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Old 12-14-2005, 04:47 AM   #1
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I may have broached this subject already, but hey...

I almost never read reviews. Either I'm not interested in the reviewed game, or I want to avoid spoilers (which inevitably come in one way or another), so pretty much the only thing that gives me info about a game are the grade it gets and the "Pros and Cons" box.
Which is fine but which also, more than a detailed review, is subject to... well, subjectivity.

Which is why I would love to have alternate opinions about the game. I can imagine a few forms that these could use:

- what did other staff members think, in a Idle Thumbs fashion, where every staff member can add a comment about the game.
- other staff grades + short comment (like: What Emily thought about Fahrenheit)
- what do forum members think about the game, with forum polls each time a new game is reviewed, and the result of the poll (in stars, for example) indicated below the actual official grade.

...

What do you guys think?
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Old 12-14-2005, 05:11 AM   #2
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I really like the system that's used at idlethumbs. I always read the AGs review before buying a game, and that's usually enough to get an idea of whether I'll like the game or not, but there's always a part of subjectivity in reviews (though, in the recent years, I've found that reviewers really tried to point out what was subjective in their review, so that the reader can see whether he'd have the same subjective reaction or not), and I just know that there are some reviewers whose tastes match mine more than others'.

Once again, I'm pretty happy with the great quality of the reviews we've been getting recently, but a short note of confirmation / disagreement by another staff member I know I usually agree with is something I'd enjoy reading.
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Old 12-14-2005, 05:12 AM   #3
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What about what they do at TV.com where users can leave there own score and comments.

Mini reviews and the like.
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Old 12-14-2005, 05:27 AM   #4
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The trouble with getting other members of staff to comment on each game is that it requires other members of staff to have played the game. So we already need at least twice the number of review copies. And, of course, they would need to all receive advance copies when one does, or the comments wouldn't be ready on time.

And do you really want superfluous comments at the end of Myst reviews saying things like "Well, I hate Myst-like games, so I was never going to enjoy this one"?

As for user scores, we all seem to have highly polarised views of games such as Still Life or Myst or Syberia. Which would probably wreck the averages.

User reviews, meanwhile, would have to be edited/moderated, unless you want a whole lot of chaff mixed in with the wheat.

I like the idea, but I'm not sure it would work in practice...
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Old 12-14-2005, 05:30 AM   #5
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Incidentally, Ninth, I'm sad that you think that AG reviews are chock full of spoilers. My experience of writing the odd review is that anything spoiler-esque is very quickly altered at the editing stage...
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Old 12-14-2005, 06:02 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RLacey
The trouble with getting other members of staff to comment on each game is that it requires other members of staff to have played the game. So we already need at least twice the number of review copies. And, of course, they would need to all receive advance copies when one does, or the comments wouldn't be ready on time.
You mean you people only play the games you get for free? What cheapskates!
More to the point, I wouldn't mind waiting for a few weeks for the second opinions, as I never rush to buy games anyway. And there are several much older games that I've only acquired recently. But I understand that it may be a problem for some people.

Quote:
And do you really want superfluous comments at the end of Myst reviews saying things like "Well, I hate Myst-like games, so I was never going to enjoy this one"?
Eh, why not? I'm sure there are cases where somebody may say 'I usually don't like Myst-clones, but I happened to like that one.' And that would be interesting.
And take the recent review of ATTWN, for instance. The review feels rather positive, and yet the score is not that great, so I'm not really sure what to think about that game. A few additional opinions, just saying whether, the flaws and qualities of the game being what they are, the game 'worked' for them, is something I'd be interested in. Of course, there are the forums; but there tends to be far more spoilers there.
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Old 12-14-2005, 06:12 AM   #7
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I need to clarify two things:

First of all, spoilers can come in varied forms. A screenshot is a spoiler, in my book. Knowing too much about a game is a spoiler too. So I didn't use this term in a negative light at all; it just meant that I want to preserve as much mystery as I can without actually ignoring what kind of game I will buy.

Second: I never say that staff comments should be compulsory. It's just that when they happen to play a game that they haven't reviewed themselves, they could be allowed to add a comment.

