Title: A Zipp rule!
Posted: January 14, 2009 (10:11 PM)
You know how every once in a while you'll discover a rule that you follow, but weren't aware that you followed?
For instance, today I was discussing my reviews with someone and he mentioned that I rarely go into plot details or attacks.
I thought about this hard, because plot is very important to me. Why don't I go into plot? Have I been wrong all this time?
Then I realized I've been following these two rules:
AVOID DISCUSSING PLOT AT LENGTH BECAUSE:
1) gives stuff away that it's better for gamers to experience on their own
2) takes up valuable word space discussing things that are, ultimately, a matter of opinion
I think the exceptions would be when the plot was EXCEPTIONALLY good (Longest Journey) or bad (FFXII, for me at least... but there's that whole opinion).
Posted: January 14, 2009 (10:30 PM)
You know, I think other experiences can be matters of opinion, too. Like my experience with the crappy KH camera could be completely different than someone else's experience. Or that other person might not have thought it as big a deal.
I also think that discussing plot really depends on how you feel about it. For me, I discuss it when it feels important; if the plot is especially essential, it gets significantly more detail. Other times I just glance over some things so I don't have to use weird, awkward references to certain things (like character names).
For me, though, I think it's a rare occasion where I don't discuss plot in some form or another. Hm... Either way, it should be noted that however much I talk about the plot, I try not to reveal anything that would ruin the experience for someone wanting to play it.
Oh, and one other thing: I try not to obsess about length. I just try to write whatever I feel is necessary and important. Sometimes it makes the piece long or short, but usaully I feel satsified with how it turns out. Granted, I do try not to write more than 8kb per review (which might sound contradictory to what I just said earlier), but I've also never had the occasion where I've gone over. I think that if I did write something longer, I wouldn't fret too much about it as long as I felt I told everything I wanted in an effective manner.
Posted: January 14, 2009 (11:38 PM)
People generally want to hear a bit about plot, though, so I like to go about covering it in a back-of-the-box fashion and then comment on how that is carried throughout the game. Even though a plot's value is a matter of opinion, the same might so easily be said about all elements of a game.
I would disagree--to a certain extent--with WQ's comments on camera in KH. That game's camera system is pretty much awful. How awful certainly is a matter of opinion, and some people will simply overlook it more than others. But anyone with a good ability to observe should see that it had much work left to be done.
Posted: January 15, 2009 (01:51 AM)
Are we referring to Kingdom Hearts with KH (too many acronyms these days)? I didn't have any trouble with the camera angle, but I think it's because the gameplay is so simple. You just keep hitting X and the game figures the rest out for you. It's not like DMC, where you need to know what's going on 360 around you.
I should clarify when I say I don't discuss plot that I don't go discussing it AT LENGTH. I definitely feel plot is essential (for me, maybe more essential than anything else in the game, as long as it's coupled with decent gameplay), but I usually don't go far beyond mentioning it for the above reasons and because it's one of these things that's hard to talk about.
For instance, you can describe how great you think FFX's plot is to the high heavens, but no-one's going to understand until they play it. So it seems better to suffice with a simple "you'll be really engaged by FFX's rich plot, which focuses mostly on the interactions between the characters." BAM. One sentence, done.
I definitely find my reviews to be much better when I force myself to write around 800 words. By limiting myself, it really forces me to cut the fat off my review and get to the point. If the game has a unique system (mostly RPGs) then I give myself an extra 200-400 words to describe the ups and downs of that system.
Posted: January 15, 2009 (02:32 AM)
I go for around 1000 words, which sounds like a lot but I usually have a lot to say. I tend to trim 100 to 200 words from almost any review that I write and that seems to work out well for me. Mostly, I look at 800 as a minimum, unless the game is extremely simple. To each his own, I suppose. My Castlevania Judgment review that you enjoyed was closer to 1300 words and I had to trim it to get there. Condensing things down to 800 words would have been a bit much.
Of course, I've written to 500 words on numerous occasions for Hardcore Gamer Magazine and when I wrote a few reviews for GamesRadar I think their cap was 400, but that's something I do only when I'm forced. I really like setting my own limits and for me, 1000 to 1200 feels pretty natural for most games.
Posted: January 15, 2009 (07:49 AM)
I really see no disagreement in that reply, Jason, haha.
Anyway, "you'll be really engaged by FFX's rich plot, which focuses mostly on the interactions between the characters."
The problem I can see with this is while it's short, just reading that and only that would make me want to know more = from the review itself. How is this interaction engagin? Why should I believe you? That sort of thing. Sometimes just telling me I'll enjoy something isn't enough - you'd need to go into more detail. Other times saying just that might be fine, but that really depends on the game you're talking about. Honestly, though; if you're only going to mention that one thing, which isn't saying all that much at all, and you're focusing on more game play elements, then I'd just take that sentence out entirely and not mention it at all since it's obviously not important enough to talk about in more detail (well, that's how it'd come across, anyway. You already explained your reasons for not wanting to discuss such things in further detail, which is perfectly understandable).
Posted: January 15, 2009 (01:29 PM)
I agree, I agree. Nonetheless, if you read my reviews, you'll see that while I give a bit more than that, usually plot is not something I go into very much.
The real test will be when I finally beat Odin's Sphere and get that review out, because plot is SO important to that game.
We'll see how I handle it.