Tales from the Dev Side: Kairi Vice is the Spawn of Satan by George Clingerman

Right before I posted my review of Plugemons: Part 1 last night, I sent out a preemptive apology to two guys in the XNA community who I have the utmost respect for.  One is Jesse Chounard, the guy who developed Bluebones Curse and whose dog I had shot.  The other is George Clingerman, an XNA MVP who is probably the most respected individual in the entire Xbox Live Indie Game community.  Both these guys played a major role in educating me in the inner-workings of the community and gaining acceptance among Xbox Live Indie Game developers.

Both guys also really don’t like it when I go completely Lizzie Borden on games.  I figured since the Plugemon review was my first really brutal one in a while, I should give them a preemptive heads up on it.  I guess the result was George having this epiphany about what role I play in the development process.  The end result was this episode of Tales from the Dev Side.  I almost didn’t post it, because I felt maybe an article that was about me posted on my own site would come across as obnoxious.

Then I remembered I am obnoxious.  Hit it!

Kairi Vice is the Spawn of Satan

by George W. Clingerman

Somewhere out there is someone with a "Dukakis for President" tattoo who probably would like to have a word with George.

Kairi Kairi Vice is Satan’s Ill-Begotten Child

or Why won’t Satan tell Kairi who her mommy is?

Kairi Vice, tormentor of Xbox LIVE Indie Game developers around the world. She eats their babies. She spews acid and throws hellfire at, on and about their games released on the XBLIG marketplace. She’s a dream crusher.

Yet, despite all of that, Kairi Vice is doing a fantastic job and is an integral part of the XNA/XBLIG community.

Why do I think she’s both in league with the devil and necessary for the XNA/XBLIG community? Because I believe in the old proverb, “No pain, No gain.” and one thing Kairi is doing very well is bringing the pain.

With each painful review, you can hear the howls from developers. They cry in anguish every time she tweets about a new review. You can read the suffering in the comments left on her site. You can see the tears being dripped on the keyboard in the posts left on the App Hub forums. There’s no doubt about it that Indie Gamer Chick makes Xbox LIVE Indie Game developers flinch when she raises her hands to the keyboard.

So if she’s so negative, how can all of this be good and necessary? To see that, let’s start by examining why it hurts so bad.

Xbox LIVE Indie Games: The Proving Ground

or Why Xbox LIVE Indie Games is full of ammunition for Kairi

I’m not going to write about whether Xbox LIVE Indie Games is alive or dead, that’s a different topic. XBLIG remains what it always has been, and my stance on that hasn’t changed in the last six years so feel free to read the last article I wrote if you want to hear me ramble on about that. What I do want to talk about is what Xbox LIVE Indie Games IS for developers so we can see why Kairi causes so much pain and why it’s so necessary.

What XBLIG has always been is a proving ground. A place for new game developers to go to learn their craft. Within the Xbox LIVE Indie Game Marketplace lie the early works of future great indie game developers. It’s an exciting place to be watching these new names grow up and become something.

In order for people to learn the craft, they start at the beginning and often starting at the beginning for some means making a game only your mom would hang on her fridge (and even then she might hide it when company comes over). This means that there are a LOT of beginner projects in the marketplace. These project are referred to by many as crap.

I have never cared about the “crap” being released on Xbox LIVE Indie Games because that has ALWAYS been it’s true power. Without being able to release crap, it’s the same as every other closed service that exists and only the elite get through. So many people who sit dreaming and wondering if they could ever make a game will never try because the barrier was too high. We’re losing out on great ideas and great indie game developers simply because the barrier into the field has always been too hard to cross. So because we can fill the marketplace with crap, we have a greater chance of discovering something and/or someone new. Xbox LIVE Indie Games is a gold mine for looking for new ideas and up and coming developers.

The consumers don’t care about any of this, nor should they. But this is a major reason why it hurts so bad.

George's child-friendly game Kissy Poo is so damn cute that I had to go throw up a rainbow.

It hurts because we’re new.

The public is looking at our first attempts at game development. We’re insecure and nervous and when someone like Kairi finds our game and tells the world just what a pile of horsedung it is, it stings. Our drawings for mom are being judged by art critics used to looking at Picasso’s. We feel it’s unfair. We get defensive, overreact, sulk and in general deal with the criticism poorly. We’re new and want the world to factor that in when taking a look at our games. They shouldn’t and we’ll get to that later, for now let’s talk about the other reason Kairi’s reviews hurt so bad.

