Forums → News and Feedback → Merits, Reviews, and AP: Issues and Suggesstions
I have been a fan of Armor Games for a long time, not only as a place to play great games but as a site that is centered around new game developers. One of the main ideas of this site is to give constructive feedback to developers to help them improve their game or refine their process for the next one. Which is great! However, the methods of incentivising this interaction between player and developer has not accomplished this goal very well. Here are some of my issues with the current system and potential improvements:
Merits are a reward for a well written comment(bordering on a review) of a game. You have the SIPPYCUpS Program which is great and a couple of good guides. I know that Merits aren't a right and they are awarded as often as possible. However, I believe that they aren't worth the effort at least in terms of "otential reward" or in benefit to the game creators. Let's look at the point breakdown:
How do I earn AP?
ArmorPoints are earned through several means.
A simple breakdown would look like this:
Rate a Game: 2 AP per Game
Comment on a Game: 2 AP per Comment
Make a Post in the Forum: 1 AP per Post
Submit a Game: 20 AP per Title
Earn a Merit: 25 AP per Merit
It is however highly recommended not to care too much about AP, and just let things happen. After all, if your interaction on the site is found to be purely to gain AP, those comments, posts and ratings might be taken away.
Merits are like grand prize, something everyone should strive for since it rewards the most points. However, these points are only awarded if a Mod or Admin read the comment and decide it is merit worthy. A Merit worthy comment requires me to play a game at least most of the way through(if not several times through) and spend between 10-30 minutes writing the comment. That is a significant time investment as well as effort (NOTE: not nearly as much as creating a game and it seems odd they game creators get fewer points for submitting a game than people writing a good comment about it *shrug*).
Let see how else I could have spend my time. I can quickly play 10 games, rate each one and leave a 10-20 word comment briefly saying something about my experience for the game. In a matter of an hour I have made 40 points, but keep in mind these are 40 GUARANTEED points. There is no promise of getting a merit and in the forums its said that it can take years for a merit to come through. One actually took a year for me to get one, which was surprising and the whole reason I came back to AG to have a look around and see what is happening. Many of the high AP members of Armor Games have very few merits, usually 2 or 3. They usually achieve these points through rating, quick comments, and forum posts. I don't hold anything against them for these points, posting in the forums generates a strong community and its not something I typically do so those are points I miss out on. However, this doesn't foster and environment where the typical user feels or rather perceives that their high quality comments are being recognized as such. Instead, they are more likely to feel that they have wasted their time and instead do short comments on a large number of games to get the maximum benefit.
A quick review, merits are something to be treasured, they aren't guaranteed, they are worth the most points but handed out rarely, and a major goal of the website is to encourage constructive feedback for developers FROM the users. The downside is Merits don't effectively reward the time and effort required for them, they aren't often given, and there are much easier ways to get "rewards" from AG. This isn't about me whining about getting points, I want the system to improve so lets talk about what can be done to help this situation.
One of the basic improvements I would like to see is actually in the ease of writing a "merit worthy comment." The comment box is small and I typically have to use a word editor to format/save any thoughts I have and then copy paste. There is no easy way for me to write a clear and concise comment. I actually have more tools in the Forum message box than in the comment box so I have to get creative with special characters like **** or ~~~~~ and the likes to make it easy to read, otherwise it just looks like a text wall. That would be one potential improvement but it would most likely be a difficult one requiring large amount of effort on the sites developers to implement. I just thought I'd mention it
Merits could have their own special rewards different from AP. Users with a large number of Merits could receive special "Merit ONLY" Armatars. There could be a small banner or box on the website displaying the name of "This Weeks Best Contributor!" as a reward for those who are diligently providing high quality feedback to the creators of the game. Finally, one of the easiest solutions would be to just make merits worth more points. Its crude yet effective. Its a direct and easy way for people putting in the effort to write these Merit worthy comment to see that their contribution was worth it. I believe there may be some reason why AG has not done and I just haven't read about it or accidentally glossed over it but it is still worth mentioning in light of the fact that Merits can only be given not automatically generated.
My Final suggestions revolves around the idea that developers could also award or suggest Merit worthy comments. They spend a good chunk of time reading through these and are probably better able to identify merit worthy comments than the Mods and Admins who have other more important tasks. Heck, they may already be doing this but we don't know since it does feel a lot like the Merit awarding is some sort of behind the scenes witchcraft that the regular user doesn't know about. This may be too difficult to achieve, I can totally understand there may be some limitations to doing this but still I feel like it is a worthwhile suggestion.
I like Merits, I love the idea behind them, and I love Armor Games. I want to see more games here, higher quality games, new developers, and a flourishing community. I feel the goal of high quality comments to help improve the games being made by developers is the idea behind Merits but it is not well executed to achieve that goal. While I will continue to write comments in my own style, lengthy and in depth with and with an emphasis on quality, I fear that other users may feel like their quality comments are lost in the sea of "good game" or "it sucks" comments and may give up on providing useful feedback to the developers. If you have any suggestions to this or feel I am totally wrong and am off my rocker please feel free to post below. Thanks!