Also, Lucien, I'm not sure about user comments. I go to a site where do this, and even though the comments are supposedly filtered, many comments are just stupid and/or carrying misinformation. That can easily get out of hand. A simple forum poll is much more restrained.
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Old 12-14-2005, 06:24 AM   #8
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We've discussed ideas like these before, and while we haven't ruled them out, we're just in no position to implement them any time soon. And before anyone says how simple it would be, I'll remind them that ideas are ALWAYS simple on paper.

To address the alternate opinion idea, I just want to say that two opinions equal twice the subjectivity, not some kind of magically balancing objectivity. And as has been noted, we try to address issues of subjectivity in the reviews, which is rarely present in second opinions.

Then there are credibility factors - our reviewers must COMPLETE a game before writing a review. I'd wager money that many second opinions you read are not based on finished games. Is that fair? I lost count of how many people raved about what a fantastic demo Fahrenheit had, or how great it was for the first few hours. I'd sure be leery of a second opinion based solely on that.

No, we don't JUST play games we get for free, but we can hardly demand staff buy games to offer a second opinion. And a second opinion either comes with the review, or it's worthless. The fact is, there just aren't that many of us, and sometimes finding ONE reviewer is hard enough, let alone a couple others.

EDIT (after Ninth's new post): No, the second opinions couldn't just be sporadic (in practice). That'd be incredibly sloppy.

The other suggestions are even more problematic, so I won't address them unless someone really feels slighted.

I'm... intrigued by the comments here, though. I'm seeing requests for summarized opinions for essentially the very reasons we write the reviews. Namely, to clarify potentially misleading information based solely on one person's score with pros and cons.
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Old 12-14-2005, 07:21 AM   #9
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I like the idea in theory. I'm not going to argue with an opportunity to worm my opinions into other people's reviews. I like how Idle Thumbs does it in their articles (though those second opinions are anything but subjective, most of the time ). But the timing and logististics would make it hard to do. Best case scenario, we want to get a review out as close to the game's release as possible. It's not that AG staff are cheap bastards who only play games we get for free... but since the games we buy for ourselves are games we're approaching as players and not as staff, a lot of us are going to wait for the review before we buy.

The forum is the ideal place for people to say if they agreed or disagreed with the review and offer their own summary. Then you run into the problem of potential spoilers, or, as Ninth pointed out, misinformation. (I think you're more likely to get misinformation in the main Adventure forum than in response to a review, though. Just seems like someone who takes the time to read the review and formulate a response to it is already putting more thought into their posts than someone who just posts stupid things without thinking them through.)
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Old 12-14-2005, 08:03 AM   #10
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If something like the aforementioned 'second opinion' review ever does come to fruition, let me be the first to offer my services to write a second review of ATTWN... I promise to be completely 100% objective... Oh yes! Streams of bloody tears will flow!
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Old 12-14-2005, 09:09 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
We've discussed ideas like these before, and while we haven't ruled them out, we're just in no position to implement them any time soon. And before anyone says how simple it would be, I'll remind them that ideas are ALWAYS simple on paper.
Okay. Till next year, then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
To address the alternate opinion idea, I just want to say that two opinions equal twice the subjectivity, not some kind of magically balancing objectivity. And as has been noted, we try to address issues of subjectivity in the reviews, which is rarely present in second opinions.
I don't think that subjectivity adds up. If three persons (who are used to write review) says a game is great, I'll tend to believe them, but if they're opinion differ considerably, I'll know I need to investigate more.
I ran into a bunch of reviews I couldn't disagree more with, that either said a game suck without pointing out the qualities, or that it's great, without pointing out the flaws. For example, I've seen many reviews of Fahrenheit that don't mention the Simon thing, which is in my opinion its greatest flaw. Even a professional reviewer is only a man, and alternate views help put his perspective into... perspective. It's easy to be blind to the failings of a game that one loves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
Then there are credibility factors - our reviewers must COMPLETE a game before writing a review. I'd wager money that many second opinions you read are not based on finished games. Is that fair? I lost count of how many people raved about what a fantastic demo Fahrenheit had, or how great it was for the first few hours. I'd sure be leery of a second opinion based solely on that.
I wouldn't. Not if I considered a review as the official, and serious, stance, and alternate opinions as means to help recalibrating it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
No, we don't JUST play games we get for free, but we can hardly demand staff buy games to offer a second opinion. And a second opinion either comes with the review, or it's worthless. The fact is, there just aren't that many of us, and sometimes finding ONE reviewer is hard enough, let alone a couple others.