I mentioned earlier that anyone can make a game for XBLIG. The barrier for game development on the platform is low, the lowest I’ve ever come across. It’s a powerful thing but with great power however comes great responsibility. This is a lesson Microsoft chose not to learn from the wise cracking web-slinger. XBLIG has all this power, but Microsoft didn’t take the steps to not let this power also become the marketplaces greatest weakness. I don’t know why they didn’t do this, we may never find out, but the situation is what it is.

The marketplace is filled with game developers learning their craft and releasing tons of their first attempts. It’s the first thing people see when they hit the marketplace, it’s harder to find the gems. The best games are hard to find and are often buried under tons of refrigerator pictures. That means a reviewer like Kairi does not have to work to find bad XBLIGs and is the second reason why I think it hurts so bad.

It hurts because it’s so easy.

We as a community can’t hide what we’re doing and what the XBLIG marketplace is. Microsoft hasn’t done us any favors there. We have this fantastic proving grounds. A place where anyone can try their hand at game development and play with new techniques, but the whole world sees it and judges it for what they see not for how we see it.Their judgment is valid.

Reviewers like Kairi don’t even have to try. We’re handing them the insults and the cutting remarks on a golden platter. We’re the politician that tweets our junk for the world to see. The comedians don’t even have to try to come up with jokes. We’re writing them ourselves. Our own power bites us in the ass and as a community that can be hard to watch. That’s the second reason I feel it hurts so bad. Now let’s talk about the third reason I think it hurts.

It hurts because we haven’t been told the truth.

We’ve been babied over the years by reviewers and our peers. We pat each other on the back and say, “Way to finish that game!”. We ignore huge flaws in gameplay, inconsistencies in the art, terrible sound effects, boring music all because we know just how hard it is to make a game. We look at clones of existing games and high-five the developer and say, “Well done!” because we know the skill it took to even make a clone of a game. When the market is flooded with shooters, or puzzlers or platformers, we see with the craftsmen’s eye of just how much effort went into something. We don’t look objectively and we don’t look as consumers.

When a reviewer comes a long and finally sees the game as someone who isn’t a developer, who isn’t in love with what XBLIG means, it hurts because we’ve never heard it before.

This is where Kairi comes into play. Helping new indie game developers learn the WHOLE process of game development. She offers something we don’t have a lot of in the Xbox LIVE Indie Game world. She’s a fanboy (excuse me, fanBOY? that is not a gender-neutral term! -Kairi) with perspective. She loves Xbox LIVE Indie Games and hates on them at the same time. She doesn’t excuse us because we’re new, she doesn’t excuse us because she recognizes why there’s crap on XBLIG and she doesn’t shield us from the truth. She’s essential to you learning to become an indie game developer. It hurts, but you need people like her.

Kairi Vice: Refining Fire

or Please sir, may I have another?

Kairis is caustic, foul-mouthed and extremely cruel at times. She’s also witty and funny. She’s uses all of that as her “hook”. A very painful hook.

Not this painful a hook, but pretty painful.

Sidenote: That’s a lesson that a lot of Xbox LIVE Indie Games could learn from her. There’s a lot of review sites out there, but most of us talk about Kairi’s. Why? It’s because she’s doing something with her site that sets her apart from a general run of the mill review site. Something that’s working for her.

She’s bringing the pain but why do we need that (I’m hoping you can already see why but if not, I guess I’ll spell it out for you..)?

The truth is, without someone like Kairi Vice Xbox LIVE Indie Games isn’t as effective of a training ground as it is WITH Indie Gamer Chick.

If or when you ever do make it in the industry there’s only more like her waiting out there, ready to pounce on you and your work. Sometimes well deserved, sometimes not but the reality is it will happen and this is your chance to learn to deal with it.

Use Kairi to sharpen your skills, toughen your skin. She’s part of the process of game development. You need to hear what she and people like her say. Not just the glowing compliments of friends and family or the softened comments of your developer peers.

With our inability to be objective, Kairi comes in and makes us cry. Through those tears we should let a little reality set in. Our little training ground has finally gotten a refining fire.If you find your defenses coming up and saying things like, “It’s only a dollar!” or “I’m just one person” or “This was my first game!” Just stop.

None of that matters. You’re no longer being objective. Take a breath and re-read the article, re-read the tweet or comment. Learn from it. Grow from it. Become better.

The harsh reviews by Kairi Vice are just another step on your path to becoming an indie game developer. Their existence is finally giving you, the game developer hopeful, the end to end game development experience you need to become the future kick ass game developer I know you’ll become. 

