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06/11/2003

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nowak

Also worth a read:
"FreezeFrame: The History of the Screenshot" at Avault
http://www.avault.com/articles/getarticle.asp?name=freezeframe

Bowler

Also of note is the practice of say, an Xbox site doing an Xbox review of a game that's being made for all three consoles, and the screenshots are coming from a PS2.

In addition to what you mentioned about only having the finances to accept company distributed screenshots, if they're writing about an advanced screening of a game (Beta, Alpha, what have you), they probably don't have a copy of the game at the office to run through the screengrabber, and instead had to rely on the screens handed to them by the developer.

In this era of console development, the difference in quality (say for instance on Soul Calibur 2) is much harder to differentiate across consoles than on the previous generation of consoles (PSX vs. Saturn, for instance), but it's still an important point. That subtle difference in quality could be the make-or-break difference in why I buy the Xbox version over the PS2, and more importantly, it's improper reporting.

Quietmob

Well,
As a game journalist, I can tell you that sometimes, the developer requests you absolutely DO NOT use your own screens, and provide them all to you. I've run into that more than once.

Sometimes, they provide you with worse screens than you could do on your own. I won't mention the developer and game, but once I was told to NOT use my own screens, and the screens they provided were terrible! Readers wrote to me asking why I used such crap screens and I explained I had no choice, I was told I must use the press kit!

Ken

What I find particularly misleading are screenshots that do not depict actual gameplay, namely, a screen that cannot be duplicated by a user with a retail copy of the game. Too often I have seen screens that were generated by developers using debug tools to position elements or achieve dramatic camera angles that cannot occur in actual gameplay. At the very least, it would be nice if publications inform the reader exactly how the screenshots were obtained, but of course I know the power of marketing departments.

Adam

After reading the article I entirely agree with you. All of the screenshots(save one) are from the japanese press release of the FFXI expansion. Now he has a screenshot of his character, so he could very well have had permission to use his own. An amusing story, a guy i knew in game on FFXI(Seymoure) had his screenshots pilfered and placed on a dozen or so web sites.

Unfortunately i discontinued my account on the import version and i have lost my password so i cant get back on to give you any menu screenshots. Though I never found them too annoying. Heck outside of the typical slow leveling treadmill this is by far my favorite MMORPG. I only left because the importer community was falling apart and i cant read japanese.

Lulu

The relationship between games magazine/site editors and publishers is obscene. The idea of journalistic integrity does not exist in the big magazines and sites. If it did, editors and publishers would not pressure each other for covers, exclusive screenshots, custom "concept" art, freebies, etc. The line between advertisement and review is impossibly blurry.

So if game studios (like Square) do not prioritize gameplay but rather cinematics, graphics, etc., why would their games' reviews reflect the gameplay?

defenestrati

So where can we look for honest, relatively unbiased reviews?

Quietmob

Look for a place not overrun by ads for starters. Sites with tons of ads are desperate for cash, which means they'll do what the publishers tell them to, even adjust scores a few points. I've never been asked to adjust a score, but I have been asked by a publisher to defend it. Which I did, and they were fine with that. (It was a certain volleyball game that everyone was fawning over and I thought it was just advanced Pokemon with bouncing boobies).

Personally, I'm partial to GamesDomain, Evil Avatar, DarkStation, the forums over at gamedays.com and a few others. I like to think the site I write for is very impartial, but I'm not going to mention it because it's just cheezy to shamelessly self promote like that.

The problem with *some* smaller sites is that they are afraid if they give a poor review to a game, the publisher will stop shipping them titles. I know of one site, which will remain unnamed, that told its reviewers to be a little kinder on a few reviews. The reviewers packed their bags and moved on relatively quickly.

Basically, search around, you'll find something you like. Try going to Alexa.com, punching in a site you commonly go to, and see what comes up in the "what's related" areas. There's some gems hiding in there.

Jeff

I remember hearing a response from a newspaper journalist who had been accused of running a misleading headline. He said that other people write the headlines and he doesn't get a say at all. Perhaps it is a similar situation here.

play magazine had the first review of Wind Waker a few months back, but all their screenshots were from the Japanese version. I wrote in, suggesting that they got the jump on the other mags by simply reviewing the Japanese version, but the editor-in-chief shot back no more than 2 hours later that they did in fact review the American version and that the screenshots were provided by Nintendo, and they were not allowed to run their own.

uhm. Just a specific example.

Quietmob

Nintendo is very tough to deal with from a press perspective. They basically dislike dealing with the media at all, so it leaves us scrounging for any materials we can get. Most sites got stuck with those Japanese screens as a matter of fact. Mind you, bigger sites have (or should) have their own screen capture gear, but like I said earlier, some companies request you absolutely do not use your own.

Jeffrey

I think part of it also has to do with showing interface elements while doing a preview of the game. One, those interface elements may change and two, why show the competition your interface before the game is released?

If I were developing a game I wouldn't want to show the interface or options screens until the game was shipped.

ferricide

just getting around to this one, dunno if anybody's reading this thread anymore, but i thought i'd mention.

that preview was written up from GDC, and obviously we didn't have the game in house to take our own screens of -- in fact, we *still* don't have FFXI in house because the journalist beta hasn't begun yet.

in that case we had to take what was given to us.

at gamespy we do the best we can with limited resources. IMO we compete very favorably with the other two big commercial websites (IGN, gamespot) with far fewer staff. one of the easiest ways for us to save time, which we typically have a fairly desperate need for, is to use developer-provided screens.

justin

Thanks for the clarification, and for following up on this thread.

I appreciate the crunch of a deadline or distance from a product. Any screenshot is better than nothing, for sure. What I'd like to see is disclosure when the screenshots come from the developer - "Screenshots courtesy of SquareSoft" - so a reader won't get confused when the screenshots don't match the review. A note at the bottom of the screenshot gallery maybe?

Jeff

I'm sure the major sites would be hesitant to add more info onto an already cluttered screen - what with the text of many articles already taking up a fraction of monitor real-estate. Perhaps only the enlarged screenshots could have a note as to if it is a corporate shot or an original.

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