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reibeatall
11-25-2008, 03:14 PM
Ok, so some sites, like IGN, seem to have really long reviews (the Last Remnant is 3 pages, and I seem to remember one a few months ago that was 5 or 6), whereas some sites have reviews that are only a few paragraphs.

So, I understand that longer reviews can obviously cover more ground, but the short ones are usually to-the-point. You can say pretty much the same things in both, it's just a matter of how many words and needless examples/metaphors you can throw in there.

Does anybody read all three pages fully, or do they skim it? And after reading a short review, does anybody say "I wish I knew more about this game"?

So, uhh, yeah, do you guys prefer longer or shorter reviews?

djSyndrome
11-25-2008, 03:16 PM
tl;dr

SlimJimm
11-25-2008, 03:19 PM
It depends. If im on the fence about a game, I like to read a longer review to make sure I might get my money's worth. If its a game that I know for sure I will love or hate I dont think any amount of words can change my mind.

The only other factor that would keep me reading a long review is if the author has an entertaining writing style. Keep me smiling through a review and ill read it even if its 20 pages long.

Bergasa
11-25-2008, 03:24 PM
I find long reviews incredible annoying (IGN cough cough). I couldn't bring myself to read six pages on something I found interesting, so when I'm looking for the key points on how a game fares in a reviewer's mind, I don't need Dickens. Most of us (informed people, that is) probably read more than one site's review as well, to get a better picture of the game. That can quickly get to be a shitload of reading if they are all that long.

On the other hand, sometimes I find them just too short. Much as I love 1Up, sometimes their reviews are like three paragraphs, and they don't cover everything I need to know. In the end, my feeling is, tell me everything I need to know about a game to make up my own mind, and do it in as short a way possible.

nunix
11-25-2008, 03:24 PM
As long as the review is in-depth - i.e. does not simply regurgitate shit off the back of the box / jewel case, but with more words - then I'm happy to read a long review. But they never talk about game mechanics or design, or anything I'm particularly interested in.

Jeanie
11-25-2008, 03:25 PM
For me sometimes, the length of the review that I want is directly proportional to my interest in the game. Take 1up's review of CTDS (http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3171483&p=39) for example, it's short. Very short. Like takes up as much space on my screen as the screenshots from the game do. I'm a little peeved about this because I want to read more about what changes were made for the DS, and I don't feel Andrew talked enough about them. One that I feel really hit a good length is Sacred 2 (http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3171508&p=1) as it hit all the really important parts (auto-leveling system, open gameplay, and bugs and crashes) but didn't go on too long about little rants. Though I could have done without how he brought up the crashes by cutting off each paragraph.

As for the really long ones, I'm afraid I don't really bother too much with other sites. I don't like ign's website layout, and gamespot I still don't really trust too much even after all this time.

Bergasa
11-25-2008, 03:25 PM
jewel case

What year is this?

Brer
11-25-2008, 03:30 PM
It depends on the game. For something like a new RPG, there are plenty of times when I want a multi-page review with several pages talking about things like how the levelling system works, how the combat feels, how inventory is managed and how the economy works. For something that's either simpler (Bionic Commando Re-Armed, say) or a rerelease/remake (Chrono Trigger DS), a shorter review is fine by me.

spineshark
11-25-2008, 03:30 PM
I like short reviews, like 1up does. Sure, sometimes they're a little too terse, but I find overall that the limited length really does encourage them to get to the point, and makes them more readable than the "breakdowns" other sites tend to use. They come closest to movie reviews, which certainly aren't perfect, but vastly superior to game reviews generally.

Past a certain point, the more words there are, the less information there is. Tim Rogers is a good example. I love reading his stuff anyway, because his sense of humor is often really similar to mine, but it's a pretty huge waste of time.

nunix
11-25-2008, 03:31 PM
What year is this?

It's the year when I meant to say "DVD case" or whatever and spaced the term. =p

Excitemike
11-25-2008, 03:34 PM
It's not about the length, it's what you can do with it.

reibeatall
11-25-2008, 03:37 PM
I'm at the point where I'm not good at reviewing games, but I keep a goal of at least 800 words in mind when I do it. It's not terribly long, but when that game's Madagascar 2, there's only so much I can ramble about.

dosboot
11-25-2008, 03:40 PM
Past a certain point, the more words there are, the less information there is.

QFT. Fifty sets of "my 2 cents" doesn't add up to a dollar.

Azar
11-25-2008, 03:44 PM
I don't read reviews in general as much as I once did so I certainly don't read as many long ones. I think it mostly depends on the score. The number is never as important as what specific things a game does wrong or does right, and longer reviews often contain more information like that.

djSyndrome
11-25-2008, 03:46 PM
I'm at the point where I'm not good at reviewing games, but I keep a goal of at least 800 words in mind when I do it. It's not terribly long, but when that game's Madagascar 2, there's only so much I can ramble about.

You could go all NGJ on it and spend the first 450 words talking about Chris Rock and your last trip to the zoo.

reibeatall
11-25-2008, 03:47 PM
Shit, why didn't I do that?

Maybe that's what I'll do for Naruto.

djSyndrome
11-25-2008, 03:49 PM
Shit, why didn't I do that?

Maybe that's what I'll do for Naruto.

That's going to be a bit more of a stretch. I suggest your tenth grade prom, orange Pantone swatches and the ready availability of bondage rope as your starting points.

Adrenaline
11-25-2008, 03:50 PM
The only review more than one page that I'd actually read is Tim Rogers' just because he can actually write. Otherwise I'll skim.

Parish
11-25-2008, 03:53 PM
I like complete reviews. Whether that means 100 words or 2000 depends on the subject, the angle, and the author.

ArugulaZ
11-25-2008, 04:06 PM
So, uhh, yeah, do you guys prefer longer or shorter reviews?

Keep 'em short, I say. A good writer can give you an idea of what to expect from a video game in only two pages. Run-on reviews quickly lose the reader's attention and become increasingly irrelevant. When I see a review on IGN that spans three pages or more, I typically skip to the last page and read the capsule review at the end, because it gives me all the information I need without the filler.

