with devs."

So let's break it down.

"The point I was trying to get across was the complete sense of vulnerability that developers, especially indies, feel in regards to their work, and their future."

I agree. All creatives feel vulnerable over their work. Whether those creatives paint, write, film, make games, sculpt or write reviews. They all are concerned that their work might not be well received. They are all concerned that their work might fall into obscurity. They are all concerned if they will be able to make another piece of creativity in the future.

"This is a particularly profound emotion that, regardless of the reason, is a crazy thing to experience. And that is the core of the similarity I'm trying to point out here. It's a rare moment where reviewers share that emotion with devs."

This is where your thoughts fall apart as far as I am concerned. You seem to think that the fear, anxiety and vulnerability that all creatives feel are equal. They are not. That was my point. The vulnerability that you feel in regards to a bad review is very different from the vulnerability that a YouTube creative feels in regards to a copyright claim.

Let's break it down.

If you get one bad review, is your game removed from the marketplace? No. It is still available for purchase, download and play.

If a YouTube creative get's one copyright claim on a video, the video is removed meaning no one else can watch it.

If you get one bad review, do you lose all your existing customers and fans, their playtime, their sales, their discussions of your game? No.

If a YouTube creative get's one copyright claim, everything is gone in regards to that video. The video is gone. The views are gone. The likes/dislikes are gone. The comments are gone. The embeds and links are broken. Everything surrounding the video has either disappeared or has been broken.

If you get 3 bad reviews, does that change any of the above for you? No. You still have everything you have gained to this point.

If a YouTube creative get's 3 copyright claims, Their whole channel is gone. The whole channel. It doesn't matter if you have 3 videos or 1,000. You lose everything.

Why is this different between a game creator getting a bad review vs a YouTube creator getting a copyright claim? Because they are wholly different things.

For one, not every review is created equal. While a GameSpot, TotalBiscuit or RPS review might have a huge pull on your game's popularity, a review from Random Tower probably means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

But on the YouTube side of things, all copyright claims are equal. A copyright claim from someone who owns the copyright of content in your video and feels the video infringes holds just as much weight as a copyright claim from a vindictive copyright holder who just doesn't like what you say or the copyright claim from someone who holds no copyright over your video's content.

Because of this disparity in weighting, they have wholly different consequences.

One bad review from a prominent reviewer might mean far fewer sales for you, but you still have the chance to gain more sales as more positive reviews come in. You still have the chance to counter those bad reviews.

But one copyright claim for a YouTuber means 1) The video the claim was made against is gone. 2) They are one step closer to being shut down. These people have very little power to remove those claims. The process is wholly stacked against them.

I am probably retreading the ground I trod in my initial post. But I want to be clear. I know that all creatives feel vulnerable. But the vulnerabilities you face as a game developer trying to survive on a free market of ideas is very different than the vulnerabilities faced by a YouTube creative is the hostile wasteland of copyright law.

sean lindskog
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Hiya Zachary -

Thanks for posting back. Great breakdown. I absolutely agree with your conclusion.

Here's the only thing I would add.

The risk of releasing an indie game is gigantic. You have no idea if years of your life, probably all of your money, and your entire creative endeavor will fall flat or not.

Normally, a game critic would never have this single, all-or-nothing feeling of worry or terror. But now, if you look at TotalBiscuit and Francis' quotes, this is exactly what they're experiencing. The nature of a critic's work is to post individual bits of video or text. None of which have any massive investment. So this feeling is not something they normally encounter. The YouTube issue has made it so.

I thought this was a unique opportunity for empathy between critics and indie devs, based on this unexpected, shared emotion.

You've made good arguments about the differences in circumstance and gravity of each situation. I have done my best to share my thoughts on that as well. I don't feel we need to argue that much further, unless you feel something there is unresolved.

E Zachary Knight
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Sean,

No hard feelings.

I would like to respond to your addition though.

You are right. The creative process between a game developer and a YouTuber is very different. Where fans of a game developer expect long lengths of time to pass between game releases, fans of YouTubers are accustomed to a constant stream of content. But both are very hard work.

While you may feel that anxiety and vulnerability as you lead up to release and after release, for a YouTuber, that anxiety never goes away. Even a 3 year old video could be the death of your entire YouTube career. For a game developer, a 3 year old game often has very little bearing on the strength of your current position.

That's it. Glad to have this discussion.

sean lindskog
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Agreed - that is a unique hardship for YouTubers.

I appreciate your discussion as well. 'Till next time. ;)

Luke van Tricht
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I'd just like to add, the problem is not with Youtube, it's with the DMCA, which gives basically anybody the power to issue a cease and desist and expect it to go through, even if the request is against content that is perfectly legal.

That said, your article comes off a little High-Horsey(Totally a word :P), in that you say that Indie Devs live in fear of their games flopping and not seeing a return(Either monetary or otherwise) on your game, which is perfectly fair enough, the free market makes it a very scary prospect for releasing a game, you've no idea whether your game is going to hit the mark or fall short.

But I think the biggest difference between bad reviews and a DMCA video takedown is the process AFTER that happens. With a bad review, as a developer, you can contact the reviewer with a private email, and open up some correspondence to see if they're willing to give you some more details on things that could be fixed in your game, and you then have the power to change your game, fix any problems up, and release patches to fix those problems, then the reviewer may be open to creating a second review, or adding an addendum to their review indicating that the problems have been fixed. (I know TotalBiscuit is generally willing to do a second video on a game if those major problems have been fixed).

Whereas as a reviewer on Youtube, unless you are part of a major network, your only course of action is to file a counter-claim, which has no guarantee of success, and even carries the warning that you should only file the counter-claim if you are willing to be sued, which, lets be honest, most/all youtube based reviewers don't have anywhere near the money to run a legal battle.

And I think that's the major difference, and the main reason I didn't particularly like your article, is that when releasing your game, the power is with you to fix the problems, whereas a Youtube reviewer only has a counter-claim which carries the warning of a lawsuit.

Regardless, well written article :)

Luis Blondet
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Zachary,
"There is a big difference between YouTube's "3 strikes" policy over copyright infringement
and a prominent reviewer in a sea of reviewers giving you a poor score."

There's also a sea of websites that will host your review video. Depending solely on YouTube to make your living is as foolish as depending on a single influential reviewer to market your game.

E Zachary Knight
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Luis,

You are right. There are a lot of video hosting sites out there. You can even host videos yourself. However, there is no site out there with the same mind share and user base as YouTube. While it may be a self fulfilling act (YouTube has all the users so everyone goes to YouTube creating more users etc etc), it is a current "law" of the internet. If you want your video to be seen, you put it on YouTube.

Luis Blondet
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Zachary,
Gamespot has its own video reviews, which have a healthy following.

The same can be said with game reviews. If you want to have a successful game, you better get a good review by IGN or GameSpot.

This is a double edged sword with both sides being able to cut equally well.

TC Weidner
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Here's the thing I like about you tube reviewers though, You get to watch the game itself as they are commenting. So you can make up your own mind if they are being fair with their comments. Something you cant do with print/blog reviews.

As far as the comparison between indie and you tube reviewer, I tend to agree with E Zachary Night.

Jacob Pederson
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As Zack mentions, this really isn't Google's fault. It's yet another symptom of our ridiculous copyright laws. In a way, its a good thing, as it shines a spotlight on just how ridiculous copyright is. Heck, the mainstream press might even pick up the story :)

sean lindskog
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Agreed - this whole YouTube thing is a symptom of a pretty serious problem.

Kyle Redd
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Did you provide the game's code to GameSpot for them to review, free of charge? If you did, then sorry but you've got nothing to complain about. You gave them a gift of a free game in the hopes that they would write a positive review that would boost your sales. They were not contractually obligated to do so.

Further, there's nothing stopping you from taking to the GameSpot forums to write a rebuttal that points out the flaws in Kevin's review, just as you've done here. I certainly hope you did that immediately after reading the review.

Zachary is right, the comparison you're trying to make doesn't exist.

sean lindskog
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I don't think you really understood what I was trying to say.
But that's ok.

