Bad reviews and moving forward or getting out

Ok question for all you authors and reviewers out there on reviews. Namely bad reviews.

How do you approach a situation where you’ve got large numbers of them. From what I’ve seen, they seem to fall into a few categories:

  1. Obvious trolls

(and what almost seems to be a subset)
2) People who go around rating almost everything from hosted games (or at least everything not free) with 1-3 stars and complaining about how bad they are. (Still not sure why you’d continue to download them if you find you hate almost everything but each to their own I guess).

  1. People who are mistaken about the nature of the company (ie things like they think it’s one author writing everything and are peeved when it’s a completely different kind of work- like complaining it’s not like “Life of a Wizard”).

  2. People who are annoyed at having to pay for an app and think it should be cheaper or better yet, free. And of course longer.

  3. Odd comments that I’m not sure how to take (ie your choices make no difference in this game (when the problem is they affect it too much and I shouldn’t have branched it as I did), I can’t play music in this game? etc).

  4. Really hash unhelpful comments. ie “This game is crap”, “Worst one ever”, “I can’t get a refund, sure that’s on purpose. Don’t buy it!”

  5. Genuine grievances that have had stars removed for them. (ie: “I didn’t like “x” in the book.” “Y could have been handled better.” “There were spelling/grammar errors” etc.)

Ok so, when you’re getting large numbers of bad reviews in the “Harsh, unhelpful” category, including people that are only basing it on the “free” section and seem to be feeding off the other bad reviews (ie just as I thought from reading the other bad reviews, I’m not buying it, it’s crap sort of thing), what do you do? I’m honestly wondering whether or not my writing is a bad as it seems to be made out in the reviews whether it’s time to walk away. I’ve actually had stuff I’ve written win a country wide award and be published, but it was in a quite a different style of story telling and maybe I’m just not very good at this. At the moment I’m fairly divided, I mean no one wants to spend the better part of a year working on something that almost everyone is just going to hate anyway. So how do you know how much stock to put in the reviews? If there were more in the “genuine grievance” category, it would give me something to work with, but “It’s trash” doesn’t really help me much.

I’ve identified a few areas where if I did write something else I’d change (I’d definitely keep it more linear, maybe try to include more character trait sort of interactions and stats if possible. Linear would also help with the endings as while it’s not much of a deal to write another chapter or two, writing another chapter of two for 19 odd different endings that are traveling in different directions is a whole different ball game. I tried to finish things at a “conclusion” part of the story but obviously failed on that as well).

For anyone who has read my work, (Or if you haven’t even one of the WIP’s I’ve had up over the year). I’d actually like to hear from you. If it’s as bad as the reviews make it out, it’s probably worth while knowing about it sooner rather than later so I can make a decision about the WIP’s I have sitting in stasis. If I did write something else, what did you like or hate about wizardry that I could take into a new project.

I’m not putting up this thread as a “everyone try to make me feel better”, more as a what do you really think? And for authors, how do you deal with that sort of crit in the reviews yourselves.


Where are you seing these reviews?

On the google store there is only 1 review and it’s 5 stars. On the iTunes store there are 7 giving an average of 2.5 stars. Ive not had the chance to make my own review of the game yet but how long was the word count? Most complaints seem to be based on the length of the game

I’m going to edit a very long reply but I have a family dinner to attend first.

I will say this: All I remember you writing atm is Wizardry C and I remember the initial reviews/feedback seemed to shock you. More incoming later.


I’m going to speak from the perspective as both creator and from the perspective of reviewer/tester. I have experience as both and it is helpful to see the feedback from both perspectives. First I’m going to lay down a basic premise - one that I feel will help you here.

Basic Premise - There are two types of feedback: 1 - constructive and 2 - destructive. All of the above that you write about can be categorized with one of those labels. Even the “troll” feedback comments. The comments that are destructive at their core should be taken not only with a grain of salt but with a healthy dose of skepticism as well. Destructive criticism is useful only if it is “positive”.

Those that are constructive at their core still should be viewed from a non-personal perspective but the skepticism can be left out for these. Constructive criticism is feedback that you can use to improve regardless if it is positive or negative.

