When Should You Review An MMOG?

Updated Sun, Apr 27, 2014 by skylatron

When should a massively multiplayer game be reviewed? I’ve found myself having this discussion recently with a few friends with several of those friends in the camp of “not until you’ve done everything”. The recent First Impressions of Elder Scrolls Online over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun sparked the debate because these friends, whom happen to love Elder Scrolls Online, disagreed with the process of being so critical of a product when only 20 or so hours had been played.

I’m a little bit torn when it comes to reviewing a massively multiplayer game because I can fully understand the annoyance from a games player base if they know. from the offset. that an individual praising or slating the product hasn’t seen it to its conclusion. Unlike an offline single player game, there isn’t necessarily an end to an MMOG unless we choose to set down our own personal marker. Whether it’s reaching the level cap, or completing every dungeon or playing a minimum of X hours across each of the areas the game offers, there’s no right or wrong here.

When it comes to single player games, during the times I’ve reviewed them, I’ve never reviewed one without finishing it first (unless it’s an outright disaster). That isn’t to say though that I couldn’t have. Whether it’s offline or online and as an individual who’s been playing videogames since I was four years old, I tend to get a feel for a games quality several hours into a product. There have been some I instantly couldn’t continue to play due to one reason or another (Bioshock Infinite being the latest and that's a story for another time) and some I’ve continued to pursue, despite many flaws, because something has caught my attention (such as Elder Scrolls Online).

Elder Scrolls Online Rock, Paper, Shotgun

I wouldn’t suggest that my opinion during these early moments is always right and I’ve been somewhat wrong about Elder Scrolls Online. While I still think its a poor product and has a list of problems as long as my arm, the Alliance versus Alliance battles have been enough for me to overlook the issues (admittedly my patience is wearing thin). The way I’ve always approached an MMOG is to establish whether or not the core components of the game I’m playing are likely to change, be improved or altered entirely in favour of something better.

In the case of Elder Scrolls Online, flaws such as poor animations, stiff combat, a lack of an auction house, phasing nightmares, a myriad of bugs and disappearing items or quest givers isn’t a good start for any game and if these problems persist after 20 hours (they have for me) I feel well within my rights to complain about them. No I might not have reached level 50 and I might not have played all that the game has to offer, but in this instance, I wouldn’t need to. These issues are affecting my enjoyment of the game now and are fundamental flaws in a AAA product. While some of the problems will be fixed with time, no amount of extra hours played is going to rectify these deep rooted design decisions. At that point I feel well within my rights to utilise that information whether or not the readership agrees: I am afterall only attempting to point out facts or provide an opinion on the structure or inner workings of a product.

What I think is important in massively multiplayer games is a willingness to be open, to state what you have and haven’t done in the game, while being willing to fully detail as to why you do or don’t like something (as any competent reviewer should do) but also be willing to go back to a product after a period of time. There’s little value as the reader simply stating “Well that’s bullshit!” when you are, inevitably, arguing over an opinion and unless you’re an entirely neutral party, it’s often a case of preaching to the converted. As one example, I would have reviewed the likes of Guild Wars 2 well into the 90’s at launch (where colleagues would have reviewed it lower) but would place it somewhere around the mid to low 80’s now that the game has bedded in and the end games content and focus is now more apparent.  

Although the Elder Scrolls Online review likely won’t fall into my lap, I have to say that I agree entirely with the First Impressions provided by Rock, Paper, Shotgun and although it’s clear that Brendan Caldwell hasn’t sunk a huge amount of hours into the product, that doesn’t mean his opinions of the game can be dismissed when those opinions can’t be affected by further hands on time.

When do you think an MMOG should be reviewed? Do you agree with early first impressions? Do you think they're fair? Let us know!

I am an avid reader of RPS and mostly share the same views as their writers and occasionally they differ, but that is ok. I don't see why the fans of the game need to feel the need to convince everyone that it is the best thing since Pong. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and they should be respectful.

With that being said I don't see where all the hate of the game is coming from as I enjoy it a lot, but, that is me. The game checks my boxes for some MMO fun; crafting, exploring, PVP, custom char builds.

Why the hate?

1) it's not F2P
2) it's not WoW
3) it's too much like WoW
4) it's not Single Player
5) a lot of other stupid reasons

I believe an MMOG should be reviewed upon release, independant of server uptime issues (more often than not this is an indication of poor managment of recources than of poor game quality). Although the big draw of an MMOG has always been the endgame, I believe that reviewer should place more emphasis on the journey than the location. Endgame is a much more fluid dynamic experience, and it can change every couple months. The level one to endgame grind is more likely to remain the same until some game altering event and, as such, should be what we subject to review. Reviewing both pieces of the game under the same or a similar review structure leads to a lot of misconceptions and unnecessary flaming about what each player considers "worth his/her time". It is something that has always left me quite perturbed.
At any rate, I tend to agree with the RPS reviewer laying down his frustrations on paper, as well as the basis for said frustrations. The MMO community in general seems to view time very differently. 21 hours is a SUBSTANTIAL amount of time, moreso if you are playing a single player game (although this is not the case here). That is half of a normal 40 hour work week. Some people may not agree with this amount of time, knowing that an MMO truly shines with more time invested, but my time is at a premium. If somone else is willing to spend 10 hours to let me know that systems are broken or the gameplay is boring than I will take the time to listen and asess. His opinions seem well articulated and well thought out, and he doesn't just spew garbage (until his gameloft comment, that was a bit unecessary). In closing, I don't believe his review warrants anything other than a "Well, you can't win the all". But the internet is an opinionated place.

