Early access reviews: Fair game or trolling?

Some gaming media outlets are reviewing early-releases and alpha builds on the same scale as triple-A titles and scoring them on the severity of their bugs and broken aspects, potentially harming small indie developers that choose a specific model of funding for development.

Paid alpha releases aren’t about delivering a polished product – they’re about folding the gaming community into the development process.

For example, when you buy a game from Steam’s early access program, you aren’t really buying a game. You’re buying an experience. You’re buying a voice and a venue to have your opinion heard. In short, you’ll have a say in the direction a broken game takes as it’s improved upon.

In fact, early-access games are usually disclaimed to have bugs and be broken prior to the point of monetary transactions. These alphas are certainly worth discussing to inform potential buyers of their varying states of playability, but they shouldn’t be scored against the same standards as finished triple-A releases.

Take the following scenario as an example:

Daybreak Game Company is offering an alpha version of their game, H1Z1, on Steam’s early access program for $20 with the following quote appearing on the description page:

Players should anticipate an evolving feature set, bugs, incomplete content, missing features, and potentially game breaking issues.– Daybreak Game Company, Steam Store

Polygon reviewed, scored and crushed Daybreak’s alpha because it had bugs and was broken, bamboozling me beyond belief.

Do you buy a Gameboy Color and criticize it because it isn’t in 1080p? No, because you knew what a Gameboy was before purchasing one. Have you ever returned a Toyota to the dealer because it wasn’t a Lexus? Life is just too short to be comparing apples and oranges.

H1Z1’s world is sparsely populated and attacks don’t always connect, but that was the point. Without bugs, Daybreak wouldn’t need player investments to develop their game, and players would have nothing to critique and be robbed of the experience they paid for. Daybreak delivered on its promise to include players on the journey of developing the game.

Furthermore, the alpha was apparently scored on the same scale the website uses for finished releases. I’m not even sure how to process such a misplaced score. And if I didn’t bother to read the article? Trust me, that will happen, too.

Some readers will simply glance at the score and move on, possibly shrugging off curiosity for the game. You could argue this is the reader’s fault, not the author’s, but many gaming journalism outlets know scores drive web traffic and employ them for that very reason, even in absurd situations like this.

Polygon argues that if a developer is willing to take consumers’ money for their game, it’s finished enough to warrant a score. I agree that it warrants discussion of the state of the product, but a score carries a distinct connotation to resolute impressions, a final stamp of approval or denial, which just doesn’t make sense for a game that’s liable to change weekly. Daybreak’s H1Z1 could be a five today, a seven tomorrow and a four the next day.

It would honestly make more sense to score Daybreak on its willingness to listen to players’ feedback and its ability to implement changes they’ve requested. But, if the game must be scored, it ought to be scored for what it is intended to be: Broken.

To encourage genuine discussion of games that aren’t ready to be scored, IGN includes a sprawling title with the words ‘in progress’ and no score. And the only reviews I’ve seen are of commercial releases with certain mechanics or features that haven’t been publicly proven outside of test environments.

Polygon took the thorny road, including a small provisional review banner that only shows up after the jump to the article and a large score displayed on the homepage.

What would I like to see in early-access reviews is:

  • No scores
  • Large, visible banners denoting the temporary status of the review
  • A rigorous and meticulously followed update schedule

Are early access game reviews a stroke of genius or a lapse in mental stability? Sound off in the comments below.

Nintendo’s old tricks – Retro Jonez E.36

Mike is giving up on Nintendo…same Nintendo Tricks, different century. We also talk more Sega Master System collecting,  nd Mitch’s first couple weeks with the Oculus Rift.  We went two hours to make up for the weeks we missed.

  • Sega Master System: Start
  • Nintendo Manufactured Demand: 29:00
  • Oculus Rift and PC Gaming:59:00

Where to find us
Youtube – http://youtube.com/c/gamingreset
Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/just-press-reset/id662585451?mt=2
RSS Podcast Feed – http://retrogamefix.com/feed/podcast
Twitter – http://twitter.com/gamingreset
Facebook – http://facebook.com/thegamingreset

Dick Tracy – Sega Master System – Review

Dick Tracy on the Sega Master System is repetitive, but still remains fun and addictive.  It’s certainly not up to par with it’s NES counterpart, but that doesn’t mean this release isn’t worth a play through.  It offers side scrolling fighting mechanics with an innovative way to attack enemies from other areas of the level, IE; across the street.  The graphics are good, the audio is good, and the game is good. 3.5/5.

Ahhhahhahhahhaha! – Retro Jonez E.35

We are go into retro collecting prices, collecting, arcades, PC gaming and Oculus!

