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Your Opinion Matters

I’d like to ask you a favor. The next time (or ideally every time) you buy an RPG product, leave a short review. You might not think your opinion is that important, or that a line or two on a Drivethrurpg review is any use. But I promise you, it really helps in a lot of ways.

board-3699978_960_720.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.​

For those of us creating the product (be they writing, art, editing, layout etc) seeing a review means we know someone actually read it, or at least had a flick through. We are all as guilty as each other of impulse buying, or grabbing a book for the one character class we might use. So even if sales figures show a product is popular, it’s not really a guide to whether anyone has read it, or liked it. Now I’ll grant you, the money is nice. Don’t stop buying games for god’s sake. But we make them for people to read and enjoy, and it’s much nicer to hear that’s going on.

In some cases you may have emailed the company to say how great a book is, or tell them how much it sucked. That isn’t a bad idea (done politely) and the company certainly needs to know what the customers think. But most of the writing and art team are freelance, so they never get to read these comments. We might hear from the boss that ‘people liked that last book’ or ‘lot of folks hated that adventure’ but only if we happen to catch up with them at a con or the like. For the most part, unless we see a review online, the writers and artists won’t have the faintest idea whether anyone liked it.

To illustrate the point, I used to run the Victoria line for Cubicle 7. We did see the odd review and that was cool, but only one or two. But when forums asked ‘what Victorian era RPGs do you recommend’ Victoriana barely got a mention. Sales seemed ok, so we carried on, but it did feel like no one was really playing the game. Maybe they were using the material for something else (although that’s cool). Sales were good enough to do a new edition and we sold a good pile to distributers. But a week afterwards one UK distributer made another large order. We quickly checked they’d actually had the original order, thinking they couldn’t possibly have got through that many books. But they had, people apparently loved the game and were extremely eager for the new edition. It seemed Victoriana was a game plenty of people played, just no one talked about!

In this way, feedback can sometimes make the difference between a line carrying on, or at least how it is prioritized. If people are talking about something, a company is going to assume that this is the game they want more of. Even if sales are good, you may think twice about pushing a product line that doesn’t seem to make much of a buzz.

For we freelancers, it’s a vital way to hear what we are doing right or wrong. You’ll notice I’m not asking just for good reviews. They are nice, but constructive criticism is also good. Reviews are one of the few ways we get to hear when we’ve hit the mark, or when we’ve not delivered what people want. We all play RPGs in different ways, and what may be obvious to one group may never come up for another.

In part, the lack of reviews for some products is due to the expectations we now have. The bar for RPG production is incredibly high these days. If you find a game with gorgeous art, great layout, clear text and inspiring writing you may well just think ‘yup, that’ll do’ and not think it needs further comment. It takes a truly incredible game to make people sit up and notice because RPGs are just so damn good. But even if we haven’t knocked your socks off, it’s good to hear we didn’t suck, or at least delivered to this standard.

Now, this applies less to the latest D&D book, Star Wars guide or Onyx Path supplement. The really big players do get noticed and their larger sales often ensure a few more reviews, although it’s not always the case. But small games from small companies sometimes get no reviews at all, and that is also a shame because those companies need it most. Reviews are advertising to a large extent. Even a bad review might intrigue someone to check out a product. For these games few people have heard of, reviews are a lifeline to spread the word and reach their audience, especially when they are competing with much bigger fish. When you are making a purchase, which game do you buy, the one with a couple of even just average reviews, or the one with none at all?

So, whatever you think of a new game, please remember to leave some sort of review. It only needs to be a couple of lines and those of us making games really appreciate it. Just tell us what you liked, maybe what you didn’t and what you think we missed. Not only does it help us improve the products we create, but it also allows a writer to know that out there, somewhere, someone at least read it and maybe even enjoyed it.

This article was contributed by Andrew Peregrine (Corone) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
 
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Andrew Peregrine

Comments

Ramaster

Villager
I feel that a lot of people (myself included) are discouraged from leaving reviews because lots of times negative ones get deleted and positive ones are clearly fake.