I've had several things I dislike about the game, that being said I do not want or care for it to go the way of past games ( WoW, SWTOR, RIFT, ect... ) because if I wanted to play those games, I'd be playing them instead of ESO. Problems I see with players now days, is they don't like change, they can't accept change, they refuse it in ways that just flat disgust and amaze me. This game not having an Auction House, does not hurt it one bit, since it makes it more like the older days of gaming where you sought out the Crafters or Guilds that were Trade based to do business with. It puts more value on the crafting than putting up an AH where everyone does nothing but constant undercutting and playing some kind of stupid virtual economic strategy that is usually absurd to say the least.

I've been in gaming a very long time myself, I've seen some really bad games with issues far worse than anything here. But all the complaints I hear is things like it's "Too Slow!" or "It needs x or y!". Well in my opinion an MMORPG should be a game that takes a long time to get through. It should never be easy-mode where your max level in less than a few days, geared in a week, raiding and done with the game before the first month of release is over with. If you did that? You A: Have no life at all to speak of... B: The game is not designed properly and does not deserve to be charging a monthly fee for and or be called an MMORPG.

MMORPG's used to be the games that only a certain group of gamers, the more die-hard style of gamers, used to play. Because they wanted a game that lasted longer than just a few days or weeks of play time. That constantly evolved and moved in different directions with each expansion. Those players have been shoved aside for what is touted lately as the quote on quote "Casual Gamer" which is a load of BS due to most of these so called "Casual Gamers" play more hours than I do and I play quite a lot. Players of games today want everything NOW! They don't want to work for it, earn anything, they want max level and doing PvP or Raiding ASAP! Screw story, screw depth, screw lore, they don't care, they just want to hack things out and that's NOT what an RPG in general is or ever should be.

Writing a review of this kind on a game that hasn't even been out a month yet, has not seen very many updates as of this time. Is kind of silly, it is just you complaining because you aren't getting what you feel you should get. While I agree with some of the things you've pointed out about bugs, phasing and the like? I disagree this game is poorly designed. It's also not that sluggish in Combat, it's based around the Elder Scrolls combat system which is what it SHOULD be. But it's also got some difference to it, as it's got active / passive skills as well, just like standard MMO's do. The game is far better at this time than any of the betas I was in ( Which they never allowed the real beta to be seen really, we only got the older ones to play on those weekends ).

If someone is going to really write a serious review on anything, rather you like the product or not, you keep your own opinions that are biased out of it and keep an open perspective. Because all you're doing is the same tripe that everyone else is. Judging it at the start, hopping on that "This Game Sucks because...." bandwagon and not really giving them any time at all to correct any of the current issues. You can't possibly think they would have released it in full perfection? Not a SINGLE game one that I have played over the past 20 years has ever come out perfect, there has always been bugs. Some have more than others, you deal with it or wait till they're fixed. But too many people put too high of expectations on things and when something comes out and it isn't instantly like what they feel it should be? They go on the hate wagon and it never changes.

Personally I feel if you don't like it, don't play it, there are other games out there that pretty much will suit your needs better. That is why there are several different MMO's out, plenty to choose from. No game company should try to be just like another, no game should be ever identical to another ( With just a different skin ). They should all stand their ground, keep to their guns. If they lose players because of this? So what! Let them go, they're not needed or wanted if they can't accept a game for what it is. If every MMO was like WoW? There would be no point in playing anything but WoW. Which is where a lot of companies have failed, by listening to people that whine, complain and spam their forums with this garbage.

The other complaints I see that is dealing with ESO being a Monthly Fee. If you don't want to pay, then don't play. The so called Free to Play is a BS way to run a game and people are foolishly blinded by the stupid word "FREE" and don't see that they're getting nickled and dimed to death. In playing a so called F2P game for a year, the average player spends more money in their cash shops over the first year than they would a full years of subscription to ESO or any other monthly fee based game. Yet they don't see it that way, they only see that one word, FREE! Blinded and jaded, like lemmings they fall prey to these companies. ESO I hope is not going to fall to this, I believe they will improve this game because they have a lot riding on it. I would rather pay the monthly fee, knowing full well that it's going to good use than the F2P crap that only lasts for so long then people stop paying because there is nothing worth it any longer.

So while you think you're entitled to your opinion at this stage, I disagree with you on 80% of what you've complained about. I feel the game needs to be given a fair chance before such harsh judgements are put forth. You call yourself a long time gamer, but all I see in you is the same sad state of todays gamers I've been seeing for a while. So would you like some cheese with your whine?

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