Over the years an interesting thing I have noticed about Alien Arena is that our fanbase has been accused of being this rabid, foaming at the mouth bunch of lunatics who will shout down anyone who dares criticize the game in any manor. Much of this perception began between the years of 2006 and 2008, when the game was beginning to get a bit of popularity and critical notice. The truth was that we actually did get a number of tremendously good reviews at the time, but apparently this did not sit well with some of the denizens of the gaming netherworld. It never failed that if a favorable online review was posted, the inevitable backlash would occur in the comments section. Often these would be followed with “play this instead” type of comments. These would lead to people, both from our community and elsewhere arriving to defend the game. Was this because the game wasn’t really as good as the reviewers suggested? Was it sour grapes from competing games? I’m sure it was a bit of both.
Criticism can take many forms, some of it can certainly be legitimate, and the notion that I, or anyone else involved with COR Entertainment dismisses all criticism is absolutely ludicrous. We have always listened to the critics, and even in cases where it stung, we didn’t simply write it off as someone being a “hater”. Everything was, and continues to be taken in, evaluated, and applied to improving the game. However, when a critic starts making false claims, or ridiculous ones, you also have to consider the intellectual honesty of that person. There are many people who tend to have agendas when bashing a game. Most people simply don’t care enough to write a lengthy, harshly critical review if they do not like a game. When you find a two page article that trashes nearly every aspect of your game, and at the same time mentions competing games as being excellent, you have to wonder if this writer may have had an agenda.
Alien Arena has it’s share of detractors. Some of them legitimately do not like the game, and that is perfectly fine by me. Let the record officially state this(note – I have said this many times over the years when being told that I, or the community could not handle criticism of the game). No game is going to please everyone, and Alien Arena is not perfect(let the record also state that I do not believe the game is perfect!). I don’t mind criticism, and as I’ve said, it is something that helps fuel development, something that we used to improve every aspect of the game over the years. Early on, when people stated that the levels were not complex enough, or too dark, we made brighter levels with more intricate designs. When people stated the graphics looked like “Doom I”(which was a bit silly), we used that to energize us in modernizing the engine. When people made complaints about the controls or movement, we took steps to improve it. Poor frame rates? We spent countless hours optimizing the engine to bring it to the point to where it’s one of the smoothest, fastest rendering open sourced engines in existence. The point is, we always *did* listen, and to say we didn’t, or that we “shouted the critics down” is quite hypocritical on their part. For people that are accusing us of not being able to take criticism because we don’t agree with their assessments, it seems to me that those people are every bit as guilty of the very thing they accuse us of. In that regards, opinions are like art, they are just as open to be criticised as anything else.
I recently found a “review” on Gamespot of Alien Arena from 2008 that began with a very defensive posture, making the claims that I have discussed above about the community, and the reviewer went on to harshly critique the game. It was clear from his lengthy review that he had some emotional investment in Alien Arena, and that he felt “persecuted” for having his contrary opinion as to the quality of the game. He clearly either interacted with myself or the community at some point and time, and left with an unfavorable taste in his mind. His article was actually quite well written and thought out, and despite a clear agenda, made some valid points in his critique. However, he also seemed to contradict himself quite a bit, first claiming that his dislike of the game was mostly a matter of personal taste(that it bored him, etc), but followed it with a litany of “fundamental” things wrong with the game, community, and myself. He would occasionally offer up mild praise, but always following it with a “but this is why the game is truly awful” type of dialog.
The defensiveness of the review was quite curious. I have seen such things before, where critics feel “persecuted”, particularly after after writing a review that was quite close to launching an attack on a game and community. Like I said, there is clear emotional investment involved. At the end, the critic was convinced that he would receive a number of negative comments about his review from the community. Interestingly enough, he never did.