Thursday, 27 May 2010

Should a game's community influence reviews?

Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing RTS multiplayer title Heroes of Newerth for Critical Gamer, and I must say it’s an intriguing game. You pick a hero from a staggering range of 65, each with their own unique abilities before setting off down a path accompanying some NPC creeps with the intention to smash skulls and destroy the opposing team’s base. It’s basically Warcraft 3 cross pollinated with a tower defence game. Whilst I found the game itself interesting, I did find myself wishing for the ability to send people cholera via email.

I hated this game, not necessarily because of the mechanics, but because the community was so hate filled towards new guys trying to learn. The problem was that it had been in open beta for ages, and is itself based on a classic Warcraft 3 scenario called Defence of the Ancients, meaning it has quite a sizeable cult following. It really did feel like stepping into the old boys club, and none of them are too happy when you join their game as it probably means the team with you on will lose terribly.

This leads to much abuse and angry jeering, more than you would expect from average netiquette, which is easily enough to convince Billy First Timer to uninstall and never touch it again. There is a matchmaking facility and servers labelled ‘noobs only’ but these also seem to drop you into games full of elitists who have no patience. There are a few good souls out there, but in every game you will find at least one guy who clearly hasn’t been taking his medication and has to wipe the frothy spit from his keyboard every half hour.

Is it fair to judge a game based on its community though? It is not necessarily the developers fault for attracting the kind of players they do, but there should at least have been more entry level stuff to ease newbies into the experience. I took my stance on this title because as a reviewer, you’re basically recommending to people what they should spend their money on. How could I possibly recommend Heroes of Newerth to someone who has never tried it before, if the welcome they will get mirrors a gazelle covered in fresh blood leaping into a shark tank.

It would be a bit like me recommending that someone watched the video tape from The Ring. “The initial experience is certainly interesting, but the harassment over the next seven days may get to you, and the conclusion might be a bit too permanent for your liking, but by all means give it a go.”

The problem with it being solely a multiplayer game is that new players are dropped straight into the frying pan without the limbs needed to crawl out of it. Couple this with a community that shows the same level of patience as a dog told not to go for the postman and it’s a raging explosion waiting to happen.

Playing an online multiplayer game is all about community spirit and synergy, so completely flaming newbies because they aren’t very good until the game ends just spoils the experience for everyone. We’ve all been called noobs before, but I’ve never seen it as bad as I have in Heroes of Newerth. It was at such a level that it has been a central point on several reviews. It comes to something when the largest criticism of a game is its core audience.


jen/haly said...

Having been there before, all I can do is sympathise!
Oh and feel slightly envious that comments are closed on your review so you don't have to suffer any abuse like I did ;)

Anthony said...

I was wondering why I wasn't getting any hate mail. Not sure why that's closed. Probably for the best, but it might have justified the review even more if your abusers are anything to go by :p

I found the newbie intolerence to be a real shame as I genuinely wanted to get into HoN, but decided that players trying to drive me to self harm wasn't really what I wanted to deal with when playing a game.