Don’t get your expectations too high

I first published this article for the 25th ludumdare. This is a slightly revised version that better suits my views after 10 participation to the event.


Right after the results I always see posts like “woohoo! 27th overall and 17th in fun”. And sometime I see some posts like…

  • Seriously, only 3/5 in [graphics/audio/…]?
  • Ok that was cool, but I will now take a break from making video games
  • What’s the point of making a game if you are up against professionals?
  • The rating system is broken! (ah… my old-time favorite)
  • Very disappointed with my results 🙁
  • A-ha! 33rd in fun, better that notch!
  • did people actually played my game?

This is not a competition. Yet many people feel like it is. This is an oportunity to learn new things, to have fun, to gain some experience, to try new things…. but this is not a competition.

How do you rate games?
– Do you have strict criteria for each category, or do you go with your guts?
– Do you leave the category empty or do you put one star when you feel there is no humor/mood/… ?
– Do you give/remove an extra star without really thinking about it just because you liked or disliked the game ?
– Do you give some stars in humor if something made you smile, even if it is more cute than funny ?
– Do you always finish the games or do you sometime feels that you have seen enough after a few minutes (or even a few seconds) ?
– Do you feel more positive towards a game because the guy is a friend / made you want to play the game / is one of those entry everyone is talking about ?
– Do you give less star if you don’t see the connection with the theme? If there is no goats, kittens, potatoes or snowmen in the game?

Everyone has a specific way of rating, and you will only be rated by a few random strangers.

If you think this is a competition you can genuinely feel that the rating system is broken and unfair. If so, try to think about it in another way: a few random strangers took the time to play your game and rate it to give clues on what you should improve. A guy that only gives you 1 or 2 stars in each category has something in common with another guy that will spend 15 minutes on it to give you plenty of stars: If your audio is fantastic, they will both notice it. If your game is fun despite really poor visuals, they will rate accordingly.

So let’s say you focused really hard on the audio and not really much on anything else. You get the following ratings :
Mood 3.8
Overall 3.3
Audio 2.8
Innovation 2.2
Fun 2.0
Theme 1.8
Graphics 1.5
Humor 1.1

Only 2.8 in audio. Not bad. You were expecting more, obviously. But if you look at the other categories, you can clearly see that people noticed your efforts. that is what matters.
More importantly, people found your game very moody. It is a bit difficult to see the connections, but I feel that some categories greatly affects others :
– fun, mood and innovation will boost your overall rating
– humor, graphics and innovation boost the fun
– audio and graphics boosts the mood

Of course there may be other factors that are hard to describe without an actual game (and I believe that categories like controls, level design, narrative, tutorial… could be a great addition), but with only 1.5 in graphics I can safely assume that your rating in the mood category (nearly 4) is mostly due to the audio. And that is a fantastic result.

Now for the ranking, let’s be honest: you are just 1 entry. Among the 1500-2000 entries there are professionals and people with better skills and more experience than you. Ranking in the top 200 for a category already means you did an excellent job.

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