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Media => Single-Player RPGs => Topic started by: Dincrest on October 07, 2009, 10:42:24 PM

Title: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Dincrest on October 07, 2009, 10:42:24 PM
To the RPGM Developers:

Firstly, I'd like to say that it has been amazing to see how far the scene has come since Aveyond back in 2005.  The commercial RPGM scene has grown exponentially and the accelerated growth has seen the bar constantly being raised in many areas.  As you know, RPGFan is quite supportive of the indie scene and I myself believe that, as with music, the next big thing will come from the underground.  

That being said, because the scene is growing so rapidly, the staff and I felt that some guidelines/policies regarding how we handle the scene were needed.  The scene is very recent and we ourselves are new to it, so we've been taking things as we go along; basically growing along with the scene.   I'll be honest, with the scene blooming as rapidly as it is, we at RPGFan are doing our best to define our evolving role within it.  The bottom line is that we want to support the scene while still maintaining our level of professional integrity.  And we want there to be a good relationship between us at RPGFan and you the indie devs.  

This is what the staff as a whole have come up with after much laborious discussion.  

1) If we review an RPGMaker game, it should be a commercial (for profit) title rather than a freeware title.  This is because commercial titles tend to avoid the major pitfalls in 2 and 2a.  

2) The game should not have "plagiarized" content such as music or sprites from other games.  This has, thus far, never been an issue in commercial RPGMaker titles, but it's very commonplace in freeware RPGMaker titles.   Xenogears music and Dragon Quest sprites, for example,  belong in Xenogears and Dragon Quest respectively.  Anti-plagiarism policy applies to storylines/scripts as well.  

2a) Freeware titles are more numerous than fleas on an Old English Sheepdog and, well, a lot of them just aren't very good and/or have borrowed content.   As a semi-professional site, we're more interested in evaluating commercial RPGM titles since those are professional/semi-professional in nature as well.  

3) With games like Aldorlea's Millennium and Warfare's Dark Souls 2 (to name two examples) raising the bar on the production values possible in an RPGM title, our standards/expectations from developers will naturally go up as well.  We now ask that a commercial RPGM game we review have some original aesthetic content in the character art, sprites, tilesets, and/or music.  With the scene being what it is now with so many games sporting original/custom content, a game that uses 100% stock/default everything probably isn't going to "cut the mustard" with us.  Basically, using a blend of stock and original stuff is perfectly fine given the nature of the toolkit, but we definitely would like to see at least a few aesthetic elements that set your creation apart from someone else's XP or VX title.  For example, Dark Souls may have used stock music, but had original sprites; and Dawn's Light may have used stock graphics but had an original soundtrack.  

Basically, if your RPGM game is aesthetically on par with RPGM games we've already reviewed, then you should be fine.  If it exceeds them, even better.

4) With the scene expanding the way it is (and I love that it is) I may not be able to personally review every commercial RPGM game that comes down the pike (even though I would love to.)  There's so many indie games and only one of me.  With RPGFan I also get assigned to mainstream projects (that sometimes take precedence as per my big bosses), and *gasp* I even have a life outside of RPGFan (heh heh.)  In addition, site policy is that we like to complete retail copies of games prior to reviewing them.  It's time consuming, yes, but we think it's better for the readers.  So other writers may be given the chance to review your games.  Some are bigger old-school fans than I am, some are getting into the scene and don't want me hogging all the fun, and some have even tried their hand with the RPGM software themselves, so rest assured, evaluations of your games will be thorough and fair.  Honest, but still thorough and fair.  Plus, we at the site feel that having multiple editors evaluate RPGM games will show that someone else other than me actually cares about the scene.  

*Please be aware that we care about the indie/underground scene and want to see it grow, even if we don't like every game within it.  It's like with music, I enjoy the progressive-metal genre but I don't like every band within it.        

That being said, I will still be the primary indie/RPGM developer contact.  If you want RPGFan to potentially review your RPGM/indie game, contact me.  I may then have to confer with the rest of the staff about it (since they're now taking more stock in this growing scene as well).  If we accept to review your game, I'll be the one assigning/distributing the reviewables to other staff members and I'll get back to you with the email contact of the staff member reviewing the game.  

5) We've been asked about doing affiliates in the past.  http://www.rpgfan.com/boards/index.php?topic=5992.0 We generally do not, since it could be construed as a conflict of interest.  However, the Computer RPG boards are open to promote your games and/or you can contact our advertising/marketing person (you'll find him on the staff page) about possibly having a banner ad on the boards.  We had a banner ad for Blossomsoft's Eternal Eden at one point.