EDIT (after Ninth's new post): No, the second opinions couldn't just be sporadic (in practice). That'd be incredibly sloppy.
You see it as floppy, because you want to be as serious as possible as an editor, but I'm pretty sure people would forgive a teeny bit of sloppiness that would help them figure out the game.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
The other suggestions are even more problematic, so I won't address them unless someone really feels slighted.
I'm really curious on what would be problematic in adding a forum poll to provide alternative grades, so if you feel like addressing that even though I don't feel slighted in the slightest... be my guest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
I'm... intrigued by the comments here, though. I'm seeing requests for summarized opinions for essentially the very reasons we write the reviews. Namely, to clarify potentially misleading information based solely on one person's score with pros and cons.
What I'm suggesting and what reviews are about is basically about the same thing, yes, but it's a different way to address this issue. As I said, I'm not fond of reviews in general; I'd rather read small summaries, and preferably have alternate opinions. Or even better, have review and alternate opinions, and all in the same place (as opposed to having to survey all the adventure sites).
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Old 12-14-2005, 09:24 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ninth
Or even better, have review and alternate opinions, and all in the same place (as opposed to having to survey all the adventure sites).
Do you ever look at a site like Metacritic or Gamerankings when you're deciding whether to buy? That's basically what they do.
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Old 12-14-2005, 09:43 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fov
Do you ever look at a site like Metacritic or Gamerankings when you're deciding whether to buy? That's basically what they do.
Nope. I don't really need such a thing anyway, except for certain specific games, like Nancy Drew. My thread was more something of a general interrogation than a dire need.

But in any case, and even though I use such sites for movies, for example, I like the idea of something that would retain an Adventure Gamers' touch.
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Old 12-14-2005, 08:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ninth
Even a professional reviewer is only a man, and alternate views help put his perspective into... perspective. It's easy to be blind to the failings of a game that one loves.
That's why we have an editor.

Actually, I'm only half joking. I never ever impose my own opinion of a game on a reviewer, and no one will ever see my input to an article, but I do represent a second perspective that will challenge anything that's too subjective (having made a point of playing the game or at least a demo whenever possible). Which is why hopefully our reviews present a very balanced perspective despite the "lone reviewer" reality.

Of course, this only matters to people who read the reviews. But I still wanted to point that out.

Quote:
I wouldn't. Not if I considered a review as the official, and serious, stance, and alternate opinions as means to help recalibrating it.
Well, I think that's a dangerous game to play. It's easy to shoot from the hip, but it's tough to hit the mark that way. And if people are offering opinions with no real accountability, it actually runs the risk of undermining the official, serious stance. If two of three second opinions differ from the official stance, are we not more or less telling people to disregard it? To me the real (potential) value of second opinions is offering a different perspective, not a different judgement.

For that matter, I don't see our reviews as telling people whether or not to buy a game, except in extreme cases, for good or bad. What they do is provide people with enough information to decide for themselves whether it's for them. That's the goal. So I'm not actually sure that having more "opinions" is really furthering that goal, or moving away from it. We don't want to do people's thinking for them, just give them the information they need.

Anyway, I'm just debating this as an exchange of views, because as I said, this is an idea that definitely has merit, and has been considered. It's just on a long list of other good ideas that may or may not be realized some day.

Quote:
You see it as floppy, because you want to be as serious as possible as an editor, but I'm pretty sure people would forgive a teeny bit of sloppiness that would help them figure out the game.
Argh! Never tell an editor that sloppiness is okay. But really, it's not just presentation I'm concerned with. How about fairness to games and their developers? Is it okay to have some games fully fleshed out and others not? Maybe so, but I'm not overly comfortable with it.

Quote:
I'm really curious on what would be problematic in adding a forum poll to provide alternative grades, so if you feel like addressing that even though I don't feel slighted in the slightest... be my guest.
Well, JUST adding a link to a forum poll would be (relatively) easy enough. But having to follow a poll and update the review long after it's out is a pain in the butt for very little benefit. I'm also not convinced that a forum is a proper representation of the adventure community at large, so tying ourselves to a potentially skewed (albeit interesting) number isn't very appealing. At the very least, you'd need a minimum number of votes required for it to be of any benefit at all. Same problem with the second opinions, really. Until you're up into numbers where statistical averages start to matter, you could really just have two or three wildly divergent opinions with no overall relevance.

