23 June, 2015

My Game Chef Review System

Every review system is going to be biased. Some people love crunchy stuff, other people like minimalism. Some are attracted to high concept artworks that really make them think, other just enjoy a simple diversion.

I'm going to be reviewing Game Chef entries by the things that I like to see in a game. That means my perspectives may match with yours, but they may not. I'm open to discussion with designers or interested third parties, but that probably won't change my gut reaction reviews.

The games deigned will be marked according to 5 criteria, each marked out of 10 and given a quick couple of sentences to explain why I've given that score. Then an overall weighted and averaged score.

Ingredients:
Can I see two ingredients blatantly within the game as presented? How well have those ingredients been integrated? This category has triple the standard weighting when used for the calculation of the overall score, because I think this is one of the biggest challenges in the Game Chef procedure and one of the key aspects of the contest.

This scale relates to the most prominent two ingredients, their values are added together. 
0: No ingredients visible
1: Ingredient vaguely visible
2: Ingredient generally visible but doesn't really mesh
3: Ingredient is well linked into the game 
4: Not only is the ingredient linked into the game, but the ingredient is presented in a fun and interesting way
+1 Bonus Point: A third ingredient is visible
+1 Bonus Point:  A fourth ingredient is visible (or the third ingredient is integrated into the game really well)

Theme:
Since the theme is "a different audience" and many of the contestant will be first time entrants, I'll really have no idea if the game are actually being designed for a group that the designer doesn't normally address. If I think the game addresses a group that doesn't see a lot of game action, then I'll give it a higher score, and if the designer has specifically addressed the way their game does this, I'll give them bonus points. But this is a pretty subjective category (actually, most of them are pretty subjective). This category has double the standard weighting when used for the calculation of the overall score (it would get a higher weighting, but the theme is fairly vague and I readily admit that this will be a very subjective grading).

0: There seems to be no attempt to address the theme at all.
2: The design fits into one of the smaller niches of the hobby, rather than being "gamer mainstream".
4: The design pushes the boundaries of gaming in some way.
6: The design addresses a group for whom I have seen a definite shortage of games.
8: The design addresses a group I hadn't even considered as a gaming void.
+1 Bonus Point: The designer make a not of how the game addresses a different audience
+1 Bonus Point: The game really is something different and unexpected, but looks like it would fit really well within a traditional non-gamer space. 

Would I Play This?:
I am middle aged (just turned 40), socially middle class, college educated, and deeply pop-cultured, I am the typical target audience for many games. So it may seem that the "different audience" theme means designing games for anyone BUT me. On the other hand, I enjoy all sorts of games and love to explore new ideas, cultures, subcultures, and experiences. I like things if they resonate as something of quality, regardless of who they're aimed at...my music collection can testify to this. This measurement is jut a subjective as the last one (but only has a standard weighting behind it).

0: Why am I even looking at this?
1: I don't think this would ever see the table.
2: There's one or two good ideas in here. 
3: I might be able to strip some of the concepts out for modifier/house-rules in another game.
4: A few tweaks and I'd be willing to play this. 
5: I'll add it to the "must play" list.
6: I'll add it near the top of the "must play" list.
7: I could run this at a convention.
8: I should get the guy around to run through this a couple of times.
9: I need to play this ASAP, it could see regular rotation in these parts.
10: I played this before finishing the review, and will play it again soon.

Completeness:
A lot of the completeness concepts are reflected in the theme, ingredients, and whether I'd actually play the game as is. But there is something more to it than that. This is basically a measure of how complete the game is. Whether it feels like everything is present to actually play the game. Are character sheets provided (if they're needed)? Are special tokens or maps presented (if needed)? Are there glaring holes in the rules? This category gets double weighting because it's a pretty integral part to the whole game design contest.

0: Not enough here to do much of anything.
1-2: Not enough to actually pay a game, but enough to add into another game, or generally intuit what might be meant.
3-4: Many of the pieces are in place and with a few logical leaps a complete game might emerge.
5-6: Most of the game is there, and a seasoned roleplayer could probably fill in the blanks.
7-8: Definitely enough information to play a game.
+1 Bonus Point: Character sheet (or maps, or tokens) are presented if they are needed.
+1 Bonus Points: Designer when above and beyond in their attempt to make everything accessible for the game.

Innovation:
I like game design contests because I can see where other people are going with their game designs, I like exploring new ideas and seeing those new ideas filter through into the design community. Everyone has new ideas, or new ways to combine old ideas, and every year we see some great concept emerge from global contests such as these.

0: Same old stuff.
1-2: Mostly the same, I'm not sure if I've seen that before, it might be deja vu. 
3-4: Pretty pedestrian, but there are a few interesting concepts floating through it.
5-6: Enough element of this are fresh and different that it really stands out.

+2 Bonus Points: The design is presented in an innovative way
+2 Bonus Points: The design uses a medium that I haven't really seen before in games. 

Output Quality:
This is certainly not a part of the design contest, but it's one of those thing that lures me to a game. If someone has put love and care into their work it shows in the text and the presentation.

0: Overall Rushed, nothing much good about it.
Then 3 points each for; Language, Layout, Imagery:
1 (Language): Seriously needs grammar and spell checking
2 (Language): Generally good, a few grammar and/or spelling errors. 
3 (Language): Generally fine.
1 (Layout): A few paragraphs and titles. Generally functional.
2 (Layout): Generally neatly presented, but nothing spectacular.
3 (Layout): Cleverly and thoughtfully presented. 
1 (Imagery): One or two pictures
2 (Imagery): A few well placed illustrations or diagrams.
3 (Imagery): Beautifully and atmospherically illustrated, appropriate to game text.
+1 Bonus Point: Overall good package, well presented.

Overall:
30% Ingredients
20% Theme 
10% Would I play this?
20% Completeness
10% Innovation
10% Output Quality

Total = 100%
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