Kyle Redd
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Apparently not. Or no one else seems to think so, anyway.

David Cornelius
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I think that you missed out on this one...the review example was illustrating the tremendous amount of direct influence/power that said reviewer had over how Salvation Prophecy would be perceived by a significant portion of potential consumers. Although there is some recourse available (sending an email, making a post on the forums), I don't think following through on any of those could begin to stack up against a lazy review being the number one Google result.

That example was not a direct comparison, if I'm following this correctly, was more illustrating how in this case these developers are exerting a similar power over these YouTube reviewers and they're (rightfully) feeling a little freaked out by it, even though many developers have been living with this reality for years. Both sides should take more care with the influence they can apply.

Great post Sean.

Brad Jeffrey
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He didn't complain about the review, in fact he seemed to agree with much of it. The only part of the article that would come close to a complaint is the point about the difficulty, which he seems justified in making.

Also, I think the comparison he's trying to make is between the emotional vulnerability felt when one person exerts power that could harm another person's career. That comparison is valid. I don't think he's trying to say that filing a bogus copyright claim is the same as posting a bad review. It clearly isn't.

sean lindskog
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Hey David and Brad -

Thanks for posting.

There's been some backlash from folks who I think misread my intentions. So it is very reassuring to know the idea came through to some of you.

Lex Allen
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I got what you were saying, and I don't think that you said anywhere that it was exactly the same. Some people always like to post "yes, but" comments. Sometimes, I do that, too though...
:3

sean lindskog
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Heh, I hear you on the "yes, but" comments.
I also seem to be getting a lot of "no, and here's why..." ;)

Alfa Etizado
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Yeah Lex, I'm seeing those too. I think people there were missing the point. I don't think this article was about comparing whose problem is bigger, it was about showing the indie's side on it, which can be easily forgotten but if people took their time to think about it they could empathize. Besides, people acting like youtube reviewers are just on this whole other level of risk, like you can't even compare. I don't know.

I'm not a youtube reviewer nor an indie developer, but I know that indie developers invest money and time before they can even make anything, they take a major risk and work on something for months, sometimes years. Isn't that a pretty big thing too?

Anyway, back on topic. I think what Sean says is important not only for developers but for the audience too.

Sometimes it's obvious a reviewer dislikes a game because they were bad at it, and they let their frustration color the review, that's a game a reader may have liked but won't try for trusting the reviewer.

Sometimes it's obvious a reviewer haven't played through the entire game, I get this one a lot. Some games start showing big problems many hours in, some show big problems when you try stuff that's outside the main story, yet reviewers completely ignore that. Happened to me with Crisis Core.

Sometimes reviewers try a genre they are obviously not familiar with and ends up giving a score that seems to be colored by the reviewer's inexperience instead of being based on the game itself.

Reviewers really need to be a lot more careful with their work. Specially youtube reviewers who sometimes review the game the first time they are playing it, and play it for maybe 30 minutes.

sean lindskog
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Thanks Alfa -
I really appreciate your post.

quote> "I don't think this article was about comparing whose problem is bigger, it was about showing the indie's side on it"

Absolutely right on.

Jesse Tucker
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This is an unfair comparison. A more fair comparison would be: If a reviewer worked very hard on their reviews and happened to catch some lucky break, maybe they can gain a following. If an indie developer works very hard and catches a lucky break, they might make a fairly profitable game.
TB has already gone through the uncertainty that you've described. He's already put in the hard work, made the lucky breaks and become popular. The problem is that for him the uncertainty never goes away. Everything could be gone tomorrow for him. Honestly, it reminds me more of working for a large publisher and being worried about getting laid off.

sean lindskog
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Fair point. But in the commentary I linked to in the article (I forget if it was TB or Francis), they say they're fighting as much for the rights of the little guys, several who have already been shut down, as for themselves. The little guys have less power to fight back against YouTube's policies.

Alexander Womack
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It is an unfair comparison, especially when many AAA games attract bad reviews like flies yet still sell...Mind share is a powerful thing.

As for this incident high lighting YouTube's copyright debacle, I have friends who have received false strikes and lost their channels. Frankly I don't blame Google for this though, but the copyright lobby. It is the party making the claim that should first be absolutely terrified that their claim holds weight lest their livelihood and professional life be at risk.

Simon Tomlinson
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Well said.

Jakub Majewski
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Sean,

I think there's been plenty of comments about the general gist of your article, so I won't bother to address that. I would, however, like to comment about that review that you criticise for criticising you for not making the game difficult enough. I have not played the game. Nor have I watched the review, so I can't address the question of whether or not the game actually was well balanced.

What I want to comment on is this terrible, horrid idea that you voiced - "this is what difficulty settings are for". No, damn it, that's absolutely not what difficulty settings are for! In fact, the very notion that users should customise your game in order to make it right for themselves is just so utterly horrid, I hate the fact that after thirty years, the games industry (worse than that: the most creative part of the industry, the indies) still talks about it as though it was common sense.

If I pick up a book, I might find its language enjoyable, or I might find it too dense or too simplistic. If I were a reviewer (which I'm not), I'll certainly voice my opinion in this regard. The last thing I would want, however, is for the author to package together three different books (easy/normal/hard) and expect me to choose one based on my skill level is. More than that, if the author then complained that my review is based on the "normal" version, I'd laugh at him.

Difficulty settings should be treated as a "replay value" feature. They absolutely should not be regarded as a "choose your own adventure" feature. A player is supposed to take the game out of the box, play it on default settings, and experience it as you had meant it to be, in the same way that when you watch a film or read a book, you experience them as the creators had intended. The default settings should be what *you* want the game to be like - and obviously, they should be enjoyable (and then, if they decide they want more, they can try a higher difficulty level). It's perfectly ok for the game to be easy or hard, if this is what you intended, but the game has to very clearly communicate your intentions - in the same way that when I pick up a book, I know whether it's intended for kids, adults, or English literature professors. And while book reviewers obviously have great language skills (just as game reviewers have great game playing skills), I have yet to hear of a book reviewer who'd pan a kids' book for not being up to his language skills: because the kids' book makes it clear what it is.

In short - if the reviewer found the game too easy on normal settings, it's your fault, not his. The problem doesn't stem from the fact that he didn't take into account his great skills by choosing a higher difficulty - he was doing his job, which is to experience the game as *you* had intended players to experience it. If the game didn't feel right, then either it truly was too easy, or you did not do a good enough job communicating the intended target group (the people for whom the game would be just fine). Either way, the ball's in your court.

Marvin Papin
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Yes, Normal settings must aim aimed public. If there are 3 different levels (totally different) for 3 difficulties (to not say "level" again), reviewer must only show the hard one because he is a hardcore gamer. And except if that makes things totally different like TimeSplitter2 (where levels were largely lengthen), they must not do the game thrice because, that can change their judgment and take too long.

sean lindskog
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Hey Jakub,
Wow. I couldn't disagree more.

Setting the proper difficulty level is absolutely critical for the enjoyment of many games.

Instead of talking about books with difficulty levels, let's talk about games.

I'm very good at turn based strategy games. If I were to have reviewed Civ5 on the default difficulty level, I would have absolutely hated it. If I then criticized the game for being too easy - without adjusting the difficulty level - that would be a completely bogus opinion. Because, by simply setting an appropriate difficulty level, I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of the game.

There is no single audience for any game. You'll always get a spectrum of:
- younger vs older gamers
- masters of the genre vs. those who have recently discovered it
- fast vs. slow reaction times
- people who learn quickly vs. slowly
- and so on.

People who have played a lot of space sims, say Freelancer, Freespace, Darkstar One, the X games, and so on, are going to be WAY better at space combat than those with little experience. If you're suggesting by your "intended group" argument that I put a label on my game that either says "For expert space sim players only", or "For noob space sim players only" - that seems like a very bad idea. Why limit your audience where it is completely unnecessary to do so?

Multiplayer games are a unique exception - you need a single difficulty level to maintain a level playing field. Although even MMOs usually offer a range of content to suit players of different abilities. But regardless - Salvation Prophecy is a single player game.

