The RADNESS Index stands for Righteous Admirability Designation, Numerically Estimating Seven Scores. It's the system I came up with to rate the games I play for the blog, on a scale of 0 to 100 (although there's very little chance of a game scoring lower than 14).
This is an update of the Final Rating system that I came up with in the blog's early days. I came up with that system in a fairly off-the-cuff manner, after I'd already blogged my way through a few games. That system had seven categories: Story & Setting; Characters & Monsters; Aesthetics; Mechanics; Challenge; Innovation & Influence; and Fun. The categories were necessarily broad, because my blog focuses on two distinct genres: computer role-playing games, and adventure games. Those two genres do have some overlap, but they also have a lot of differences, so I needed categories that would fit both.
I was never entirely happy with that system though, and I grew less happy with its results as the blog progressed. Eventually I realised that the Innovation & Influence category was skewing the results in ways I didn't like. Not only that, but I was starting to feel like I couldn't accurately judge games in that category with the level of knowledge I have right now. So I threw it in the bin, and decided to come up with something else.
The new seven categories are the same, except that I've replaced Innovation & Influence with a new category for each genre: CRPGs will be judged on Combat, and adventure games will be judged on Puzzles. In general, these are the central activities of each of these genres. For games that have an overlap, I'll judge them based on whichever of the two is the more prevalent.
These categories are each rated from 1 to 7. (Very occasionally I might give a game a rating of 0, but it would have to be catastrophically bad in that category to qualify. As of this writing, I haven't given out a zero yet.) I realise that seven an unusual number to choose, but when I settled on my seven categories it seemed to be a natural fit. Also, I just like that the range from 1 to 7 has an exact midpoint, it makes it easier to rate when a game is mediocre in a particular category. There's also the fact that 7 times 7 equals 49, which is pretty close to a lovely round number. .
So when I'm, finished with a game I rate it in each of the seven categories, for a total between 7 and 49. Then I double that total, for a score out of 100. (Because I like scores out of 100, that's why.) But wait, doubling 49 only gets us to 98, what about the other two points?
That's where my Bonus Points come in. After the doubling, I award a game up to 2 bonus points. I used to award them for games that I thought I might play again, but I've ditched that system. Instead I shifted Innovation & Influence over here. If a game is historically important, influential, or innovative it will get points, and I might award points for other factors that don't quite fit into my other categories.
Now I'll get into each category and how I go about coming up with a rating:
Story & Setting:
This category is pretty self-explanatory. Story is the plot of the game, the backstory, the dialogue, and the events that happen during gameplay. This includes material from game manuals, assuming I can find them.
Setting is the game world: how well-realised it is, how much fun it is to explore. Exploring game worlds is one of my favourite aspects of gaming, so some games with nonsensical or poorly realised worlds might rate highly here if they have a lot of fun things to discover in them.
To get the rating, I would score story and setting separately out of 7, then average the final result. Usually the two are pretty much even though, as they go somewhat hand in hand.
Characters & Monsters:
I needed to lump these two together, because CRPGs and adventure games have very different needs when it comes to the characters you meet. For the most part, the vast majority of creatures you meet in CRPGs will be combat encounters, and a good percentage of the rest will be quest-givers or shopkeeps. In adventure games, the encounters are usually obstacles or puzzles to be solved. This category rates how varied and interesting these encounters are, and how much personality they have.
Here I cover graphics, sound, and the intangible "atmosphere" of a game. More than any other category this one relies on technology, so a lot of the earlier games will suffer in comparison. I tend to go with my gut on this one, but as games get more aesthetically complex I'll probably give graphics, sound and atmosphere their own scores and average the three. Often sound isn't present in older games, but I won't penalise a game for this: no sound is better than annoying sound.
This category is mostly for CRPGs, and rates the game's combat system. Games with a lot of tactical options will score highly, and those that are limiting will score low. To use some examples, the Gold Box engine's combat would score very highly (possibly a 7), while something like Ultima VII: The Black Gate would score low, because it doesn't give the player much control.
Mostly used for adventure games, this category rates the quality of the puzzles. It does factor in difficulty to an extent, and definitely considers fairness. Mostly though I'll be rating this on whether I think the puzzles were clever, interesting, amusing, or otherwise engaging.
This is probably the broadest category, rating pretty much every aspect of gameplay. Again, this had to be broad because adventure games and CRPGs play very differently. To get a rating here I generally divide the major mechanical aspects of a game up, rate them all separately, and average the results. Combat won't be included here if it's already been rated above. For example, if I'd just played Ultima VII I might give it a 6 for the exploration and dialogue interface, a 3 for inventory, and 5 for magic, resulting in a score of 5. (That's off the top of my head, and may not be what Ultima VII will score if I get to it.)
This doesn't rate how hard a game is: an easy game won't necessarily get a 1, and a balls-hard one isn't guaranteed a 7. This is more about how satisfying or frustrating the difficulty is. A score of 1 would be a game that is hard to the point where it's not worth playing at all, or so easy as to be trivial. A 7 would be a game that's perfectly balanced in difficulty, challenging the whole way through without becoming frustrating or annoying. I rate the games not on casual play, but on how difficult they are to fully explore or complete, because that's how I like to experience a game.
- Rating 1: Hateful, frustrating or rage-inducing difficulty; trivially easy difficulty
- Rating 2: A game that's way too hard or way too easy
- Rating 3: A game that's mostly too hard or mostly too easy
- Rating 4: A game with okay balance, but more than a few problem areas
- Rating 5: A well-balanced game with a few problem areas
- Rating 6: A very well-balanced game that mostly remains challenging
- Rating 7: A perfectly balanced, challenging game
This one is easy: how much did I enjoy playing the game? Yes, it's purely subjective, but the blog is mine. Deal with it. I like to think I'm self-aware enough to know when something I like actually sucks.
- Rating 1: I hate it
- Rating 2: It was boring or minimally fun.
- Rating 3: It was... not bad?
- Rating 4: It was okay
- Rating 5: I liked it
- Rating 6: I loved it
- Rating 7: It's one of the best games I've ever played
The examples I've given above are a bit bare bones, but I might flesh them out as I rate more games and get a better sense of my own thought process. Mostly they're a guide to help me keep my ratings from getting out of control, and to give them an actual system of some sort.