In this week's Write to Reply Wesley Copeland responds to reader comments and feedback and explains why the industry is so desperate to see VGI fail.
In recent months a lot of what I wrote has came under flack from the community. Firstly let me say, I have no problem with people disagreeing with what I have to say on topics. Gamers are passionate and when their favourite titles comes under fire from opinionated reviewers like myself, they have every right to argue their points.
Let me start with a question: What's the difference between a reviewer and the game buying public? The answer is nothing. I'm passionate and get to write how I perceive a game to be and gamers are equally as passionate and get to come here and tell me if they agree with me, or if they think I'm being a moron.
This is one of the main reasons I started VGI back in November of last year. A lot of the main sites don't allow the public to speak freely. Sure, you can leave a comment, but how often do the writers respond directly? How often do they read the comments? Here at VGI, we read every single comment and if something is raised where you call us out, we'll do everything humanly possible to try and respond.
We're not ever going to try and change your opinions, but we will try to offer clarity on a point we've made that you guys don't like.
Yesterday I posted my mixed review for The Witcher 2, on Xbox. Suffice to say, millions of gamers will love it, and rightly so. The game has obviously had a lot of love and time put into making it the best it can be. My problems all stem from my own experiences not from other peoples experiences.
So lets cover a few of the comments I've received from multiple sites over the last twenty-four hours:
Wojciech Zylinski writes:
I would expect you to at least make a note of this rather important aspect of the game. Chapter 2 is completely different based on the side you pick at the end of Chapter 1. The quest hub, characters and locations are pretty much completely different.
Okay, fair point. I'll add it in there.
The reason for it not being mentioned was because on my first play through, I was lumbered with traversing an awkward terrain, so my lasting impression was of that, not of the alternative.
But, like I said, it's a fair point so I'll add a note into the article, seeing as you feel it's a valid argument and it needs to be said.
Zylinski had a fair point. We're not the big sites who have to cling to this notion of what they write is set in stone. I'm a rational person, and rational people form opinions, and opinions are NOT set in stone. So if a point is raised and makes me think: “Y'know what? That makes a lot sense” I’m not against looking at the facts and going back and adding things to a piece I've written or if the right words are spoken, changing my opinion. Everybody's opinion can be changed if the right argument is put forward.
Marcin Łukaszewski of http://neogo.pl/ writes:
The thing is, the tutorial teaches you how to parry, block, counter, as does the manual (it's not paper thin for a reason - read it). Also, a Witcher is not a mage. A Witcher is a Witcher. I also do not agree with the soulless combat part - with its spin on tactics it has a distinct feel to it, unlike other modern day RPGs. You say it gets repetetive fast - so does the combat in Skyrim and Dragon Age: Origins and 2. Apart from the above though I think this is a fairly good review. I don't agree with the score, but it's your score, not mine. Mine would have been a 4/5 - this is by far not a perfect...
I won't argue opinion based things, because I'm aware there's more people who love what I dislike than agree with me, which is fine. I know that there are going to be loads of gamers who will love the Witcher and from playing it, you can tell how much love and attention has gone into making it. So for that reason, I honestly want it to achieve the success it deserves.
There's no manual in with review copies. The copy a reviewer gets it's normally a promo copy, with a faded cover and "This is a promotional copy" across the front. In this instance, they should have forked out for a manual, because with the Witcher 2, having how to parry, riposte etc... on paper would have been a huge help.
Whenever I review a title, my first playthrough has the biggest impact on the review and if I feel the review isn't going to be "this game is great!" then I force another playthrough, so that I can cover all the different options within in case I've missed anything opinion changing.
Now this part has me spitting blood: At no point over my two playthroughs did I get the tutorial pop up. I remember getting a patch via Xbox LIVE about a quarter into my second playthrough, which I'm presuming fixes the tutorial so that it pops correctly. But like I said, on neither playthroughs did I get this tutorial that explains everything so perfectly.
So the question now is "Why am I telling our readers and not keeping my mouth shut?"
The answer is simple: Honesty. We're not the big sites who get paid to act a certain way, we're VGI. Yeah, Namco should have told me about the patch so I could mention it in the review, but the version I reviewed didn't have the tutorial.
I'm also not up myself like the big sites, so I'm more than happy to discuss things like this with the readers, just so we all understand where each other is coming from.
It's easy for writers to keep their mouth shut to avoid the truth getting out and them looking like fools. Which is also one of the reason we're hated by the powers that be. Honesty first, even if I could end up looking bad because of it.
mistajeff of N4G writes:
I agree with your criticisms, though I respectfully disagree with your overall impression of the game. It all comes down to personal preference, so for me, the parts I love (particularly the fact that your choices carry genuine weight, something a lot of modern rpgs don't convey too well) significantly outshine the aspects that are lacking (namely the combat), and of course that will vary from person to person.
Every part of the above I agree with. It does all come down to personal preference. I have games I love that others absolutely despise and vice versa.
Part of our success as a new gaming site comes from the notion that all our articles are one-hundred percent honest. Being honest sounds great right? But the thing to keep in mind is that honesty is a double edged sword. If we're honest and everyone agrees, we're the greatest site ever! If however I decide I dislike a popular title and report it from my own personal point of view and everyone disagrees with me, we're the site who slagged off your new favourite game.
Double edged sword.
This is by no means me saying I want everyone to agree with me. Far from it. I love that gamers are passionate and I love that there are those of you who feel so strongly that you sign up to VGI so you can post your own thoughts on what I've written. The simple fact is, without you guys, VGI would have sunk several months ago. So every time someone does comment, I count my blessings that someone out there has read my work and feels the need to respond.
Unlike many other sites, we really do value every single reader we have. You guys are the life-force of VGI.
One of the reasons we get so much stick from publishers and the main sites is that they want us to fail. I've been told from one of the top dogs that “There's no room for honesty in this day and age and you need to suck it up or you'll get eaten alive!” This comment is taken from an email I recieved in relation to my continual bitching about Capcom's on disk DLC policy, which I consider borderline criminal. The way the industry works for some editors sicken me! Why does it have to be like this?
It's also worth noting that the comment above is going to cause me a shitstorm, but hey, honesty first!
I personally think that gamers are bullshitted far too often and mislead with advertising propaganda. How many times have you paid full price for a game, that looked great but was awful?
This is why the industry needs us to fail, because if we succeed in what we're trying to accomplish, the industry will be an equal place, and that terrifies those in places of power. Imagine a place where lies become transparent instantly and the public have open communications with the press, who have a hotline to developers.
Our honesty may upset people, but that's not our intention. We're honest, because we value our readers and would never want to mislead you in any way possible.
Thanks for reading,