I think these protocols are reasonable, especially with the scene growing at the exponential rate it is.  We ourselves at RPGFan are growing with the scene.  Any questions or concerns you may have, shoot me a PM or an email (it's on the staff page) and if I can't answer it, I'll point you to someone else on staff who can.  
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: kentona on October 08, 2009, 03:14:29 PM
So where do the freeware RM games fit in all of this?

Also, you seem to have exacting standards on the graphics and sound but make no mention of the other(arguably more important) aspects like gameplay/mechanics and plot and story.  Do those have to be highly original and custom too?  Or is there simply a strong graphics bias?

I was hoping to post my freeware RM game but it was designed to be an early SNES throwback so it isnt flashy at all.  Just a fun romp in nostalgia.  I wouldn't even consider doing this unless I thought some people here would get some enjoyment out of it.

Can we get some clarification?
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Dincrest on October 08, 2009, 04:29:06 PM
Basically, if you want to share/show/promote your freeware RPGM, post a thread here in the Computer RPG forum about your game, so people can check it out. A link to your game, some screens, and some information about it should suffice.  Folks around here are usually willing to try out freeware RPGM games and they're not shy about giving honest feedback.  For example, Reives' Quintessence found a fair number of fans here after he posted about his game.  

Sharing your freeware project is all well and good.  People do it here often, and we have no issues with it (so far.)  EDIT: I'd say with freeware projects, as long as nothing in it's plagiarized from other games and it doesn't make peoples' computers explode, the community is pretty receptive.  

The standards listed are mainly for commercial RPGM titles that we'd publish reviews of.  

So, go ahead and make a thread about your game, kentona.  
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: blackthirteen on October 29, 2009, 08:20:09 PM
I strongly believe it's a wise pronouncement from RPG Fan.



Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: silentshdw on November 11, 2009, 07:59:59 AM


2) The game should not have "plagiarized" content such as music or sprites from other games.  This has, thus far, never been an issue in commercial RPGMaker titles (EXCEPT FOR MILLENIUM), but it's very commonplace in freeware RPGMaker titles.   Xenogears music and Dragon Quest sprites, for example,  belong in Xenogears and Dragon Quest respectively.  Anti-plagiarism policy applies to storylines/scripts as well.  

Fixed.

You can feel free to go ahead and update this pronto. I always wondered how he pooped out games so fast, but I guess now we know.

http://www.rpgfan.com/boards/index.php?topic=6528.0
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Ryos on November 11, 2009, 06:05:25 PM
Un(?)intentional plagiarism happens all the time.  Doesn't make it any better, but as the saying goes, everything has been written about at some point of time (which isn't the exact line, just paraphrasing).  It's the intentional plagiarism by people like Yoko Kanno that bugs me in commercial works.

In this case it's a common habit in these games to alter graphics to get the desired effect rather than start from scratch, but clearly there wasn't enough to distinguish the sprite from the original.
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Ramza on November 11, 2009, 07:36:19 PM
Silentshdw has a good point. We will be keeping an eye on this situation. Thank you for noting it.
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/200
Post by: Hidoshi on November 13, 2009, 03:44:15 AM
You can feel free to go ahead and update this pronto. I always wondered how he pooped out games so fast, but I guess now we know.

http://www.rpgfan.com/boards/index.php?topic=6528.0

and

Quote from: Ramza
Silentshdw has a good point. We will be keeping an eye on this situation. Thank you for noting it.

Uh... I disagree, heavily.

It's an isolated incident, and with no evidence to the contrary, the fact is that Silentshdw is taking the tone of "his games are FULL of plagiarism". They aren't. We've found one instance, isolated, and with a good excuse. Placeholder graphics ARE often used, simply because they aren't done designing a dungeon yet or what have you. blackthirteen got this point across in the other thread.

Yes, plagiarism is bad. What is equally bad is sounding red alert over an isolated incident. Don't be a douchebag, and Pat, I know you better than this, so don't give Silentshdw license to be a douchebag.
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Dincrest on November 13, 2009, 10:54:56 AM
Like I said in the other thread- I call it an unfortunate and unintentional fluke, I know Indy's a good guy who strives for an honest product, silentshadow may have had a valid point but he didn't have to be a total dick about it, Aldorlea resolved the issue, and others may not be as forgiving as I.  'tis the way the cookie crumbles I guess. 

