The Captains Speaketh – New Review Format

Hello everybody, and welcome to the great big review policy discussion. Since it would be best to write reviews that we can add to the big review databases in the internet for exposure, naturally the first thing to discuss would be our review policy.

The reason that I want this to be in conversation form, of course, is because we have no single review structure, and thus, the way each of us rate our games will be entirely different because of the different contexts that they are placed in. Thus, I ask you all this to begin : What is your criteria for ranking a game?

Suikoinifity: I’m not afraid to admit it, I am biased and my review scores are going to be particularly objective. I think a 100 point scale would fare better than a 10 point scale because of those times I want to dock just a little off the grade of a game for things that bug me.

That is, my bias is usually favorable toward the games I play, and I want to subtract as little as possible unless a game is a piece of shit all the way through.

The qualities that hold the most weight in how I review a game are gameplay, immersion through visuals/music (atmosphere) and lasting impressions. Least important are game length and replayability, because chances are, I’m not going to have much time to replay entire games unless they’re of the shorter variety. So if I love a 3 hour game, it’s going to get the highest score I can reasonably give so long as it immerses and entertains me.

In all fairness, there are games that don’t rely on atmosphere or leaving an impression — the junk food sort of game, and things like that I would take into account and put 90 – 95 of my grade on gameplay alone.

However, readers be warned, I am not writing my reviews to accommodate how the average gamer would like or dislike a game as some reviewers do. My scores are strictly of my own opinion and I take the taste of no other gamer into account.

If I know a lot of people are going to hate a game I found some fun out of like… say Mindjack or Duke Nukem Forever or if the game appeals to a certain taste, those things have no influence. Same with the popular games that I think suck, no I will not raise my grade accordingly. At the end of my reviews I plan to cite why I took a certain amount of points off to make it more clear why the game got the score that it did.

Suiko took quite a liking to Mindjack.

Steven “DPX”: I rank a game in four categories: Story and Concept, Graphics and Presentation, Music and Sound, and Playability and Ease of Control. It looks like there’s eight, but it’s really just four. This is so that if there’s nothing to rate in one category (or it’s not the focus of the game), then I can fall back on the other aspect. Take for instance Super Mario Galaxy 2. There’s really no story to rate. If there is one, it would be unfair to rate it as it’s not the main focus. Mario Galaxy 1 though would have its story ranked though.

Story and Concept: Is the story compelling? Interesting? Does it pull you in? Or is it boring? Poorly conceived? How about the Concept of the game? Does it bring fresh ideas? Does it change a currently established idea? Or does is rehash old ideas and do nothing to it?

Graphics and Presentation: Graphics is pretty self explanatory. In all honesty, I tend to lean more toward the artistic side of graphics, rather than how photo-realistic the graphics are. But I’m open minded to new looks. Presentation is how the game presents itself. It’s somewhat of a HUD based affair for me, but the cinematography is also graded.

Music and Sound: I do grade sound-effects. Voicework is also part of the sound. Music has to fit the mood, be listenable on its own, and be memorable.

Playability and Ease of Control: This is where most of my reviews boil down to. I tend to have a lot to say when it comes to gameplay. Playability is basically if the game is playable. Can I get from point a to point b and enjoy it? Then there’s ease of control, which is the layout of commands on the controller. Does the layout make sense or does it feel like a Rubik’s Cube in my hand?

These four categories get ranked and are most important to me. Online is much too varied to be ranked fairly to me. Also, I really don’t play online often. Replay value is a simple High-Moderate-Low affair. And also, unlike other review sites who seem to give out “rare” perfect scores around Christmas time, I never, EVER, give out perfect score. I stand by the definition of perfect, and no game is ever perfect to me.

Super Mario Galaxy had practically no story. So Steven DPX would leave "Story" of of the review.

Suikoinfinity: It’s a good thing you mention that Steve, because I know some people throw out 10’s pretty easily, and even for me that would be excessively rare. Even though I tend to be on the side of the game, I expect most of my grading to be in the 60 – 90 range.

Prota: I think that’s probably going to be unanimous at The Wired Fish. Too many places hand out 10’s like they’re candy. A game doesn’t need a 10 out of 10 rating to be a good game, let alone a game worth playing.

Steven “DPX”: Those 10/10 scores just become fodder for game advertisements. You don’t really see quotations like “One of the most compelling games in years.” or something like that. And James is right. The 100 Point Scale is more manageable for when little things knock a game down. My old scale went in increments of .25. With this, I can dock a small amount of points off for small mistakes.