  • Retro Collecting: Start
  • Arcade Restoration: 28:00
  • Oculus Rift and PC Gaming:51:00

Where to find us

Youtube – http://youtube.com/c/gamingreset
Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/just-press-reset/id662585451?mt=2
RSS Podcast Feed – http://retrogamefix.com/feed/podcast
Twitter – http://twitter.com/gamingreset
Facebook – http://facebook.com/thegamingreset

Destiny…why we play – Retro Jonez E.34 PT.2

Today Mike is joined by Mike Miller to discuss Destiny and his most recent article on the site. We may have had a couple drinks.

  • Destyiny Talk: Start
  • Was 2014 really that bad? No: 31:00

Where to find us

Youtube – http://youtube.com/c/gamingreset
Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/just-press-reset/id662585451?mt=2
RSS Podcast Feed – http://retrogamefix.com/feed/podcast
Twitter – http://twitter.com/gamingreset
Facebook – http://facebook.com/thegamingreset

This podcast preorder is sold out…SAY WHA! – Retro Jonez E.34 PT.1

Mitch built a new gaming PC, Mike played more Destiny, James Buster Douglas ports on retro and preorders selling out while going to the secondary market at a huge markup.

  • Mitch’s PC Build, Oculus Rift: Start
  • Listen Phone Call, James Buster Douglas Master System: 24:40
  • Preorder sellouts: 35:40

Where to find us

Youtube – http://youtube.com/c/gamingreset
Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/just-press-reset/id662585451?mt=2
RSS Podcast Feed – http://retrogamefix.com/feed/podcast
Twitter – http://twitter.com/gamingreset
Facebook – http://facebook.com/thegamingreset

Tron Arcade Upright Restoration – Part 2 of 2

A finished result of a very long and expensive restoration.  One of the best looking machines of all time – TRON!  Was found originally as a Two Tigers conversion in a warehouse about a year ago – was completely stripped and sanded down.  I’m bringing it to SFGE (Southern Fried Gameroom Expo) in 2015, and counting on Tron champion David Cruz to put up some big numbers on it.

Gamers erupt over free legendary weapon in Destiny

This week Bungie thanked Destiny players by doling out millions of free legendary weapons. One character per player account received the gift from a mysterious benefactor at the postmaster. I got a heavy machine gun, which was cool because I haven’t hatched one from an engram to date as a level 28 Titan.

However, not all legendary weapon recipients claim to be so lucky. The Internet is aflame with their cries and criticism toward Bungie for not giving them the right gratis legendary weapon. Some got guns they already had. For Pete’s sake! Others got guns they thought they would never use. Shudder… Others still would rather have received no weapon at all. OK, seriously?

So why do players keep coming back to Destiny despite feeling cheated by sub-par legendary gifts and other flaws of the game? Is it their moral charge to save the world? Are they compelled to rescue the last city of mankind? Do they owe it to themselves to restore peace to the Cosmodrome via endless patrols? Or, is it to zoom off into a gorgeous 1080p sunset adorned in the coolest armor with the most powerful rocket launcher slugged over one shoulder? I’m betting the reason players stick with Destiny (and suffer Bungie’s oh-so-impudent gift giving) is for the glory and prestige of looking like a total bad ass. Anyone who knows anything about the game knows you worked damn hard to fully level that Crota raid gear.

Destiny is a glorified slot-machine journey from one chest to the next. It’s a space cowboy-themed gambling addiction in the living room. It’s about the excitement of the unknown and it’s all about the loot. Will you get Gjallarhorn or the same armor shader you got from the last chest. Will it be the last few ascendant shards you desperately need to level up or simply more ascendant energy you could do without? Destiny has players twitching in anticipation to see what they might get next.

Yes, Destiny has the best first-person shooting mechanics I’ve experienced to date. The satisfying melee, rechargeable grenade and fast-paced movement create FPS nirvana. You’re always on the move and combat in Destiny is more of a dance than anything, a ballet of bullets, explosions and well-timed fists. But I think what keeps players coming back for hundreds of hours is their inability to resist the ever-so-slim chance of getting good loot against all odds of getting more junk.

We, as Destiny players, know what we are signed up for. There have been surprises, disappointments and odd development choices along the way, but at this point day-one devotees understand the tune that Destiny hums. There is no excuse for complaining to strangers on the Internet that your free gift wasn’t the perfect one to advance your character. If you don’t like what you got, dismantle it and be on with your life. It’s a just video game and it’s supposed to be fun. Go make yourself useful grind for some Helium Filaments instead of souring the public image of gamers for all who are proud to call themselves or unwillingly categorized as such.

At the end of the day, Bungie gave loyal fans a free shot at getting something cool and that’s what Destiny is all about.

