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Saturday, July 16, 2011

(I) Don't Believe the Hype...

There’s been much hype about the upcoming FPS PC game Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad from TWI, that cannot denied. I have never believed it, per se, but I did have high hopes for the quality of the game. The latter is no longer true. Most of the hype, repeated and linked ceaselessly, has been from the RO community and the developer themselves. Much of the rest has been from one publication (PC Gamer) and one reviewer there, known for uneven reviews.

Who can say how much of that positive “pre-review” might be the result of selective hiney powdering of said reviewer by the developer, the promise of ad revenue (a recent full page ad...), or other coddling à la the infamous COD reviewer junkets? Conspiracy theory? No, reality - the “review” business, whether it be PC games or anything else, is known for its corruption. Examples are rampant. Good reviews seem easily bought, or otherwise obtained. 

Part of the job of marketing, frankly, is the inveigling of hapless reviewers. I myself treat any review, save those by trusted friends or critics with unimpeachable credentials, with a block of salt for these reasons. 

And for the same reasons, eyebrows surely must rise with scepticism at “pre-reviews” making proclamations so grandiose as a game from a relatively unknown publisher somehow “beating” megaliths such as COD:BO. 

We should not forget the many games hyped similarly that turned out to be turds.

Opinions posted in counterpoint to this tide of hype from those not part of the religion of HOS are excoriated and often locked or deleted in the TWI forums. These selfsame forums allow other threads to limitlessly suppurate their spite until it fills every available crevice so long as they involve bashing other games and potential competitors. 

Similar behavior can be seen in the few other forums actively conversing about the game, often from apparent patrolling by TWI cultists: Witness the ridiculous level of “down-voting” of dissenting comments toward the alleged quality of the most recent game-play visuals on the gametrailers.com site. (You’d think these probable sock-puppets could at least be creative enough to use names dissimilar to their TWI forum monikers when doing their psuedo-astroturfing...and that TWI would at least be bright enough to use a sock-puppet moniker when actually astroturfing...)

To not toe the line is to be branded a “hater”, or “ignorant”, or “naive”.  

Such censorship and bullying of dissenting opinion and warranted scepticism, either from corporate edict or inaction in corporate forums, or by fanbois elsewhere should not go unnoticed, and instead should garner a dim view by the PC gamer.

TWI has made AAA claims for the game, but there has yet to be seen AAA evidence. Few backwater developers that have made grandiose claims have delivered, and I share the view that the proof is in the pudding. We’ve yet to see anything truly justifying AAA status much less claims, a status that seems preordained by the believers.

We really know little about  game, other than the paucity of information released by the developer and proclamations by the foamer faithful. 

We do know that not all of the “sneak peeks” of the game have been met with unanimous praise. 

Why might this be so? There are some prime reasons PC gamers buy a game:
  1. The game has a fundamental mechanic / game-play style they particularly enjoy.
  2. The game serves as a showcase for their PC horsepower: Crysis: Brutal for hardware and pretty!
  3. They want to play what their friends and their community plays.
To some gamers, satisfying even one of these qualifies a game as desirable, while others require all three (and more) criteria to be met. Looking at RO:HOS in each of these areas proves enlightening.

The game has a fundamental mechanic / gameplay style they particularly enjoy.
Viewed by this criterion, HOS finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Despite efforts claimed to make the game “more accessible” to the mainstream gamer, I’ve seen little if any evidence this has been successful. Sandwiched between the more mainstream (arcade? popular style?) play of AAA titles such as the Battlefield and Call of Duty series, and the arguably superior “realism” of games like the ARMA series, HOS seems to be limiting itself to an exceedingly thin slice of the gamer pie. 

The attempted COD land grab by TWI (historically implausible weapons, unlocks, etc.) has further alienated their existing dedicated community, and to my eyes is not going to be sufficient to capture any real segment of the mainstream market without losing many from the existing core.

The fact that one will find more people in their local Safeway than are actively playing HOS’ forebearer worldwide at any given time amply demonstrates the vacuum of interest in this category of play and game family (WW II “realistic”).

The game serves as a showcase for their PC horsepower.
The visuals seen so far for HOS have been underwhelming at best. Not much really can be expected from the already aging version of the engine used. Statements from the leaky beta testers have not been encouraging in this regard, excepting those of (possibly sight impaired) foamers

Most serious PC gamers have serious investments in PC hardware. They want to show it off, if only to themselves. HOS seems unlikely to fulfill that desire. 

