Friday, April 22, 2011
Don't criticize Farmville!
I was shocked, shocked I'm telling you, to find out that some of the people loudly criticizing Farmville had not played that game for the minimum required 100 hours. You'll need at least that much to unlock the yellow cucumber farming, and that totally changes the feel of the game! How can anyone claim that Farmville is not a good game without having given it a proper 100-hour trial?
I've been hearing arguments of that sort for different games a lot over the years. It is a widely used strawman argument against all sorts of people writing about games. The reason is very simple: By "allowing" only people with tens or hundreds of hours to criticize your favorite game, you already made sure that the pool of reviewers consists only of diehard fans, thus skewing the score in favor of the game.
But as Brenda Brathwaite, of Wizardry and Jagged Alliance fame, says:
Focus on second-to-second play first. Nail it. Move on to minute-to-minute, then session-to-session, then day-to-day, then month-to-month (and so on). If your second-to-second play doesn’t work, nothing else matters. Along these lines, if your day-to-day fails, no one will care about month-to-month, either.That is true for MMORPGs as much as for other games. A MMORPG consists of small repeating units nested in each other. A game has several zones, zones has several quest hubs, which each have several quests, quest consists of several combats, which consist of several button presses. If you have played through one zone, and tried out the available non-quest content like crafting and public quests, you've seen enough of the game to predict over 90% of its repeating content. You will know the very essence of the game, and it is that which counts for knowing whether you like a game and whether it is any good.
It is Easter. If somebody would tell you that you can't properly judge the MMORPG you are looking at, because the game gets so much better during the Christmas holiday events, you'd laugh at him. Why would anyone make a game that sucks for most of the year, and only gets good at the end? But that is exactly what some people say about MMORPGs: The leveling game is claimed to be not representative of the "real game", which is endgame raiding or PvP. But how much of a masochist would you have to be to endure hundreds of hours of bad and boring gameplay before being allowed to play the good stuff?
Guild Wars already told people who didn't want to play the leveling game that they could skip it and play PvP with instantly created level-capped characters. And some future MMORPG will do the same for raiding. Before that happens, as long as games are integrated, they need to be judged on the unskippable part. Because as Brenda said, "if your day-to-day fails, no one will care about month-to-month". You might rave and rant against rewievers not having played the game for the minimum required hundreds of hours, but the real problem isn't the reviewers here: The average player simply isn't going to put up with that much crap before deciding to quit a game. If after several play sessions the fun is still just a vague promise on the horizon, the game has failed, and the player quits, regardless of how great the endgame might be.
If I'm supposed to run through a maze, the maze has to be fun. I'm not just there for the cheese at the end. The cheese is a lie, and consists only of purple pixels.