A creative community without criticism is stunted thing.

edited February 2008 in Story Games
Man, the title says it.

If we don't honestly and earnestly criticize each other's games than we are going to find ourselves knee-deep in weak-ass games. That is just it.

Jeff and I decided to keep our show very positive and at times I kind of regret that. A voice of criticism is an important thing. Without it, shit is going to fall flat.

Jay Walton has a good point, though. I wouldn't want a small group of vocal folks speaking for everyone or acting as gate-keepers or some shit. That is crap.

But there has got to be something. The fact that Ron said that Shock: needed a once-over and Alexander played it and had trouble with the text and was vocal about it led to Joshua releasing the new version and the new version has been at the helm of more hours of fun gaming than any other game this year. That is a big YAY for Joshua for cowboying up and re-writing things but also a big YAY to Ron and Alexander for being active and aggressive players who not only high-five when things are awesome but scratch their heads IN PUBLIC and give solid critique.

As usual, I think this kind of criticism has to come out of play. It shouldn't be some blog where reviews happen, unless those reviews are AP reviews.

Publish -> Play -> Dialogue -> Refine

But I'm open to other solutions to this riddle. How do you think we should criticize each other's babies?
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Comments

  • With love, right?
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarWith love, right?
    In order to make a game better, so yeah, I'd think that's love.
  • In as nice a way as possible without sacrificing honesty, all in an open forum.
  • edited February 2008
    Posted By: JuddBut I'm open to other solutions to this riddle. How do you think we should criticize each other's babies?
    From my perspective, the first step is to stop being afraid (edit: or guilty) of the impacts my words may have on someone's sales. Before, I used to think "Man, if I talk about how X game is of poor quality, maybe they'll lose ten sales, and they'll feel that more than if I said that about D&D." I've come to realize that I should not feel responsible for anyone else's success (which is a neat parallel to the "as a GM, I'm should not feely solely responsible for the group's fun" story game ideal).
  • One thing is constructive criticism (which means pointing at the problems, rough areas and places where things can get improved) and another thing is agressive criticism (which basically means telling people they are wrong, but not adding anything that could help improve and correct those wrongs).

    The former is the one a creative person needs the most. The later is the most common type.
  • And you know, there's another element to this: not everybody is "good at" criticism (with the scare-quotes for "I can't think of a better word"). It's not their thing, they don't think that way, they don't like communicating that sort of thing, they don't have the skill to do it tactfully, whatever. Further, the community would not be served if every member became a critic overnight.

    I think what I'm saying is that we don't need criticism so much as we need to give criticism a place in the community.
  • My boss has a rule...he never articulated it to me until AFTER I'd figured it out and got on his good side, but the rule is this.

    Don't come to me with something that's wrong, unless you also come to me with a potential solution.

    Now what makes this work, is that there's no expectation that the solution is THE solution on his part...nor that the solution WILL be implemented on mine. But what it does is show that the goal is to make things better, not just bitch and tear down.

    Good rule IMO.

    I think practitioners of what is being discussed here would do well to abide by it.

    Every item of criticism must be accompanied by an offsetting suggestion for how to make it better...practical, achievable, real suggestion. Especially as we're all fellow designers here (in spirit if not in practice)...so if we can't think of a suggestion to make it better, what room do we have to bitch about it.

    Again with the same caveats as to expectations above.
  • Ralph, my experience tells me that rule is a good one... 85% of the time. Sometimes, though, there are problems that need attention but the person who finds the problem doesn't have the first idea how to fix it (global warming, to take an extreme example).

    Also, and Jonathan is touching on this in the Prevenge thread, that's a very useful tack to take... while the product is in development. Once the game is in print, though, offering potential fixes for a problem is less useful. Once we're talking about a product that's offered up for sale, the potential solution may justifiably be, "Don't buy it."
  • Posted By: ValamirGood rule IMO.
    No, it's not.

    Just because I don't have a solution to a problem does not mean the the problem does not exist. If I call attention to a problem that I cannot solve, though, someone that does have a solution is more likely to learn of it and be able to fix it. I am also letting the designer know that it is something to work on for the good of his own game. Even if I am mistaken about the problem, that may be pointing to issues of commiunication, physical design, etc.