Alexandre Daze-Hill
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I agree with Jakub, setting the difficulty of a game without even knowing what's it's about, is not the best design decision out there, because this is a decision that affects the outcome and enjoyment of the game as a whole, yet you are completely clueless of what your decision is implying. There are several ways to overcome the difficulty struggle, like different difficulty paths, difficulty asked for every level, for level based games, cor single session games you can have difficulty that ramps up more quickly with skills, and I'm sure, with a lot of head scratching,we could come up with several others!

Justin Kovac
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I watched a Let's Play from the main menu. One thing I would consider is offering difficulty selection when the player clicks on New Game. As you quote Civ 5, this is one thing you do during game setup.

Devil May Cry always offered difficulty at the start with a brief explanation on what each means. The game will even ask to adjust difficulty if you suck that bad. Some JRPGs will offer a Easy or Normal mode from the start stating Easy is for people who want to enjoy the story and game without worrying about combat to much.

I believe reviews give good variety of perspective that creators can learn from. Why did their experience suck if it did and what can be done to make it better?

Alfa Etizado
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If there are three difficulty settings available from the start, which one is even the default setting?

What about building in accessibility functions to a game, functions which may make the game easier?

I don't think it's fair to compare games and books here, specially because some games are meant to challenge. Some games are meant to stop you from progressing.

I understand what you say about easy, normal and hard. It is indeed a weird thing. But I don't think it's bad. I think it's nice to give players power over the game, the difficulty settings are that. Let players skip levels or make the game insanely hard if they want to.

At it's core the most important thing isn't the challenge but the system. I've played many games where the mechanics were enjoyable but the game just wasn't hard enough for me to get the most out of them, I really wish I could make it harder but couldn't.

Besides, like I said earlier, by giving three options right from the start, the game ceases to have a default mode and instead has three different modes. That's an option for the game just like any option that happens inside the game.

For an instance, there are games that let me face optional and hard challenges, but they can be ignored. If I complained that the game was too easy while ignoring optional challenges, would it be a fair complaint? The challenge is right there in the game, accessible to the player, and the player chose to ignore it.

Another example, a game has two characters to choose from, they play completely different but you get them through the same levels. Is there a default character?

A third even more concrete example. Fallout 3 can be beaten in 6 hours or so, would it be fair to say the game is too short?

I think the problem is that you're seeing the game as starting once you're really playing it, but a game starts the moment the first line of code is read and every choice made by the player from that point on shouldn't be ignored. How can the player complain that it was easy if they chose the easy setting? It was the player's choice.

I think it's a perfectly legitimate option for the developer to build a game that can be approached in a number of ways, that can be customized, that doesn't have just ONE right way to play it.

Richard Adams
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I disagree that difficulty is only for replay value.

As a gamer I always select a difficulty based on my skill with that genre. Yes, I'd expect the default difficulty to be not too easy and not too hard for someone who is "good with games". I see Sean's point on picking the right difficulty for yourself. Some games I'd always pick easy, some I'd pick hard. If I get the decision wrong, I'll change it. That said... this only applies if you can change difficulty without restarting.

sean lindskog
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Yeah - I agree having to restart the game might be a serious deterrent.

In Salvation Prophecy, you can change difficulty at any time, and there's separate settings for space combat and planetary combat.

Jakub Majewski
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Well, Sean, what do you think about the classics of the genre, then? Wing Commander 1 & 2, Privateer, X-Wing, TIE Fighter... no sign of difficulty settings in any of those. Did these games fail to find their target? Did they get bad reviews, with some reviewers complaining that the game is too hard, others that it's too easy?

The fact is, at the end of the day, you *do* have a specific experience in mind that you want to get across. It might be hardcore (X-Wing), or it may be "anyone can be an ace" (Wing Commander). The difficulty of the game is even to some degree an aspect of the game's storyline - a badly balanced game will have horrific dissonance, with characters talking about a particular mission being a piece of cake while the player only managed to complete it on the twentieth attempt, or vice versa, a supposedly very difficult mission gets completed on the first pass.

I very strongly believe that developers should not even think about difficulty levels until very late in the production. Always play through on what you want to be the default setting, make sure this setting feels exactly how you want it to feel, and only *then* think about implementing additional easier and harder difficulty levels that players can optionally pick.

I also very strongly believe that you cannot ever expect reviewers to choose a difficulty level "appropriate to them", for the very simple reason that a reviewer is not meant to be playing the game for himself. He is supposed to put himself in the shoes of the average player. This doesn't, of course, mean that a reviewer will intentionally perform badly just to see how the game feels then - no, but he will generally be aware of his own skill level, and will assess the game's difficulty accordingly. He'll know that the game was relatively easy for him because of his experience, and he won't hold it against you.

In any case, a game should always be exciting and fun to play at the default settings. I've been playing space combat games for almost twenty years, and I've been developing space/air combat games for over a decade, and you know what? In spite of all that experience, I still find the original Wing Commander a thrilling and exciting experience. Yes, it's undoubtedly easier than it was when I first played it, but that hasn't made the game any less exciting. I can get through missions faster, but each one is fun. Similarly, if I play something like Freespace or the later WC games where difficulty settings are available - well, yes, I can play through the games at the highest difficulty settings, but they're just as fun at the default settings.

A game isn't fun because it's difficult enough. A game is fun because it's well made and well-balanced. In fact, if you ever notice the difficulty - either finding the game is too easy or too hard - that's a surefire sign of a design flaw. A game should feel just as well-balanced on easy, normal and hard difficulties. What this means is that a veteran player will be able to breeze through easy difficulty, but what is lost in challenge is made up for by the increased pace. No matter the setting, the game should feel right because it responds and adapts to the player.

I'm guessing here, but in all likelihood, if a reviewer found your game too easy, this is probably because of pacing issues. For instance, it may be that you trigger certain events (enemy reinforcements, etc.) based on time elapsing, and as a consequence, a player who smashes through a group of enemies too quickly finds himself bored.

Sometimes, reviews are crazy indeed. But a designer should always have the humility to at least think about whether or not the reviewer may have a point or not, because the reviewer tries to be the voice of the public. Instead of complaining about the reviewer failing to use a higher difficulty level, you should at least think about whether there might be something wrong with the default settings.

By the way, when I talk about making your target clear, I don't mean putting "this is a game for dummies" on the box. But target-less marketing is failed marketing. You always have a target for your game, you always know who you expect to enjoy it the most. In cinema, many marketing devices are used to express who a film is aimed at - for example, by telling the audience who made the film, or using genre-specific wording to make clear what the audience can expect. Does this put people off? Yep, it does - but it also helps the film find its target. A filmmaker is only too happy to brand his film as a romance or horror or whatever, because he knows that very few people go to a film completely unprepared. Unclear targetting will not make the film open to a bigger group, it will simply confuse the audience and make them choose something else.

This applies to genre, does it apply to difficulty in games as well? Heck, yes. I mentioned Wing Commander and X-Wing at the start. Wing Commander had always been very clear about being a game for anyone - where the generic "you" can be the hero. The X-Wing series meanwhile consciously (and ironically, given the Star Wars brand) appealed to simulator fans, with greater complexity and difficulty. Similarly, Freespace made an issue of being a game for fans of space combat (implying a greater challenge), while Freelancer tried (and failed) to make a niche for itself by highlighting how easy the game is, even to the point of refusing to support any joysticks just to hammer across the point that anyone can play.

So, who is *your* game for? Is it for vets or noobs? Is it for people who played Wing Commander, or people who don't know what a space sim is? Is it a slow-paced simulator, or a fast-paced action-fest? These are answers you need to give to the players, so that they know whether they should play your game or not. Failing to do so will not mean that your game will reach more people - but it will mean that confused reviewers give it lower scores.

sean lindskog
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Hey Jakub -

I guess it's pretty clear we come down on opposite sides of the fence on this one.

It's cool you wrote up your thoughts in such detail, so I wanted to make sure I posted back.

When you say this:
> "you *do* have a specific experience in mind that you want to get across"

I absolutely agree, and you highlight this well in your different space sim examples.

