D&D 5E What is Quality?

When I think of quality I think of 2 aspects.
1. Working without breaking
2. Comparative intrinsic and derived
Building off of this, we can name various intrinsic characteristics that are valuable in the generic, even if people might disagree about which deserves too billing. Virtues, one might call them.
  • Functionality: does it do the thing for which it was designed?
  • Efficacy: does it function with minimal maintenance/issues?
  • Materials: does it have high production values, and/or use quality materials for its physical components?
  • Aesthetics: does its physical appearance hold up both in comparison to other products and when examined in isolation, but over time?*
  • Price: is it well-priced for its nature and purpose? Does it cut corners to achieve this, or perhaps verge into conspicuous consumption?
  • Ease: is it quick or simple or other related characteristics? Does it involve a lot of overhead or learning just to get started?
  • Diversity vs Focus: how well does it target its purposes? Is it trying to be too many things at once, or hyperfocused on only one thing to its detriment, or balanced between them?
  • Suitability: is the purpose for which it was designed appropriate and reasonable?
If we wanted to go full bore Aristotelian on this, we could define all these virtues as choosing the (context-dependent) midpoint between vices of deficiency and vices of excess. E.g. beauty (virtuous aesthetics) is the midpoint between being ugly and showy; ugliness in TTRPGs (and games more generally) often manifests and criticisms of being a "spreadsheet" or "doing your taxes," while showiness is often called out for being "hollow" or "vapid." Good aesthetics are needed, but pursuing them to such an extent that they overshadow the rest of the product is a problem. (TTRPGs rarely hit the extreme end here because art is expensive and budgets are small; video games are much more likely to have issues with excess on this regard.)

Under these lights, people compare McDonald's to a variety of other restaurants specifically because doing so highlights some of these virtues. McDonald's makes great sacrifices in suitability (their food is extremely poor nutritionally), diversity (they specifically intend to offer near-uniform menus, at least in any given country, and strive for as close to uniformity worldwide as they can get), and materials (using the cheapest stuff they can justify), and some sacrifices in aesthetics albeit lesser ones (few people will intentionally eat food that looks outright "ugly.") In exchange, they offer extreme benefits in the other virtues: very low prices, incredible ease (most Americans live within two miles of a McDonald's restaurant), high efficacy (as stated, they strive for uniformity; their chicken nuggets should taste the same anywhere they are purchased), and maximal functionality (as said by others much earlier in the thread, their food is precision optimized for triggering human hindbrain positive responses, not for suitable nutrition). Other restaurants, even other openly fast-food restaurants, do not make such extreme emphasis on cheap food with incredibly basic flavor; as an example, a regional fast food chain, Burgerville, prides itself on offering much better quality food at only slightly higher prices, usually with seasonal variations. (I quite like their asparagus fries, for example.) Surely that must qualify as an apples-to-apples comparison, but that would absolutely say that McDonald's is (intentionally!) lower quality in order to sell more and be more popular!

*I'm thinking stuff like how "realistic" computer graphics often get outdated quickly, while stylized ones are often timeless, or how a metallic product with poor aesthetics can become rusty with age, giving the appearance of being badly made even if the actual material is still sound.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Building off of this, we can name various intrinsic characteristics that are valuable in the generic, even if people might disagree about which deserves too billing. Virtues, one might call them.
  • Functionality: does it do the thing for which it was designed?
  • Efficacy: does it function with minimal maintenance/issues?
  • Materials: does it have high production values, and/or use quality materials for its physical components?
  • Aesthetics: does its physical appearance hold up both in comparison to other products and when examined in isolation, but over time?*
  • Price: is it well-priced for its nature and purpose? Does it cut corners to achieve this, or perhaps verge into conspicuous consumption?
  • Ease: is it quick or simple or other related characteristics? Does it involve a lot of overhead or learning just to get started?
  • Diversity vs Focus: how well does it target its purposes? Is it trying to be too many things at once, or hyperfocused on only one thing to its detriment, or balanced between them?
  • Suitability: is the purpose for which it was designed appropriate and reasonable?
If we wanted to go full bore Aristotelian on this, we could define all these virtues as choosing the (context-dependent) midpoint between vices of deficiency and vices of excess. E.g. beauty (virtuous aesthetics) is the midpoint between being ugly and showy; ugliness in TTRPGs (and games more generally) often manifests and criticisms of being a "spreadsheet" or "doing your taxes," while showiness is often called out for being "hollow" or "vapid." Good aesthetics are needed, but pursuing them to such an extent that they overshadow the rest of the product is a problem. (TTRPGs rarely hit the extreme end here because art is expensive and budgets are small; video games are much more likely to have issues with excess on this regard.)