Reinforcements
11-25-2008, 04:13 PM
Some of the reviews on 1up have seemed a little on the short side. I get nothing out of the Chrono Trigger review apart from, "It's Chrono Trigger! A!" and on the other side I get nothing out of the Castlevania Judgement review apart from, "It has a bad camera! D-!" Is there more that needs to be said? I don't know, but both reviews struck me as clipped. In each case I was surprised when I scrolled past the screenshot and it was basically over.

On the other hand, I don't need 3 pages on Order of Ecclesia, IGN. So somewhere in the middle.

mr_bungle700
11-25-2008, 04:30 PM
I like long previews, because if I'm excited enough about a game to read a preview of it then I want to get as much information as I can. As for reviews, I generally want the reviewer to say what needs to be said and then get the thing over with. As Parish said, sometimes that takes 100 words and sometimes it takes 2,000. As a general guideline, though, 500-800 words is usually a fine goal to shoot for.

reibeatall
11-25-2008, 04:32 PM
On the other hand, I don't need 3 pages on Order of Ecclesia, IGN. So somewhere in the middle.

ilchymis did 2 pages! (http://www.gameshark.com/reviews/3149/Castlevania-Order-of-Ecclesia-Review.htm) Read that one instead.

ringworm
11-25-2008, 04:46 PM
I don't care as long as it's well-written, informative, and entertaining.

sraymonds
11-25-2008, 05:06 PM
I got some length for you to review, rei.

reibeatall
11-25-2008, 05:09 PM
I got some length for you to review, rei.

Too short! The climax came too quickly. The ending left me unfulfilled.

sraymonds
11-25-2008, 05:11 PM
Too short! The climax came too quickly. The ending left me unfulfilled.

You make me proud, son.

Kishi
11-25-2008, 05:11 PM
ilchymis did 2 pages! (http://www.gameshark.com/reviews/3149/Castlevania-Order-of-Ecclesia-Review.htm) Read that one instead.

I can't believe GameShark still exists in any form.

ArugulaZ
11-25-2008, 05:12 PM
Too short! The climax came too quickly. The ending left me unfulfilled.

HA HA! Penis.

Tomm Guycot
11-25-2008, 05:18 PM
The length of 1up's reviews for Chrono Trigger and SSF2THDR was insulting.

Kishi
11-25-2008, 05:24 PM
Pfister's review of CTDS is pretty much verbatim from how it appeared in EGM, meaning it had to conform to the limitations of print. I don't know why no one thought the game warranted a more detailed analysis on the online side, though.

reibeatall
11-25-2008, 05:25 PM
The length of 1up's reviews for Chrono Trigger and SSF2THDR was insulting.

Would you want somebody to review a game from 13 years ago? And how would you want them to approach it?

Jeanie
11-25-2008, 05:36 PM
Well how about some detail into the features and how the touchscreen controls work in CTDS for starters. Ryan's review of SSFT2:A Whole Lot of Letters Edition is about right, though.

Nobuyuki
11-25-2008, 05:57 PM
I don't mind a short review as long as it's complete and informative; I don't mind a long review as long as it's engaging and not filler.

Merus
11-25-2008, 06:13 PM
Here's the question that I have: do the changes really matter worth a damn? Is someone seriously not going to buy Chrono Trigger DS purely on the basis of what's been changed in the translation (outside of vast renaming of characters or complete removal of exchanges) or whether the touchscreen controls simplify input? These are not really selling points, the people who care have already made up their mind for the most part, and so a minor note on whether this is the definitive version or not is all that's really needed.

I do have a problem with the "guys, it's Chrono Trigger" review (we can probably gather that from the name, so maybe the review should be targetted at the people who never played Chrono Trigger?), but then it's not like I'm not going to get that from other sources anyway (http://www.toastyfrog.com/verbalspew/archives/entry_1003.php).

Alastor
11-25-2008, 06:15 PM
Long or short, I believe the best reviews should use as many or as few words as it takes to do the game justice. IGN's reviews are exhaustingly long, and read like fact sheets filled with basic information I already knew. That's why I'll skip straight to the closing comments section, because it's the only space I feel they consistently use wisely. On the other hand there's reviews right here that may be long but are actually fulfilling to read, like Kishi's Contra 4 or Parish's FFXII.

On the flipside, I don't like short blurbs that ultimately don't convince me one way or the other.

Sarcasmorator
11-25-2008, 06:49 PM
I have no trouble with long analyses, but most reviews are product reviews, not critical reviews. I tend to think the former shouldn't be more than 800 words or so, 1,000 at most. But a piece like Lumber Baron's bit on the animation in SFIII Third Strike can be be as long as it needs to be.

cables
11-25-2008, 08:02 PM
Most reviews from major gaming sites have become a response to the question, "should I buy [game title]??" The answer most readers want is going to be short and serve the purpose of recommending/condemning a game . Personally, I have no interest in this brand of review, but they serve a large audience, so I'd never curse their existence.

For myself, I want a review to actively discuss the intricacies of a game and how they work in conjunction with each other. I guess I want a "critical review" to echo Sarcasmorator. In an action game, if the hit detection is exceptional, I want to know about it. I also want some examples that demonstrate why hit detection matters (or not) within the context of what the game throws at you. Reviews that really analyze a game have enhanced my experience with certain games--or, on the other hand, have pointed out things that need to be improved in future iterations of a genre. Games are not simple things (even when they're designed to seem as though they are), and I think it's worth dissecting and reconstructing the elements that compose them. Sadly, it doesn't seem like there's a living to be made off of well written reviews of this sort, so I appreciate the voluntary words of Gamespite contributors.

reibeatall
11-25-2008, 08:50 PM
Most reviews from major gaming sites have become a response to the question, "should I buy [game title]??" The answer most readers want is going to be short and serve the purpose of recommending/condemning a game . Personally, I have no interest in this brand of review, but they serve a large audience, so I'd never curse their existence.

