Reviews, Downloads and Bootleggers




Michael Lafferty

Today’s column is going to
tackle three subjects, which may be inter-related in some way. Forgive
me if the personal pronoun is interjected frequently, but in a column such
as this, it would be difficult to omit it.

And, just so you know, the
views expressed here do not reflect the opinions of those who pay the bills
at Ok, now that I’ve frightened my editor, let’s get to the
crux of this column. The first thing to be addressed is what constitutes
a review, what we do and the response we get. Topic two is an off-shoot
of topic one, and stresses what each of us who play or work on computers
should do; and topic three is a follow-up to a column I wrote several weeks
ago about bootlegging software.

The reviews …

Over the past weeks, I have
received some criticism concerning a review I wrote. Nope, I’m not going
to quote the comments. And in all honesty, when the criticism is constructive,
I don’t mind in the least. And yes, everyone who wrote received a reply.

But let’s backtrack a moment.

Let’s start by mentioning
background, particularly my background in the world of journalism. I began
in Uncle Sam’s canoe club (the U.S. Navy) as a journalist with a minor
in public affairs. Being on a ship, I was the writer. I graduated from
that into the world of newspaper journalism. For approximately 20 years
I covered a wide range of topics: from interviewing celebrities, to writing
feature articles about a wide range of topics, to sports writing, editorials,
columns and regular weekly features. I have had articles published in national
magazines. In the waning years of my journalism career, I became involved
with the software industry. When I finally said goodbye to the high pressure
and low pay, people in the industry encouraged me to keep my writing hand
in this area. I was given some contact names, and voila, GameZone put me
on staff.

As you can tell, I have a
solid writing background. To imply otherwise in a diatribe of profanity
and half-perceptions is nonsense, and diminishes the quality of the counterpoint
to one of my reviews.

Having worked in the newspaper
business for so long, I do know that praise is rare, criticism frequent
and overblown.

As readers, please remember
that a review is a personal opinion, based on experience. It is not meant
to speak for the game-playing masses. Why not? Because each person who
plays a game approaches it from a different perspective, formed from life
experiences, the kind of day he or she had, or the individual’s social
or cultural lifestyles. Someone may look at a color and call it blue, while
someone else calls it aqua. It is all a matter of perception.

Let’s make something absolutely
clear: I am not an expert gamer. I thoroughly enjoy playing games, and
have launched quite a number over the past four years — more than 500 titles.
That gives me a background to compare one title against another. I have
had the occasion to play multiplayer matches against some who know what
I do, and have been whomped. Sometimes I fared better, a few times I won,
but being that it was only a game, win or lose, the reward was the same
— concentration, intensity, physical gyrations and then a smile. Sure,
when you play someone online who claims to be a novice at a game, but who
isn’t and is just looking for someone to pound to feed their own ego, that’s
not any fun. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered too many of that type lately.

Games are a diversion; they
are fun; they are not life. You read the reviews to get a sense of the
game, before putting your money down on the title. Get a sense of the writer,
how they perceive things, and then make your judgment based on what you
know of that writer. When I watched Siskel & Ebert, I knew that if
one of them panned a movie for certain reasons, I would probably enjoy
it. You develop a sense for what that person feels or thinks about what
they are commenting on, and get to know how you are going to feel based
on your understanding of what the writer has stated in his or her review.
Sometimes, from your perspective, my reviews of a game may be dead-on,
sometimes — as far as you are concerned — I am not even in the same ballpark.

Sure, there are things that
are non-negotiable in a review. If I say a program has clipping problems,
count on that as a fact. It may not diminish the quality of the program,
though it does detract a bit from the visual impact.

But the bottom line is this:
if you don’t like what I write, you have the right to object. There is
a link to an e-mail address where you can write to register your dissent.
However, ranting is often dismissed. And hiding behind an e-mail address
that is random letters and numbers, severely hurts credibility.
I put my name on what I write and stand behind it; maturity dictates that
you do the same. Unless the comments are completely off-base, I will respond.
Who knows, maybe we can discuss games in an open, honest way, give each
other additional insight and get together once in a while for a multiplayer

Topic two …

Back at the start of February
I wrote a review of Cabela’s 4×4 Off-Road
. In that review, I
stated that though the game recognized I had an ACT-LABS RS Force
it didn’t allow me to use it. I was stuck using the keyboard, and that
severely detracted from the enjoyment of the game.

One of the game’s designers
contacted me about the review. His point was that the game should have
worked with my peripheral device. We have had several e-mail discussions
about this. He finally got one of the ACT-LABS wheels too and guess what?
The game didn’t work with that wheel, which is one of the best on the market.
So he got in touch with ACT-LABS, and they had a series of communiqués
about the wheel and game. In the end, it came down to downloading a newer
patch for the wheel that would allow the game to work with the peripheral

Now this revises a topic
I’ve written about in the past, and that is updating drivers. You may have
just purchased your system, or you may have an older system, it really
doesn’t matter — as part of your regular maintenance schedule, you should
update drivers, or at least check for updates. There is no need to do it
every week, or every month — bimonthly should suffice. And since this can
be a big pain, set up bookmarks to take you to those pages you need to
check. You need to check for video, audio and peripheral patches. GameZone
has links to patches for games, and some of the updates, such as going
from DirectX-whatever-was-last-month’s-version to the latest version, should
be included in whichever game you have purchased.

There is a downside to continually
updating drivers. So, make sure that you have backed up any essential files
to a form where you can retrieve them before you launch new drivers. Also
run a virus scan over anything you download. Most sites are just fine.
But occasionally, new drivers will be at odds with existing Windows drivers
and you will find yourself with fatal exception errors which may mean reformatting
your hard drive. If you don’t have files backed up, you will lose them

Topic three …

A few weeks ago, I wrote
a column about pirate
, and how the industry was cracking down
on sites and companies that distributed bootleg copies of games.

An Aberdeen, Wash., woman
has been arrested and charged with copyright offenses. According to the
complaint, the woman allegedly made illegal copies of PlayStation, PlayStation
2 and Nintendo games, and sold them via an Internet site.

If convicted, the woman could
face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 fine on each
of two counts which make up the complaint.