Under these lights, people compare McDonald's to a variety of other restaurants specifically because doing so highlights some of these virtues. McDonald's makes great sacrifices in suitability (their food is extremely poor nutritionally), diversity (they specifically intend to offer near-uniform menus, at least in any given country, and strive for as close to uniformity worldwide as they can get), and materials (using the cheapest stuff they can justify), and some sacrifices in aesthetics albeit lesser ones (few people will intentionally eat food that looks outright "ugly.") In exchange, they offer extreme benefits in the other virtues: very low prices, incredible ease (most Americans live within two miles of a McDonald's restaurant), high efficacy (as stated, they strive for uniformity; their chicken nuggets should taste the same anywhere they are purchased), and maximal functionality (as said by others much earlier in the thread, their food is precision optimized for triggering human hindbrain positive responses, not for suitable nutrition). Other restaurants, even other openly fast-food restaurants, do not make such extreme emphasis on cheap food with incredibly basic flavor; as an example, a regional fast food chain, Burgerville, prides itself on offering much better quality food at only slightly higher prices, usually with seasonal variations. (I quite like their asparagus fries, for example.) Surely that must qualify as an apples-to-apples comparison, but that would absolutely say that McDonald's is (intentionally!) lower quality in order to sell more and be more popular!

*I'm thinking stuff like how "realistic" computer graphics often get outdated quickly, while stylized ones are often timeless, or how a metallic product with poor aesthetics can become rusty with age, giving the appearance of being badly made even if the actual material is still sound.

Quality is not exclusive, multiple things can be decent quality. In your example you have a regional chain that is better for you. But the question (and I'm not saying I have an answer) is where does nutritional value fit into your criteria? You can get relatively healthy food at McDonalds if it's something you desire*. Is localization important to you? I was in Peru a few years ago, and after spending a week backpacking in the jungle and eating a local diet, the first place we ate was a Pizza Hut because we just wanted "comfort food" and knew that it would taste just like the Pizza Hut back home. Which shows you how desperate we were. In other words you may like asparagus fries, Burgerville's burgers may taste better to you but it's based on your taste buds, preference and detailed criteria.

So I agree with your list, I think it's a decent set of criteria. Based on my personal opinion I would say that 5E is a yes for me for al the points. But I also acknowledge those answers are subjective.

*Or at least at one time you could.
 

So I agree with your list, I think it's a decent set of criteria. Based on my personal opinion I would say that 5E is a yes for me for al the points. But I also acknowledge those answers are subjective.
And I gave you a substantial breakdown of most (perhaps not quite all) of the points where I find it falls short, while recognizing several places it does something good. If you're actually interested in discussing it, instead of dismissing such discussion with "it sold well/is widely used and must therefore be good quality," then awesome. If not, your agreement with my list seems pretty perfunctory.
 

Oofta

Legend
And I gave you a substantial breakdown of most (perhaps not quite all) of the points where I find it falls short, while recognizing several places it does something good. If you're actually interested in discussing it, instead of dismissing such discussion with "it sold well/is widely used and must therefore be good quality," then awesome. If not, your agreement with my list seems pretty perfunctory.
I was simply trying to discuss, we're allowed to come to different conclusions. Your local burger chain is higher quality in your estimation because you've decided that the food they serve is "better". I think it's still a judgement call. I made no mention of "sold well/is widely used ...".

So never mind, I won't bother trying to have a conversation.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I long ago gave an example of Casio digital vs Rolex watches. One is a utilitarian watch, the other is jewelry that happens to tell time. I think they are different products with only superficial similarities and both can by judged as quality depending on the metrics people choose to use.

I don't care if we disagree. If you want to have a conversation, fine. If you're just going to continue to throw unfounded accusations I won't bother responding.
You're making a distinction that isn't relevant. You're saying some people value Rolexes only as jewelry, and are therefore unconcerned about its quality as a timepiece. This isn't at all true, however, as it's quality as a timepiece is part of its value as jewelry.

