How should budget games be reviewed?
Thinking about Warlock some and the review score controversy: I started to think, how should budget games like Warlock, Skullgirls, etc be reviewed?
Both those games had very enticing features, but serious flaws at launch.
a) You base the review on what the cost of the game is: you expect less from a $15-20 game than you would a $50-60 game.
b) You just review the overall quality, and a lower score doesn't mean don't buy, but that the game may be worth $20 , but not $40.
I'm not sure which option is better, or what folks would prefer.
I'd prefer a rating system as follows:
"Day one purchase!"
"Get it full price"
"Wait for patches" (if PC) or "Buy it used" (if console)
"Good bargain bin value"
"Maybe, if you're bored"
"Don't get it unless they pay you"
In short, be more descriptive in your final recommendation rather than giving it a grade of some sort. Sure, that might throw the metacritic slaves into a tizzy, but I think it's more useful to the consumers out there.
How To Go
Good is good, bad is bad. Price is important, but I only on a fiscal level.
Not a fan of theory a) since I'm not sure how "fair" it is. I recently (re)bought (partially) the infinity engine and neverwinter nights collections for around 7.50 each I think. Put together those 15bucks got me more play-time and RPG excellence (+ some excellent mods etc.) than any 1200 point xbla game could hope to give me (except if you really really get into something like trials). Thus, price shouldnt really be the prime metric.
Surely price has to come into it?
Imagine choosing a car where the reviewer didn't relate it to the price? I'm guessing a top-range lexus would get a better review than a bottom range Peugeot every time...
Some games are lightweight casual fare designed to be played a few times. Others are serious deep undertakings that promsie hundreds fo hours of intense and engrossing gameplay.
I'd pay 10 times for battlefield 3 what I'd pay for plants Vs Zombies. BF3 is by far the better, deeper, more engrossing game, but then for the price difference, I woudl expect that.
You could also ask how niche games should be reviewed. Or games with amazing graphics but poor gameplay. Or vice-versa. Ultimately, the reviewer should accurately convey their experience playing the game and provide other information that a consumer would want to know. Then it's in the consumer's hands.
I don't think a flawed game should get a pass because of price any more so than a flawed triple-A game should get one because it has shiny graphics or whatever else. Games should be judged on merit, and that's it. Tell me the good and the bad, and I'll decide what price (if any) I'm willing to pay for that. Sure--tell me how it stacks up to other games in its price range. Tell me if you recommend it! But no, a flawed game that only costs $10 is not more worth my time than an equally-flawed game that costs $50. If you're going to put your game out there, it should be your best work, regardless of how much you're charging.
You aren't buying at the full price, which changes everything. Prices of games fluctuate a lot, but reviews surely have to be based on the full price of a game.
Originally Posted by razarok
Although frankly, all I need are some gameplay videos, a lot of screenshots and a non-judgemental descritopion of how the game plays. I can judge for myself from that point whether it appeals to me personally or not. I love a lot of low-scored games, and despise some award winning high-rated ones so....
99.99% of people buying games on sale disagree with you.
Originally Posted by Two Sheds
They should be rated just like any other game and that includes a "value" rating. I have always thought that the rating system on AAA games is broken since most reviews wouldn't ever mention that a $60 game only has 5 hours of content. That is kind of important for us non-millionaires that can't afford to spend $10,000/year on video games.
Well terrific. I'm still not going to buy Velvet Assassin even though it's $1.69, because it sounds like shit.
The point is that the consumer can make that call himself. I don't need a reviewer telling me "well it's sixty dollars but I really feel like the fair price is thirty four." Tell me what you think of the game, and I'll decide my price point.
I mean frankly, the idea that review scores should reflect price reads a lot like developers wanting to be able to say "Come on--I'm only charging ten bucks, I can be a little shitty." Which is lazy and insulting. You can do less with a $10-game budget than a $60-game one, obviously, but you should still be aiming for good work. And if you fall short, it's fair game to call you on it. That's what criticism is about.
Last edited by Two Sheds; 06-13-2012 at 06:40 AM.
My opinion is for the last few years cliffski was correct but as there are more and more <$5 on steam sales I find my ability to Find time to Play it becomming more and more a factor. 2 years ago I'd jump on almost any $2 game, now I do consider how good it is before I buy anything.
I'm in the "if it's crap, it's crap" camp. Or more positively: "if it's awesome, it's awesome". It's up to the reader to decide whether he's willing to accept some flaws at a lower price point or not. It doesn't make sense to factor in the price into the score - because you'd have to do that all the way. Do you re-adjust the score of full-price games after a while once the inevitable price drops come?
And I'm not saying don't mention it. If a reviewer thinks its important to mention that this is a small studio and they've really done something special with their budget despite the flaws, then by all means go ahead. But if you're going to have a score system, the scoring criteria have to be the same for everybody. Once you start adjusting scores and pulling punches on your critique because the game is an indie/budget/whatever game, you're drifting from "reviewer" to "apologist."
