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Interview with The Review Request Club

Posted by TheInterviewer - June 30th, 2010


Interview No. 27

Interview By: @The-Great-One

Today's guests are the proud members of the Review Request Club. A group of individuals whose main priorties are to offer constructive criticism to the artists who submit their works for their approval. Now of course I cannot interview the entire club, so I've chosen the following members to interview. @Coop, @Fro, @Supersteph54, @Haggard, and @Sonofkirk. They are The Review Request Club.


Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?


Coop: Well, when I was in my late teens, just away from University, I was introduced to Assassin and Unidentified Flying Assholes. I left it until we got Broadband at home to sign up for Newgrounds and that was the first action on the computer I did after the broadband was installed.

Haggard: A friend of mine used to come here to watch flashes and play games. I think that was around 2000 or 2001. We soon discovered that when you had an account on Newgrounds you could rack up Experience points to make your vote be worth more, so my friend signed up (sadly I don't remember under which name he signed up).

Also I found most of the flashes I could see here quite funny, so when I finally got access to the internet at my place I joined up here. That was the 25th of December 2001.

Yes, one of the first things I did when I had an internet connection was signing up at Newgrounds. :)

Fro: My friend Nick, who you can find in most of my flash submissions, told me about newgrounds during study hall back in 2004. He was telling me about all the funny Resident Evil flashes that the site had so I decided to check it out. I love some of the submissions so much that I just had to review them so I signed up.

Supersteph54: This may sound weird, but I found Newgrounds because around 4 years ago, a friend of mine was bored and wanted to find a game to play. He typed in the two most popular words for RPG's: "Adventure" and "Quest" (Yep, you guessed it. Adventure Quest...).

Somehow he came across Newgrounds, and used the ad of Adventure Quest whenever he wanted to play the game. He told me about how he found Adventure Quest using Newgrounds and asked me to play it, but I quickly got bored of it.

On the other hand, I was interested in Newgrounds. The neat layout and design, the hundreds of thousands of flash games and movies, the excellent review system, etc... I joined a few months after, since I was interested in reviewing the flashes I saw and played.

Sonofkirk: I was introduced to Newgrounds by a user called Gorekiller. He's a fantastic keyboardist and used to post music on the audio portal. We were playing in the same band at that time and ended up making rock covers of video games themes together and submitting them to the portal. I still have some on them on my account.

Q: The original Review Request Club was created on May 10, 2006 by Freelance-Magician. Did you have any participation in the original club? If so then how did you come across it and why did you join?


Coop: I'd been an active member in the Clubs & Crews forum for some time, with the Review Crew being one of my haunts. I moved to the now defunct Review Request Club and ever since have been adding [Review Request Club] to each of my Reviews. It's just progressed from there.

Haggard: Yes, I already was a member in the old club. I discovered it quite early when I became more active on the BBS but I didn't joined the club until much later. At first I was unsure if I should join because I didn't really understand all the rules and I wasn't that much active reviewing either.

Later when I became more active with reviewing I thought "ah, what the heck" and joined the club, even though I still didn't understand all the rules.

Fro: I'm pretty sure that I hold the record for keeping a 100% ratio the longest in the original Review Request Club, meaning I reviewed every single request for about 2 years straight. Life got a lot busier as college went on so I'll probably never get back to doing that again, but I'm still going as strong as I can. My first newgrounds friend, Metal-Therapy, introduced me to the club and it just stuck with me.

Supersteph54: I wasn't as good at reviewing while the old club was running, and even then, I wasn't interested in the forums. I knew the Review Request Club existed, because I came across reviews by them, but I never had any interest to join.

Sonofkirk: I joined the original club in september of 2008. I remember Fro told me told me that he would receive 5 extra points if I mentioned him on my introduction post; my first motivation of joining was actually to help him get higher in the ranks... :p. But I then started to be interested in reviewing and really got into the process of doing requests. Though, I have never been a very active member review-writing wise, since I was doing the updates for the audio reviews stats thread which was also very time consuming.Then I was basically doing the audio ones and occasionally some flash requests.

Q: The new Review Request Club was created on June 18, 2009 by Sonofkirk. If you answered no to the previous question then why did you join the newer Review Request Club? Why was there a need to remake the club?


