Joe from Cyber Monkey Death Squad talks about game reviews
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Interviewer: I’m here at Austin Game Developers Conference and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Joe: Hi, I’m Joe Goodson from CyberMonkeyDeathSquad.com.
Interviewer: What exactly is the website about?
Joe: Mostly it’s pop culture and specifically online life. What I focus on is video games and play experience.
Interviewer: Sure. So, can an indie game developer, can they submit games to you? I mean, how does that work and what types of games do you review?
Joe: What types of games I review is it specifically does have to be a launched game that anybody can play, and yes they can submit to me. They can contact me through email at email@example.com, and yeah, I’ll play anything.
Interviewer: How long does it take to submit something and get it reviewed, and what are you… Is there anything that indie game developers can do to make the review go more smoothly or to get in good favor with you, besides making a good game?
Joe: Well, actually, make the good game. I try to approach everything honestly and as a player first rather than as a critic or someone who’s out to destroy a game. The way to gain favor, of course, is to make a good game and generally the review process is about a month before I’ll have a review available for you.
Interviewer: In the review what types of things do you look for? Do you just mainly talk about the play experience? Are you talking about the art experience? What are the dimensions that you review upon?
Joe: I think actually all of that because I like to approach it as a player. I want to see how long does it take me to get into this game. How long did it take me to understand the basic skill sets involved, the controls, the difficulty? And then, something that I focus on, if there’s a narrative, how good is this narrative? Is it structured? Is it loose? Is the dialogue good? Is it overwritten, things like that.
Interviewer: Since you’ve reviewed a lot of games, I mean, what have you seen or what have you found recently that’s been compelling or different or innovative or new?
Joe: Well, that’s the great problem with the video game industry. There’s so little that’s innovative and new, and when you find it it’s sort of like art. You know when you see it, and you don’t know before you get there. So, that’s a really hard question to answer.
I think the most innovative thing actually came from a mainstream studio, Cryptic, with their Champions Online.
Joe: Their crafting system was sort of reverse in that the items that you grind out and you find to the game you can actually take those apart and use those parts to build other things which I thought was pretty nice.
Interviewer: Have you seen any other innovative game play mechanics or narrative styles that you found interesting or different?
Joe: The most interesting for game playing, specifically control mechanics, actually came out of Let’s Tap for the Wii in which you didn’t use the controller at all. And I really liked that idea, but I felt that the way that they developed their games for it was just too much that the control system was the innovation and now we’re building games to enhance our idea rather than have a game that required a new game control system which is what I’d rather see.
Interviewer: And since you’ve seen a lot of games, where do you feel the industry is heading? I mean, where are all the game types or game genres that you’ve been most recently seeing?
Joe: I think the next actually wave of games is going to be space games, like EV Online, one large server with large player driven narratives and economic systems that are very huge. And everything is going online. It’s all about the multi-player and very specifically, micro-transactional. It’s free to get into that game, but it’s $2.00 to get this, $3.00 to get this.
Interviewer: When you say player narratives, what exactly are you talking about, and have you seen any innovations in that space where these games allow players to tell or create compelling stories with other players in the game?
Joe: Yeah, that’s exactly where it is. Instead of the old Everquest format in which they give a story arc that mps tell you what is going on through their text dialogue, that it’s a game and a story created loosely, that the pirates are coming from X place. You have to defend Y place, and it’s the story of how I and my friends defended this area and what resources we got out of it and that’s a new one.
I think it’s really important because when it comes to story telling your audience really tells most of your story. You provide the basic structure, but where they go and what they see in their heads, that’s the important part.
Interviewer: Yeah, do you have any suggestions then for indie game developers who need to leverage this new story or player narrative type style which is totally different than the traditional top down, pre-made story arc?
Joe: Actually, yeah, cinematically. Don’t focus on witty or great inside dialogue that has literary allegory. Think about: I want to make this a movie that the player is the star of – him and his friends are taking part in the action. They are the action, and it’s all driven by them or, at least, has the illusion of being driven by them.
Joe: That, I think, is important.
Interviewer: Great. Where can then people submit their game again?
Joe: You can send it in, abraxas firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewer: Great. Thank you very much.
Joe: Thank you.