“Gameplay AND graphics from 5 years ago” as one viewer of the game commented.

That the game is being consistently shown with less than “full on” visuals (by admission of TWI staff) when it is allegedly scant weeks from release rings alarm bells. Are the visuals seen in fact really as good as it gets? Is the performance with the apparently mythical “full on” settings so dismal it can’t be shown? Who knows.

We certainly have been told to expect great visuals. Where are they? 

And why on earth with beta testing nearing its end, so close to release, would the game not be tested at its limits? Something doesn’t pass the smell test here.

Apologists saying things like “...the game is set in WWII and has a certain look because of this...”,  with foamers quickly chiming in with nonsense like “People know in their heart of hearts the game is going too [sic] have pretty good graphics...” (Really? Your heart told you so?), where no one I know of has publicly seen anything remotely resembling modern hardware quality capabilities in visuals is analogous to Britney Spears fans wailing how fine her voice really is. 

When was the last time a game that actually had truly kick-ass capabilities was not shown in that light scant weeks before release? I can’t think of any.

They want to play what their friends and their community plays.
This may ultimately be the killer for the game. All but one of the serious gamers I personally pointed toward the game has stated they no longer plan to purchase the game. Their reason: the community. I’ll not delve into details. A perusal of Facepunch will give one sufficient pause as to the view seen by many others. Suffice it to say, the CEO of TWI has claimed he gets ten messages a day from new community members stating they don't want to go there any more.

We want to play what our friends are playing, and meet new friends in the greater community. The latter in the case of RO seems utterly uninviting: a club no one wants to be a member of, save the overabundant churls already there. I myself have joined the ranks of “no thanks” because of the behavior there, seemingly encouraged rather than disciplined by TWI themselves. 

TWI’s flippant attitudes are sewage sauce on the excrement pie. To paraphrase one example: “You just don’t get it. It is a revolution in gaming. You’ll see!” Really? How about letting the gamer decide what is and isn’t revolutionary, instead of decreeing it so as if only you are the all-seeing, all-knowing of the PC gaming community? Even hardened, long faithful members of the core community feel slighted and are turning their backs on the game because of the attitude pervading the forums from the top.

So, a game that has apparently already dated visuals, with a play style that seems to attract a limited player base, played and hyped by a community with one too many TWIrps. 

It seems there must be many better places to spend my PC game monies in the near future (like the upcoming Iron Front WW 2 realism game on the ARMA OA engine, and of course BF3 and MW3, with ARMA 3 and Dead Island thrown in for good measure), and I and others I know plan to. 

The fact that the game, only a few weeks away from release, did not even muster a mention in the list of the top dozen games of the most recent OTX GamePlan insights surveys of PC game purchase intents bodes poorly and is a focused magnifying glass on the (un)reality of the hype. 

The fact that the recent Steam giveaway of the top ten games in 100 winners’ wish lists resulted in a grand total of three “wishes” for the game reinforces the detachment of reality from the hype.

The fact that many long-standing and devoted members of the community are not pre-ordering the game, and some have chosen to divorce themselves from the community speaks volumes.

The fact that one beta tester called the game “...shite [sic], with some interesting features...” is perhaps the most disquieting indictment of the chasm between the hype PC gamers have been fed and the apparent reality of the game.

I played the original mod. I bought OSTFRONT to vote with my wallet for an original job well done. I never even played the latter in earnest, I’d already moved on from an enjoyable time with the free mod. I just wanted to reward a tiny team for their effort. It’s a shame the heads grew so big, and too much of the community so foul, that I’ve no desire to continue my patronage of the brand.

I’ll be voting with my wallet, along with others. Elsewhere.

I may buy HOS when it is cheap, for which I do not anticipate a long wait.


Edit (7/20): The reactions to this entry (other than the largely concurring comments here and elsewhere) have become something bordering on bizarre. Like watching Bill Clinton in his infamous parsing of words. See the post A sorry hebetating of the truth, and be sure to follow the hyperlinks contained therein, for an amusing trip. The Attack Blog entry should amuse you also.

Edit (7/17): It seems some readers have posted links to this entry in various forums, including TWI. I've received amusing messages regarding the (not surprisingly biased) censorship going on at the TWI forums (and Steam forums by TWI moderators) over comments toward the entry. Head on over to see great examples of the artificial view TWI wants you to believe...and the reality (before they delete those posts.)

