Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Concerning DriveThruRPG/RPGNow Reviews

With another release of old TSR pdfs, Wizards of the Coast has assured another few weeks of discussion in the online communities regarding their releases, company, and what it all means for folks making and selling neoclassical games. (Tell me I'm not the only one excited to see the re-release of Castle Caldwell, written of course by a fellow with the incredible pen name of Harry Nuckols).

Moving past all that for a moment, I've lately been viewing my purchase history and library at RPGNow. All the freebies and sales over the years, plus plenty of flavor-of-the-week grabs, have left me with an extremely long purchase list.

As I was poking through the list, I honestly couldn't remember what some of the items were. When I clicked on their links, I noticed many of the reviews others had done seemed to fall into one of two categories: either wildly extensive, or brief and sadly not very descriptive. Certainly there were some very good ones that fell in the middle area, but for many of them, they weren't what I was looking for.

Now, usually if a product has 20+ reviews and is 4 stars or higher, you're going to get the idea this is a game that is offering something part of the hobby wants. Still, it would be nice to see a few more reviews on products that manage to give you the highlights of a product in 200-500 words without going overboard.

A good RPGNow or DriveThruRPG review doesn't have to be a full recap of the product--it can hit some key highlights and lowlights, and recount a bit of the experience that purchaser had with said product.

What isn't helpful? Well, here's a random selection of reviews from products I purchased or viewed recently, with the names withheld to protect the guilty. Each one of these is an honest-to-goodness review in its entirety at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG:

"Great product... Usually 5 stars worth... minus two for the missing print-on-demand option...!"

"The product is in perfect condition on the final product. I am able to read every word and it is easy to access."

"having problems getting the book to come thru here,i need help" (Note: This one was rated 2/5 stars).

"This is my favorite RPG ever. The stories are so grand, and I like that there is no metaplot that has to be followed! I can't get enough of this game."

"The quality of pdf are very good. The product is perfect"

"Good book on Victorian times, but not my favorite."

"This is a good game thanks for the stuff lets do it again sometime"

"I do not know yet as I am only just downloading the product... (?)"

It's not that the comments are simply brief; brevity can be just fine. The problem lies with the fact that they're as useful as a fart in a tornado. Just put a tiny bit of thought and elaboration into your review; it's better for the publisher and the next gamer to come along.

For my part, I'm going back and attempting to review as many of my purchased items as I can. The reviews won't be novels, but I'm going to try and put some thought and consideration into each one. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, but a little effort can go a long way. Someone created that gaming product; they deserve at least some honest feedback. I also know that when I look at a product, I wish someone would have taken the time to offer their thoughts on it. There's no compunction to do so, but it would be nice if more gamers extended that courtesy.


Andy Hauge said...

You know, I should do this. I think you've inspired me. I just wish I had more play experience with 'em...

Chad Rose said...

What you've said above, and, the number of reviews from people who have neither used, nor played with the material they are reviewing. It's rampant among the sites you mention and their reviews.

David Larkins said...

Man, these are huge pet peeves of mine as well.

I can't stand it when people downgrade a product because of personal technical difficulties or because of issues unrelated to the product itself (like not having it available as a POD).

Just as bad are the 5,000-word reviews. What kind of ego does it take to write a review that long and think someone's going to want to read it? I always know it's a bad sign when a review starts out by giving a page-by-page breakdown of the contents of the book ("Page 1 is the title page, page 2 contains publisher information, page 3 is the table of contents..."). That's just lazy reviewing.

I've been meaning to start rating games on RPGgeek; I think I'll add DriveThruRPG to my review to-do list as well.

Nitehood said...

You are correct. Bitching about the service or postal service, etc.. really doesn't give a review of the product. Neither does the sort generic comments.

I do like the long ones tho.. If I am trying to decide on buying a product, a very thorough review doesn't bother me.

I too am very bad about not review a product, once I have it.. I should go back and enter a few, meaningful reviews.

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