Thank you George, although I think my father might take exception to being called Satan, or my mother to having an affair with him.  Even though I wouldn’t put it past her, quite frankly.

God, I hope she never reads that.

I would like to say that, in general, most developers who are on the receiving end of a strongly negative review are typically respectful, receptive, and anxious to know what can be fixed in their games.  I think the majority of developers kind of “get it” with me and my site.  And I think the developers who have actually met me are typically surprised to find out I’m not a whole lot like the Kairi Vice character I’ve established here. At the same time, I admit that I get a sick little kick out of hearing developers say “I’m scared of Indie Gamer Chick.”  That’s a good thing, by the way.  Fear is good.  Fear shows you care.

I promise this will be the only Tales from the Dev Side that will center around me.  The next one coming is from Ian Stocker.  It’s a follow-up to his article on pricing that some credit the recent changes in Xbox Live Indie Game policy to. 

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

49 Responses to Tales from the Dev Side: Kairi Vice is the Spawn of Satan by George Clingerman

  1. Omar S says:

    As a game developer myself I can attest first-hand to the importance of developing a very, very, bordering-on-bullet-proof, thick skin. No matter how harsh the criticism, or how seemingly nasty the wording, I think the best thing to do is to take a deep breath, break the feedback down into its base ingredients and add those things to your ‘to do’ list of things to improve on (or get right next time).

    Excellent article, by the way, and for the record I think Kairi’s reviews are both entertaining and integral to the XBLIG scene.

    • For those wishing to go down the route of professional game development, they will probably take a mighty bashing from critics. As a recent article (that I’ve misplaced) noted, most professional developers never get a chance to work on a game they would have chosen. They have to work on a Barbie fashion game or something of that nature. So criticism will come, and it won’t be polite.

      At least Kairi judges games on their merits. All she asks for is fun. She doesn’t slate a good game because it comes from a small studio, or praise a mediocre game because a lot of advertising dollars depend on it. It’s pure critical feedback.

  2. I certainly agree that it’s important to have someone like Kairi providing a purely consumer view. I’ve remarked before that some developers who have posted in the comments here are using logic that applies only from the developer’s side of things. It all looks very different from the consumer side of the fence. As Kairi has said repeatedly, if you’re selling a product, it has to stand as a product, regardless of being an amateur effort or sold cheaply.

    The number of developer challenges is a good indication of the way many developers react to Kairi’s reviews. Despite all this vitriol that some take badly, Kairi was inundated with requests from developers to review their games. Clearly her views are valued, at least in some quarters.

    You make a good point, and one I hadn’t thought of, about the usefulness of having a practice space. Microsoft provides the tools to make a game, and a place where you can see how well it works. I’ve never seen it like that, because I’m purely a consumer. But now you’ve pointed it out, I can see the value in that function.

  3. It would be cool if you had a review section, where you review games still being play tested and give your feedback on their game so far. That way they can fix all the problems they have with the game before it’s released!

    Just an idea 😉

    • Kairi Vice says:

      Here’s the deal with that: if I did that, I would no longer do IndieGamerChick.com because I believe it would be a conflict of interest.

      I’m not going to get involved in the development side or playtesting side of things. That’s not my job. That’s your job, to fine tune things. Beat the bushes, search high and low, find anyone to playtest your games by any means. But it won’t be me.

  4. Pingback: Tales from the Dev Side: Kairi Vice is the Spawn of Satan by George … | Game Review Guide

  5. I would say this advice about developers growing a thick skin applies also to reviewers and their reviews. This post sounds as trying to justify that review and that way of reviewing, instead of accepting that maybe there are better ways to say something is terrible without posting a flaming review.

    Kairi did a review that was badly received, and the developer argued why he thought such destructive review was not very useful for him and the service. He may be wrong, but he is entitled his opinion as everyone else, and I tend to agree that you can say a game has big issues in a much more productive way.

    Given that we all know how useful are reviews for XBLIG consumers (0, nothing) and that probably there are more XBLIG devs reading these reviews than real end users (the ones buying Minecraft clones in spades), I do not think it is a bad idea to try to learn from the conversation between Hans and Kairi for the future.

    Growing a thick skin is somewhat useful for devs, but getting really good feedback to improve on their mistakes is far more interesting for them, and will make them better in the future.

    My two cents. Regards!