Coop: An interesting question - the answer is simple, in that we lost a few key members. milinko959 stopped preparing the lists that he had been doing for some time and as a result, we lost direction. Sonofkirk and Haggard rebuilt the club and from day one, I was back as the leading reviewer. I'd even taken up Audio reviewing by then, but I have since dropped that, as I just don't have the enthusiasm I once had. I think that it's nice to see a dedicated group of individuals give something back to the community.

Haggard: The old club literally died. At first it was milinko959 who maintained the club. He came up with a points system to give the reviewers some incentive to review the requests and he compiled a ranking list and a list of all the requests every week. Then milinko lost interest in NG and Bezman jumped in to maintain the club, but he couldn't do it every week. So we then decided to have two users who update the list. If one couldn't update it the one week, then the other one could jump in.

Those users where Shanus and me. This worked quite well for a while, but then Shanus became too busy in real life as well (College and stuff), so I was the alone updater of the list for a while. Well, but as life goes I suffered the same fate as the other updaters before me: Uni became far too important and I simply couldn't do the updates anymore. Shanus tried to maintain the club for a while, but he couldn't keep up for too long, so the club was left with no one who updated the points list nor the list of requests for that week. It all became too unclear very soon.

After a while Sonofkirk wanted to start a new club. He PM'ed some of the members from the old club and asked if it was OK, then he PM'ed a Mod (I think it was NEVR) to ask if the old thread could be locked and a new thread could be opened. NEVR said it was OK, so Sonofkirk was free to go.

Fro: The old club didn't have the rules posted on the first page so people just came in and requested so many submissions that it was impossible for us to keep up. We needed to start a new club so we could update the rules to keep the numbers down a little bit so we could help as many users as we could with reviews. It has still failed and we get so many audio reviews that we can't keep up again. Don't be surprised if you see a third thread where people can request even less in the future.

Supersteph54: I joined the new club since I was impressed with the reviews they did, and my reviews were improving. They were nothing too special, but I was still interested in joining. I finally found the club and asked to join, and after Haggard approved me, I was reviewing right away.

We had to remake the club since the old one was basically dying. The updates stopped and it was literally being drowned by requests. From what I've been told. The Review Request Club was an excellent idea, and we couldn't just leave it to die.

Sonofkirk: This question reminds me when I was writing the opening post for the new thread and asking everyone if it was good... We made a new thread to give the club an opportunity to get a fresh start since the old thread was flooded by requests with no one making the updates. This way, the club was more organised and new people went to join. I'm not saying all I've done a good job with the club but with the help of the old members I think we've done something good. Supersteph54 is the current responsible of the update and he does a very nice job!

Q: What is the purpose of the Review Request Club?


Coop: If you're not getting the feedback that you require for your submissions, we can help you - We're always looking for more Flash and Art to review, so it's always a pleasure to have new requesters. We come in and pay attention to the submissions and give critical, but helpful reviews, enabling the users to improve their works.

Haggard: Users who feel that their submission was too unrecognized by NG can request some reviews. Also users who seek for advice can also request some reviews.

We ask our members to give out quality reviews and to not just simply write one- or two-liners. We want to help out the artists to help them improve their skills and to give them feedback on what they might do better on their next submissions.

Fro: The purpose of the Review Request Club is for people to get reviews from some of the best reviewers on the entire website. When a user feels that they didn't get enough reviews or need reviews to give them tips on how to improve for either that submission or for the future then we are the club to go to. It's all about helping the community become better by showing great examples of reviews so others can improve their reviews and by helping to bring in higher quality submissions to the site.

Supersteph54: Let's face it, everyone likes reviews on submissions they worked on, and the NG reviews can't even be considered reviews, but rather comments. We need a club where someone can request reviews on a submission, and get the reviews they want without having to worry about unfair scores, bad criticism and very vague comments.

In the new club (i.e. not counting all of the MANY reviews and requests of the old club), we've written roughly 4,500 helpful reviews on almost 1,100 different submissions, and apart from a very small number of people complaining about individual reviews we haven't had any unsatisfied requesters.

My point is, our main aim is to help. There are loads of under-rated artists that deserve reviews, so our aim is to not only increase their exposure and let them know what we think about their submissions, but also to help them improve their work.

