Monday, August 17, 2009

Reviewing A Bad Review

Amidst the current tide of really great reviews and praise that has been coming in for AI War (and which I am very grateful for), comes the "on trial" review of the demo in the Indie Gaming Mag, which gave it a cumulative 3.66 out of 10. Don't bother trying to read the review online, it's something you have to buy a subscription to their magazine to read (Update: Now they've put it online. Hooray.).

Disclaimer: I am pretty pissed off, which is hard state to get me to. However, I'll try not to let that color this post too much, because I really do think that IGM is doing some things very, very wrong with their "on trial" system.

The "On Trial" Review System: "N/A" For Uninstallable?
All games in the "On Trial" section are looked at by four reviewers at IGM. The four for AI War scored the game 7, 1, 3, and N/A respectively. I've noticed a surprising number of "N/A" reviews in IGM from the two issues I've looked at. Essentially, anytime a reviewer can't get a game to run or install on the first try, for whatever reason, they give up and post an N/A. In the "on trial feature" in the current issue #6, there is an N/A score for two out of the ten games, for instance (one out of the four reviews of each of the two games getting an N/A, that is). It seems like there were more than that in issue #5, but I may be misremembering; I can't find my copy of that issue, and the download link has expired.

I found it odd when it was other people's games they were reviewing, and figured those games must be very poor indeed if a reviewer could not get them to install, but now I see how little effort they actually put into it. It seems almost downright irresponsible for a reviewer to do something like that. If reviewers gave up every time a AAA title did not install or run correctly on the first try, there would be a lot of N/A reviews in most magazines. This is often not the fault of the game (though sometimes it is), but rather is something that just sucks about PCs in general. I love the PC, but -- news flash -- Windows is not always the most stable, sensible, or reliable.

Also? Because Windows is so unreliable, it takes experts on installing software in order to write software to install other software (say that 10 times fast). Almost no game developers code their own installers (I am tempted to say that no game developers do, but I can't be certain there isn't one out there who did for some reason). So, what you are really reviewing when you review the installer is some other third party (in our case Advanced Installer). There are just so many things wrong with this I don't know where to begin, but I will say that for a magazine supposedly devoted to indie games, it's funny to complain about something so outside the developer's control -- did I mention that installer software is fricking expensive? Advanced Installer was over $500, and it was one of the cheaper alternatives.

Bottom line to players is that they want games to install and run on the first try. I get that, and I agree. I think that any reasonable developer tries to make that happen. But this is Windows, folks. I think we all understand that things will not go perfectly every time. Still, with a dozen or so reviews and an undisclosed-but-bigger-than-a-breadbox number of customers, I'm not fighting with installer issues on an ongoing basis with AI War. People seem to be working it out pretty straightforwardly in most cases, aside from a few odd edge cases where either some other sort of software is interfering, a corrupt copy of the installer is present, or their copy of Windows is just plain effed up.

Music and Sound
The music was "fairly torturous" to one IGM reviewer and "annoying" to another. Fricking ouch. Some other reviewers outside of IGM have also been nonplussed by the music, or didn't mention it at all, but one said "the music is beautiful, engaging and compliments the game wonderfully" (Steve Blanch, Bytten). Others have also commented on the fact that it was good, and it has also been heavily complemented by a number of actual players (one calling it "some of the best music I've heard in any Western game.").

On the flip side, some reviewers have very rightly pointed out that the sound effects are like "extremely small fireworks" (James Allen, Out of Eight Reviews). These reviewers have a great point, and this was justly deserved criticism of the game. Sound effects are something we are working on for future free DLC, to make those more imposing and interesting.

I don't understand the polarization in opinions on the music, perhaps it has to do with occasional drops in sample quality -- Pablo, like me, has to work with the tools he has for now. Or maybe some just don't agree with the style, or maybe it's just taste. I feel like Pablo is being mistreated with the caustic IGM reviews, whatever the case.

More Installer Complaints
The list of prerequisite downloads, and the fact that our EULA is in the installer, really pissed off two of the reviewers. They wanted something that you can just click Next a bunch on and be done with it. While I understand that view, this would make the download around 400MB instead of 80MB. Also, SlimDX does not support that sort of silent install, which pretty much kills that right there.

Also also, for anyone who is already up to date on the .NET Framework and DirectX 9, there's just one little install of SlimDX and the game itself and no reboots. The .NET Framework and DirectX are not exactly mysterious, unusual requirements for software. The only reboot required is from the .NET Framework 3.5, which many people should already have on their system, anyway. I don't feel that AI War should be penalized because a reviewer hasn't been keeping up to date with their Windows Updates.

