In response to critique of a title I worked on…

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life | Posted on 15-09-2012

So, today I have been digging up reviews and information on games I’ve worked on. Right the way back QA on Super Skidmarks Megadrive.

Along the way I inevitably got to MotoGP 10/11, this is one of those games that’s so wrapped up in a very painful set of events that it’s hard to tell whether I love the game because of how great it is, or because of the events that came long behind it. Nevermind all that though, I’m out looking for reviews!

When I find this:

Now the review might be “fair“, a bit harsh giving only 6 out of 10, marked down quite hard by the graphics it seems. Not really fair to compare MotoGP 10/11 against other games out, they ran at half the framerate, it’s very easy to make one game look better than another when it has twice as long to draw each frame but then stutters along when anything happens on screen.

So I go to make a comment on this long dead review when I see the reply from “SpeedEight“… and I laugh my arse off.

I know *exactly* who “SpeedEight” is and the two responses to his post just make me grin so wide I think the top of my head might come off. Sadly he never replied any further, I’d have paid money to read that thread.

Anyway this being the internet I posted my own reply, a lengthy one of course but with a much calmer head… of course the internet ate it and it’s gone for good due to it wanting me to enter the captcha phrase, if you try to comment on that review you’ll see that there is no captcha system. Odd.

I’m not actually going to go into the MotoGP 10/11 review… well I might but first I wanted address another comment from the reviews author.

I would like to point out that I am studying Computer Games Technology so I know what goes into making a game and this is my honest opinion of this game.

Good, we wouldn’t want a dishonest opinion, and perhaps he’s striving to keep reviews around the 5 out of 10 range, excellent goal, noble even, misguided and doomed to failure but can’t fault it idealistically anyway. Then there’s the rest of that sentence:

I am studying Computer Games Technology so I know what goes into making a game

Yes… and I’ve read Shakespeare therefore I can write better books.

I’ve also been into games development since I was 15 and programming for even longer, I did a degree (BSc Visualisation with honours) at Teesside University, I had worked at GAME on the high-street and have played quite a few games across many, many, many systems, I’d even made a few games using Shoot ’em up construction kit, and AMOS and until I’d actually worked in the industry and shipped a whole game I knew absolutely fucking nothing.

This might be an effect related to the fact that the less you know the more you *think* you know, like how teenagers know everything, small children think houses cost £6.85 and because government ministers have never had jobs we’re all doomed. The effect gets thoroughly bludgeoned out of programmers during their first time working with another coder, artists the first time they hold a pencil and designers the first glorious time they try to get a programmer to implement that “one little thing“. Oh, no that’s just a bludgeoning.

It’s the realisation that you really know nothing about something until you’re the one who has succeeded in doing it.

We can try and communicate that love is all consuming, how beautiful a view is, how cold and lonely the middle of the Atlantic was at times, how exhausting that 3rd week doing 7 days a week from 8am to 2am but until you’ve done it you really only have this shell or outline of the experience and a bit of text saying “fill-in-later“.

I’m not sure exactly when I realised I knew nothing, but by the time MotoGP 10/11 had finished I knew I’d learn’t a huge amount since that time and now I was certain, absolutely certain, that I would never be capable of learning it all because none of us are.



Comments posted (4))

  1. Ahh super skid marks. A title very close to me heart since did so much on it. Hehe. Know exactly what you mean about ppl thinking they know what goes into making a game due to some twisted sense of reality in their minds. Been in industry since 94 and been involved in some of biggest games out there, but would never claim to still fully understand it all. :)

  2. Yep I just bought a copy of Super Skidmarks and I don’t even own a Megadrive these days :) I just wanted it! (I got Virtua Racing too ‘cos I always wanted it!)

    It amazes me how much more there always is to learn about… everything, it’s like knowledge is fractal, the more you know the more that there is to know! It’s why I liked hearing about how you handle the Deus Ex: Human Revolution review and launch keys/access. it’s a side I don’t get much access to from the code team.

  3. The problem is, I just see that comment on the review and I just see someone whining about criticism, defending technical decisions made by developers that are irrelevant to the player. If I made a film and someone thought it was too short with an unnecessary love scene, I wouldn’t comment on that review talking about how Metro Goldwyn Mayer required it to come in under 90 minutes, that they mandated a romantic subplot in order to agree to funding it, and that the reviewer obviously doesn’t know anything about how films are made. They shouldn’t have to know anything about it, and their opinion is up to them. They’d be comparing it against other films, not against their budgets or producers.

    The 60Hz vs 30Hz thing is an interesting thing to point out as a side-note, but it’s not a defence nor a rebuttal. The reviewer’s perception is that the graphics look worse than the competition, and to him the increased frame rate is not significant enough for him to have even noticed it, so he’s entitled to say that the graphical decision taken by the game was not to his taste. Maybe to some other players it’s the other way around? People will have different opinions and to criticise a review like this by citing TCRs seems to be a mark of insecurity.

    When someone like this posts a review, they’re commenting on the perceived worth of the final product and whether it’s worth someone spending time and money on it, compared to other works. Unfortunately the creative people involved tend to see a review as a criticism of their own worth or the effort put in. These things are interesting to us, but for the most part they’re not relevant to the audience. They just care about the end result.

    I agree with the rest of what you say about not truly understanding something until you’ve done it, but I don’t think any of that should be a prerequisite for expressing an opinion on something. Imagine if only politicians were allowed to vote!

  4. The problem is, I just see that comment on the review and I just see someone whining about criticism, defending technical decisions made by developers that are irrelevant to the player.

    Oh I agree absolutely, my amusement at the comment from “SpeedEight” wasn’t that he was right to point those things out, just that it was “SpeedEight” who had made those particular points and I knew who he was immediately because of them :)

    As one of the developers it *is* painful to see those things written and knowing why they had to be that way but I’m aware too of why they were written. It’s the race to the lowest framerate that you can get away with really. Another famous racing title ended up trying something called “temporal anti-aliasing” to try and make sub-30fps look like +30fps because of the pressures to make everything more detailed, more poly’s, more detailed textures etc. Something has to give.

    Catalin and I had discussed trying the technique out so that we could relax the framerate towards 30Hz whilst still “looking” like it was running at 60Hz, but Monumental, Capcom and “SpeedEight” all considered the 60Hz to be a major feature and selling point.

    Imagine if only politicians were allowed to vote!

    I’d rather not, I like being able to go to sleep at night without waking screaming in terror!