    Additionally, post-release, I am warning my fellow consumers about a valid issue that should factor into their decision of whether to purchase a consumer product or not.
  • Posted By: ValamirDon't come to me with something that's wrong, unless you also come to me with a potential solution.
    Maybe that works in a business environment where everyone is working together on a project. (Incidentally, I tend to agree, but I will also give credit to the person who says "Hey, you know, I don't quite know how to solve this though. Give me a bit to chew it over. (or) Mind helping me out?"

    But here, with respect to this community, you're telling me that noticing someone's problem makes it my responsibility. This is something I'm seeing more and more of -- people pushing the responsibility off the writer/designer and onto the reader. Not just writers, but their fans.
  • edited February 2008
    My answer to this
    Posted By: JuddHow do you think we should criticize each other's babies?
    Is a mix and match of the following options.
    • One on one.
    • In voice.
    • In person.
    • Within a small trusted circle.
    • Off the internet.
    Most of what can be said in public, on an internet forum is far too vulnerable to the internet's supervillain power of removing context from the conversation. It can, and often will, turn to shit. Maybe that's too pessimistic, but it's pessimism borne of experience.

    From elsethread:
    Posted By: iagoI'm fine with taking some stuff to the public stageafterit's been vetted in a few one on one conversations (my preferred mode of receiving criticism) or within a trusted circle. This is actually one of the things I really liked about the peer feedback groups in Game Chef: it kept the number of critic-cooks in the kitchen to a managable size.

    It's full on open public critiquing that I think is damn near impossible to pull off well on the internet. Because it takes too much work in such a venue to achieve the benefits that are far easier to attain in the aforementioned smaller ones.

    At the end of the day, I'm not arguing (or at least, notintending to argue-- I'll own that I might have done so without thinking about it) against the need for critique. I'm arguing about thevenuewhere it works best.

    Something like the Master Mines -- or, I guess, the "Owlbear idea", though I'm not sure what that is -- is doing it right, I think: creating a smaller, focused discussion group around a small number of games, as a method for improving those games for their release. Hell, that's essentially what the Forge used to be until it got flooded by its own success, right?
    As a species we are absolute crap at safeguarding each others' emotions when we have even the slightest whiff of anonymity the way the internet provides it. Give me a face to face conversation, or at least a one on one IM chat, to tell me what parts of my game are crap and I'm 100 times likelier to take it well (in part because you're 100 times likelier to frame it better since you know you have an audience of one -- me). Put that same critique out in public where it's an opportunity for me to feel shame, and I'm going to be out for blood.
  • edited February 2008
    Posted By: LinnaeusJust because I don't have a solution to a problem does not mean the the problem does not exist. If I call attention to a problem that I cannot solve, though, someone that does have a solution is more likely to learn of it and be able to fix it. I am also letting the designer know that it is something to work onfor the good of his own game. Even if I am mistaken about the problem, that may be pointing to issues of commiunication, physical design, etc.
    The point of that rule is not wanting people to solve the problem for us. The idea is to approach the problem in a constructive way. Don't just say "it is wrong". That doesn't help. Tell me why, how and where it is wrong. And if you can, give me some ideas to solve it.

    The rule is not "if you can't give me a solution, the problem doesn't exist". It is "don't just say no, say how I can get it better".
  • Bingo.

    It puts the whole discourse into a better frame.

    "This doesn't work, this doesn't work, this doesn't work" is asshattery...or most often is and thus is likely to be seen as.

    "This doesn't work, and here are some alternatives you might want to consider that could work better"...is contructive. It puts critic and criticized on the same team with the same goals working together, instead of being adversaries.

    Its more of a communication technique than an actual solution generator.
  • Exactly. And it is not "putting the responsability on others". If you don't want to help, then don't. But just saying "no" is not feedback.
  • Hey, Judd,
    you DO have that Hatchling Thoughts podcast going on. You can always start a "Things Judd thinks could be better" segment. I dont think a bit of good solid criticism is too negative for SoK, because - going back to Ralph's boss's rule - even just soliciting listeners for solid solutions is itself a suggestion for a solution. Besides, what was that "Its what my character would do" segment if not criticism? (with some solutions)


    Hey, Fred,
    the other side of your argument is that open, public criticism gives other people a chance to learn how to do it right, even if they don't participate in the conversation. If the discussion happens in private, only the participants learn anything from it. Open it up, and you can benefit from other people (see Linnaeus, above), even though you are vulnerable to the Minions of Internet Evil. But getting rid of those people is also a valuable internet skill that needs to be learned IMHO.