And Millennium is still a great game. 


Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: blackthirteen on December 12, 2009, 02:04:18 PM
to del
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Dincrest on December 12, 2009, 04:48:16 PM
I see where you're coming from Blackthirteen.  I will say, though, that in looking at all the indie titles I've reviewed, some have been C-level or below like Mount & Blade or Deadly Sin.

And believe me, with the indie market, especially the RPGM market becoming more saturated, what was acceptable before wouldn't be acceptable now.  For example, we rejected Hero's Tale for review because, per this year's standards, it did not have enough custom content.  Everything in that game was stock, save the GUI, and that alone isn't enough.  Had that game been submitted to us last year, we'd have probably accepted it.  But right now, developers are naturally aspiring higher in all areas, such as with Warfare's spritework in the Dark Souls games.  

So I will say that right now is still the fresh and sexy honeymoon period for indie gaming.  At least that's how I see it.  EDIT:  Other sites too have rated some of the indie titles similarly to ours, so perhaps their editorial staff are facing the same dilemma as we are: adapting to a rapidly evolving entity.  Come 2010 as the market becomes more saturated and we play more of these types of games, it will take more to impress.  But with the rapid evolution in the market and even our on-the-fly evolution here, we'll adapt the best we can.  And though I've taken on the bulk of indie reviews this year, next year will likely be different as other editors want to review indie games as well.  I think me making that conscious decision to review fewer RPGM/indie titles personally will be a good step.  (Heh, I'll have to anyway, since my career has started to pick up, thus reducing my gaming time.)

In other words Blackthirteen, what you say is what we're aspiring for on our end.  We're doing the best we can to evolve with this rapidly growing market, but we'll get there the best we can.  Speaking for myself, now that I'm more familiar with the market, the games, and the software through playing all these games, I know my own evaluations will differ from when everything first started.  
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Fei on December 12, 2009, 08:23:48 PM
I feel you Blackthirteen... I am hard on RPGMaker in general because like you said, people can churn stuff out and get paid while other people (like you) are working 10x harder for less in return.  Personally, I see RPGMaker as a box of cookie mix whereas a proprietary engine equals momma's homemade cookies.  I still love em, but even if they taste the same, the fact that it's momma's homemade stuff adds a charm.  I know a lot of people try to be completely cold and objective about things, but I don't think that is a good default way to be.

It's getting to the point where I am all talk though, so I am going to try hard to make something I can show off.  Dreams are supposed to be unattainable, so when I see RPGMaker nerds busting games out and making $20 a pop, it seems like a perfectly attainable dream with my current abilities and I get confused/scared... probably why I am as abrasive as I am.  But I'm not a reviewer, I'm just a guy!

Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: blackthirteen on December 15, 2009, 10:52:34 PM
to delete
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Hathen on December 16, 2009, 04:31:37 AM
I guess this is as good as any other place to mention it, but I find that RPGFan tends to give high scores to most games they review, not just the RPGM stuff. I rarely see any scores under 70%, and usually the reason that happens is because the game was truly filled with programming/porting issues like Grandia 2 or involved really stupid design choices (FFXI: ACP). Even then, the score is probably in the 60% range somewhere. I think I've only ever seen 2 or 3 scores in the 1-50% range on the site, all of them coming from Editors that I don't believe work around here anymore.

It's true it's hard to get a standard since you guys work independently of each other to my understanding, so it's best to look for consistency from the same Editor, but I don't think it would be a problem to start being harder on all games, especially considering how this site is already narrowed by being dedicated to a specific genre of games.

Then again, people with any interest in a game would read the review itself rather than the percentage, but I've always been in the mindset that anything above 70% is good. Around here, I don't raise an eyebrow unless I see a 90% or higher.

I'm not really trying to complain or anything, I just find it silly to use a 100-point scale if pretty much half of it is almost never used.
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/200
Post by: Indy on December 16, 2009, 05:40:47 AM
I for one am favorable to high scores because it entices players to know more about the game.
It's all psychological. A review gets bigger chances to be read and a game to be played if the overall % is higher, it's as simple as that, so Neal (and the others) are more likely to be read if the range they use is higher.
As for Neal I think he is a very professional and legit reviewer, there are only a few like him that I know on the Internet.
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Ryos on December 16, 2009, 07:19:52 AM
I guess this is as good as any other place to mention it, but I find that RPGFan tends to give high scores to most games they review, not just the RPGM stuff. I rarely see any scores under 70%, and usually the reason that happens is because the game was truly filled with programming/porting issues like Grandia 2 or involved really stupid design choices (FFXI: ACP). Even then, the score is probably in the 60% range somewhere. I think I've only ever seen 2 or 3 scores in the 1-50% range on the site, all of them coming from Editors that I don't believe work around here anymore.

