Eidos PR Firm Massaging the Review Numbers… But Nothing’s Wrong, Really.

I know I’m late to the party with this bit of news, but it’s too good to pass up.

Eidos’s UK PR firm was telling reviewers of Tomb Raider: Underworld to hold off on publishing their reviews if they planned on rating it below 8 of 10. This was confirmed by the PR firm itself.

“That’s right. We’re trying to manage the review scores at the request of Eidos.”

When asked why, the spokesperson said: “Just that we’re trying to get the Metacritic rating to be high, and the brand manager in the US that’s handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don’t put people off buying the game, basically.”

Which sounds a lot like “No no no, we’re not trying to ‘trick’ people into buying the game. We just want the ‘bad’ reviews to come out ‘later’ after people have already purchased it.”

In response to the news of the “review management,” the firm put out another statement, pointing out that some sub-8 reviews had already been published and saying they were not in the business of telling reviewers what they can and can’t say. The statement ended with:

Barrington Harvey has been working hard to ensure the launch scores of Tomb Raider Underworld are in line with our internal review predictions over the launch weekend – but to suggest that we can in some way “silence” reviews of the game is slightly overstating our influence.

Which raises the question, does making sure the launch scores are in line with internal predictions involve telling reviewers not to publish reviews? Like the other guy just said you were doing?

Maybe Eidos’s representatives need to finish their instructions with “Don’t worry if you don’t, though. It’s not like we’re going to threaten to pull our advertising and get you fired. Not this time, at least.”

Soulja Boy meets Braid

Soulja Boy is, I’m told, a popular performing artist. Not my territory, so I’ll have to take your word for it. Indie video games, however, are my territory, and Mr. Boy has apparently just purchased Braid.

The game is, according to Mr. Boy, “for people who smoke or people drink like if you drink beer and you get drunk or you smoke weed and you get high and you just… anything, like you just get be gettin’ fucked up.”

Well, that’s probably not the audience Jonathan Blow had in mind when he made it, but the people in the video are just having such a blast rewinding time and stuff that I’m starting to be convinced.

Braid, as narrated by Soulja Boy:

“It ain’t got no point to the game, you just walk around jumping on shit. It look like Mario… in the future.

“And you go over here, and you fall in the fire, right…” *rewinds time* “I psyched your ass out, bitch!”

“You saw how far I rewinded that shit? And so the funny thing about it, you don’t never run out of the… goin’ back in time… potion.”

Man, if he gets to the last level, that is going to blow his mind.

Braid on the Brain

I finished up Braid yesterday. It’s a good game and definitely worth the $15. Some of the puzzles are positively ingenious. It’s the first puzzle game I’ve played since Gobliins 2 (oldschool!) that felt like a co-op game. Bringing someone else in to look at a puzzle for a change in perspective can make all the difference, then you build off each other’s ideas to finally reach that “ah hah” moment when you crack it.

Still, there’s one thing that I’m wondering about, and it isn’t related to any of the puzzles.

Braid has been selling great. It’s up to around thirty thousand sales, but it hasn’t turned a profit yet. The reason is, Jonathan Blow dropped $180,000 of his own money on the project.

The cost doesn’t surprise me. Hiring an artist of this caliber can’t be cheap, for instance.

The thing I keep getting stuck on this old quote from December.

Making money is hard sometimes, and if you convince yourself that you need to make money (in order to eat, or fund the next game, or whatever), then you are automatically on a slippery slope and will start justifying all sorts of things, and eventually you are far from your original ideals but that doesn’t seem too bad because you “just had to be realistic”.

Well, fuck that. I’ve seen a lot of developers go that way, and none of them are now in situations that I would be happy in.

Speaking as someone who does in fact have to eat, I’m trying to figure out just what’s being said here. (The original context for the quote has since been lost.)

The loss of an investment of $180,000 would wreck my life pretty hard. How are game makers suppposed to buy groceries in an ideal world? How does he? What’s his situation?

I will ask.

A note to Luc Bernard

I am writing to you now as a guy who is famous on the Internet. How do I know I’m famous on the Internet? Because with a little work on Google, I can find people online writing very unkind things about me personally. Also because I have a t-shirt that says “I am famous on the Internet.”

The reason for this note is your recent decision to quit making video games because people are hating on you in blogs and stuff. Sorry to add to the dogpile, but you’re being kind of a girl about this.

I’m including in that statement pulling the blog post you wrote about quitting because people were reading it.

I know it stings to watch people tear apart something you put a lot of yourself into. It’s only human nature to want people to like you. But you’ll never please everyone, so at a certain point you’re going to have to decide who you’re trying to please, and hopefully the answer you come up with will be “yourself.”

You can please yourself by creating things you’re happy with or you can please yourself by making a buck and paying the bills, but living for the reviewers won’t get you anywhere.

Obviously you’ve got some mad artistic chops. I’m not going to tell you you have to go back into video games. Maybe you’re decided that’s just not your thing. But seriously, you can’t let an Internet peanut gallery tell you what you’re going to do. Paradoxially, I’m including myself in that statement.

But really, for your own sake, fewer benders through the comments sections of poor reviews next time. It only leads to tears.

Downloadable games: Braid gets superb reception, Eternity’s Child merely upbraided.

The time-bending platformer Braid came out yesterday on Xbox Live Arcade for $15, and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.

Along with all the blurbs you can see on the official Braid page, Destructoid has posted a highly positive review called Eight reasons why you NEED to download Braid.

It combines emotion and ideas with mind-bending gameplay. It messes with time in ways simultaneously alien and totally plausible. It’s the longest, deepest artgame ever made.

I can only speak for myself, but I honestly believe it is the single best game on Xbox Live Arcade, and also one of the best games I’ve ever played.

These guys do not give out “best game ever” recommendations like candy.

Eternity’s Child, released for $5 over Steam, hasn’t fared so well, getting extremely poor reviews from Destructoid and more of a just bad one from Kotaku.

Creator Luc Bernard had been quite nice to Destructoid, going so far as to put their mascot in the game. Destructoid in turn had been quite enthusiastic about the game before its release, so it was quite the surprise when they gave it two reviews of 1/10 from two different editors, citing things like “The jump button only works a third of the time” and the levels being frustratingly random. Feelings hurt, Luc removed the mascot from the game.

A patch has fixed the unresponsive jump button, but editor Conrad Zimmerman refuses to change the score, saying:

“Release and patch” for minor fixes is one thing. Releasing Eternity’s Child in the state it was is another altogether, which is why I’ll give kudos for fixing the problem but not a higher review score.

The Kotaku review agrees on the main points. The game may look and sound beautiful, but as a game, it plays poorly, working jump button or no. It may only be $5, but a sold game should be a finished game.