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Quality of CG Game Submissions

Last post 4/5/2009 8:14 AM by FortisVenaliter Productions. 20 replies.
  • 2/17/2009 3:34 AM

    Quality of CG Game Submissions

    I'm not sure how well this post is going to go over, and I realize that much of this has been said before, but I thought it would be nice if everyone submitting a game to Peer Review read this.

    Many people have said that the quality of Community Games is lacking. They say that it is filled with amateurish shovelware. The sad part is that us reviewers have been keeping out the worst of it until it is up-to-spec. Now we are not allowed to judge games based on content, and while in some respects that is a good rule, many disagree with it. But I think that if all developers would think about a few things before posting to Peer Review, it would make the review process smoother (for devs and reviewers), it would make the overall quality of games on the service better, and it would ultimately bring more potential users (read: customers) to our community. Thus:

    1.)Does your game follow the Best Practices? Every retail game has to follow rules and regulations that are stricter than these. These practices make your game easier to play and understand to the user. And while reviewers cannot technically fail a game for not adhering to these, they can (and have often done so) fail your game for being unplayable or confusing to the user, which 90% of the time is because the game developer failed miserably on a Best Practice guideline.

    2.)Have you tested your game? Many commercial game development studios have in-house teams to test games. And if they don't, they outsource. But you don't need something like that because you aren't commercial, you are "Indie," right? Sorry, but if you are posting to Peer Review, there is no option to sell it for free. So unless your game can be completed in 8 minutes and you have a splash screen that says, "Don't buy this game", you are commercial. Sure, you don't need to hire people to test your game, but call up your friends, make some nachos, and just sit and play the game for a while.

    3.)Is your game fun? This is the biggest problem facing indie developers, especially because their ideas are so unique and original. Unfortunately, not every idea is cut out to be a videogame. If you throw your aformentioned nacho party and your friends play the game for two minutes and put down the controller, giving you a bleak little smile and saying feebly, "that was fun". Don't be a fool and think to yourself "oh well..." If you can tell potential customers aren't getting into it, don't get mad, don't get sad, grill them for the reasons. Ask them what was good and what was bad. Tell them to be brutally honest. But the key here is, whatever they say, take it with a grain of salt. They are talking about the game, not you. Take their advice to heart, and see if you can improve on it. If you can't then don't just release a boring game to the service to hurt and annoy other developers and customers. Treat it as a learning experience and start on a new game. I had an almost finished product once that got canned because, well, it just wasn't as fun in the application of the idea as it seemed to be on paper.

    4.)Is networking fully functional? If you have XboxLIVE multiplayer support, test it! Don't just assume that because Local Multiplayer or System Link works that your online works. If you can't afford a second Xbox to test it with, have a friend try it. Or post on the Help Wanted section looking for someone to just deploy and play a game with you to test online. While it can be difficult to test the maximum 32 players at once, you should try to stress-test as much as possible. However, let me regress. Don't try to get a developer to help you test if you have not done at least a little testing yourself. You should have System Link working perfectly, as you can play your Xbox360 vs. your PC. Once you have that working then move on to XboxLIVE, and find some friends to play with.

    5.)Is your game a finished product? Is your game ready to be put on the shelf of a BestBuy or GameStop. If it is, and you saw it there, would you buy it? If not, figure out why. Most of the time, developers just starting out (often students) will make their first platforming game, and their family will say, "Wow, thats great!" And it is, don't get me wrong. But is it something people would pay for? And to be perfectly honest, most of the time the answer is no. Don't take this the wrong way. It is still a big achievement and you should be proud of yourself. You could even put it up in playtest asking other developers what it needs to be a professional title instead of a student project. It could eventually be a polished title, or you may move on to bigger and better projects taking the experience and pride with you. But don't try to sell us the projects you do to learn programming and game development. We can play that for free at a Flash game site.

