We receive a lot of flak here at PRC.net for alleged fear-mongering about the current state of racing simulations, and those who are vocally opposed to the content on this site claim we’re approaching everything with an unwarranted pessimistic attitude. For the past several years, many virtual racing game developers have pushed out unfinished or broken titles on the unsuspecting general public, and it has been somewhat difficult to prove that there is a tangible decline in quality within the genre – fanboys often come out of hiding to claim we should feel sorry in some way for a multitude of different studios who don’t have the time, financial support, or raw manpower to create the title of our dreams.
However, a Reader Submission today from Dane R. has helped us shed some light on one of the more prominent issues currently plaguing sim racing – some developers are outright delusional about the quality of their products, and don’t believe anything is wrong at all. Milestone’s RIDE, released in 2015, shipped with a plethora of game-breaking bugs that quickly relegated the title to the bargain shelf at your local retailer, but Milestone instead genuinely believe the game has surpassed their expectations.
Hello PRC! Yesterday I read a very interesting article about Italian game studio Milestone, and their plans for a successor to RIDE – a motorcycle game with huge load times on consoles, corrupted save game issues, the best of Assetto Corsa’s pre-2015 railway artificial intelligence, and extremely bad engine sounds. According to German racing game magazine SpeedManiacs, who interviewed Milestone not too long ago, Milestone have currently stuck their heads in the sand. The team from Italy believe players and press alike are satisfied with the title, and the game has exceeded their own personal expectations.
On what planet are their titles considered a success? RIDE has a Metacritic rating of 66, and only around 70% of Steam reviews are positive. Even if the sales figures seem to be somewhat okay (around 25,000 sold on Steam alone), for me it’s absolutely incomprehensible as to how a game developer with over 100 employees can think like this. As a sim racer they only appear to care about pushing out four new licensed games a year, without caring about their reputation or the quality of their software.
First of all, I guess it’s important to establish that the current climate of mainstream video game journalism – the websites which contribute to the average Metacritic score you see prominently displayed around the internet – basically won’t give any modern video game a score lower than 80%. This can be attributed to the developers themselves offering certain publications perks for giving their game an artificial score, or it can be attributed that the fear of judging a game in an honest manner, in turn risking the supply of early press copies to completely dry up. This exact scenario happened when I was over writing for RaceDepartment in 2013 – Codemasters threw a tantrum regarding my review of Grid 2, and basically pulled support from the site altogether, when they were previously big supporters of the community Mr. Hengeveld created.
With an ideal base critic score being established, and the team’s entries falling well below the average Metacritic target of 80%, for Milestone to claim they have been successful as a game developer is pretty disturbing. I’ve sat down and compiled a list of Metacritic scores featuring four of their most recent titles, and the mental gymnastics used to act like they’re somehow doing a good job is impressive to say the least:
Critics aren’t satisfied, effectively turning the responses mentioned during the Speed Maniacs interview into a load of horseshit. MXGP, MotoGP 15, Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, and the aforementioned RIDE have all just barely fallen into the acceptable category. Customers, as you can see from heading over to the Steam forums for any one of the aforementioned titles, aren’t happy either. The Steam discussion page for RIDE upon launch was a disaster, and I noted during our extensive review of Rally Evo that a very competent rally simulator was hiding under a plethora of bugs and design flaws that shouldn’t have been there.
Milestone’s response to all of this criticism, has been to stick their fingers in their ears and instead invent their own reality. This is incomprehensible. We’re talking about years worth of games that were borderline unplayable due to numerous technical issues or gameplay elements that just didn’t resonate with anyone, years worth of reviews indicating all of their projects have barely been deemed acceptable by critics and fans alike, and the company answers to all of this by literally pretending everything is fine and inventing bizarre claims that are demonstrably false. At what point do these guys wake up? What version of RIDE or Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo are they playing at their headquarters? How does a studio with over one hundred employees craft such a drastic alternative to reality? And more importantly, if the team at Milestone have found a way where they can openly laugh in the face of their remaining customers, who have undoubtedly put up with a mountain of patches and post-release beta testing just to get something that’s halfway playable, how many other companies are taking this approach as well?
Oh right, a lot of them.