Thursday, May 29, 2008


If you take every game I've worked on that's been rated on Metacritic and averaged them all, you can sum up my career in a single number: 69.2.

That's not good.

Sadder still, as time progresses, it's almost consistently downhill:

Seaman: 82
The Urbz: 70
The Sims 2: 75
The Sims 2 Pets: 68
Brooktown: 53

Those are the five games I had a material contribution on. If you include Lair, where I had an "Additional Design" credit but essentially nothing I did made it into the game anyway, the average goes down even further to 66.5.

This means, if my entire career were averaged out into a current game on the market, it turns out to be... Lost Cities, the card game recently released for the 360 on Live Arcade.

Hrm. That's not a terrible game.

The other current 360 game with a 69 Metacritic: Turok.


It's frustrating. Obviously, everyone wants to do well - for their games to be well-received and fondly remembered. Of all the games I've worked on, only two really fit that bill - Seaman and The Sims 2 for consoles.

The easy excuse is that I've never had any measure of control over the overall quality of the game - I came on to Brooktown quite late, for instance, but the counterpoint to that is that the for the biggest success, Seaman, I had *nothing* to do with the game design, and only had an impact on the implementation (though don't get me wrong, I think there's still significance in that).

So, while Metacritic is obviously not an infallible measure of quality, it's not a terrible one - and it really is up to me to try to make my contribution drag that number up - to make games that are memorable, quality experiences that people *love*.

There's really no other reason to be in this industry, is there?


ei-nyung said...

I understand the pride & joy that comes with working on a product that you absolutely love and 100% endorese/stand by. And I understand how it feels when you work on something you don't believe in. :| Sucks, yeah?

I do hope that you consider what the score on those games would have been had you not been a part of the process, and compare it to the final score. Sure, it's hard to be completely objective about that kind of contribution and bring it down to a number, but you know that your contribution made each and every one of those significantly better. And there is good in that.

I know there will be better in the future.

Amy said...

Metacritic means nothing. Ask yourself: are you happy with what you made? IGN rips every game I work on a new asshole, but I'm not going to use that as a measure of my self-worth or design ability.

helava said...

Well, that's the sticker - I don't necessarily think Metacritic is the be-all end-all arbiter of quality, but it's a fair measure of how a game's received critically, particularly since the games I've worked on have been aimed at a more-or-less mainstream audience (and not, for instance, a Disney game intended for kids).

More, though, if I look at the arc of my career, I started out working on games that were things I could really get behind. Seaman, for instance, remains the favorite of the games I've worked on - it's original, it's memorable, it's genre-defining, and charming in its gruffness.

The Urbz was a learning experience - more a foot in the door than anything else, and the Sims 2 had the cooking game that I'm really happy with in it. S2P was, for various reasons, not something I'm particularly fond of thinking about, though parts of the experience were really positive.

After that, things really start going downhill. While I'm proud of my work on the games that I've worked on, I can't *recommend* any of those games to anyone because overall, they're genuinely not good. And so while I've grown more confident in my personal abilities as a designer, I can't look at any of my work in the last year and show someone what I think I'm capable of.

Which is frustrating. So, yeah, I don't think of it as a measure of my self-worth necessarily, but it's a disappointing indicator that something is *wrong* with what I'm doing, career-wise.

Alan said...

Just yesterday I was noting that I've only ever worked for one company that made money (it was Fore, my first year out of school). Since the dawn of the new millenium I haven't worked on a profitable project. I don't know how I can feel I've been successful in that time, but I've done alright for my purposes.

I feel bad for the people giving money to the funds that are investing in my companies though. They might as well have been giving the money directly to me - some strange form of white collar welfare.