Bad Review vs. Bad Reviewer
It's not that I think that AI War doesn't have any faults -- it, like all games, does. And tastes vary, too. I get that. Even amongst good reviewers, there have certainly been criticisms of the game that I don't agree with. Those I have to accept and move on. This is not what these IGM reviews are.

Some other reviewers criticize the game for not meeting up with what their ideas of what the game should be (such as: lacking story or lore, or not providing some specific play option). In those cases, as a game designer it is my job to listen to those criticisms carefully, but keep the game true to what its core experience is actually supposed to be. Some criticisms result in changes to the game (I treat critical opinions like I would suggestions from any other player suggestion). Still others I just have to chalk up to differences in taste/opinion, which happens. Every game is not for everyone.

IGM is one of the first times I've run up against what I felt were irresponsible reviewers. Maybe they just had too much else to do with other games that were higher on their priority list, but if that was the case they should not have tried to review AI War at all. If you are going to review a game, you should try, you know, actually playing it a bit. I noticed that, among the IGM reviewers who played AI War and talked about it, the ones who played it longer liked it the best. Is that because they liked it better, or did they like it better because they actually saw more of the actual game? I can't begin to say, but I think the latter is a factor to some degree.

How To Review A Game You Don't Fully Love
When I look at the recent WiiWare game My Life As A Darklord, the first hour or two of that game is absolutely boring in my opinion -- too little is going on, everything is overly simplistic or mysteriously complicated in the wrong places (semi-bad tutorials), etc. And if you lose, you are treated to a lot of repetition. However, once you get past that, the game starts to make sense and is actually a load of fun. This is causing the game to get some mixed reviews, and those who recommend it still tend to caution players about the slow start -- but you'll notice that the reviewers actually played enough of the game to get an idea of what is going on.

Furthermore, if you're just not into a genre it's okay to say so. There's no way I would ever try to review a sports game or a fighting game -- I just don't play those, and I couldn't tell you whether they are good or not. In one sense they all seem pretty uninteresting and mediocre to me, even if they do have pretty graphics -- and the interface of fighting games is unintelligible because I am just not practiced in the art of button combos. Does that make those genres worthless and bad? Of course not. It just means I am not their target audience. I actually have a lot of respect for what both genres do, and they certainly are well-loved by many players (including a number of my friends). I'm not insulted that those other genres exist, and I'm not interested in them simplifying to try to bring me into the fold. We can just be friends, and that's okay.

Other Chicanery
The tutorials in AI War have largely been praised and have seemed to be pretty effective in getting players up to speed. But it seems clear to me that the IGM reviewers, some of them at least, were interested in getting into the game and back out as fast as possible. I got the same impression with Mike and Caspian's reviews of Dark Souls, another indie game skewered in IGM issue 6. Having not played Dark Souls I can't comment on its quality, but from Sam's and Kayla's reviews in IGM I am definitely intrigued. Next to them, the comments from Mike and Caspian seem downright flippant, though. Given the game's review on Game Tunnel, I think I will definitely have to try it out.

Light of Altair is another indie title that I have not played but which seems to have been doing well enough for itself in terms of reviews, and which seems to be doing even better with sales. The verdict in IGM is a 5.75, which is several steps lower than other reviews have been. This in itself is not terribly insidious -- perhaps they are just harsh graders. But I find this telling of the fact that they averaged their scores from non-genre fans and genre fans alike. Their scores for the game were 5, 3, 7, and 8. I'm not sure that averaging those into one number gives any real meaningful information to me about Light of Altair.

Light of Altair is a game that looks to not be my cup of tea for a few reasons, but I respect the game and from what I have seen it deserves more than a 5.75, which is a pretty miserable score (and yet so much better than AI War's 3.66 score, which is what I would give to the guttertrash Wii cash-in games that are sold for $10 -- thanks very much, IGM).

See how easy it is to say "this game's not for me, but if you're into it's style of play you might like it?"

A big thing in a lot of the IGM reviews seems to be the "style" of the game. Does the game have lots of "style" and is it consistent throughout? If yes, hooray. If not, as claimed with AI War, then what were the developers thinking?

Answer: there is more to games than just visual style, and we had a $0 budget at start. If you limit your interest to games with a level of polish like the AAA titles, you will only get indie games from previous AAA developers. Oh, but wait, even the art in Light of Altair was criticized off and on by IGM.

