This is an advice column I wrote back in 2010, and it seems it is no longer available when searching StarbaseUGC, even though WordPress still has it in my list of posts. I still believe it to be generally good advice, and I thought I would repost it:
I check my reviews often. I like to know whether or not people like my missions. I’ve gotten every kind of review you can think of, but lets go back in time to one day in 2010, when I had just a few missions out (the Foundry was in its infancy) and overnight I had received a few bad reviews. It got me thinking about how to respond and react to “bad” reviews. I offer the following as an advice column for Foundry authors (with examples and a certain amount of humor, I might add). Other experienced authors should feel free to add anything I miss in the comments.
So I woke up one day to this gem of a review on Dissent IV: Our Solemn Hour:
Now, Dissent IV does have a lot of dialogue in it, I readily admit that, and I’d never claim it was classic literature, but I did put in a lot of work on it so I was a little disappointed by this review. Then I checked Dissent V: Skyline’s End:
Obviously one of the great thinkers of our time. Dissent V in my opinion has a LOT more combat, but still I like to put a lot of story in. At any rate I sat there thinking how I should react to this review, and I thought why not make a post with some advice for authors on how to respond to bad reviews
So I think there are several types of bad reviews:
1. The drive-by one star.
We’ve all gotten this one. Seems like there’s always some player who feels the need to drop in a one star without leaving an actual review. Apparently your mission was so terrible it rendered him speechless. It was just one step above being reported for sheer lack of quality. A rare feat, you should pat yourself on the back.
But seriously folks, there’s really not too much you can do about these. After all you don’t know what the reviewer found bad or objectionable. Data, data, data. We cannot make bricks without clay! These reviews are best ignored.
2. The EPIC FAIL review.
This is a one- or two-star review where the player takes time out his day to tell you exactly why you suck. At least this guy cared enough to say something, but instead of offering advice on what you can improve, he spends most of his alloted characters ripping on your dialogue, mission structure, too much combat, too little…. you get the idea.
At first glance you might think the above examples are in this category, but I don’t think so, I’ll get to that in the moment.
3. The constructive criticism.
This is obviously the most constructive kind of “bad” review. The player takes enough time and characters to tell you what needs improvement and sometimes even how to improve it. I don’t actually consider these to be bad reviews. In fact they are far more instructive and useful than someone just telling you the mission is great.
As an example, I received a three star review on Dissent V which correctly pointed out a major plot hole. More on that later.
So we have these types of negative reviews. What, then do we do about them? There are several responses you can make.
1. Ignore them!
This is certainly legitimate. The Foundry is intended to (within reason) let you make the missions you want to make. Who cares if anyone else likes it, as long as you like it, then there’s no problem. As in the above example, obviously this guy doesn’t play STO for the story, my mission isn’t really suited to his play style, and I don’t intend to adjust it to straight combat.
Sometimes people give you conflicting advice. I remember in Dissent I, I had the player scan a succession of moons to find the right one. One person told me they wanted more to do at each moon, so I changed it so that you order your crew to scan four different things at each moon. Another reviewer told me that surely my crew could figure out what to scan for without me telling them each of the four things every time. So what do I do? I had to ignore one or the other piece of advice, so I chose to stick with more scans.
2. React belligerently.
The Foundry review system allows us to see who is trashing our mission, so in theory you could stalk your bad reviewer in ESD, call them out on the forums or send them threatening e-mails. Because you know best, dang it! Don’t do this, I’m pretty sure it could get you banned.
3. Try to learn something.
Its obviously easy to learn from the constructive reviews. There the reviewer is laying things out for you that you can improve. It might be a spelling mistake (like the guy who caught my hilarious Klingon Nird of Prey typo) a broken objective, a misnamed NPC or a plot hole.
Don’t be afraid to correspond with your reviewers. As I said earlier one guy pointed out a plot hole for me. I fixed and it really improved the mission, so I sent him an in-game mail thanking him and inviting him to replay the mission. He did and changed his review to a 5 star!
It’s a little harder to learn something from an EPIC FAIL review, but its possible. Take my example above. Mostly I’m tempted to ignore it, but I do take away one thing from it. I hadn’t put a lot into the mission description beyond a plot summary and the start location. Maybe I needed something stating that my missions are a balance between plot and dialogue and combat (and in this case, more toward plot/dialogue than combat). That way the guys who are just looking to “boom boom pow,” as he so elegantly put it, know that they don’t want to take this mission.
I hope this was helpful. The Foundry doesn’t really allow for a lot of advice in a review. So to authors if you really want a good peer review experience, there are a lot of folks out there, both on this site and on the official STO forums who enjoy using their time to give authors really detailed feedback. Evil70th comes to mind.
If you’re like me and you care if people like your missions, just always keep an open mind and never be afraid to change something. I work in print media and we have an expression, “you have to kill your babies.” It sounds gruesome, but what it means is that you may come up with something that you think is the greatest thing ever, but in practice it might not really work as well as you thought. And remember that all things are in the eye of the beholder.