The following factors should be considered when scoring the five rating categories.
This is probably the most subjective element of rating a scenario. It is simply a gauge of how much fun you had playing this particular scenario. Players come with different preferences, and therefore fun is subjective to that. Some people prefer lots of military action, while others prefer an economic challenge along with an engaging story. Some people like their missions near impossible, others may like like it challenging but not too difficult. There is a reason why scenario designers are required to state if their map is for "novices" or "experts." Take that into account when rating the scenario.
There are quite a few things that can negatively affect playability. Victory condition bugs and any other bugs obviously can ruin a scenario's playability. A lack of, or repetetive requests or events could be another
Some other things you might like to consider are:
- Is this scenario fun to play?
- Did you find yourself wanting to keep playing all night?
- Are there any bugs in this scenario? Do all events run properly?
- Are there enough requests/events in the scenario? Are there too many?
- Would you like to play this mission again after finishing it?
The key to fair gameplay is a balanced scenario, especially when one is talking about scenarios made for multiplayer. Balance is also somewhat subjective since each player is at 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 working knowledge of gameplay mechanics.
Multi-player scenarios are reviewed a bit differently in terms of balance. Each player should start out in an equal position with equal starting money and approximately equal buildings, industries and trade allowed. Obviously, the set-ups don't have to match exactly, but they should be balanced, particularly in competitive missions. There are many creative techniques scenario designers can use to make each player's experience different, yet still balanced. If you choose to review multiplayer scenarios, it's your job to ensure that each starting position is balanced with every other starting position. Note that particularly in co-operative missions a designer may specifically only allow certain players some resources, for example some players may have silk but not lacquer, and others lacquer but not silk, to encourage trade and interaction between players, while still keeping the players positions balanced. Also keep in mind the designer may also have specifically made one or more of the playable positions more difficult than the others. If so, the designer should state this somewhere in the scenario's description or instructions.
Some other factors to consider are:
- Does every player have an equal chance of winning?
- Are the maps for each player equal in terms of distance to resources?
Some suggestions for scoring Balance are:
- 5.0 - The scenario has the perfect balance. It is never too easy; it's hard, but not impossible. This is a rare score to give a scenario.
- 4.0 - The scenario has excellent balance. It's better than most, but just short of perfect.
- 3.0 - It's not seriously too easy or too hard, but only provides a moderate challenge.
- 2.0 - The scenario has worse balance than most, but it's not a complete loss.
- 1.0 - The scenario is way too easy or completely impossible.
This category is probably second in subjectivity behind Playability, but possibly the most difficult to score. Creativity is found in all aspects of a scenario, from map design, to the story, to what resources a player is given, to the objectives, the requests/events, to eye-candy, etc. Every aspect of a scenario factors into creativity.
Some things you might like to consider are:
- Is there something truly unique about this scenario?
- Does the author make good use of the design tools provided?
- Does the scenario stand out in your memory because it features something not found in other scenarios?
- Are the ideas on this map original?
This category is less subjective than some of the other ratings, but still beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some things to consider are:
- Is the map beautiful to look at? Does it look "natural?"
- Does the map seem like it has been well planned?
- Does the map allow for placement of necessary buildings or monuments?
- Does the landscape look interesting?
- Is the use of elevation, hills and mountains realistically implemented and do they blend in?
- Do rivers or creeks seem natural?
- Are any roads placed on the map used effectively?
- Does the map seem too sparse or too cramped?
- Do any preplaced walls, ruins etc seem like they belong in the map?
This is another less subjective category. If the instructions are wrong, misleading or confusing, the rating goes down.
Hints and History can also be judged here... these two areas are not required, but they can also help boost a scenario's score. The rating should not be affected 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. A designer should be diligent in this area of his scenario since it's very easy to copy the text into a word processor and spell check the instructions. Some allowance should be made though if the author is not writing in his/her native language.
Some additional things you might like to consider are:
- Is there a background story for the scenario?
- Does the story increase the depth and feel of the scenario?
- Did the author give any hint on what type of scenario this is? (i.e., economic challenge vs a more military style mission.)
- 1.0 - There is no background story or instructions.
- 2.0 - A few lines of text that don't really explain the map or objectives.
- 3.0 - A basic background story that explains what the map is about.
- 4.0 - The story is particularly engaging and really draws you into the scenario.
- 5.0 - The designer has made their scenario come alive with an exceptional story
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