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Post by trog @ 10:04am 08/04/10 | 48 Comments
(Can't believe I'm about to do this, but..) news.com.au is covering a story in which a ZOO magazine editor has been fired, allegedly for trying to blow the whistle on taking pressure from publisher Rockstar to provide positive coverage of the yet-to-be-released Red Dead Redemption. You might remember magazines - they're printed on paper and are an ancient, obscure delivery mechanism for information.
Former Zoo Weekly deputy entertainment editor Toby McCasker last month posted on Facebook part of an email that seemed to show a game maker demanding a positive spin on its latest title.

The email was allegedly sent by a publicist for Rockstar Games to staff at the magazine, concerning coverage of the company's new title Red Dead Redemption.

"This is the biggest game we've done since GTA IV, and is already receiving Game of the Year 2010 nominations from specialists all around the world," it read.

"Can you please ensure Toby's article reflects this he needs to respect the huge achievement he's writing about here."
There's a lot of bizareness present here (not just that I'm reduced to posting a news.com.au article). First of all, Red Dead Redemption isn't even out yet (due May 18), so whining about pressure for a positive review seems a little... premature. Secondofly, surely everyone realises that previews are generally cast in a positive light - they're glimpses at the what a game might become - not a critical review. So this sounds like your classic disgruntled employee to me.

AusGamers has never received pressure from Rockstar about Red Dead Redemption. They send us press releases and trailers and the ones that we think are interesting (like this week's trailer) we post up - and let the visuals speak for themselves.

We have never and would never alter our editorial policy because of advertising. We have turned down money to maintain this policy - our advertising agency has approached us on behalf of games publishers several times asking if we would be happy to post what are basically ads, either as news or forum posts (guerrilla marketing).



rockstarnews.com.auzoo magazine





Latest Comments
Spook
Posted 10:09am 08/4/10
oh how the mighty have fallen, ITT
konstie
Posted 10:23am 08/4/10
We have never and would never alter our editorial policy because of advertising. We have turned down money to maintain this policy - our advertising agency has approached us on behalf of games publishers several times asking if we would be happy to post what are basically ads, either as news or forum posts (guerrilla marketing).


what!? didn't you guys have banners plastered all over the website advertising bioshock 2 for a while? in my opinion whole websites are an editorial, not just a single page saying what one person thinks about a product.

edit: looking back at all the bioshock 2 posts by steve on the forum, i agree with you guys that you are not buyest... but i still maintain that advertising a product that you guys slam in a review is a contradiction of sorts..
tequila
Posted 10:17am 08/4/10
there was a quote from hungry beast last night, the captain of the Ady Gill (Paul Watson? I think)
he said "make up data to support your cause because that is the nature of mass media these days" or something to that effect*


*I might have just completely f***ed that quote up but he's basically saying the media are a bunch of wankers and you can't believe anything you read

long story short, I hope the guy who gets fired ends up wining lots of money from an unfair dismissal suit, stick it to the man - I wish more people in the media industry would stop abusing their influence
ravn0s
Posted 10:26am 08/4/10
buyest


bias
trog
Posted 10:29am 08/4/10
edit: looking back at all the bioshock 2 posts by steve on the forum, i agree with you guys that you are not buyest... but i still maintain that advertising a product that you guys slam in a review is a contradiction of sorts..
I assume you mean 'biased' - we didn't slam Bioshock 2; it got (by out standards) a very respectable score. (This is part of the problem - people are conditioned to see 9s and 10s from lots of reviewers for all major titles so s*** themselves when they see a score that is less than that. A 7 is still a really good score)

'Advertising' and 'editorial' for us are two totally different things, and we try to be really clear about which is which. I would happily take a publisher's money to put up an ad for a game that we gave zero out of 10, because I understand that for them, the marketing benefits of having ads online - even if we lowballed the score - probably outweight the impact of the low scoring review.
DEVDOGG
Posted 10:32am 08/4/10
no matter how much i trust the reviewer of a game, it doesnt matter what score they give it, i make no decisions until i play it.
greazy
Posted 10:39am 08/4/10
checkout the guys picture:


lol
konstie
Posted 10:43am 08/4/10
yes i meant biased. that doesn't change the validity of my argument does it?
at the risk of ranting:
i could be a nazi and say-
we didn't slam Bioshock 2; it got (by out standards) a very respectable score.