For myself, I want a review to actively discuss the intricacies of a game and how they work in conjunction with each other. I guess I want a "critical review" to echo Sarcasmorator. In an action game, if the hit detection is exceptional, I want to know about it. I also want some examples that demonstrate why hit detection matters (or not) within the context of what the game throws at you. Reviews that really analyze a game have enhanced my experience with certain games--or, on the other hand, have pointed out things that need to be improved in future iterations of a genre. Games are not simple things (even when they're designed to seem as though they are), and I think it's worth dissecting and reconstructing the elements that compose them. Sadly, it doesn't seem like there's a living to be made off of well written reviews of this sort, so I appreciate the voluntary words of Gamespite contributors.


I'm really interested in this post. I haven't done many reviews, but when I think about writing them, it's in the "should you buy this?" type of informative review, instead of the more critical assessment. It's not that I don't want to write the critical assessment, but a review like that would require 1) me to play the hell out of the game, and 2) me to enjoy the game. Time, unfortunately, is precious. However, next one I write one, I'll try and be critical instead of a pros/cons type of writer.

Sardius
11-25-2008, 09:09 PM
500 words is the perfect length for any review. 1000 should be the absolute maximum. And don't split them up into multiple pages, ever! Even Eurogamer does this, and it break my heart.

I've found that a good thing to do with IGN's reviews is to read the first and last sentence of each paragraph. "I'm going to talk about the graphics! [...] Overall, they're great, but nothing special." Same content, less words that mean absolutely nothing.

ArugulaZ
11-25-2008, 09:37 PM
Wait, hold on. You're telling me that the 1UP guy wrote a four word review of Chrono Trigger? I hope he gets totally meme-reamed for this, just like the guy who wrote "my frothing demand for this game increases" in reference to Ikaruga.

All this talk of game reviews and their faults reminds me of a web site I found on Insert Credit...

http://www.magicalwasteland.com/bad_writing_about_games/

Levi VsRobot
11-25-2008, 09:44 PM
Who reads reviews? It is all about the blurbs on Metacritic. A pithy one-sentence pull-quote is more than enough for me to make my buying decision.

Parish
11-25-2008, 09:57 PM
Wait, hold on. You're telling me that the 1UP guy wrote a four word review of Chrono Trigger? I hope he gets totally meme-reamed for this, just like the guy who wrote "my frothing demand for this game increases" in reference to Ikaruga.

EXASPERATED SIGH

Wolfgang
11-25-2008, 10:07 PM
It really depends on the writer - for example, when I had a free subscription to Game Informer I bought EGM anyway because at the time the GI staff was all way too overly florid and stuffy. But then, the mark of a good writer is how effectively they use brevity, which is why it's hard to read a lot of IGN reviews (and the fact that IGN reviews tend to be rittled with grammar and spelling mistakes see what I did there)

nadia
11-25-2008, 10:14 PM
I think 1UP's Chrono Trigger review works well.

"Is Chrono Trigger awesome? Y."

"Does this re-release preserve an awesome game? Y."

"Are the new features mind-blowing? N."

"Are they at least a fun diversion? Y."

"Should you buy this if you've never had a chance to play Chrono Trigger? Y."

"Should you buy this if you played it on the SNES but have been bitten by the nostalgia bug? Y."

Sarcasmorator
11-25-2008, 10:32 PM
Yeah, it hit all the important points.

liquid
11-25-2008, 11:44 PM
This is the perfect review length. (http://dessgeega.com/shortestign.html)

Kishi
11-25-2008, 11:50 PM
How does Soulja Boy (http://www.actionbutton.net/?p=403) fit into all this?

Adrenaline
11-25-2008, 11:56 PM
OOOH! OOOOOOH! OOOOOOOOH!

ArugulaZ
11-26-2008, 12:21 AM
EXASPERATED SIGH

My bad. Chalk that up to poor reading comprehension/taking things too literally on my part. I did check out the 1UP review out of curiosity and it seems a lot more complete than I was led to believe.

Parish
11-26-2008, 07:14 AM
The "frothing demand" thing was included in that, too. So one last time, for posterity: the "frothing demand" quote that Atari slapped on Ikaruga's box was written by David Smith, sardonically, and he's forever irritated that it was stripped from context, misused and immortalized.

Kishi
11-26-2008, 08:59 AM
How did you feel about this (http://gamevideos.1up.com/video/id/17155), then?

Patrick
11-26-2008, 09:07 AM
If I'm reading a review on IGN, I read the intro paragraph, then skip to the closing comments. On 1up or EGM I usually skim it, or read the whole thing if it's a game I'm really interested in.

95% of the time I don't even read reviews. I find that most of the time I know whether I'm buying a game or not way before it comes out. If a game turns out to be not as good as it originally looked, I'll hear about it from forums. I usually only buy games from developers that I already like, or games that are recommended by people who have the same tastes as me.

I think reviews are generally intended for people who aren't already reading games forums and keeping up on gaming news.

Luana
11-26-2008, 09:28 AM
I guess it depends on the person writing it. I stopped reading sites like IGN long ago because I didn't like their review style. If a person can write a long review while holding my interest, more power to them. However, if they can say what they need to in one paragraph, then I'm happy too.

Parish
11-26-2008, 09:36 AM
How did you feel about this (http://gamevideos.1up.com/video/id/17155), then?

I cringed, but whatever. It's not far from the truth!

Anyway, I really hate the fact that some people are putting forth the notion that there's a hard word count limit on a good review, be it 100 words, 500, 1000, 2000, whatever. That's like saying a good novel can only be 220-250 pages long and anything outside that boundary is some sort of conceptual failure. I suppose a word count and templated structure are fine if your idea of a review is "Consumer Reports-style cost/value breakdown," but I'd like to think games deserve more nuanced analysis than this year's crop of food processors.

widdershins
11-26-2008, 09:48 AM
Parroting a bit here. But I want to read a good review. If it's long and well written, I'll read it. If it's short, but does the job, I'm fine.

