So it’s not exactly a secret that I’m crazy excited for The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. Seeing all the reviews start to come out is exciting, though I’m carefully avoiding any of the actual content of those reviews and just looking at scores. Which all rock by the way, it’s getting very high 9s and even 10s. Normally though I would say that the scores are the least important part of the reviews. You want to find out WHY the game the game is good and not some arbitrary score it’s assigned. In fact, it’s important to note that when you’re looking for a job as a designer and they ask you for your opinion of a game they are looking for why you think what you do rather than what you think. Telling them “the game is good” is useless.
But anyway back to the topic, for games that I’m really excited for I avoid the reviews themselves like the plague. I want to see what I think of the game without any expectations other than my own excitement. If a game can bring you down from that high then there’s a problem that needs to be looked upon in further detail. If on the other hand, the game does nothing but ramp up the excitement… that’s usually when you might be playing a masterpiece.
Every now and then a game will have a virtually impossible task ahead of it. If Half Life 3 ever actually comes out it will end up being one of those games. A game where its nearly impossible for it to live up to the expectations being built around it. Fortunately it’s really difficult to build up that level of hype though. The Half Life series was essentially a masterpiece followed by an even greater masterpiece with a cliffhanger and a whole lot of nothing. Still as weird as it might sound I think if anyone could probably manage it, I think it would probably be Valve. Should that day ever arrive, I suppose we’ll see what will happen.
Moving on though, reviewing game’s yourself can be a good exercise for analyzing games. As I mentioned before, it’s not what you think about a game that is important but why you think it. “The game makes me feel lost and like there isn’t much to do” – What’s failing? Did the level designers do a poor job of directing the player? Are the quests/goals make little sense or lack any real direction? Does the environment itself just feel empty? What’s missing that makes it feel so empty? These are some of the questions that you need to consider. Especially when the kind of feedback you get from your players might only be along the lines of “It’s boring,” you need to be able to try and get behind their eyes to understand what is making them believe that in the first place.