    6.)What is the appeal of your game? Does it use revolutionary new gameplay like Blow? Or does it fill a niche like Biology Battle or Weapon of Choice? Or is it being released just because you think it is cool and want to make some money? Many developers need to seriously look at their motives for releasing a game. While sales figures have not been released, Community Games are just that: made by the community for the community. You should not plan to make a living off of them. If you want to do that, join a development studio or make a game prototype and sell it to a Game Production company. Thats not to say that money should have no factor in your decision, but don't pop out a crappy game (or a reskin of a sample provided by the XNA team) and try to make money off of it. You are just hurting the community, and people who have tried it thus far have often been shunned by many of us regulars. Reputation is everything in this industry. So if someone tells you your game probably isn't appropriate for sale on CG, ask them what you could improve, don't say "too bad, I'm selling it anyway".

    7.)Does it have programmer art? Some programmers can make cool art. In fact, all three of them should do game art exclusively because there never seems to be enough good game art. "Programmer Art" is a term used throughout the industry to describe crappy art that the programmer made as a placeholder for the real art added in later. In the indie world, it also refers to mix-and-match art from the web thrown unceremoniously into a game in a horrible mess that doesn't work at all. If you have a complete game with crappy art, it probably won't sell. The simple truth is, many books are judged by their cover. But the good news is that there are plenty of artists who would be glad to do art for a nearly finished game if they know it can sell soon and give them money soon. They won't join at the beginning of a project because it is too risky and could be a waste of their time. But when you do find an artist, put your game in playtest while the art is being done. Take suggestions and keep making it better. You will not only help yourself and your sales, but you will be doing the whole community a favor. Check out this post by The ZMan about where artists linger.

    8.)Have you presented it well? Going back to the judging a book by its cover thing: Don't undersell your game. If the original Gears of War or Halo came out with cover-art that was just a black rectangle with the title in white text, do you think it would have sold? No, probably not. Use the advantages given to you by XNA to sell your game. Make compelling cover-art, screenshots that represent the best of the gameplay, and a video. Sure, the videos may not be seen by the users now, but maybe down the road they will be visible to end-users from their Xbox360. Post the video on YouTube and GameTrailers, too. Spread the word about your game. Don't just expect people to see it and buy it. There are a lot of games on the Community Games platform, so the chance that an end-user will just "find you" is slim.

    9.)Be nice to reviewers. Once you submit your game there is one thing you need to remember: These people review their game on their own free time and anything they have to say to you is only their way of helping you. One problem I see a lot is people taking criticism personally. You need to remember that no game is perfect and that the reviewers aren't attacking you. And especially: Don't attack them. That is the fastest way to get your game rejected. Angering a reviewer is like angering a police officer. There are a lot of obscure rules and laws that we usually don't worry about (like making sure all of your art/music isn't copyrighted). We expect you to handle these things. But if you are rude and disrespectful, reviewers will start looking for obscure problems to spite you. We are human, and our feelings do get hurt. And in some cases (yes, this has already happened), Microsoft can and will ban you from Community Games. So be kind, and remember: We are only there to help you release the best game possible.

    I am not going to go into other subjects like putting your game into Playtest before Peer Review, because this post is lengthy enough and those have been harped upon enough already, but the key here is: Be professional, and good things will happen.

    I hope this helps you fledgeling developers, and good luck in the Marketplace.

    If anyone has anything to add, please feel free.
  • 2/17/2009 4:30 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Nice post. I know the whole point of Community Games is to allow potentially anyone to write a game, but sometimes I wish peer reviewers could reject using more subjective criteria than just "technical quality." I.e., if enough reviewers didn't think the game was ready for CG (based on their subjective opinion), the game could be rejected. I know this would open a can of worms, but I think a majority of the peer reviewers are responsible and thoughtful enough to make this a legitimate extra hurdle to pass before being accepted into the CG lineup.

  • 2/17/2009 5:31 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    I know a lot of reviewers agree with you. Another idea that has been tossed around is an end-user rating system. That way all the games could be sorted by rating
  • 2/17/2009 10:48 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    FortisVenaliter Productions:
    I know a lot of reviewers agree with you. Another idea that has been tossed around is an end-user rating system. That way all the games could be sorted by rating


    Right now we can just approve or fail a game and a rating system could be a great idea; if you do not obtain a minimum of 6/10 the game is rejected. Just to do a first selection.