It already seems like you have taken some of the “positive” destructive criticism and learned from it. The “this is too short” whine is a good example of this. The “negative” destructive feedback, rarely if ever, is useful. An accomplished author here @JimD recently received an email calling him lazy. This type of feedback should be ignored.

Perspective as a Creator:
Use of Betas

The term “Beta” has been abused for the past decade or so, to the point where I need to explain myself here. When I first began testing MMO’s and other software programs, betas were very serious business. NDA’s were the standard and those that tested often went to the company’s offices/campuses. This is relevant here because feedback from an intense old-school type of beta is a lot more valuable on average than that received from a new-school “open” beta you often see.

The official beta process CoG gives titles like “Choice of Alexandria” can lead to a greater quantity of usable feedback then other methods. You get your “high-level” feedback here (As it is known here) because those doing the testing have more experience and know how to provide that particular type better.

If you did not have something like this, I’d suggest setting it up for your next work - the expense and time/effort investment can really be worth it.

Use of “User/consumer” reviews

As a creator, once you separate the constructive from the destructive feedback, most of these types of reviews should be used for general statistical type of analysis. The general public doesn’t give a rat’s bum about giving you “high-level feedback” what they want to do is express feelings. As @Maxmansung said: the loudest reviewers and those most likely to provide this feedback is going to be those upset, angry or somehow otherwise dissatisfied.

This type of feedback is valid but only usable if constructively given. Which is why you need to parse it out. Destructive heartfelt feedback is not really usable to build up from, only to tear down from. Thus, while legitimate feedback, as a creator it is not very useful.

Feedback from the Perspective of a Reader/Tester

1st rule: Remember that the author/creator/developer is a human and they are doing or have done something others can not. Any feedback/review/critique done outside of this rule automatically should be discarded. If this basic truth is ignored when giving feedback, the entire critique is based on destructive emotion or intention.

2nd rule: The more specific the feedback, the better to get the change I’m advocating for. General feedback will only be useful as an aggregate - most consumer feedback is of this nature. From reading your posts and your responses to the feedback you’ve received, I feel you are doing a good job here - the acknowledgement of the achievements not signaling potential replayability is awesome by you. With the reviews you get off the platforms this is what you’re going to get the most out.

I hope this helps and if I can clarify or go into more details on something,please let me know.


Hmm that’s weird, I’m thinking it’s a regional thing perhaps? (If I look at app annie, reviews I can’t see on the stores seem to pop up especially for google play). I can see 65 ratings on google (not all have actual reviews but there are a number there).

It’s about 100,000 words so it’s actually not short in total. Where I’ve made the error is in the branching. Most COG’s are far more linear than mine making the ave word count per playthrough less than average for a number of branches. I’m guessing many people may only play it once or twice and never see the alternate branches.

I know that’s definitely part of the problem, and one I could fix in any future books to boot, however there are many reviews devoted to how terrible they think the book is asides from its length. That’s kind of why I’m asking :slight_smile:

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Unfortunately I’m in a foreign country at the moment so I’m unable to use my phone to test the game for myself and give you my opinion but hopefully others on this site may be able to.

I found the reviews

Don’t forget that people on this site will often… be more positive?.. than those from the general public who have no appreciation for the work required to create something like this.

Also remember that your game is in the same category as games like:
Zombie Exodus (Scored 4.3)
Community College Hero (Scored 4.5)

And people will also compare it to games like:
Choice of Robots (My personal favourite - 4.8)
Choice of Deathless (4.0)

Your game has so far received 3.0 without as many reviews as these games. 3 is exactly average as a score isn’t it? The question is where would you place it against the games I just listed, would you say it’s better than some or even all of them?

People reviewing your game don’t see you as an amature author and due to the fact there is a charge on the game it has to be reviewed the same as all the other games that offer a similar product for a similar price.


Generally the reviews seem to feel the game is either:

A: Too short for the price
B: Rushed

Again, I’ve not had the chance to form my own opinion of this. It’s a shame that people don’t realise there are multiple branching endings. The issue with this is that if it’s not obvious that players can take totally different routes they will just assume it’s a cleverly written story that appears to branch but never play it again to find out. There are many COG’s that I have really enjoyed but only played through once (Choice of Deathless). I have no idea if there were hundreds of lines that I’ve missed out on but enjoyed the story anyway.