"dont you mean by "our" standards"

edit: you're both intelligent enough to understand what im saying, regardless of how poorly i convey it.

anyway, it was purely a question i thought i'd post. it's not a major criticism of ausgamers or anything like that because i read the reviews you guys post, and others, and value your opinions before i put my hard earned dollars down.

other reviewers, such as pureaussiegamer, however, i reject ;). where is that kid?
Any
Posted 10:44am 08/4/10
Trog, so you guys don't have issues with advertising any game that will pay you to do so? For instance, knowing the issues lots of aussies have had playing AC2 on pc, would you advertise the product on your site? Do you think that casual gamers / parents that may happen across AusGamers would assume that if a game has advertising plastered all over your site then AusGamers is kind of vouching for it?

ps, I thought "buyest" was a pun considering we were talking advertising...
TicMan
Posted 10:46am 08/4/10
Dude looks like he should have been fired for looking like a douche.
CHUB
Posted 10:47am 08/4/10
Dude looks like he should have been fired for looking like a douche.
Looks mentally challenged, possible legal issues perhaps?
konstie
Posted 10:48am 08/4/10
ps, I thought "buyest" was a pun considering we were talking advertising...



hahaha yeah! that's what it was... lol
groganus
Posted 10:53am 08/4/10
My review system ( and this is how i look at most reviews)

1-4 Don't buy it (not even if it's in a throw out bin)
5-7 Buy it if you really really want it (Fan of a series)
7-8 Decent game with some flaws that probably wont distract you from enjoy it, worth buying
9-10 Must have game.

Alot of games are given 9's or 10 and really arent worthy of the score, but everyone has a different opinion and thats why you should read multiple reviews before buying a game.

parabol
Posted 10:56am 08/4/10
Dude looks like he should have been fired for looking like a douche.

I can only imagine that's what people look like in Ubisoft's offices, with their douche-smirk.
"I've never known any game maker to ask for a positive review and they've certainly never received it."

Ah, what a gem.
skythra
Posted 10:56am 08/4/10
I posted this on news.com.au

There's a right way to complain and whistle blow. He posted a private email out of context potentially defaming the company which had produced the game. He did things the wrong way and is trying now to sit on his high horse preaching one wrong oblivious to his own.

I'd have fired him too.
greazy
Posted 10:57am 08/4/10
my review system:

looks good, word of mouth/forums says it's great fun - BUY IT!
looks good, word of mouth/forums says it's anus - DON'T BUY IT!
Dazhel
Posted 10:58am 08/4/10
This looks like his "Hell-lo Ladies!" face.
tequila
Posted 10:58am 08/4/10
and you'd be in just as much potential trouble
you can't fire people for posting private emails, once it leaves your outbox and arrives with the other party, there's no law to state that they can't do whatever they want with it - short of an NDA

the company tried to strong arm him and he bucked, imo he did the right thing and more journos could learn a thing or two from him
like i said, i hope he gets paid for losing his job due to unfair dismissal
Dazhel
Posted 11:01am 08/4/10
9-10 Must have game.
Alot of games are given 9's or 10 and really arent worthy of the score


How do you reconcile these two statements?
Is your review system just an ideal system that you think gaming reviews should adopt?
Scooter
Posted 11:11am 08/4/10
I dont know how anyone could think that advertising banner ads are anything at all similar to Reviews written by staff. I dont think that the coke ad in the middle of Burn Notice reflects anything on the TV show...

Trog: You say you never have had anyone asking for a positive review. Have you had anyone question/complaing about a negative review?

I think the dude went about it in the wrong way, but did the right thing.
groganus
Posted 11:15am 08/4/10
How do you reconcile these two statements?

I can reconcile those two statements with a third statement which was stated prior to the second and third statement ( YEAH I SAID STATEMENT!)

My review system ( and this is how i look at most reviews)

I dont know how anyone could think that advertising banner ads are anything at all similar to Reviews written by staff. I dont think that the coke ad in the middle of Burn Notice reflects anything on the TV show...


Untill you see the main character kick a whole heap of ass, then you see him drinking a coke.
Any
Posted 11:18am 08/4/10
Teq I thought there was some issue around forwarding emails to do with privacy laws?
Raven
Posted 11:18am 08/4/10
WTF people, this is Zoo magazine we're talking about- it's basically the male equivalent of Dolly. Is anyone honestly surprised?
trog
Posted 11:22am 08/4/10
Trog: You say you never have had anyone asking for a positive review. Have you had anyone question/complaing about a negative review?
Yep we sure have. Often when it's a 7-esque number too (which again, by our standards, is practically "you must buy this game"). But we just shrug it off and get on with our lives. Most of the time publishers seem to know when they're pushing games that are, shall we say, not deserving of excellent reviews and don't really care about it.
tequila
Posted 11:30am 08/4/10
Teq I thought there was some issue around forwarding emails to do with privacy laws?


