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Gaming To Hell In A Handbasket

The trials, tribulations and musings of an MMO veteran trying to find the next holy grail.

Author: Strayfe

The Role of Reviews:The Great Darkfall Whinefest

Posted by Strayfe Monday May 11 2009 at 6:25PM
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At this point, anyone with even a minutiae of interest in the bloody thing has seen Eurogamer's review on Darkfall, which was scored 2/10 and subtitled "Avoid at all costs".  There was a rather amusing storm of fallout resulting from this, including a page-and-a-half, double-spaced rant from King Flambouras, decrying the credentials of the reviewer, Ed Zitron, while simultaneously extolling the many virtues of Darkfall, big surprise.

What seems to have gone unnoticed in the ensuing drama parade, is that the entire purpose of a game review is to cater to those who have NOT played the game, but who might be considering a purchase or a trial (if the game offers one). 

While Zitron did render an extremely vitriolic appraisal of Tasos' firstborn child, as a reviewer, he, as anyone else would be, is entitled to his opinion.  In the games industry, I can not remember a single other instance of a game developer responding to a review with the long-winded textual equivalent of "WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH".  Responsible developers simply don't lower themselves to the level of such childishness complaining.  However, as anyone knows by now, Tasos and Aventurine are far from responsible, idyllic, or even satisfactory in their field.

Nonwithstanding the two follow-up tirades by Tasos, posted subsequent to his original whining after Eurogamer attempted a partial redress of the situation by offering to give Darkfall a second opinion, I'm going to take a look at the fallacies, desperation, and downright stupidity in the original response of Aventurine's mouth-in-general, Tasos Flambouras.  His post is in italics, while my comments will be in bold below.

Just the facts:

Most of this post is an opinion.  If you believe that the server logs were doctored, then all of this post is an opinion.  Flambouras Lie Counter: 1

Darkfall scores a 2 out of a possible 10. Reviewers hardly played the game based on the server logs.

Eurogamer’s MMO Editor came to me over a month ago and asked for 2 accounts to review Darkfall which they promptly received. Today, more than a month later they came out with their long awaited review and we REALLY flunked it would seem. Darkfall got 2/10.

2/10 according to the Eurogamer scoring policy means: Avoid at all costs etc. You can find the scoring policy here:

Scroll down to 2 and see how much this guy hated Darkfall and how strongly Eurogamer prompts everyone to avoid it at all costs.

Okay, fair enough.  Let's assume for a moment that Mr. Flambouras is correct.  Let's assume that Zitron "hardly played the game".  If I were a game developer, rather than decrying that as the basis for a lack of a "reviewer credibility", I would be wondering what was wrong with my game that made a PROFESSIONAL REVIEWER unable to continue playing for more than a small amount of time.  This is assuming everything Tasos says is correct, and that he isn't trying to save face.

The MMO editor warned me personally about the bad review on the way, and I asked him to give us some consideration and get another reviewer on the case since 2/10 is the lowest review they’ve ever given, and Darkfall’s reviews so far have been mostly good ones.

Flambouras Lie Counter: 2 - Darkfall's reviews so far have been mostly good ones. -  I actually went out and looked, for a solid 15 minutes, for reviews of the game from other credible websites.  I looked for links on GameInformer, Metacritic, GameRatings, Gamefaqs, and IGN.  At this time, the Eurogamer review is the only official review for Darkfall.  Assuming that Tasos is taking into consideration UNofficial reviews, found in other forums, fan sites, and websites like this one, Tasos would find just as many reviews agreeing with the 2/10 rating, as ones disagreeing and praising the game.  Keep reading though.

It sounded very unfair to me and I appealed its publication. Not even the harshest critics of the game or the trolls on various forums would give it that low a score.

Flambouras Lie Counter: 3 - Nonwithstanding the ridiculous concept of a game developer trying to block an unbiased (by virtue of the fact that Zitron had never played the game prior, and had no vested interest in deriding Aventurine or Darkfall) review, Tasos' statement here is flat out wrong, as I have seen hundreds of opinions and comments far more inflammatory than the Eurogamer review.  Even a cursory glance at the Darkfall section of the forums on this website will provide you with enough evidence of this spindoctoring.

This is a niche game we explained and perhaps the reviewer’s play-style was completely different and he was maybe the wrong kind of person to review the game. Darkfall isn’t for everyone after all, and having someone who can’t handle this kind of game write the review would be unfair both to the game and to Eurogamer readers. You can’t use the same tool for every job. Eurogamer’s MMO editor refused and basically said that he carefully selected a reviewer that would be fair to the game and that he would stand by the review. Then he posted the review.

Here we go, this paragraph here is the meat of my blog post.  The purpose of a game review is NOT to cater to the niche crowd.  It's NOT to cater to the hardcore pvp crowd.  It's NOT to cater to the "not for everyone" crowd, or the "can't handle it" crowd.  The purpose of a game review is to give a game an unbiased opinion from somebody who has NO VESTED INTEREST in the game.  A game review targets the STANDARD gamer.  The everygamer.  Joe Blow WoW Player.  If Tasos realizes that his game appeals to a niche crowd only, then he should not be offended by this review.  Those who want PvP full loot will eventually find their way to trying Darkfall, regardless of the Eurogamer review, and those who don't like this type of game.... well... Tasos has informed us all repeatedly, that we're useless carebears who don't belong there anyway. 

When we read the hostile review by Ed Zitron, one thing became apparent: he had not played the game at all. Eurogamer readers and Darkfall players are posting bullet lists of factual errors in the story. The reviewer hadn't even figured out the very basics of the game before he wrote about it.