A better distinction would be pointing out that it's a challenge to compare the quality of a digital timepiece with a mechanical one -- they do things differently and have different measures of quality. A Casio is still fairly low quality because it's trivially easy to make a quartz oscillator that works -- they do not go in for high quality oscillators. There are better quality watches in the digital field.
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Building off of this, we can name various intrinsic characteristics that are valuable in the generic, even if people might disagree about which deserves too billing. Virtues, one might call them.
  • Functionality: does it do the thing for which it was designed?
  • Efficacy: does it function with minimal maintenance/issues?
  • Materials: does it have high production values, and/or use quality materials for its physical components?
  • Aesthetics: does its physical appearance hold up both in comparison to other products and when examined in isolation, but over time?*
  • Price: is it well-priced for its nature and purpose? Does it cut corners to achieve this, or perhaps verge into conspicuous consumption?
  • Ease: is it quick or simple or other related characteristics? Does it involve a lot of overhead or learning just to get started?
  • Diversity vs Focus: how well does it target its purposes? Is it trying to be too many things at once, or hyperfocused on only one thing to its detriment, or balanced between them?
  • Suitability: is the purpose for which it was designed appropriate and reasonable?
If we wanted to go full bore Aristotelian on this, we could define all these virtues as choosing the (context-dependent) midpoint between vices of deficiency and vices of excess. E.g. beauty (virtuous aesthetics) is the midpoint between being ugly and showy; ugliness in TTRPGs (and games more generally) often manifests and criticisms of being a "spreadsheet" or "doing your taxes," while showiness is often called out for being "hollow" or "vapid." Good aesthetics are needed, but pursuing them to such an extent that they overshadow the rest of the product is a problem. (TTRPGs rarely hit the extreme end here because art is expensive and budgets are small; video games are much more likely to have issues with excess on this regard.)

Under these lights, people compare McDonald's to a variety of other restaurants specifically because doing so highlights some of these virtues. McDonald's makes great sacrifices in suitability (their food is extremely poor nutritionally), diversity (they specifically intend to offer near-uniform menus, at least in any given country, and strive for as close to uniformity worldwide as they can get), and materials (using the cheapest stuff they can justify), and some sacrifices in aesthetics albeit lesser ones (few people will intentionally eat food that looks outright "ugly.") In exchange, they offer extreme benefits in the other virtues: very low prices, incredible ease (most Americans live within two miles of a McDonald's restaurant), high efficacy (as stated, they strive for uniformity; their chicken nuggets should taste the same anywhere they are purchased), and maximal functionality (as said by others much earlier in the thread, their food is precision optimized for triggering human hindbrain positive responses, not for suitable nutrition). Other restaurants, even other openly fast-food restaurants, do not make such extreme emphasis on cheap food with incredibly basic flavor; as an example, a regional fast food chain, Burgerville, prides itself on offering much better quality food at only slightly higher prices, usually with seasonal variations. (I quite like their asparagus fries, for example.) Surely that must qualify as an apples-to-apples comparison, but that would absolutely say that McDonald's is (intentionally!) lower quality in order to sell more and be more popular!

*I'm thinking stuff like how "realistic" computer graphics often get outdated quickly, while stylized ones are often timeless, or how a metallic product with poor aesthetics can become rusty with age, giving the appearance of being badly made even if the actual material is still sound.
To me many of those things aren't what i'd refer to as quality.

functionality, efficacy, materials are all general aspects of what I'd consider quality. I'd add craftsmanship there as well. Ease of use is one I'm a little iffy on but I think I can get behind.

Price is related to value not quality.
Aesthetics aren't what I think of when I think quality. One can have a very aesthetically pleasing piece of crap. Though craftsmanship is related to quality.
Diversity vs focus - that's just a tradeoff and value question masquarading as a quality question.
Suitability - I don't think quality is related to suitability - thought value definitely can be.
 

To me many of those things aren't what i'd refer to as quality.

functionality, efficacy, materials are all general aspects of what I'd consider quality. I'd add craftsmanship there as well. Ease of use is one I'm a little iffy on but I think I can get behind.

Price is related to value not quality.
Aesthetics aren't what I think of when I think quality. One can have a very aesthetically pleasing piece of crap. Though craftsmanship is related to quality.
Diversity vs focus - that's just a tradeoff and value question masquarading as a quality question.
Suitability - I don't think quality is related to suitability - thought value definitely can be.
What differentiates "craftsmanship" from aesthetics and/or suitability?

