Aggro Me: Aggro Arcade
You've probably already seen the EQII bashing comic and "review" on Penny Arcade.
I started a thread earlier today on the forums here asking whether it was worthy of a response. I got a lot of intelligent comments and the general feeling was that the mature and thoughtful thing to do would be to just ignore it.
But hey, no one ever accused me of being mature and thoughtful. So let the rebuttal begin.
Let's start off with my biggest problem, the obvious bias.
If you look at their PA Presents page, you see they are hawking the WoW Strategy Guide, to which they have apparently contributed some comics.
What's more, on the front page of Blizzard's World of Warcraft main site, you get the following "news" story:
Featured Penny Arcade Comic! - Nebu on 2/15/06
Check out our latest featured Penny Arcade comic from the Official Strategy Guide!
Now, note that when you click on the Penny Arcade comic link it takes you to the EQII "review" and not the comic. How convenient. But, hey that's Blizzard's issue, not Penny Arcade's.
What is their issue is doing work for Blizzard on the Official Strategy Guide. They also promote WoW heavily and even had a booth at Blizzcon. That's a problem when you're attempting to review games made by their direct competitor. You could at least say, "Hey, we do work for the Official WoW Strategy Guide, so take this commentary with a grain of salt."
If Moorgard or Brenlo posted a scathing review of WoW on their blogs, I would find it in bad taste. Now they have the right to do so. And it would probably be much better written and thought-out than Penny Arcade's. But I would still have an issue with it for obvious reasons.
From the Wikipedia entry on Ethics in Journalism:
"Reporter must avoid conflicts of interest — incentives to report a story with a given slant. This includes not taking bribes and not reporting on stories which affect the reporter's personal, economic, or political interests."
Now, Gabe and Tycho are not journalists, any more than I am. But maybe we should start acting like journalists, at least a little. Like it or not, PA's opinion has great sway over the gaming masses. And with great power...well, you know the rest.
If you want to say I have a slant, sure, go ahead. I at least acknowledge that I do, to some degree. But remember I called WoW a "great game." Not to mention that I rip SOE all the time, and believe me some of my posts have definitely annoyed them.
You just can't be in business with one company, like Penny Arcade is, and then bash their competitor and expect people to take it seriously. The ironic thing is that they've even railed against paid shills in the past.
Okay, enough with the bias, on to the substantive issue.
I have a deal with my friends and anyone whom I date. It goes like this: "If what I said makes you laugh, you can't get mad it." That can be a dangerous game, but that's a story for another day. If Penny Arcade's comic had even made me chuckle or gave me a slight grin, I give you my honest word that I would not be writing this post right now. Remember, I make jokes at SOE's expense constantly. But at least some of them are funny.
I don't get the comic. If you want to say I don't have a sense of humor, fine. But who is the EQII person they are portraying supposed to be? At least a good Smed caricature would have made me laugh. For years, the joke about SOE is that all they care about is your money. So now I'm supposed to laugh at a joke that says they don't want your money?
SOE is not giving away the game for free. It costs $6.95 to subscribe for one month to FilePlanet. They give you a break and charge $3.33 a month if you subscribe for one year (that's $39.95). Now that's no joke. And even forgetting that, you still have to pay the hefty EQII subscription fees to play the game beyond the 30 day time limit.
Listen, if you buy KoS at retail you get EQII for free anyway. So it's not like this is some major change in marketing strategy. It's really not. Prior to the newbie revamp, SOE had the Trial of the Isle going for as long as I can remember. And I asked them at the Community Summit why they didn't have a demo program that gave a more adequate feel for the game then one that restricted you to the Isle. The answer was that they would absolutely love to but the download time involved would scare people off. (That's not a verbatim answer just what I recall - I could be totally wrong).
So now, through FilePlanet, they have a means to offer a better demo program. And they're going for it. What's more, SOE already had a program where they handed out cards at the Community Summit with codes on them that allowed a friend to try EQII free for 30 days and subscribe without actually purchasing the game. They were handing them out freely. So this is something they have always wanted to do.
It is certainly not because the game is failing or losing it's population. Scott stated in public on the forums:
"Taken as a whole, when you sum up all worlds, EQ2 is growing and has been for quite some time. Where "growth" for any MMO is defined as: (the number of people who sign up) - (the number of people who leave). "
I honestly doubt Scott Hartsman would flat out lie in a public venue. I have to take his word on this.
