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Topic: General Gaming Industry Questions

Posts 1 to 20 of 27

SuperKMx

Hey all,
  I know this might sound egomaniacal and crazy, but it was suggested to me by one of our users, to start a topic where folks can ask me general questions about games journalism. I've been in the industry for 15 years or so now, so I can at least have a go at answering some questions. I generally rant in our Editor's Opinion-style sections, but if I don't cover something you want to know, ask in here and I'll see what I can do to either answer, or find out the answer for you.

Cheers,

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

tylertreese

I have a question!

What is your method when playing a game for review. Like do you take many notes? Do you write the review in order or if you're having trouble with a particular sentence will you skip around?

Personally, I used to take a lot of notes (I embarrassingly had a TON of notes on my first review - a match 3 puzzle game for DSiWare) but I barely take any now unless something happens that I know I want to include in the review like a glitch or cool moment. Always interested in how others tackle reviews and write, I got some advice from Patrick Klepek about writer's block that has helped me substantially.

"Eat light, you stupid machine!" - Lex, Bioforge

Xbox Gamertag: tylertreese | Twitter:

SuperKMx
TylerTreese

I have a question!

What is your method when playing a game for review. Like do you take many notes? Do you write the review in order or if you're having trouble with a particular sentence will you skip around?

Personally, I used to take a lot of notes (I embarrassingly had a TON of notes on my first review - a match 3 puzzle game for DSiWare) but I barely take any now unless something happens that I know I want to include in the review like a glitch or cool moment. Always interested in how others tackle reviews and write, I got some advice from Patrick Klepek about writer's block that has helped me substantially.

I used to take copious amounts of notes when reviewing games, but I found that after a while, I didn't really need to. I'll still note down complex or forgettable names of characters or levels, or facts that I need to get 100% correct. But as far as making "opinionated" notes, I don't do that anymore. I used to find that my notes would cause me to write disjointedly, as I'd try to include ALL of them, no matter how small or insignificant they were to the overall scheme of things.

In terms of process, I generally play for a little while - up until the point that I'm through the tutorial (if there is one) and am free to play with the mechanics for half an hour, then step away. I find a break means that I don't get caught up in the urge to play for a few hours straight and then write the review in one shot. I do usually write a review "in order" - intro, content, conclusion - and usually in one sitting.

I tend to finish a review, then step away and edit it on the following day (if there's time!) It means that I'm looking at it with fresh eyes and can spot any glaring bits that I want to get rid of or change.

Regards to getting stuck on a sentence, I delete it and start it again, or just delete it. I'm lucky in that I don't often find myself stuck for what to say. I figure that if I haven't overthought it enough to just get the words out, then my brain probably doesn't feel that it's all that important.

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

stylon

When you review a game - is it a given that you have to complete it before writing the review or just play enough of it to get a feel for it?

Always wondered as some games might take forever to complete like Skyrim or be so difficult like Dark Souls or Volgar the Viking that you might not be able to finish them??? Then what?

stylon

Xbox Gamertag: stylon

SuperKMx
stylon

When you review a game - is it a given that you have to complete it before writing the review or just play enough of it to get a feel for it?

Always wondered as some games might take forever to complete like Skyrim or be so difficult like Dark Souls or Volgar the Viking that you might not be able to finish them??? Then what?

A lot of outlets will tell you that they finish all games, and a lot of reviewers will tell you the same. I always recommend that new reviewers finish games as and when it's reasonable to do so, but there are so many definitions of what "finish" means these days that it varies. Does it mean to complete the single player campaign? Or is there an online campaign or an online freeroam mode that needs to be played for so many hours? Does it involve completing every optional mission? In a football game, do I have to win the Premier League, or just League Two, where I'll start?

My rule of thumb is "Have I played enough of the game to be able to I viably defend everything that I've written in my review?"

I'll generally finish games, but as long as I stick to that rule then I'm happy. Like I say, I wouldn't recommend that new reviewers take that approach. It's something that comes with experience, I reckon.