    • Kairi Vice says:

      That review was very well received. It was linked on multiple websites and helped to generate my second highest day of traffic. Far more people agree with it than disagree. I had dozens of people tell me they laughed out loud reading it. I’m not trying to polish my own apple, but I think you either “get it” or you don’t. You clearly don’t.

      And you guys are still bitching about the Minecraft clones, which have no place in this conversation because I have never even reviewed one on this site. Your so transparent in your jealousy of them that it’s shameful. You are seriously the biggest crybabies I’ve ever seen. Man the fuck up.

    • The Tales from the Dev Side articles are unsoliticited. Kairi encourages developers to submit them, but she doesn’t request topics or suggest any sort of theme. Indeed, she’s stated from the outset that any Tales from the Dev Side can even be critical of her and her site. So if George Clingerman or anyone else submits an article like this, it’s because it’s sincerely their opinion.

      In other news, you feel reviews are of “0, nothing” usefulness for consumers? I disagree. As a consumer, I like the guidance of a review. That’s what brought me here (and to Gear Fish, Armless Octopus, and Writings of Mass Deduction) in the first place.

      I’m assuming you’re a developer yourself. And, just as Mr Clingerman remarks in this very article, you represent only a developer’s perspective, and don’t really get what all of this means to a consumer.

      Alternatively you’re not a developer, and are just very confused. :p

      • Kairi Vice says:

        I think actually the harshest critics are the ones who people listen to the most. That’s why Simon Cowell, Jeremy Clarkson, Gordon Ramsey, and Roger Ebert have had so much success in their fields. They’re tough to please, and they don’t care if they hurt anyone’s feelings. But by God, when they say something is good, it means something.

        Someone once tweeted to me “You know what Kairi, I get you. Nobody watched American Idol to hear what Paula or Randy thought.”

        I wasn’t actually thinking of Simon when I started this site. I was thinking of Jeremy Clarkson. But he’s right. He gets it.

        • BrunoB says:

          While I agree with you that their (your) style is popular and entertaining, I’ve come to realize that when such reviewers like something, it just does mean that that particular thing met their subjective tastes.

          Which is not so different from what happens with any review really, but popular belief is more on the lines of “ohhh, if he/she bashes everything so much, then when he/she likes something for once, it must be an all-time masterpiece!!!”… which is not so true.

          • Kairi Vice says:

            Well all reviews are subjective and there is no definitive right or wrong towards one person’s opinion.

            But I do believe a person’s word carries more weight as a critic when they’re not giving everything the 9 out of 10 rating.

            • Agreed. I’ve visited XBLIG review sites where no game is awarded less than 8 out of 10, or 4 out of 5, or whatever. Literally NO game.

              Review of ‘Vomiting in a bucket simulator 2009’? Score it 8 out of 10.

              Review of ‘Press A, then punch yourself in the face 2: the punching continues’? Score it 9 out of 10.

              It’s ridiculous. It makes the reviews meaningless. You can’t trust any of them, because no one can like EVERY game they ever play, especially when some of them are barely even games. Therefore, some of the reviews are lies. Therefore, they’re worthless.

              At least Kairi is honest. I often like games she dislikes, and hate games she loves. But that’s not the point. The point is I know she’ll give us an honest assessment, and I can use that to inform my decision about whether it’s a game I might like myself.

      • I’m a XNA MVP like George is (just less involved than he is, specially in the App Hub forums, but I tend to keep an eye in the Spanish side of XBLIG, like in this case).

        My comment about reviews are no useful in general is not because I think reviews are not useful to make informed decisions for consumers, which I agree, but because in XBLIG there is a general disconnect between people who read these review sites, and the people who buy things in XBLIG. It has been proven again and again that marketing, reviews,… have very little to no effect on XBLIG sale numbers. Which is sad, as it makes life very hard for devs. And I appreciate these sites exist to try to change that reality.

        I decided to post my opinion about the review style and the thick skin in here because this was a dev article made for devs, I thought this was a better place to talk about the subject than the Plugemons review itself. Given that it seems devs are visiting the place, and reading the reviews you write, I just gave my two cents on how to make them more useful (and appreciated) for them instead of just destructive criticism.

        Of course, and as I said in twitter, Kairi and any other people posting reviews are free to disregard my words, it was just my personal opinion, and that doesn’t take out the fact that I appreciate you are using your free time (something very precious) to review XBLIG games.



