Bruce Shelley vs. Tom Chick: Round Two!
TomChick - News - 11/16/06 - Link

In the first issue of Games for Windows, Ensemble’s Bruce Shelley sits down for a brief Q&A, which includes this tidbit:

GFW: Our original review of [Age of Empires III] was a bit harsh [3/5 stars]. In retrospect, do you feel our review was unfair? Or do some of the criticisms seem valid?

Bruce Shelley: Rather than harsh or unfair, I would use the word "shallow". Our games are broad and deep with tons of content and they are a challenge for a reviewer on a tight schedule. After further experience, I believe your reviewer has improved his opinion of Age III substantially and this is good to hear. Most, if not all, of the criticism was certainly valid; but a reviewer can only see so much of a big game and we think some strong points were not given their due. We’d almost rather see a more carefully considered review appear later, but we understand time constraints.

The "shallow" reviewer in question is me. It’s interesting that Shelley grants that my criticisms are valid, yet insists on dismissing the review as one that was done too quickly. Checking my old emails, I see that I got a reviewable build on September 21st. The deadline for the review was October 3rd. Is that too tight a schedule? Not by my standards. I’ve had worse.

What’s more, I continue to play Age III and contrary to Mr. Shelley’s belief, my opinion hasn’t "improved". I’ve liked the game all along, and I’ve had reservations about it all along. I still think it’s a messy design with a bad interface, but a really compelling home city concept and a great graphics engine.

I find Mr. Shelley’s insinuations insulting and churlish. I recently had a similar situation with the developers of Sword of the Stars, who suggested I gave their game a bad review not because I didn’t like the game, but because I’d written the manual for another game that they considered a competitor.

I know that criticism is a bitch. And I know that the first instinct is to somehow discredit the critic. But it never ceases to amaze me how some people simply can’t take a review at face value, addressing the content of the review. You know, those actual words that are laid out in black and white. Instead, they’ll suggest ulterior motives, or they’ll suppose strange biases, or they’ll shift the discussion to one of scores.

So just to clarify: Hey Bruce Shelly! I like your game! There are some things about it I don’t like. I played the holy fuck out of it in the week and a half I had to review it, and guess what? I still play it! And I love the expansion to pieces! So keep up the good work over there at Ensemble, but for God’s sake, give those of us who write about your games some credit for what little integrity, thoroughness, and insight we may have.

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