26 comments:

  1. Well-written, but I think you're perhaps overestimating the "simness" of RO. It's essentially an arcade shooter with some select "sim" features thrown in. It's one step above Day of Defeat, and I wouldn't call that "WW2 Realistic".

    It is sometimes portrayed as grognardy simulator, though. But I'd hardly consider a game that plays orchestral music during gameplay (by default) a simulator! The game is not a COD2-style WW2 fragfest but its shootouts are still very much hollywoodian, and its gameplay is full of "gamey" elements that would be out of place in a proper sim (SMGs having absurdly high recoil for balance purposes, semi-auto rifles' inaccuracy compared to bolt-action ones being exaggerated, handguns being far less accurate than they should, MGs with an unrealistically wide cone of fire, etc.).

    The game is looking good to me so far, and I enjoy ROOST, though I'm not sure if I'll preorder RO2. The graphics are not the best, but certainly "5 year old visuals" is an exaggeration on your part. I'm more concerned about the wooden animations I've seen in videos (crouch walking, lame ragdolls, instant crouching, etc.) than actual polycount and texture resolution.

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  2. call of duty and battlefield are for morons.

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  3. @ (Too lame to use a real name) @ 7/16/11 17:23:

    Q.E.D.

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  4. @ Anonymous 7/16/11 16:35:
    Thanks for the constructive comments. I don't think of RO as a SIM by any means. ARMA makes the point that RO is far from realistic quite starkly. Nor do I expect it to be. The main point of the entry is my BS meter has pegged on the hype vs reality. I'm still trying to think of any recent game with so many promises of technical greatness, stunning visuals, etc. that can't even be shown "full on" so few weeks from release. That and the noxious community (though not all - there are some gems in that community wedged in between the dirt.)

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  5. Well-written especially this part:

    "The attempted COD land grab by TWI (historically implausible weapons, unlocks, etc.) has further alienated their existing dedicated community"

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  6. A post in the TWI forum says you turned down a beta key. True? Why?

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  7. @ Anonymous 7/17/11 10:20:
    In a manner of speaking, yes. (1) I had already removed myself from the "community", just too much BS there. (2) It was made clear in the invite call that TWI had zero interest in actual feedback: they simply wanted bodies to populate servers to look pretty for press. Not my interest. When I queried the beta wrangler if actual feedback via email would be accepted, I never even got an answer. I know many bitching about the same - no answer to feedback. So, I decided not to be part of what is a marketing push, instead of real testing. (Speaking of, when is the tank fighting being shown to the public? Broken and can't be?)

    R

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  8. Completely agree about the community. Pure sewage.

    If there is anything that would deter me from buying the game, it's the community.

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  9. @The comment sent ending with "Lets just hope this guy has the balls to approve this.":

    How about you have the "balls" to use a real name to post a comment, and I'll respond. Otherwise, you just come off as yet another TWI fanboi/shill/sock puppet posting blather.

    Rob

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  10. Overall there is not that much hype or talk about this title, which is somewhat logical since there hardly seems to be any official video footage for the game.

    Which makes it logical as well that any talk about the game will likely come from people knowing the game, or closely following it. As others will simply not know of it being in existence.

    As with every game its a wait and see affair, and nobody should ever buy a game based on hype, a game should be bought based on the chances of you liking it.

    Of course people that love a game series need to be taken with a grain of salt. But the group advertising about this game is so small, that you will only really notice it in a group or community that happens to fit with the red orchestra mindset, or if you particularly end up looking for it.

    With a relative unknown title you will automatically see a bigger percentage of fans posting and replying on videos, as people watching videos showcasing generally do not look past the first page showing new videos, unless they specifically search for it.

    TWI are not as saintly as some make them out to be. However TWI does listen a lot more to what people in the community say than most other studios.

    Just as you say don't believe in positive hype for a game, don't believe negative hype for a game either. Just wait and see as everybody should do with any title being released.

    I am a participant of the beta, and for what my personal opinion is worth, I can say that I like it, and that TWI does listen to feedback.

    Red Orchestra however was and likely will always be a love hate affair game. Will I be pre-ordering the game, yes. Should others pre-order the game, only if they are certain that they will like it, as with any other game.

    Personally I do not understand why TWI does not show high quality video footage. Because especially the latest footage falls really short.

    I'm confident that the game will be liked by a lot of people. And like anybody else hope that TWI will show some good footage of the game, showcasing the essence of how the game will feel.

