Friday, November 27, 2009

Practising what you preach

Syncaine wrote a reply on his blog to yesterday's post on why WAR failed. In that post he argues that 60% of WAR players were WoW tourists, and bases that number on people leaving after only one month. He says: "Because unless you are a believer in the Eurogamer method of MMO evaluation, for most players a month or less is not enough time to fully evaluate a game, especially an MMO, and especially in it’s first month of release." I think that statement is total nonsense. According to Syncaine after playing a MMORPG for a month you are not yet able to say whether that game is fun to you or not? Ridiculous!

Players are not game reviewers. Syncaine cites Eurogamer for comparison, but you'd expect a game reviewer to play a game even if it wasn't much fun, in order to be able to write a complete review. And even a game reviewer will almost never play a game for over a month before writing his review, because he simply doesn't get that much time between receiving a review copy and his publishing deadline. According to Nick Yee the average MMORPG gamer plays over 20 hours per week, nearly 100 hours per month. You can't expect a reviewer to play a game for over 100 hours before forming an opinion and writing a review.

Players form an opinion considerably faster, as they only need to decide whether a game is fun or not. You'd need to be quite a masochist to keep playing a game over 100 hours while hating every minute of it, on the off-chance that there is some redeeming feature at the end of the tunnel. While obviously you can't evaluate a MMORPGs endgame in the first hours you play it, you most certainly can evaluate its basic features, like user interface, graphics, basic gameplay like quests and combat. And if you hate those, even a well designed endgame won't make the overall experience fun to you.

Finally there is the issue of hypocrisy. Syncaine's blog is full of negative comments about games he never played for over 100 hours. I doubt he ever played Wrath of the Lich King, unless he is hiding things from us he hasn't played WoW for years, but still feels qualified to disparage it in every second post. He wrote his Dragon Age review after 5 hours of gameplay, and then boasted that he made the first page of Google with that. He gleefully writes about Aion bleeding out, without having played that game for 100 hours. And the list goes on and on.

I do think that players are completely justified to dismiss a game as bad if they played it for even just 2 hours and didn't have fun. And if those players are bloggers (as opposed to paid journalists), why shouldn't they write a blog post saying that they tried this or that game and hated it? Saying that every player and commenter needs to have played any game for over one month before he is entitled to a valid opinion is just a strawmen argument to belittle the opinions of others. "You don't agree with me? Then I declare you unqualified to have an opinion!"

And as Syncaine doesn't practice what he preaches, I hereby challenge him to mend his ways: Syncaine should play World of Warcraft in it's current Wrath of the Lich King incarnation (or preferably in the upcoming patch 3.3 incarnation) for over one month, over 100 hours actively played, trying out a maximum number of possible different features, before he ever makes another comment on WoW.

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