    Today the paradox is that a simple game (or app) with no networking, AI, collisions, saving, multiplayer or other complex behaviours passes because there are few reasons to fail it and it is easier to download and review.
  • 2/17/2009 11:32 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    You could always just not review those titles though. 
  • 2/17/2009 12:30 PM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    A simple 'Does this game suck?' checkbox would solve the problem.
  • 2/17/2009 12:34 PM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Derrick Hopkins:
    A simple 'Does this game suck?' checkbox would solve the problem.

    No, it wouldn't. "suck" is subjective. What sucks for you might not suck for others. Our job isn't to decide what others might like, it's just to make sure whatever is submitted works. If you want to decide what others like become a movie critic (so I can go see the movies you don't like and enjoy myself).
  • 2/17/2009 12:45 PM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Jim Perry:
    Derrick Hopkins:
    A simple 'Does this game suck?' checkbox would solve the problem.

    No, it wouldn't. "suck" is subjective. What sucks for you might not suck for others. Our job isn't to decide what others might like, it's just to make sure whatever is submitted works. If you want to decide what others like become a movie critic (so I can go see the movies you don't like and enjoy myself).



    I agree with you and I don't like the "black or white" things. I think that a progressive rating would help but on the other hand I understand that CG games are meant to be as much open as possible.
  • 2/17/2009 11:12 PM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    I agree,  have the games that people say "suck" I have enjoyed, while games that others have enjoyed I found no merit in.
  • 2/20/2009 9:41 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Thanks for this !.
  • 4/5/2009 6:17 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Jim Perry:
    Derrick Hopkins:
    A simple 'Does this game suck?' checkbox would solve the problem.

    No, it wouldn't. "suck" is subjective. What sucks for you might not suck for others. Our job isn't to decide what others might like, it's just to make sure whatever is submitted works. If you want to decide what others like become a movie critic (so I can go see the movies you don't like and enjoy myself).
    I see how we are not allowed to be subjective, or harass a game on emotion or opinion, but it seems many people are getting stuck at braindead when they aim for neutral and objective. Jim Perry, you seem to be having this issue. Crap games are not fun, and give the suck vibe. You may phrase it any spacetalk way you like, but the point is the same, the product intended for sale may be an ugly, unfun peice of trash but if it is as stable as rock, and follows the best practices guide then it seems to have the "Right" to get through! Microsoft and Xbox have good names, and large teams of very talented expensive people have crafted together this seemingly impossibly easy system for indie devs and hobbiests to use. This is being abused by moron 14 year olds and pathetic get rich quick schemes pissing out crap games (wireless masuesse, screen tester, fart machine etc..) and soiling the names of not just themselves, but the entire community. Pearls before swine. How the hell does some of this filth get through? Who in their right mind would pass an application that is just a static sprite? The system is broken.
  • 4/5/2009 6:25 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Welcome to the forums and what a great first post! Nothing like taking on a moderator to endear yourself to a community is there? Also you might want to search around before you post... all your arguments have been made many times by many other folk too.

    Yes many of us agree with you... but guess what - all those things you think are crap. They are all in the top 10 - the consumers on the xbox are buying them. I think its crazy too - but I'm guessing that the developers of those don't think the system is broken.

    Yes those are the rules - a static sprite that doesn't crash would pass and would be ripped by the review sites that are slowly springing up. Even if you accidentally downloaded it you would take 20seconds to reaslise its crap and not buy it. Until we get ratings on the xbox (fingers crossed...) you can find the good games the same way as you do for xbox live games recommendations from friends and readig the internet. Its early days right now and the community is still building up.
  • 4/5/2009 6:27 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Andrew Ryan:
    Who in their right mind would pass an application that is just a static sprite?
    Someone who follows the rules. The rules don't prohibit apps, no matter how simple. As long as it passes the technical review and doesn't contain any of the prohibited content, it is allowed onto the service.
  • 4/5/2009 6:31 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Good post.  This is the only point you made that I'd like to take issue with:

    FortisVenaliter Productions:
    You should not plan to make a living off of them. If you want to do that, join a development studio or make a game prototype and sell it to a Game Production company.


