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Live from 4pm: Q&A with Eurogamer's editor

Oli Welsh answers your questions about review scores and more.

Got a burning question you'd like answered about Eurogamer.net? From 4pm today, editor Oli Welsh will be online to field your queries.

Today Oli announced the biggest change to the way Eurogamer reviews games in the site's history: we have dropped review scores and replaced them with a recommendation system. That seems like a pretty good place to start. There are other important aspects to the new review policy, too: a commitment to review all predominantly online games after launch, and to only review games from retail versions.

There's plenty else to discuss, though, and Oli - who succeeded former editor-in-chief Tom Bramwell late last year - will take questions on any aspect of the site and its operations, the wider games media and industry, his taste in games, his taste in hats, whatever.

Just leave questions in the comments down there to the left, and we'll pull as many as we can over to the main feed below for Oli to answer.

Our live coverage of this event has finished.

Hello! I am, as you're probably aware, not Oli, but I'll be acting as the Moneypenny to his Bond - a role I often take, which usually means picking up his hat from the floor when he tries to fling it on to the office hat-stand - and I'll be going through your questions to present them to him.

Martin Robinson

Hi! I'll be back to answer your questions from 4pm. Should be fun. I've got half a flapjack, some Polos and an empty bottle of water. I should probably get some coffee. It's been quite a day.

Oli Welsh

We'll be starting at 4pm pretty sharpish. Do keep the questions coming in the meantime! I'm going to brew myself a particularly strong cup of tea, see you in a bit!

Martin Robinson

Hello! Let's do this.

Oli Welsh

Just to say, we're under way, and we have our first question courtesy of DavoTheDiv_2010.

Martin Robinson

Not updating reviews: we didn't feel that a constantly changing our reviews gives readers a firm footing and a sense of trust in them. I'm not saying we'll never do it, but in order for our reviews to be the strongest and best possible, I think it's best avoided. When a game ships a bit broken, we'll make sure the review notes this prominently, although we'll still try to look past it to the quality of the game underneath. When a game ships a LOT broken, we'll say Avoid. If a game changes a lot over time, we'll re-review it. However, I did say in the blog that there might be exceptional circumstances where we might update. I think the recent examples of Driveclub and Halo: Master Chief Collection would qualify.

Oli Welsh

So it's really important to understand that, as well as Recommended, Essential and Avoid, there's a middle band of quality that will get *no recommendation*. Just the short summary at the top. The majority of games would probably be reviewed this way. I'm not saying the majority of our reviews will be, because on platforms like Steam and iOS we tend to be quite selective and naturally review games we're interested in and like, so there will be a lot of Recommended games. But it should at least be a 50/50 split between Recommended and no recommondation, with Avoid and Essential being the occasional outliers.

Oli Welsh

From the blog: "So what about games that carry no recommendation? This will cover a pretty broad spectrum of quality, but typically they'll be games with some qualities to recommend them but about which we have important reservations. This is where you'd find, for example, a sports game that provides no meaningful advance on last year's model, or an indie game with beautiful artwork but irritating design, or a well-made action-adventure with a dull storyline and samey gameplay. In these cases, the summary line should let you know whether you're interested to read more."

Oli Welsh

I would also question the value of fidelity - I think when wondering if we're going to buy a game, we tend to think "am I interested? does my friend recommend it?", not "how good is it exactly in a sliding scale compared to other games?"

Oli Welsh

I agree that Metacritic ought to be a useful tool, but I don't think it's working. I don't think that's the site's fault. It's about the culture of the video games industry and audience. For one part, publishing executives put too great an importance on this number and engineer their entire games around it. They put huge pressure on developers and PRs to meet certain numbers for their games when those numbers aren't really in their control. The only way to guarantee them is to make bland, technically sound games that have loads of features, because those tend to do well in Metacritic's system. So that's what we get. It's killing invention in mainstream gaming. On top of that, developers unfairly have their livelihoods threatened by a bunch of reviewer's opionions collated into a number. Also, video game review scoring is inflated. Look at how high the numbers are compared to the film reviews on Metacritic. That's not a useful spread. We end up deciding that anything below 80 is disappointing somehow, or not worth chancing, and that can't be right.

Oli Welsh

That's not what motivated it at all. We didn't think about how publishers would react until we decided on a new system. Our motivations was really that we didn't think scores were working for us, or for you, or for the games themselves. They weren't getting our message across fully, and sometimes they were distracting from it. It's true that we're no longer a threat to a publisher's Metacritic score, and so we might have fewer ruffled feathers along the way. I'm sure we'll still have some! But we've never really sought to avoid that at EG. And I think the overall impact of us not being on Metacritic will be positive, for the reasons I just stated - I don't believe in that system or the way (some) publishers use it.

Oli Welsh

Some of them already have! I believe Germany launched with us today, and others will follow this week. We gave them all a choice to stay with the old scores or use the new system, because they have to do what's right for their markets. But I think most will be joining us soon.

Oli Welsh

Great question. This is a big part of what the new system is about. Some of these games may well be Recommended, even if we wouldn't have awarded them, say, an 8/10 before. We do want to use Recommended in a more flexible way. For example, I would have recommended Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut, because it's compelling and hilarious and you should check it out, even though it's kind of terrible. If it's really too flawed to recommend at all, we'd give these games no recommendation, but it would be clear from the summary at the top of the review that we had reasons to love it.

