Sunday, December 8, 2013

When Bad Reviews Are... Well, Bad.

Sometimes, we in this industry do all we can to create a clear and understandable message. We're artists, whether we're painting, using digital mediums or writing. The one thing we're working so hard to accomplish is creating a good product and being able to put that good product out for our fans to enjoy. That's the entire point. For the fans to enjoy.

Which is what brings me to write this entry. I don't mind when a person does a review of our products. Typically when I ask someone to do a review and I send them a review copy they read through it and check to see if the content is good, clear and understandable. Then, they check to see if the material is playable. Then, they typically add any comments or concerns they may have with the material. Which is good. That is how we evolve as a company and learn what people want.

So what's the problem you say? Well, here it is. I know you were waiting for it. The problem is, when some people do a review, it's not a review. We didn't even ask them to do the "review," which is pretty much them complaining over internet boards to their 12 friends ranting and raving about what they didn't like or understand about a game they didn't or won't read. That's the largest problem. Here's a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

The review in question doesn't even know who he's reviewing for. The review begins with calling Dark Phoenix Publishing, Dark Phoenix Entertainment which makes you look at him like, "woah, who are you doing this for?" I say this because if you check the Facebook page for Dark Phoenix Entertainment or the LLC information for the company you'd notice that DPE is a film production company. The one we created to produce short films and project using our material. We're currently producing Blood Legacies, a film and series based on the Wastelands of Damnation roleplaying series. Dark Phoenix Publishing is merely a publishing company that publishes roleplaying books, graphic novels and novels. So how'd he mess that up on a popular website? Simple. He didn't do his homework. He went on a rant without even checking his sources. Tsk, tsk.

This next part goes on to do even more than the first part. He calls the system a "LARP/Tabletop/G.A.M.E/L.I.F.E system." So you didn't read the book did you? If you did you would know that G.A.M.E is the old series name which we changed to Wastelands of Damnation to give a greater reflection of our vision. It's not just a general alternative to gaming, it's a whole world of desperation. Then he goes on to say "It's only $2 on Scribd, and contains rules for high level vampires." Well he's partially right. It is on Scribd but not for $2.00. And it does contain rules, but not for high-level vampires. It's got some information for elders but mostly it's a book for Makers, which you can be at any level. Reading the book would have told him that. So the rest of his rant is pretty mute. He talks about "filler" which is actually where we customized the system for Makers so you don't need to carry around a Corebook and wonder, "how would this information apply to my character now that he's a Maker?" At the end of this rant is another rant about us offering coupons which earn you points that you can turn in for discounts on future buys. Because you know, no one wants that. Someone please go tell every bookstore and supermarket they're doing it wrong because this ONE GUY hates that idea. Sure buddy.

I guess that standard copyright notice is our "tenuous grasp of copyright law." Never mind that we have copyright attorneys we consult with if we need to. We did that back in 2012 when we received a letter from another company claiming they had a copyright on the word "vampire." We consulted, our attorney laughed at it and told us to make a few changes. We did and we haven't heard a word since. You know why? Because you can't hold a copyright on a single word like that. Just like you can't copyright _____:_____. Do you know how many novels are titled that way? Just check next time you're at Barnes & Nobles. Oh and as far as his professionalism is concerned, I guess he shows that in his caption: "Snapshot taken from PDF. Suck it, fair use, FTW." Because we're seeing this review thinking, "ooooh he got us."

Here's our suggestion for reviewing our books:
1. Read the book. It'll help you not look like an idiot when you're doing your review.
2. Try to play the game. I know it's asking a lot but if you try to play the game, you might understand how the material fits into it. Refusing to play the game is like looking at a car and staring at an upgrade and going "oh I don't need to drive it to tell you how this will end."
3. Be open minded. If you're constantly thinking about how great the 90's were, you're never going to enjoy anything new. It's like getting into a 2013 Camero and thinking, "gee I miss my 1970 Firebird." If you're always looking back at the past, you're going to miss out on the present.
4. Give us constructive criticism. That doesn't mean "suck it, fair use." It means doing what so many industry professionals do. Write us an email, tell us what you think and why you think that. Odds are we can do a revision if we sent you the review copy to make it clearer, better, whatever.
5. If you spot a problem, please don't go running to the internet with it. Just send us an alert so we can handle it. It will be handled. Much like the 2012 launch of Vampire: Undeath, there were editing problems from rushing the publication. People complained and we did a whole new layout, changed some things around, hired another writer and got more art. It wasn't hard it was just time consuming but in the end, fans were much more receptive to the changes. Of course, it didn't help that there were people talking about the preview edition, which was pulled and is not being sold anymore. Copies were released to those who had purchased the old edition with instructions to delete the file. It took the better part of 2012-2013 but we made the changes and the layout crossed over into other projects, delaying much of 2013-2014's lineup. Was it worth it? Hell yeah.

In closing, please be professional about what you have to say. If you don't like our material, don't buy it. If you're going to do a review, please do a review that makes sense so we know what we're doing right or wrong. After all, we're making these books for you and your friends.


  1. The solution is simple.

    Send your PDF out to professional reviewers. That will address all the issues you have listed above. Go to RPG.Net or DriveThruRPG/RPGNow and find reviewers that have reviewed books like yours and send a file to them.

  2. We are always looking for professional reviewers for our material. The review we came across and used was posted to We are always looking for reviewers with a professional attitude that would help deliver constructive criticism. Thank you for advice.

  3. Ok. So go to RPG.Net, find a reviewer or two (or a dozen) and email them to see if they would be interested in reviewing your game. Go to blogs where games are reviewed.