        • Kairi Vice says:

          It’s kind of sad to me that an MVP could have a defeatest attitude like that. I started this site in July. I’ve gained new readers every day, which shows genuine interest in Xbox Live Indie Games. My site has generated almost 5,000 marketplace clicks. Those are gamers who are looking at a game as a potential purchase. And I’ve had developers credit me with bumps they’ve had in sales.

          And in the time I’ve started this site, I’ve played two games from this market that absolutely blew my mind in quality, and several other very impressive titles. In the time since I’ve started this site, an Xbox Live Indie Game netted $1,000,000 in profit, something everyone considered unthinkable.

          The market is there. The consumers are willing. It’s too bad some MVPs are resigned to failure.

          • Jim Perry says:

            It’s a bit different looking from the inside out. :\

            Yes, it’s possible to create a game that’s outstanding and will POSSIBLY make a ton of money. The question we as developers have to ask is “Is it worth all that effort to do it for XBLIG when something like Steam has a better chance?” Several developers have said “No, it’s not worth it.” already.

            There’s also the problems developers have had with getting paid, seeing sales data, etc. It’s not as cut and dried as it seems.

            • Without wanting to sound flaccid, I think you’re both onto something.

              The market is definitely there, and from a consumer point of view what we need is less crap and more quality. Simplistic, but there it is.

              On the other hand, though the market does exist, it’s far smaller and less lucrative than the PC market. I must once again wheel out Cthulhu Saves the World. An undeniable hit, by XBLIG standards. Yet it sold more copies and made more money in a month on Steam than in its entire XBLIG lifespan. The market was there on XBLIG, but it paled in comparison to the Steam market. Stepping into the shoes of a developer, once the training wheels are off and you’re reasonably competent at making games, why bother with XBLIG when the same time and effort will net you greater returns and exposure elsewhere?

              Don’t get me wrong, I will be among the last to ring the death knell of XBLIG. But some development facts about it have to be faced.

              • Kairi Vice says:

                I want to make it clear that my stance has always been “treat Xbox Live Indie Games like a hobby.” One that could potentially pay for itself. Don’t go in expecting to have a hit. Don’t quit your day job either. As my boyfriend will attest to, I’ve heard stories of what people have spent on making these games that have brought me to tears.

                Making a good game that doesn’t sell isn’t exactly a position unique to Xbox Live Indie Games. Some really awesome games have busted hard. It happened this year with Saints Row 3, Rayman Origins, and L.A. Noire, my game of the year.

                If you treat it like a hobby, you’re out nothing when your game doesn’t sell. Hobbies cost money, afterall. If you go in with expectations to make money, your hobby might as well be betting on horses at the track, because your odds there are probably better. All start up gaming companies are long shots at best. That’s the nature of the industry, no matter what platform you are on.

                I would like to say, with the strongest of convictions, I beg you to please not spend beyond your means to produce a game on any platform. Do not take out a loan. Do not cash out any negotiable bonds you have. Especially do not quit your day job. Treat this like a hobby, and think about expansion only after you’ve had a game that makes a high multiple of what your yearly income is. If you want to enter the game industry, use indie games as a resume builder and try to secure a job with a legitimate game company. If you want to go out on your own, wait until you have a proven track record that proves you can sustain yourself for years.

                • Jim Perry says:

                  Treating it as a hobby is fine, but given the choice between possibly making some money and a bigger possibility of making some money at it, I’m gonna choose the latter every time. 🙂

                  That said, I’m designing the game I’m working on so that I can target both XBLIG and PC (hopefully via Steam or Indie City if not) to maximize my potential earnings. I’m not going to release something just to XBLIG. It just doesn’t make sense when with a little extra work I can target another platform that would make several times more money.

            • I have not said that you can not make money on XBLIG. In fact I have defended that you can, and Scott Tykoski was part of that twitter conversation some weeks ago. And I have the home example of Milkstone which is a Spanish studio that makes a living out of XBLIG games.

              I said that reviews do not impact meaningfully sale numbers in XBLIG, and same happens with previews, interviews, publicity, or any other traditional way we know of that is proved to work in other stores. There was an interesting comment in Gamasutra by the Scape Goat/Soulcaster team saying that been named on Penny Arcade did not affect their sales numbers. In most other stores, that would have translated into a huge boost of sales. But not in XBLIG.

              That is one of the problems of the channel, that we have no clue how to connect with the buyers in a consistent way or why they buy what they buy. That is why we had massagers, then games starting with numbers, then avatars, zombies, and now minecraft clones. And who knows how many other trends I have missed there.

