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This is how we rate

At the time of this writing (May 2005), we have just revamped our review system. We felt that our old system which was based on individual scores for different categories (Graphics, Sound, Controls, Fun) that were then weighed differently for the automatic calculation of the final score was too limiting. We quite frequently caught ourselves tinkering with the individual scores to bring a game up or down to the desired final score that we envisioned for a game. This was pretty unsatisfactory often times since it would have been irresponsible to lower/increase a category score to a certain level just to get to the final score that we wanted. The end result was that our final and/or category scores often ended up simply not being what we wanted them to be.
We do not want to bore you with the flaws of our old review system though but instead let us take a look at how we (hope we) have improved the system.

The Final Score & The Awards

First of all, we would like to encourage everyone to read the actual review instead of only looking at the final score and equipping that virtual flamethrower to blast the hell out of our review(s). The review is in the text, not in the score. The score and the new "punchline" that we have added underneath the score is supposed to make the review complete though and to give you a quick reference. This is -roughly- what our scores are trying to tell you:

  • 10/10 - Best RPG that money can buy at the time of the review. The perfect score is reserved for flawless games that are likely to be referred to as true classics for years to come. A 10/10 rated game automatically receives our special Platinum award.
  • 9/10 - An excellent RPG all around. The game is genuinely fun and a must-have for fans. A 9/10 rated game automatically receives our special Gold award.
  • 8/10 - A safe buy. An 8/10 rated RPG is sure to provide lasting quality entertainment. The game was not special enough to warrant an award though.
  • 7/10 - A recommended buy. You should thoroughly check though whether you can live with the flaws that prevented this game from higher accolades.
  • 6/10 - An average RPG that might still be worth a look for hardcore fans.
  • 5/10 - The hardest of hardcore fans might still get some enjoyment out of a 5/10 rated game but this is an RPG we would not recommend to anyone else.
  • 4/10 - 1/10 - The crap starts to smell worse and worse the further down we go.

The Ups & Downs Section

This is supposed to give you a quick overview of the game's outstanding high points and low points. Every reviewer can freely edit this box and you might on occasion wonder about the choice of a low point, e.g. "Too linear gameplay" when you actually love linear games. Different people, different tastes. This section will be pretty straight-forward most of the time though and you should be able to tell at a quick glance what most prominently makes this game as good or bad as described in the review text.

Game Overview Section

This section is all new as we want to give you a quick overview of the reviewed game. The info box should be pretty much self-explanatory.
Just a quick note on the "Play Time". We do not promote "pissing contests" about how fast a game can be finished. The number of hours given here is a rough estimate of how long it will take to finish a game. This will be quite different depending on the individual reviewer. We would appreciate it if everyone would respect the different play styles of people. In other words, please don't make us have to read comments such as "lolz my gr4ndm4 c4n f1n!sh t3h g4m3 fast0r th4n u tardz!!!111".

RPGDot Review Codex

Finally, we would like to present to you our set of self-imposed rules for writing reviews. Some of these rules absolutely must be obeyed while others serve more of an ethical function. We may not always be able to live up to our own rules since we are only human after all but please rest assured that we are trying pretty damn hard all the time :) .
Please be aware that we are all unpaid volunteers here at RPGDot and that we are mostly doing this whole gig for fun. None of us has a professional background in journalism. There may be and there will be better written pieces of literature on the net. We are, however, totally dedicated to bringing you the best RPG reviews that we possibly can.
Another thing we would like to point out is that we do not get official review copies for most of the games we review. We also do not assign reviews to certain editors. We are literally volunteers and any contributions to the site are just that, voluntary.
We would like to believe that it is only understandable that our reviewers do not voluntarily head out to buy a game that they most likely will not enjoy. No one does. That is why you will not find reviews of all RPG releases here on RPGDot and it is also why you may find that a lot of our reviews are fairly positive. As you can see, there is a very practical reason for that. It has nothing to do with any of those evil thoughts that might be crossing your wicked mind :) . Promise!

