How many hours of play before you make up your mind?

British games journalist Simon Parkin has some opinions on PR’s dirty little secret with 11th hour reviews on Gamasutra.

OK, he’s talking about GTA4 but a MMORPG will have many more hours of content built into it than a standalone game, even a top notch one, and the same applies.

How long should a reviewer play the game before they can make any sensible kind of review of it? How long should a player stick with it till they can make up their own mind? What if it’s still in beta? What can you really review, even in unpublished form?

It’s easier to start with what you probably can’t review. You can’t review the endgame if you haven’t played it. And even if you somehow powerlevelled your way to the max, you will need lots of other players in a MMORPG to really take a poke at the group content. You can’t review how responsive the manufacturer will be to player input or how frequently they plan to patch because they won’t have gone live with that yet.

You can review about whether you are having fun, how the game looks and performs on your hardware, whether the classes and starting areas are appealing. But who knows what will happen to those down the line? That awesome class you loved at release could get nerfed into oblivion a month later.

MMORPGs are a particularly shifting target for reviewers. They change. Huge amounts of content are added. Classes are tweaked. What annoyed one reviewer a year ago may not even exist today. And we don’t have a great way to review them other than word of mouth, and asking people who are playing right now what they think … and they could be biased. Not only that, but developers put a lot of work into making the starting areas polished, they are what will get people to plonk down their first monthly fee. There’s no guarantee that the rest of the game will be as good.

So how DO you review a MMORPG? Maybe regular snapshots are as good as it gets. And that is a place where blogs can uniquely shine. I think we can see that right now in the gaming blogosphere. After all, how many other games could you review once a month and still keep finding new things to say?

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One Response

  1. I think the best early review you can get is comparing the box sales to the subscription rates one month later. Beyond that, I get most of my MMORPG reviews from blogs. 🙂

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