The problem with a lot of IGNs reviews isn't the length, but the content. I imagine there's some kind of internal standard for how long things should be, but it's easy to see when a guy doesn't really have that much to write about.

The guy who runs a site I used to write for once wrote a one word review for the only game he ever gave a '0' to. (I wish I could remember what the game, or the word was) His then partner made him take it down, but I think he should've stuck to his guns. If that's what you feel, that's what you should fucking write. I'm not sure a sanitized description of Ninjabread man's mechanics would have done more than "For the love of god, don't buy this game!" At least with the latter, less of my time is wasted.

djSyndrome
11-26-2008, 09:52 AM
I could care less what a reviewer writes as long as it's accurate. Then again, even this isn't always the reviewer's fault (http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3171379&p=44).

reibeatall
11-26-2008, 09:57 AM
I could care less what a reviewer writes as long as it's accurate. Then again, even this isn't always the reviewer's fault (http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3171379&p=44).

But accurate is weird. Do you want technical specs and frame rate issues, or do you want the reviewers experience?

widdershins
11-26-2008, 10:10 AM
But accurate is weird. Do you want technical specs and frame rate issues, or do you want the reviewers experience?

I'll take the latter any day. If you do your job right, you can even kill two birds with one stone.

Of the reviews I've written, my favorite was probably one I wrote for Ninety Nine Nights. It's not the best written thing around, especially since I'm a comma-happy mofo, but I detailed all of my issues with the game by recapping my runthrough of a particularly annoying level. Like I said, it could certainly use an editor's red pen, but I still like it a couple of years later (which is more than I can say for most of the reviews I've written).

Sarcasmorator
11-26-2008, 10:20 AM
(I wish I could remember what the game, or the word was)

"Shit sandwich."

Calorie Mate
11-26-2008, 10:41 AM
I'm really interested in this post. I haven't done many reviews, but when I think about writing them, it's in the "should you buy this?" type of informative review, instead of the more critical assessment. It's not that I don't want to write the critical assessment, but a review like that would require 1) me to play the hell out of the game, and 2) me to enjoy the game. Time, unfortunately, is precious. However, next one I write one, I'll try and be critical instead of a pros/cons type of writer.

Remember to think about your audience! 1up/IGN/Gamespot's reviews should chiefly be written on the basis of "should I buy this or not?" because that's what a lot of their readers want to know. These are the places people go to find that out.

If you could write for another website, like, say...Gamespite then I think your audience would be a lot more appreciative of the second kind of review.

reibeatall
11-26-2008, 10:42 AM
But the shit that's on GameSpite isn't a review, per se.

Calorie Mate
11-26-2008, 11:54 AM
It can be if you want it to be.

djSyndrome
11-26-2008, 12:10 PM
But accurate is weird. Do you want technical specs and frame rate issues, or do you want the reviewers experience?

Ideally, both. I get incensed when a review gets a technical detail wrong, but at the same time I also expect a reviewer to convey their experience in an applicable way. Saying 'I hate this genre; this game automatically fails as a result' does no favors to the reader.

Sven
11-26-2008, 01:51 PM
My only issue with the "standard" 1up length is when something comes along like today's Age of Mythologies review - where I read the review, but can't find anything really written about the game that would correlate into a score.

DemoWeasel
11-26-2008, 05:53 PM
Oh dear god. (http://xbox.ign.com/articles/557/557509p1.html)

Austintatious
11-26-2008, 06:34 PM
Mostly, I'm just startled that any of you would even read IGN. They seem to have very low journalistic integrity. Or is that Gamespot? I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure it's both.

But then again, most web-based game reviews have their problems. Recently I've been focusing on 1up because I like Parish and Bettenhausen's reviews, but in general 1up has some major issues with consistency (word count, quality, etc.)

Also, the fact that major games can be reviewed on 1up with no mention of things like music is extremely offensive to me. Not just because the site is so notorious for good journalism , but because I feel like the people reviewing the games don't care so much.

reibeatall
11-26-2008, 06:42 PM
Most people don't give a shit about the music.

Austintatious
11-26-2008, 07:06 PM
Most people don't give a shit about the music.

I know, it's kind of odd. Especially when it affects their experience so much. People love to talk about the "immersive" or "atmospheric" qualities of a game (myself included), and I can't help but think the music added to those kind of descriptions.

Take Myst: the music was a huge part of what made it dark, inventive, and in my opinion -- occasionally creepy. It's hard to imagine anyone (even at the time of its release) enjoying it as fully without it.

But really, it's silly and unnecessary to even bring up an example. The problem is so widespread and, God, obvious that it should just be a given when going into a review that, y'know, general aspects of a game should probably be covered.

Parish
11-26-2008, 07:23 PM
But then again, most web-based game reviews have their problems. Recently I've been focusing on 1up because I like Parish and Bettenhausen's reviews, but in general 1up has some major issues with consistency (word count, quality, etc.)
But I don't write reviews....

Also, the fact that major games can be reviewed on 1up with no mention of things like music is extremely offensive to me. Not just because the site is so notorious for good journalism , but because I feel like the people reviewing the games don't care so much.
This is silly. I reviewed plenty of games without mentioning the graphics, the music, the play control, whatever. Sometimes people don't remark on things because they are unremarkable. That doesn't make the review incomplete -- it means the game failed to do something that made an impression on the reviewer, and saying "it had music, but I don't remember it" doesn't add anything to a review unless that somehow affects the experience. Boring, forgettable music in a Castlevania game? That's bad. Boring, forgettable music in a Tales game? Eh, par for the course.

Once again, I reject the notion that reviews have to be templated in any way. Games offer a tremendous range of experiences, and reviews should reflect the breadth of the medium.

Austintatious
11-26-2008, 07:38 PM
Once again, I reject the notion that reviews have to be templated in any way. Games offer a tremendous range of experiences, and reviews should reflect the breadth of the medium.

Sorry, I wasn't very clear. I meant to say that I despise reviews that don't mention music when the music is a vital part of the experience. To me, that's often the case.