    Sure, there's other points in favor of public criticism, but if people (like you) say "talk to me first, before you go public" then I think that should be respected.
  • Posted By: TristanThe point of that rule is not wanting people to solve the problem for us. The idea is to approach the problem in a constructive way. Don't just say "it is wrong". That doesn't help. Tell mewhy,howandwhereit is wrong. And if you can, give me some ideas to solve it.
    Then that's what the rule should say. As it was expressed it communicated none of that.

    In this form, I completely agree with it.
  • Posted By: johnstoneHey, Fred,
    the other side of your argument is that open, public criticism gives other people a chance to learn how to do it right, even if they don't participate in the conversation.
    I'd rather hear public discussions of what people learned from a game (including what they learned as aversion rather than attraction -- I learned X because game Y doesn't do Z the way I want). In my ideal world, that's the real end-state of the more isolated critique-sessions.

    Think about Ron Edwards' Brain Damage kerfluffle of old. He was having that conversation in public, though in talking with him about it afterwards, the fact that it was public was pretty much accidental; he intended the conversation to be small, controlled, among a trusted circle. But it wasn't. It was on the fucking internet, and people got upset about it, and then I flew in there to make sure I had a chance to be another poo-flinging monkey (and boy, did I fling it).

    What if that had happened as a more private conversation which was then followed by a more controlled public conversation covering its *conclusions* rather than the whole mess of thought from start to finish? I think it would have had a much better chance of being something awesome instead of awful.

    That's what I'm looking for here.
  • Something to keep in mind with criticism is that nothing is perfect. Nothing is beyond criticism. This is something I tell my students all the time, and I think it's an important thing to remember. If you look hard enough, you can always find something to pick at, something to point to, something to criticize. So approaching a piece of art or finished project with criticism in mind can be tricky. Not everything NEEDS to be criticized. Or rather, there's no reason to go looking for faults in an otherwise fine piece of work.

    Now, I'm not saying that this is what anyone is doing, but saying that everything should be held up for fair criticism (which is great) very often leads to works being examined solely for their flaws, and those flaws being presented as the representation of the work as a whole.

    It's really easy to say that our community won't do this, especially since no one wants to. But it will happen (and has happened, I think). Returning to the example of my students, I can see this behavior very, very clearly when we participate in group criticism. Each student will display their current project (a painting, illustration, cartoon, etc), and students will make critical comments about the work. I usually lead off with a few comments of my own in order to set the tone. What invariably happens is that after the first few comments, students start looking for things to criticize. Instead of absorbing the work as a whole and appreciating it for what it is, they look for any weakness in the work that they can present to the class. In looking for a fault, they miss the larger picture.

    Anyway...

    My point here isn't that we shouldn't be critical. But that we should make sure that we're not looking for things to criticize. And to recognize that this is an easy behavior to fall into.
  • edited February 2008
    Judd:

    I wanna say something, cause some of your first post bugs me.
    By the time that Alexander and Ron were going off on Shock: in public, Joshua and I were already well into the rewrite. The effect of the public stuff was, in my opinion, harmful, because Joshua felt rushed to get stuff out the door and I really think that the text needs more work and more massaging. Joshua may have a different experience than me: this is just me speaking as an editor.

    It turns out shame is not as good a motivator in public (where people are defensive) as in private (where we can be friends and I can go "look, dude your game needs serious work and we are going to sit down together and hash this shit out until it is good.")

    I realize that this is just an example and not your real point, but it still bugs me.

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • It's easy to hurt feelings when you're discussing people's creative endeavors.

    If you don't like a game at all, then say so up front, and leave it be. You both can agree to disagree or hate each other or whatever. Hell, go ahead and beat it like a dead horse, otherwise how would we know that you're a prick and how would rpg.net ever have any content.

    If you have problems with what could be great, however, learn to make a nice sandwich.

