Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fred Hicks on Reviews and Reading

"Please review my stuff without playing it. If I didn't write it well enough to get you excited to play, I've failed, and you should say so".

-Fred Hicks

Obviously, this trickles down a bit from yesterday's post. I believe the Evil Hat Man to be right; I think there's a lot to be said for a game that gets you excited to play in its reading. This can be through the author's own enthusiasm for the game, through an excellent presentation of rules (you can be excited that you get it), or through great and/or suitable accompanying art.

But mostly I find that if an author can't convey a sense of interest in excitement in their own RPG product, they're going to have a much harder time selling me on it. It's a problem I think a lot of late D&D 3.5 splatbooks suffered from, actually.

10 comments:

WalkerP said...

It's not just that. Reviews based on reading only are one important level of critique. Ultimately, you want both reading and play reviews, but when a product is first released, you can't get play reviews immediately. Furthermore, there are a lot of real experts in certain lines who have played the crap out of a game and its supplements and they can often quite accurately tell how a game or module is going to play just by reading it.

This attack on reading-only reviews is another example of an excluded middle.

HinterWelt said...

Do I convey my enthusiasm for Squirrels to you? ;)

Zachary The First said...

@Bill: Over abundantly, some might say. ;)

Helmsman said...

In the game designer community there are a few guys who stand out in terms of professionalism, humility and just being downright awesome human beings. Fred is one of those guys for sure.

Anonymous said...

I really must agree with reviewing game materials based on reading, not playing. Suppose someone played a poorly-written adventure module with a really great GM, or a well-written one with a poor GM? The play can color their perceptions. I'd rather have a review of the raw potential and presentation of the product "as-is", not with some highly variable play experience grafted onto it.

Talysman said...

Interestingly, I said the same thing today, but harsher, before reading the blogs. And I thought I was going to be the only person to say "don't review play, review the product".

Scott said...

I've gotten excited about a number of modules on a read-through only to discover that they play terribly. If I had reviewed them based solely on read-through, am I really being a responsible reviewer by telling others to buy the product without knowing that it does a poor job at its intended use?

Zachary The First said...

I think there’s merit to both read and play reviews. On one hand, play reviews can be influenced by varying group and GM quality, but on the other hand, how something reads and how it plays can differ.

Usually, I like a mix of both when I’m looking at a product, as well as any free previews or sneak peeks offered. But I certainly value capsule reviews of that type.

ChattyDM said...

Whatever method one uses, and however a publisher likes it or not, it all boils down to:

Don't be a dick.

And that applies to both sides.

MJ Harnish said...

And I thought I was going to be the only person to say "don't review play, review the product".
Amen to that. Strictly reviewing games/supplements based on AP experience introduces all kinds of uncontrolled variables in to the process which certainly doesn't make the review any less impartial or objective - if anything it makes it even more subjective because the group's experience is really going to influence one's opinion.