Volgarr the Viking - I was playing that a week before it was announced that it would be a Games With Gold title, and things were not going so well. Got to half way through the second level before realising that I just wouldn't be able to complete it. I don't mind difficult games - I'm as old-school as they get - but that thing was ridiculous. SO relieved it ended up as a GWG game.

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

tylertreese

Thanks for the answer, definitely saw some stuff I want to try to incorporate into my own reviews

What was the first review copy you ever received and for what outlet did you write the review for?

"Eat light, you stupid machine!" - Lex, Bioforge

Xbox Gamertag: tylertreese | Twitter:

SuperKMx
TylerTreese

What was the first review copy you ever received and for what outlet did you write the review for?

Sadly, it was WCW/nWO Thunder for the PSOne back in 1999. Reviewed it for a site called GamesFederation that was founded by some ex-print writers. It didn't get off the ground and the review disappeared into the sun. Probably for the best. The game was dire.

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

stylon
SuperKMx

A lot of outlets will tell you that they finish all games, and a lot of reviewers will tell you the same. I always recommend that new reviewers finish games as and when it's reasonable to do so, but there are so many definitions of what "finish" means these days that it varies. Does it mean to complete the single player campaign? Or is there an online campaign or an online freeroam mode that needs to be played for so many hours? Does it involve completing every optional mission? In a football game, do I have to win the Premier League, or just League Two, where I'll start?

My rule of thumb is "Have I played enough of the game to be able to I viably defend everything that I've written in my review?"

I'll generally finish games, but as long as I stick to that rule then I'm happy. Like I say, I wouldn't recommend that new reviewers take that approach. It's something that comes with experience, I reckon.

Volgarr the Viking - I was playing that a week before it was announced that it would be a Games With Gold title, and things were not going so well. Got to half way through the second level before realising that I just wouldn't be able to complete it. I don't mind difficult games - I'm as old-school as they get - but that thing was ridiculous. SO relieved it ended up as a GWG game.

Thanks for the insightful reply. Makes sense - you don't need to play to the bitter end of Fighter Within to know that it's god awful.

Volgarr The Viking - that's exactly why I mentioned that one... I love retro games but OMG you'd need to be superhuman to beat that game!

stylon

Xbox Gamertag: stylon

tylertreese

Do you have any crazy or just memorable tales from any industry events?

"Eat light, you stupid machine!" - Lex, Bioforge

Xbox Gamertag: tylertreese | Twitter:

SuperKMx
TylerTreese

Do you have any crazy or just memorable tales from any industry events?

Not really. I'm generally too busy working, so I keep out of the drama.

Although a certain current head of EA once bellowed at me in front of a room of journalists during a group interview, for quoting accurate Japanese Xbox 360 sales figures to him as part of a question. Basically told me that the chart figures that Media Create put out are incorrect and I should never question him. "Ok, sir. Can you give me the correct figures then, please?" I asked.

So, he asked me to leave.

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

RonJMaclean

@SuperKMx
With working in the games industry, do you ever feel turned off of games from time to time?
What would you say irritates you most about the gaming community?
What would be your favourite games of all time be?
Keep up the great work.

RonJMaclean

SuperKMx
RonJMaclean

@SuperKMx
With working in the games industry, do you ever feel turned off of games from time to time?
What would you say irritates you most about the gaming community?
What would be your favourite games of all time be?
Keep up the great work.

Hi Ron,
  I wouldn't say that I feel turned off of games ever, really. I have been in the past, when I've been playing games to review that I didn't really have any desire to play. To get around that, I learned to mix them up with some retro titles or to keep at least one game I enjoy on the back burner, so to speak, so I've got something to switch to that I enjoy.

