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Age of Kings Heaven » Forums » Scenario Design and Discussion » Review complaints and reviewing regulations... the discussion
Topic Subject:Review complaints and reviewing regulations... the discussion
The Conquistador
posted 06-08-01 08:22 PM CT (US)         
Recently, there have been some discussion and some complaints towards how reviews should be done. However, there is a line between childish complaints and reasonable criticism.

Here's what I think:


Totally subjective. However, if you don't like the style in particular, you shouldn't review it period.


Depends on the person. However, it has to be judged ON the right difficulty. If you play standard and you find it too easy, crank it up to hard. If you play hard and find it too hard, play standard. My point is, the scenario designer's job is to make sure he/she can provide a wide range of difficulties to suit the taste of all people, not just one or two persons in particular.


Subjective ENTIRELY.

Map Design:

Pretty obvious. Spineman's tutorial covers this area very well.


The story is subjective. If you don't get the story because you don't understand names and what not and there isn't some sort of "character guide", then marks should be taken off. If there is a character guide but you just didn't read it, then it's the lack of competence by the reviwer. Instructions is straight forward. You don't get what you are supposed to do, you deduct marks.

Nobody forced you to read that site, remember

posted 06-08-01 08:30 PM CT (US)     1 / 7       
I feel that everyone is entitled to their opinion on what is a 5 or not. The angels read through all the reveiws sent in and will reject it if it doesn't seem right. Like when someone reveiws a campaign that's average is already a 4 or 5 and gives it 2's, you can tell they aren't doing it fairly. When Cical(sp?) and Ebert give movies "thumbs down" no one gives a heated debate, it's just a reveiw and it's their opinion. It's not a life or death situation. Thats just the way things happen, and it happens in real life too, just as in the AoK-world... It's that person's opinion, and other people have higher standards then others. Some newbie scen-designer may rate an average campaign and give it an above average rate because it's higher than their standards. Stan has made some really good campaigns so his standards are higher than others, and can see how things can be improved more than other people who look at what's good. A 5 should be given if there is little to none (more to the none side) of things that could make it better. Just my opinion tho.

As he was valiant, I honor him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.
- Marcus Brutus; Julius Caesar, Scene 2, Act 3