I absolutely think diversity vs focus is extremely important because this is something that ruins a LOT of attempted projects, particularly in the game-design space. Many people try to make a game (often a computer game, but it's hardly rare in the TTRPG space) that is everything to everyone, "focused" on literally everything. And that's exactly where things go wrong. You can't put the level of time--of craftsmanship, you might say--into that many things. Having enough tactical richness to satisfy 4e fans and enough build diversity to satisfy 3e fans and enough pick-up-and-go simplicity to satisfy 1e fans and enough storytelling oomph to satisfy PbtA fans and enough random risk to satisfy poker fans and enough rich and detailed backstory to bring in ALL the fans of ALL the different settings out there...it's just not feasible on the kind of budget and resources (including human resources) typically available to TTRPG designers, not even WotC.

Suitability is absolutely an important factor in quality because it's one of the main reasons "fast food" is recognized as being "bad" and yet also "tasty." We know that it's not good food. We know that eating three double cheeseburgers and a large fry is a really bad dietary decision, one that can lead to legitimate health problems if you do it too often. We also know that truly rich, knock-your-socks-off flavor can't come from this kind of cooking. That these foods are not delicious, not true delights to eat, but they are quick-and-dirty satisfying flavors precision-tuned for average human preferences in various areas of food chemistry (fats, sugars, salt, heavily-processed grains and meats, synthetic flavors). That's what suitability measures. We intuitively understand that some foods are more suitable than others for both objective reasons (superior nutrition, maintaining healthy weight and lifestyle, avoiding dehydration, etc.) and subjective ones (superior vs inferior flavor even when both are flavorful, higher-quality ingredients, greater satiation as a result of eating, etc.) Now, obviously, I have given a long example of food suitability, but suitability can apply in all sorts of other places. A watch that is perfectly accurate but weighs three pounds is not, generally speaking, particularly suitable for the function of being a watch, while a laptop that weighs three pounds (such as the MacBook Air) can be extremely suitable.

All of these things contain both some objective components (e.g. your "craftsmanship" surely must include objective elements like the technical skill required to create the object or devise the procedure in question) and some subjective ones (e.g. whether the result of that craft reflects a keenness of understanding, or cleverness, or resourcefulness, etc.) That this is true is no reason we cannot do further analysis. It just means we must recognize what kind of analysis we use, and that different things require different forms of analysis.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
What differentiates "craftsmanship" from aesthetics and/or suitability?
Take 2 tables. One I may find more aesthetically pleasing due to it's basic style or color. The other may be made from a material known as difficult to craft a table from and have intricate designs carved into it.

That's the difference between craftsmanship and aesthetics.

I absolutely think diversity vs focus is extremely important because this is something that ruins a LOT of attempted projects, particularly in the game-design space. Many people try to make a game (often a computer game, but it's hardly rare in the TTRPG space) that is everything to everyone, "focused" on literally everything. And that's exactly where things go wrong. You can't put the level of time--of craftsmanship, you might say--into that many things. Having enough tactical richness to satisfy 4e fans and enough build diversity to satisfy 3e fans and enough pick-up-and-go simplicity to satisfy 1e fans and enough storytelling oomph to satisfy PbtA fans and enough random risk to satisfy poker fans and enough rich and detailed backstory to bring in ALL the fans of ALL the different settings out there...it's just not feasible on the kind of budget and resources (including human resources) typically available to TTRPG designers, not even WotC.
Focus or diversity is a value question about what combination of focus and diversity to value most. That's not innate to the quality of a product, but rather it's dependent on what the end user ultimately is trying to accomplish.

Suitability is absolutely an important factor in quality because it's one of the main reasons "fast food" is recognized as being "bad" and yet also "tasty."
I would say that categorization differences handle what you are calling suitability. If we make a fast food burger joint category, then we can compare quality without ever needing to talk about suitability.
 

Take 2 tables. One I may find more aesthetically pleasing due to it's basic style or color. The other may be made from a material known as difficult to craft a table from and have intricate designs carved into it.

That's the difference between craftsmanship and aesthetics.
Why would one not, as you have suggested below, define things such that these differences are categorized out? This seems a weakness of your overall proposal: either you have your categorization that excludes comparisons you don't want, but which seems to exclude other comparisons you do want, or you don't, and thus comparisons I'm making are appropriate.