What irritates me the most? Hmm. Dead heat between fanboys and negativity. I'd say. I know I edit a single-platform site, but I can't imagine spending my days trolling Twitter or Facebook to look for positive comments about the PS4 from people I don't know, just so I could reply to them with hate. I don't understand the positioning of these people. Do they think that Sony or Microsoft (or Nintendo) cares about them in any way at all, past taking their money? Some genuinely feel that they do, it seems. As for negativity...well, I've ranted about that before.

Favourite games of all time....that's always a tough one. In no particular order, OutRun, Shenmue, Skies of Arcadia, Final Fantasy VII, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, NBA Jam TE, FIFA International Soccer (original), Turrican, Champion Jockey (big horse racing fan here), Shox, MS-R, Skool Daze, pretty much any 8 or 16-bit soccer manager game, Crazy Taxi, Freekstyle, SSX Tricky, ISS Deluxe, Journey, Grand Theft Auto III, The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 2, Geoff Crammond's Microprose Grand Prix, Frontier: Elite II, Super Sidekicks, Neo Turf Masters, Metal Slug, Under Defeat, Aero Fighters, Power Stone (1 & 2), WWF WrestleFest....man, I could go on....just too many to list!

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

BAMozzy

What's your process about scoring a game the way you do. Do you add up the sum of the parts (for example break it down into components like Graphics, gameplay, controls, Story, features and mark each out of say 20 and then add up the score to finalise a score out of 100) or do you just base a score on how it compares with other similar games around at the time (i.e. 'x' game scored 8 and 'y' game is slightly better so it gets an 8.5)?
I have always wondered how some journalists rate games in the way they do.
Personally when I review a game myself I break it down into about 5 parts - each worth up to 20 and then add up those to reach a score out of 100

Edited on by BAMozzy

A pessimist is just an optimist with experience!

Why can't life be like gaming? Why can't I restart from an earlier checkpoint??

Feel free to add me but please send a message so I know where you know me from...

Xbox Gamertag: bamozzy

SuperKMx
BAMozzy

What's your process about scoring a game the way you do. Do you add up the sum of the parts (for example break it down into components like Graphics, gameplay, controls, Story, features and mark each out of say 20 and then add up the score to finalise a score out of 100) or do you just base a score on how it compares with other similar games around at the time (i.e. 'x' game scored 8 and 'y' game is slightly better so it gets an 8.5)?
I have always wondered how some journalists rate games in the way they do.
Personally when I review a game myself I break it down into about 5 parts - each worth up to 20 and then add up those to reach a score out of 100

I try not to break things down or average them out. I generally go along the lines of "how would I feel about this game if I had paid the current asking price for it?" With a couple of modifiers, of course. I avoid breaking stuff down because if a game looks amazing, sounds quite good, but is the worst game in the world to play, I'd give it 10/10 for graphics, 7/10 for sound, and 0/10 for gameplay. 17 across 3 categories = 5.6 per category. That's 6 out of 10 (rounded) for a game that I don't think is fun, rewarding, replayable, or entertaining in the slightest, and that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. If just totalling them up, you get 17/30, which works out to 56/100. Again, above average for a game that I wouldn't recommend to my worst enemy!

Change the scores around, and you get the same for a game that looks good, sounds amazing, and plays terribly. Or a game that looks like trash but sounds brilliant and plays better than average. In all cases, the final score would be the same, but for a different reason. Anyone just looking at the score would have no idea WHY it scored as well as it did at a glance.

There are some benefits to totalling and averaging, but I find that there are far too many quirks in the system for me to use it. Scoring isn't an exact science and there are tons of ways of doing it that work for the particular writer in question. Some start at 10 and take points off for various things. Others start at 5 and add or subtract when specific things that they're looking for either happen or don't. I generally just get a feeling about a game, compare to games of a similar nature, take pricing into account, and go from there. For me, it's generally all about feeling.

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

RonJMaclean

Great insight @SuperKMx
Just reading your list of games have brought back a flood of memories.
If it wasn't for WrestleFest and all the quarters I dropped into that I would have Bill Gates money lol
I love the site and I wish everyone the best holidays they can possibly have.