Reviews are a good tool for developers, sure, but they are an even better tool for consumers who have a limited amount of money to spend on products. Most people who don't review don't do it out of lazyness or lack of engagement, they don't do it because of that.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
EN Review site has both postive and negative reviews

I feel that a lot of people (myself included) are discouraged from leaving reviews because lots of times negative ones get deleted and positive ones are clearly fake.
Taking a quick glance at ENWorld's own Reviews page, I see a lot of products that have low scores with multiple reviews. It looks like here you can leave an honest review (good or bad) and have it stick.

Reviews are a good tool for developers, sure, but they are an even better tool for consumers who have a limited amount of money to spend on products. Most people who don't review don't do it out of lazyness or lack of engagement, they don't do it because of that.
Help out the consumers as well as the developers by leaving a review here since it seems to avoid the issue you spoke of from other review sites.

https://www.enworld.org/forum/productforums.php
 

Kramodlog

Adventurer
I find too many people leave reviews the day the product was released. They can't have read it or even playtest it. It is just fans who are loyal to a brand. Not real reviews.
 

lyle.spade

Explorer
I find too many people leave reviews the day the product was released. They can't have read it or even playtest it. It is just fans who are loyal to a brand. Not real reviews.
Agreed. Or Trolls who hate a brand and just want to revel in being negative.

I've reviewed several things here, and always after at least a full read, and mostly after a few sessions and some time to think.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The problem is that reviews, like everything else, are subject to Sturgeon's Law, as summarized by Penny Arcade.

Hilarious comic, but in what way would you consider it “grandma friendly”?

EDIT: Added link. Be aware that comic is mildly NSFW for language.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
Corone for some us, leaving a review is hard because our writing skills suck. Also Ramaster points out the fact of reviews go missing, and some positive ones are fluffing the product. For books I wait till I actually finish (generally) the story. For RPG products, a well research review is hard. First I have to really read it. Not in depth so I find all the typos but enough where I get the sense of how game play will play out. But I have found what I thought would be a good game/adventure turn into an average or lousy product. Or just the opposite.
I also I laugh at art comments in other reviews because that is totally subjective. I started gaming where the only colored art was on the cover. So color art does not impress me much.
If you do send out product before release day to get reviews, please have the reviewer’s state in their review
 

Gradine

Archivist
On the other hand, shill and/or troll reviews are relatively easy to spot, and those of us who aren't cynics glean a lot of useful information from a well-formed review, which there are actually quite a bit more common than some in this thread would have us believe.

That said, different platforms breed different levels of reviews. I'd turn to ENWorld for a legitimate and useful review long before I'd look at the DM's Guild comments, for instance. GOG has much better quality reviews (and infinitely fewer trolls) than Steam, which in turn has infinitely fewer shill reviews than basically any mobile app store ever.
 

LordEntrails

Explorer
I feel that a lot of people (myself included) are discouraged from leaving reviews because lots of times negative ones get deleted and positive ones are clearly fake.
Really? Sure on Google or Yelp, and probably on some specific publisher's pages, but on ENWorld, DMSGuild or DriveThruRPG? Never heard of such happening except when a review was obviously false and/or full of derogatory language.
As another said, fake reviews are easy to spot, and reviews are much more useful than ratings are. Because you can actually tell if a review is useful or not.

Reviews are a good tool for developers, sure, but they are an even better tool for consumers who have a limited amount of money to spend on products. Most people who don't review don't do it out of lazyness or lack of engagement, they don't do it because of that.
Absolutely, and that's why it's so important you leave reviews. Even if you think negative ones get deleted. Add honest reviews and the fake ones will get ignored.

I find too many people leave reviews the day the product was released. They can't have read it or even playtest it. It is just fans who are loyal to a brand. Not real reviews.
That's why I like what OBS does with DriveThruRPG and DMsGuild. I can log into my account when I'm bored and go back and review stuff that I bought a year ago and have finally used.

So, next time you are bored and looking for something to do, go log in to your account and rate and review a few products you have used in the last few months (or years!)
 

aco175

Explorer
A better review is from someone who actually ran it or at least played it. I have some modules on DMsGuild and maybe a handful of reviews. It does help when people are honest or give something positive and negative.
 