When you say this:
> "a game should always be exciting and fun to play at the default settings"

I think "exciting and fun" depends on challenge, and challenge depends on player skill vs. difficulty. So this is where our opinions diverge. But I'm guessing neither one of us is going to convince the other on this one. ;)

Jakub Majewski
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Hi Sean,

Yeah, probably it's best to "agree to disagree" on this :). For what it's worth, though, I think challenge is only an insignificant part of what makes a game exciting. A lot of the thrill involved is the feeling of mastery - that you're the ace fighter pilot now. This is the kind of thing that games like Call of Duty emphasize - they put you in the role of a hero soldier, who does all kinds of amazing things without breaking a sweat, and without requiring the player to break a sweat.

I *do* appreciate games that, unlike CoD, make this feeling of mastery a reward rather than an expectation - in other words, you have the thrill of being a hero because you earned it by learning to play and stepping up to the challenge. But I do think there's a fine line to tread in this regard - overdo the challenge, and you'll drive players off. Don't give enough challenge, you'll bore them to tears. This is where it's vital to take cues from games like CoD, and look for other ways to make the game exciting - not instead of excitement-by-challenge, but to compliment it. For example - in spacesims, players get a boatload of fun simply from the thrill of spectacular explosions, and these can help to distract us when there isn't enough challenge ("that was easy... but awesome!").

Anyway, that's enough from me. It's definitely something you should think about, though, in light of that negative review. I sympathise, because when my games get negative reviews, I also immediately get frustrated and irritated by the reviewer's inability to understand what I had in mind. It's only a few months later that you think: uh, well, yeah, I guess that wasn't the best thing to do :).

Tyme White
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I read the GameSpot review and saw the video. The review was written by Tyler Hicks and the video was read by Kevin VanOrd (he's reading the original written review), standing in for Tyler Hicks. Have you accused the wrong person of not being thorough?

Looking at the comments, a freelance writer for GameSpot named TiberiusAudley mentions he added to the review the game's low price tag as a means for the reader to understand why some features might be missing, but it was edited out. Once again, comparing YouTube reviewers (who usually have the last word on their reviews) to a reviewer working at/with GameSpot is an unfair comparison as it seems they might not have the final say in their work.

While I understand the point you are making, you are expressing the same frustration and anxiety most business owners feel when releasing their product or service. However, in your case, you seem to have a conflict of interest that is causing you to miss important facts about the review. The review does mention increased difficulty:

"Interlaced throughout the game are sparse missions to investigate unstable wormholes that lead to primitive alien planets, upon which you find ancient runes related to the game's titular Salvation Prophecy. Although these missions are few and far between, the game receives a huge spike in both difficulty and tension as the game's mostly absent narrative finally culminates as portals from another world rip open and aliens threaten to destroy friend and foe alike."

The video clearly shows his character standing there shooting without much threat of harm. If he played it on a harder difficulty, and showed video of that harder difficulty, it would not be a review that would be useful to the average player. You said the footage was good footage, but it shows an AI that could be improved. Are you saying the footage shown in the video is from an easy difficulty setting?

More importantly, why not respond to the comments on the written review? Talk about upcoming features you want to add in a patch (if there are any), explain the game has difficulty settings - start a dialogue with the people who might have interest in the game?

You have the power to turn this review into something positive. That is what good business owners do - turn weaknesses into strengths. I wish you much luck with your game.

sean lindskog
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Hi Tyme,

Hmm,
Yeah that does seem confusing. Kevin narrates the video. Kevin also was commenting on twitter as he played the game. Tyler seems to be credited with the written version (which I don't recall being visible from where I origionally viewed the video, but I could be wrong). And the author (Kevin or Tyler?) uses the handle TiberiusAudley in the comments.

I don't think I want to further inflate the main debate here (comparing the YouTuber's experience with dev's) with an in-depth evaluation of my game's features. Although I absolutely welcome this conversation if you want to drop by either the Steam forums, or my website forums.

But let me just say this. Yes, I absolutely agree a developer must be very careful in how they interpret feedback on their game. It is natural to become overly defensive at critique of your work. I try very hard not to do this. And please note that I do both complement much of Kevin/Tyler's review, and recognize much valid critique in my article.

Still, this is always something a developer must be mindful of, and I appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

Robert Boyd
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The "This game is too easy/shallow" complaint drives me nuts. Not only did we stick multiple difficulty levels in our games for a reason, but you can even change the difficulty at any time so the excuse "but how am I supposed to know how difficult each one is when I start the game?" doesn't work either.

The idea that there should be one true way to play a game is horrendously flawed. People play games for different reasons. When I play an RPG, my #1 goal is to master the combat & LV-Up systems. I like my RPGs to be brutally hard for this reason. Someone else who cares mostly about story & characters is likely to like a much gentler difficult level than I am.

I actually wrote a short article about the problem of naming one of the difficulty levels "Normal" and the expectations that this creates among players: http://zeboyd.com/2013/06/24/why-i-dont-think-our-next-game-will-
have-a-normal-difficulty-setting/

sean lindskog
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I checked out your article, Robert. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

I did the exact same thing as you - difficulty can be changed at any time.

The different RPG playstyles is a great example of the importance of difficulty levels.

Justin Kovac
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Many RPGs offer a Easy and Normal mode which covers what you have described. Easy for players who want to enjoy the story and game while Normal is for those that want combat to remain a challenge. Some even offer a Nightmare mode that sounds like you would prefer, but it is less common and usually offered

Some offer difficult optional content (various Final Fantasy have this) to offer a challenge and require powerful characters. Of course many want a challenge from minute one.

Simone Tanzi
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ok, I'm not trying to pick a fight or trying to dismantle your article (actually, I think it makes good premises but obvious one. on the line of "bad reviewers are bad") anyway...
The first thing that came to mind reading was.... would an actual developer of a genuinely bad game react any different?
You basically accuse a reviewer of "being wrong" in his review.
I don't know how carefully the reviewer reviewed the game nor how carefully you took in the criticism.
The fact is ... even a game with difficulty levels can be too easy if it's most difficult setting fails to meet the player expectations, something that happened to me a lot of times.
When a setting that is called "very hard" fails to give even the minimum challenge, then you can safely say the game is too easy and consider it a legitimate flaw.
That being said... it is also fair to say that there are a lot of bad reviewers in the world, but when a review is clearly wrong is pretty easy to dismantle it.
You should agree that Flagging a youtube channel for a nonexistent copyright infringement as a reaction to a bad devised review is the wrong way to go in every circumstance.
The correct response in a case like yours would be a message under the video, like "did you tried the hard difficulty settings? did you still found that lacking in challenge?". Chances are if you are right some people will start commenting on the virtues of the higher difficulty. Worst case scenario... people will agree with the reviewer, you get insight on what people feel is a flaw of the game and you can consider adding a ulterior Higher difficulty setting to the game.
But even with the harshest, most unreasonable review nothing good can come from censorship, especially if you reported a false issue like copyright to bring the review down.

Sean Sang
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For what it's worth Sean, I got the gist of your article being about the reviewer feeling what it's like to have their livelihood be threatened by an outside force. While it's true your game may still be up for sale after a bad review it doesn't mean it will sell well if at all. A bad game review could very well sink your game and your potential livelihood with it.

I've seen my fair share of reviews of games whose reviewers either didn't spend enough time with a game or the type of game just isn't something they are familiar with or fond of. Reviews like that can easily turn a player who would love that game away from playing it. The other problem I find with modern game reviewers is their lack of integrity. Some like to delve in the negative to the point of being nasty as they know this kind of negativity draws more views and stirs up controversy. Some even base their review personalty on being nasty. I'm also not fond of reviewers who want to make a personal point by trashing a game and ignoring other aspects of it because of a certain image or scene they took offense to. I think game reviewers owe it to their audience and the game developers themselves to be honest about their opinion on a game and only publish a review once they feel they have given it a fair and thorough play through.

sean lindskog
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Thanks Sean!
I was a little surprised how few people connected with me on this.
Appreciate the post.

Daniel Cook
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Most folks are not entrepreneurs. If you are predominantly a gamer. Or want to be a developer, but instead hang around these forums. Or work for other people and never sweat over having your life and savings destroyed if your game fails...then empathy is harder to come by.

