I feel obliged to fight for the honour of games reviewers (in a limp-wristed non-fighty way*) after reading Blinky’s latest blog entry, which points to a post on the EVE forums where an old review of EVE has resurfaced. The review, from Gamespot in 2003, rated EVE with a rather low 6.6 score out of ten, which has earned it – as it probably did back in 2003 – the ire of the faithful, as well as the contempt of those who believe games reviewers to be either terminally corrupt or blatantly incompetent. Or both.
I can only really speak for myself in this defence but I’ve reviewed EVE three or four times over the years, all of them before my tenure as EON editor. A couple of reviews were for PCZone (89% at time of release, 91% after Exodus – neither of which appear to be online to view, although an old preview of mine is). I also wrote a review for PC Gamer in the US (again after Exodus). I stand behind all of them. I stand behind every review I have ever written. Even my Star Wars Galaxies one
A review is no different to any other opinion. An opinion can be arrived at at different times by different people. The only difference with a review is that it’s by nature a more crafted opinion, and one that has hopefully earned some remuneration by way of manufacture.
It’s true that online games should require a far larger time investment that any other game in order to form an opinion. Sadly reviewers are paid only on their pre-approved output and not on their input. That was the case in 2003 and remains the case in 2008. Either the system should be changed, or the reviewer, fearing they may not be able to give the game the required attention, should decline the commission.
In the case of EVE, I know of no-one that was ever given special treatment or high-end gear in order to help them complete their review. When a game is launched there shouldn’t be any need to. Expansions are more difficult because they tip the balance toward high-end gameplay; where in-game advancement is a prerequisite to being able to amass opinion. Hopefully by that point a publication will have someone embedded – an in-house fan – who will know what is going on. Sadly PCZone lost theirs when he was asked to edit an EVE magazine.
As Blinky correctly says, things are a little different these days, but not by much. Being first with a review is no longer the big deal it once was, but being first with information is. MMO Reviews don’t actually count for much in this day and age, but interviews and first impressions do. Taken as a first impression – which is all a review of a newly-launched MMO can be, the Gamespot “review” is a good one. I suspect a typical reviewer thrown into EVE today would have similar opinions of it. As has been said since 2003, EVE isn’t for everyone.
As much as the review might suggest how much EVE has changed for those of us who’ve been a part of the evolution, it probably hasn’t changed enough for those who haven’t. Greg Kasavin, the author of the Gamespot review, is now working at EA. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not touched EVE since and he probably has no desire to. I’ve not played Galaxies since I reviewed it. Go figure.
*Also obliged to write a blog entry, since it has been a little while ;)