Writing a Good Review

JPSChampagneJPSChampagne Rising Star
edited December 2009 in The Rock Band Network
In reading through the Recruitment thread, reading through everyone listing their skill and time spent on Rock Band,and I wondered just what kind of skills the Beta really needed - what kind of things they were wanting people to look out for. That made me realize that I wasn't quite sure what kind of review was necessary or even appropriate.

So, forum, I pose this question - what makes a review a good, useful review? Is it all just checking to see if everything is accurate and technically correct, or is there some element of preference involved? I've seen a few charts so far that seemed accurate enough, but knew a change here or there would make it more fun. Is it okay to bring those kinds of things up?

Also, how should issues be presented? In some reviews I've seen, authors seem to have had their feelings hurt by issues that a reviewer thought was accuracy and the author thought was preference. What's a good way to tell these things apart, and what's a good tone for delivery?

I'm sure there's more questions than this, but these were my first thoughts on the subject. I also hope this isn't a repeat thread, but I've glanced around and didn't immediately find something similar.

Comments

  • trg007trg007 Your Ever Rocking RBN Forum Guru
    edited December 2009
    There is documentation that outlines what types of things to look for when playtesting. I don't think that's accessible outside of the beta site, but to answer your question in general, there are some things that are against the rules (such as having notes combined with the kick drum on Easy) but most feedback is on subjective authoring choices - particularly with how an author chose to reduce charts for Hard/Medium/Easy.

    If an author is going to get hurt feelings from players' feedback, then quite frankly they should not be authoring. Thankfully there hasn't really been any of this occurring on the Creators site, but I have seen some of that here, and those people are going to be in for a surprise if they try and pull that on Creators. The Peer Review system works very well at preventing crappy authoring from getting through. :)

    It's also important to differentiate between playtest and review. Your questions mainly apply to playtest feedback. The Peer Review is literally a checklist form you fill out stating that there's no inappropriate content in the song (i.e., language) and also gives you a chance to agree or disagree with the difficulty tiers. In theory, all the authoring should be completely polished before a song is sent from playtest to review, though that isn't always the case and there is still the opportunity to comment on issues even after a song is in Peer Review.
  • JPSChampagneJPSChampagne Rising Star
    edited December 2009
    Very interesting! I'm obviously not part of the beta, so this is all news to me. Most of my experience in offering any kind of review so far has been on YouTube videos people have uploaded of their charts. I wish that would have been elaborated on a bit when the recruitment thread was posted. I think there's some general confusion about the difference between playtesting and peer review.
  • trg007trg007 Your Ever Rocking RBN Forum Guru
    edited December 2009
    JPSChampagne;3341139 said:
    Very interesting! I'm obviously not part of the beta, so this is all news to me. Most of my experience in offering any kind of review so far has been on YouTube videos people have uploaded of their charts. I wish that would have been elaborated on a bit when the recruitment thread was posted. I think there's some general confusion about the difference between playtesting and peer review.
    Commenting on the YT videos is very much like posting feedback on the site. Each song in Playtest or Peer Review gets its own thread on the forums for people to comment on it and discuss potential changes with the author. The authors currently in the beta have been very open to opinions/feedback. It's very common that an author will make changes to a song after it's already in Peer Review (which means they lose any votes they had already received for that song) even if it's not something that's against the rules but more of an opinion that someone feels will make the song better. I think you will do just fine if you're accepted into the beta. We could definitely use more vocals-oriented people. :)
  • XenigmaXenigma Opening Act
    edited December 2009
    trg007;3341020 said:
    It's also important to differentiate between playtest and review. Your questions mainly apply to playtest feedback. The Peer Review is literally a checklist form you fill out stating that there's no inappropriate content in the song (i.e., language) and also gives you a chance to agree or disagree with the difficulty tiers. In theory, all the authoring should be completely polished before a song is sent from playtest to review, though that isn't always the case and there is still the opportunity to comment on issues even after a song is in Peer Review.
    Very interesting to know, thanks trg007! I'd been under the impression that playtesting was the primary part of Peer Review, but it sounds as though most of the dirty work happens before any votes are cast. I guess I still have quite a bit to learn about the whole review process! Would certainly appreciate any other clarification on how the system works as a curious fan.

    Oh, and thanks of course to JPS for asking! This is something I've been wondering about but hadn't thought to simply ask. :o
  • JPSChampagneJPSChampagne Rising Star
    edited December 2009
    Thanks for the kind words trg. I don't know that I'd be a lot of use in the Beta, though, since I don't know the in's and out's of reaper or magma. I'd just like to have a bit better idea of what to say to people posting charts on YouTube.
  • trg007trg007 Your Ever Rocking RBN Forum Guru
    edited December 2009
    JPSChampagne;3342033 said:
    I don't know that I'd be a lot of use in the Beta, though, since I don't know the in's and out's of reaper or magma.
    Ah, but you don't have to! :) Everything is done through RB2's Audition Mode. You have to have Magma installed simply to be able to transfer songs to your Xbox after downloading them from the site, but that's the extent of it. You don't even need Reaper at all.
  • JPSChampagneJPSChampagne Rising Star
    edited December 2009
    Well, thank you again. I'd love to participate, but I'm all but certain HMX has made their selections for the recruitment drive. I'm not getting my hopes up about getting in for free. I may sign up when it's available to everyone, though. If I ever had the money for the membership fee on me, it'd be worth it to me to help out and make sure that the vocals and venue tracks in RBN are up to par.