    "Dear creator of game I like and would like to love,
    ahem, you rock. Seriously, I throw the goats at you because of your rockness, however, inasmuch as your game has problems, I would like to point out to you that your innovative pancake mechanic fails when the pancake becomes dirty and we cannot tell which side is positive and which side is negative. Please correct this mistake, and i will give you internet frottage for many moons, because you rock so hard.
    Yours,
    Brigadier General Ogre Whiteside (Mrs.)"

    See, some criticism wrapped in two slices of nice to remind the person your chiding that, yes, you do like the game, and yes, you don't think they're a baby-eating jerkasaurus.

    just a thought.
  • I love Mr. and/or Mrs. Whiteside. Also, I love constructive criticism. I wish I knew my game would get some positive feedback and love; but I'm just panicky about backlash and the cruel-hearted faggotry the interweb perpetuates. Even with as lovable a bunch of scamps as y'all our, my baby is my baby, and it's beautiful to me even if it needs fixing.

    Means two things.
    1. Tell me I'm pretty.
    2. Tell me how to be prettier.
  • Posted By: JarrodMeans two things.
    1. Tell me I'm pretty.
    2. Tell me how to be prettier.
    This is what I try to do when I get the monthly random draft from someone on the internet. This is what I try to do on Master Mines. This is what I try to do any time I read a game currently in development. Sometimes I come down as harsh, but I endeavor to be polite, objective and fair-minded.

    Once it's published, that ends and I take a different tact (albeit privately until now): what lessons I can learn from this that I can apply to my own future projects. So, allow me to extend the metaphor: I can talk to you about how to be prettier before you hit the ball. Once you're there, I can't do anything to help you be prettier, but I am going to use what I see to help me be prettier in the future.

    Frankly, that's what you're going to get from me soon -- talk about what lessons I am taking away from these books that I feel are sub-par. I don't need to bitch about them -- that's unproductive for all of us. I don't need to say "don't buy them" -- by giving them any press, someone may buy them (and, frankly, I think even as negative examples they have value). I'm going to focus on what these books have communicated to me about the craft of bookmaking, and sharing those lessons with my audience as bookmakers.

    So, pre-publication, I'm talking with the designer about the present; post-publication, I'm talking with the world about the future.
  • If we don't honestly and earnestly criticize each other's games than we are going to find ourselves knee-deep in weak-ass games. That is just it
    ...Publish -> Play -> Dialogue -> Refine
    Under this model, we are still going to find ourself knee-deep in weak-ass first editions. It'll be like the glory days of White Wolf, or the current days of Microsoft.

    So, when I say "critique" or "playtesting" in the following, I'm talking about pre-publication critique. I think if you want to increase quality across the indie publishing scene, that's when you need to introduce feedback -- before the games are exposed to the cold light of the public internet.

    I've criticized a lot of fiction and playtested a few games, so I hope people believe me when I say this: Fiction critique is crazy, difficult, time-consuming work. It requires divination of the exact intent of the author (which is much harder than it sounds), knowledge of the conventions of the author's genre, and the ability to dismiss your prejudices and relate only those reactions that help the author achieve their intent within their chosen genre.

    This is much, much different than reviewing. A review is a just guess at how a certain audience will react to a work. Good critique provides a roadmap to victory. A review just tells you whether you got there or not.

    The people who are good at critique have practiced and practiced and practiced at it. The most effective critiquers I've seen have decades invested in their skills. For me, it was exhausting, and when I did it lots, it made me not want to read for pleasure.

    So, yeah. Fiction critique is hard. And game critique is at least as hard, and requires much more investment in time and energy. You gotta read, you gotta gather your group, you gotta play some sessions, you gotta write up the responses, you gotta discuss them, etc. If you're going to do it well, you've got to have some serious love in your heart for your hobby.

    The really sad thing is, even that powerful love cannot guarantee that the critique will be useful to the recipient. And even if it is useful, there's no guarantee that they'll even pay attention to it. My wildass guestimate is that maybe 1% of what I offered to other writers was useful to them. When my own work was being critiqued, perhaps 10% of what I received really clicked with me. It's possible that number should have been much higher, though. Filtering and processing critique is a skill too. I don't know if I ever got very good at it.

    So who are the critiquers who are going to de-stunt this community? Who's gonna do the heavy lifting? And will they accept their task even though they might not have much impact on the final product?

