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TAKEDOWN! Alex Ward responds to Burnout Paradise criticism December 23, 2007

Posted by Mike in Articles, Console, Games.
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I like Alex Ward, I really do. The Burnout series has been an ever-present in my software collection, the unmatched driftathon of Burnout 2 segueing into the exciting carnage of Burnout 3 and the polished chaos of Burnout Revenge. Each new game brings something different to the table, and although the EA effect of Criterion’s buyout led to such hilarity as the “tips” screens (“Have you tried… boost?”), the extremely ill-advised DJ Dickwad (was that his name? It should have been) and the adolescent frat-boy licensed soundtrack of the third game, the series continued to maintain its freshness through multiple incarnations.

You know there’s a “but”, right? I’d hate to disappoint you guys, so here it is. Actually, I’ll let Alex Ward tell you himself. Here’s his Christmas Message to all those people who played the Burnout Paradise demo and had worries about it:

http://www.criteriongames.com/burnout/paradise/demo/merrychristmas/

The Criterion Ambassador’s receptions are known for their host’s exquisite rantings. Oh Monsieur Ward, wiz zese insults you are really spoiling uz!

All respect to Ward for passionately believing in his game – we know more than a few producers who don’t, and often for good reason – but his arguments are chock full of flaws. Set the analysis machine to stun…

“We think we made THE best demo released all year…”
Nope, that’ll be Crackdown. A demo that turned a free game with the Halo 3 beta into a must-have release in its own right, after some terrible publicity.

“Personally speaking, I don’t believe it is possible to even capture the essence of this new Burnout experience (and I use the word ‘experience’ there deliberately because this new Burnout is an experience that YOU choose how to play rather than us forcing a game structure on you – when the rest of you get to play the full game I am confident you will agree) in a single demo.”
Captain Obvious says: “So why make a demo at all, then?” The demo release has been counter-productive to the future success of the game. For all of Ward’s protestations about how it shouldn’t be compared to Test Drive Unlimited in any way, this demo controversy would seem to be the most astute similarity! Let us hope that, just as TDU recovered from its disastrous demo outings, the full Burnout Paradise shows off the game’s charms a lot more effectively.

“(always nice to see all those Gamecube owners on the internet who haven’t played the game since B2! )”
Oooh, handbag. Claws out. You know, this could be a joke, but it sure doesn’t read like it. The trouble with this comment is that the criticism I’ve read – and indeed, that I’ve had for the demo myself – has been by the people who’ve loved the Burnout series for a long time. Insulting your long-term fans isn’t exactly the cleverest thing to do.

“As for no online racing in the demo, well, there was a limit on how much of our work we wanted to give away FOR FREE. If you want to experience the rest of it then YOU HAVE TO BUY THE GAME.”
And here’s the rub. The reason a demo is there in the first place is to make people buy the game. If you can’t condense your game’s mechanics into enough of a snapshot to achieve this, then don’t release a demo at all. If you’re leaving out a fundamental component of the finished game, you can’t then complain when people ask where it is in your demo. If you leave your major gameplay components out, how is the demo supposed to entice people to buy the full version? Look at the Crackdown or SKATE demos for examples of how to give people enough content… it was the very small amount of things to do that put many people off their first experience of Burnout Paradise.

“We feel that a crash experience where YOU choose when to start and stop it, YOU choose where to play it, and YOU experiment with is way better than anything we built before.”
This reminds me of a politician’s answer, in that it’s completely changed the frame of reference of the public’s criticism. It’s not that being able to start Showtime mode anywhere is bad – it’s the extremely silly-looking mechanics of the mode itself that have left people cold. Endless crashes, spinning your car over and over by hitting controller buttons… it just looks goofy. Now, Showtime may be absolutely amazing, in which case I can only refer Alex Ward to the comments above: if you don’t show the mode off in the demo at all, how can you expect people to “understand” it?

“The lack of retry really isn’t an issue. You may disagree, but we don’t feel it is and retry would have introduced loading into the game, which we didn’t want to do.”
What happens when you only have a couple of events left to do in the entire game? Then a lack of retry becomes an issue, surely, as many people have said. It’s fine when there are plenty of untried events to find, but when they’re nearly all done, traipsing back across the map to restart the last couple of events each time you fail is going to be really annoying. I’m perfectly prepared to have my mind changed on this issue in the full game, but even in the demo it was frustrating me. I can’t help but feel that this is one of those occasions where a game design conceit has been put ahead of welcome functionality.

