review

The Daily Grind: Why do you read and write MMO reviews?

Rock Paper Shotgun has an intriguiging pair of articles out this week on video game reviews. The first covered what game developers think about reviews on places like Steam; while some devs dismiss reviews as unrepresentative, many actually treat reviews quite seriously, as the most “raw unfiltered feedback” available.

The second, and even more interesting to me, is the one on why reviewers bother, specifically the ones who are offering detailed reviews for free on Steam. Why would you spend two hours typing your soul to total strangers, when you could be making money or playing the game? Those interviewed said they do it for their friends, to practice their own critical thinking, to entertain with jokes, to encourage other people to leave reviews, to “inform consumers about predatory tactics,” and to track their impressions “in the most extremely nerdy, excel-table kind of way.”

Do you write Steam reviews or reviews elsewhere? Why or why not?

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Lord of the Rings Online’s Mordor soundtrack is now available

Months following the release of Lord of the Rings Online’s climactic expansion comes the soundtrack to Mordor. Composed by Chance Thomas, this 16-track score is published by Thomas’ HUGEsound Records and contains an end credits-like song called “Ever On.”

Massively OP recently reviewed the soundtrack, finding it to be a much darker and more dour score with the occasional bright spot. “Mordor’s OST is very competent and does a great job helping to sell the corrupted, death-strewn nation,” we wrote, “but it’s not anywhere near as fun to listen to as, say, Thomas’ adventurous Riders of Rohan or his classic Shadows of Angmar work.”

The Mordor soundtrack can be purchased digitally through HUGEsound Records, Amazon MP3, or iTunes.

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Steam changes review scores to histograms in an effort to fight review bombing

If you’ve never heard of “review bombing” on Steam, we envy you. The process goes something like this: Something causes a certain group of users to get very angry about something related to game, which could be the actual content of the game, the content that’s not in the game, or something entirely outside of the game like takedown orders being filed against a streamer who won’t stop spewing racist hate speech. The users then flood the game’s Steam reviews with negative feedback, downvote all positive reviews, and upvote all negative reviews in an effort to reduce the game’s overall positive rating.

This is, needless to say, a bad thing. A new post from Valve explains the tools the team used to look at this trend and how to possibly solve the issues.

In short, Valve doesn’t necessarily want to lock people out from reviewing for a period of time, especially since there’s no hard-and-fast rule to follow and pretty much any review-bombed game reverts back to its original rating over time. However, the developers do want to make it clear when this is happening, and thus they’re changing how reviews are shown into a histogram displaying the trend over time. So if a game is receiving a usual stream of positive reviews and then a sudden negative spike, you can hopefully tell what’s going on, at least.

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First Impressions: Splatoon 2 is a lobby shooter for socializers

After my hands-on at E3 and experience with the first Splatfest demo, I was a little concerned about Splatoon 2. I loved Splatoon 1but something about the E3 Salmon Run fell flat, and after having experienced the full version of Splat 1, I thought that the demo of Splat 2 without customization felt too shallow.

So I was provided a review copy of the game prior to launch, and something still didn’t feel right. While it was good to get in time with the single player mode and prepare me for launch, I figured out what was missing: the real Splatoon community. It’s what gives Splatoon more of an MMO-y feel than most of Nintendo’s other titles.

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Pokemon Go’s first anniversary report card

July 6th, 2017, marks Pokemon Go’s first year anniversary. Love it or hate it, it’s a game that quickly made a global impact. It’s been released in at least 129 countries since January 2017, while MMO heavyweight World of Warcraft doesn’t even have Middle Eastern servers, let alone any located in Africa. Niantic has kind of waffled back and forth with its labeling of the game as an MMO, but the comparison is clear. While PoGo is more of a local multiplayer game, Massively OP staff have noted that local, non-digital games are also quite popular in MMO gamer circles. It may not be a true MMO, but Pokemon Go as a Massively Local Multiplayer Game feels like a logical evolution of our genre. ARPGs are one thing when they’re solo, but trying to build a game that puts a literal global audience on the same map feels significant.

It’s not a simple evolution, though. The genre itself is already being attacked in the courts. It has led to players being mugged, shot, and even killed, a situation we’ve seen in MMOs before. Luckily, we’ve yet to see trainer vs. trainer real-world violence. As many of you probably experienced, part of that may be due to the 80% reduction in playerbase before today’s first anniversary, though the game continues to make money.