Haha yeah, no. My book isn’t as good as the above, more than aware of that. (I’m not that delusional :wink: )
Point taken about the score of 3. In saying that, its score has been steadily dropping on google play over the last week and I kind of expect that trend to continue given the ratio of likes to dislikes that seem to be happening. It’s also true that there are far more written reviews for people who seem to strongly dislike it, than for people who thought it was reasonable.

Still, even if it’s “average” I’d still like to know whether there is stuff which people did really like or hate. It’s sort of hard to move forward and try to fix things in my writing when I’m not sure what people found about it that was so crap/boring/rushed/bad/waste of money/terribly written/etc. if that is the general consensis.

I tried to signpost there was more branches with achievements, but again, not convinced that seems to have worked particularly well.

Give it time and see what the average does as more people play it.

People only write reviews when they want to be heard and unfortunately the people who want to be heard the most are those that are unhappy.

It’s worth remembering as well that even without branching story lines your game may be seen as comparably short. Using my previous examples:

Wizardry Level C (100,000 words)
Zombie Exodus (750,000 words)
Community College Hero (168,000 words)
Choice of Robots (300,000 words)
Choice of Deathless (No word count given)

Half the word count for a similar price means every word needs to be worth twice as much, 4x as much if half the words aren’t seen on the first playthrough. It may help to explain some of the feedback.

Obviously there are always trolls on the internet as well who expect everything for free but maybe some of the complains have a little bit of a reason behind them? Still waiting for feedback on the “Rushed” complaints though. Happy to believe that’s just trolling.

I feel the need to add that I really enjoyed what you wrote of Draconic Challenges so it’s likely the complaints are based more around the length and the rushed comments are because the story finished quicker than the readers would prefer.

Also looking through your history I have to ask:
What happened to Tales of the Deep? You started that project before Wizardry Level C but finished this first?

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To be honest I wasn’t aware many of those were that long. (Was ZE really 750000 words? wow). I always though COG primarily prices games on word count unless asked differently? Maybe it’s an inflation thing as well. Games published a year or two ago, might be worth less per word than one published this year? Maybe the word count to price is not a linear line as well though? And probably doesn’t help the exchange rate from $US to many other countries seems awful at the moment, will also make it seem more expensive if you’d bought games when the ratio was higher/cheaper. Not sure.

Thanks Maxmansung, I’m glad you liked Draconic Challenges. I’m still thinking about finishing it, was just trying to sort out whether there something fundamentally wrong I needed to work out first or to scrap the WIP’s and start from scratch if not fixable.

Ah yeah Tales of the deep, another WIP of mine that I’ve worked on and off for a few years. (It’s sort of in the category or hopefully it’ll be done sooner or later). It was initially more complicated than Wizardry and I started that to get more of a handle on coding but then Wizardry ended up expanding into a much larger story that I originally planned for it. Draconic Challenges came out of a windhammer comp which is why it got finished before my original tales of the deep WIP. I think tales probably needs some reworking to be honest, especially in light of the response to the branching backlash of Wizardry. (Pretty sure there’s more for Tales on my computer that I never got around to posting on COG from memory).

Hookay! I will try and be coherent about this as I can since I am in the watch the reviews category with you now after I purchased Wizardry C. Let me say this first I actually like your other WIP Draconic Challenges hence the free auto-buy without even trying out the demo (I like supporting our authors what can I say? XD).

Comparing the two are stark differences like night and day. Let me say this with Wizardry it seemed like you were attempting to write a light humorous romp, but it came off dry, flippant and wholly annoying. Besides the starting choices and a few scattered in-between, the choices had little to non logical flow towards the game; I will point to your walk through with the dragon guild path, if you read through the story it makes little sense how you got there with the choices provided. It felt like you left too much info on the cutting room floor when you edited it.

When a play-through comes in at around 15k-25k works and takes less than 45 minutes to do said play through I felt as if I have been cheated out of my money.

It is like you had a general ideal of a game but did not fully think it out, to me Wizardry lacks purpose and tries to shoehorn the player into the game and fail miserably. Now let us look at your WIP You have a clear purpose and goal in mind, the writing is strong and compelling you as a player forward, the world is more detailed and vibrant compared to Wizardry.