Austintatious
11-26-2008, 07:39 PM
But I don't write reviews....


It must've been some of your previews that I enjoyed. Also, you reviewed Metal Gear Solid 4 in the past, so I guess I figured you still wrote them.

Austintatious
11-26-2008, 07:50 PM
Sorry, I wasn't very clear. I meant to say that I despise reviews that don't mention music when the music is a vital part of the experience. To me, that's often the case.

Actually, you know what? I change my mind. If the music isn't noticeable, that should be mentioned. And not in a templated, formulaic review sense. If the music is forgettable, then maybe it's not worth having? Would that alter the experience?

Even if the music in a game is repetitive, crappy techno I'd like to know so. Music can be very simplistic, boring background music, but the type of simplistic, boring background music can have a huge effect on any game.

reibeatall
11-26-2008, 07:51 PM
If it's not noticeable, who's going to notice it enough to write about it?

Austintatious
11-26-2008, 08:02 PM
If it's not noticeable, who's going to notice it enough to write about it?

Anyone willing to pay attention, I guess. The Myst example from earlier was an attempt to show how music can affect the experience from osmosis -- you don't notice it perhaps but it changes the atmosphere. As far as unnoticeable and unnecessary music, well, I think that's worth taking into account as well.

tony ryan
11-26-2008, 08:41 PM
Pauline Kael and Robin Wood can write an entire book of criticism on a single film. Andrew Sarris can write three paragraphs on Orson Wells. In context both get their point across and do the job well.

So yeah, saying what has been said then... It comes down to what the person has to say and how they wish to say it. Length is for editors to worry about.

tony ryan
11-26-2008, 08:50 PM
Anyone willing to pay attention, I guess.

I agree with you that music is important and I would like to be informed on how the music fits in with game play, etc. Because music is a major part of the experience for me.

But reviews are by nature subjective. I don't really dig the idea that a review has to mention anything. If the writer doesn't give a shit about the music, then why should he write about it? I don't get the consumer report ideology of criticism in media. Games should work on a whole, anyways.

Parish
11-26-2008, 09:17 PM
I agree with you that music is important and I would like to be informed on how the music fits in with game play, etc. Because music is a major part of the experience for me.

But reviews are by nature subjective. I don't really dig the idea that a review has to mention anything. If the writer doesn't give a shit about the music, then why should he write about it? I don't get the consumer report ideology of criticism in media. Games should work on a whole, anyways.

I banned quoting posts followed by "This." So I won't do that here. But I'm doing it in spirit.

I used to worry about touching on every aspect of a game in a review, but eventually I chilled out when I realized (1) shoehorning in an obligatory "the graphics are pretty" type comment spoiled the flow of an article and (2) who really cares, because there are other reviews on the Internet and it's silly to try and be comprehensive. Once I decided that the most effective way to review was to relay my impressions rather than plug opinions into a premade format, I became a much better and more natural writer.

mr_bungle700
11-26-2008, 11:19 PM
It also gets quite tedious to constantly write reviews in an overly rigid format. You can only write so many Intro > Story > Gameplay > Graphics > Sound > Summation style reviews before you start to wonder why you should even bother when a robot could do the work for you.

What I want to get from a review are the answers to these two questions:

A) Did the reviewer like the game?
B) Why?

Everything else is just a bonus.

Ideally, I believe that the reviewer should be able to tell me if a game is good or bad regardless of whether or not he/she liked it, but oftentimes that seems like too much to ask.

Phantoon
11-27-2008, 01:40 AM
I want however many words it takes to get across how good a game is. Generally bad or broken games deserve less word count, but when games are good enough to seriously consider buying more information is needed. I happily read not only the Majora's Mask review on IGN but the entire "72 Hours" feature that preceded it.

Dadgum Roi
11-27-2008, 04:26 AM
There was a really funny parody of the templated game review on one of the GFW Radio podcasts:

"This, but this. This, but this. This, but this. Conclusion!"

Austintatious
11-27-2008, 08:15 AM
What I want to get from a review are the answers to these two questions:

A) Did the reviewer like the game?
B) Why?

Everything else is just a bonus.


I like that "bonus" mentality. And it's true in a lot of ways, too.

I think the original outburst I had about a game's music came from the fact that a game involves at least three senses: sight, hearing, and touch. Compared to a novel or a film, video games are a vast multimedia experience. Now, I'm not entirely music-centric (and hardly a good musician), but I feel that sound is a core part of a game, and there are reviews that leave that part out entirely (sound effects included).

In short, I still find (in a review, not a critical article) that some mention of all things audio is worth considering, and a single sentence at the very least isn't going to turn a review into something pedantic.

Still, though, most of the reviews I've written have been somewhat templated, so maybe I just need a fresh outlet for game-writing that allows more leeway.

cables
11-27-2008, 09:27 AM
Writing about music is generally more difficult than writing about game mechanics, visuals, and so on, due to a limited shared vocabulary between music experts and the average reader. Most music reviewers end up relying on abstract metaphors ("the guitars swirl around in a basin of gold and sulfur, swallowing the oddly juxtaposed particles, coming ever closer to combining them [etc]"). This is okay the first few times you read it, but quickly becomes tired and loses much of its meaning unless your experience of music tightly matches a reviewer's--or if your perceptions are easily influenced, I guess.

In other words, I think it's understandable that game music isn't discussed in proportion to the impact it has on a player. If something about the music is particularly salient for a game (either for being good or bad), I'd say it's important to discuss. Otherwise, I don't think anything is gained by including stock descriptions like, "The overworld map music was adventurous and bold while the first town music was peppy and the second town music was real grim and desperate."

cables
11-27-2008, 09:31 AM
(Having said that, if any game reviewers also happened to be knowledgeable musicians, I'd certainly be interested in reading their assessment/reactions to game music. Even if it meant referencing wikipedia/youtube to make sense of the unfamiliar terminology.)

