Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bad Reviews, Good Products

I'm going to get a little cantankerous here. I just saw this review of D20 Decade on Rpgnow.Com, by Dana Jorgensen and thought I'd respond to a few things right here. My responses are in red

"I usually like Skortched Urf products, but this is without a doubt the worst they've done to date.

I don't even know where to begin in pointing out where it went wrong.For starters, it is plagued by horribly inaccurate research. A prime example is making malls out to be inventions of the 80's when outdoor strip malls date back to the 1950's and indoor malls date to the middle of the 60's. Of course, why limit oneself to claiming events of the 60's and 70's as part of the 80's, when post-80's events can be referred to as part of the 80's as well, like Magic Johnson's HIV infection, which wasn't made public until 1991.

Read through the text again, you'll notice I never claimed that malls were invented during the 1980s, just that the 80s were a decade where the mall took on major social importance. The mall became the quintessential 80s hangout, started influencing the way we shopped, and showed up in 80s popculture and fiction. The late 70s and early 80s were, in my belief where America stopped being an industrial economy and transformed into a low-wage, service and retail economy. Malls may have been invented decades earlier, but they became very important during the 80s; I also mentioned the space race, the Cold War and the rise of video games and home computers- all those things had their genesis during the early 1950s as well.

Yes, I did rever to Magic Johnson's HIV infection, because it made a nice counterpoint and contrast to the way people with AIDs were percieved and treated during the 80s. I included several things from the present day which give historical context or a bit of irony to the events of the 80s. For example, I referred to September 11 and the rise of the Taliban in many places, linking those events firmly to the Cold War and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That's not bad research, that's a basic understanding of history.

Why is there a section called "Spells of the Cold War" when everybody now knows that the Cold Warriors in the USA, UK and USSR were researching psychic phenomenon?

Not arguing with you there, there's a lot of inspiration to be found in wierd government programs. However, I really dislike the D20 modern psionic system, and don't want to mess around with it. Psi-Watch, with its completely different Psionic system, will touch on this element, but not in a major way.

Also, incase it slipped your mind- D20 Decade is 175 fricking pages..... for 7 dollars. A few things are going to fall through the cracks, and new D20 psionics elements (which I dislike) were one of the first things to get cut, along with a section on vehicles.

Was "Romanova Survivor" really a phenomenon of the 80's worthy of a starting occupation when there were only a couple people subject of this wild claim? The Rubik's Cube craze lasted longer than the Romanova Survivor craze.

Actually, I didn't know about the Romanova Survivors until I started researching the project. I found a couple of articles on the subject and it just fascinated me. I included it as a starting occupation simply because I thought being the last surviving heir to the Czars was a cool origin for a Russian hero or major NPC. There's a couple of exclusively Russian starting occupations, so if you want to play a Cold War era campaign set in the USSR, with exclusively Russian heroes you can. Besides, the Romonova Survivor is about 200 words out of a 175 page (7 dollar) document, so why even bring it up, other than just to be bitchy?

And why are so many of the "hidden races" of the 80's tied to the faerie mythology of the British Isles? The genetically engineered soldiers, transformers-inspired Manifold, and Chuckie/Puppetmaster-inspired Living Toys I understand, but what's with all the fey nonsense?
Are you talking about the High Solstice Sidthe? One race out of several? That's 'many of the hidden races?' You ever see Labryinth? I figured that celtic/Hellboy inspired fey were basically the best way to create a "Jareth" style player race. The Arcadians are video-game fey, inspiried more by Captian N: The Game Master, than anything else, and the Imajin are Jim Henson style, Dark-Crystal or Fraggle Rock inspired little creatures. All three have the 'fey' type, but only the High Solstice Sidthe even mention real world mythology.

Again, I think the substance of your argument says something positive about D20 Decade even as you're criticising it. You mention four different, (to my mind at least) interesting player races in one sentence, while you're complaining about how many fey are in the game. Again, I have to say this: 175 pages, tons of new content, seven dollars. Or four dollars if you bought it during the GMs day sale. What exactly are you complaining about, when WOTC releases 15 page adventure modules for nearly the same cost?

Finally, the layout is horrific, looking like it was done in Microsoft Word, with problems like text overlapping the inane and grossly oversized little nintendo controller page number graphic, (an experiment in design which has been universially drubbed, which I won't repeat) a lack of paragraph juctification, highlighted text where colored text boxes should be, what colored text boxes exist are cropped off at the ends as they autoflow to extra pages and a general lack of conformity (some feats underlined, while others are boldfaced and in a larger font size, for example).

You know why D20 Decade looks like it was produced with Microsoft Word? Because it WAS. You know why?

Because I don't have several hundred dollars to drop on purchasing Adobe Photoshop and I haven't been able to find a bootleg which has worked worth a damn! If you want to help me out with either, you go right ahead, skippy. Until than, stop harping on my layout abilities. You've got 2 columns of text and art, you can read the damn thing, so stop complaining.

It seems like was produced in a hurry with with little fact checking, haphazard memories of the 80's, and no proofreading or examination of the final product. Save your money for a second edition.

After reading your review, I checked out every review you've ever posted. All 2s or 3s, not a single review higher than that. I don't know what you look like, but I'm picturing you sorta like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, fat and indolent, wheezing out "Worst. Gaming. Product. Evvarrr!" in between handfuls of Cheetoes.

I also did a search on your name, seeing if you'd actually ever written anything, and all I could come up with were a handful of D20 weapons books. Really impressive, dude. Do you think cut and pasting a bunch of information from Jane's and writing up weapon stat blocks qualifies you as a trailblazer on the frontier of D20 game design? Let's see you do better, instead of just bitching, moaning, criticising and feeling superior. Write something that requires a bit more thought than statting up sniper rifles and the OICW and then we'll talk, rookie.


Master Shake said...

Whoah! Ease down; your just grinding metal!

One of my favorite references to the 80's) I can't say I disagree with any of your points, and I found the review to be a bit overly critical as well. But you gotta have a thick skin about these things. Don't take it too personal. You do great work, and a bad review somewhere does not change that. My advice would be to go ahead and post your comments about a review, but lay off the personal attacks, no matter how tempting they are. All you will succeed in doing is encouraging someone with a bruised ego to keep throwing bad reviews at you. Take what is accurate from a review, ignore the subjective and make your next product even better. Keep up the good work!

occultsearcher said...

If you need a layout program, you might want to check scribus ( I worked with it, did some projects with it. It is not the best product over there but it is OK, and it is free. And it's a layout program, not a word-edit program.