I think I’m having more fun rating and playing games in this contest than I did making mine – and I have to admit, it was pretty fun to make! There are a lot of very talented developers out there, I was quite surprised by the number of high quality entries into this contest. It has made me start thinking of the rating system though, and how it could be improved. As it stands, I think that the rating system is in need of some work – although I’m by no means claiming to be an authority about “the way things should be”.
First off, I think that there are too many categories. My thoughts on each one:
Overall: This rating is of course important. I think that it is the most important rating, and it should be visibly separated from the others. I also think that it should be described on the page as not being an average, rather being representative of the overall opinion of the game. When I’m rating games, I rate games on this based on my experience playing them, trying to separate the other parts.
Innovation: I also like this category – it rewards outside of the box thinkers. I’m not sure that innovation is the correct word, I think that uniqueness or something might better serve the purpose.
Fun: I think that this fits in with overall, although I do like this category, I found it hard to consistently rate games with it.
Theme: This one is really important for the spirit of the contest. I think that it should be listed beside Overall, as the two core ratings for a game.
Graphics: I don’t like this rating as it stands, since it seems to reward visual complexity rather than aesthetics, which I think is a mistake. One of my favorite games in terms of aesthetics is Collect by Amidos. Graphically it’s simple – most people in the contest have the skill to implement graphics as Amidos did – but aesthetically it’s incredibly well put together I think, subtle and tasteful. Yet this category seems that it would not reward that. Perhaps “visual style” would be a better name for it than aesthetics, although maybe we can come up with something better.
Audio: Another staple, I found this category the easiest to rate. More on this later.
Humor: I’m not sure about this category. I only gave a few games a rating within this category. I think that the problem with it is that it covers too few games – of the 70 games I’ve rated, I’ve given a humor score to maybe 5 of them. The other problem that I see with it is that it’s too exclusive to one style of game. While funny games get their own category, serious ones don’t. Scary ones don’t. I think that this category might be worth dropping altogether.
Mood: I didn’t rate any games in this category. I don’t know what its purpose is, and I don’t see how it captures something different than innovation, fun and overall. In this case, it seems too vague in its intent. Looking back at Ludum Dare 23 winners, it seems to be about some emotional response – which would be too specialized (and perhaps better labelled as “Emotion” than “Mood”).
So those are my thoughts on the rating system – nix Humor and Mood, rename Graphics to something that encompasses style instead of just graphics, and rearrange the order and emphasis on the page.
The other issue that I see is that there’s no guideline for ratings. I came up with my own system beforehand so I could be more consistent across games, but it might be nice to have a guideline beforehand to normalize things, so that people are more consistent with their ratings, but more to guide them. My system (not saying that this is the correct way, but just how I tried to stay fair in rating other peoples games). Going below three stars usually meant something wasn’t implemented:
Overall: Usually three stars. Four stars if an interesting twist, or good implementation. Five stars if particularly clever. Independent of other ratings.
Innovation: Three stars for a well implemented take on an old game. Four if there’s a twist – lots of that in this contest, with people taking interesting views on evolution. Five if it’s something I hadn’t seen before.
Fun: General feeling – I couldn’t really find a way to objectify “fun” (thankfully!), so if I enjoyed the game, I gave it a three. If I found myself hoping that it got developed post compo, 4. If I played it again, 5.
Graphics: I treated this in two ways – artistic skill – if you made something that obviously took a lot of technical skill, but also if you made something that was well put together, even if not graphically complex.
Audio: I think I had the best system for this. Baseline is 1 (N/A if no sound). +1 if you have sound effects. +1 if you have music. +1 if your sound is complete – most actions have an associated sound effect with them. +1 if the sound was really clever in some way. -1 if sound was abrasive for some
Humor/Mood: N/A if I liked your game. N/A otherwise.
Now, I’m not saying that my system is the correct one, but I think that it accomplishes my goal pretty well – namely to be as consistent as possible across rating games. Newgrounds has a system similar to this, if you hover over a rating, you get a guide:
0: Blam this piece of crap!
1: This makes poop look good.
2: Nothing too new or interesting.
3: Not bad. In fact… I like it!
4: This Flash is crunk, fo shizzle!
5: Woot!!! All my 5 R belong to this!
Which seems pretty good, if maybe a bit immature – it encourages a score of 2-3 as the baseline, 4′s should be reasonably common while 5′s should be rare, which I think is healthy. I think that a similar guide to this could work well for the contest in keeping ratings consistent, per reviewer, across multiple games.
Alright, essay over! Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts on the matter?