Quake Wars Dev Says Metacritic Pressure 'Ridiculous'

By Nick Breckon, Jan 20, 2009 12:42pm PST Splash Damage studio director Paul Wedgwood recently called into question the publisher tactic of basing financial royalties on Metacritic scores--averages of review scores pulled from dozens of sources.

"Personally I think it's ridiculous," said Wedgwood when asked of the practice by GamesIndustry.biz.

"I think it's a really good idea for a developer to go to a publisher and demand that they get an additional bonus for achieving a certain review score, but it shouldn't affect their royalties or anything else. If you have a high-selling game, you have a high-selling game."

Wedgwood also argued for the five-star rating system that is typical in the film industry, rather than the percentile-based ratings that dominate gaming reviews.

"We know that some websites score quite high and some quite low, but in general, all websites tend to score between 60 and 100," he said. "There's never a 37. It's as if that whole section doesn't exist, so zero starts at 60, so three stars, and goes up to five. It's just not really an accurate enough measure.

"I think that if anything, the games press should take the pressure off themselves, and just go across to star ratings... Out of ten is a good start. Percentiles put too much pressure on a journalist to justify an exact score. It puts too much pressure on the developer to try and identify these criteria that lead to very specific point increases or decreases, which is not at all what the developer should be focusing on."

Splash Damage shipped Enemy Territory: Quake Wars in 2007, before beginning a long-term partnership with Fallout 3 developer/publisher Bethesda.

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15 Threads | 52 Comments

  • /agree

    It does seem like most games fall between the 60%-95% range.

    I think in general games reviewers have been caught up in score inflation for a long time now that I dont think they can bring it under control even if they wanted to. i.e If Game A gets 80% that means Game B which is as good as Game A needs to get 80% too. Or risk a huge outcry.

    Food and movie reviews tends to rely much more on gut reactions, Ive been the same movie get 2 or 5 stars depending on what source you read, this rarely if ever happens with games. Alongside this, peoples opinions tend to vary as much as the film reviews.

    Reviews need a rethink as a whole, personally I'd be happy with a well written text about the game with no score at the bottom at all. Just well reasoned explanations of features with a reviewer who's taste in games is clear to the reader as well.

    So much depends on the reviewer. If some games reviews were taken from a wider demographic than young 20/30 something males. Metacritic would look alot different , for better or for worse. It works at the moment as most of us are of the same demographic and gaming ability but as gaming becomes more mainstream thats something to be considered as a bigger factor. Like in movies, your opinion of Dirty Dancing vs Star Wars will vary depending on who you are. The same applies for games. Fix plz?

    And lastly, many games are capable of evolution, some have become ongoing services with additional content and improving problems as they go (think WoW, the Witcher, TF2 and ET:QW). A review of them upon release should still count as correct now? I cant even think how to fix that one, at least not while im supposed to be working right now :)

    /Ramble Mode Disengaged.

  • I think that game reviewing sites have come to rate games way too high, which sets an unrealistic line between good and bad.

    I bet most of us have seen a game receive 85%+ and then you turn out to hate it. I can name just a few released over the last couple of years - but due to them rating it so high, a lot of people tend to not even want to touch games under 75-80% because they seem "mediocre".

    But, as Paul reflects, a 7.5 rating on IMDB is absolutely superb and even a 5 rating is highly entertaining, where as when it goes under 4, it gets a bit too tacky or lame. Games would only get 5 stars or less, if the game is full of game breaking bugs, that simply does that the reviewer cannot complete the game or if it's just absolutely rubbish, so we are stuck with using only about 30% of the damn rating scale! At least that's the tendency I've seen on most reviewing sites as well as gamerankings.com (I cannot stand metacritic). Seems a bit pointless.