    As the lack of it makes people like you think the game is a failure, and makes others completely unaware of it even existing.

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  11. I agree...where is the tank footage with only 6 weeks left to go?

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  12. right. so lack of evidence=damning evidence

    some high level thinkers up in here.

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  13. @ Anonymous 7/17/11 20:48 :
    The fact that claims of visual splendor, and epic tank realism, has not been backed up in any detail (even to press apparently) *is* rather damming this close to the claimed release date. Again, I cannot think of any recent game claiming greatness that so little has been seen so close to release.

    Developers have in fact tended to show off the greatness of their games near release, not hide it. "Show me the money" has been the cry for some time from the community. *If* there is a demo (as far as I've seen there will not be), at least buyers can judge the quality of the game for themselves before spending their hard-earned cash, rather than just doing so on their faith in the religion of RO...it is after all most certainly not priced at the "throw away" level more typical of relatively unknown indie developers.

    Argue with the facts, not the messenger. Offer a differing opinion, if arguing an opinion. The facts are eminently defensible - your ad hominem (and those of some TWI staff) are transparent and ineffectual attempts at misdirection, as are TWI attempts at censoring opinion and facts in their own forums. It just makes you (and them) look worse.

    If I can help a fellow gamer not waste their money on a game that is like the "only driven on Sundays to church jewel used car" that turns out to have sawdust in the transmission, I've accomplished my goal.

    Might the game be good? It might, but my BS detector, and that of many others, has been rising for some time.

    Rob

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  14. Your entitled your opinions, though you do point to the direction of some very harsh reality.

    "The fact that the recent Steam giveaway of the top ten games in 100 winners’ wish lists resulted in a grand total of three “wishes” for the game reinforces the detachment of reality from the hype."

    That statement said it all for me, because I was thinking the very same thing.

    Keep up the good, work.
    The minority fanboys are always going to hate hearing the reality of it.
    Killing floor dose not have a huge following, its a small niche zombie genre, looking to RO HOS being the same small niche genre as it is WWII. Like you said people want to play what their friends or most majority of people are playing...TF2, CS, COD.

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  15. Ibleedv20, host of the (sadly) again defunct Crosshairs show submitted a comment. I respect Sam's opinion, while I may not always agree with it.

    It grew beyond the limit of size allowed here, so it can be viewed should you desire at the Google document link below.

    Rob

    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1pQnZdf6uw3XPIhGJ-f8YKGz25S04-ayzlatG78pfBTo

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  16. Good write. Liked the bitch slap later posts too. Never heard of the game until a friend sent me a link here. So is the hype just them and their fanboys? I have seen no review in any magazine - did I miss something?

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  17. @ Anonymous 7/19/11 12:44:
    Thanks. Not many really have heard of it - another example of hype vs reality. There has been a "review" in pc gamer. Seems like over the top for a game with little to show so far.

    Bought, fellated for, who knows. Had big cover blob of how game would beat COD. Makes for good marketing - gets people to buy the sealed magazine expecting some miracle game. But ultimately that kind of hype erodes the credibility of the magazine. Latest euro version of the magazine has free ghost recon as the new / now game that will "beat" cod. Again, on the cover. What will we get next to lure us into buying the latest copy? "Super Ultimate Final For Real Shell Shocker!!! Why Sudoku Free to Play will Crush the COD franchise!!!"

    Must leave gamers puzzled - I can see why Alan Wilson of TWI calls the review press "arse-wipes" when they're not around...

    Rob

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  18. You make some good points. People should always think critically.

    I too want to see how TWI will pull off this game with 6 weeks until shipping. John Gibson recently mentioned in a post, they made Killing Floor in 3 months with 1/3 the manpower.

    As far as the forums and community goes, even John has mentioned it's gotten out of control, and asked for some sanity. Something to keep in mind, the forums are only a small fraction of the RO community. If someone wants to enjoy the game without the vitriol from the forums, simply stay off the forums.

    On censorship, from what I've gathered after a number of years on the TWI forums, the devs are OK with criticism, as long as they don't perceive it as being rude, mean spirited or trolling. Unfortunately, it's often difficult to judge tone in an internet forum post, and perhaps the TWI may be a bit sensitive with "their baby."