Sonofkirk: It's always difficult to increase your exposure on NG, the RRC is a way for the Newgrounds poeple to get more exposure for their work by requesting reviews. What's more it happened that some of the best reviewers joined the club, then you'll always get good quality reviews on your work (the club also keep a high threshold regarding to the review quality of its new members).

Q: What are the steps you take into writing a review?


Coop: First, watch the movie, play the game, listen to the music or look at the art. Don't just do this casually and make notes, as applicable. I try to help people with their drawing and animation techniques, despite not being a very good artist myself. I always listened in classes, but never had the talent to convert it into creative work.

After watching it, I can assess where any glaring errors were and I try to blend these in to the review, otherwise it can put people off if you go straight for the jugular with errors, rather than praise. I try to make it so that the piece isn't all bad and that they have areas to build upon, rather than just a standard "stop making pieces like this", as I never think anyone should just give up.

Haggard: I really don't have any rules to go by. I watch the submission (or listen to it in case it's and audio submission) and then I either begin with writing down some key points that I later elaborate on or I simply begin writing down whatever comes to my mind.

One of the problems I currently run into is how to express these thoughts. English is a foreign language for me so I have to be really careful when I write reviews. I have to look up many words in a dictionary because often I need some words I don't have in my vocabulary.Sometimes it may be that the words I write have a much harsher tone than I intended, but so far no one complained to me. So I guess my english isn't as bad as I think it is. ;)

While I have no "rules" I go by I often try to finish the review with a positive aspect because I feel if I finished it with something I didn't like about the submission then the whole review might be too negative to read by the user who requested the review.

For example, if I end it with "I didn't like the graphics, they looked too sloppy" then this is what sticks in the mind of the one who reads it. If I end it with "I didn't like the graphics, they looked too sloppy. But on the other hand you can easily improve on them if you just practice some more." however, then the review gets a more positive and encouraging tone.

Fro: This depends on the submission, but I'll break it down.

Movie - I watch the movie and jot down my notes about my first impressions about the graphics, story, and audio. It's in this section that I watch for the smaller details and really look for effort.

I then watch it again like someone normally would and I allow for all these separate things to come together so I can see how the flash is as a whole.

I then start my review with the animation/graphics, move on to story/content, talk about the audio, and then finish off with an overall category. Sometimes if I need to make extra comments I just do that on top of all the other sections.

Game - Games can take anywhere from five minutes to play to several hours. It's not possible to beat every level of every game or to finish them all before I review, but I at least give it a honest try and get as far as I can so I can give the most accurate review possible.

After I get as far as possible or beat a game I follow the steps that I would during a movie review.

Audio - The thing about audio is... I don't know much about audio. What I do know is what I enjoy when listening to music and how music can be moved in movies or games so this is what I try to bring to my reviews.

I usually start off by talking about how it could be used in a submission if I thought it could be, move on to talk about the vocals if there are any, and then review the beginning, middle, and ending of the song even to the fade out or ending note.

Sadly, these are based mostly off of personal opinions and not mostly facts because I don't know much about audio. Because of this I tend to give higher audio scores because I don't find it to be fair if I'm giving something a low score and I don't know much about it.

Art - I haven't developed a style for art review yet. I plan on doing that in the near future, but for now I tend to start at the very top of the picture and talk about every single detail until I get to the very bottom of the picture. After that I talk about the overall production. It's very common that I use every character or most of the characters in an art review just because there is so much to talk about.

Supersteph54: I take different steps depending on what type of submission I review, although as a general rule of thumb, I always make sure that when I mention a flaw I find in a submission, I always try and give my suggestion on how to fix it, so if for example I'm reviewing a flash game I'd say "Hm, the gameplay is a bit too easy. I'd suggest adding a time limit, since I can definitely see this as a fun game when you're against the clock." instead of "Hm, the gameplay is a bit too easy.".

