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A quick lesson on Criticism

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:36 pm
by HeroLinik
I remember posting this on NSMBX about two and a half years ago, and strangely enough it's still not made its way here. There are still, though, a few people that don't know how to criticise a level without being too harsh, being too biased or lacking in detail. Coming from a former level judge (me of course), this guide was created to right those that are not criticising levels properly.

1. Constructiveness
This has already been elaborated in the level forum rules, but it's better that I'd continue to elaborate this rule further. Going ahead and posting something along the lines of "this is crap" or "good" will not get you anywhere far, because it's just as good as not saying anything at all, and could possibly net you a warning. Why is it crap? How is it good? If it's crap, how does it need improving? You don't need to write an essay on it - that's the job of the level judges. You can be as brief as possible. Saying something along the lines of "This doesn't look good because I just noticed a cut-off near to that pipe leading to section X. Try fixing that." is a lot better. As well as that, don't just review based on the cons of the level, because that's only half the spectrum. You should praise the level designer on what they did well, and advise on how to fix those cons, otherwise your review will not be a review, but a list of things wrong with the level.

2. Level design/gameplay
The most important part of criticising a level is criticising the level design. Is the level fun to play? Is it cleverly-designed? A common pitfall that newbies fall into - I fell into this as well - is to get distracted by really cool fancy custom graphics that can distract from the dullness of the level design. Remember, it's not about custom graphics - it's about how you use them. A good critic should not let themselves get distracted by aspects that try to disguise how the level was designed. It should also be worth mentioning that a level that has excellent gameplay and gimmicks but has cut-offs, clashes and bad graphical choices is actually better than a level that has really beautiful custom graphics, but bland gameplay.

3. Kindness
A common trap that many reviewers fall into is raging over an aspect that's wrong with the level. We don't want any AVGN-like reviewing in the forums; upon seeing something like an out-of-place enemy for example and saying things like "this level is bullshit and you are bullshit too!", "Did this take you five minutes to make?" or "Uninstall SMBX. Now." is downright unacceptable, and if it were to do something, it would net you a warning. We should really be kind to each other whenever reviewing a level - there are some people that are new to SMBX and you need to respect them - there's a high chance the levels they make aren't Chad-like quality. Being harsh to them may turn them off level designing or even SMBX entirely. Treat others like you would be treated yourself.

4. Bias
Another common trap I've seen around all reviewers is they're biased in their reviews. This can, unfortunately, lead to someone getting unfairly low scores in their reviews because the reviewers are criticising something just because, for example, "I don't like SMB2 levels" or giving unfairly high scores just because they're best friends with the level designer. Even if you're not a fan of, let's say, the graphical choice for example, it doesn't mean you should mark them down extremely severely on it. Also, you should review the level, not the designer. Balancing up opinions is everything.

5. Custom graphics
Well, you're obviously not in the Graphics forum when you read this: this is the levels forum, so most of your level aspects when you're reviewing shouldn't be too biased on the fact that there's custom graphics or not, and you shouldn't really judge too much of the level on its graphics, unless you like them and/or you want to point something out that needs fixing. Clashing is one example of this. This is when at least two graphics are placed in a vicinity of each other and are not compatible, but it has nothing to do with the games they come from. This isn't eye-pleasing, yet can be easily fixed. Yet don't be biased and say that just one clash can make a level bad: too many, and it's definitely an eyesore. Also, if a level doesn't have custom graphics, it doesn't necessarily make it "bad".

6. Don't review just from screenshots!
This is also in the level forum rules, but isn't enforced enough, so I'm going to reinforce it. I've seen a few people do that, and trust me, it's a very bad idea. Reviewing a level just from the screenshots and having not played it first gives a false impression to others of what the level actually has in store, and at worst, will turn people away from playing what could otherwise be a masterpiece in level design. If you want to review a level, you need to play it first, so you can give a more in-depth review. If you don't know how to criticise the level without relying on screenshots alone, don't review it.

This isn't to bore you out or anything, but this is more like a guide on how to criticise levels properly. Now get out there and review levels!

Re: A quick lesson on Criticism

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:38 pm
by PixelPest
This is really good, although I think Gameplay is really important too

Re: A quick lesson on Criticism

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:45 pm
by Enjl
This topic gets the emral stamp of approval. It's covered in soda so now this topic is all sticky and stuff.

Re: A quick lesson on Criticism

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:52 pm
by Mable
If only some people would listen, and take the critic they get. Sure, we got some people who have strange reviews but we also have people that don't listen to the critic they get.

And if one of those two is missing it won't work out.
Nice detailed thread though.

Re: A quick lesson on Criticism

Posted: Wed Apr 13, 2016 5:17 pm
by Ness-Wednesday
I think I can give a good example, let's say if I came across a linear level and I played it, I shouldn't score it low and say this is not nonlinear, yes I don't like linear levels but what's better to focus on is the design and gameplay, having to complain about it being linear a bunch of times isn't going to really to help your review, nor the creator to improve.
Instead, focus on the design and gameplay and look out for flaws that are fixable and what doesn't fit.
Remember, there are only a few flaws that can't be fixed due to SMBX limitations, so beware of those and pay attention to the design flaws more.

Leave the Bias to the CCs.

Re: A quick lesson on Criticism

Posted: Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:48 am
by Enjl
I'm gonna drop an additional line regarding "Constructiveness" and "Kindness" which I learned just recently:

When applicable, try to give the designer constructive criticism on what they did right and try to find what they can learn from that; how they could improve upon it even more. Soleley focusing on what a designer did wrong is only covering half of the spectrum.

I did a liiitttle bit of that in the past without knowing about this, but I'm gonna try to do this excessively (where possible) in the future, because in my opinion ironing out one's flaws is as important as improving on their strengths.

Re: A quick lesson on Criticism

Posted: Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:16 pm
People seriously need to know this. Even some of the level judges are lacking in some of these categories.