Shelley decries 'innovation bias'

Age of Empires III designer Bruce Shelley attacks perceived bias, burnt out hacks and disparate review scores

Bruce Shelley, the strategy mastermind behind the epic Age of Empires series has been sharing a few thoughts in his personal blog on how Age of Empires III has been received in the press and a perceived 'innovation bias' in review scores.

Shelley began by setting out how he thought reviewers generally approached their task, saying: "I believe that reviewers give extra credit to games that show them something really new, because they see so many games and they can all start to blur. Conversely, games that don't dramatically innovate can be penalized. I believe we did innovate significantly in Age III, but some reviewers disagree obviously."

Shelley then went on to declare how he thought this innovation bias, "is costing us 5-10 points on the average [review score] (at least)." 'Give us an example Bruce' we hear you cry, and fortunately Mr Shelley is only too happy to oblige, describing how Age III was reviewed by the two biggest PC games magazines in the US.

"Computer Gaming World gave it 60% (three stars out of five), while PC Gamer gave it 91%. That seems like it would be very confusing to readers who are considering whether to try the game. Players will establish eventually if the relative score of the game was at one of these extremes or the other, or somewhere in between."

"Data we're seeing says that Age III has been perhaps the best selling PC game in the world since release in mid-October and that certainly suggests that the 60% score miss-represents (sic) the true achievement of the game."

Is Bruce Shelley right? Are reviewers too often distracted by shiny new features, rather than focussing on what really matters - core gameplay? Let us know in the comments field below, and while you're at it, you might like to check out our recent interview with Bruce Shelley, where he talks about PC versus next-gen and a whole new direction for Ensemble Studios.