I pretty much agree on that (do I think that Champions of Norrath is as good as Ar Tonelico, which has about the same score?  No, but then I prefer that sort of game more.  Objectively speaking I couldn't say Ar Tonelico would merit 91% even though I loved it), but that isn't to say the inflated scores are necessarily a bad thing, you just have to realize that they are pretty much all high.  On a site that I rely on the most for anime reviews, the person in question scores very highly on most titles (anything below a B+ is EXTREMELY rare).  On the other hand, if you are an ardent fan of something or another, the odds are you won't quibble as much with the foibles as the general consumer would.  But really you can't as a conscientious consumer rely on any one source as the sole reviewing place either.  

Although the fact RPGFan even reviews independent RPGs is somewhat rare.
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Dincrest on December 16, 2009, 09:02:15 PM
With reviewers, it is largely a matter of taste as well.  There is a human factor where we use intuition and gut feelings when formulating opinions on games, or anything.  For example, Pat Gann scored Rhapsody DS in the 90s and gave it an Editor's Choice, but if I were to review that game, it would have probably gotten something in the 70s and certainly would not get a gold star from me.  On the other hand, you have something like Crimson Gem Saga where everything Gamespot's reviewer hated about the game, I rather liked.   Kinda like with teaching, you could give the same essay to two different Language Arts teachers and one would give it an A and the other may give it a C+.  

Indy- I think it works the opposite as well.  People tend to be most enticed by extremes so if a game they are interested in gets below a C grade or above a B grade, they'll want to know why it was so bad, or so good.  Kneejerk reactions and all that.  Any hate mail I've gotten was either because a reader felt my score was too high or too low.

I think most games period fall into that B-C range, and it's more pronounced since there are more RPGs released than many of us can keep up with.  It's like a Bell Curve where the majority part of that bell is the 75-85 range.  Most games fall within that range and truly spectacular and truly awful games are the outliers.  The black and white.  I think most games fall into that big ol' grey area in between and in varying degrees.  And even looking at sites like Metacritic or Gamerankings, RPGFan's scores usually aren't too far off from the rest.  

blackthirteen- no offense or anything like that taken.  You brought up a very valid point and I just replied to it.  At the very least, the record shows I thought about it.  
Title: Re: RPGFan policies/guidelines/protocols for commercial RPGM titles (est. 10/2009)
Post by: Ramza on December 16, 2009, 11:49:36 PM
Our mean average for all editor-reviewed scores is an 81%, according to GameRankings.

I think we're up-front in that we use a school-based grading system. Maybe half the numbers are "wasted," but in a school setting, how often do people get less than a 60% for their overall output in a year? Very, very few people. And they tend to drop out.

Similarly, most games that WOULD deserve a score that is failing (50% or below) probably get thrown aside before ever making it to published status.

Anyway, I think it was Hathen who said he's only seen a few under 50% scores, and from people who don't work here anymore. A quick check netted me these:

http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/digimonworld-datasquad/index.html -- 35%, written by me.

http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/manakhemia-psp/index.html -- 43%, by John McCarroll.

http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/deeplabyrinth/index.html - 48%, John McCarroll.

http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/Flower_Sun_and_Rain/index.html -- 40%, Kyle Miller.

http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/Heroes_of_Mana/index.html -- 46%, me.

http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/myst-ds/index.html -- 45%, me.

http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/ff2anniversary/index.html -- though 58% overall, an awesomely-low 5% story score. From Ashton Liu.

Those were all written in the last 3 years, most of them in 2009. And all by current staff.

You see we don't really go under the 40% mark. But if you know of an RPG that you really think blows so hard as to belong in the 0-30% range, please tell us the name and I'll happily play enough of it to agree with you and write the review. Lord knows there are some free-to-play MMOs out there that deserve it...I just can't stomach the thought of sinking time into them.

Regarding grading philosophy in general, our take is that if a game makes it to market, it will generally have SOMETHING of redeeming value to it. Someone can find something to like. A game that gets under 50% means it's SO bad or SO broken that no one can enjoy it. NO ONE. There are very few games that meet that criteria, don't you think?

Ramza