Larian Studios Interview, Part One

The first part of a fascinating new interview with Larian Studios' Swen Vincke is up on Neoseeker, during which the studio head shares his disappointment about the current state of video game journalism and the Metacritic scoring system before talking a bit about what can be done to fix it.  A bit of what to expect:
I agree with one the comments in your blog about how you tend to follow reviewers as opposed to publications. More people should do that. I read a lot of comments whenever the topic comes up on forums or wherever, and usually there's a large amount of people that say 'All reviewers are terrible, they don't know what they're talking about, I don't read reviews, etc'.

To an extent I understand that, because there's a lot out there that gives us a bad name, but if more people put the effort into seeking out reviewers they really trust, that 90% of the time are in line with their own opinions, and can tell just by how they word things they're not being bought off or suckered into anything, and they stick with that person. Seek those people out and spread those reviews around; I don't care where they're from.

Once I started making the list of all the things that affect a's an enormous list. Other than the influence of the money I guess, there's the subjectivity of the reviewer...that's where it's important you find someone you can trust, and that he speaks for you as part of a target audience and player instead of just the target audience of the magazine. That can be quite complicated to find.

What do we do when we create a box? "IGN says 8/10, fantastic." And on the back we say "IGN says this is a very good game." But who the hell is IGN? If it was a particular reviewer, we couldn't just put his name on it because chances are nobody knows who he is, but that would be much more valuable.

That's a good point. Film works that way. There are famous film critics; I guess only a handful, but still, maybe if we put more emphasis on that in games that would help.

What we would love to see is a review of the reviewers - a Metacritic for them where it shows where they are in line with games, and you can say 'Well I liked the game' and it says 'This reviewer says you wouldn't like the game'. You would have the good reviewers float to the top, and these guys could then probably run their own magazines on their own. This would be a good thing.

There's no liability for reviewers right now. We had a very big issue with a particular magazine who gave us a 5/10 for Dragon Knight Saga, which we couldn't understand at all. Development had been working 16 hour days for months and months and months, and you're waiting for your first review and that was the first that came in. It's like 'What the hell did we do wrong?' So he wrote it hasn't become a good game, but he likes the graphics. Then a couple of days later the IGN review pops up and says "The graphics are acceptable but only barely." But he gives it 7.5, so fair enough.

We called the guy with the magazine, and they say 'The guy isn't here anymore, he's a student, an intern.' 'Oh really? So you let a student review for a Metacritic review site?' This affects the initial perception people are getting from our game, because it's being listed on whatever aggregators. There should be some sense of responsibility, because this guy was just an intern who happened to play games, he's not a journalist at all, and he's going to be reviewing the thing you've been working on for years.

Mr. Vincke then went on to blog about the same subject on his personal website:
First off, you should be extremely wary about day 1 reviews the probability that something stinks about those reviews is rather high. Just go to metacritic if you're into the scoring game, look at the critic scores and then look at user scores. Also look at the quantity of reviews on metacritic and check out the dates of the review. For bad games with initially high metacritic ratings, you'll see a pattern emerging.

There's a RPG that was released not that long ago and which I haven't played yet, but the claims that were made about that game in certain reviews are so unbelievable, that I don't believe a word of what the early day reviewers have been writing. There were even previews of the review, with some of the wording completely inconsistent with previous reviews from the same magazine when it came to RPGs.

As I said I still need to play it, so I'll find out for myself but despite having a high meta critic ratings, it has a 6 as a user rating, so that's probably an indication I won't like it. If this were actually, I wouldn't book it, based on the user reviews.