Even those stupid statements saying "if you have received this email in error, you must delete it now otherwise we'll cut off your arm and take your first born" etc, are complete bulls***

Information in the public domain has no owner, once it leaves your finger tips and enters the internets, consider it public domain and unable to be removed, ever
like an image uploaded to the net, you'll never be able to delete every copy.
gamer
Posted 11:34am 08/4/10
Let's hope he doesnt use that s***box dell desktop pc he has their to review games :)
Dazhel
Posted 11:39am 08/4/10
My review system ( and this is how i look at most reviews)


Haha yeah I saw that, I just was after clarification. What happens though if your review system doesn't match up with the reviewer's system?
I agree with your review system, though not all review sites share the same ideas on their numeric scores.

A single numeric score is a bit of a wank for review sites tbh, I'm more interested in the Pros & Cons or scores for Gameplay/Replayability/ etc. Though everyone expects the big single score so they're always there at the end of the review.
trog
Posted 11:37am 08/4/10
Information in the public domain has no owner, once it leaves your finger tips and enters the internets, consider it public domain and unable to be removed, ever
like an image uploaded to the net, you'll never be able to delete every copy.
Those are two different things though:

1) the release of information
2) what you can do with that information if you accidentally receive it.

I was coincidentally looking into this the other day from a copyright perspective. Basically what I learned was, and this is just from reading some stuff on various .au legal sites, is that if I accidentally send someone an email, that email is still copyright by me. So if you take that and plop it on a website, then you are potentially infringing my copyright.

Now that's not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, really - if you work at a big company and accidentally let some secrets out of the bag, it could cost jillions of dollars - but if you were the person that leaked it as an unintended recipient, I think the only thing you can get done for (if anything) is copyright infringement.

Obviously IANAL so I'd take that with a grain of salt. But you should think carefully before posting something that you received accidentally (or intentionally!).

Also I strongly believe that if this guy did post an email the company should have every right to fire him if it was a company email received on company services. It's almost certainly not his responsibility to decide what can/can't be done with an email like that.

If you want to be a whistleblower, you need to be prepared to put it all on the line.
Dazhel
Posted 11:49am 08/4/10
in my opinion whole websites are an editorial, not just a single page saying what one person thinks about a product.


I'm not sure what web sites encourage this opinion, though I'm not sure I'd want to go there.
The ability to separate advertising content from editorial content is what earns journalists and web sites their credibility.
Once you start blurring the lines, the credibility is usually gone for good.
Plasma
Posted 11:53am 08/4/10
Also I strongly believe that if this guy did post an email the company should have every right to fire him if it was a company email received on company services. It's almost certainly not his responsibility to decide what can/can't be done with an email like that.

That's what I thought too.
Pinky
Posted 12:09pm 08/4/10
Also I strongly believe that if this guy did post an email the company should have every right to fire him if it was a company email received on company services. It's almost certainly not his responsibility to decide what can/can't be done with an email like that.
That's what I thought too.

Yeah I agree with this, of course - but that's the whole thing with whistle-blowing. You're breaking your non-disclosure (usually) to expose a serious problem.

IMO this problem, if it exists, is in no way *serious* enough to do what this douche is doing. I have no doubt that marketers walk a very fine line day in day out - but it's the role of the reviewer and the company to maintain integrity.

I think sites like Metascore which centralise review data go a long way to ensuring integrity as well. Consumers would identify any potentially dodgy reviews pretty damn quickly - and if the review doesn't match your expectation you generally ditch the reviewer as a source of information and find a reviewer that you can agree with.
lewd
Posted 12:36pm 08/4/10
(Can't believe I'm about to do this, but..) news.com.au


lol

as u said, outdated way to deliver information.
unfortunately, most smoko breaks dont come with a p.c.
just one reason why bloke mags will always thrive.
i love how zoo mag is in the media spotlight quite regularly for stupid
half news such as this.
tequila
Posted 01:01pm 08/4/10
the problem ^ there also is that the kinds of blokes who read these magazines tend to be less educated, more blue collar
thus less likely to question its content
pixem
Posted 02:42pm 08/4/10
whats to question about boobs?
HERMITech
Posted 02:52pm 08/4/10
unfortunately, most smoko breaks dont come with a p.c.

You're working in the wrong industry then cause mine does.

whats to question about boobs?

Touche pixem, touche

and for the record, I'm saying it "touchy".
Saint
Posted 03:07pm 08/4/10
AusGamers has never received pressure from Rockstar about Red Dead Redemption

Actually from memory I know Rockstar have pressured us (maybe not AusGamers, but certainly Mammoth employees and GameArena) to change a review or write a review to give their game a more positive glow. There's definitely been threats from them, so I certainly wouldn't put it past them.
infi
Posted 03:10pm 08/4/10
We have never and would never alter our editorial policy because of advertising. We have turned down money to maintain this policy - our advertising agency has approached us on behalf of games publishers several times asking if we would be happy to post what are basically ads, either as news or forum posts (guerrilla marketing).