              So this joins with Jim point: given that you can have a great game, and just simply die in XBLIG because of that disconnect, most devs capable of doing those great games are moving to other platforms. Not only for the profits, but because they work in a more consistent way than XBLIG.



              • Kairi Vice says:

                I respectfully disagree, and I think there are developers who would credit bumps in sales directly to this site. And I’m reminded daily by readers that they find games from my site that they otherwise would not have known about. Considering that I just started in July, I think the sky is the limit.

                • I wouldn’t have played Escape Goat or Dead Pixels without your recommendations. They both slipped under my radar.

                • I suppose the disagreement is in the word “meaningfully”. You posted your numbers, it’s up to everyone to draw his own conclusions.

                  And as I said before, I appreciate what this site and others are doing to try to change that perception, and increase the general awareness of XBLIG. It is an uphill battle, and it’s nice you are fighting it.



                  • Kairi Vice says:

                    So you’re telling developers, the guys that you as an MVP should be looking out in the best interest of, that getting publicity for themselves is useless, that any efforts they make to promote their game will not matter, and that it’s a waste of time to try.

                    If you worked for me, I would fire you.

                    • If publicity doesn’t produce sales, not telling them of that fact is not doing them a good service at all. Good promotion involves a lot of effort and time, and if it is not going to pay off it may be better for the dev to spend it on other actions.

                      There are other markets where digital promotion has very little impact in sales, why would it be good not to tell devs this is one of them?



                    • Kairi Vice says:

                      So yea, you’re saying “don’t try.”

                      Okay, I’m now Kairi Vice: Little League Coach. I have a team of Bad News Bears that have lost every game. I get them to start practicing.

                      If they lose the next game, I don’t tell them “okay, quit practicing.” I tell them to practice harder. Just because it didn’t work before doesn’t mean it won’t work now. If I told them that there is no point in trying, I would be fired. And rightfully so.

                      You’re so resigned to failure that it’s pathetic.

                      I said if you worked for me, I would fire you. But the truth is, you should resign. Right now. You should offer your resignation as an MVP immediately.

                    • The sad fact is that XBLIG is affected very little by traditional marketing. Not defeatist, just realistic…you work with what you have, and as a hobbiest platform it’s awesome.

                    • Not at all, I say: I know this doesn’t work or has not work in the past. Now you can make an informed decision on how much time and effort you want to spend on it.

                      Just like this site informs readers if games are good or bad, I try to tell devs of how things work or don’t work to the best of my abilities. Sometimes I do a mistake, I stand corrected, and I change my views. But there is plenty of evidence of the publicity point from my point of view as to warn people not to go crazy with it.

                  • Vicente, my recent review of EvilQuest was by far the most viewed entry on my little blog. Do you know why? Because, according to my site stats, loads of people Googled EviQuest and were brought to my review.

                    Do you know why loads of people Googled EvilQuest? Because Chaosoft promoted it relentlessly for months prior to release. I heard of it. I don’t mean a fellow indie fan/journalist/blogger/developer/whatever mentioned it somewhere. I mean word of it reached me on the general gaming grapevine. People who never play indie games have heard of EvilQuest. Not lots of them, admittedly, but the name is out there.

                    Promotion does work, it’s just that a lot of people seem to think promotion as mentioning it on a couple of forums and maybe posting a 30 second work in progress trailer on YouTube. Lazy promotion doesn’t work. Going at it with all guns blazing does.

  6. The Minecraft clones comment was made to remark that probably mostly XBLIG devs are reading these type of reviews. Maybe I am wrong and the main people entering this place are XBLIG end users and buyers, but I doubt it. Feel free to correct me here.

    While it is funny to see how someone picks on someone else from the sidelines, I wouldn’t call it useful (for the dev, it may be for you because it generated a lot of traffic), which is what I did. Nor I think it teaches much to other devs reading the review.

    Of course, it is your website and your time, and it is nice that you spend it reviewing XBLIG games. This was just an opinion on how it could be more interesting/useful for the people that seem to be the main receivers of the reviews.



    • Kairi Vice says:

      My site is read by many XNA developers, but this is not a site created for them. This is a site for people to read an unbiased opinion on a game they might potentially purchase. It’s not up to me to be nice and tell you where you went wrong. You should have figured those things out for yourself before you stuck your game on the market and charged people real money for it.

      My site is for consumers. People want unbiased opinions that are fun to read, but informative and insightful. I want people to keep reading my site, because this is my hobby and I want to be successful at it. If I wrote reviews the way you and your idiot friend want me to, nobody would read it. It would bore them. Hell, it would bore me to write it.