There's a problem here, value of money is relative to how much you have, and how much you're willing to spend on games. Also some series have fanatical following (fighting games and RPGs are an example of this) where folks would spend $100+ on a game.
Originally Posted by aganazer
Just review the game. I don't think price has anything to do with quality. It actually annoys me when a reviewer says something like, "Blank has some pretty bad problems but it's only $19.99 so get it."
The purpose of a game review (or, should I say, any review) is to let you know what you can expect from the game. If the review as informed you sufficiently, you should be well equipped to say how much you'd want to pay for it.
No one really reviews movies or books based on their production or marketing budget, but the price to the consumer is generally the same across the board. Setting aside premiums like 3D, RPX, or IMAX, the ticket price to see Transformers is the same as Winter's Bone. We do differentiate between physical goods like luxury and budget cars and low-end or high-end tech because the purchase price varies wildly. A Ferrari California does not have the same sticker price as a Toyota Corolla and you wouldn't expect the same experience driving them.
So where do games fall? Do you expect the same things out of a new $10-$20 game as a new $60 one? Does Torchlight 2 get a break for it's price versus Diablo III? Let's be honest about it. The comparison will be made in a lot of reviews.
It is interesting that price doesn't seem to play into reviews very much. I bet if a new game came out and it was priced at $150 the review would mention it and weight the review with the price in mind.
I do think price needs to be factored in somehow because I think game reviews are recommendations to consumers.
Assuming reviews are only done at the time of a game's release, when it is selling for it's full initial retail price, then I think a game should be reviewed on it's merits as a game first and foremost, regardless of cost. "Value for the price" could then be included as a minor factor in the overall review, thus giving a game like Warlock a small bump by mentioning that "while flawed in some respects, the retail price of $20 may make this game worthwhile to fans of the strategy genre as there is certainly $20 worth of entertainment here despite the issues. That way the game could still receive 3 out of 5 stars or whatever and yet have some appeal to a budget minded consumer.
When it comes to seriously discounted games (like the Steam Sale stuff), at that point it's solely the discretion of the buyer. My rule of thumb, and that which I suspect most people use as well, is that if I had even a passing interest in the game when it was released, and it didn't score total shit ratings everywhere at that time, then I will grab it if the price point falls below "that's less than lunch". This way I can experience flawed gems like Hinterland while avoiding obvious turds like Duke Nukem Forever.
Instead of a 1-10 review scale, somebody should do reviews where the score is how much the game is worth paying for.
That's an interesting idea.
Originally Posted by CLWheeljack
I purposed that very same idea years ago. Tom pretty much hated the idea. This is a very subjective thing, what is worth what to each person. Still though, I think the idea has merit.
I do think price should matter in a reviewers score. For example lets take Dungeons of Dreadmore. It is a total steal at $5. There is no reason to NOT own this game (unless you hate games) at this price. However if it were $60, then I would have a very different opinion.
How does one factor that in to a review? I do not know how, but I certainly think it should be a factor.
IGN gives individual ratings for Presentation, Graphics, Sound, Gameplay, Lasting Appeal and an Overall rating. It seems logical that there would also be a Value rating. Rich gamers are free to ignore it.
Reviews are always subjective - there's no point in trying to mask that. As such, I don't think they should have any score attached. Let the writer's words speak for themselves. I could see the value in a thumbs up/thumbs sideways/thumbs down "rating system," but I feel that anything beyond that is simply adding an artificial layer to the critique.
Any more subjective than any other review score? Probably not. Very, very roughly, it's not that different from 1-10 rating * $6.
Originally Posted by DeepT
Anyway, the suggestion was rather tongue in cheek of course. Like my other idea for reviews where you publish a grader's rubric and mark up the review text for the score. (The graphics are beautiful +2, but the game crashed -1). It's just odd that very few people try different things in terms of how to structure review scores.
I'm less worried about whether a game is worth the money than I am about whether it's worth my time.
Originally Posted by Jon Shafer
"As such?" Wait, how the first sentenced is linked to the second? There is no cause and effect there.
Reviews are always subjective, true. Which means you can put perfectly a score there. The number, the score, is also subjective, like the text.
Numbers can also be subjective, you know.
It's good that you're not, but other people are worried about money and how much they spend on games. As such, I think a mention of value is a service to readers, especially when it's far to one side of the bell curve. If a game costs $20 and it'll provides 100 hours of gameplay, that's something I want to know. Conversely, a 4 hour game that costs $60 is worth mentioning as well.
Originally Posted by Shimarenda
Consider the scenario:
Diablo 3 (60$-ish?) review vs. Torchlight 2 review (20$-ish?).
I think the higher the cost of the title the more critical you should be towards it, but that does not mean you should ignore the issues a 20$ title has, just because it is cheaper.
How about; instead of scores on titles you give them a.. value.
"this game plays like it was worth 15$"