Suikoinfinity: That’s what I was afraid of, I’ll be coming out with 9.3’s, 6.9’s etc if we went out of 10 and it’ll become unwieldy…

One matter we haven’t discussed though is how we might handle reviews from multiple people; for instance the new release of Sonic CD just came out and both myself and Tony beat it with slightly opinions to say the least.

In that case, would we combine our powers and get the average of both scores rounded to the nearest whole number?

Steven “DPX”: Well there’s the old GameInformer route where there would be one main review and in the corner there was a Second Opinion. However, the main review reigned supreme and was tabulated.

Then there’s the Famitsu route where all of their scores are added to a final. They each get a 10-scale, and come together for a 40-scale (since 4 people reviewed a game).

Doing averages if it’s two people would be fine. But once three people enter the mix, it becomes uneven if someone has a wildly different score. Say James gives a 90, Anthony a 85, and I 60. The average would be 78. My score would pull everyone else down. 4 people would actually be fine as all you’d have to do is average out the median. But there’s no guarantee 4 of us would be getting a game at the same time.

Or you could split the score to 50/50 if it were two people, and both scores added to 100.

Suikoinfinity: Hmm, so the only case where we’re fucked is when we have three people, otherwise we have options…

Steven “DPX”: Pretty much. Maybe for the sake of ease, the most that should review a game is two people.

Hachi76: I’ll support whatever scale you guys go with. as for my criteria:

For Games:

Graphics: How pretty a game looks, both artistically and conventionally. This takes into account not only the prettiness of the graphics, but the design of the universe (ie the game can have bleeding texture resolution, but if the universe is all drab and grey it is a major turn off) and how well the style of the game fits or enhances the playing world

Sound: Music, voice acting and the like. For the acting, does it fit the game? Not every game needs oscar-worthy performances, they just need to contour to their creation. For music, will it stick with me after? Is it beautiful, memorable tracks for an epic adventure? Quirky J-rock for a eccentric journey? As long as it fits the mood the game is trying to create, it’s all good, and bonus if it hits me particularly hard.

Story: Do I care about these characters? Granted, like most things, this will be variable for the game. As long as it is equal to its mission, the score here will be fine. So a game like, say, Katamari, will not be docked for having virtually no story to speak of, due to the nature of the beast, nor will it be praised. A game like Lost Odyssey, on the other hand, will be boosted by the incredible quality of its world and characters, and those memory sequences for further immersing me in the chacracters. A major part of my scoring for some games, this is. Tangentially related, if a game is meant to be lighthearted, like Crash Twinsanity or Rayman, how fun/funny the characters and universe are.

Gameplay: The end all-be all. Granted, everything else makes the experience, but this is the grand weight that will tip the score. If a game is really good elsewhere, but only average here, the score will be tipped accordingly (to use an example from the site, Crash, which I loved otherwise, only got an 8 because the gameplay was, frankly, standard, and only served as a means to get to the next part of the hilarious and entertaining character/story section.). Meanwhile, a game that is terrible otherwise but has really good gameplay won’t really do well, but will survive better than others. This is the most important one because it effects the final score more than anything.

Gameplay will be the tipping point for Hachi76 when he reviews games.

And yeah, these rules are not absolute, I’m more instinctual when I review, but if I had to put it in to words…yeah.

Prota: I always did like the second opinion pieces. It’s helpful when you want to look at more than one review for a game, and you don’t even have to go to different site in this case.

Suikoinfinity: If we did go second opinion article how would we decide which review is the official for scoring purposes and which one is the second opinion?

Steven “DPX”: That might be the best approach.

Suikoinfinity: I mean, it wouldn’t matter if we had two similar opinions, but what if there is a huge split between them score-wise, would we stick with the more positive or negative review?

Prota: It wouldn’t be about positive or negative reviews getting preference. We’re expressing our opinions, not trying to impress anyone. So the score doesn’t determine which is the primary review. However, we would have to find a decent way to decide.

Steven “DPX”: Maybe those with more experience with a series/genre could be the main one. Or we could do a coin flip.

This is under the pretense that for newly released games, some of us could get the game at the same time (like Catherine), right? ‘Cause if one were to get the game later, the other who gets the game first would be the first one to review.

Suikoinfinity: I guess the coin flip works, and yeah, that’s the pretense, otherwise first person to get and play through the game gets dibs.

Prota: Yes, in general it would be a “first come, first serve” basis. The problem would only lie if more than one person got the game at the same time and planned on reviewing it.

Suikoinfinity: And in those cases we do the ol’ coin flip, I like

Steven “DPX”: Then a coin flip it is!