      The truth is, your friend would have reacted the same way even if I was polite. But he brings up the style of my review because he’s hurt but doesn’t want to address the valid criticisms. So instead, he complains that I said his game was “Shitty” instead of being nicer and saying “very bad.” Seriously? That really sounds puritanical.

      I do my best on this site to generate traffic, which in turn will generate sales for games that deserve it. Believe it or not, most people who read my site are not XNA insiders. They’re normal consumers who are looking to spend spare Microsoft Points. They read me because they’re sick of all the cheerleader reviewers who give every game a glowing review. I have to slam the bad games because if I don’t a good review would mean nothing.

      So in the end, I might be harsh and I don’t mince words, but my reviews are honest, entertaining (I hope), and FAIR. Every review starts off with a clean slate. Every developer is on equal footing. And every game gets a second chance with me, no questions asked. I pay for all my own games (I don’t even accept review codes for multiplayer games anymore). I allow developers to write editorials to be posted here.

      I’m destructive for developers? The most respected guy in XNA, without my prior consent or knowledge, just did an editorial on my site saying I’m what XNA has been waiting for. And believe me, nothing in my gaming life has ever made me more proud of that.

      • By your own words and acts you knew the review could be troublesome, and I think there is a lot of ground between the extremes of cheerleading and brutal reviews, which is what I pointed.



  7. BrunoB says:

    As a side note, I think an “Indie Gamer Chick: The Game” title on XBLIG would be spot on, maybe something on the line of Kairosoft’s mobile titles (Game Dev Story and so on)?

  8. the_hans says:

    I understand that for some people the unique form of earning visist is to attack others work gratuitously, with no consideration to it. Today humiliate others work is the order of the day, it is fun for some readers and is a very quick way to get some false recognition. Now you have to ask yourself if this is what you want to get it, hurting people and hurt their ilusions at any price.

    • Jim Perry says:

      So honesty isn’t a good thing? Kairi has praised some games – those that deserve it. She’s not hurting their illusions, she’s shattering them, bringing them back to reality hopefully. Keeping someone living in dreamland that their crappy game is the next best thing to sliced bread isn’t doing them any favors.

  9. the_hans says:

    Extending myself: Before developing games I was a critic in a spanish magazine, I wrote more than 40 articles with thousands and thousands of visits. And never feel the need of call anyones work “pice of shit” to earn them. So I can’t understand it’s need if she believes she is a good writter herself, I think it is just a very poor resource. Just an opinion, of course.

  10. Great article, George…right on all points 🙂

    What stinks about the peer-review system is that it perpetuates the issue…feedback can’t be too harsh because you probably have a game of your own that needs pushed through. Even in the playtesting forums I’ve witnessed a fair share of “by-design” dismissals. It takes a few post-release beatings to realize that pre-release honesty is the best thing for your game.

  11. Jim Perry says:

    The big issue I have with George’s article is that it lumps all XBLIG developers into one category – that of newbie. That’s not the case, and that’s the problem. The developers that are experienced and are trying to make a living off of XBLIG are getting crushed under the mass of newbie games/apps and are leaving, making XBLIB more of a dumping ground.

    The problem is that MS, in their effort to “democratize game development”, didn’t bother to worry about quality. That’s proved to be part of XBLIG’s downfall. The other part is that Xbox gamers don’t care about games that don’t have achievements/GamerScore. That’s another problem entirely that’s out of our control.

    I have no problem with newbies learning game development. The problem I have is that they’re not using the proper pipeline for it. Playtest is what’s meant for developers to “tighten up the graphics” before releasing to Peer Review. Very few do that though because it’s easier to just dump it in Peer Review and get it out to attempt to make a quick buck. And because there are so many people with this mentality, they’ll pass each other’s games. That’s not what MS intended the system to be IMO.

    I understand the desire and fun it is to see your game running on the Xbox. That doesn’t mean you need to inflict it on the Xbox community though. Use playtest to hone your craft. There are enough of us developers that care about XBLIG that if you show an honest desire to become a game developer and that you’re making an effort to improve that we’ll help you along the path. Or we might have before XBLIG became a laughingstock for the most part. Any developer would have to make an effort to get us (or me, at least) to understand that he’s taking game development seriously and trying to become better by using Playtest so I would be inclined to check it out. As it stands, I mostly ignore playtest unless I see something in there from a developer I know or believe to be one that cares about XBLIG.

