A better lesson on Criticism

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A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Aero » Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:03 pm

Here's how to make a reply or review worth someone's time reading, and how to avoid rubber stamp reviews and non-constructive replies.

1. Simplicity
Less is more. If you can say something with fewer words: do it. Rules two and three out of George Orwell's six rules for writing have to do with cutting out the crap and they are as follows:
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
If your post is almost a narration of what you're doing in the level, cut that out too. And that leads to my next point.

2. Get rid of "cool" in disguise
Just saying the word "cool" isn't helpful or constructive. Saying "I really liked [general part of the level], it was pretty good" is the same thing but with more words. Saying that you simply liked a general feature of the level is not as helpful as when you point to a specific and comment on it. This tip is better suited for reviews than replies, so this isn't that strict of a requirement and sometimes it can't be avoided for average levels.

3. Give Direction
If someone's level sucks, and it's among their first few levels; let them know the level sucks and then point them in the right direction. Declarative statements are pretty controversial on this forum, but it's best to let people know that their level is "terrible" not that there's "room for improvement." There's room for improvement in every level, and most of the time new people know that their level can be better but not how. Point out everything that's wrong - screenshots help - and tell them to check out "Average" and "Pretty Good" in the archives and to play more before making more. Remind them of the golden level design tip which is "If Nintendo wouldn't do it, neither should you" and set them on their way. Immersion is a much better teacher than you will ever be, so use it.

4. Stay Subjective
Opinions of anything are subjective so operate under that impression instead of trying to put on some show like what you're saying is objective. There are things that can be done objectively right or wrong, but it's not enough to describe a level's quality. Don't worry about bias because you're already ignoring levels you're biased against and playing what you like. For instance when I see some kid post a boss rush or something like that, I skip over that shit. Bias is unconscious so just operate under the assumption that the level designer thinks you're interested in a level enough to download it and respond than trying to water down what you have to say.

5. Ignore bad responses
Don't ignore negative reviews, they're there to help you improve. Instead avoid responses that don't match up with these little lessons, and especially so if they have a paragraph or more about graphics you use. This is how we get to people thinking you need custom graphics to make a good level, or cutoff/clash is objectively bad, and brings everyone to make the same type of level where the only changes between them are the graphics. Some of the higher ranking Community Contest winners have put shit into their levels that I have never seen before in the several years I've been part of this community. Those users are the most qualified to judge your level. Don't be fooled by the term "Level Judges," and their pink names - they're a remnant from the original forums so their word isn't gospel. Some users that you should look for that have made incredible levels and are worth talking to about level design: Enjl, Marina, zlakergirl357, Darkonius64, Chad, Ace, and Bomber57. In general anyone who has made it to the final tiers of the Community Contests or won, is a good source but I know these people in particular and I have seen what they can do in their projects and levels.

Questions? Comments? Post 'em.

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Enjl » Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:10 pm

Before the "Nintendo wouldn't do it, neither should you" point stirs up any controversy - it's a more easy-to-comprehend way to put "make sure your level is fun to play". If during testing you find a part of your level which you don't like very much or which feels like it needs improvement, do some brainstorming and gather some ideas on how to twist and change the formula you're putting down in your level to make it more fun. If you come up with something that doesn't quite fit, write it down regardless! Maybe it's just what you need for another level.
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby JupiHornet » Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:13 pm

AeroMatter wrote:Some of the higher ranking Community Contest winners have put shit into their levels that I have never seen before in the several years I've been part of this community. Those users are the most qualified to judge your level.
Not entirely true. I mean yeah, it usually is, but from what I've seen, there have been great designers that were bad judges in the official contests, and vice versa.
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Aero » Thu Sep 01, 2016 10:21 pm

I disagree.

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby SnifitGuy » Fri Sep 02, 2016 12:06 pm

JupiHornet wrote:
AeroMatter wrote:Some of the higher ranking Community Contest winners have put shit into their levels that I have never seen before in the several years I've been part of this community. Those users are the most qualified to judge your level.
Not entirely true. I mean yeah, it usually is, but from what I've seen, there have been great designers that were bad judges in the official contests, and vice versa.
Is this a reference to Sick-Ass swamp romp or whatever level won that contest?