    There are many independent game developers who make a living off of indie game development (a lot of them post on indiegamer.com, if you're interested), and it's a perfectly valid way to make ends meet.  That said, I would agree that you shouldn't only get into it to make money--there are much easier ways to do that.  But then, you shouldn't get into game development at all if your only goal is to make money.

    My point is, the mainstream game industry format is not the only way to make a living off of game development, and it's misleading to tell people that it is.  Lots of indie game developers work on their own and make their own or contract out art/sound resources rather than hiring employees and starting a "studio".
  • 4/5/2009 6:31 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Exactly what these two said. While CG is supposed to be a "Youtube" of games, these are commercial apps. They do make money, so many people believe that we should keep out the garbage to increase the public opinion of Community Games. Unfortunately though, we are still working on Microsoft's framework and have to trust that they are working as hard as they can on rectifying problems like this (even through a simple rating system) because they make money off of it too.
  • 4/5/2009 6:33 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Anchorcast:
    Good post.  This is the only point you made that I'd like to take issue with:

    FortisVenaliter Productions:
    You should not plan to make a living off of them. If you want to do that, join a development studio or make a game prototype and sell it to a Game Production company.


    There are many independent game developers who make a living off of indie game development (a lot of them post on indiegamer.com, if you're interested), and it's a perfectly valid way to make ends meet.  That said, I would agree that you shouldn't only get into it to make money--there are much easier ways to do that.  But then, you shouldn't get into game development at all if your only goal is to make money.

    My point is, the mainstream game industry format is not the only way to make a living off of game development, and it's misleading to tell people that it is.  Lots of indie game developers work on their own and make their own or contract out art/sound resources rather than hiring employees and starting a "studio".
    I agree, and that was the point of that section. You should not plan to make money off of it, but if it sells well and is a viable form of income, then good for you. Just don't expect a salary from it.
  • 4/5/2009 7:47 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    there is a checkbox when we review games that says "inappropiate for xbox live" i used this box to fail games that I didnt think belonged on the community channel. i was warned about being banned for this practice, and so i dont make reviews. although i do think having a "this game sucks" or a "I dont like this game" button would be fine for reviewers to use.

    also please check out these two xna connect feedbacks and post your opinions.

    https://connect.microsoft.com/feedback/ViewFeedback.aspx?FeedbackID=430536&SiteID=226


    https://connect.microsoft.com/feedback/ViewFeedback.aspx?FeedbackID=430537&SiteID=226

    getting more people into playtesting would surely increase the quality of our games.
  • 4/5/2009 7:59 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    darthuvuis:
    also please check out these two xna connect feedbacks and post your opinions.
    Please post the opinions on Connect or in the forum threads for those Connect issues. I will delete further discussion about your Connect issues in this thread as your Connect issues have their own thread(s).


  • 4/5/2009 7:59 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    Yes, getting more people into playtest would help. Yes, some games are not high-quality, and probably shouldn't be sold. But no, there shouldn't be a "This game sucks" checkbox to stop a game from getting through review. PR is a test of function, not of quality, and thats what so many seem to miss. If we were to have some test of quality, great, but thats not the point of PR. But this is entirely off-topic from the original post, and has been discussed to death, so can we drop it?
  • 4/5/2009 8:08 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    your post is telling people about how to make their games better? i think i am about to drop it, its hard to even bother sometimes but, like someone said, one mans trash is anothers treasure. there will always be shovelware unless we bury it before it gets released.
  • 4/5/2009 8:14 AM In reply to

    Re: Quality of CG Game Submissions

    And this post is meant to help those who are interested in releasing quality titles, not destroy those who aren't
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