Focus or diversity is a value question about what combination of focus and diversity to value most. That's not innate to the quality of a product, but rather it's dependent on what the end user ultimately is trying to accomplish.
Turn that around: it is not about what the user is trying to accomplish, but what ends the designer is trying to support. Yes, end-users will bring whatever ends they wish to use the product for. The designer of something is, however, trying to make a product that will provide one or more ends for which users may desire said product. That's where focus vs diversity is a design consideration, and thus, something that factors into quality.

I mean, you've already granted, as I understood it, that the product must be made for some kind of purpose. This is a question of intrinsic quality factors in terms of "did the creator actually have the effort and resources to fulfill all the purposes they set out to meet?"

I would say that categorization differences handle what you are calling suitability. If we make a fast food burger joint category, then we can compare quality without ever needing to talk about suitability.
And I would argue that such categorization is you inserting arbitrary divisions that make comparison impossible. We could always object and demand finer and finer comparison until nothing could be compared because no other products could possibly match. "Oh well it has to be a burger fast food joint; you couldn't compare Taco Bell and McDonald's. But it also can't be focused on the dining experience, because McDonald's is clearly catering to the take-out crowd; you wouldn't compare it with Applebee's or Red Robin. Oh and don't forget that it needs to be specifically a very cheap fast-food takeout-focused burger joint, because McDonald's isn't trying to compete with something like Chili's or the like, that whole 'six-dollar burger' thing at Carl's Jr./Hardee's is definitely not the same," etc., etc. This ever-finer categorization results in the inverse of the apples-and-oranges problem; we start needing to compare Granny Smith apples from Washington state harvested in the early part of the season (e.g. October) but kept in good preservation conditions until early winter (e.g. Christmas), otherwise it's not a fair comparison.

Suitability, as a category, is specifically what enables related but still cross-category comparisons in a useful way.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Why would one not, as you have suggested below, define things such that these differences are categorized out? This seems a weakness of your overall proposal: either you have your categorization that excludes comparisons you don't want, but which seems to exclude other comparisons you do want, or you don't, and thus comparisons I'm making are appropriate.
One could attempt to. One's audience has to agree that your categorizations are reasonable.

Turn that around: it is not about what the user is trying to accomplish, but what ends the designer is trying to support. Yes, end-users will bring whatever ends they wish to use the product for. The designer of something is, however, trying to make a product that will provide one or more ends for which users may desire said product. That's where focus vs diversity is a design consideration, and thus, something that factors into quality.
Whether the designer achieved his goals doesn't make a product quality. That a designer made a very focused product or a very unfocused product, or even something inbetween isn't something I care about when I consider quality.

And I would argue that such categorization is you inserting arbitrary divisions that make comparison impossible. We could always object and demand finer and finer comparison until nothing could be compared because no other products could possibly match. "Oh well it has to be a burger fast food joint; you couldn't compare Taco Bell and McDonald's. But it also can't be focused on the dining experience, because McDonald's is clearly catering to the take-out crowd; you wouldn't compare it with Applebee's or Red Robin. Oh and don't forget that it needs to be specifically a very cheap fast-food takeout-focused burger joint, because McDonald's isn't trying to compete with something like Chili's or the like, that whole 'six-dollar burger' thing at Carl's Jr./Hardee's is definitely not the same," etc., etc. This ever-finer categorization results in the inverse of the apples-and-oranges problem; we start needing to compare Granny Smith apples from Washington state harvested in the early part of the season (e.g. October) but kept in good preservation conditions until early winter (e.g. Christmas), otherwise it's not a fair comparison.
Yes. You get it. While I agree it's not ideal, that's how quality works. We don't compare the quality of a cup of orange juice to the quality of a battery. Too dissimilar. We don't compare the quality of a D battery to the quality of a car battery. Etc.

Suitability, as a category, is specifically what enables related but still cross-category comparisons in a useful way.
I submit cross-category quality comparisons are meaningless. *Unless one uses new categories where the comparisons can now be meaningful.
 

Seule

Explorer
5e is clearly a game that works for many people, and presumably does what it was designed to do well, for example it's easy to learn with low overhead and draws in new players really well. It also plays as a spectator sport for all the same reasons.
It's not the game I want to play but that doesn't make it not good, just not for me. It's clearly been very good for the gaming industry as whole, we have many players now who wouldn't be playing if my preferred games were the flagships of the industry.
I'm sad that it's the first edition of D&D that I really haven't enjoyed, but that's on me not on the system. I have other games to play.
 

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