    Critters.org, a genre critique trading site that's been around for a decade, solved this problem by requiring critique recipients to provide critique of their own. If you didn't pony up enough crit to stay qualified, your stories were out of the queue. Perhaps that model might work here.
  • Posted By: OgremarcoIf you don't like a game at all, then say so up front, and leave it be. You both can agree to disagree or hate each other or whatever. Hell, go ahead and beat it like a dead horse, otherwise how would we know that you're a prick and how would rpg.net ever have any content.
    ::laugh::

    Very good point. The first thing to ask when criticizing a game is "Could I ever like this game?" And if the answer is "No." then don't criticize it. And respecting the premise is important to.

    There's nothing quite as frustrating as having someone criticize your new High Fantasy RPG by saying "This sucks, it needs more cyberware."
  • Posted By: OgremarcoIf you have problems with what could be great, however, learn to make a nice sandwich.
    I hate the "oreo" treatment. I was taught it early in my management career and tried it, hated myself for the insincerity of it and chucked it.

    Honestly, if you make a habit of offering criticism by starting a statement all nicey nice, then I will be waiting for the giant "BUT" where you get to your "real" point. And that sure does make the nicey nice a waste of words, doesn't it?

    If you feel you must share a critique, then offer it and be done with it.
  • Fair criticism of a game is pretty hard, but I'll suggest that there are some guidelines that can keep it relevant, friendly, and still useful.

    First, accept the premise. The author ought to tell you what he's trying to do. Telling him that's a bad plan doesn't help him. Telling him how he can better achieve those goals does. If you really hate the premise, step away from the keyboard.

    Second, give it a spin. If you can't figure out how to play it, that's critical information for the author. If you can figure out how to play it and doing so doesn't deliver the goods, then how and why are going to be valuable.

    Finally, even if you don't want to play it or hate the premise, everyone can use some help with editing and aesthetics. If all you have to say is, "I think a better font for this would be Comic Sans", that's better than just shitting on the premise. By a long shot. Please consider "Comic Sans" a placeholder for a real font though.

    Now I'll say that if you dig the premise and tried to play it, I don't care how mean you are when you tell me what's broken. But the objectives going in are the sole property of the author.

    This is pretty close to what we used to use as guidelines for our creative writing groups. The criticism could be pretty brutal at times, especially being face-to-face, but it was directed at solving the author's problems as he perceived them rather than inventing new ones for him.
  • Posted By: Halfjack"I think a better font for this would be Comic Sans",
    Comic Sans is never the better font, though. ;)
  • edited February 2008
    I'm being too subtle in some of my points, so to be explicit:
    There is a big difference between critiquing/criticizing a game and critiquing/criticizing a book. They are two different focuses (foci?) on what ends up being the same artifact.
  • The are absolutely two different foci, and one of them gets way more attention than the other. Sure, we hear "this is a beautiful book" sometimes, but then everything shifts to play and mechanics -- which would be great if play was only about the mechanics, but there's a ton of ways that layout, art, and presentation affect play.
  • Posted By: Josh Bonobo Robybut there's a ton of ways that layout, art, and presentation affect play.
    I stand corrected. "Book" isn't just one focus. ;)
  • I only buy a book based on its' value as art. Witness my excitement at $50 for Untitled RPG, and my hesitance at purchasing SotC. Not that it's not a great game, hell the book is great! It's just not gonna be hanging out on my coffee table for when my parents come over. So! .pdf.

    I'm not shitting on book publishing whatsoever; heck, I love holding a fresh new book. I just think making your game a work of art is a way to exult it beyond play and mechanics.

    My $.02.
  • I love the model that Iago suggests, that criticism should be in private, face to face, with friends. Sure, you can probably get great feedback that way ... but the whole reason I am here on the Internet asking people for help is because I don't have a close circle of interested friends with the time to help me. Heck it takes three weeks just to get 4 people in the same room to play a game, and that's when I'm providing the venue and the game. And I'm sure I am not alone in wanting to design a game but not having a close network of story gaming friends able to help me at a moment's notice. If I come to my favourite forum and ask for help in public you can probably assume that I need it, and want it, and can't get the other sort of help.

