I Miss Nintendo's Seal of Quality
Posted on Thursday, April 10 @ 15:00:00 Eastern by Nicholas Tan
For any youngins out there, the Nintendo Seal of Quality otherwise known as the Official Nintendo Seal was emblazoned along the front of the game boxes for their platform in the mid-1980s to denote proper licensing from Nintendo and, for the most part, quality assurance. One gander at the sun-shaped starburst icon (Praise the Sun?!) and purchasers were essentially assured that popping the cartridge in wouldn't result in a game crash and that the vast majority of game-breaking bugs were eradicated before release.
It partially solved consumer concerns about poorly programmed video games during the time, and the ploy stuck like glue; in fact, it's still used today on Nintendo's products. Maybe the games themselves were ill-designed and had more than several strange glitches, but by and large, they at least worked.
This concept of solid quality assurance, however, is in danger of going the way of the dodo in modern gaming. The recent The Elder Scrolls Online comes to mind, with numerous broken quests that still remain broken. Certain enemies that must be defeated and specific rituals that must be interrupted by the players simply don't spawn, and the game sometimes crashes, stops on the loading screen, or becomes so unwieldy that players have to type in "/reloadUI" in the chat window in the hope that it will correct a quest. I've logged out and logged back numerous times just make the interface work properly.
But let me not pick solely on Bethesda, because hey, that's what we expect from MMOs at launch, which is a sad notion in its own right. In fact, we expect this from any vastly open-world game or deeply connected online game. Grand Theft Auto V's online portion was hardly perfect, Fallout: New Vegas launched with story progress bugs, Day 1 patches now fix everything from Battlefield 4 to Dark Souls II, and the SimCity reboot was, well, you know. At this point, I feel like marking a "+" in a review for any game that "Went through enough testing."
Some of my colleagues at other sites have mentioned their policies on broken games, and a few of them are severe, claiming that game should be solely on what's in the box without any patches whatsoever. The idea is that it should be judged this way because there are people without internet, to which I respond, "How many gamers don't have online?" I can't imagine any of my next-gen consoles and PC without internet just with all the updates and patches to the hardware itself. Sure, there will always be people without internet access, which is in part why people are outraged by any single-player game that requires a constant online connection, but I still think that policy is still draconian.
That said, broken games in the modern age put reviewers in a unsavory pickle. If you don't know already, Metacritic and other aggro sites like it only consider a site's first review of a title, So do we see past the technical flaws and focus on the core design or the potential of the design? That's a tough call. Grading generously can bite us in the ass later, just as grading too harshly will fling (more) hate mail at us than usual. That was my situation when I first reviewed Fallout: New Vegas; luckily, that game became in time what I thought it would be and more.
This is why GameRevolution currently has a policy of re-reviewing games. This doesn't replace a review we originally wrote (and this won't be done frequently), but sometimes we'll update a review or post a brand-new one with an changed score. Daniel enacted this policy with Marvel Heroes, and I will be doing the same for The Elder Scrolls Online, though I'll be focusing on its endgame content too. Expansion packs like Diablo III's extraordinary Reaper of Souls is a godsend, since it's an opportunity for an updated review, much like Fallout 3's Broken Steel add-on. But for cases where it's just patch after patch after patch, you might see us revisit old games with fresh eyes.
It doesn't make me want that Seal of Quality any less, though.
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