21 February 2009

Published at last....

Well, sort of. I wrote a snarky letter to EDGE magazine in December berating them for the crappy Prince of Persia review they wrote. While i'm fine with opinions being expressed in reviews those opinions should not colour the interpretation of the facts - something that i felt the EDGE review was guilty of.

To be honest i never thought they'd actually publish it in the letters section but they did and even replied to it. However, as you might imagine (if your view of me is of an 'angry internet men'), i wasn't totally happy with their reply:

Our problem with Prince of Persia was that it failed to give players a sense of involvement. Yes, most games largely consist of visual cues for interaction, but they should also give choice over it. POP's combat does indeed present cues for what will and won't work, but these rules feel arbitrarily imposed. As a result, Prince of Persia fails to provide play that's on the player's terms.

Now i'm going to say right off the bat that i disagree with this ridiculous statement as i did when they called the game a QTE which consisted of "see a visual cue and press the appropriate button".... which of course describes any platforming game.

My first problem with their reply is that the first line is completely opinion, it's not fact but is very clearly stated as so. What they should say is that the reviewer failed to have a sense of involvement and not extrapolate it to every player of the game - for instance, to contradict this statement I had great fun and was very involved with the game, enough to finish it twice over a period of 3 or 4 days (something i've never done with any other game).

The second problem i have is what i found in the original article as well (making me believe that the actual reviewer wrote the reply and not some editorial person): Games should give choice over the interaction in a game? WHAT?!! Did they really just say this? This is an incredibly weak argument in the extreme and a fallacy if i'm completely blunt. How many games do you know where you're given the rules to play and then you're allowed to alter those rules as you go along? Not since Pong was made a commercial success have we had a game that allowed you to have choice over how you interacted with a set rule. You hit the ball if the paddle is in the way, Mario jumps over a hole because there's no way around.... PoP:The Sands of Time has only one way of completing any given task. Sure, there are games that give the players choice but those games make it apparent from the beginning that there are choices available: They're judging the game by some sort of expectation that was never going to be met... It's the kind of unfair justification that you expect from a government body that has decided that "the computer says no".

Thirdly (and this is the point my letter was trying to address) is that the rules in combat are well-defined and set out clearly for the player as they meet each new rule addition.... they don't throw them all in there at once and they're not changing as you progress through the game: the vulnerable state to claw attacks always looks the same. So when they say that the rules feel arbitrarily imposed i'm shocked.... OF COURSE they're arbitrarily imposed.... it's a computer game set in a fantasy land. However, once those arbitrary decisions about the rules were made in development they stuck to them throughout the game - they DO NOT CHANGE.... i think the person either has an incorrect understanding of the term "arbitrary" or just didn't learn how to play the game (or worse, didn't actually play the game properly to get the review out on time).

Finally, "the player's terms"? What does that even mean? The game certainly isn't unfair - especially with people complaining it's so easy, something that this very reviewer also parroted in EDGE a few months earlier.... it lays out what you have to do and how you do it when the player encounters each situation. The play of a game is always on the terms of the developers - they provide the rules and constants of the game world - the player just plays and experiences and occasionally finds bugs or exploits that break these rules which then allows them to play on their own terms but not very often.

Maybe someone can explain that one to me....