Here’s a non-surprise that came out of a discussion between Bree and me: We totally grade MMO studios on a curve. That curve is determined by giving a damn. All else being equal, we tend to be a bit more forgiving of studios that give the impression of at least caring about what they’re doing, even if it’s care in horribly misguided directions or in service of awful design choices.
It makes a lot of sense to me; a lot of my own fondness for Funcom comes from a sense that even while the studio was struggling and/or making awful decisions, it’s still a team of people who care about what they’re doing. By contrast, there are companies that really don’t seem to give a toss about anything beyond the current big ticket. Part of my own uncomfortable feelings about World of Warcraft come from the sense that Blizzard has long since stopped giving a damn.
That doesn’t mean that we’re unwilling to be harsh when studios we like screw up badly; it just means that the sense of effort and genuine care gets a bit more leeway. What about you, dear readers? Do you grade MMO studios on a curve, and if so, what determines the adjustment?