Lawsy got in the s*** for that - cash for comment and whatnot. Dangerous to get caught in that racket.

Best to be an independent force, so you can keep advertising pre-paid mobiles to the tween market.
deadlyf
Posted 04:21pm 08/4/10
'Advertising' and 'editorial' for us are two totally different things, and we try to be really clear about which is which.
What about when you do an interview and they tell you what you can and can't ask about before hand, controlling the content of the piece to a large extent? I realise you don't get paid by them for this but doesn't this add up to free advertising for them?

I mean, of course all they are interested in is promoting their product and they will want to control the questions you ask to ensure that you don't ask them anything that people won't like the answer to. But isn't it your responsibility as reporters to tell them to f*** off and you'll ask whatever damn questions you want because you have like, integrity and you don't want questions taken off the table like, "why does your game suck so much" or "is your daughter of legal age"?
trog
Posted 05:01pm 08/4/10
What about when you do an interview and they tell you what you can and can't ask about before hand, controlling the content of the piece to a large extent? I realise you don't get paid by them for this but doesn't this add up to free advertising for them?
Yeh. It's a tough one - I would love to be able to tell them to foad on things like that, but we're simply not big enough (yet) or important enough (yet) for us to be confident doing that and still get some love from publishers. So at the end of the day we tread a fine line.

You will note that we pull no punches generally, editorially, when it comes to sharing how we feel about certain things that publishers do wrong (no dedicated servers, DRM, international pricing reamage, etc).
kettels
Posted 05:09pm 08/4/10
I must admit i am wary of this game. I was thinking of preordering it then they started hyping it majorly so i kind of feel like they are trying to get all these people to buy it straight away before some reviews come out. Something just feels fishy to me
trog
Posted 05:11pm 08/4/10
I must admit i am wary of this game. I was thinking of preordering it then they started hyping it majorly so i kind of feel like they are trying to get all these people to buy it straight away before some reviews come out. Something just feels fishy to me
Well.. you don't have to buy it until you've read some reviews! You could prolly even wait and see what people on forums etc say, or even go into a game shop and play it for a bit yourself.

GAMERS! You don't need to rush out and buy the latest new game immediately, regardless of what anyone will tell you (well, unless it's me, obviously). Be discriminating! It's the only way to really make sure you're getting something worth your hard earned bucks.
skythra
Posted 05:18pm 08/4/10
You're breaking your non-disclosure (usually) to expose a serious problem.
He posted it to facebook (iirc). Thet's not whistleblowing thats c****troking.
weedy
Posted 05:59pm 08/4/10
LOL at the guys pic he looks like that dood with famous viral videos on youtube that plays air guitar n stuff
Thermal Ions
Posted 06:48pm 08/4/10
Sorry, but how is this taking pressure from the publisher / publicist? The quoted statement is pretty close to what I'd expect from a publicist trying to convince a Journo their game is great by highlighting what other previewers are saying and wanting their great efforts to be recognised. Otherwise the publisher may as well get the office trainee to forward the preview code with a covering memo saying "here it is" and save on publicity costs.

Now if the email indicated an advertising deal would be negotiated / discussed only after Rockstar sees what the previewer intends to publish or a statement / threat that advertising would be pulled unless a decent score was given - that could be seen as pressuring.

And as to an earlier comment, I'm actually quite comforted if a site like Ausgamers has advertising for a game they've given a poor / ordinary review. To me that is strong evidence they don't let advertising dollars influence their reviews / editorials. Ads are ads and should be treated with scepticism regardless of where they appear.
Dazhel
Posted 08:21pm 08/4/10
GAMERS! You don't need to rush out and buy the latest new game immediately, regardless of what anyone will tell you (well, unless it's me, obviously)


Yeah I agree about not rushing out and ....OOOH SHINY!
iWhoop
Posted 10:27pm 08/4/10
the only reviewer I take notice of is Yahtzee because most of the reviews he's done of games I've played have mirrored my own feelings.
neffo
Posted 10:47pm 08/4/10
His reviews are worthless though.

All they do is tell you about the faults of a game but you can't really come to any conclusion if its good or not based on them. They are a waste of time, but you can watch them after playing the game and say "oh i agree with that" and "he said c*** LOL".

He isn't even all that clever, he's just an obnoxious twat. It's just a shame he doesn't read QGL.
Carson
Posted 12:02am 09/4/10
Urgh, why Trog, why did you have to add the -gate suffix!? NOT EVERY F*****G SCANDAL NEEDS TO HAVE GATE ADDED TOO IT!
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