Quote:
What I'm suggesting and what reviews are about is basically about the same thing, yes, but it's a different way to address this issue. As I said, I'm not fond of reviews in general; I'd rather read small summaries, and preferably have alternate opinions. Or even better, have review and alternate opinions, and all in the same place (as opposed to having to survey all the adventure sites).
Sure, and I understand that. But at some point, that kind of variety may indeed be better suited to the forums. Plenty of opinions here.
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Old 12-14-2005, 08:43 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
I never ever impose my own opinion of a game on a reviewer, and no one will ever see my input to an article, but I do represent a second perspective that will challenge anything that's too subjective
He does indeed, believe me.
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Old 12-15-2005, 01:43 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
Well, JUST adding a link to a forum poll would be (relatively) easy enough. But having to follow a poll and update the review long after it's out is a pain in the butt for very little benefit. I'm also not convinced that a forum is a proper representation of the adventure community at large, so tying ourselves to a potentially skewed (albeit interesting) number isn't very appealing. At the very least, you'd need a minimum number of votes required for it to be of any benefit at all. Same problem with the second opinions, really. Until you're up into numbers where statistical averages start to matter, you could really just have two or three wildly divergent opinions with no overall relevance.
What about a system similar to the Home of the Underdogs, where you can grade a game in the "review" page, only one that would require a forum registration to avoid spam or multiple votes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackal
Sure, and I understand that. But at some point, that kind of variety may indeed be better suited to the forums. Plenty of opinions here.
Well, you don't have to convince me of this. I, being the magnanimous being that I am, was more thinking about the uneducated masses, who come to this site to be enlightened.

Seriously, though, I've had the "duh?" reaction to some reviews, not in this site (not that I can remember, in any case), but in other very popular sites, and in some cases I found myself suffering for those poor souls who will buy, say, Rhem 2, expecting a very colourful and lively game. These people won't frequent forum, usually, and it might be useful to them to know what seasoned and "educated" (you get the idea) adventure gamers think.
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Old 12-15-2005, 02:00 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ninth
Seriously, though, I've had the "duh?" reaction to some reviews, not in this site (not that I can remember, in any case), but in other very popular sites, and in some cases I found myself suffering for those poor souls who will buy, say, Rhem 2, expecting a very colourful and lively game. These people won't frequent forum, usually, and it might be useful to them to know what seasoned and "educated" (you get the idea) adventure gamers think.
In that case, just include a link to the forum at the end of each review along with something that says something like 'Find out what your fellow adventure gamers thought of this game'.
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Old 12-15-2005, 04:12 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Intrepid Homoludens
In that case, just include a link to the forum at the end of each review along with something that says something like 'Find out what your fellow adventure gamers thought of this game'.
That too. But a lot of people don't post that often, but would probably vote in a poll. The forum is often the same few people arguing around.
Also, in my very limited experience, people (me) tend to skip this kind of links. Gradings, on the other hand, I never skip. It's silly, but it's a silliness share by many, I'd guess.
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Old 12-15-2005, 07:53 AM   #19
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I've never minded the forum poll idea at all. Four Fat Chicks handles this well. But it's strictly a link, never something that's reflected on the review page itself, and I think that's as far as I'd want to go with it. The Underdogs system... I dunno. I'm on the fence about it, and would have to think about it some more. Like I said, when you get enough votes, it might make some sense. The trouble is not getting enough, and risking it becoming more harmful than helpful. And then there's also the risk of people jerking around with the system just for kicks. Giving a 0 to all Myst clones, for example. So... yeah. Can the public be trusted?
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Old 12-15-2005, 08:03 AM   #20
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I also think implmenting a Idle-Thumbs-like system would be very helpful. I like getting a second and third quick opinion on a review very much. Unfortunately, it would probably add more work on the part of the editors. But I have heard of rumors about the EIC at AG having a lot of free time and being able to easily work on things like this.

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