  • Our reviews must be factually correct. Our reviewers are encouraged to do as much research within and outside of the reviewed game as possible to avoid spreading any false information.
  • Our reviewers must be unbiased, unprejudiced and impartial. Personal likes and dislikes, personal quarrels/sympathies with/for a developer or publisher or any other personal feelings must be put aside. What counts is to bring you, the reader, a piece of writing that lets you make an informed decision about whether you want to buy the reviewed product or not.
  • Our stance on "returning favors" to a dev or publisher is that there is no "returning favors". Period. Our motto: "It's all fun and games until we review if your game is fun! - Writing is our business. Developing, publishing and PR is yours. We won't tell you how to develop, publish or market a product and you won't tell us how to review said product." [In all fairness, we have never had to say that yet but we better put it here just in case :) ]
  • Despite our strong commitment to independence and editorial freedom, we will not review games that are hosted by Jolt (our host) in order to avoid even the slightest suspicion of bias.
  • We shall never pull a (factually correct) review at anyone's request.
  • Our reviewers should always try to finish the game they are reviewing, no matter how bad it may be. Writing a review before the credits roll by should be a very rare exception. Reviews shall never be based on preview code but always on the review code or the retail product.
  • The cold, harsh and cruel reality is that reviews are mostly judged by the final score and not by the actual writing. Our reviewers are encouraged to decide on the final score with the utmost responsibility. We are no GameSpy/IGN, no GameSpot and no PC Gamer but, however insignificant we may be, our reviews do affect people. Our editors are to consider carefully why a game is worthy of an award (what makes it special enough to warrant such a commendation?). This is especially important in these times where an 8/10 score is considered "bad". It is not. We shall try our best to not follow that movement like sheep but to take a more critical approach while not coming across as being overly critical just for the sake of being critical.
  • A complete review is supposed to include the following (our checklist):
    • The review should start with an intro where the developer and publisher are mentioned and where the reviewer gives a little bit of general background info on the game.
    • The reviewer should provide a short, spoiler-free(!) introduction to the setting and story of the game.
    • The reader should be given a good idea of what the major gameplay elements are:
      • An explanation of the character creation/selection process.
      • Can the difficulty level be set before starting a new game?
      • Is there a tutorial to introduce new players to the game?
      • What choices/classes are offered for character development?
      • Is character development skill point or action-based?
      • How does the inventory work? Slots, weight limit, free-form?
      • How does combat work? Differences between ranged, melee, spellcasters?
      • How do enemies react? AI weaknesses/strengths?
      • Are enemies static or do they respawn/spawn randomly?
      • Can combat be avoided? Are there alternatives to fighting?
      • In case the game is level-based instead of offering an open game world... what is the level design like? Easy to get lost or stuck or is it a walk in the park?
      • Is the game linear or non-linear?
      • How is dialogue with NPCs handled? Multiple choice, pre-defined questions/answers, ...?
      • Is the game rewarding? Do you feel a tangible difference after leveling up? Do enemies drop better gear the further you advance?
      • What is the balance level between combat, exploration, quests and reading dialogue/lore?
    • The reviewer should make mention of the graphics (in-game, cutscenes), controls (ease of use with the keyboard, mouse or other (optional) peripheral devices) and sound (music, SFX, voice-acting).
    • The reviewer should ideally comment on multiplayer if a game is offering the ability to play with others.
    • The conclusion should be a synopsis of the high and low points of the reviewed game. The reviewer should make a recommendation to a certain type or group of players who would most likely enjoy the game (if such a type or group of players can be specified given the workings of the game).
    • The reviewer should include screenshots with the review (left and right aligned alternately). The screenshots should ideally be taken by the reviewer himself and the interface should not be turned off (if there is an option) since many people are more interested in what the actual game looks like (in "live action") rather than in an eye-candy treatment.
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