Where to find us

Youtube – http://youtube.com/c/gamingreset
Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/just-press-reset/id662585451?mt=2
RSS Podcast Feed – http://retrogamefix.com/feed/podcast
Twitter – http://twitter.com/gamingreset
Facebook – http://facebook.com/thegamingreset

Where’s my manual?

Video game manual (?vid??? ??m ?many?(w?)l): 1. An instruction booklet for electronic games. 2. An artifact lost to the lonely eons of time.

I was recently reviewing my Nintendo 64 collection, relishing in memories of DK beating Pikachu to a yellow pulp in Super Smash Brothers. It got me thinking about what retro game qualities didn’t make it to the modern scene. Now I’m mourning the passing of the fabled video game manual.

For any gamer who’s been living under a rock, last and current generation video game titles cost sixty dollars.  Other possible uses for sixty bucks include but are not limited to roughly two cases of beer, four blu-ray movies, 60 McDonald’s cheeseburgers and no less than 240 gumballs.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I can’t afford to pay the sticker price for a new game but, steady paycheck or not, I am selective about my day-one purchases because of this high entry fee. Like anyone, I want my money’s worth. Having a manual (mostly) won’t make the gameplay itself better but overall presentation should be expected at this price point. For example: A BMW dealership having a movie theater and serving free Starbucks lattes won’t make their cars more reliable, but it will make BMW’s customers feel well taken care of and lessen the burden of expensive repairs. Auxiliary elements like the game manual contribute to the overall experience for me as a consumer right from the initial unboxing.

Ah, yes. The unboxing. I remember countless trips home from Gamestop in the back of my mom’s car, too giddy with excitement to exercise even the slightest hint of patience. I would rip into the shrink wrap and dive into the instruction manual, devouring any information about my new game as I could. It was almost ritual for me. I would open the box and there it was, waiting to divulge complex combos, characters backstories or just beautiful concept art and screenshots. Now I feel bad for the kids that can’t rip into their new prize and tenderly flip through the crisp pages of a manual, committing controls to memory, acquiring familiarity with the arsenal of weapons at their fingertips and immersing themselves in rich, full-color lore. We used to get a beefy manual and sometimes a poster-sized map of the game world. Today, we get an ad and maybe a DLC code card, and the goddamn ad is always on top.

My slightly tarnished initial experience with these games sometimes extends beyond the bland unboxing experience and affects the actual gameplay experience. Without a manual, how am I to know to “press ‘X’ to reload?” By playing through a dry gameplay experience built around the lesson, of course. That’s right, I’m talking about the infamous ‘tutorial level.’ It’s an excuse to make games longer without enriching the experience. Some games like Deadpool try to justify it by having their characters act like they know they’re in a videogame, but I’m not buying it. I want my manual back.

I don’t want to be thrown into a complicated game I don’t understand, but neither do I want to be yanked out of the game world every 20 seconds to learn a new controller input. Thanks, tutorial level, for constantly reminding me I’m in the real world, not yet changed out of my work clothes instead of slinking through Mordor, quietly slitting the ugly green throats of every Uruk in sight.

If you’re reluctant to pay full price for games, enjoyed the high-quality art and lore, or are simply sick of boring tutorial levels, you’ll agree that the video game manual is a gem that never made it to modern gaming. And that’s a damn shame.

To honor good days gone by, hop over to Destructoid for seven awesome video game manuals.

Ethical responsibility for video game content – yes or no

Note: Thank you for visiting. We are currently going merging our two sites; retrogamefix.com and moderngamefix.com.  Articles, layout and functionality are not final during this transition. 

With advancements in technology, video games have become more engaging and realistic via better graphics, special effects and the ability to depict more complex and visceral actions on screen.  This increased realism can sometimes push, and cross, ethical boundaries, bringing to question the responsibility that content creators have when creating video games.  The same can be applied to authors and silver screen directors, the difference being that video games offer an interactive experience.  These player-controlled experiences sometimes put a player in position to go against ethical standards and morals.  That said: content is likely to be received differently by different players.  Video game developers and content creators should not be held to an ethical standard because the artistic nature of their craft allows for freedom of expression, and it is each consumer’s responsibility to filter his or her own video game content intake.

When video games first gained mainstream popularity in the 80’s and early 90’s they were considered toys by many adults.  Over the years, the video game market grew up with the children that first played them and now more adults are playing more games with mature content. Video games are no longer a toy, but a cross-generational entertainment medium.  The larger audience spawned a larger variety of content, some of which is considered unethical and offensive by some.  This subjects video games to criticism and blame but has helped push it into the mainstream form of art and communication.