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby JupiHornet » Fri Sep 02, 2016 12:09 pm

SnifitGuy wrote:
JupiHornet wrote:
AeroMatter wrote:Some of the higher ranking Community Contest winners have put shit into their levels that I have never seen before in the several years I've been part of this community. Those users are the most qualified to judge your level.
Not entirely true. I mean yeah, it usually is, but from what I've seen, there have been great designers that were bad judges in the official contests, and vice versa.
Is this a reference to Sick-Ass swamp romp or whatever level won that contest?
That and some others.
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Danny » Fri Sep 02, 2016 12:13 pm

AeroMatter wrote:I disagree.
I'm pretty sure making a good level does not equal being a good judge. One is about design, the other is about criticism. I don't think users who have made extraordinary levels are qualified in the slightest to judge your level, they didn't show how they could judge a level, they just showed how they could design a level. Big difference.
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Aero » Fri Sep 02, 2016 2:01 pm

They make good levels. They know what they're doing. They know what other levels aren't doing. They're qualified to point that out.

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby WindyDelcarlo » Fri Sep 02, 2016 4:20 pm

There's a difference between knowing what to criticize and knowing how to criticize it. Both are important as a judge
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Aero » Fri Sep 02, 2016 5:05 pm

Got it.

The user who makes casual levels and hasn't pushed the limits of the editor nor knows about them is just as qualified as the one who practices good design and knows what to look for because they've done it already.

Huge difference, can't believe I missed it.

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Enjl » Fri Sep 02, 2016 5:11 pm

You don't need to be a chef in order to be able to tell if someone's food tastes good and compare the taste of food from different people.
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Aero » Fri Sep 02, 2016 5:24 pm

Anybody can give their opinion, but the chef's would be more valuable because that's his thing. That's why they usually have chefs on all those food shows judging taste instead of a bunch of randoms. Have you not seen Hell's Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares?

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Enjl » Fri Sep 02, 2016 6:00 pm

No I haven't, but I have seen good designers write consistently bad reviews and mediocre designers write fantastic reviews.
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Aero » Fri Sep 02, 2016 6:16 pm

If you're saying there's some exceptions, sure, those will always exist but exceptions are not the rule. Why not share some of them though? I think everyone should see some sort of Dos and Don'ts with actual examples.

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby SnifitGuy » Fri Sep 02, 2016 11:39 pm

AeroMatter wrote:Anybody can give their opinion, but the chef's would be more valuable because that's his thing. That's why they usually have chefs on all those food shows judging taste instead of a bunch of randoms. Have you not seen Hell's Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares?
I would argue that the opposite is true; there are more non-chefs than chefs in the world, and thus, if your dish is liked by a lot of normal people yet the chef deems it bad, you're still getting a better reward since more people like your food.

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Aero » Sat Sep 03, 2016 12:08 am

What does quantity have do with anything?

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Ignoritus » Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:18 am

AeroMatter wrote:Got it.

The user who makes casual levels and hasn't pushed the limits of the editor nor knows about them is just as qualified as the one who practices good design and knows what to look for because they've done it already.

Huge difference, can't believe I missed it.
Golly, that convenient strawman argument sure is a lot easier for you attack than what they were actually saying, isn't it?
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Danny » Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:20 am

Ignoritus wrote:
AeroMatter wrote:Got it.

The user who makes casual levels and hasn't pushed the limits of the editor nor knows about them is just as qualified as the one who practices good design and knows what to look for because they've done it already.

Huge difference, can't believe I missed it.
Golly, that convenient strawman argument sure is a lot easier for you attack than what they were actually saying, isn't it?
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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby SnifitGuy » Sat Sep 03, 2016 9:00 am

AeroMatter wrote:What does quantity have do with anything?
I'm just saying; would you rather appeal to the minority (the "expert" chefs) in a group or the majority (the average joe)? Sure, the minority may have more "social qualifications", but if a few chefs like your dish whereas a crap ton of people hate it, you're not exactly being logical with who you're trying to appeal to. The chefs don't truly have more qualifications than average people; it's not like they got a degree in cooking (or is that a thing now).

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Re: A better lesson on Criticism

Postby Aero » Sat Sep 03, 2016 9:36 am

Nice fallacy fallacy.


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