Single Status Update
For anyone wondering how I review maps and mapsets:
My reviews are based predominantly on gameplay. This is because the basis of my gaming knowledge stems from how games function with regards to rulesets, victory conditions, and developed content, as well as the satisfaction derived from the previously mentioned. While I can appreciate aesthetic qualities like music, architecture, graphics, animations, storytelling, et cetera, I don't trust myself to understand it enough to form hypotheses that others would find useful. My hope is that people who are looking for "good/bad" gameplay can depend on my recommendations. If it seems unfair to the map or mapset as a whole, know that my own enjoyment is whether the gameplay is fun: fantastic aesthetic will not make up for terrible gameplay, but fantastic gameplay can make up for terrible aesthetic. To put it metaphorically, I rate maps based on how well they function as a chess match, not how well they function as a trip to a museum or gallery.
I do my best not to judge a map on stereotypes. There are certain factors that I believe to improve gameplay: useful choices, variety of challenge, and subverting expectations are but three. On the other hand, there are certain types of Doom encounters that attract specific attention: rooms-and-hallways, puzzle combat, arenas, platforming, and whatnot. Even if I do not enjoy some of those types in general, I will still try to produce a review that judges the merit of the design and whatever gameplay results from that design. As a basic example: so-called "slaughtermaps" get a bad rap and a relatively small following because they exploit the rules in a very specific way, but even this subset can produce good or bad gameplay, and maps that perform extremely well should still be enjoyable to anyone that wants a good challenge (whereas maps that perform very poorly will appeal to no one).
I will not review something if I have not finished it. I may have to skip around a bit when a map or mapset reaches an unconditionally unwinnable state, but I consider it unfair to rate a map if I didn't even bother seeing it through to the end. Sometimes I'll see a review that is along the lines of "looks cool, downloading" or "got to map07 and stopped": while these aren't entirely useless reviews, they are nevertheless incomplete and I generally find them untrustworthy.
My numerical ratings have distinct meaning. This should go without saying, but I see a lot of ratings that don't match their descriptions and an uncanny volume of 1s and 5s when I expect a numerical system to fit more of a bell curve. To specify (number in list corresponds to star rating):
Do not play this, at all. Such a map or mapset contains no redeeming qualities whatsoever and should be considered a prime example of how not to produce interesting gameplay. Expect this rating to be very rare.
- This does not mean maps with zero discernible gameplay will necessarily receive a 1-star. I may just not end up reviewing them at all, or I might try to provide a rating based on looser criteria. This will be made clear when they occur.
You should skip this, but it does have its moments. The map or mapset contains mostly uninteresting gameplay, but will occasionally surprise the player with good encounters or features.
- Community projects where most of the maps fail to be interesting also fall into this category.
- If a 2-star map or mapset has redeeming qualities on the aesthetic side, I'll try to point them out, but keep in mind I'm not used to judging such things.
Playing this has more to do with your aesthetic tastes. The map's or mapset's gameplay has both interesting and uninteresting features that are decidedly difficult to wholly rate as "good" or "bad". Thus, the deciding factor has more about liking the concepts, themes, or some particular niche that the map or mapset falls into.
- In community projects, roughly half the maps were satisfying to play and the other half weren't.
- This will also be used when there is a clear and significant bifurcation of quality (i.e., the first two episodes were great but the third was awful). Recommendations will be based on the sudden split.
You should play this. Though there may be an occasional fault, the whole of the work has interesting gameplay and will bring about an enjoyable experience.
- Community projects where most of the maps succeed at interesting gameplay also fall into this category.
Play this as soon as you can. The map or mapset is a thoroughly interesting gameplay experience from start to finish, with virtually no flaws, and just about everyone should enjoy it. Expect this rating to be very rare.
- This rating is also reserved for gameplay that captivates on such a profound level so as to be almost transcendent of what is typical via Doom engine, while still being at least a pretty good experience overall. It will probably be handed out even less often.
It's possible that, in a set, there are maps that completely go against the grain of the rest (for better or for worse). I will be certain to make note of them: sometimes they will bring a 1-star to a 2 or a 5-star to a 4 (to reiterate, 1s and 5s are very exceptional) but that's just the way numerical ratings go.
That's about all I can think to write about this topic! Too bad I won't be able to edit, because I'll probably want to word it differently in the future. If anyone else has thoughts about map ratings, though, I'm all ears.
- Do not play this, at all. Such a map or mapset contains no redeeming qualities whatsoever and should be considered a prime example of how not to produce interesting gameplay. Expect this rating to be very rare.