This popularity has enshrined video games in pop culture as art.  In 2012, the Smithsonian American Art Museum featured an exhibit “The Art of Video Games” which focused on video game evolution over the last 40 years and how it evolved as an artistic medium (Gillespie, 2012).  Art is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings is designed to evoke emotion.” (Art, 2014).  Video games certainly evoke emotion and this can open us up to new ideas and beliefs that we would not otherwise be exposed to.  For example, Bioshock Infinite, a game about exploring a fictional world with the goal of saving someone you care about, offers the player a choice to throw a baseball at a transracial couple (PhatSteve7, 2013).  This is meaningful because it can start conversation about an otherwise difficult topic.  That’s not to say all video game content has a serious tone or message, but video game developers should have the right to tell a story in the artistic manner that they feel is necessary.  Without violence depicted, an entire side of the story is being ignored. This misrepresents the world we live in, where violence is commonplace.  It’s difficult to spark thoughtful conversation if developers are limited to the topics they can cover.

In 1994, the Entertainment Software Rating Board implemented a video game rating system to help consumers determine if these stories are appropriate for them or their children (Business Wire, 2014).  This system serves as a guideline, but the purchasing decision is ultimately left with the consumer, although, most retailers have adopted policies that limit the sale of mature content to those over the age of 17.  Even with these policies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to limit access to these materials, especially for parents.  The concern is heightened by claims of video game violence contributing to violent crimes in the United States. In an effort to mitigate this concern, PCs and consoles offer a set of parental tools that can filter content and limit when and how long a game can be played.  However, this doesn’t filter all content and mature games still find their way into adolescent hands, bringing to the question the impact such games have on developing minds.

Cyberpsychology published a story in 2012 called Mirrored Morality (Weaver, 2012).  This study found, that when presented with the option of choice, the majority of players made moral decisions for their game characters as if they encountered these problems in real life. Player choice is something that isn’t always offered, but when it is the player has the opportunity to choose right over wrong, they often choose right.  When players chose the morally wrong option the study found that the feeling of guilt increased.  This shows that most players are morally sound prior to accessing the game and it wasn’t able to prove that video games have a direct impact on a person acting out in real life.  The article “getting ‘virtual’ wrongs right” (Seddon, 2013) also tried to make a connection between virtual violence and reality.  It concluded that the players of violent video games often have a playful attitude while committing violence in a virtual space, but the line between virtual and reality is thin when it comes to evaluating the moral character of the player and their capacity to commit violent crimes in real life. Since video games often put players in situations they would not find in their real life, establishing a direct link between virtual violence and reality is difficult.

When video games do not offer the player a choice whether to participate in violence, it can put them in a predicament.  The player is supposed to be a hero, while at the same time murdering thousands of enemies.  That may be a turn off for some players, but again, those players are not forced to play games they are not comfortable with.  However, some video game developers are becoming cognizant of this conundrum and even acknowledge it.  In Far Cry 4, a hyper-violent action game that puts you in the shoes of a ‘hero’, the antagonist tests the player’s morals by asking “Now, to whom am I speaking? The son who has returned to scatter his mother’s ashes? Or the lunatic, who has murdered his way to the top of my mountain?” (GameSpot, 2014).  In this example, the game brings up the possibility of your character’s heroic intentions being swept away in a torrent of gunfire and bloodshed. It pries and pokes at the player’s morality.  This topic of intentions versus actions speaks to real-world conflicts in our society and video games are one more artistic medium through which we can converse and debate issues which evoke deep thought and emotion.  This artistic freedom, which should be and is expressed in other forms of art is protected by the first amendment in the United States Constitution.  When done right, issues deeply engrained in US politics and society can be successfully discussed in a different and important way through sensational, controversial and mature motifs of video games.

In addition to single-player games, online multiplayer games have opened up new experiences that can promote cooperation and communication.  That’s not to say the online environment is without hostility and competition, but much like ethical responsibility of game content, it’s still up to the player if they want to interact with others in this environment. Further proving this point is that the ESRB does not rate the online content of video games.  According to a 2014 study in Cyberpsycology (Blinka, 2014), social motivation and social self-efficiency are positive traits associated with online gaming. Furthermore, players that reported negative experience in online gaming trust their social skills less, this doesn’t represent a short-coming of the game, but speaks to the lack of responsibility of those who willingly participated in an optional environment in which they may not be comfortable.  Again, the responsibility of intake is on the player, not the developer.

If we regulate the content of video games we have no choice but to examine all forms of art and entertainment.  Video games give people an outlet, and it shouldn’t be up to regulations to decide what is and isn’t appropriate for consumers.  We have rating guidelines, and retailers strictly enforce those recommendations, putting the responsibility on the parent and consumer.  For these reasons, developers should continue making the games that they want while the consumer decides if it’s appropriate for them or their family.

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