Mightyblue
11-27-2008, 09:58 AM
I guess writing for here I started out doing the standard template review (graphics, sound, etc.), but Parish pushed me to start thinking critically about what I was writing about (for lack of a better term). Now I just spout off about the relative merits of various aspects of game design and history related to the game I'm talking about.

I like doing it, but I rarely get comments on my articles so I have no idea if anyone else likes my approach.

Tomm Guycot
11-27-2008, 10:10 AM
Austin, what I'm about to say will hurt you, and you will deny it for days but eventually have to come to terms with it:

Most people hate game music and turn it down/off/ignore it.

This sucks because I'm waaaaaaaaaaaay anal about game music and probably drove Jake Kaufman to the brink of madness.

But the truth is, (relatively) nobody cares but you.

Sorry.

DANoWAR
11-27-2008, 12:10 PM
Austin, what I'm about to say will hurt you, and you will deny it for days but eventually have to come to terms with it:

Most people hate game music and turn it down/off/ignore it.

This sucks because I'm waaaaaaaaaaaay anal about game music and probably drove Jake Kaufman to the brink of madness.

But the truth is, (relatively) nobody cares but you.

Sorry.

And me. Duck Tales Moon Theme FTW.

reibeatall
11-27-2008, 12:20 PM
And me. Duck Tales Moon Theme FTW.

This is different, though. You remember SPECIFIC SONGS from SPECIFIC GAMES, not every song from every game. In fact, what was the last game you played? Can you tell me how the song from the second level went?

MCBanjoMike
11-27-2008, 12:29 PM
This is different, though. You remember SPECIFIC SONGS from SPECIFIC GAMES, not every song from every game. In fact, what was the last game you played? Can you tell me how the song from the second level went?

Hey, these are soundtracks we're talking about, here. Good soundtrack music puts you in the right mood for the game, but doesn't take up your full attention like a pop song would, that's just the way it works. That doesn't change the fact that a good soundtrack can really improve a game, even if you don't listen to it consciously. People ususally don't remember movie themes either, but those are essential conveying emotions and setting up important scenes. I think the music is more important than Tomm is giving it credit for, although it's probably not as important to most people as it is to me. Then again, I could probably hum you 50 different game tunes, so I'm probably not the average consumer, either.

reibeatall
11-27-2008, 12:38 PM
The Jurassic Park theme song is a great example of a memorable song. Just wanted to throw that out there.

MCBanjoMike
11-27-2008, 12:46 PM
The Jurassic Park theme song is a great example of a memorable song. Just wanted to throw that out there.

Sure, but can you hum the song that played 10 minutes into the last movie that you watched? Assuming, uh, that it wasn't Jurassic Park? The point I'm trying to make is that it goes both ways - you can sing the JP theme song, I can do a billion Mega Man stages. Both cases are exceptional, since most of the time we simply enjoy the background music without committing it to memory. Case in point, I'm really digging the music in Suikoden, but so far there are only one or two pieces that stick enough enough for me to remember them clearly while I'm sitting at my work desk. That doesn't mean they have failed, since they've really added to the playing experience.

Sven
11-27-2008, 02:16 PM
My sense of reviews has always been "tell me what, if anything, is wrong with a game. By this point, I know enough that I'll be able to get a feel for whether I'd like the game without needing someone else to describe it for me". Reviews are the first line of defence between a game and my wallet, but they're certainly not the last.

That's why I didn't envy whomever had to review CTDS, because for people like me basically saying "don't worry, they didn't fuck it up" is enough to live off of and you still have to fill 500 words or whatever. If (for instance) the game ran too slow, or crashed a lot, or just plain wasn't fun.

Does it add to the literary level of game critiques? No.

Do I give a rat's ass? Nope. Fuck Lester Bangs.

Phantoon
11-27-2008, 02:33 PM
I remember a review for Mega Man 3 which gave the music 1 out of 10. I was dumbfounded. I don't trust game reviewers if they don't like Mega Man's music now.

DANoWAR
11-27-2008, 02:47 PM
This is different, though. You remember SPECIFIC SONGS from SPECIFIC GAMES, not every song from every game. In fact, what was the last game you played? Can you tell me how the song from the second level went?

The other way round: Do you remember how the third level of Super Mario Bros. 3 looks like? Or: Can you tell me about the second level of the game you last played?

I don't remember each and every tune from every game ever I've played, or my brain would explode. Yet some of those tunes just stick for eternity, for example:
- Bubble Bobble music
- Duck Tales Moon Theme
- Ghost n Goblins 1st Level
- Thing on a Spring Theme
- Master of Magic Theme

It's probably like the Cradle level from Thief 3 (I haven't played a Thief game yet)

EDIT: The difference probably is that the music people turn off is either annoying or just non-memorable replacable bullshit. Standard fantasy computer rpg music comes to mind...

reibeatall
11-27-2008, 02:50 PM
The other way round: Do you remember how the third level of Super Mario Bros. 3 looks like?

That's the one where you can get the warp whistle. Of course I know remember how it looks.

(blocks, some of them floating. and grass.)

Egarwaen
11-27-2008, 02:58 PM
My sense of reviews has always been "tell me what, if anything, is wrong with a game. By this point, I know enough that I'll be able to get a feel for whether I'd like the game without needing someone else to describe it for me". Reviews are the first line of defence between a game and my wallet, but they're certainly not the last.

Well, I do like hearing about things a game does particularly well. Sometimes that'll get me interested in a game I normally wouldn't give a rat's ass about.

In general, though, I like short, tight reviews. 1Up's new letter-grade system and succinct review standard are basically a dream come true for me, particularly since I can get my fix of longer, more in-depth analysis here.

Gredlen
11-27-2008, 03:08 PM
I don't remember the last time I've ever actually read a review all the way through—unless you count the stuff here on Gamespite. I rarely buy games as soon as they come out anymore (largely because I'm usually broke), so between previews and general impressions, I always have a pretty strong feeling of whether or not I'll enjoy a game before I buy it.

cables
11-27-2008, 09:04 PM
You know, a great critical review of a game could be crafted from the observations in [most] any given Fun Club thread.

nunix
11-27-2008, 09:36 PM
(Having said that, if any game reviewers also happened to be knowledgeable musicians, I'd certainly be interested in reading their assessment/reactions to game music. Even if it meant referencing wikipedia/youtube to make sense of the unfamiliar terminology.)