We are sure spending a lot of time talking about art in reviews of indie games, which I thought were supposed to be about more. I know that the art in AI War is not the best. We are actively working on that now that the game is bringing in some money to pay for its own upgrades, but even with all of these upgrades it is not going to look like Homeworld or Prince of Persia or something.

That is, uh, a big part of the difference between most AAA titles and most indie titles. Some indie games look absolutely stellar, but my complaint with them tends to be that they are then too short. Budgets are limited at indie developers, this is an almost universal truth, so you are either going to get a lot of content and lesser production values, or AAA level production values and less content. I'm probably always going to be in the former group, primarily because I value function over form, but also because that's what I'm good at making (I don't have a AAA gaming development pedigree, my background is in business software).

In all fairness, IGM did give a pretty favorable review to Blueberry Garden (7.75 is not a stellar review in my book), and a very good review to Plants versus Zombies. Blueberry has what I would call fairly lackluster graphics, but it has the mysterious "style." As does Plants vs. Zombies. I can't actually disagree with that, both games are quite stylish despite the other detractions, although I do disagree that some of the other games in their list -- AI War included -- don't have a style of their own. I thought Light of Altair was one of the more stylish-looking ones, but it was criticized for certain lapses.

Are all of the above prettier than AI War at the moment? Yes, in most respects. We're working on that, but still I don't feel that AI War is unattractive. Does the game lack visual personality? Yes. So does Chess. Maybe that's part of what they were talking about with "style," which they never bother to explain.

Celebrity Obsession
In the end, looking at the games that were scored relatively well and which received the most attention in IGM, I see that it is mostly the same list that has been getting a lot of attention in the mainstream gaming press. Those games are covered by the mainstream press for a reason -- they are excellent -- but isn't there supposed to be more out there? Shouldn't we actually give more time to games we've never heard of?

Put In Some Time, Please, Or Don't Bother At All
Instead, IGM reviewer Mike complains about AI War: "Honestly, I was so fed up with
this tactical game that I didn't give the gameplay much of a chance." His prior complaints being the installer, the pixelart, the "annoying music," and the fact that there were "three extensive tutorials." Incisive journalism there. I similarly enjoyed his other reviews of the bottom-five rated games in IGM #6.

IGM reviewer Caspian notes that the tutorial is "particularly dull," as contrasted with positive reviews elsewhere such as "It is rare to see a tutorial that not only lets the player jump right into the action, but also entertains while instructing the player" (Chris Beck, The Wargamer). Caspian also criticizes the interface as being "pretty bad an unintuitive," compared to others calling it "a great interface" (Beck) or "the interface in AI War is almost completely fantastic" (Allen).

Caspian also asks "why break convention?" This is an excellent question, and one that Tom Chick does a much better job of answering than I could: "because it's big, different, entirely unprecedented and an exciting way to play an RTS." Caspian further snarks that "It's as if absolutely no external testing managed to provide feedback to the developers." Which is just hilarious, given our growing reputation as one of the developers most open to player feedback. The interface isn't graphical pretty at the moment (another thing on our list to upgrade), but it's extremely functional and has been ever further refined with the help of dozens of players.

One telling fact about how little time Caspian put into the game is the fact that he claims "The tutorial stages can't even be skipped." This is patently untrue. The game shows the tutorials menu when you first load the game, with a big button for "Main Menu" if you prefer not to do them first (although, you'll be pretty lost without them, because this game is so different from most RTS titles). The second time you open the game, it takes you right to the main menu -- so this reviewer never opened it more than once.

Finally, Caspian notes that the game is "essentially... the same fare as pretty much any other RTS." Well done, sir. Thanks for that. Not only did none of the IGM reviewers actually look at or comment on the effectiveness of the AI itself (which is admittedly hard to review unless you sink in a lot of time), they also never mentioned it. It seems that having AI that is "some of the best I've seen" (Blanch) doesn't warrant any discussion or investigation at all, or count as a huge differentiating factor. Similarly, with no actual investigation into more than the most basic parts of the interface and mechanics, there's no time to discover that "there's a lot of 2009 to go, but I'll be surprised if anyone else twists the RTS formula this dramatically and this effectively" (Chick).

In Conclusion
There's a hell of a lot of snark in IGM, and consequently I've been inclined to respond with more snark than I normally would. Normally I try to respect the opinions of others, and allow for differences of opinion. I've weathered quite a few beatings and a fair bit of commentary that I don't agree with, without ever resorting to snark. But this manhandling by IGM is just too ridiculous.