    Don't want to make the thread about me, though. Is there some more detail that you could share with the general populace about the playtesting guide from the Creators site?
  • KnucklesdudeKnucklesdude Rising Star
    edited December 2009
    trg is definitely the man. If only my 360 didn't get the E74 error... by January I shall be able to review dammit. ;)

    For every instrument you have checklists to look through for common and uncommon charting and programming errors, they detail difficulty-specific issues from expert down to easy, and even non-difficulty specific things to look for, such as big rock endings and timing of the guitar solo. There's also a checklist for non-instrument review, as well as a guide to reviewing song setup, animation, ability to achieve gold stars, and difficulty tiering. The advanced playtesting guide walks you through the process and what to fill out in forms and whatnot (being specific!).

    Hope this assists you in your quest for knowledge. Obviously any of these pages can change before they hit public.
  • JPSChampagneJPSChampagne Rising Star
    edited December 2009
    That's really cool! I imagine that makes the whole process a lot easier. I thought you just had to kind of know how to look for that stuff already - though I guess you'd have to have a trained eye and ear regardless. Thanks for your info, guys. Really making me wish I could spend time testing instead of being curious.
  • trg007trg007 Your Ever Rocking RBN Forum Guru
    edited December 2009
    JPSChampagne;3342257 said:
    Don't want to make the thread about me, though. Is there some more detail that you could share with the general populace about the playtesting guide from the Creators site?
    They haven't made it publicly available yet, but the guide contains very detailed sections for each instrument and for general things like venue/animations. Using vocals as an example:
    * Are all note tubes the same pitch as what the vocalist is singing?
    * Do note tubes last the correct length?
    * Is each note tube tied to a single syllable?
    * Are all non-pitched lyrics authored as talkies? Is it possible to hit them and get an "awesome" rating?
    * Are all lyrics spelled correctly?
    * Do all of the lyrics match up to what the singer is singing?
    * Are there any hyphens appearing in places they shouldn't?
    * Does each phrase begin with a capital letter?
    * Are all of the phrases a reasonable length? Do all of the lyrics of each phrase fit on the screen in the static HUD?
    * Are all overdrive phrases in the song usable?
    * Is the vocalist animating properly?
    * If applicable, do the percussive sections of the song make sense in the context of the song? Are the phrases an acceptable length?
    And then it has a detailed paragraph for each item on that list, but looking at the list you can get an idea of what you're looking for if you're testing a vocal part. All of this is stuff you'd be looking at in-game (no Reaper required) and some of it you can even check outside of the game (lyrics are displayed on each song's page on the site). One limitation of Audition Mode is that you can't "rewind" or "skip back" so if you need to hear/look at something again, you have to restart the song. Hopefully they'll update it at some point to add that feature.

    If you have any specific questions, especially re: vocals (my pride and joy :)) feel free to shoot me a PM.
  • XenigmaXenigma Opening Act
    edited December 2009
    Knucklesdude;3342570 said:
    For every instrument you have checklists to look through for common and uncommon charting and programming errors, they detail difficulty-specific issues from expert down to easy, and even non-difficulty specific things to look for, such as big rock endings and timing of the guitar solo. There's also a checklist for non-instrument review, as well as a guide to reviewing song setup, animation, ability to achieve gold stars, and difficulty tiering. The advanced playtesting guide walks you through the process and what to fill out in forms and whatnot (being specific!).
    Sounds like quite a bit of work! Is this all part of peer review, or are all these considerations made before hand? Is each play-tester/reviewer expected to check all parts across all difficulties? I'd assume yes, but I'd have to believe different people are better at finding issues with certain parts/difficulties than others, and the required criteria seem awfully specific.

    Reading the (partial?) list of Vocal checks certainly suggests how meticulous the process is. I'd love to read in more detail about both Vocals and Guitar charting (in large part to understand how to chart specific difficulties and how/why certain charting is done on Expert), but I suppose I'll have to wait for the guide to be made public first.
  • trg007trg007 Your Ever Rocking RBN Forum Guru
    edited December 2009
    Xenigma;3342935 said:
    Sounds like quite a bit of work! Is this all part of peer review, or are all these considerations made before hand? Is each play-tester/reviewer expected to check all parts across all difficulties? I'd assume yes, but I'd have to believe different people are better at finding issues with certain parts/difficulties than others, and the required criteria seem awfully specific.
    Of course you don't have to look at every part. :) You certainly can if you want and have the time, but if there is a particular instrument you're best at, there's no problem with just looking at that instrument.

    All of this stuff is intended for Playtest; however, if a song is in Peer Review and you find a problem with it, it's still important (more so, actually) to point it out so the author can fix it if needed.
  • KnucklesdudeKnucklesdude Rising Star
    edited December 2009
    Yeah... get used to trg being a super deity in terms of vocal reviewing. It's like watching posthumous Billy Mays infomercials. Insanity.
  • SHPhr34kSHPhr34k Opening Act
    edited December 2009
    Example of trg's epic vocal reviewing. He noticed a semitone difference in a pitch on a note that was 12ms in length.... in Audition Mode. The man is a vocal reviewing machine.

    Reviewing is time consuming if you do it properly (take the time people! it's worth it in the end!). The beta community has been amazingly helpful on all fronts, and I hope it will continue that way once the doors are open. Most of us are becoming rather knowledgeable individually, but we know who to turn to for specific opinions and questions at this point.

    If/when you become able to partake in the review process, your best idea at first is to take a look at a review by one of the higher 'ranked' reviewers (forum ranks given out manually by HMX to those that are extremely helpful) in the community, and compare it to the song and version in question in Audition Mode. It's a huge learning curve all around. Ask, ask and ask some more! :)
  • JPSChampagneJPSChampagne Rising Star
    edited December 2009
    Wow. I don't think I could even detect something that was only a semitone off... especially not something that fast. I thought I had a pretty good ear, having taken years of vocal music in school, but wow. That's pretty hardcore! I'll be sure to send a PM your way later on today, trg. That kind of detail makes me think.
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