Let’s review what the game’s changed since it’s release last year.

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Valve is trying to make it harder to review bomb Steam games

Hate how Steam reviews work? Maybe you’ll hate them a little less now. Valve says it’s changing how review scores are calculated, so it’s a little bit harder to maliciously review bomb games.

“With the changes we are making now, the review score (shown at the top of store pages and in various places throughout the store such as search results) will no longer include reviews by users that received the game for free, such as via a gift, or during a free weekend,” says the company. “Reviews can still be written by customers that obtained the game in any of these ways, but the review will not count toward the overall review score.”

Expect the rollout to continue over the next few days, but don’t expect it to help much with free-to-play games, for obvious reasons.

The changes are part of a series of review tweaks begun back in September, when Valve stripped review scores from gamers who applied game keys rather than purchased from Valve and tweaked colors and review sorting features.

Source: Valve

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A Parent’s Guide to Video Games: Condensing ‘The Video Game Debate’

Remember The Video Game Debate? The game research book edited by Thorsten Quandt and Rachel Kowert, the latter of whom we’ve been covering here since Massively-that-was? Good. Dr. Kowert’s got a new book out called A Parent’s Guide to Video Games. I was sent an early draft of the new title for review purposes, along with some of the additions going in prior to printing. I originally thought it would be just an updated reworking of The Video Game Debate, but I was very wrong. Dr. Kowert’s new book is much shorter and easier to access for the non-academic than the last one, which might make it even more useful for gamers who aren’t in research fields.

As some readers may know, I spent the past several years in Japan, and while I was there, the only books I read were textbooks, research journals, and manga (language textbooks don’t teach often teach you the slang you need to know to understand high school kids!). For me, The Video Game Debate was typical reading. And when the book came out, I recommended it friends and colleagues, but the journal format was a turn-off for way too many of them. That’s what sparked the idea for me to dissect the findings over my series of articles here on MOP and apply them to topics MMO gamers (hopefully!) care about.

The same won’t need to be done for Dr. Kowert’s A Parent’s Guide to Video Games.

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Valve makes further tweaks to Steam’s user reviews

Steam made something of a splash recently when the Valve declared that user reviews for games obtained via product keys rather than through Steam specifically would no longer be averaged into the game’s overall review score or displayed on the game’s page. The former clause is still in effect, but the latter has been rolled back; players will now see the full spread of reviews, including those that were obtained via product keys. The scores will still remain out of the mix, however.

Valve is also looking to crack down on reviews that are made specifically to bring down a game’s rating without appreciable substance. The original change came as an effort to counter studios inflating a game’s review score via free product keys; unfortunately, it also shuts out players who obtained their product key as a Kickstarter backer or from the legitimate Humble Bundle.

Source: Official Site via Rock Paper Shotgun; thanks to Tanek for the tip!

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Are MMO communities real or fake?

We’ve come a long way in our discussion of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games, and while this article title might seem a contentious one to wrap up the series, I think it presents a topic and chapter worth debating.

In the book, Frans Mäyrä’s chapter on online communities initially offended me more than any other, but by the end of his thesis, he’d made some persuasive points that we, the MMO community, must consider. While Mäyrä does use a narrow definition of community, it’s to prove a point. It’s not that MMOs don’t contain communities; it’s a question of the circumstances, values, and outcomes related to their rise, fall, and the perception of the outside world.

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MMO Burnout (finally) plays The Crew

I broke down and bought The Crew on PC, mostly because it was briefly on sale for 13 bucks. I’d been meaning to pick up Ubisoft’s open-world racer ever since its December 1, 2014 release date, but one game led to another, and frankly, all the lukewarm reviews bumped it down my list.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not as bad as major gaming outlets made it out to be. It’s not anywhere close to an MMO, though, which is why I’ve been playing it for MMO Burnout!

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Otherland devs deny buying positive Steam reviews

Drago Entertainment has today denied allegations that it paid for positive Otherland reviews on Steam.

Website MMOs.com accused the developer of directly paying for fake reviews, suggesting the company is “trying to boost sales in an incredibly shady way” and “trying anything and everything to get people to try the game.” “[I]f you’re going to try to trick your customers into buying your game[,] you might as well spend a little bit more and get your fake reviews written by native English speakers,” wrote the site, calling for Steam to take down the reviews.

On the Steam forums, Drago acknowledged the suspicious reviews but denied responsibility for them:

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