RonJMaclean

SuperKMx
RonJMaclean

I love the site and I wish everyone the best holidays they can possibly have.

Thanks, Ron - and the same to you, too! All the best to you and yours.

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

BAMozzy
SuperKMx
BAMozzy

What's your process about scoring a game the way you do. Do you add up the sum of the parts (for example break it down into components like Graphics, gameplay, controls, Story, features and mark each out of say 20 and then add up the score to finalise a score out of 100) or do you just base a score on how it compares with other similar games around at the time (i.e. 'x' game scored 8 and 'y' game is slightly better so it gets an 8.5)?
I have always wondered how some journalists rate games in the way they do.
Personally when I review a game myself I break it down into about 5 parts - each worth up to 20 and then add up those to reach a score out of 100

I try not to break things down or average them out. I generally go along the lines of "how would I feel about this game if I had paid the current asking price for it?" With a couple of modifiers, of course. I avoid breaking stuff down because if a game looks amazing, sounds quite good, but is the worst game in the world to play, I'd give it 10/10 for graphics, 7/10 for sound, and 0/10 for gameplay. 17 across 3 categories = 5.6 per category. That's 6 out of 10 (rounded) for a game that I don't think is fun, rewarding, replayable, or entertaining in the slightest, and that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. If just totalling them up, you get 17/30, which works out to 56/100. Again, above average for a game that I wouldn't recommend to my worst enemy!

Change the scores around, and you get the same for a game that looks good, sounds amazing, and plays terribly. Or a game that looks like trash but sounds brilliant and plays better than average. In all cases, the final score would be the same, but for a different reason. Anyone just looking at the score would have no idea WHY it scored as well as it did at a glance.

There are some benefits to totalling and averaging, but I find that there are far too many quirks in the system for me to use it. Scoring isn't an exact science and there are tons of ways of doing it that work for the particular writer in question. Some start at 10 and take points off for various things. Others start at 5 and add or subtract when specific things that they're looking for either happen or don't. I generally just get a feeling about a game, compare to games of a similar nature, take pricing into account, and go from there. For me, it's generally all about feeling.

Fair enough

The reason I use the 'breakdown' method is so you can see where a games strengths and/or weaknesses are but like you say it can give better scores for poor games. Maybe I should change the values of certain categories (i.e. Mark graphics out of 10 whilst gameplay gets marked out of 50 for example) This way a poor looking but good game would score higher than a good looking poor game.

A pessimist is just an optimist with experience!

Why can't life be like gaming? Why can't I restart from an earlier checkpoint??

Feel free to add me but please send a message so I know where you know me from...

Xbox Gamertag: bamozzy

HEADESTROYER4

The number score is usually evident just a bit before "beating" a game, or seeing all it has to offer, for me. Sometimes you just get stuck between two, what was the most difficult game you've EVER had to slap a number score on, Mr. Barnes? Or even the most difficult to review overall.

J.R.R G!en!

Twitter:

Captain_Chao5

Maybe an obvious one, but assuming you guys get sent early releases of games. What happens to them once you have reviewed?  I'm picturing a room stacked with games for various consoles, gathering dust.

You don't stop gaming because you get old, you get old because you stop gaming.

Xbox Gamertag: Captain Chao5

SuperKMx
HEADESTROYER4

The number score is usually evident just a bit before "beating" a game, or seeing all it has to offer, for me. Sometimes you just get stuck between two, what was the most difficult game you've EVER had to slap a number score on, Mr. Barnes? Or even the most difficult to review overall.

I genuinely couldn't pick one out. There have been a lot of titles that are tough to review. The hardest ones to cover are the ones from game franchises that you know that you like, as you have to review them in the same way that you would review other games, even though you're hoping against hope that the new title will be awesome before you even load it up.

Ken Barnes,
Freelance Writer, Full-Time Idiot.

Xbox Gamertag: SuperKMx | Twitter:

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