“(At least we used to write special tips for our load screens when we did them, most people simply do nothing….)”
Ah yes, the aforementioned hints hilarity. I think this was meant to be a joke, and in a different article it would have come across as pretty funny. In this particular article, though, again it could easily be misinterpreted.

“I hope that this answered a few questions. If it didn’t, then oh well, at least we tried.”
Did anyone in Criterion proof-read the piece as a whole and try to take out the “angry eyes”? If so, I hate to think how it read before!

The problem I have with Alex Ward’s article isn’t that he has tried to defend his game, which he has the perfect right to do, but that he has done so by unleashing insults against his potential customers and played the “but you don’t understand!” card far too much without actually explaining why people are wrong. Indeed, he has wilfully misunderstood the message of many of the criticisms levelled at the demo and the new game mechanics.

Hasn’t he thought that perhaps, if people are misinterpreting Burnout Paradise based on the demo, the problems may lie with the demo itself rather than with the thought process of those who have played it? Maybe he should be addressing his rants somewhere else… at himself.

Burnout Paradise is released in the UK on 25 January 2008 for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

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Comments»

1. Zombiehuggles - January 7, 2008

I think Burnout Paradise is the best demo I have ever played, I’m talking since the little PS1 demo’s that came with the original’s launch. But I haven’t played Crackdown…looked gay, but maybe I’m missing out.

“Why make a demo at all?” I guess it would be obvious…if you’re an idiot. What about the MGS2 demo, it didn’t display EVERYTHING that could/does happen in the game…was it a mistake to make the demo? Really, if your game can be “summarized” in a single demo, it’s obviously not deep enough to go beyond the demo. I personally feel Paradise has left me hungry for more. Even without the online play, the demo gives me more than most. Hell, I played the Snakeball demo on PSN and it actually “times-out” after five minutes or so. I respect your concern for demo quality, but I think you made the worst argument possible.

Maybe his gamecube comment was insulting…I found it funny, but maybe because I feel the guy has a reasonable argument. When you’re in a pissie mood, everything puts you on edge.

Once again with the “don’t release a demo at all” crap. Seriously…you actually feel “cheated” because there wasn’t a simple, been done before a thousand times, racing mode, yet there was a decently sized opened area, free online with up to four players, voice and video, several challenges, and tons of fun to go around. You missed a 2 minute from one-side-to-the-other bit? There’s been plenty of Burnouts before this, and this game feels very similar, it’s hard to imagine that the racing dynamic will be that altered that a demo would need to highlight such. This demo focused on “new” concepts. (To the burnout series) which allowed veterans a taste of what to expect, and still giving plenty of enjoyment to the noobs.

Honestly, I don’t know much about the crash mode so-far. After playing the demo, I feel i’ve got plenty else to do, though.

Retry is greatly missed, I have to give you and anyone that one. No loading…I understand the argument. If it somehow took longer to load than to drive back, fine…but I don’t think that’s the case. You know when you screw up and you know you’ve lost, so you just want to start over real quick…well it would be nice if you didn’t have worry about getting lost or crashing into something along the way.

Not sure what you have against tips. I know a lot, many, most are stupid, but every now and then, you get a good one. Misinterpreted…now that’s where you’ve lost me. Think maybe he’s calling fans idiots for needing loading-screen tips? I don’t follow you…at all.

I kind of feel sorry for this guy. Obviously a bunch of idiots complained about a bunch of idiot things. He knows that there’s no pleasing an idiot, so he throws up his arms in surrender. You know, like when you see someone that can’t seem to figure out how to use the one-hour photo machine, and no matter what you say, they keep deleting pictures or going back to the main menu…sometimes, all you can do is say, “You’re an idiot” and hope they get discouraged and go away.

Problems with the demo…I still don’t see what problems one can have. Everyone I’ve played online with (who has a mic) has enjoyed themselves. I spent two hours running into the same two cars. not exactly a productive use of my time, but had nothing else to do. (Some of these “Game of the Years” just didn’t last me.) I honestly feel this game is going to get at least 9’s and 8’s from most reviews…unless they’re idiots. I usually hate name calling, but this is a situation where I’m really at a loss of words. If you like fun games, you should like this demo. You like racing/car games, you should love this demo. If you don’t like this demo…then I don’t know what could be recommended to you…maybe online sudoku?


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