First, I highly recommend if you are an indie developer that you give these guys a miss. Either you are already critically popular and you don't need these guys to reconfirm it, or you are not yet critically popular and you don't need a trashing from them. I'm not sure what the goals of this magazine are -- it's certainly not supporting or nurturing upcoming indie developers, since they are pretty brutal when there is the slightest thing they don't like. I guess they are going for sort of a Simon-from-American-Idol vibe? That's entertaining to a lot of people (not me), so maybe that's what it is.

In fact, a lot of their reviews -- from the way they talk about their favorites to the way they trash those they don't like -- are reminiscent of Idol to me. If I'd known, I'd have never volunteered to be a part of it. My resolution in general is to cast a wide net and let no potential opportunity pass by (this is the only way to make it as an indie developer), but these guys seem to be trying to drive indie developers out of making games. The game Enlightenus "stomps out any flashes of inspiration" in its own design, according to IGM; Hollywood Tycoon is "great in its ability to admit the existing of a sci-fi romantic comedy, but little else;" and even Blueberry Garden "would have been much better as a free Flash game."

Way to support the indie community, guys. I don't know what else to say than that.


Christopher M. Park said...

There is a huge amount of further discussion about this in the Arcen Games forum here

sox3502us said...

It seems that game reviewers have (in some cases) an air of self-importance about them.

The "n/a" score due to installer failures or other complications further illustrates this point. I think a better way for IGF to handle it would be "would a reasonably intelligent PC user be able to troubleshoot and get it working without too much trouble?"

To be quite honest, I can't think of ANY PC game that has ever been 100% smooth to install, upgrade, patch, and play with absolutely no bugs or issues.

Examples: I installed the Demigod demo 2 days ago. I couldn't even get it online due to some network code bug. I spent an hour scouring forums and troubleshooting to try and get it working. In the end I couldn't. (maybe demigod should get an n/a?)

Of course a AAA title will never get a score of N/A though because it is too difficult for reviewers to bash on their primary stream of revenue. (ads from AAA publishers).

Greg said...

It looks like IGM grabs people off the street to write for them? And there "Guide to Writing" is pretty bland and indicative of what to expect from their reviews. No where does it talk about how indie shops should be treated a bit differently than EA or Blizzard or Valve.

IGM is just proving anyone with a Wordpress site can voice an opinion in today's society. Don't feed their trolls! :)

Christopher M. Park said...

I agree completely. I had not seen how they pick their reviewers, man that is pretty crazy. What an unprofessional setup in general they have there. It's a real shame their site gives off such an air of professionalism until you look into it more.

Ryan P Giles said...

Luckily for you only Indie game developers read that crap. True gamers are too busy playing, and they get their updates while at work searching their favorite forums.

Christopher M. Park said...

Yeah, that or regular magazines/sites, which have thankfully been the ones that like the game. Ah well.

brogdogg said...

Christopher, as a fellow coder and gamer, I have enjoyed reading your articles on the AI design. I have never really played an RTS, so I downloaded yours last night and played the trial to check out and thus far I have been nothing but pleased. I think you did a great job on the game and once I get the $20, I am sure I will purchase a key to unlock the full game.

And for the installer, I installed on Windows 7 x64 and had no problems, it only stated I needed the SlimDX distributable. And that downloaded and installed without a problem as well.

Anyways, just wanted to say great job and don't let those bloats get you worked up. ha ha.

Mike said...


First off, I am very sorry that you took such great offense to your score. I would like to note that Demo Reviews are reviewed much harsher than a full review for a few reasons:

1. The 10pt Criteria is Strictly Laid Out i.e. if someone thinks your gameplay is fantastic you get only 1 pt. This is rather different than a 10 pt. scale where 3 is significantly below average. Perhaps Cas's scale is too strict and we should adjust to a more normalized 10pt scale.

2. They are demo reviews and typically take the perspective of a potential customer who is downloading a free game demo. A lot of times, these customers don't give a game much chance.

I think ultimately, AI War Fleet Command was at a huge disadvantage from the beginning and it was probably a poor decision on my part for allowing an intense AI RTS such as yours into the demo review roundup since demo reviews are more snap judgments.

I do think that the install process is overly complex and that you could probably grab some more sales by making it simpler and quicker.

Christopher M. Park said...


Thanks for commenting. It's more than that I take offense at my review score, I think there are a lot of problems with this whole on trial review system.