Into the Score (http://intothescore.blueandbrownbooks.com/) is not quite what you're talking about (he's not a game reviewer) but I think you'd find some of the entries interesting ne'ertheless.

Brer
11-27-2008, 09:53 PM
Into the Score (http://intothescore.blueandbrownbooks.com/) is not quite what you're talking about (he's not a game reviewer) but I think you'd find some of the entries interesting ne'ertheless.

Wow, I can't believe I've not come across this before. Looks like he needs to branch out beyond japanese composers, but still, very cool.

wumpwoast
11-27-2008, 10:06 PM
You know, a great critical review of a game could be crafted from the observations in [most] any given Fun Club thread.

As long as the writer has an existing outside perspective on the game and can generously incorporate the group's thoughts, this sort of "group criticism" could be fascinating. Like ten pages of TT comments distilled into tight, valuable insight.

The secret ingredient is thoughtful (or homogeneous) topical discussions, and a critical mass of people. Both of which we have.

BACK ON TOPIC: Reviews are fine, but if you can get an idea of who someone is and why they enjoy what they're playing -- that gives you the personal touch that you can relate back to yourself. "Group criticism" will make it easy to lose these individual connections, but I'm still very interested in the idea.

Kolbe
11-27-2008, 10:46 PM
I think that how reviews are written depends entirely on one thing, and one thing only: What your boss wants you to write.

As someone who writes for an actual printed magazine, I'm always given a template of what aspects of the game I should cover (story, graphics, etcetera), and more or less is always the same boring story... but hey! They pay! And that's what the reader looks for in a review: whether a game should be bought or not. No more critical, insightful thought needed.

In Gamespite's case, my boss (that is Parish, if you were wondering) let me express myself the way I want to do it, obviously not without is approval (which mostly falls on whether I have a clear idea of what I'll write about or not), and yes, as a writer, is way more interesting to me.

But enough talk! Have at you! (http://www.magicalwasteland.com/bad_writing_about_games/)

spineshark
11-27-2008, 11:02 PM
Have at you! (http://www.magicalwasteland.com/bad_writing_about_games/)
Man, I know "penultimate" gets used incorrectly in these situations partly because nobody really cares what "ultimate" means in the first place and uses it as a synonym for "SUPER!" but the fact that barely anyone knows what it actually means is why we can't have nice things. I usually end up writing "second to last" because at least people will understand it.

cables
11-27-2008, 11:32 PM
Into the Score (http://intothescore.blueandbrownbooks.com/) is not quite what you're talking about (he's not a game reviewer) but I think you'd find some of the entries interesting ne'ertheless.

Bookmarked, thanks!

Kishi
11-28-2008, 12:04 AM
Have at you! (http://www.magicalwasteland.com/bad_writing_about_games/)

“The first half of Assassin’s Creed is a truly clairvoyant experience. You’ve never played anything like it. The sagacious story, incalculable crowd interaction, and unprecedented freedom to traverse the environment how you choose are landmark moments.”

– GameTrailers.com.

Wow. Can you count the malapropisms?

Octopus Prime
11-28-2008, 01:12 AM
“The videogame industry has literally never had a year like 2007.”

Why no, I suppose there hasn't.

Also, having read that, I propose were strip away the use of the word "Penultimate" from reviewers. That word is a priviledge, not a right.

nadia
11-28-2008, 04:25 AM
Re: Game music: the only piece of game music my father (a non gamer and a musician) has ever been impressed with is the Vedlt beat from Final Fantasy VI.

Phantoon
11-28-2008, 04:59 AM
Penultimate: Best writing implement.

mr_bungle700
11-28-2008, 08:39 AM
Re: Game music: the only piece of game music my father (a non gamer and a musician) has ever been impressed with is the Vedlt beat from Final Fantasy VI.

This is because your father has the groove inside of him.

Parish
11-28-2008, 08:40 AM
Why no, I suppose there hasn't.

Also, having read that, I propose were strip away the use of the word "Penultimate" from reviewers. That word is a priviledge, not a right.

"Privilege."

Octopus Prime
11-28-2008, 08:48 AM
"Privilege."

Proper spelling isn't a right either.

nadia
11-28-2008, 03:11 PM
This is because your father has the groove inside of him.

Come to think of it, I think he liked Dark Star from Secret of Mana (second Flammie song). This proves I come from lines of good taste.

reibeatall
11-28-2008, 04:34 PM
My editor just said something to the effect of: You don't have to beat a game to review it.

Discuss.

Kolbe
11-28-2008, 04:41 PM
Welcome to deadlines land.

reibeatall
11-28-2008, 04:44 PM
Would you feel cheated if you read a review of a game by somebody who didn't beat it? Should they SAY they didn't finish it?

Egarwaen
11-28-2008, 04:47 PM
Would you feel cheated if you read a review of a game by somebody who didn't beat it? Should they SAY they didn't finish it?

I wouldn't feel cheated provided they admitted that and specified what part of the game they were reviewing. However, YMMV.

Alastor
11-28-2008, 04:54 PM
Would you feel cheated if you read a review of a game by somebody who didn't beat it? Should they SAY they didn't finish it?

All too often a game will drop off in quality the farther you get into it, so yes, a reviewer should make that disclaimer in advance so I can take that review with a grain (or pile) of salt.

Parish
11-28-2008, 05:25 PM
Proper spelling isn't a right either.

http://mattcbr.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/optimus-prime.jpg

"Proper spelling is the right of all sentient beings."

McClain
11-28-2008, 05:32 PM
I find I get the most useful information from podcasts. Hearing them argue about a game on 1up Yours or Retronauts tells me more than 500 words and a score.

Octopus Prime
11-28-2008, 05:42 PM
"Proper spelling is the right of all sentient beings."