Also copyright and the DMCA is a polarized topic. Warriors for the cause will swing their sword at any target not clearly aligned with with the tribe.

sean lindskog
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Hey Daniel -

Yes, I think I may have inadvertantly pissed off some warriors for the cause. ;)

Such is the fun of discussing a polarized topic. I think my next blog will be about piracy. ;)

Thanks for posting.

Anton Temba
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If a game actually sucks and the reviewer says his opinion of it honestly like it is, then the developer needs to try better next time. We have enough bad games as it is already and the mobile games trend in the recent years along with its abusive psychological monetization schemes have only made it worse.

Its brutal, yes, but at the end of the day, what matters to the players if the game is actually good. Livelihood of developers is not a concern for the player, since they care about the game, not the people behind it.

sean lindskog
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Nobody is saying game developers deserve charity. Or that honest reviews aren't important.

James Castile
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Here's the thing. Cowboy up. If your game is good TotalBiscuit isn't going to take away your livelihood. I personally think it was a chicken shit move to retaliate against him like that. Make your own review of his review and address his problems. I'll bet Biscuit would have the balls to post it as a video reply.

Ian Young
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Firstly, Speaking purely from a consumers point of view here: When I buy a game, I have certain expectations, which it must meet, in order for me to be happy with mu purchase. So before I buy a game, I watch a play through, and read/watch a couple of reviews, to reduce the chance of wasted money. Common sense stuff. If I spend £50 on a game, and I get 8 hours of play out of it, on default settings, I feel robbed. This is due to the fact that I do not view difficulty settings as "replay value". It is how hard I expect games to be. Easy should be the 8 hour playthrough, normal should take 12-15 hours, and hard/hardcore/nightmare (call it what you want, it's just hard mode), should be constistently hard, perhaps taking weeks for a playthrough. I know how challenging I like my games to play, normal is fine. I don't generally like the idea of selecting a difficulty level, as with most story driven games, I will only usually play through them at most three times over the course of a year. I have very little desire to play through a game again on hard mode. To entice me to do this, the gameplay better be damn good, or it's not worth the replay, or the money. If you got slated for an making overly easy game, then you made it too easy, simple as that. You didn't solve the problem of player challenge and engagement adequately. Rather than take this as harsh criticism, you should be taking it as "how to make the next game better", so don't go on about there being selectable difficulty. But, as I said previously, don't go on about it selectable difficulty being replay value either. Replay value is like unlocking new gear/areas/classes by completing the game. Something which very few games provide nowadays.
Secondly, TB is known for being a harsh reviewer (I mean, he is known as the Cynical Brit), so devs shouldn't really be that shocked or upset, about some hard comments from him. Grow a thick skin, as my Dad used to say, and pull your socks up. If I make anything requiring creativity, It is also a subjective process, based on my own likes and dislikes, so by that fact alone, means that not everyone will like it.
Thirdly, bad publicity is still publicity. Several celebrities have built careers on the fact that they are in the newspapers and on TV for all the wrong reasons. If someone has a passionate opinion about something you did, then it got noticed. Making someone rage is almost as good as making them joyful.
Lastly, and from a developer perspective, I like making things. I like making things that other people will like. Like most things, sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don't. If people don't tell me they don't like what I'm doing, I may keep doing things that people don't like, so I won't improve myself, or the things I make. When you go into the expensive world of games development, you are aware of the risks (or should be) before you go in. If you invest your entire life in a project, and it fails, of course it's devastating, but ask yourself, could that have been avoided with some research and better planning? Sure there are always unknowns, but by minimizing the unknowns, through proper risk analysis, you minimize the magnitude of loss through failure. If you do proper risk analysis and embark on a project, it means that you know and accept the risks, so no crying about it later. If you didn't do risk analysis, then you let yourself down, by starting something you potentially couldn't finish. OK, so you didn't get the reviews you hoped for, It's tough on the nerves, and it hurts, but suck it up and walk away with experience. If TB said the game is too easy, then a better response would be "Sorry you thought our game was too easy, the next one will be better". This kind of promise to players and reviewers is something you can keep, so long as you actually want to improve yourself and your products, and says to them, "I listened to you", which goes a long way.

Robert Leach
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Wow, you've struck quite the chord, here. Amazing number of responses.

Over the course of your career, you WILL have bad reviews... lots of them. You will learn to live with them and understand that they aren't why you make games. You make games because you love making games. Nobody becomes an Indie for the money. Reviewers become reviewers for the exact same reasons: it's not the money, it's because they love games.

They are different career paths that clash on occasion, but they are both paths born of passion. Tomorrow, the reviewer will play another game and make another review, hoping to scrape together another few fans. Tomorrow, the Indie will dust off and start in on another game, hoping to maintain a following and improve upon it. Both will pray they can make rent. Both have hardships the other cannot understand. Both dream of successes that few in their respective businesses ever attain.

Work hard, hard worker.

Tristan Moore
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It's hard not to see the irony in the reviewer's statements about livelihood, considering that's what being a game developer is all about. However, there's really two more important issues than understanding "what it's like" to be us; do we make good products that deserve purchase, and do we have a right to seek legal action against our detractors?

The sad fact is that nobody cares about the struggles of creating a game if it produces a sub-par product. It's not always our fault when things go wrong (especially when a large team and a publisher are involved), but that's just the sad part of doing business. Output is what matters, and if you can't deliver, it doesn't matter what challenges we had stacked against us.

On a separate ironic note, it is likely that this controversy has given a larger boost to the title than it normally would have received. I know personally that the first time I even heard of the game was in relation to TotalBisquit's outraged response, and the chances are this wouldn't have reached much of an audience without the controversy.

Harry Fields
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If you're making your living off of providing content for someone else's platform, you've always gotta' be worried about things that they could do or could happen to them. Zynga hitched their cart to FB and people moved to phones. They put all their eggs in the FB basket and now they're facing extinction or fire sale in a few years. TotalBiscuit, if this is his only form of income, ought be wary of putting all his eggs in the YouTube basket. That's a healthy fear for him to have if it's his livelihood. Slightly off topic, but still...

On the topic of DMCA take-downs... it's a shame there's no real appeals process that is impartial and even handed. Google will always err on the side of not having to utilize their legal resources for trivial (to them) matters. Big media corp says take it town, they're gonna' take it down. Not much you can do but create your own site and be prepared to throw away threatening letters from lawyers. Because sending takedowns and crap is how *They* make their living :\.

Turei Grant
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Aside from the occasional RPS article, I rarely read or watch game reviews anymore. There simply aren't enough reviewers out there who have an understanding of mechanic design and implementation, which is typically the best indicator of whether I will enjoy a game.

Essentially all you get is 'I did/did not have fun', 'I liked/did not like the art style' and 'my short session was/was not affected by bugs', plus a few (usually incorrect) statements about whether a game was in some way innovative. With the lack of _broad_ design/development backgrounds among reviewers, they have no objective measures to use. The usefulness is therefore limited to 'my taste is similar to this reviewer, so if he likes it, I'll check it out'.

What we need is game review reviews. To expand on Tristan Moore's statement, no one cares about the struggles of creating any product if the product is sub par, and game reviews have been generally sub par for twenty years.

I am not and have never been involved in either the games or games review industry btw.

Paul Shirley
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The quality of reviewers and reviews is not served by unfairly censoring honest reviews just because a dev dislikes what's said. Reviewers serve the gaming public, they aren't supposed to be a developers PR division. We lived through decades of blatantly paid for print reviews, driven by the threat of withholding advertising or cooperation, it was BAD.

When devs start unfairly attacking the few genuinely good reviewers, on such an unbalanced playfield as this youtube copyright crap, that's a disaster for everyone.

TBH I've never thought it's hard identifying the reliable and unreliable reviewers and I doubt the buying public have any problem separating them either.

Turei Grant
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Totalbiscuit reviews epitomise everything I was talking about. However, I agree that the copyright claim is crap. I'm just commenting on what I saw as the thrust of the post, which is that he is just now realising what it is like to be on the other side of the fence, and his reaction to that was quite interesting.