    While Kairi’s reviews might be helpful to developers, they’re not helping XBLIG’s image. That’s MS’s problem though. Unless they change things drastically, XBLIG is never going to be anything more than a laughingstock with the occasional standout game. Since MS has shown no desire to improve it though (the recent changes don’t count – see my blog more my take on that! :\ ) I don’t anticipate things going anywhere but downhill.

    I’ve tried over the years to maintain a positive attitude, but XBLIG and XNA in general getting tossed on the backburner and ignore over the latest cool thing that other teams have going on (Win8 currently) has made me extremely cynical about things and turned me into a “glass half-empty” person. XBLIG had the potential to be a serious challenger to Steam, but developers are leaving XBLIG for Steam for a reason.

    • Yeah I definitely agree with you. XBLIG needs more of a gauntlet approach to it’s peer review, not the “if it works it’s in” thing we have got going on right now. People say what’s great about XBLIG is that it’s a place where you can sell your game with no prior experience to game developing and I agree with that but we could still have better quality control without having to be a big shot game developer for steam or the likes.

  12. Just to clarify, I was never asked to write this article and this post was in no way related to any particular review on Kairi’s site. I just had some thoughts from a developer perspective that I wanted to share.

    I don’t like Kairi’s style.Mainly because it conflicts with my personality and the way I try to present myself. But I’m objective enough to understand that many people DO enjoy it and I also appreciate the chance for XBLIG developers to experience some intense critique. It’s something the community has been lacking for quite a while.

    For Kairi to soften her words and be a little nicer might be great for me, but bad for the community as a whole. To be honest it’s a similar role that Jim Perry plays as a moderator on the App Hub forums and he and I disagree in a much similar way. His style is not my style. But his style is effective and often works better than mine in getting things done and getting a point across. I’m objective enough to appreciate it even if I don’t like it and I wince often when reading one of his posts.

    So yeah, just to re-iterate. Kairi never contacted me to write this, never suggested that I should. I offered it up completely out of the blue. I had some thoughts churning around in my mind and I wanted to share them with the community.

  13. x35mmx35mm says:

    Cool article, I’m actually excited about the thought of having my game ripped apart on here. When creating its far too easy to get tunnel-vision and not even see the mistakes. Not having easy access to a constant stream of fresh, new playtesters, it’s easy to lose sight of what makes a game fun. Sure you can use playtesting on the Apphub, but in my (limited) experience, the feedback there is rarely critical, and biased amongst developers as explained in the article.

    The only thing I’ll say is that it is a shame that we have to wait until release to get this kind of honest feedback, one reason why I liked the Indies in due time feature! 🙂

    • Kairi Vice says:

      I would LOVE to bring back Indies in Due Time. It was a very popular feature among non-XNA developers. It did serve to build up hype for games.

      It got axed because we couldn’t get developers to submit trailers for it. Period. I would put out weekly calls and get one or two people. Brian and I agreed that the sweet spot is four minimum.

      It is something I would consider bringing back, but the developers need to be proactive and get their trailers out there. Not just for my site, but for all XBLIG sites.

  14. Craig says:

    Being tough enough to take harsh criticism takes quite some time. I remember when I made shoot ’em ups(or shmups for short) using Game Maker years ago(Saberella and Arms of Avalon ring a bell? Probably not lol). People tore the hell into me when I released them! I didn’t understand it at first. Kinda hurt. 😦

    But I soon understood my critics were used to very polished games like ChoRenSha 68k and Armed Seven for the PC, including retail games like Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun. Eventually I did take off my glasses of self-importance and saw that I did get some positive feedback, like how much I improved between both games(was somewhat new to game dev and shmups at the time) and my attempts at emulating the arcade style gameplay of shmups past. If you wanna get past the negative stuff people say about your games, you’re gonna have to learn how to focus more on the positive feedback, band-aid the negative stuff and move on.

    Criticism takes a lot of people by surprise because no one told them that they SUCK, and need to try a little harder, so they continue to SUCK. Kairi Vice, while not the most exceptional model does a great job of this – telling people to focus more on the fundamentals and STOP SUCKING, cuz’ really it ain’t that hard. The better you get, the less criticism you get.

  15. Team Shuriken says:

    Good article, 100% agree with George.

    As a big fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd, Kairi’s bashing style fits right into my taste and since she bashed my game instantly became my favorite XBLI review site.

  16. Pingback: Tales from the Dev Side: 150,000 Served Edition – May 2, 2012 « Indie Gamer Chick

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