Prota: However, I don’t like the coin flip being absolute…as that may be too much power for one coin to control. If two people want to review the same game and a coin flip is the decider, then when the next game those same two people want to review pops up, the roles should switch. That way someone doesn’t have the chance of getting bad luck and losing out to the primary review all the time.

Or at the very least, if not an automatic switch, the reviewers should discuss it a bit and then see if it has to come to a coin toss round 2.

Steven “DPX”: I like the sound of that.

Suiokoinfinity: That’s perfectly fine, we could rotate the coin flip to after each guy gets a stab at primary review, nah, I like the first option better.

LSlick: Hmmm, well personally i prefer the 10 point scale rather than the 100 point scale…i think the grade difference in a 10 point scale allows the reader to distinguish the good games from the slightly better ones.That’s just me though. The way I review games are based off presentation, replayability, score or sound, and story. I like the idea of two readers giving a second opinion similar to what IGN and Gameinformer does it. It allows the reader to see how different people see the game. If both reviewers think a game is good then that’s great. But there are times where one reviewer gives a game a good score while another gives it a bad review similar to games like Transformers: War on Cybertron, Rage , or Dragon Age 2.

Many reviews of Rage ranged from glowing to lukewarm.

Suikoinfinity: One coin flip per pair of reviews, it works out perfecto XD btw, Steve, just in case we encounter this problemo with Sonic CD, can we test this practice out? I want you to flip a coin and say what the result of the coin flip is — I think Tony and myself already know the rules behind our flipping XD.

Steven DPX: Test it now?

Suikoinfinity: Go for it!

Prota: Yeah, just flip it!

LSlick: I call heads.

Steven “DPX”: Okay, for testing purposes. Lewis is Heads, James is Tails… best two outta three. *flipping coin*

Prota: Actually, I’m heads and James is tails.

Steven DPX: *Flip reset.*

Suikoinfinity: Yeah, that’s the rule, Tony’s familiar with it, this isn’t a practice flip, it’s the real deal LMAO

Prota: Yup, this is for Sonic CD.

Steven “DPX”: loool. Okay. For real this time. Hold the comments. *Flipping coin*

Suikoinfinity: I hope all our flips have this much suspense…

A coin flip... for Sonic CD.

Steven “DPX”: In a best 2 of 3 flip, heads appeared twice in a row. Therefore, Anthony wins. He will do the main review for Sonic CD.

Suikoinfinity: Phew, I was kinda hoping he won this time, now on to the second part : Are we going to put both reviews in the same article or separately?

Prota: Dammit, I was kinda hoping you would win, lol.

Hmm, that’s a toughie. I guess we could do them separately and then link to the other one at the end of the review.

Suikoinfinity: Cause I could just type my stuff and then paste it when he wraps up in that case, hey, at least the positive comes first XD

Steven “DPX”: It should be separate. If both are together, the article might be too long. Second Opinion should make clear it is second opinion. Primary Review. should link to Second Opinion when its released.

Plus, I know how hard it is to confine a review to just one or two paragraphs when you got a lot to say. So they should be separate.

Prota: I wouldn’t say “positive”, but I will talk about the good and the bad, even though one outweighs the other… –_–‘

Suikoinfinity: Gotcha, I’ll link to primary too of course. Looks like the first big review of the break is gonna be Sonic CD XD, I will be fair and play through as Tails for a bit before writing though, because that’s what makes it an all new experience.

Hachi76: What an interesting new day has dawned for TWF. By the way, bossman, my Anime Reviews and Kung Fu reviews are exempt from any changes, right? Since there is no metacritic pressure.

And I reiterate, I will follow whatever you guys decide.

Suikoinfinity: Actually Dave, you might not be exempt for all Kung Fu reviews because they have a whole movies section to metacritic, even music O_O… as for Anime I guess it depends if they have a page or not, cause I searched “Love Hina” and found nothing.

Steven “DPX”: Metacritic has I think for anime and movies, but it still has primary focus on games. So the Anime and Kung-fu should be exempt. For now at least.

Hachi76: I agree with bossman’s “For now” part. If this goes well, and we do get exposure, then for professionalism’s sake I’ll come up with a scale (I already know my criteria, just felt not necessary to list it here), but for now, I’ll leave it as is and just conform my VG reviews to you guys’ standards.

Suikoinfinity: Sounds good, but remember, don’t conform the entire review to those standards, just do your usual thing and tack a score at the end of it XD.

Prota: Don’t worry, I should have plenty to say. Just need more time to play around with Tails, check out the American soundtrack.

Steven “DPX”: Yeah. You can still do your review format. The only thing that changes is how you score.

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