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Wedgwood: Metacritic pressure on devs is "ridiculous"

Splash Damage boss would prefer 5-star system for videogames ratings

Splash Damage studio director Paul Wedgwood has criticised the pressure that some developers are under to achieve specific high ratings based on Metacritic scores, particularly when financial rewards depend on it.

And he feels that the ratings system employed by some consumer videogames sites doesn't necessarily help, stating his preference for a five-star system, rather than a percentile-based one.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz late last year, Wedgwood was asked if he felt that trusting a developer's bonus on the thoughts of a selection of journalists - and specifically one instance where a team was required to turn in nine-out-of-ten scores rather than eights - wasn't a bit arbitrary.

"Personally I think it's ridiculous," he responded. "In the film industry, four stars is an amazing score. I think it's a really good idea for a developer to go to a publisher and demand that they get an additional bonus for achieving a certain review score, but it shouldn't affect their royalties or anything else. If you have a high-selling game, you have a high-selling game.

"We know that some websites score quite high and some quite low, but in general, all websites tend to score between 60 and 100. There's never a 37. It's as if that whole section doesn't exist, so zero starts at 60, so three stars, and goes up to five. It's just not really an accurate enough measure.

"I think that if anything, the games press should take the pressure off themselves, and just go across to star ratings, which for films is nothing more than a recommendation that you buy it, watch it when you get the chance, or rush out and see it straight away, and it's your personal recommendation. It's not a 'score'. If that was all you did, nobody would hate you guys for it.

"Out of ten is a good start. Percentiles put too much pressure on a journalist to justify an exact score. It puts too much pressure on the developer to try and identify these criteria that lead to very specific point increases or decreases, which is not at all what the developer should be focusing on."

He was also clear, however, that there was no such pressure on his team, now working under a deal with Bethesda owner ZeniMax Media - but freely admitted that high ratings was something that Splash Damage were keen to receive.

"Yes," he agreed,"The shameless pursuit of critical acclaim. It's not so much that it's purely the reception that we get from critics alone - we also mean critical acclaim from fans, and feeling like we've made something that they want to play. But really it's this notion that you focus on the quality of the game, you don't have a set release date irrespective of that.

"It's a sad fact that in 2007, two of the highest-selling videogames were also two of the lowest-rated. So that's one of the things we're trying to get across to students - that it's better to be a play-tester at Epic than it is a lead artist at a terribly naff studio that's focused purely on getting something out in time."

The full interview with Paul Wedgwood, in which he also talks about the company's relationship with ZeniMax, as well as the future of digital distribution, is available now.

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Phil Elliott avatar

Phil Elliott