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HG Alumnus
(id: Flavius Aetius)
posted 06-08-01 08:40 PM CT (US)     2 / 7       
Ill just post the Review Guideline that Angel Spineman created for everyone to view
Playability is probably the most subjective element of the scoring. It is simply a gauge of how much fun you had playing this particular scenario. One thing to look out for when reviewing is to only play scenarios that use a style you enjoy. For example, if you hate playing RPG scenarios, don't try to review one since you are bound to not enjoy the scenario. Try to keep within styles that you enjoy.
There really is no specific criteria on how a score is given in Playability but there are quite a few things that can effect playability in a negative manner. Trigger bugs, victory condition bugs and any other playability-destroying bugs obviously can ruin a scenario's playability. Lag is another playability issue that a scenario can be marked down for. If a player is ever confused about the next goal to accomplish, that's a playability problem. If a player can complete an objective in a way that the author obviously did not intend to be possible (ie. there's a hole in a wall that allows the player to skip half the scenario), that's a playability problem. Anything that adversely affects your enjoyment of a scenario can be deducted from the Playability score.
Balance is also somewhat subjective since each player is a different skill level and what might be perfectly balance for one player, might be way too easy or way too hard for another. As a reviewer, you must take your own skill level into account when giving a balance score. A perfectly balanced scenario should provide a challenge for a veteran player. Most people who are downloading scenarios from the internet have at least played through the campaigns included with the game and have a good knowledge of the game.
Most perfectly balanced scenarios should not be able to be completed without the player losing a few times. If a player is able to complete the entire scenario the first time, the scenario is probably too easy. On the other hand, a player should not need to reload 15 times to get by a certain part of a scenario. That is frustrating and the scenario is way too difficult. The ideal scenario balance happens when a player gets stuck, but he knows that it's possible to complete the objective if only he did something differently. A player should not win by luck, the scenario should be constructed so that a player can learn from mistakes and use his skill to complete the objective.
Multi-player scenarios are reviewed a bit differently in terms of balance. Each human player should start out in an equal position with equal starting resources and equal starting units. Obviously, the players don't have to match exactly, but they should be balanced. The map should also be examined to determine if all players have access to the same amounts of on-map resources. There are a lot of creative ways that map designers can use to make each player different, yet still balanced. If you choose to review multi-player scenarios, it's your job to ensure that each starting position is balanced with every other starting position
This area is probably second in subjectivity behind playability. Creativity is found in all aspects of a scenario, from trigger tricks, to map design, to the story, to what units a player is given, to the objectives, to sounds used, etc... Every aspect of a scenario factors into creativity. One thing to be careful for is not to knock points off of creativity if the designer uses a trick you've seen used in another scenario. There's nothing wrong with using the same trick that someone else used and no reason to deduct points because of that.
Probably the biggest creativity factors for me are the starting position and the victory conditions. For example, any scenario that starts with a TC and three villagers with a conquest victory condition is simply not very creative. The farther a player gets from a random-style scenario, the better the creativity score.
Map Design
Map design is one of the few categories that's very easy to define and give a rating to. I have pretty clear-cut rules on how map design is scored and this is how it should work. A random map is a 3. All a designer needs to do to score a 3 is to use a generated random map. Random maps look good, they function well and there's nothing wrong with using a random map in a scenario, but it's just average. From that basis, it's easy to figure out where scores of 1, 2, 4 and 5 come from.
A rating of 1 is for a pathetic map... these usually consist of large blank areas with lots of square areas and straight lines. These maps look completely unrealistic and are quite unattractive. A rating of 2 is somewhere between a pathetic map and a random map.
A rating of 5 is for an outstanding map with lots of special details and concentrated effort to make the map much better than a random map could possibly provide. Obviously, a rating of 4 is given for maps that are slightly better than a random.
One final note on score map design... only the portion of the map that can be seen during play should be scored. If there are large empty areas that a player never sees, that should not affect the map design rating.
This is another pretty clear-cut category. If there is no story or instructions, the score is easy... it's a 1. If there are instructions but no story, the max score is a 3. If there is any story at all, the rating goes up to a 4 and if the story is really good, the rating can be a 5. If the instructions are wrong, mis-leading or confusing, the rating goes down. Also, keep in mind that in Age of Kings, the instructions and the story goes far beyond the pre-scenario instruction screen. Often the story is continued throughout the scenario by using trigger events to move the story along. Also, since objectives can change in the middle of a scenario, the quality of the instructions must be judged throughout the playing of the scenario.
Some other guidelines on scoring this category: An introductory bitmap is a nice touch and a good image can often raise the score, however, an introductory bitmap is not required to score a 5. It certainly helps, but it's not an absolute requirement. Hints and History can also be judged here... these two areas are not required, but they can also help boost a scenario's score. While a bitmap, hints and history are not required, it would be difficult to give a rating of 5 if all three areas are missing. The rating should not be effected based on whether the story is fictional or historical. It doesn't make a difference as long as there's a story that draws the player into the scenario.
The last item that factors into the rating of the story and instructions is grammer and spelling. A designer should be diligent in this area of his scenario since it's very easy to copy the text into a word processor and spell check the instructions. There's no excuse for having spelling errors in a scenario... it simply shows a lack of effort on the part of the designer. The only exception I make is for designers whose primary language is not english... I am usually quite a bit more lenient with them in terms of grammer especially.

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Zanzard Lothar
posted 06-08-01 09:29 PM CT (US)     3 / 7       
Well, i feel like telling my own opnions about how to review a scenario.

Playability: Some scenarios might show an obvious lack of effort or you might just know that it was utterly crap, however you never know when some little, perhaps stupid thing, will strike your fancy. To me playability is just that: if the scenario struck your fancy, then give it a 5 in playability. Example: To me, "Gyda's Challenge" is a scenario that deserves a 5 in this aspect just for two small things: seeing your envoy being thrown to the sea and getting to know that my ally was loyal. Stupid reasons? Perhaps, but it struck my fancy.

Map Design: Indeed the tutorial says what it should about this. However, i'd like to add that the map has to be friendly with the player, without making the scenario unbeatable because of some bug, or presenteing a challenge it wasn't supposed to present. Examples: The first and last scenarios of "The four seasons", which can be obtained in the "Pabsthooligan boxed set", is the best example of great map design. Not really because of the four seasons themselves and the effects of each season, even because the third scenario had a big problem that didn't allow you to win. The map design there was great because it was beautiful and provided you with just the kind of B&D challenge that was expected. "Gyda's Challenge" is a scenario that is truly beautiful to look at, however the narrow and sometimes confusing passageways are frustating for building and troop placement and movement, making micromanagement a disgraceful job in the end.

