I now accept review codes because realities of the industry blah blah blah

I’ve been working on this site for five years, and in that time I’ve seen smaller sites with shorter, typo-and-inaccuracy-packed reviews leapfrog mine in search results. Paying for games out of my own pocket guaranteed to readers that I wasn’t beholden to any external forces or tempted to soften the blow of harsh criticism with such popular review nothings as “but there’s a solid base here for [developer]’s next game!” Sadly, it also meant that I got games quite a bit later than other review publications, so that pre-release period where fans link to early reviews to weigh their enthusiasm against the opinions of critics is one I’ve missed out on the benefits of almost entirely. No links = no search engine juice = very little site growth. Blame it on the realities of the industry; I gave the whole “no review codes” thing a good go over half a decade, but it doesn’t work if you want a notable number of readers and aren’t willing to delve into the even uglier waters of clickbait. Search engines aren’t like Youtube where there’s an emphasis on discovering new outlets; once you slip beyond the first page of search results, you might as well not exist in the eyes of those doing the searching.

As for accountability/openness, I plan on making a page listing every game I receive a code for [update: this is now live and can be accessed by hovering over the “about” menu item] in addition to disclosing as much at the end of any relevant reviews. Additionally, any Steam codes will go into a new Steam account that I’ll make public and link to on that page. I’ve also been working on undoing some of the privacy settings I’ve had on my PS4 and Xbox One to make it possible to see recently played games and such, but this has proven to be a losing battle thus far.

Deck13’s The Surge is the first game I’ve accepted a review code for, hence the header image. You may be asking yourself, “hey, didn’t that come out already, totally undermining your point about getting reviews out early?” Yep. I requested it before release, but didn’t get the code until a day after it released. I’m assuming that keys will come faster once I’ve built up more of a presence.

Time to, like, take it easy, dude

In less than a week, this site will be 4 years and 7 months old. That means a few things. First, it means that my “about” section is incredibly outdated. More relevantly to the topic at hand, it means that I’ve put out 280 reviews (of wildly varying quality!) in that time. That’s 4-5 reviews a month for close to a half-decade. Basically, I need a break. This is more of a hobby than anything, but trying to adhere to a self-imposed goal of that many reviews a month has made it feel more like work than play over time. Besides, I’ve started working on a game of my own. That’s right, terrible developers of the world! Once it’s done, you’ll be able to judge my terrible mechanics and writing! Except you, Lifeline developers. After unleashing that abortion upon the world, you never get to judge anything or anyone ever again. Oh, and same with Ragnar Tornquist. Dreamfall Chapters was like getting punched in the face with a book of bad fan fiction and having to actually pay money for it.

Anyway, the point is that I’m reducing the number of reviews I put out while I’m working on my game because I don’t have enough time to do both. Hard to say how many reviews I’ll end up sticking to, but 1-2 a month sounds reasonable. Maybe more once all the programming stuff is over (I can barely understand how this site works, much less the demonic matryoshka doll that is nested parentheses with math stuff in them) and all that’s left is working on the art and music.

Youtube links that open in a window are fixed

The short story is that non-embedded Youtube links randomly decided to go on a strike and refuse to play in the page, and then I fixed it. There were all kinds of things that needed to be turned off and tweaked, and removing the default Twitter and Facebook integration (because punching everyone in the face with “whore me out” buttons seemed cheap and classless) messed with the cropping and window size, forcing me to hide that stuff in weird ways that make this place more Frankenstein monster than website; Facebook was easy enough to make disappear without any problems, but Twitter refused to play ball and I ended up having to change the link to an empty image embed and throw in a hidden white-colored period to keep the window from going crazy. This place is pretty much held together by scotch tape and rusty safety pins.

A strange new site quirk: videos refuse to play on mobile browsers that use a “request desktop site” feature (to bypass the mobile theme) until they’ve been tapped twice to pause and unpause.

New hosting, (hopefully) fewer errors

Okay, so it’s that time again and I’ve moved to a new host. Hopefully this means the daily error 521 and 522s are a thing of the past, and if I can write reviews without constantly hitting a 500 internal service error when I preview posts, that’ll be great, too. The site also seems to be a bit faster overall. As with all site stuff, though, various things might be broken. Hopefully not, and I did take a look through stuff and fix a couple images that didn’t survive the transfer for a weird reason that seems to have something to do with capitalization, but site maintenance stuff always carries the risk of something unexpected no longer working. Mostly because this stuff gets complicated and I go into monkey-with-a-hammer mode.

(Mind the Gravity Rush header image; I just had a bunch of screenshots left over.)

About the review process

What does the header picture have to do with the topic, you ask? Absolutely nothing—I just have a lot of puppy pictures lying around my computer from my time helping out with animal rescue stuff and didn’t have anything more relevant.

But on to the reason I’m writing this: my recent NyxQuest review may have led to some questions because it occurred to me after posting that not everyone has direct access to my mind and I haven’t ever actually described how things around here work. In said review, I posted a screenshot of Amazon where the date I purchased the game is visible (July 15th) and claimed that I bought it because my last couple reviews were negative and I was looking for something I’d like. However, the first of those negative reviews was posted on July 18th. Read more →

Site news: wider reviews

When I started this site back in March 2012, I intended for my reviews to use this site’s “wide” format (as seen in my Divinity: Original Sin review), but quickly discovered that doing so meant that search results had the left column disappear when browsing the site by category for some strange reason. For over two years, I was content with my reviews being written down the middle of a three-column page like this one, but as my reviews began to grow longer, I became less and less okay with the actual content of each post being relegated to a relatively tiny space. Sick of having to balance the pros and cons of using the wide review format and losing the column that includes links to my recent reviews, I finally dug into this site’s nitty-gritty code stuff and found the problem.

I didn’t just solve the problem, though. No—I destroyed the left column-eating format entirely, banishing it to a dark dimension to forevermore atone for the past two years of anguish it’s caused me. Long story short, I’m switching up the format and will use a new version of the wide review for my positive reviews, with the negative reviews and miscellaneous posts too short to warrant the extra space (screenshots, site news, etc.) using the three-column format this post is using.

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