    I would like to point out that for someone who complains about ad hominem attacks (which I admit you have received), you threw quite a doosey of one with "Bought, fellated for, who knows." - suggesting TWI exchanged sexual favors for good coverage. Also, a bit of a Strawman with the Sodoku thing, but it was funny.

    Full disclosure: I was recently accepted into the beta, but haven't actually played it yet.

    -Mormegil

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  19. @ Mormegil :
    Thanks for the comments. As far as the insults, well, I kept it civil and factual in the post I think. Once TWI staff started the attack posts and recently flat out fabrication, gloves off. It is sport now for me. And horrible moves on their part. They really need to get some lesons in basic marketing.

    BTW - that kind of thing *has* happened for good reviews. I plan on writing an entry on corruption in video game reviews, and have a list that includes activities that surpirsed even me.

    I think I recall your moniker from the forums as one of the sane ones posting there...

    I hope the beta turns out good for you.

    R

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  20. well got banned by Yoshiro on steam forums cause I openly stated that I have used SAM to avoid farming perks on Killing Floor and that I was going to use it on ROHoS too cause I want to enjoy the game as a soldier and not as a farmer.They are going nuts

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  21. @ Anonymous 7/23/11 16:35 :
    Well, what did you expect? SAM (Steam Achievement Manager for those not aware) just may be considered a cheat / hack.

    I myself could care less if someone wants to use such a thing for single player, though I must admit I don't see how finishing a game with less than personal unassisted effort can be as satisfying, but to each their own.

    In online / multi-player, however, it's pretty clear that such programs fall into the cheat / hack category.

    The critical point is do the particular forum rules put it into the cheat / hack category, and does the forum have rules against posting such things or even discussing them. I think both may be true for the Steam and TWI forums, and in that case Yoshiro was just doing his job.

    As far as cheating / hacking RO:HOS, well, again, I myself think that doing this for the online version is out of line. But each must decide on their own where the line is drawn. I can understand wanting to bypass the ludicrous unlock and leveling mechanics of what is supposed to be a "realistic" game - where the skills and recognition happen because of what happens on your side of the keyboard, and not by some server metrics at the whim of the developer in an attempt to gain some of the COD et al market.

    That said, I expect cheating on RO:HOS to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, I expect the actual playing audience to be so small it will not have much interest to the talented hackers, much less the ones that sell hacks.

    On the other hand,I won't be surprised if the code is so full of holes that building cheats ends up being pretty simple. Based on my impressions when I was pulled into a call with TWI to discuss cheat techniques and engineering, they seem to lack deep expertise in vulnerability testing. Punkbuster / VAC can utilize information gleaned from such knowledge to strengthen their detection, so the apparent lack of this may post problems for cheat detection in the game.

    Time will tell. Bottom line though, don't cheat in MP, and if you must, don't advertise it in a forum. If you do, don't be surprised when you get banned.

    Rob

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  22. I can tell you this - TWI is now altering the reputation points of posters that complain. A bunch of posters went from hugh positive reps to huge negative reps. What a fucked up ego that company and their moderators seem to have. Even EA doesn't act this bad.

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  23. @ Anonymous 7/24/11 15:51 :
    I am aware of this. Apparently, one of the TWI staff has admitted to altering poster reputations. I've been sent a screenshot of the admission, I'll post it if needed.

    TWI can do all they want to continue the apparent BS in their own forums, but there's not much they can do with things like the random surveys referenced in the entry. These show that even with their fanciful marketing and over-the-top PC Gamer work, there is little if any real interest in the game in the mainstream.

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  24. Check out their forums when you have a chance. Since this blog, they have added markers to show when developers answer a forum post, supposed to show how many developers answered each thread.

    Makes you think they are paying attention, right?

    Well, turns out most of them are not even developers - just moderators. Most threads marked don't even have an actual developer answer.

    Another phoney marketing move by them.

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  25. @Anonymous 8/4/11 :
    I had heard this. It does seem a bit disingenuous, and based on recent displays by TWI, not surprising. Disappointing, frankly, as are their outright fabrications (see the hebatating blog post, judge for yourself, since you don't know me from Adam I assume.)
    The very things indie fans slam "big" developers and publishers for seem to be TWI's play book now.

    Thanks for the comment,

    Rob

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  26. Looks like this game released exactly the way this blog described it. HYPE.

    TWI patches, patches, performance fps, crashing, lag, issues, broken stat issues, cheater aimbot, walleye, issues. Guess in the end, their shits not all that.

    Player numbers are tapering off already too as a result.

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