I...

I've been pwned!

The shame I feel is beyond your comprehension!

Parish
11-28-2008, 07:46 PM
Oh, huh. I just noticed the irony of that retort.

I'm actually a lot less clever than I seem.

UnChocolate
11-28-2008, 07:48 PM
Would you feel cheated if you read a review of a game by somebody who didn't beat it? Should they SAY they didn't finish it?
Reminds me of the whole Ebert thing that happened a few weeks ago. But yea, they should definitely give full disclosure, otherwise it's a pretty dishonest review in my mind.

Dadgum Roi
11-28-2008, 08:11 PM
Would you feel cheated if you read a review of a game by somebody who didn't beat it? Should they SAY they didn't finish it?

I have no problem with a reviewer not finishing a game. I would like to know about it, though, as it could be a pretty useful piece of information.

In general though, the idea of templating game reviews strikes me as incredibly silly. Writers should be free to just do whatever they like; the cream will rise to the top.

Merus
11-28-2008, 08:29 PM
Oh, huh. I just noticed the irony of that retort.

I'm actually a lot less clever than I seem.

Especially when you admit to happy accidents like that being accidents.

I wouldn't feel cheated provided they admitted that and specified what part of the game they were reviewing. However, YMMV.

Considering a game's about taking a set of rules and making something magical out of them, I think it's very important to know exactly where the reviewer's understanding of the game stands. If they've played enough to make a value judgement, then yeah, sure, but the problem is that when people think they 'get' a game and when they actually get the game are two different points. See GTAIV.

Actually that's something that bugs me about reviews of high-profile games - the scores are invariably inflated. GTAIV? Solid 10s even though people were comparing Saint's Row 2 favourably to it not six months later and it got solid "pretty good" scores. More than a few people fapped over Halo 3 and it was far from the best FPS of 2007. And the MSG4 backlash has started already. What is up with that, anyway?

Torgo
11-28-2008, 08:59 PM
What is up with that, anyway?
I can't give you a clear answer, but I'm sure it lies somewhere within determining if a game can be objectively good or bad.

Let's discuss if a game can be objectively good or bad, guys.

Eusis
11-28-2008, 09:00 PM
Actually that's something that bugs me about reviews of high-profile games - the scores are invariably inflated.
I tend to think that there's a good chance they're just high off of the hype like many others can be. It could also be that those games usually do something that sets them above others, that extra layer of polish and/or a notable lack of flaws compared to alternatives that may be more fun. It's worth noting that while Halo 3 was pretty heavily hyped and was highly rated it didn't seem to actually win any GotY awards.

On finishing games in order to review: that really depends on just what kind of game it is, and what it focuses on. I wouldn't want something like Phoenix Wright or especially Indigo Prophecy left unfinished for a review, they're more story dependent and a crummy ending can ruin them (as apparently is the case for IP) while that isn't quite as important for a lot of other games.

As far as the original topic goes, I tend to prefer short reviews, namely those that are only as long as strictly necessary to properly cover the game. Articles like those here are a different story though, it's the type of long review IGN pumps out that I don't like.

Phantoon
11-29-2008, 01:23 AM
I agree with Eusis - for certain games it matters more than others. I'd expect the reviewer to get most of the way through - if they were reviewing Mega Man 8 and didn't get to the Wily snowboard bit they may actually think the game isn't just an irritating mess.

Actually, I've just watched a video of what that particular stage entails. Sod that.

Merus
11-29-2008, 04:35 AM
Here's something, though: a reviewer that can't get 100,000 points in Geometry Wars is probably not going to be able to speak about the higher level play. How do they know if it's any good? Or Team Fortress 2 - at what point have you seen enough of that game in order to pass judgement?

nadia
11-29-2008, 08:29 AM
I agree with Eusis - for certain games it matters more than others. I'd expect the reviewer to get most of the way through - if they were reviewing Mega Man 8 and didn't get to the Wily snowboard bit they may actually think the game isn't just an irritating mess.

Actually, I've just watched a video of what that particular stage entails. Sod that.

I could be mistaken, but I think the snowboarding mess first revealed itself in Frostman's stage.

Thankfully, "Hey, this game isn't very fun" became apparent after only a few stages, and not just because of the snowboarding.

But it looked all lovely and fresh and 2D and anime, so I can understand high early hype reviews.

Brer
11-29-2008, 03:47 PM
Actually that's something that bugs me about reviews of high-profile games - the scores are invariably inflated.

Some of that, I think, has to do with first impressions vs. sustained impressions, and there's no good way around it. When you sit down with a brand-new title even if you WANT to be critical a good game can often suck you in well enough that you overlook the flaws for the first few hours, or even the first playthrough.

To use a personal example, I am one of those people who was very unimpressed with Oblivion (I think that unmodded it's a mid-to-high 7s, C+/B- sort of game) and so was not really very happy to hear about the way that Fallout 3 was being developed. Despite that, despite ALL my carping and griping and pessimism, when I sat down with Fallout 3 to play it, I really, REALLY got into it and was loving the whole experience. I was impressed by the way in which they seemed to have improved their character interaction and the inclusion of some skill checks in the dialogue trees, I thought their grasp of the setting was surprisingly solid, I felt that the inclusion of the Outcasts (the "real" BoS) minimized most of my complaints about how Lyons' BoS differed from canon, etc, etc, etc.

It wasn't until a good 40+ hours in that the honeymoon ended and I started to realize that while they'd improved over Oblivion, they'd also carried over a lot of the design and production problems and that the improvements to dialogue and so on were very unevenly applied (To use one example, Fallout 3's character depth is front-loaded as fuck, with all manner of neat NPCs with detailed dialogue trees in Megaton and the areas associated with Megaton's quests, while literally almost every other location in the world has NPCs with very shallow, short, and limited interactions).

Anyway, while Fallout may only have taken Oblivion's C+/B- formula and improved it to a B+, I'm willing to bet that most reviewers simply didn't have the time with the game necessary for that "new game smell" to wear off.