Exception handling

To friends, acquaintances and IM stragglers: I take exception (a lot of exception, actually) to being told that if I don’t like The Secret World is because I “don’t get it” or just want “more of the same”.

Leaving personal tastes aside, it’s perfectly possible that the game just isn’t that good. I mean, you have to be open to that possibility. That much maligned Metacritic score in the 70s? To be honest, if I was still a reviewer and someone handed me TSW, since I would inevitably have to give it a final score, it wouldn’t be too far from that. I am not commenting on the issue of Metacritic financially affecting the game (or the company). That’s grain from another sack and I personally find it ridiculous and contemptible, yet a sign of our times. I’m just talking brass tacks. That’s what I would give it if I had to distill my appreciation into a number.

I do get it. It’s not a game that’s hard to get, no matter how much and how hard forum critters throw around game complications as a badge of pride. The much touted parts of the game which apparently require a superior intellect are… what… 2% of it? The rest is straight forward. You don’t need a Master’s Degree in Gameology to interpret the skill wheel, you just need to read. It’s up to you whether you embrace those who for whatever reason are struggling with it, or drive them away in a storm of elitism. Judging by recent performance, we can guess which one was the popular option. Achievement unlocked, I suppose. Kudos.

And “wanting more of the same”? No. I don’t want more of the same. And I applaud Funcom for designing something which at least attempts to stray off the beaten path, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. But here’s the thing, and what seems to be ancient sumerian for some people: It’s not enough to just try something new, it also has to be good and engaging. If it’s not, then it’s a beautiful effort to try and shoot a different target that unfortunately missed the mark. I applaud the effort, but I’m not gonna lie and say it hit the target when I can see it didn’t (for me). I’m too old to be that political with these things. How you interpret this that I just wrote as “wanting more of the same” completely eludes me. Your reality distortion field clearly shows.

“The game isn’t that good, but support it anyway”? I’ll do that if a game costs $50, I only have $30 and they still let me buy it. I’ll meet them half way. I wanna be supported for trying too.

22 thoughts on “Exception handling”

  1. Thanks for really putting the finger on why smart people should never been so stupid as to waste their time trying to attempt anything new or risky.

    Either they will fail and people will talk like this.

    Or worse, they could succeed like Gary Kildall “succeeded”.

    Neither option is terribly attractive for some reason.

    Maybe you could respond with some witty quote from a book.

    1. I don’t know what you read, but all I saw was a post from someone explaining why a game didn’t appeal to them personally. Heaven forbid people should have different gaming preferences. Any “smart” developer knows that something isn’t going to appeal to everyone. The important thing is that it appeals to enough people to support the chosen business model. If the game is losing an audience, maybe it’s because they didn’t try something new there?

      In any case, nobody should have to justify their reasons for not liking a game. That’s like people who tell someone they don’t like a musical artist because they “don’t get it.” Either someone enjoys something or they don’t.

  2. Awesome. And you even got one of them to follow you to this post as well. The funny part is that this is just a warm up. Just think about all the hate that is going to be directed to anyone who dares to speak poorly about Guild Wars 2. The Gaming Savior tenor around that game is already at sufficating levels.

    And before anyone jumps down my throat, I’ve only played about an hour in one of the beta. I have no idea if it’s going to be good or not and I’m reserving my judgment. Judging the community is a whole other matter, though.

    1. I think that ship has long since sailed. Also, the community as a whole is very friendly and positive. I wouldn’t judge any game by forum and comment trolls. They’re what’s called a vocal minority, and that goes for any game. I imagine TSW’s community is largely friendly and mature, as well, but (with obvious the exception of bloggers) those players are less outspoken and busy enjoying themselves in game.

      1. I got a pretty bad vibe from the forum community (could it be any other way? of course not). But my post, although it tangentially mentions them, is not aimed at them.

        I don’t fight trolls unless I get something for my trouble. A sword, some xp. Even a gray item. These only drop ulcers.

        1. Well, that certainly makes you smarter than me, eh?

          Aly needs to read your post again. She seems a little confused about what you actually said. Your whole point is that you don’t care that they actually tried to do a lot of new things. You want it well-done, first-time. And if you can’t have it well-done IMMEDIATELY, well then they should get the knife.

          Only a total fool would try to do something new or risky in that situation. Would you care to argue, brass-tacks, with that? Because, brass-tacks, only a total fool would try something new or risky in that situation. I like saying brass tacks as much as you do it seems. Let me say it again. Brass tacks, this is why you can’t have nice things.