    I also love the idea that all criticism should come out of actual play experiences. Indeed getting people who are *not you* to play your game and see how it goes, without your coaching, or preconceptions, is one of the main reasons for putting a draft or ashcan out there and asking for help. However my experience is that actually getting anyone to play your game is really hard, especially if you don't have a track record. Everyone out there has a big stack of games they really mean to get around to playing, and sure they might put your design on the list, but the chances that they will get round to playing it, or actually get back to you before you gave up on the project or published it, is small. So while I'd prefer people's comments to come from actual play, I'd rather they gave me their informed opinion based on just reading it, than no opinion at all.
  • You know what strikes me as odd about this thread? There's a place doing this kind of criticism right now, and has been doing it for years - it's called The Forge.
  • Johnzo is wise and very experienced in these matters. Listen to him.

    Also, Jack: Yes!! We have The Forge (two dedicated sub-forums there). And the Ashcan Front. And all the localized playtesting and review (like Jason's crew, or the BW guys). And the RPG Bakery. And Gamecraft. I could go on.
  • Plop...in goes the 2p

    A long time ago when I was doing my basic Noddy counselling qualification we were taught to give 'Constructive Feedback' rather than 'Constructive Criticism'. Feedback is a far less confrontational term than criticism. One of the reasonings given by the tutor, apart from the academic reasons, was that people see the word 'critic-' and it preloads a huge amount of preconceived notions of what is to come. We see professional critics as either bile-filled agitators drawing blood for the baying masses or fawning sychophants bowing before the latest artistic deity-in-the-making. Feedback doesn't quite have that history.

    The other three concepts that I remember (in that this was done ages ago) were that all feedback had to be OWNED by you (i.e. 'I believe that DitV is...' rather than 'Everyone thinks that DitV is ...') and it has to be directed at the issue rather than the person (i.e. 'The fonts used in Cold City really make it hard ...' rather than 'Malcolm really dropped the ball with the Cold City fonts because...') and you should never present absolutes (i.e. 'I haven't been able to get to grips with Agon's resolution system' instead of 'Agon's resolution system sucks. Its bad.')

    Recognising that the time, effort, time, expense, time, pride and time that people have invested in these endeavours might make them just a little bit possessive about their creations and treating your comments with the care that this realisation should hopefully create an atmosphere where people feel safe to give and receive feedback on their game without the added barbs and spikes.

    And on that bombshell..
    Neil
  • Posted By: Jack AidleyYou know what strikes me as odd about this thread? There's a place doing this kind of criticism right now, and has been doing it for years - it's called The Forge.
    Except I posted threads on the Forge asking for help and didn't get any

    Which is not to say that The Forge can't offer exactly the sort of criticism being asked for, from what I can see it often does, but that The Forge is not yet the answer to the problem of games going out without sufficient analysis because people don't actually comment on them.
  • I generally prefer destructive criticism to constructive.

    (Note that "destructive" needn't mean "aggressive". If I say "I don't like the layout" or "The character creation is too complicated", that's destructive but not unpleasant).

    When people offer me destructive criticism, they give me a problem I can fix ("Fix the layout, Graham"). When people give me constructive criticism ("I think you should consider left-aligning the text and using more art"), I have to unpick everything they say: "Whoah! Why do you think that? Tell me what you didn't like, so I can fix it."

    Tell you what, I'll start another post.

    Graham
  • edited February 2008
    Wow! Excellent thread here :)
    Posted By: HalfjackFirst, accept the premise. The author ought to tell you what he's trying to do. Telling him that's a bad plan doesn't help him. Telling him how he can better achieve those goals does. If you really hate the premise, step away from the keyboard.
    The author also ought to tell what kind of feedback he expects If he does, try to respect that, barring outstanding issues. Is he working on the core concept, or on the presentation structure, the rules? Then layout or spelling or font suggestions probably are inadequate and a waste of time.

    Similarly, it may be very useful to the author if you delimit the area of your feedback: what you did consider/try and what you did not.
    Posted By: orklordHonestly, if you make a habit of offering criticism by starting a statement all nicey nice, then I will be waiting for the giant "BUT" where you get to your "real" point. And that sure does make the nicey nice a waste of words, doesn't it?

