We as an industry spend a lot of time worrying about Metacritic scores. If you don’t believe me, check out Keith Boesky’s critique of Metacritic love and statistics on how high scores mean high sales. If you are concerned about your next game’s Metacritic score, read on to learn the ABCs of how a game writer can help you reach your goals. No, not that type of game writer! A game writer or narrative designer can help you earn the highest reviews.
A is for Add writers early
While people have different points of view on what Metacritic actually measures, ideally Metacritic measures game quality. Some of the best games of the past several years have included great story and writing. As 1Up recently wrote, “while not every well-written game becomes commercially successful, quality writing has increasingly become part of that elusive formula for blockbuster magic.” If you want a chance at higher Metacritic ratings, the first step is simple: add writers early.
B is for Break it down
Several months ago, I spoke on a panel with Lance Powell of Electronic Arts. He described their technique for getting high Metacritic scores. First, they would go through the game design and rate each sequence or level A, B, or C. An “A” equals what would earn a 90 or above through Metacritic, “B” 80 and above, etc. Now in theory anyone on your development team can spot the A, B, C moments, but writers brought in early can best make sure the best story moments coincide with the A moments. Better yet, they can write the A moments.
C is for Cut
Once rated, EA would go through and cut the C’s and judiciously cut the B’s, making sure there were as many A moments as possible. How horrible would it be if you cut a C moment only to find that it was an integral part of your game story? A game writer can help prevent such a scenario. On the other hand, if you have inadvertently cut a major story moment, a writer brought in late should be able to salvage your story. Game writers, unfortunately, are quite familiar with taking existing game pieces and making lemonade.
When looking to up the quality of your game and earn high Metacritic scores, Add writers early, Break down your game, then Cut whatever doesn’t earn you a high score. There you have the ABCs of mastering Metacritic with a game writer in your corner.
So what’s your take on Metacritic? Do you think it reflects quality, or do you think it reflects what’s popular? Or do you think they’re one and the same?