1. Reviewers can deduct random points from your "strict scale."

2. Reviewers did not spend much time at all with the game in several cases before dismissing the game out of the hat -- Cas clearly did not run the game more than once before deciding it was a run of the mill game.

3. Reviewers are overly caustic in general.

4. Reviewers give up immediately and post an N/A when they can't get the game to run for whatever reason.

Cas's review was arrogant, largely off topic (half of it is about the installer), and filled with factual inaccuracies (the game is "pretty much the same fare as any other RTS," "the tutorial stages cannot even be skipped," plus a number of other things that are technically worded so that they are a matter of opinion, but which are also in stark, completely opposing contrast to every other review we have ever had -- regarding the interface, the tutorials, and the amount of feedback we get from players/testers).

It's irresponsible reviewing, period. I don't care if someone doesn't like the game, not everyone will. But these were hardly reviews at all except in the case of Sam -- there were criticisms that Sam made that I disagree with, but I don't feel like his was an irresponsible review next to the others.

I would seriously question the validity of having reviewers making "snap judgments" on games in the first place. Anyone can do that, and people tend to from screenshots or other tidbits of info, anyway. Reviewers are supposed to be providing information and perspective to help readers make informed choices, right? Snap judgements that are called reviews are not helpful.

Regarding the install process, this is not something I can control. It has the components it needs to install, if you don't already have them, but that's it. I can't change the fact that I am a C# programmer. I can't change the fact that SlimDX doesn't allow for a silent install. There have been a few grumblings elsewhere about the installer, but there have been other people who have commented on how much they liked it. I personally think it is nonideal, mostly if you are not up to date on your Windows Updates, but as good as is possible given current installer technology available.

Thanks for stopping by and posting, but I hope you don't let the fact that I am angry dilute the message of what I am trying to say. You guys should really take a long hard look at what you are doing with the "on trial" section. There's also a big difference between "humorously sarcastic and cynical" (see Out of Eight), and "caustic jerk" (see Cas).

Mike said...


I'm not going to defend Cas or his comments, but I will pass on your comments if you wish and keep an eye on him.

I do agree that our demo review scale should change to a more traditional 10 is perfect, 1 is treadful, 5 is average type thing so it's easier for a casual reader to understand.

I definitely hear what you're saying and don't want snap judgements to proliferate reviews. In fact, I would be completely open to including some of what you said/posted in your article in the next issue of the magazine (I'll contact you in the future about that).

Really sucks that your installer and the tech you used required all that. A large majority of people could not get the game running (by the time they sent in their reviews and told me, I was up against a deadline). I definitely understand your criticisms of my review and I was somewhat tied to the review system: The game didn't install painlessly and the whole process seemed long for retro style graphics/sounds. I tried to indicate in my review that if strategy style games are not your thing, you should stay away from the frustration of this demo. You're right though, if it was a general 1-10 scale though, your game would've fared better (from me) since games are more than the sum of their parts.

Our full reviews also have a lasting appeal category which games such as yours do extremely well in.

Thanks for the input. The Demo Reviews are a newer feature and need some adjusting.

Christopher M. Park said...

Mike -

Fair enough about Cas, he's his own person. Pass on my comments if you wish, but I'm not sure I care to have any discussion with him on the topic. He does not strike me as a reasonable person, and I don't care to get into a shouting match with him.

You're welcome to use my comments in a future version of the magazine if you wish. You guys have amazing production values and what seems to be a very great setup for the site, distribution, etc. You are ideally placed. However, I just feel like the tone of a lot of the reviews can be overly negative in general for what is, after all, a magazine devoted to indie games -- many of which are spare time projects, zero budget projects, or at other serious disadvantages to AAA games.

I have often complained that the mainstream gaming press can be too positive and too caught up in hype for games, so I'm not suggesting you go all rainbows and puppies and give everything a similarly high, meaningless score. I'm also not suggesting that you only rate most games in the 7-10 score range -- some indie games are indeed complete dreck. However, for even the terrible ones that a twelve year old made in his spare time or whatever, there is a nicer way to say that. The person who makes those terrible games might later turn around to make something better, if you don't discourage him out of it first.

That part has nothing to do with me or how you reviewed me, since AI War is very far from dreck despite the graphics, but hopefully you see my point. That's what I mean by "nurturing" the industry you are talking about. The caustic put-downs that were prevalent in almost all of the reviews (especially that Blueberry Garden "would have been better as a free flash game" -- that one really bugs me a lot, even though I have yet to play that game) are simply not helping anybody that I can see.

I'm very surprised that a large majority of people said they could not get AI War to install. I have not heard that from anyone else, ever, except when the installer version was corrupted at one point (Filefront corrupted an upload and then that got propagated elsewhere). At this point AI War is one of the best-selling non-darling indie games of the year, it's a few months away from providing a fulltime income for myself and a few others, so it doesn't appear that many people are wrestling with the installer overly much.

But, point taken that there is a lot of stuff upfront for the game. Unless you are up to date with windows updates, in which case you have the one little 12MB SlimDX install, which does not require a reboot or anything. That's just the curse of the .NET programmer, I guess. It's better than having to install .NET and the giant XNA runtime, though. You're going to start seeing a lot more indie games with that as a requirement, assuming all of them don't just go for the 360.

Anyway, your willingness to discuss this is appreciated and unexpected. Thanks again for stopping by.

Lars said...

Mike: I found out about the 10 point criteria after reading several demo reviews and was completely surprised to see it was so strictly laid out, in no small part because the reviewers remove points for whatever they feel like (which is crazy. You get one point for good gameplay, but can lose one because the game comes in a zip file instead of using an installer?). I accept that there are differences in opinion, but the review scores vary for reasons beyond what I consider to be taste unless writers are reviewing games in genres they dislike, leaving them unlikely to enjoy even the best examples of that sort of game. One set of reviews I looked at gave two 1's, a 5, and an 8. I don't believe that the criteria can be so differently interpreted in any responsible way that scores can range from 'downright terrible' to 'very good'.

The reviewers in general were very negative and sometimes seem to parade around their ignorance of the very game they're reviewing, commenting on how little they bothered to play it before writing an insulting review that will be telling readers to stay away from the game. Reviewers don't exist to throw insults around at games and the people who made them. They exist to inform their readers, the potential players of the game who are interested in it enough to read the review. I feel that some strong thought needs to be put into this section of the publication so that it better benefits its readers and doesn't a disservice to them or the very games that allow the magazine to exist in the first place. A bad review for a bad game is fine, but please try to be informed about them and less superficial, even if it is only for a demo; it still carries a lot of weight. The reviewers supposedly have enough appreciation of indie games to be reviewing them for a magazine, so more effort to stay true to that would be a really great step.

Mike said...


I think you are echoing a lot of what Chris and I discussed. The scoring system certainly has been brought to our attention and will be addressed. I think the problem in general is that when the system was originally conceived it was presented to me as a tool for developers to gauge their demo (not their game). In reality, the reviews need to be for the gamers and readers.

I disagree that "most" of the reviewers are negative. I think there are 1 or 2 who are problematic or overly negative.

Finally, having a .zip file for your demo is totally unprofessional for an indie developer. I agree that this shouldn't be weighed the same as gameplay, but don't defend someone distributing a game as a zip file. Commercial AAA titles don't ask customers to unzip a folder to play their game and neither should indies.

Anonymous said...


I have just spent 40 minutes installing the pre-requisites for AI-War demo and so I am writing this before I have to do the mandatory re-start of Windows.

I am a long time .NET developer and I understand completely that this is not something you have any control over. Apart from the (understandable) choice to use .NET 3.5 technologies in AI-wars, that is.

The major problem for me is that the .NET 3.5 SP1 installer is so awful. The progress bar jumps all over the place, eg. it gets to 6 MB of 56MB and then goes back to 0MB. I cannot believe a company like Microsoft can release such utter crap.

The big problem for you as the vendor, is that in the eyes of most customers you created and own the entire install and you are making them go through it. It's even worse when all they want to do is play your demo just to see if they want to purchase it.

You are not the only company to have exactly this problem with .NET installation. See Paint.NET at:

Also see GiniPic at:

On some further research, I believe the SP1 install could be using the Client Profile which may explain the unacceptable progress bar behaviour.

The reason I felt the need to comment is that I currently stick to .NET 2.0 in my applications for exactly this reason. Until XP goes away and everyone gets .NET 3.5 + by default, the level of frustration and inconvenience to customers/users is just stupid.

If your customers are technically advanced / developers, they can probably handle this with out major issues. If they are non-technical "normal people", I can see the majority thinking the effort to install is just not worth it.

Once again I am a developer myself and know exactly where you are coming from. I think your negative review probably greatly stems from from the negative install issues.

From a selfish viewpoint, it is also incredibly instructive to see real-world issues regarding deploying .NET to customers, and how to overcome them, so thanks.

Anyway, best of luck with AI-wars, I'm looking forward to trying the demo , after I restart of course ;)