Tag Archives: Reviews

An Indictment of Something…

…and remains one of the top 10 highest Metacritic-rated MMOs.

Mark Jacobs, in reference to Warhammer Online

Mark Jacobs is talking to the press again because he and his new(-ish) company, City State Entertainment, have a new MMO under way; one with some familiar sounding features.

The Emerald City Logo

The Emerald City Logo

Of course, this means he needs to answer the ever present questions around how this new MMO will relate to his two previous ventures, Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online.

He is candid, as usual, about how these two past games are influencing his current venture.  And he is up front about the problems with Warhammer Online.  From the interview:

Nobody was more disappointed in WAR than I was. At launch, it had lots of wonderful things in it, but it also had way too many bugs, balance, and leveling issues, and of course, crashes in Tier 4. It was my worst nightmare come true, and as I’ve stated before…

And yet there is that quote at the top.  That really caught my eye.

There is that list of reviews on Metacritic.  Look at them.  There are 18 reviews that gave the game a score of 90 or more, including two that gave it 100.  And since the game has stagnated since, never shipping an expansion, that is what you see when you look at Metacritic for reviews.

It rates higher than any MMO I have played for more than a couple of months, save World of Warcraft… which really brings up the question of how MMOs should be reviewed.  Clearly the ” spent a few hours in beta and read the press release” method leads to erratic results, though sometimes that seems to get it right if the issues are obvious enough… or if the publisher doesn’t have enough advertising clout.

As for the new MMO title and its Kickstarter financing plans, I am currently in the “tell me when it actually ships” column.

Turning the City State Entertainment team from March on Oz, a pretty but pedestrian iOS Plants vs. Zombies knock-off, to a full fledged MMO seems like a pretty big leap to me.  Doubly so when Mark himself describes the group as:

…a small, independent team of very dedicated and hard-working guys and gals, many of whom had never worked in the games industry before.

We shall see.

EuroGamer: Darkfall Agent Provocateur?

By now you have certainly read about EuroGamer’s review of Darkfall which was riddled with hyperbole, inconsistencies, and factual errors.  You may have also seen Aventurine’s response and how solidly EuroGamer stood up to it, pointing out that the reviewer wasn’t actually a staff writer and offering to have somebody they, you know, actually trust re-review the game.

It seems a pretty cut and dried journalistic screw up.  A lone reviewer (how many hours did he play?) cuts corners and gets called out, end of story.

But to those of us who have experience in the shadow world of deception and conspiracies and who don’t take these things at face value, there is much more here than meets the eye.  This was quite clearly a false flag operation.

And what would Aventurine have to gain by such an operation?  Clearly, there are two obvious wins.

1. Further solidification of the of the Darkfall community

2. Inoculation against further negative reviews

For the first point, the Darkfall community has spent most of its time under siege.  Years of delays and being declared “vaporware” has driven the weaker members from the Darkfall flock and forged a small and dedicated fan base.  They have been the foot troops in the public relations war that Aventurine has waged… if somewhat haphazardly… for the last few years.  It is surprisingly easy to be fanatical in the name of a game that is not live yet.

But now Darkfall is real.  The game is live.  People are playing.  Aventurine has tried to keep the player base pure by creating a false shortage.  You cannot just pick up Darkfall off the shelf at Fry’s.  No, you must run the web gauntlet in order to obtain one of the rare spots in the game.

But this has not been enough.  There has been some unrest in the ranks.  The less hard core have managed to get into the game and have begun to express their dissatisfaction.  Aventurine has seen what happens when your hard core fans lose their edge.  They not doubt witnessed how so many of the “Warhammer Faithful” turned on the game after launch.

What they needed was an external crisis, an attack on the game, something they could use to rally the troops.

So the masters at Aventurine contrived to have a major European (because they view that as their base) gaming site, EuroGamer, to give them not just a low score, but a low score based on a review written as though it were meant specifically to incite the Darkfall player community.

Did Aventurine attempt to refute anything said in the EuroGamer review?

