Getting A Bad Review Is No Fun

I feel sorry for the people who worked on Warner Bro’s DC Comics films.  Man of Steel got mixed reviews for its ho-hum take on Superman, while its sequel, Batman v Superman: Down of Justice got resoundingly panned for its muddled storyline.  From its trailers, Suicide Squad, looked like it might be a winner with both a critical and box office hit, but it too is taking a beating from the critics.  Now I know that Warner Bros. did just fine at the box office will these three films, but let me tell you from personal experience, it isn’t fun getting bad reviews.

In 1995 I produced two similarly themed adventure games for Cyberdreams: one received stellar reviews, while the other received awful reviews.

The former, I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream, was a video game I developed in collaboration with author Harlan Ellison. It received excellent reviews, was named Best Adventure Game of the Year by Computer Gaming World, and received the award for Best Game Adapted From Linear Media at that year’s Game Developers Conference.

The latter, Dark Seed II, was a game I developed in collaboration with artist H.R. Giger. It received terrible reviews, and one reviewer privately told our marketing director that I should be fired.

And the odd thing was, as I was developing both games — which had similar scopes, interfaces, game mechanics and even storylines — I thought Dark Seed II was turning out to be the better game.

Well, obviously it feels great to receive rave reviews and awards, and it feels terrible to be panned by the critics. But all I could do was try to figure out what went wrong (I eventually decided that the main problem was that I cast the wrong actor to do the main character’s voice — he was much too depressing, and no one wants to play a depressing character), and do better next time.

Game development is fast-paced, and by the time you’ve launched one project, you’re busy starting up the next one. There’s no time for moping.

So, don’t spend too much time licking your wounds, Warner Bros. and DC Comics.  You’ve got a big slate of films to put out.  Just one thing: you better not screw up Wonder Woman!



About David Mullich

I am a video game producer who has worked at Activision, Disney, Cyberdreams, EduWare, The 3DO Company and the Spin Master toy company. I am currently a game design and production consultant, a game design instructor at ArtCenter College of Design, and co-creator of the Boy Scouts of America Game Design Merit Badge. At the 2014 Gamification World Congress in Barcelona, I was rated the 14th ranking "Gamification Guru" in social media.

Posted on August 8, 2016, in Game Production, My Career and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. So the only problem was the voice of the character, but critics say the whole game was bad? How did you feel about that? I mean, I guess it’s fine if a critic say they didn’t like what you released, but it must make you angry when they get everything wrong. Put some effort on your review, for God’s sake.

    • No, the voice over wasn’t the only problem with the game, nor did reviewers hate everything about the game. But one criticism that was common throughout all the reviews is dislike the the main character’s voice, as I pointed out in this article, and that negatively affected their overall perception of the game and their criticism of it. When I used the nearly identical user interfaces and quest structures in both games, yet they are praised in one game and criticized in another, it was pretty clear that context was a big factor in the criticisms.

      I certainly wasn’t angry with the reviewers for giving the game poor reviews nor did I think they put in a lack of effort in writing their reviews. If they didn’t like the game, they didn’t like the game. It’s the game developer’s job to create a good experience for the player and then to figure out why if that doesn’t happen.

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