I did submit my review to google not wanting to bring down the average but it is a 2/5 (There are other games both Choice games that come in at a solid one but that is a different story but they too did not receive a review either I wish for authors to do well, so if I can not rate a game at 3 or higher I just will pass), and for your WIP it is a solid 4 with the potential to be a 5.

I would ask you too look at Unnatural It is somewhere between 120k-150k (IIRC) and has immense replayablity, not so for Wizardry.

You do have a gift of telling stories that are worth purchasing, it just seems like your first published release was a rush job. If I wanted to play a linear game with limited choices I will buy a Visual Novel (Hey they come with pictures too!) I do not want or need a VN CS game.


The thing with the way you did branching is that each time you had to go through a lot of the same text towards the start to reach each original branch, and that’s what I found less than enjoyable.

When I was going through for a replay and the entire first quarter/third of the game felt exactly the same it was easy to feel like maybe that’s all there was – and there’s not real way to know that the full on branches the achievements hint at aren’t just flavor text like most achievements in CoGs are.

If you’re going to do major branches again in the future maybe start adding some small text changes based on them earlier to give a more clear in game signal to people what is changing. Making it more clear earlier that there are clearly distinctive story lines I think would help. (:

You’re also right that most Hosted Games are somewhat railroaded and so that’s what people expect and look for. There’s probably some self fulfilling pesimism about how short the game feels when people only expect one main path.

I dunno that there’s anything you can do about that preconception sadly.

Also, it gets easier to not let bad reviews get to you the longer you work in most online media industries.

You’ll never make everybody happy, and accepting that and focusing on the reviews that offer suggestions (good and bad) is what I do.

Good luck with future games! (:


I wanted to block these out because I feel that this is a different issue than dealing with the reviews thing I discussed above.

I was recently doubting my own WiP because my writing style is compact and tends towards less wordy comparisons then not. You and I are in the same boat so-to-speak so I’m going to forward to you some advise I too got:

You can not please everyone. There are successful works with rabid followings that are “short” when compared to the longer works mentioned above. An example here is Fatehaven - a work that is both popular and short.

Personally, I feel your writing is on par with others (or better) and what shows with Wizardy C is a bit of inexperience. Remember our discussion in the Achievements thread recently? Re-read my follow-up post to your original reply. I think you’ll get more of what I was trying to get at there when you think of it in terms of the feedback you’ve received in reviews.

You have published; your writing is good enough for me to look forward to your next project. There are some I can’t get behind like that. Maybe in the future do a revamp of Wizardry. Such revamps and re-publications have been done before. Or do what was done with Zombie Exodus and write Wizardry A, B, C, D and F and then offer a deluxe 500,000+ word edition… just be prepared to get more whines etc … :smile_cat:

O.k. I’ve commented twice here; I feel your pain but I think you’ll get my drift enough.

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Alrighty, firstly thank you to everyone who has replied. It really is helpful.
@Zolataya. Thanks, good advice on the types of feedback and reviews.
In terms of beta, it was actually tested by a number of people from the COG forum.

I looked into potentially running it through a commercial copy editing service as well, but all I checked where far too expensive for something of this length. (Seems like I was probably looking at multiple times what the book was ever likely to make back and so it became hard to justify and afford for that matter). If anyone is aware of a good, cheaper service though I’d look into it.

I went back and re-read the thread, can see what you’re getting at with the achievements.

laughs, I can already hear the “sequel bait” whines if I made a ABCDEF wizardry series :grin: (Good luck with your own project btw!)

Ok point taken. From my perspective it’s harder to see where there’s gaps and the like, probably since I’ve written it, so any missing pieces get filled in when I read it. It wasn’t a rush job at my end even though it might seem like it, but looks like my planning needs improvement perhaps to try and help with that. Thanks for the vote of confidence for whats written in Draconic Challenges so far.

Thanks for the feedback. Interesting to know that the achievements can be seen as more flavoring. I had a feeling they weren’t being particularly successful as branch signposts and try something else like you suggested.

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Essentialy there are only two hosted games that I ve gave bad review. Both had interesting concept but they could be handled much better in my opinion.

As to Wizardry, I liked it. However I cant seem to get different endings no matter what I do. Some walktrough would be appriciated. Still I would give it 4.5/5. I am definetely interested in your other projects.