No, they just trotted out some server logs (which they control) that indicated the reviewer spent approximately two hours playing the game, and that most of that time was spent in the character creator.  The errors did not matter.  The community would take care of that.  Aventurine just needed to sew the seeds of doubt.  EuroGamer responded that the reviewer says he spent about 9 hours playing the game, but then the review itself talks about how the game progresses after the 10 hour mark, creating a huge credibility gap.  Was it around 2, almost 9, or more than 10?

And so the Darkfall community has been up in arms, united (as Aventurine planned) in the face of this outrageous attack on their game.

The second point, while a bit more subtle, is no less important.  With this review, EuroGamer has effectively inoculated Darkfall against further such reviews.  The EuroGamer piece was so palpably bad that people who do not play Darkfall have called them out on it.  It was so over the line that it does not matter what sort of review Darkfall gets from anybody going forward.  Certainly a good review would help them, but anything negative will be now be dismissed as more bias, and half-hearted bias at that, since nobody will write anything down at the level of this obvious shot at Darkfall.

Anything negative will be shrugged off as “another EuroGamer” by the core Darkfall fanbase and any other review will probably look good compared to the EuroGamer review for the mildly disinterested people outside of the community.  Of course the Darkfall haters will pick up on any new negative review, but they will likely have supported the EuroGamer review themselves, and are thus discredited as biased.

So Aventurine’s operation appears to have been a success.  Only the details of the actual operation, secret by necessity, remain in doubt.

Was Ed Zitron Aventurine’s inside man or just a patsy?  Did he act alone?  Or was it somebody at EuroGamer pulling the strings?

Certainly EuroGamer and Aventurine both act like they want you to believe this “lone reviewer” theory.

But there is much to suggest EuroGamer complicity if not outright control of the whole process..  A conspiracy there could have easily pushed Mr. Zitron in the right direction, given him the editorial attitude of the organization, pressured him with aggressive deadlines, and even edited his review and screen shots to maximize the anger of the Darkfall community.  It seems unlikely that Mr. Zitron could have manipulated his editors in that direction.  And you can see the way that EuroGamer hung him out to dry.  He wasn’t a staff writer.  We’ll get somebody we trust to re-review the game.  We’ll make this right!

And of course EuroGamer benefits from all of this controversy, maybe even more so than Aventurine.  All those page views.  All those unique visitors.  The big boost to their page rank.  On a site that is obviously financed, at least in part, by ad revenue, these are all the right moves.  All they had to do was hire somebody from the outside who would do their dirty work for them, somebody expendable to the organization.

And so much the better if the person in question has a history of negative reviews.  Somebody you can trust to make a scene. Somebody whose Wikipedia page was deleted for being pretty much at attack on him and his character.

All we need is a smoking gun.  A way to link the conspirators together.

Yes, we have this picture of three EuroGamer editors being hauled in by the local police for littering during the “Athens Event.”

Taken into custody

They are dressed like game magazine editors...

And then there is Mr. Zitron’s work with the “Free Play for Moria” committee and its alleged connections to NC Soft which needs to be explored.

threevaga

Mr. Zitron seated on the left with fellow committee members

And if you go look at the list of anagrams that can be made from the name “Aventurine” you will see “Van Uterine,” which turns out to be one of the online handles used by a highly placed member of the EuroGamer staff.  (Plus the fact that the word “urine” is right there in Aventurine’s name!  Hah!  Darkfall, however, only comes up with “Lard Flak.”  I am not yet sure if that is significant.)

Quite clearly there is more going on here than a simple bad review!

There are those who will say I am seeing things that are not there.  But this has to be a setup!  Can’t you see that the government is reading your mail nearly everybody in this cabal got exactly what they wanted.

Aventurine got community cohesion and protection from further negative reviews. (And who knows, maybe even a follow up good review from EuroGamer… anything higher than a 6 would be a reason to declare total victory.)

EuroGamer got some Euros from all that traffic and got to wash its hands of the review at the same time.

Even Mr. Zitron got a public platform from which to rant and a bit of internet fame… something he probably thought he wanted until it was too late.

We have to work on this!  We must find the evidence to crack this conspiracy!  I already have a message in to Dave Emory on this.  We need somebody with Dave’s body of work and experience helping us smoke out the real story!

This is what real bloggers are about!

(And if you believe I am serious about this, I know where you can get a good car on Craig’s List for cheap as well!)