Jonathan Murphy
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Get rid of lifetime copyrights, get rid of the 3 strikes. It doesn't work for US criminals and it doesn't work for the internet. Make an official system online where owners can submit their ID to prevent fake claims. Create a 10 year copyright system where the creator of said material has 10 years to get product on market, and once on market an additional 10 years on market before copyright expires and becomes public domain. Those are just some of the overhauls we need, and soon.

Once AI bots create their own websites based on code, it'll be the end. You can argue otherwise, but we're moving into a always on peer to peer internet system.

John Flush
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You have described why I think GS reviews are flawed, and most reviews in general to not entirely single out GS. I remember the days where the reviewers talked features of the game and whether or not they pulled those off. The problem with this is every AAA game had to have some resemblance of the 'default' feature set to check off and if you didn't have them you got points taken off (this still exists to some regard like online multiplayer, multiplayer check boxes for everything including long standing single player games).

However, now-a-days, large chunks of features are not even discussed as part of the reviews - such as difficulty settings. My pet-peaves are a 'No gore mode' or 'adult restriction on/off', difficulty settings, controller/input settings are customizable. No review ever mentions these anymore... yet they tend to be my main concerns with games. I held off getting castle crashers for months, but once I got it I realized it had a gore mode - turned it off - and it turned out to be a family staple for months. If I would have seen a review that said it had one I probably would have bought it right away. I think I eventually took a chance on the demo and noticed it and then bought it same day... but even getting over the bump to get the demo took time.

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Back to the reviewers and fear of 'the end of their livelihood' - meh, if they get blocked then too bad. Reviewers, like us developers a lot of times, are like 'weeds' to the public. When one gets pulled 6 take their place. Or at least that is how the public sees it. Fearful? Damn skippy. Youtube people, once they hit the big time, should realize they need to setup their own shop outside of the corporate hand that can smash them at any time. then redirect people to that from what made them popular. Of course it deals with the resources to do something like this so I guess if you don't want to be fearful all the time, do something else - or keep screaming for change to the white collar businesses (they don't care about you by the way).

Dane MacMahon
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I dislike a lot of modern games for being too easy but I never usually try hard modes. Let me tell you why: they all suck.

Nine times out of ten they just increase enemy HP and damage. This is boring. It makes enemies bullet-sponges and adds frustration, not difficulty. A game like Dishonored is easy because blink makes stealth super simple to achieve. The harder modes in that game do nothing to change this, because all they do is increase enemy HP and damage. This same paradigm exists across most games... quest arrows never go away, ammunition never changes, etc... all that changes is enemy HP and damage.

If your game is different you should make that a highlight of its advertising.

Linh Ngo
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As a fellow indie dev of a space sim (and someone who tried Salvation Prophecy not long after release), I hate to say it, Sean, but your situation is nothing like Total Biscuit's. And trying to equate the two is bad mojo. Here's some straight talk for you.

I feel for your plight since our game Dangerous got a similar scathing review from someone who never bothered to upgrade his early ship, completed the game, but complained about being one-shotted all the time. I've learned it's much better to thank the reviewer because in most cases, they're right. You as a developer dropped your guard somewhere and the reviewer found it. That's their job. And even if they're not right, being gracious makes the reviewer look bad (or at least makes you look good). Not being gracious or complaining about bad reviews makes you look bad.

Your main complaint seems to be about the Gamespot reviewer not changing the difficulty setting to hard (because they say the game is too easy). But it's not the reviewer's responsibility to pick the right one. He must use one that most gamers will use, that being the default one. If anything, it should be a good indication to you that one of your game's weaknesses is properly scaling the difficulty to provide for a challenging experience in any mode especially the normal one. Either update your game, or chalk it up as a learning experience for your next one. It's hard when the game is your baby you've nurtured for 5 years, but soldier on.

And bringing this back to TotalBiscuit, the proper analogy is what Wild Games Studio did is equivalent to someone making a baseless DMCA claim against Salvation Prophecy and getting it pulled from all stores. Without a shred of evidence, and in total bad faith as TotalBiscuit explained in his followup video. Not only that, if this was the third such DMCA complaint regardless of merit, all the stores would no longer sell ANY of your future games. That is his reality. Big difference. You got a bad review on the most popular gaming review site which will probably generate more sales than if they hadn't reviewed your game since some customers chimed in to note the lower price and "indie"-ness of your game.

I'm glad to know that your game is doing OK (and on Steam no less)! Hopefully we see more spacey goodness from you in the future.

sean lindskog
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Hey Linh -

Thanks for posting.

The story I gave about Salvation Prophecy was in no way an attempt to say "a bad review is the same as a DMCA takedown threat". That is obviously not the case.

The whole point of the article was to highlight the _vulnerrability_ that devs feel about their work, and how other people can affect it. This feeling is exactly what the YouTube reviewers are currently experiencing. This is the similarity, _between two otherwise very dissimilar things_, that I was pointing out.

Some commenters here totally understood this (see David Cornelius or Brad Jeffrey's comments for instance), but many others, such as yourself, seemed to have missed this subtlety, and have reacted unfavorably. I've reread my article several times, and I feel I expressed this thought fairly clearly. I could be wrong. But perhaps because the YouTube / DMCA thing is such a charged issue, it's easy for this subtlety to get lost, and people read things into my article that aren't there.

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On the side issue of responding to critical reviews - I agree with all of your thoughts. In general, I try to be very understanding of critiques of my game.

About the difficulty critique specifically - in no other review for Salvation Prophecy (and there have been many), have I heard that space combat was too easy. The general consensus is that space combat in Salvation Prophecy is quite challenging and engaging. But of course, skill in space sim games comes in a WIDE range. I'm sure you must have witnessed this yourself among players of your space game.

So, I do think this is more a case of a reviewer not properly exploring the difficulty options to match his advanced skill in space sim games, rather than an accurate critique of the game's difficulty as you have suggested.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and best of luck with Dangerous!

sean lindskog
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I just shared a few tweets with Tyler, and for what it's worth, he said "You make excellent points in your post, and I don't disagree at all. I should've definitely tried the higher difficulty."

Pretty cool fellow.

Jennis Kartens
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This response brings a lot of problems together. An interesting read with a lot of possible views on the subject as the comments show.

While the entire review process sure is an overall problem (though as someone already pointed out, YouTube reviews actually display the game so whatever the commentary, the game speaks often for itself) I think the copyright problem is a lot bigger and one being way more abused as people stating their opinion.

The latter sure can be devastating to your product, especially as an indie dev (and not only. A lot of companies have blacklists and whitelists on whom to give out review codes... that whole territory is really skewed in a much different scope) but in games it is often rather honesty driven and not on purpose of destroying your product. Copyright is constantly abused for sole destruction of whatever...

Last week I spoke with someone who still has a copyright strike on his channel because of some video from a closed beta of Crysis... from last year. So that prevents him from doing several things and may even become a problem. Thinking however that it was because of "leaking" footage from a game that is essentially no different of his predecessor I think it proves that these systems are just wrong.

Copyright is a way more problematic topic as game review opinion leaders IMO. An entirely different too, but also a way more important one that affects all of the internets freedom (primary these days) in a much bigger way.

Keenan Cole
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It's incredible so many miss the point of the article. The topic of copyrights really brings in the knee jerk reactions. It's rare for most people to come to the point where this could be a make or break moment: Is this game going to be my last? Will TB's channel survive? Livelihoods are at stake. Perhaps we can find a small piece of empathetical common ground in this crisis. Granted, its a very small strip of ground. There's precious little else that are similar to the situations. But shouldn't we cherish what little there is?

sean lindskog
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Yes!

Evan Leong
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Hey Sean,

I liked your article after several read throughs, I definitely missed the nuance at first but slowly came to see where you were coming from.

I can't say I've been in a difficult situation so far when it comes to job security but I can empathize (or is sympathize the proper word to use? Not sure.) with what you're feeling.