Inability to figure out the "very basics" of the game would make me give it 2/10 too.  Look, Tasos.   Darkfall isn't a college entrance exam.  It's not a test of endurance, will and intelligence, and even if it were, it wouldn't be a very good one.  Darkfall is a game.  Who wants to sit down to play a game for entertainment and be forced to attempt to navigate a control system, UI, and tutorial that appears to have been written and/or programmed by a regressive, schizophrenic circus clown on salvia divinorum?

We checked the logs for the 2 accounts we gave Eurogamer and we found that one of them had around 3 minutes playtime, and the other had less than 2 hours spread out in 13 sessions. Most of these 2 hours were spent in the character creator since during almost every one of the logins the reviewer spent the time creating a new character. The rest of the time was apparently spent taking the low-res screenshots that accompanied the article. At no point did this reviewer spend more than a few minutes online at a time.

Again, why?  Obviously, if Ed Zitron was in the habit of only spending "a few minutes" online in every game he reviewed, he would not be asked to write for Eurogamer.  You can bet your ass that I would not be spending more than "a few minutes" in any game I thought was 2/10.  What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Tasos sure as hell doesn't know.

Darkfall is the largest MMORPG game of its kind and this guy spent a few minutes playing(?) before he tore it apart. How can someone do that responsibly? Ed Zitron didn’t even give Darkfall a chance.

Flambouras Lie Counter: 4 - EVE Online is WAYYYY bigger than Darkfall.  I'm no fan of EVE either, but even I can say that I am impressed by what CCP has done with their game and it's depth.  If you want to argue that Darkfall and EVE qualify as different kinds of games, then you can argue that off into infinity.  Congratulations then, Darkfall is #1!  ... too bad there was only one contestant.

The entire review is opinionated and hostile; it attacks the game, the creators and the company at every chance. The creators and developers of Darkfall, as well as the Darkfall community through its reaction, consider this review suspect and question the motives behind its publication.

Motives?  Yes, Tasos.  It's all just a big conspiracy, how foolish we all are not to see that.  Also, the moon landing was faked, Tupac Shakur is still alive, and Jews did 9/11.  This sort of speculation is fine behind closed doors, but it absolutely shocks me that a developer would post this sort of thing in public.  It's unprofessional, reeks of a childish attention grab, and serves to reinforce all the negative publicity that Aventurine has, and will continue to receive until such time as they boot Madman Tasos to the curb, and manufacture some semblance of respect for their playerbase.

We can take a bad review, but not like this. Even the worst reviews that we’ve received commend our efforts and speak of the potential of Darkfall. The majority of our players love the game. This review might keep new players from ever trying a game they would enjoy.

Flambouras Lie Counter: 5 - Again, Tasos references the perfect world, where even those who hate Darkfall admit that they... like Darkfall... Sigh.  This man is delusional.  Also, three golf claps and a half-hearted hurrah for Captain Obvious.  This just in... 51% of people who still actively play Darkfall.. love Darkfall!  Hey, come on guys, quick math lesson here... what's 51% of 1,000?  Well I'll be damned, looks like Darkfall can't even manage to overtake the worst F2P games in terms of approval.

We sent the play-time information to Eurogamer and asked them to take down the article as it is damaging our game’s reputation but also Eurogamer’s reputation.

This is just presumptuous.  Nobody beyond the dozen or so Darkfall fanbots will care about a bad review for a non-mainstream MMO.  Tasos grossly overestimates his pull in the vast scheme of things... what else is new?

We asked to get an unbiased reviewer on the case who will actually play the game before writing about it. They said that taking it down now would be more damaging to their reputation than if they left it up. After our reaction to publicize the play history of their reviewers to protect our game, they asked us to wait while they try to confirm what we already knew from our logs.


After Eurogamer refused to take it back, we threatened them with inconclusive information and circumstantial evidence!  As expected, they asked us to wait while they had a staff meeting to decide if we were fucking serious.

We’re afraid that waiting any longer is unacceptable to us, because this review was designed to drive people away from our game and allowing it to remain without any kind of reaction is out of the question. Out of professional courtesy we’ve waited 5 hours longer than we said we would before posting this.

The conspiracy deepens.  Apparently Eurogamer is out to get Aventurine.  The boogey man is coming.  Because Tasos is such a benevolent God, he has waited an entire FIVE HOURS before threatening Eurogamer with inconclusive information and circumstantial evidence.  Holy hallelujah, this is a saint we have on our hands folks.

An update: Eurogamer got back to us via their editor and said that their reviewer is a contributing writer rather than a staff writer, that he claims to have spent at least 9 hours playing the game and they will stand by their publication. We wrote back that this is a lie and that our server logs(which they already have) show the playtime down to the second and they are at their disposal. They offered to re-review the game and see if the second reviewer has a different opinion than the first one. We wrote back that it might be hard to find someone to confirm the first review, especially if they actually play the game.

Server logs are hardly proof of anything.  Especially where Tasos and Aventurine are concerned.  In a second post after this one, Tasos spends a LONG time explaining how their server logs are completely undoctorable... sounds to me like a guilty conscience trying to brush the evidence under the rug, so to speak.

All in all, whatever you think about Darkfall Online as a game, intelligent people, including fans of Darkfall, need to realize that Tasos is completely off his rocker, and as the voice of Aventurine, he is giving this game a terrible image.  Perhaps one day I can get ahold of a copy and find out if the thing is really as bad as everyone claims.

Perhaps one day I can smile as I am decried as a carebear, despite my extensive CAL Counter-strike and CoD background, high arena rating in WoW, and early involvement in the community of every PvP-centric MMO released in the last several years.

C'est La Vie, my friends.  But until then, don't let this double-talking goof fool you into any sort of sympathy for Aventurine.