So, the concept of the "joke" in the comic that EQII is so horrible and under populated that SOE has to give it away is just totally inaccurate. In fact, I've seen more pro-EQII hype on various gaming forums recently than I have ever seen before. The "joke" just doesn't make sense.
The FilePlanet thing is a marketing concept and a great one at that. SOE stands to make more money from subscriber fees then from EQII retail boxes. Which, if you remember, you get free anyway with KoS. And we all know most game stores don't even carry copies of the original EQII box. So what does SOE have to lose with this tactic? Nothing. A good marketing idea is not a sign of weakness or failure.
Let's take on the sorry commentary now. Tycho makes some glib, uninformed remarks that I will ignore. Then Gabe gives his take on the game.
Gabe's only comments are on the visual look of the game. He makes no effort to talk about the gameplay, combat, depth, well anything except the visuals. If he had just said, "I hate the visuals. The game may be okay for all I know, but I don't know because I couldn't get past the visuals," I would be totally okay with it. But he never gives that disclaimer about the rest of the game.
He apparently only looked at the very early level stuff. I guarantee no one would look at DoF or KoS and say the graphics are sterile. But okay, he found a bland early level screen shot and he hates the character models. That hardly constitutes a "take" on the entire game. MMORPG's are deep and complex games. I made sure to state in my WoW review that, "It's impossible to review an MMO fairly without really putting extensive time into it so I'm not trying to do that." And though I didn't like the cartoony style I still managed to give impressions on other aspects of the game.
But what really bothers me is the totally unnecessary potshots he takes at the EQII artists. Check it:
"It is completely without life. There is no love or care given to any piece of it. The entire thing was made by robots in a vacuum.
I know there must be artists working at SOE. The only thing I can think of is that they are simply cogs in some corporate machine. They must be given no freedom at all. In fact after looking at the game I wouldn’t be surprised if they are beaten daily. Their spirits have been broken. The troll models specifically may even be some kind of internal attempt to destroy the game and strike a blow against their corporate masters."
Can't you just say, "I really hate the art in EQII. I know that's a subjective thing but I don't like it." Do you have to bash the actual artists? I've complained about the armor graphics and character models plenty of times without attacking the artists on a personal level.
I have met some of the artists who work on EQII and let me tell you they are not robots. Far from it. They pour as much blood, sweat and love into their work as anyone I have met. Their eyes light up when you talk about a zone they designed. They are passionate about what they do.
So even if you don't like the final product, I see no need for that form of comment.
Penny Arcade is the real cog in the corporate machine, not the EQII artists. They are the ones simply serving as Blizzard attack dogs.
If you can't even discuss the most elementary parts of a game, then don't discuss it all.
So, guess what. I'm going to review them with the same level of civility and thought that they used to review EQII:
Take a good look at Tycho's avatar on their comments page. Take a good look at Gabe's avatar. Ah, they are the guys from the comic! They must look like that in real life. Um, no.
That's what Gabe and Tycho look like in real life. Don't believe me? Do a google search. Now I can't get past those visuals. Why don't they draw their comics as accurate representations of themselves, as they imply? I can't get past that. Penny Arcade sucks.
An unfair take? Absolutely. But so was their take on EQII. Did I sink to their level? Absolutely. But the tagline of this blog is "overnuking" not "cupcake making" or "playing nice."
It was a worthless hatchet job from a pair with a proven bias and it annoyed me. I also find it childish that Blizzard provides a direct link on their main page to what they had to know was a smear job without any real merit. Very unprofessional on their part.
On the plus side, they did help spread the word about the trial so who knows? Maybe people will try it out and come to their own opinion. I hope the whole thing backfires on them.
In other EQII review news, Abalieno from Cesspit appears to like the game or at least parts of it. While he finds plenty of negatives he also finds some big positives. Only Abalieno could call EQII a "parasite" and "shaping up to be a really nice and fun game" in the same paragraph. Of course, I'm taking that out of context - you have to read the whole bit to understand where he is coming from. I enjoyed his take, though I don't agree with all of it.
Long post today so I'll probably take Monday off. Have a great weekend.