I think at some level we also have to accept that if we're going to be our own bosses or entrepreneurs (whether it is in games or anywhere else), we have to accept that a lack of job security is to be expected and rightfully feared. Unless we have a sure fire way to have a successful product, we'll always live with that uncertainty. I like to think that reviewers that strike out on their own go through that same feelings as well and that we're all in the same boat.

My main issues with reviews are the people who actually read the reviews. As I'm well aware people rarely take the time to read/listen/watch several reviews about a game and then come to an informed conclusion. After all that is how reviews are meant to work and what scares me is that in this day and age people are beginning to lose sight of that.

At the same time I don't think it's reasonable for the ordinary consumer to care about the developers. They don't know us and we don't know them. They don't care about the struggles we go through to make them a product because we do not have a relationship to them. As far as they are concerned we don't exist beyond the product we have made.

And as for the whole Wild Games issue...I can only say they abused their power and behaved unethically. We can neither condone nor just sweep what they did under the rug.

I'm sorry if this ramble has gone on for a paragraph too long. I just have so many thoughts on so many different points that it is a bit overwhelming.

I admire you for being gracious towards criticism of your article and your game. Few people now a days are as thoughtful or patient as you have been. Really appreciate the article and the discussion it has sparked. I hope all the best for you in the future.

-Evan

sean lindskog
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Hey Evan,
What a cool comment. Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

It's true - entrepreneurs of all stripes should understand what they're signing up for. Although many start out naive as to the depth of struggle. Maybe that's a good thing, or else nobody would ever try. Come to think of it, maybe entrepreneurs are simply the people who are too dumb to know any better. ;)

To some extent, all of us strive to do something we're proud of in our lives, whether it be career, art, family, or some other worthwhile endeavor. I think part of what makes our stories interesting are the battles which must be overcome to accomplish our goals. Or perhaps the failures we trip over along the way.

Agreed on all your other points.
All the best to you too.

Lorenzo Gatti
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I don't think this article gives the due consideration to the moral plane.
Releasing a bad game is a mistake; publishing a misinformed review is a mistake; abusing the DMCA and Youtube's processes to reduce freedom of speech, to put Totalbiscuit's livelihood as a Youtube reviewer in peril, and to implicitly threaten reviewers in general, is an egregiously evil and antisocial behaviour. It cannot be excused because game developers feel entitled to be nervous and to "fight back" against reviewers.

sean lindskog
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Nobody is saying that abuse of the DMCA and YouTube's processes should be excused.

Lorenzo Gatti
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You don't need to "excuse" the DMCA aggression explicitly if you say it makes you happy:

"So, this is a rare moment. A moment where the tables are turned. Game critics may feel, for once, a sense of what devs feel all the time. What it's like for another person to have amazing and terrifying power over your life."

This sounds like gloating and standing behind Wild Games Studio.
Which, unlike the reviewer, you avoid naming in the article: a standard PR technique to frame the case as Totalbiscuit vs. "someone just like me and you" rather than Totalbiscuit vs. a specific public enemy.

Another obvious rhetorical trick is refusing discussion of why the behaviour of Wild Games Studio was bad, suggesting that it's mostly Totalbiscuit's problem and/or that they hurt only abstract political issues:

"So, there's some serious issues to discuss here. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Fair use of media. Consumer protection. Censorship. Totalbiscuit covers this in his commentary on this incident.
But that isn't what I'm here to talk about.
It's something else."

I don't know whether you are attempting to defend Wild Games Studio by deliberately shifting attention from abnormal review reactions to a falsely related issue (review quality), or you are earnest and oblivious to the true meaning of your own article.
In both cases, the legitimate and well explained concern about review quality is undermined by the confrontational attitude: you are celebrating a rare "defeat" for reviewers in a war that isn't going well for the developers faction, and your side is both essentially less trustworthy and guilty of "war crimes".

sean lindskog
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Sorry Lorenzo, you're reading all sorts of hatred and negativity into my blog that just isn't there.

I have nothing against TB at all. I support his concerns over the YouTube policy, which is why I called his concerns serious, and linked to his commentary.

I'm just asking all critics to be conscious of the power of their actions.

sean lindskog
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From the very first paragraph:

"This is a huge deal because YouTube may completely shut down a reviewer's channel forever, if enough copyright claims are filed against it. It threatens a reviewer's livelihood."

and 2nd:
"So, there's some serious issues to discuss here. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Fair use of media. Consumer protection. Censorship. Totalbiscuit covers this in his commentary on this incident. "

I truly don't understand how you interpret this as being happy about DMCA agression.

Terry Matthes
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I don't have a lot of respect for "most" critics. There, I said it! I have no personal bone to pick with Total Biscuit, but rather critics as a whole.

Services like You Tube give them a soapbox for free and the more people that line up to listen the more money they make. Scathing videos bring views and views bring money.

I found it hilarious how critics can complain about getting a possible ban from Youtube and cite that it's their income and livelihood that's being messed with, but won't bat an eye at tearing down someone else's livelihood via a harsh review.

If John Bain (Totalbiscuit) had meet face to face with the developers to deliver his review I can guarantee it would have gone differently because he would be literally faced with the actual people his words effect. This (I hope) would force anyone to treat those people with the respect they deserved as human beings and hard working developers.

Whether the game was amazing or not isn't the point. There are a lot more diplomatic and non punitive ways to get the point across about a game not meeting your personal standards. If you want to be treated as a professional, try talking like one. The alternative is to continue flinging verbal dookie in the hopes of gathering, and foremost monetizing the attention you garner, but in turn being treated like the simian you personify.

I feel like a lot of critics out there would review games in a more professional manner if they tried their hands at development. I'm not talking about flying down to Blizzard HQ for the day and taking a tour ending is epiphanies like; "Wow it takes a lot of people to make a game good". I mean actually make and release a game big or small.

For me it's about respect. You'll get it if you give it and the largely parasitic relationship most critics have with developers doesn't deserve it.

Evan Leong
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"I feel like a lot of critics out there would review games in a more professional manner if they tried their hands at development. I'm not talking about flying down to Blizzard HQ for the day and taking a tour ending is epiphanies like; "Wow it takes a lot of people to make a game good". I mean actually make and release a game big or small."

I used to feel that way as well but as I slowly began moving away from writing reviews (helped me improve my written English) and went more in game development. I honestly felt like I was losing objectivity in my reviews, I would often write "Function A wasn't implemented well but I imagine it must be pretty tough for X number of people to do it."

I subsequently realized that your everyday consumer doesn't care about how difficult the development process is. And even if the reviewer did mention how difficult it is while maintaining complete objectivity, most people would simply disregard it and only hear that "Function A isn't good.".

My theory is that the information dialogue between the industry and ordinary people is extremely weak or that our industry is extremely niche. So much so that the things people say while criticizing games comes off as very ignorant and unsympathetic to the plight of game developers. But at the end of the day it's just a theory.

And to be fair, not all reviews are as harsh as what Totalbiscuit had to say. I think it just so happened that Day One: Garry's Incident was really terrible to play. And with quality games coming out at that price point it's easy to see why their game stood out as being particularly awful.

John Bain
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Well, I didn't really plan on responding to this whole thing but this comment really takes the biscuit so hey. Let's take this mess apart point by point.

"Services like You Tube give them a soapbox for free and the more people that line up to listen the more money they make. Scathing videos bring views and views bring money."

False. Here's a list of my top 10 most viewed "WTF is?" videos and my impressions of each.

* WTF is League of Legends - Positive
* WTF is Magicka - Extremely positive. Also earned a Top 3 spot in my Top 10 games of that year.
* WTF is Duty Calls - A parody video, little critique to be made here
* WTF is Far Cry 3 - Extremely positive.
* WTF is Space Marine - Gushingly positive, to the point of being accused of "fanboing out" over the game.
* WTF is Day Z - Positive, also bearing in mind that was a dual-commentary with the developer
* WTF is FTL? - Extremely positive. Earned a spot in my Top 10 games of 2012
* WTF is Smite? - Mostly positive, some misgivings but enjoyed my time with it
* WTF is Dishonored - Positive. Earned a spot in my Top 10 games of 2012
* WTF is Terraria - So positive it spawned an entire series with more than 80 episodes.