    If you feel you must share a critique, then offer it and be done with it.
    A good critique also points the good parts of a work. It is very important, and for more reasons than to cushion the author’s ego. (As such, maybe that, as other already wrote, feedback is a better word, because it is less burdened with negative associations.) It let the author know what is appreciated, what are the strengths of his work and what should not be changed or not changed without caution. It also provides balance to negative critiques (eg if one vocal critic dislike one particular point most people find good).


    Also, try to avoid pet issues and hot buttons (yours and the autor’s). Or, at the least, signal them as so.
    Posted By: Graham W(Note that "destructive" needn't mean "aggressive". If I say "I don't like the layout" or "The character creation is too complicated", that's destructive but not unpleasant).

    When people offer me destructive criticism, they give me a problem I can fix ("Fix the layout, Graham"). When people give me constructive criticism ("I think you should consider left-aligning the text and using more art"), I have to unpick everything they say: "Whoah! Why do you think that? Tell me what you didn't like, so I can fix it."
    When you say “I don’t like the layout”, you present the author with the exact same problem: why don’t you like it? Good “destructive” feedback does, as good “constructive” feedback”, explains exactly what the (perceived) problem is (eg “I don’t like your layout because I have difficulties to read the text / I think your text will be hidden by the binding / I hate MS Comic Sans”). Of course, sometimes you just have to say that you see a problem but can’t find the actual cause.

    Sometimes, feedback that offers no solution will be preferred by the author, as suggestions will tie him (at least momentarily) to a subset of solutions and might not be in the spirit of the work. [Side note: It is difficult for an author to communicate each “hidden” constraint that drove his work, and difficult for a reviewer to discover them. These hidden constraints might be legitimate (objective, or arbitrary design decision) or illegitimate (evolution accidents, vestigial organs, unconscious decisions that mar the work).]
  • As an outsider, I think the major thing I've picked up from Story-Games is people come here for different reasons. I'm here to learn about cool play experiences, games I might not have heard of, and to get to know some of the authors and designers. Others are here to have their games looked at and worked on, and others love debating, whether it be game design, styles of play or the meaning of the word "character."

    I think as long as people are clear as to what they are wanting when they post, whether it be a new discussion or a reply to an existing one, and other people choose to respect that, a lot of the nastiness and misunderstandings will go away. If someone is asking for criticism, they shouldn't feel offended when its given. But likewise, if you don't have anything to say on a topic, don't post.

    ME
  • Posted By: John HarperAlso, Jack: Yes!! We have The Forge (two dedicated sub-forums there). And the Ashcan Front. And all the localized playtesting and review (like Jason's crew, or the BW guys). And theRPG Bakery. AndGamecraft. I could go on.
    I think we know this, dudes. I think the point of all this recent discussion is that 1) these aren't enough or 2) these things aren't producing the kinds of results that we're interested in seeing. So, in effect, this whole discussion is criticism of our current sources of criticism, yeah? Because we want more criticism, or better criticism, or more effective criticism.
  • Posted By: johnzoIf we don't honestly and earnestly criticize each other's games than we are going to find ourselves knee-deep in weak-ass games. That is just it
    ...Publish -> Play -> Dialogue -> Refine
    Under this model, we are still going to find ourself knee-deep in weak-ass first editions. It'll be like the glory days of White Wolf, or the current days of Microsoft.

    Not necessarily. First editions can be flawed but not weak-ass.

    Spirit of the Century is a prelude to Dresden Files RPG and Fate Core 3.0, and it most certainly operates in the Publish -> Play -> Dialogue -> Refine sequence, for that.

    But that doesn't mean we didn't put our all into making sure that it was not weak-ass.
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonI think we know this, dudes. I think the point of all this recent discussion is that 1) these aren't enough or 2) these things aren't producing the kinds of results that we're interested in seeing.
    It's funny to me, I have to admit, because I've sort of gotten this vibe like a lot of folks have abandoned using the Forge for this purpose (it's not helped by it being pig-slow half the time I go there, I have to admit), yet it keeps getting brought up as "hey, we have a place for that".

