Friday, May 8, 2009

And Don't Even Get Me Started on Wolverine

So I was really excited when I heard about this game called Stalin vs. Martians, an absurdist real-time strategy game set during World War II.  It was only $15 on Steam--I almost picked it up on the grounds that I love RTS's and I love absurdism and I love when games cost less than $20.  But there was no playable demo and great concept does not translate into great game, so I held off to see what reviews came down the pipe.  After a week, a couple reviews made their way to MetaCritic, not enough to generate a score, mind you, but enough to tell me what I needed to know.

Game reviews are tough--regular periodicals don't really review video games, so most of the time you get reviews off websites, which are completely funded by ad revenues for the very games they have to review.  Since there are lots and lots and lot (and lots) of willing reviewers hungry for ad revs, you could say that reviews occasionally incented to skew upwards.  But you find a couple sites you trust and use them (as well as MetaCritic) to synthesize an impression.

Or rent.  Or demo.

Anyway, IGN and Gamespot had reviewed it and given it a 2 and a 1.5 respectively.  That's not stars, mind you, that's out of 10.  Glad I resisted my impulses.  Both of their blurbs started with the words "Do not".  It seems a great (or at least interesting) concept has been turned into a game that is not fun, controls that don't work, and jokes that aren't funny.

How does this sort of thing happen?  How do you spend years and year working on something, realizing that it's utter crap (the dev's must have known, or at least suspected), and then release it anyway?  Yeah, it's sunk cost if you just scrap it, but if your company's first release is abysmal, that's it; you'll never sell anything again.  The handful of people that purchased this will make it their life's ambition to ensure that no one ever gives you a chance.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the money you don't take is an investment in your own character.


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