Unreasonably high standards?

Posted by Alex Jordan on

I've got two more days left in my Sit In The Corner timeout that Microsoft mandates after peer reviewers find a bug in your game, so on June 1 I get to resubmit Around The World. Yay. In the meanwhile, Alpha Protocol is starting to come out, to less-than-rave reviews:

The reviewers seem to be complaining about a lot of things. Bugs seem to be the biggest issue. Shoddy gunplay seems to be coming in a close second.

But a lot of reviewers also seem to be complaining about dated graphics and crappy animations that "aren't on par with modern offerings." That makes me wince a little. Assuming that the art department didn't suffer from poor managerial decisions by developer Obsidian or publisher SEGA (which may have actually contributed), the next likeliest causes of "substandard" art would be limits on the developer's funding or a shallower talent pool to pick from.

Either of those issues would have handicapped Obsidian right out the gate. But, suppose they had managed to deliver a tight, polished game (which they didn't) with the same, relatively-uninspired level of art quality? Would they still be lambasted? It may be that the criticism floodgates were opened by the bugginess and crappy gameplay, and that reviewers groused about the graphics because they were busy grousing about everything... but would Obsidian warrant criticism if they'd released a great game that unfortunately did not approach the visuals of Modern Warfare 2 or Assassin's Creed 2?

As an indie developer, I cringe at the thought of being judged against competitors that have the time or funding to make their graphics really sparkle. I'll always strive to make my graphics look good, but in the end, I am just one dude without a budget. Needless to say, Obsidian has more than one dude and some substantial funding, but will similar developers be criticized in the future if their products don't approach those of mega-developers and mega-publishers? Will not looking the best in your chosen genre count against you in the future? We'll see.