    Do y'all, really? Or is it just the memory of a place for that?
  • I don't find the Forge terribly useful any more, no. Once upon a time, lots of very smart people were there, and they talked about their own designs and they talked about grander, abstract theories. Then some of those very smart people got experienced enough and built their own networks of fellow designers so that they didn't need the Forge for design help (let alone publishing help), and then the theory boards closed, and everybody with an ounce of experience sort of drifted away. For some reason, I'm not terribly interested in the feedback I'll get from the posters who are left, most of whom are worried how many skills should be in their skill list.
  • Posted By: iagoSpirit of the Century is apreludeto Dresden Files RPG and Fate Core 3.0, and it mostcertainlyoperates in the Publish -> Play -> Dialogue -> Refine sequence, for that.

    But that doesn't mean we didn't put our all into making sure that it was notweak-ass.
    Yeah, and I think you succeeded at that, given the popularity of the first edition of the game. Maybe the solution to this problem is that people should study and follow the Evil Hat model. I know you document that model pretty well.

    My point with the PPDR model was that publication precedes dialogue, so weak-ass first editions or beta versions or whatever will still be out there. Some of these games won't ever be revised under any circumstances. And if the community is more activist about producing feedback, then even fewer games will be revised.

    Good critique will identify when something is ill-conceived and better abandoned. An active review cycle like Judd proposes will just lead to a ton of abandonware.
  • edited February 2008
    Posted By: iagoDo y'all, really? Or is it just thememoryof a place for that?
    Or, if it does still exist, why aren't people taking advantage of what it offers or using it to its full potential? Like, if the Forge / Ashcan Front / Gamecraft was made to address many of these problems, why are we still talking as if there are no resources available? It's one thing to be like "this is a place for X" and another to actually have X happen at that place, regularly and productively.
  • Posted By: johnzoAn active review cycle like Judd proposes will just lead to a ton of abandonware.
    I see this as a good thing. If something can't handle it, then it shouldn't be a product sold to the public.
  • Posted By: Josh Bonobo RobyI don't find the Forge terribly useful any more, no. Once upon a time, lots of very smart people were there, and they talked about their own designs and they talked about grander, abstract theories. Then some of those very smart people got experienced enough and built their own networks of fellow designers so that they didn't need the Forge for design help (let alone publishing help), and then the theory boards closed, and everybody with an ounce of experience sort of drifted away. For some reason, I'm not terribly interested in the feedback I'll get from the posters who are left, most of whom are worried how many skills should be in their skill list.
    So, the next batch of would-be game designers are not getting the same kind of help and advice that the previous batch got, because the previous batch left the forum when they didn't NEED it anymore?

    It seems to me, from an external point of view (I mean, there could be a lot of very good reason for this that I am not seeing because I am not a game designer), that the "scene" already had a place to GIVE feedback and criticism, but many didn't want to do that anymore for others? If it's so, any such new forum for feedback and criticism is destined to fail.

    And at what time someone is really sure that he don't need the feedback and criticisms of the Forge anymore? Isn't this the same problem of "not getting enough criticism" we are talking here? It's a problem or a choice?
  • edited February 2008
    Sort of, Moreno, but let me reconfigure it a bit: the Forge offered two things to people who showed up: feedback and theory discussion. So people who wanted either or both would show up. So wet-behind-the-ears newbies showed up for feedback and maybe some theory. The guys with a little experience showed up for the theory discussions. Participating in either feedback or theory tended to generate both theory and feedback. So the Forge was meeting the needs of two demographics simply by bringing them together in the same place.

    With the close of the Theory boards and the declaration that the Big Model was more-or-less finalized, the group of people who wanted theory discussion but did not need feedback from the Forge stopped showing up at the Forge. They may have gotten feedback from elsewhere, including networks of fellow designers who they had met at the Forge initially but no longer communicated with through the Forge. With those voices gone, the Forge is only attracting people who want feedback and don't know where else to get it -- which is not, generally speaking, experienced designers.

    (Yes yes, I know the closing of the Theory board was not supposed to end Theory discussions, and the AP and Playtesting boards are supposed to be doing that, now with the added bonus of actually basing conclusions on empirical data, but the fact of the matter is that the barrier to talking theory was raised significantly, and therefore people stopped showing up to do it.)
  • I think that's an accurate summary from my perspective of a long time Forge Poster who still prowls there, Josh.
  • ... I disagree with the sentiment that the Forge is broken. I think that entrenched posting habits of many designers have led to poor feedback, but I think that's very fixable. I elaborate here.
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