          Broken Toys was so right.

            1. I get what he is saying. You can’t go into an MMO that is trying something different and also expect it to be WoW-level polish. WoW-level polish is what happens when you DON’T do anything different and spend all your time polishing. You can’t have both.

              Not that anyone should force themselves to play something they ultimately don’t have fun with, but maybe part of the “I’m not having fun” aspect is the incoming expectation, or the inability to adjust once inside?

            2. Those are valid points. However, my issues with the game don’t pass so much through lack of polish. They’re seated deeper than that.

              That said, let’s be frank for a bit here. We’re not talking about a status-quo destroying, paradigm breaking game here. Spend some time with the game and you’ll see it isn’t -that- innovative. It’s got very strong points and very weak ones, and I wouldn’t put “innovation” in either camp. It has more similarities than differences to other offerings.

              That completely aside, I’m not sure I agree that polish and innovation are locked in a zero sum slider of sorts. I’m thinking back and I see a little correlation, but not really causation.

  3. What makes a “good’ MMO? How can we judge them?

    Popularity: WoW and Runescape win. Others I’m not thinking of because I’m not 12 or Chinese no doubt.

    Profitability: WoW, Runescape, and likely a ton of FtP MMOs I don’t follow win.

    Pooled Ratings of Professional Critics: WoW wins. SWTOR and LoTRO are also way up there.

    Quality: subjective

    Value: Quality/ Price, subjective

    Innovation: less subjective than the above, but extremely innovative MMOs like Puzzle Pirates and Endless Forest are not normally considered the “best” MMOs. Maybe they should be, you tell me.

    Fun: all that ultimately matters, and completely in the eye of the beholder.

    When I personally say a lot of folks don’t “get” TSW, I mean that they aren’t entranced by the setting and find a lot of the particular aspects of it I find refreshing to be frustrating and tedious. I don’t mean that they are lesser beings than me, I just mean they have different tastes.

    Having rarefied tastes hardly means you have superior taste in any objective sense (taste is by definition subjective), it just means you are uncommon. Folks with an IQ of 60 or less are also uncommon, should they be proud of it?

    As for TSW perhaps “sucking” in an objective sense, as it is stable (has no game crushing bugs that i am aware of), runs OK on pretty much any modern gaming PC, and has a base of fans numbering in the tens to hundreds of thousands that really dig it; I don’t see how you could reach the conclusion that it “sucks” in a truthful way that is independent of the particular observer unless you consider your personal opinion to not be subjective.

  4. Oh my. This is the first time I actually saw glints of the godawful, rabid fanboyism that so far I only associated with GW2 this year in response to a TSW post.

    I still very much like TSW, though the infatuation of the first weeks has changed into a more subdued fun. I also realize that once I reach endgame, the fun might be over – unless Funcom does a good job keeping them updates rolling.

    On the other hand, everybody of course has the right to not like the game. There are definitely points to not like. If I wasn’t, for example, engrossed in the setting, I would probably look at the game from a much more critical angle. For example, it’s still buggy, crashes every 203 hours, and none of the praised novelties are actual never-done-befores (skill-based system? riddle-based quests?). The fact that they are hailed as “novel innovations” might say less about the game and more about the sad state of affairs of MMOs in the year 2012.

    I like it when people talk positively about their game. I dislike it when they start to sound like the people in neat sunday dress that ring at your door and tell you they would like to “talk with you about God”.

    1. That’s what happens when I post tipsy in the wee hours :-) It’s a niche title that happened to get a big budget put behind it. It had a lot of bugged quests at launch; but I personally never got any crash to desktop, game freezes, or BSOD bugs (that what I mean by “game crushing” bugs). I do also think it runs surprisingly well on my four year old PC.

      The point I was trying to get at is that very few MMOs “suck” in an objective sense, unless they have total game stopping bugs or literally almost no-one enjoys it. Anarchy Online certainly sucked the first few weeks it was out. I guess you could argue than MANGBAND sucks since it rarely has more than five or so players at a time. TSW on the other hand is simply a niche MMO that you are going to dig or not, imo.

      It’s not quite as innovative as it’s sometimes given credit for, but it does strike me as a game solidly not aimed at “WoW tourists.” I mean no offense to the tourists by that statement. I count myself in the tourist crowd since I have followed that pattern of play in lot of MMOs: stick my head in at launch to see what the fuss is about, get bored and leave after a month or two. [WAR, AoC, Allods Online, and Rift off the top of my head].