Balance: It's not really if you won, lost, if you lost, if you had to play twice or if it had different difficulty levels. It's all about hope and subestimation. The player must never lose hope to win because the scenario SEEMS too hard or lenghty, nor should he get preemptive boredom for thinking that the scenario is too easy. The player must FEEL challenged. IT DOESN'T MATTER AT ALL if the scenario was hard or easy, it's how you feel it was. Example: "Omaha 1492" was a scenario that should be praised for its creativity, but also for its balance. If you happened to play it once or twice, you'd see it was actually easy. However, after hearing those sounds, and seeing the first enemy legions for the first time, i bet you would be keeping back your every soldier, sneaking and taking your time to see which is the best way to attack, the challenge was on.

Story/Instrunctions: This is also subjective. It's easy to judge instrunctions: if you didn't get stuck, then they are adequate. I't's all about getting stuck or not. Story is harder, but not much. Basically, did you feel as part of the story? Basically, a story is good if, when you think to yourself about your strategy, you refer to the sides and units by the names of the scenario or the names of the game? In a scenario where the russians(goths) and dzungarians(mongols) are fighting, when you think about the best way to get your huskarls to the castle, do you think in russian or goth huskarls? ANd is the castle a mongol or dzungarian castle? Example (of a case where the story was not good): "The four seasons" is a campaign where you play a certain japanase clan, and there is a somewhat deep story, however it fails in making you think about your foes using any term much different to "enemy". You don't think of the enemy clan as "the opposing clan", you just get to think of them as "the enemy".

Creativity: to quote Sun Tzu, in the art of war:

There are only two kinds of strategic moves: attack and defense. However, the limitless combinations of the two that present themselves offer likewise limitless strategies.

With scenario design, everything is unique, even if it doesn't seem like it. A scenario, to get a 5 here, needs to have something that will cause you physical reaction. You might open your mouth in awe, or widely open your eyes with unpreparation, perhaps even smile wickedly with the exciting situation presented. It can be the stupidest or oldest thing, but when presented the right time or way, it shows it is creative. Example: "1066 - The year of three kings", one scenario that changed my scenario designing forever, has large balance problems and somewhat bland maps. The story is told in the way of a man remembering his past, and this is quite common, the ES campaigns are a clear example of that. The scenario, however, starts and develops itself in its own unique way, which perhaps isn't a new way or anything, but it just keeps you wanting to see what happens next. To couple with that, the author added his own unique way of preventing you of getting the "cartography" tech. It might be an old trick but it was presented the right way, the right time.

posted 06-09-01 01:37 AM CT (US)     4 / 7       
Iīve got only a question about this.
When i read a review, the first thing i look is who did it, then i know if i can rely on it or not. In the last months, i only believe in few reviewers (Stan, Jerusalem, TDS and Cerberus). Iīve read some otherīs people reviews, and i must admit that i always have a kind of...suspicious... if the reviewer is a friend of the designer and if the review is fair. Know what i mean?

No offense, please. Iīve played scn reviewed by other people, and then i agreed with the reviewer, but sometimes donīt.I donīt want to start a flame.

The question is : when the cherubs or the angels receive a review , did they play the scn or cpn, or they just look if itīs well written?

Oh, and Jerusalem, if you have time, i would like to comment something to you. Please e-mail me

[This message has been edited by xavill (edited 06-09-2001 @ 01:39 AM).]

The Conquistador
posted 06-09-01 02:22 AM CT (US)     5 / 7       
See? What I find uncomforting is reviewers complaining that the scenario is too easy or too hard when they play on the wrong difficulty! It is not the scenario designer's fault that the reviewer has to play the game on standard difficulty or hard difficulty. The reviewer should play the scenario on the RIGHT difficulty.

Nobody forced you to read that site, remember

posted 06-09-01 03:20 AM CT (US)     6 / 7       
I always Review on Moderate Difficulty.
posted 06-09-01 04:02 AM CT (US)     7 / 7       
In my Chinese campaign almost all the judges put me a 3 or 4 for the gramatical errors... but my first tongue is spanish! I havent got the First Certificate yet... What can you expect from a spanish boy who only write in english in internet and never speak it??????
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