How to Review
Empires Heaven like most if not all of HeavenGames fansites uses the tried and true 5 category rating system for scenarios. The five categories are Playability, Balance, Creativity, Map Design, and Story/Instructions. A very good scenario should do well in all 5 categories or be extremely well done in one or more categories. Afterall, a great story or design can improve the "fun" factor of a scenario. Here's a general overview of how one should score:
5.0 - OUTSTANDING
Give this score only if there's something stunning and breathtaking in the scenario. This score should only be given to scenarios that are almost perfect, so be very careful when giving this score. For example you read the storyline and wish it was a book, you see the map and can imagine wanting to stroll along that little river. Scenarios with 5.0 average scores are rare and creators of these scenarios are masters of Scenario Design. Consider the 5.0 score as something you would give rarely, but thety do exist.
4.0 - EXCELLENT
If you think the category you're rating is definitely better than average, but hasn’t reached the near perfection expected from a 5, give this score.
3.0 – AVERAGE
A good scenario, no glaring problems, but there are still plenty of things that can be improved in that category.
2.0 - BELOW AVERAGE
Is mediocre or has errors or many points that need improving, but the scenario can be played and completed.
1.0 – WELL BELOW AVERAGE
The lowest score you can give. It is usually good to point out game breaking bugs first so they can be fixed.
Please remember that at least 2-3 lines should be included with each score/category. List examples from the scenario and avoid being vague, we want to know why you liked or hated a map. Extremely short or inapproriate reviews will be changed/removed.
Playability is probably the most subjective element of the scoring. It is simply a gauge of how much fun you had playing this particular scenario. One thing to look out for when reviewing is to only play scenarios that use a style you enjoy. For example, if you hate playing RPG scenarios, don't try to review one since you are bound to not enjoy the scenario. Try to keep within styles that you enjoy.
There really is no specific criteria on how a score is given in Playability but there are quite a few things that can effect playability in a negative manner. Trigger bugs, victory condition bugs and any other playability- destroying bugs obviously can ruin a scenario's playability. Also keep in mind of problems that are specific to you. For example, if an author posts there maybe lag in lower end system, which you have, then you should be wary of scoring lower.
Balance is also somewhat subjective since each player is a different skill level and what might be perfectly balanced for one player, might be way too easy or way too hard for another. As a reviewer, you must take your own skill level into account when giving a balance score. A perfectly balanced scenario should provide a challenge for a veteran player. Most people who are downloading scenarios from the internet have at least played through the campaigns included with the game and have a good knowledge of the game. You also need to take the author's original intent into account, giving the author some benefit of the doubt. If the author never intended the player to face a struggle to survive, then there's no reason to knock down the balance score if there isn't any fighting. So keep in mind that you do need to take the intent and goals of the scenario into account when scoring the balance category, especially for those scenarios where fighting is not included.
Multi-player scenarios are reviewed a bit differently in terms of balance. Each human player should start out in an equal position with equal starting resources and equal starting units. Obviously, the players don't have to match exactly, but they should be balanced. More importantly, each player/ team should have a chance to win. The map should also be examined to determine if all players have access to the same amounts of on-map resources. There are a lot of creative ways that map designers can use to make each player different, yet still balanced.
Creativity is found in all aspects of a scenario, from trigger tricks, to map design, to the story, to what units a player is given, to the objectives, to sounds used, etc... Every aspect of a scenario factors into creativity. One thing to be careful for is not to knock points off of creativity if the designer uses a trick you've seen used in another scenario. There's nothing wrong with using the same trick that someone else used and no reason to deduct points because of that.
Probably the biggest creativity factors are the starting position and the victory conditions. For example, any scenario that starts with a TC and three villagers with a conquest victory condition is simply not very creative. If you ever play and say to yourself, "Wow" then you have found something really special unless the wow was for something bad :)
Map design is one of the few categories that's very easy to define and give a rating to. I have pretty clear-cut rules on how map design is scored and this is how it should work. A random map is a 3. All a designer needs to do to score a 3 is to use a generated random map. Random maps look good, they function well and there's nothing wrong with using a random map in a scenario, but it's just average. From that basis, it's easy to figure out where scores of 1, 2, 4 and 5 come from.
A rating of 1 is for a pathetic map... these usually consist of large blank areas with lots of square areas and straight lines. These maps look completely unrealistic and are quite unattractive.
A rating of 2 is somewhere between a pathetic map and a random map.
A rating of 5 is for an outstanding map with lots of special details and concentrated effort to make the map much better than a random map could possibly provide. Obviously, a rating of 4 is given for maps that are better than a random.
One final note on score map design... only the portion of the map that can be seen during play should be scored. If there are large empty areas that a player never sees, that should not affect the map design rating.
Story / Instructions
This is another pretty clear-cut category. If there is no story or instructions, the score is easy... it's a 1. If there are instructions but no story, the max score is a 3. If there is any story at all, the rating goes up to a 4 and if the story is really good, the rating can be a 5. If the instructions are wrong, misleading or confusing, the rating goes down. Also, keep in mind that in Empires, the instructions and the story goes far beyond the pre-scenario instruction screen. Sometimes, there might be no story or instructions until once in the game. Often the story is continued throughout the scenario by using trigger events to move the story along. Also, since objectives can change in the middle of a scenario, the quality of the instructions must be judged throughout the playing of the scenario.
The rating should not be effected based on whether the story is fictional or historical. It doesn't make a difference as long as there's a story that draws the player into the scenario.
The last item that factors into the rating of the story and instructions is grammar and spelling. If you are capable of playing a scenario without repeatly noticing problems then it is fine. Designers should spell check their work, but reviewers should also not look for the mistakes. The only exception I make is for designers whose primary language is not english... I am usually quite a bit more lenient with them.
The above instructions are specifically for writing scenario and campaign reviews. However, we allow reviews of all file types available for download so you can rate and write reviews on Mods, Random Maps, Utilities and Recorded Games! However, these reviews will not use a 5 category system, instead you will give a single rating to the file. When you write your review, simply include enough information to explain why you gave the rating that you did. Remember the best way to write great reviews is to read others and play several scenarios before deciding to start reviewing anything.
If you have any further questions about what is expected of you, please direct them to Angel Park. Make sure that you are familiar with all guidelines before writing a review. If you do not adhere to these guidelines, you risk having your review removed or converted to a comment. In the event that your review is removed, there's no need to be discouraged. This is not an insult or derogatory statement about you, simply an indication that you need to go over what you wrote and see what you can improve. No one is asking you to have the style or technique of a professional critic; all that we ask is that you take the time to write a decent review.
Page 3: Summary & Checklist