        1. Ahh, I see. When I re-read my post this morning it struck me as coming off a bit elitist, which I certainly didn’t intend. Thanks for clarifying in any case :-)

  5. One of the glaring detriments to an otherwise impressive age: everything’s getting so bloody polarized. No one can even simply shrug about a game, or enjoy it on their own terms–oh no, battle lines have to be drawn.

    I’ve read the official TSW forums, too; unfortunate how that supposed “intelligence” just bred typical criticism-deflecting elitism.

  6. Well, for me personally…
    I play WoW. Not because I love it, not because its awesome, innovative or earth shattering, I play it as a default.

    Please, for the love of Pasta, can I have a new game? And I am truly sorry that GW2, and TSW and Rift, and StarTrek and the new StarWars and, and, and, don’t cut it for me. Its just more of the same. The game developers are asking me to move from vanilla ice cream to Snickers ice cream. OK, I do like snickers, but you know, its still ice cream.

    Lately I have been playing minecraft instead of WoW. At first I thought that it was a weird exchange, but its not. I want a sandbox, I want to do what *I* want, not what the game developer THINKS I want. When I play minecraft I am constantly thinking “oh man, if they made or more like an MMO, that would be so cool.” And when I (less and less) play WoW, I think “oh man, if they made or more like minecraft that would be so cool!”

    Whatever, minecraft is the other extreme for me, and I will loose interest in that soon as well. And if you say “Yeah, well TSW, GW2, etc are not made for you.” Well, I agree, and thats prolly why I dont play them, and in fact, they prolly aren’t made for Julian either.

    Hey, no hate here, I love that game companies are trying, and I hope that they ALL succeed. But until I see something truly new and innovative, I’m just going to sit here in corner and sulk.

    1. Except you don’t want something “truly new and innovative”, you want something that combines parts of WoW and Minecraft. If someone made a game that combined everything you like from WoW and Minecraft, you’d be like “yes, finally a game I am enjoying like no other before, this is truly new and innovative” and people who didn’t like it would be saying “it’s not new at all, these parts are form WoW and these are from Minecraft”.

  7. I’m not going to repeat myself from the last time this came up here. I’ll just say that in this week when I’m finding it increasingly hard to concentrate on any MMO because of the imminent arrival of The Big One, The Secret World is the MMO still best able to hold my attention.

    It’s not my favorite MMO, nor do I have more left to do in it than I have in other MMOs, nor do I feel more affection for my characters there than in other MMOs.

    I just like playing it at the moment.

    If I didn’t, I’d stop.

    And if I felt like playing it again later, I would.

    Is there really any more to it than that?

  8. Oh, and I’d just like to chime in and state, in case it wasn’t clear, that I’m not ragging on TSW or saying it sucks or anything of the sort.

    Good grief, in the post I even say that I would agree with a score in the 70s. If that’s saying that a game “sucks”, you know what, let’s shut everything down, turn the lights off and go home. WTF is wrong with us when a 7/10 “sucks”?

    1. I think that is a completely separate problem. Game review scores are not normalized, so the average is not a 5. It’s actually above 7: http://www.metacritic.com/browse/games/score/metascore/all/all?sort=desc&view=condensed

      I’m too lazy to parse and plot that, so I just present this graph somebody did 7 months ago:
      http://www.testzero.net/2012/01/analysing-distribution-of-gamespot.html

      So the mean is around 73, and the median a bit lower, at around 71. Only about 10% score below 50.

      So a score in the 70ies is, sadly not “quite good” but “very average”. And with the large number of games available, a score of 70 makes you think twice whether you might not find a better game that suits you.

      It’s one of my pet peeves: why not use the full scale, but rather cut it off (less than 5% have a score below 40)?

  9. For the record, I have to make a real effort sometimes to reign back my GW2-fangirlism. I am one of those people who think it’s the most amazing thing ever and will change the genre forever and probably cure cancer too, but you know what? That’s not going to objectively be the case. I may love everything about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

    Every game does some things well and some things badly, and if the things it does badly are the things I like, I won’t enjoy the game no matter how good the rest of it is. This isn’t necessarily bad design, it’s taste. I may have to remind myself of this sometimes when I vehemently disagree with other people’s criticism, but I do it, so that I do not become one of those unreasonable people on the internet.

    My point? Julian, good for you, each to their own and you have the right to leave a discussion if it isn’t going anywhere, and agree to disagree.
    (Also GW2 is amazing! Shut up!)

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