So what was that about "Scathing reviews getting more views" again? Maybe you're thinking of how old media works. I don't need to be scathing to go viral and get the big numbers, what I need is a video in the chamber for embargo date that is well made and very detailed. How positive or negative it is is quite frankly irrelevant, I don't give scores and I don't link-bait. You can check this for yourself by looking at my popular videos playlist which Youtube generates based on views.

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"I found it hilarious how critics can complain about getting a possible ban from Youtube and cite that it's their income and livelihood that's being messed with, but won't bat an eye at tearing down someone else's livelihood via a harsh review."

Your fallacy is comparing receiving a bad review to having your entire business destroyed, which is exactly what happens if you receive 3 of those strikes. 1 strike prevents you making money from that video, which is a pain in the arse, that's basically saying "hey that work you did? You're not getting paid for it", which nobody in their right mind would be ok with in a "regular" job. 3 strikes and you are OUT, gone. My family relies on that income, my employees rely on that income. You are suggesting that a harsh review is even close to the same thing? The false equivalency is heady and dizzying. More to the point, I have to put consumers FIRST, as should any reviewer/critic. Sucks if a studio sells less copies because of bad reviews, which admittedly could have been avoided if they hadn't made a bad game, sucks more if potentially millions of people get ripped off. Games are expensive, the economy pretty much sucks, that bad game that guy may have bought if not warned because of reviews, could have been the only entertainment he could have afforded that month. It's my job to protect that guy, it is not my job to protect publisher/developer interests and nor should it be because as soon as that happens, you might as well kiss objectivity goodbye.

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"If John Bain (Totalbiscuit) had meet face to face with the developers to deliver his review I can guarantee it would have gone differently because he would be literally faced with the actual people his words effect. This (I hope) would force anyone to treat those people with the respect they deserved as human beings and hard working developers."

I don't critique people, I critique video games. You realise developers often come to me for consultancy and feedback right? That's part of my job and it's something I do an awful lot. They do that because they know they need an outside perspective, it's far too easy to become too close to your work and lose objectivity and perspective on your product. It's not my job to worry about the feelings of the developer and suggesting that you should temper your criticism because it might upset someone is just dreadful. Oh, you're upset because someone criticized your work? Welcome to the club, guess what I have to deal with every single day. You are not your work, separate the two or you'll be driven to Fish levels of madness.

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"Whether the game was amazing or not isn't the point. There are a lot more diplomatic and non punitive ways to get the point across about a game not meeting your personal standards. If you want to be treated as a professional, try talking like one. The alternative is to continue flinging verbal dookie in the hopes of gathering, and foremost monetizing the attention you garner, but in turn being treated like the simian you personify."

This is pretty much bollocks. It's clear you haven't actually watched my videos. Using terms like simian does not make you sound reasonable, professional or grownup, it makes you sound like a pseudo-intellectual twat.

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"I feel like a lot of critics out there would review games in a more professional manner if they tried their hands at development. I'm not talking about flying down to Blizzard HQ for the day and taking a tour ending is epiphanies like; "Wow it takes a lot of people to make a game good". I mean actually make and release a game big or small.

For me it's about respect. You'll get it if you give it and the largely parasitic relationship most critics have with developers doesn't deserve it."

Except critics absolutely have that perspective. Every one of them worth their salt does. I deal with developers on a daily basis. I frequently meet them face to face at trade shows multiple times a year and I'm also visiting studios on a greater frequency than that. I understand exactly what it takes to make a game and I also understand that's not relevant to the consumer. Hey, you spent hundreds of hours and a lot of money on expensive ingredients for this cake? That doesn't matter too much if your cake tastes awful. The only thing the consumer cares about is whether or not the cake is any good. Yeah you're right, it's about respect and you will indeed get it if you deserve it. However if your game isn't any good, then you can expect it to get exactly the respect it deserves, that being not very much at all. Welcome to the creative industry, where people will judge your product constantly.

In conclusion I feel your rant was little more than that and had little to do with the topic at hand. It handily side-stepped the nasty reality of what happened and veered off on a wild tangent which strawmanned and broadstroked an entire industry of people. If I were the scoring type, I'd be giving you a 3/10 at best and just like game development, there is no medal for merely trying.

sean lindskog
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Hi John,

I know there's a lot of people who fake being you, and so it's tough to be 100% sure this is a legit post by you. Although if it is an impersonator, they've done an awfully good job of it!

Your comments seem to address Terry Matthes' post only, which is very different in nature to what I attempted to say in my blog. If I'm understanding you correctly, then you haven't decided to take a stand here for or against the opinions I presented. That's totally cool with me. But let me know if I'm wrong, and you do want to discuss what I wrote.

Either way, hats off and good luck to you in addressing the serious issue of the YouTube 3 strikes policy. Regardless of whether you agree with anything else I had to say, I fully support and appreciate your efforts in this.

Paul Laroquod
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This is a freedom of speech issue, pure and simple. To draw a comparison with an artist who fails in the marketplace is way off base because failing in the markertplace is how we distinguish good art from bad - which is a social good, Whereas having your opinions of the quality of art censored is precisely the opposite: it isa hijacking of the forces of the marketplace by force, essentially.


i have nothing but contempt for game devs who think getting a bad review deserves sympathy. It doesn't deserve a singke iota. Make a better game. Stop acting as if your livelihood gives you a right to control my opinion.


This is how democracy dies BTW -- a bunch of people invested in an industryfinancially get togetherand decide that freedom is not in their mutuak interests: may they shoukd just have the power to destroy critics. Maybe it's some kind of poetic justice because their feelings were hurt. No it isn't -- your feelings are SUPPOSED to be hurt because this is how we evaluate the worth of people's effort in a free society. If you think thete should be some comeuppance for expressing one's opinionof so someone else's output too vociferously or too successfully, if you think that's a form of justice or a 'taste of their own medicine' or if for any reason at all this pleases you, then you just don't believe in freedom or democracy. Youhave placed your own advancement above the continued health and vibrance of our culture, and you are to be dissed and ignored, not congratulated.

sean lindskog
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Nobody said getting a bad review deserves sympathy. My blog clearly advocates for fair, honest and attentive reviews, and defends the importance of good critique in our industry.

The rest of your post is based on this drastic misreading of my blog, so there's not much else I can respond to here.

Lorenzo Gatti
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Your article advocates for "turning the tables" against critics; taken in context as an answer to a specific incident, your article advocates for threatening critics into submission using the same unacceptable methods as Wild Games Studio used against Totalbiscuit.

Given that there is no other reasonable interpretation of your article, the "drastic misreading" is your own; sometimes one says something he doesn't mean, oblivious to its implications, and without pondering what are the right and bad occasions and the right and bad ways to express an opinion. Three weeks ago, a post to whine about a superficial review of your game would have met with sympathy and agreement; but now connecting your personal review troubles with an infamous Youtube abuse is hate speech regardless of your verbal contortions.

When a responsible and mature person causes involuntary controversy and offense, the problem is acknowledged, apologized for, and often corrected, rather than denied and misrepresented; at this point, given the ridiculous and apparently weaselly answers to remarks from John Bain and others, it's likely that you are deliberately trying to pass off a carefully crafted piece of virulent propaganda as merely "defending the importance of good critique".

I'll be more generous than Totalbiscuit and rate you 4/10 for trying and failing (partial scores: 6/10 sophistry skills, 4/10 excessive ambition, 2/10 not realizing you've lost the argument).

sean lindskog
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> "your article advocates for threatening critics into submission using the same unacceptable methods as Wild Games Studio used against Totalbiscuit."

Please Lorenzo, if you spend a few moments actually reading my blog, calmly, from beginning to end, you would see I have said nothing of the sort.

> "I'll be more generous than Totalbiscuit and rate you [...]"

Are you referring to John's rating of Terry's comment? That wasn't aimed at my blog, as far as I can tell. His response is to Terry, and everything he quotes is a comment of Terry's, not mine.

If there are things you don't like about my opinions, fair enough, and I'd be happy to talk about that. But we can't do that while you're making wild accusations that have nothing to do with the opinions I actually expressed.


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