Oli Welsh

Right, so this is one of those tricky cases. It got a 9 because we didn't wait until after launch to review it - we played on live servers but didn't encounter the matchmaking problems until there was a full population. Under the new rules, it wouldn't be reviewed until after launch, so we'd know the score (you know what I mean). I didn't add it to the Recommended games list because we now know the issues it has, but this is one of those rare cases where we might actually update the review and make it Recommended once we're satisfied it's fixed. There's an argument that you could recommend it for solo players - it's a great campaign package - but I don't think that covers enough of this game's audience really. The summary would make it clear that it was worth them picking it up.

Oli Welsh

We get this question a lot! I'm glad everyone used to enjoy our shambolic podcasts... We don't have plans right now. To be honest, it's quite hard to justify the time and effort, because the audience is quite small compared to other things we do and there isn't a good way to make money out of podcasts. There are other benefits, of course, like building a bridge to you guys, encouraging a close relationship with the site and team and just having fun. You're right that with the new video team hires we've made we'll have the production skills and podcasting experience to do it much better. We'll look at it again once those guys have bedded in and the relaunched channel is running to our satisfaction.

Oli Welsh

I don't know, to be honest. A month ago, when we were finalising our plans, I'd have said no. But then Joystiq announced a very similar plan for very similar reasons (before it sadly went under). If nothing else, that's an indication that some of our peers are thinking the same way, and perhaps some other sites who've wanted to do this for a while will be encouraged by our lead. Maybe they'll wait and see if we fail first! I don't necessarily see the likes of IGN dropping scores, and that's fine. I think a wide range of review systems is a good thing. It's the idea that they can somehow all be homogenised into one, and the meanings that get attached to numbers like 7, that's the real problem.

Oli Welsh

Yeah, absolutely. We've been kicking around ideas recently. There's some really cool stuff in there for both the desktop and mobile sites. Rather than piling it all up into one massive project, labouring on it for months and releasing it at once, we might make the changes gradually - for example, to article pages first, and then the homepage later. This should allow us to work faster and smarter. Look our for some changes soon.

Oli Welsh

I see this comment a lot and I understand how you feel. The Taboola deal is really, really valuable to us commercially. We're working with them to improve the quality and relevance of the links they send through and hopefully you'll see stuff that doesn't annoy you as much.

Oli Welsh

Here's the thing. Quite a few of us on the team play Destiny and are really into it. That makes it possible for us to cover this game really well, in depth. There are a few games that really suit this kind of coverage - Hearthstone is another, which we post about quite a lot. Others, like Dota 2, we're not so strong on. You've got to be playing the games. That said there's no point if there's no audience for what you're writing about, but there's a huge audience out there playing Destiny, with a big appetite for reading detailed articles about it. For them and us it's an interesting game and worth following. I understand it can be annoying to readers who aren't playing the game - sorry about that. Hopefully it will stick out less when we're covering more "long engagement" games in this detailed way, which I would like to do. But we're going to keep doing it because, for Destiny players, it's really good editorial, it's worthwhile, and it's really popular.

Oli Welsh

(Stealth Destiny aritcle.)

Oli Welsh

Because they can provide useful access to help us do our jobs and keep you informed about the game; interviewing a game director, say, or getting video capture of a gameplay mode that wasn't in the beta and won't be available until launch, or getting some preliminary Digital Foundry analysis done so we can bring you that quicker. Once you're not reviewing from them, they're really no different from the preview events that we attend as a matter of course; we'll attend if we think there's useful material there, but we won't use the material as the basis for our review, because we got it under controlled conditions. In all honesty I don't know how many we'll go to now, but I wanted to leave the option open.

Oli Welsh

There's certainly a case for it, but personally I don't really like the idea of splitting up reviews. One product - one price tag - one review. They're much more authoritative that way. That said, we can certainly help you out. In the case of COD, we would wait for the final review, but we'd have a day one write-up before that which would give you a pretty good idea of how we felt about the campaign. With Far Cry 4, campaign is most important for players and we'd probably review it at launch and not wait for the online. Then we could follow up with an update on multiplayer later if it seemed worthwhile. Of course, we need to figure out which way to go on each game. There are going to be a few edge cases where it's quite difficult to call whether a game is "predominantly" online or not, but I think mostly it'll be quite clear. Do the majority of players play the game solo or in online multiplayer? There's your answers.

Oli Welsh

Never say never, as they say... But we are committed to staying the course with the review system. If our traffic absolutely falls through the floor and the site stops making money, I guess we'd have to consider our options then. But I don't think that's going to happen.

Oli Welsh

My best hat is my dark brown Victorian-style bowler from Bates of Jermyn Street. I wore it on my wedding day. My favourite day-to-day hat is an eight-piece "baker boy" style cap in a lovely brown and orange tweed. Choosing between them would be like choosing between my children.

Oli Welsh

OK, thanks everyone! Sorry I couldn't get to all your questions. We should do this again some time. Love you all. x

Oli Welsh