Corone

Villager
There's a lot of fair points there, although I would say... :)

While I can't be any surer than anyone else, I'm not convinced many places are deleting bad reviews.
If there are mainly good reviews I'd offer that it is rare for people to want to trash something compared to those who want to praise it.
(at least in terms of people willing to make an effort) :)
Personally I tend to only write reviews for games I like as I want to share the word on something awesome.
Also I might well run into the people who made the game and I'd rather have either something nice to say or just not say anything :)
(there are a lot of very nice people making games that are not that good and vice versa)

I do agree about reviews that appear the same as the release day
(although some may have gone out early to a reviewer, but not very often)
but I also agree you can usually spot the trolls and my answer to both is that the more people that do good reviews the less that will matter.

I'd also add for Ramaster - it need not matter how good your writing is.
Sure, there are well and badly written reviews.
But if you loved a game (or hated it) and you can be at least reasonably articulate about why, I'd love to read your review no matter what length it is.
Even one line saying 'I loved this, you should check it out' will usually warm the heart of the most jaded games designer. :)
 

Paragon Lost

Explorer
The last time I left a review, I got push back from the creators, instead of recognition of my valid points. Points others have made I've found later on various sites. If I am critical of something, I will list why, not just a "this suxs!" sort of comment. Just like I avoid saying I like something without listing why I like it.

My point, posting reviews, comments or just interacting with creators often is a negative situation, where after the fact I found myself asking, why did I do that? That sucked, lets not do that again.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Amazon will occasionally remove bad reviews. Some times on request of the author(s) due them being troll reviews. Sometimes because Amazon is pushing the product. About half my book reviews get "unverified purchase" since I buy the Baen Bundle monthly or it was free from a non Amazon source.
 

aco175

Explorer
I also seem to see that all/ most all reviews are from the love it or hate it crowd. These people may be motivated enough to actually leave a review. I tend to put some validity to reviews when buying something. I like to look at the negative reviews and see things like packaging was damaged or missing screws getting only 1 star. I tend to think something is ok if it gets 80%+ 4 and 5 stars. Only slightly scientific and based mostly on gut feelings.
 

Corone

Villager
The last time I left a review, I got push back from the creators, instead of recognition of my valid points. Points others have made I've found later on various sites. If I am critical of something, I will list why, not just a "this suxs!" sort of comment. Just like I avoid saying I like something without listing why I like it.

My point, posting reviews, comments or just interacting with creators often is a negative situation, where after the fact I found myself asking, why did I do that? That sucked, lets not do that again.
Thats a very fair point and I'm saddened the creators in question couldn't take the criticism.
I imagine sometimes even a fair review might miss a major point of the game, it always amazes me how many different ways people play RPGs.
But that doesn't mean a creator can get angry at a reviewer just because they didn't think the game was as good as they do.

It does suck to get a bad review, sometimes worse if its a well written one as its harder to dismiss as just trolling! :)
While I've seen reviews of my stuff where I've thought 'thats rubbish, they just don't get the point'
more often than not I've thought 'I may not agree, and I may not like it, but you certainly have a point'.

Essentially, unless the reviewer accuses the creator of something like racism in the game and they feel they can reasonably respond to that point,
creators should generally just take the criticism and not respond at all.
 

Ramaster

Villager
Where is this happening?
Frankly I don't use Enworld's reviews all that much if at all. I was under the impression that we were talking about reviews in general, since the article didn't cite any review site specifically. To be perfectly clear: I've never seen this happen in Enworld. The phenomenon I was referring too can be seen very clearly in Steam, the Appstore, Amazon and many other sites, big and small (restaurant apps come to mind as being the least reliable).

I'd also add for Ramaster - it need not matter how good your writing is.
It was Jasper the one that made the comment about the quality of writing, not me. But since we are on the subject, some instances of bad grammar are indicatory of dishonest reviews, so I get his fear of posting reviews in what he perceives to be shoddy English for fear of being mistaken for a troll. Most non-native English speakers have felt that way at some point.
 
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Corone

Villager
It was Jasper the one that made the comment about the quality of writing, not me. But since we are on the subject, some instances of bad grammar are indicatory of dishonest reviews, so I get his fear of posting reviews in what he perceives to be shoddy English for fear of being mistaken for a troll. Most non-native English speakers have felt that way at some point.
Ah, you are quite right. My apologies to you both.
and thats is also a very fair point.
 

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