What you must first understand, is that none of the comments on Google Play are directed at you, the author. What they are directed at, is at other consumers, or, more vaguely, at the perceived company of “Hosted Games”.

They are not designed to help you write better. They are designed to help other consumers and publishers make better financial decisions.

Once you understand that, I think you’ll feel much better about the reviews.

Other than that, there’s something else that I think that you could consider changing your attitude on: When you write and publish a hosted game, do you do it for the lulz, or do you do it to receive praise?

If your incentive for writing a hosted game is purely to receive praise, and you feel that you do not seem to be getting a lot of praise, then perhaps it would be time to stop.

If you’re writing hosted games because you enjoy doing so and enjoy the accomplishment of the feat for the accomplishment itself, then by all means, feel free to continue. Nobody is forced to buy your game as a result, and as long as you enjoyed the process of writing it, there is no reason to feel bad about the vast majority of people not appreciating your game.


I’d say send @Fiogan a PM or @jasonstevanhill

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Thanks @Vladimir_M . Let me see if I can find my chart when I get home and I’ll see if I can write up a few walk throughs. There is one walk through via a a button on the stats page here (But there are some more paths I’ll try to get on that for you).

@Wyrmspawn No I write primarily because I enjoy it. Thing is, to get something polished for publishing, takes a lot more effort than just posting a short story to DA or having something I write for myself but no one ever sees on my computer. So no, not done for the praise and to be honest I can deal quite well generally with constructive crit (which is why the post here asking). It’s the hate posts that were getting to me. While I enjoy writing, if my writing was infact absolutely awful, everything I put something out there would be likely to get ripped up with unconstructive comments…and then eventually I probably would not enjoy writing terribly much. Again I’m just trying to work out where I stand and whether there’s things I can do to make my writing acceptable. Also if we start talking copyediting, there’s not insignificant amounts of money that can be sunk into that. It’d be fairly hard on my budget to pay $1000+ for editing on a game that only ended up selling a few copies.

Thanks for the links. Yep the ballpark from the figures on the editing thread were about $3000 for a 100,000ish page book give or take. The ones I looked into were mostly in the $2000-5000 ish mark, I think there was one for about $1000+ for basic editing. I can’t see myself earning even close to $2000+ from it just to cover expenses to be honest, which is why the trepidation. I can definitely see why it’s so expensive but it makes it hard to justify for projects like this. Will think about some of the other options there that portentially look a bit more possible though :slight_smile:


I checked on google play, it says 65 reviews but mine is not visible! In my review I did rate 5 stars, because I enjoy your writing style, its re-playable and I also enjoyed the pictures.

I think @Maxmansung may be right. Those readers are comparing your work to others like ZE and other popular works. I liked @Zolataya’s idea about adding onto it like ZE. If it’s something you ever feel like doing. I feel like a lot of people may not have bothered to check the stat menu and have missed all the little notes you’ve added there. Maybe something needs to be written on the very first page? Maybe people were too lazy to check the stat menu and scroll down? It seems simple enough to do but then again… I don’t have that view from being outside of the forum.

What I mean is: I remember what it was like being only a reader. You expect things to be like Choice of the Dragon or any of your favourites. I know that’s not fair but sadly that’s how it is sometimes. I’m saddened that the support on the forums doesn’t outweigh those average readers.

Don’t give up on writing if you love it.

Thanks for the support @Silverstone, Appreciate it :slight_smile: Glad you enjoyed it. The review might turn up again, I can see one that sounded like what you just said so it might still be there (Sometimes google play seems to display oddly for me and not everything loads so maybe it’s done that?)

Thanks everyone for the feedback :slight_smile: Sounds like my work is potentially fixable and there’s stuff I can take from this to improve on, so I’ll keep plugging away at it :sunny:


In regards to length Unnatural total word count is nearly 250,000 words in all with a playthrough being between 45k to 90k depending on playthrough and I get reviews stating they thought it is too short.

Reviews can go down and up Unnatural started off with 5* then dropped down after nearly a year to 4.1* and recently gone back up to 4.2* the lowest rating score was 3* on Amazon. I have had reviews of 1* all the way up to 5* don’t let it get you down use it to improve and better yourself, yours games and your world’s :slight_smile: