As of March 24th, 2010…all our forthcoming reviews adhere to the new system we’ve concocted in our imaginary labs. It’s ALIVE!
Last Updated: July 8th, 2011.
Yup. Back with a vengeance.
New features I presume?
Indeed-y do. First up: “Plays Like”, inspired by the folks over at Extra Credits. A small section after “Parent Talk” which likens the game in question to other ones out there. We may expand this bit by comparing a game to other forms of entertainment in film and TV, but this bit will mostly focus in comparing games to each other. Also, just as a reminder to all four of you reading this, but we’ve added (coughrippedoffkotakucough) a “Review Basis” bit which basically describes how many hours the reviewer has played along with the number of modes played and achievements unlocked.
Nice. What’s the other feature?
Scores are back.
Yeah, we’re going to start using numbers again.
…the same scores that you’ve been against since the new review format?
More or less.
I give up. You guys never make up your minds on anything! Give me one good reason why you’re using scores again?
We’re trying to maximize the viewership of our site. By not attaching scores to our game reviews, we can’t post our reviews in sites such as Metacritic and GameStats. We need more views so we can go to E3.
Fair enough. You did say more or less though. What are you changing?
While we’re basing this off our old system, we want to try to bring in all sides of the argument and to be as fair as possible. As we previously mentioned, reviews are opinionated pieces, and we now realize that scores fall under that opinion as well. There’s no perfect way to score and games are never scored fairly when opinion is involved.
So here’s how this is going to work. We’re doing this in three steps:
1) First off, we won’t score individual categories for simplicity’s sake. Only a general score in a 10-point scale, going up or down by 0.5 (again, for simplicity’s sake). However, it will be given twice. The first score is the average scale based on the general opinion of the internet. Sites such as Metacritic, GameStats, and user reviews will help weigh in this scale.
Here’s how this scale will look: 7 +/- 1.
+/- literally means plus/minus, and 7 is the average of this scale. As you can see, this scale is limited to plus or minus 1 point, but can go up to 2 as well like so: 7 +/- 2. The latter will be limited to games with highly conflicting scores, while the former represents your standard scale.
2) Our personal score as a site which will most likely fall under this scale, but again that’s not necessary should the reviewer feels that his score has to be outside of it. Let’s have that example up again: 7 +/- 1. If the reviewer gives it an 8, the score is termed as INFLATED. If the reviewer gives it a 7, it’s NEUTRAL. 6 means DEFLATED. The term OUT OF SCALE should be used in combination with the previous over and under-inflation terms should a reviewer insists on scoring outside of the average. So far, everything will be displayed like so:
Score Scale: 7 +/- 1
Personal Score: 8 (INFLATED)
3) Here’s where opinion comes into play. Finally, the reviewer will write up his main reasons of the over- or under-inflation of these scores, which reflects on the scale itself and what he/she has written in the review. Like so:
Reason for +1 inflation: over-the-top humor
Reason for -1 inflation: conflicting controls
The reviewer will then mark which ones he has used to affect his score, like so:
Reason for +1 inflation: over-the-top humor (used)
Reason for -1 inflation: conflicting controls
This reflects our current ongoing example and can vary depending on how the reviewer wants to use this scale.
This sounds overly complicated? What gives?
All I want to do is highlight the terms: inflated, neutral, and deflated. Seems like the most efficient method to do so. These terms have been inspired by many gamers who claim that gaming media sites tend to over- and under-inflate proper scores, constantly countering giving their personal opinions on what should be a fair score to give to specific games. The truth of the matter is that none of us can ever give a unified score that’ll satisfy readers around the world, thus the liberal use of these terms attached to our own scores. Same-minded readers may agree with whatever score we give, while others tend to reply with their own. It’s a never-ending cycle of over and under-inflating numbers.
As usual, any questions/suggestions from our staff and readers are welcome with open arms. Your opinions will help shape up this experiment into a healthy scoring system. Don’t forget, we’re keeping everything we’ve created in our current review format. These are just add-ons to help get us into the mainstream. A review template will be up soon for everyone to read.
So you’re going back to the drawing board with written reviews?
Yes, more or less. We’re so bored out of our minds right now we just decided to develop our site a bit.
Why? What’s wrong with your current tried-and-true method of reviewing games?
Are you kidding me? “What’s right about it?” is the better question to ask. It’s tasteless…just like an eggplant. I hate those things. We’ve been set on changing the way we review games for a year now. It just took us awhile to settle on something concrete. Did I mention that I hate eggplants?
What’s so different about your reviews this time around?
We’re ditching the essay-based format for a more streamlined one that focuses on pros and cons. While article-type reviews don’t seem to have any restrictions per-se, the material can be rather drab. You’re forced to write about most of the game’s aspects (like an automated instruction manual) while offering constructive criticism simultaneously, thus having a bulk of text that may be inconvenient to the reader. Yes, we can show off our writing skills freely, but in this day and age only 1% of you gamers actually read through the whole review. Most of you just skip to the final score or browse Metacritic and be done with it. This is a 100% proven scientific statistic…ask the guys who believe that chickens can fly! It may be the only correct fact I know about chickens.
Well you don’t seem to be offering anything new. Sounds like Kotaku’s reviews to me. What gives?
We’re not ripping off Kotaku. “Inspired by” is a better phrase to use. We believe that their reviews are the most efficient in the gaming journalism circle today. Our format has other inspirations, too: most notably EGM’s old method of previewing games and Clint Eastwood’s infamous western flick, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”
Is that the movie that contains the “Do you feel lucky?” line?
No. That’s “Dirty Harry”.
How about “Go ahead. Make my day.”?
No! That’s “Sudden Impact”.
How about you let me finish my explanation before testing me on movie trivia?! Anyway, The bulk of the review will have five parameters: the great, the good, the so-so, the bad and the ugly. The great and the ugly contain a game’s highest and lowest point, respectively…only ONE point can be elaborated on in those categories. The good, bad and so-so, however, can have multiple points. Additionally, for the sake of being funny, you will occasionally find “the great” and “the ugly” replaced with other similar descriptions…it all depends on the subject matter and the reviewer’s sense of humor (yes, we’re that desperate to make you guys like us. We’re funny, right? PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LAUGH AT MY JOKES AND AWESOME HUMOR!). These parameters are preceded by an introductory paragraph and a segment called “Parent Talk”, which describes the game’s technical features and ESRB rating. The review concludes with the lowdown; a final paragraph and our new innovative key word system!
Innovative key word system? You mean numbers, right? No. That’s a fad that died out long ago. We’re completely eliminating numbers from the picture since all people do is look at the score and ditch the review itself. Seriously, when is the last time you made sense of a 9/10 rating for a game? It’s neither universal nor objective. A 9 from SpotGame can convey a completely different perspective from NGI. Let’s not get into decimals, either. A 9.8/10? Come on! What does that even mean? This isn’t rocket science, you know. It’s not like the world will explode if you miscalculate a 0.2 off perfection (although that technically has nothing to do with rocket science, you clearly understand what I’m trying to say…hopefully). Project COE has been giving numbers based on our gut feeling and nothing more, and we’re literally getting stomachaches from barfing random numbers based on what guts are telling us. As Steven and Jarrod mentioned during our discussion, numbers are for fanboy flame wars and Metacritic. We care about neither. Get it? Got it? Good!
Here’s how we’ll analyze games from now on, on a scale from high to low. The phrases speak for themselves, but we’ll explain in detail just in case. Note that a game will not be restricted to one phrase in the lowdown. Depending on the critic, we may use multiple phrases thus encompassing all options of the appeal of the game in question. For example, I may highly recommend everyone to buy Vagrant Story II, but still warn the general audience of lack of tutorials and hand-holding that will eventually confuse the player. Some may consider it a rental because of these reasons alone.
The following are the general keywords we’ll lean to weaving within our lowdown paragraph.
BUY IT: A great game that needs to be played immediately due to high entertainment and replay values. One heck of a roller-coaster ride. You may not have the incentive to revisit it soon after your first run, and you may trade it or sell it to play something else. Nonetheless, the experience is unforgettable.
TRY IT: the phrase “try before you buy” is praise-worthy. The game in question is definitely worth checking out, but you may want to give it a test run to find out if it’s truly your cup of tea. A demo, a play-through at your friend’s place, or even if it’s on display in your local retail shop–all good options.
APPROACH WITH CAUTION: the gray area in our ratings system. Can tip either scale. A mixed bag of impressions. Buying it, waiting out, renting it, or avoiding it entirely — it all depends on your gaming tastes. It can even be the best game you’ve ever played if you’re willing to overlook the negatives. You can even be the type of gamer who doesn’t tolerate these negatives at all despite the good value found. The diamonds in the rough may be worth a lot to you, yet worth nothing at all to others.
RENT IT: a one-time experience. A popcorn game. May be fun for a short while. Once you’re done with it, however, you’ll never look back.
AVOID IT…AT ALL COSTS: our worst award (duh!). The wall of shame. Don’t even think of playing this game.
I remember your rating system being quite different. How come you changed from finalized ratings to “key word”-based ones?
It’s true. The keywords above used to be final stamp ratings, yet the more we relied on it, the more we’ve noticed that we’re still using a tiered numbered system in a way, only this time around words replace numbers. Our objective was to completely eliminate this type of criticism from our site, and we’ve failed to do so with our new ratings. Thus, to rectify the situation and not let all the work go to waste, we’re still keeping our catchy phrases only now they’re weaved into the final paragraph of the review and we have the ability to use more than one. Though occasionally you’ll see a couple of games pop up with a final decision (like 2010′s Quantum Theory being a complete waste of your time and money, no exceptions).
Talk about overkill. Anything else?
Yeah. We have a special scale for download games. Before asking me why, ask yourself this: “Am I stupid?” After reading our retail scale, you should know that you can’t rent or buy download games. You either save ‘em in your hard drive or don’t. Thus, the retail scale needs to be trimmed down and renamed appropriately.
MUST DOWNLOAD: needs to be played on release day. It’s just that good of a download game which fits well with its suggested price.
DECENT DOWNLOAD: not bad, yet not excelling. You can wait on it and decide later. Perhaps a certain price drop will motivate you to download it at a later date.
DON’T DOWNLOAD: speaks for itself. A waste of hard drive space.
I’m still not convinced. You guys sound biased to me.
It’s impossible to be 100% objective. If you want that kind of writing, go read manuals and strategy guides. What makes a review special is the presence of both subjective and objective material. Meaning: we don’t take the average of the number of good and bad points and weigh the final score accordingly, nor do we try and fully appreciate the general tastes of the whole gaming population. The former basically puts us back in square one since we’re using numbers to review our games, and the latter is simply impossible to do with a few exceptions. Instead, we compare the game in question to our personal experiences of other games within the genre itself.
Let’s talk examples. The latest anime-based RPG from that friendly neighborhood niche game publisher down the street has just been released. We don’t immediately hate on it because it uses anime and its audience is small compared to fighters and FPS games. We simply compare its material to other anime-based RPG out there. Is it too straight-forward with its influences or does it try to please and surprise its intended audience? Likewise, a post-apocalyptic shooter from that publisher with a big budget has also hit shelves recently. As you readers know, the FPS genre is overcrowded with releases each month. Does this new one stack up to the latest stuff or should you go hunt down that FPS sequel from a one-hit-wonder-turned-franchise released a few months ago? See what I mean?
I can go on forever here, so I hope you’ve gotten the point. We’re trying to be as fair as possible within the realm of subjectivity and each of our personal experiences and opinions.