In addition, I tend to organise my reviews into these sections:

Flash: Intro ... Graphics/Animation ... Concept/Storyline/Gameplay ... Audio ... Conclusion

Audio: Intro ... Melodies/Sounds Used ... Transitions/Structure ... Drums/Percussion ... Conclusion

Art: Intro ... Shading/Lighting/Texture/Colours ... Concept/How well the picture is drawn ... Background/Foreground ... Conclusion

Sonofkirk: I must admit, I haven't reviewed anything in ages but I'll try! I'm going to focus my answer about audio reviews because that's the field I think I can write good reviews. First step, I listen to the song, twice. I listen to it once without writing anything, I just try to enjoy the music and to think about what I like and advice I could provide. Then I make one or two paragraphs about what I liked, I try to divide my ideas into paragraphs so it's more pleasant to read for the artist. Next step, I point out the different things that I disliked and what could be improved. I also divide those into paraphs. They are usually about the mix, the EQ, or the choice of the instruments. Lastly I make one or two paragraphs that stand as a conclusion, I sum up my thoughts and I can also provide software names or plug ins references to help the musician keep going.

Q: Some people say to be able to critique something, you should at least have made a flash animation, flash game, or audio before you can truly judge it. Do you think this is true? If not then what is your explanation on this?


Coop: As I said before, I've been able to listen to art teachers and peers about the applications used. I may not have any experience of using them, but I can tell people what needs doing. If I couldn't review because I hadn't used the program, I'd naver have made about 1,700 Flash and 1,000 Audio reviews.

Haggard: I think you don't need to be Pablo Picasso to be able to critizise art, you don't need to be Mozart to critizise music and you don't need to be The-Swain to critizise flash.

I can express my opinion on a submission even if don't have any flash or art submissions myself (well, I have submitted some spam flashes for clock day, so I am not totally inexperienced in that field.

However, I can play the guitar which helps me a lot when I review music, so I think my audio reviews are of a much better quality than my flash and art reviews so I can understand the point of view some people may have on reviewing. It's much easier to critizise something if you have some experience with the things you are reviewing.

For example I am completly unable to draw even the simplest things and I don't know much about art. So all I can do is to tell the artists what I liked and what I didn't like about a submission. While I think that those reviews are still helpful to the artist I feel that my art reviews aren't of the same quality than my flash or audio reviews.

Fro: I would say this is true. You really got my explanation about how this is true in the audio explanation that I gave up above. This being said, you can still leave great to amazing reviews for things even if you have never attempted to create one before. The only thing that is really lacking is the technical terms and information that you could give.

Supersteph54: While it obviously does help, you definitely don't need to have made a submission to judge one properly. Anyone would know a good submission when they see one, and their review would count just about as much as any other review. If they make a technical mistake because they haven't actually made a submission themselves, then no harm done, the artist will just correct them. I find myself reaching the character limit on Flash reviews with still even more to say, and I've never touched Flash before.

I think that a larger factor of how well you criticise something is how many submissions you've criticised.

Sonofkirk: My opinion is that there is two different cases. I think the most important thing is to give constructive feedback, whether you have made flash/music or not. As far as the critique is based on arguments, it's okay. When you make music or flash, it's for Newgrounders enjoyment, not for flash specialists or professional musicians judgement. Then most of time you'll often receive feedback from people who haven't made flash or anything, you'll have to accept their critique because "the customer is always right". Someone who hasn't made flash or music still can base his arguments on his feelings and give useful tips.

There is another case though. If some ignorant kid leave you a low score review just saying with no arguments: first, you can flag the review and you can answer him "make flashz B4! you n00bass!"

Q: Have you ever thought of doing reviewing for a magazine, website, or newspaper besides Newgrounds and be paid to do so?


Coop: I wouldn't mind doing something like that, but the job offers have never been there and I'm not sure I have the time at present. Though if the opportunity did arise and the money was right, I'd certainly consider it.

Haggard: No. While I like to express my opinion on many things I don't think the quality of my work is good enough to earn money with it. Also I like being independent while expressing my point of view. Here on Newgrounds I can simply decide that I'm not in the mood to do a review and then I either do it later or never at all.

If I get paid for reviewing I might have to push myself to finish a review. I don't think I would like that.

Fro: I've thought about it, but I haven't ever looked into it very far. There just isn't enough time to do something like this with college and I don't trust many of the jobs like this over the internet.

Supersteph54: Never actually crossed my mind. I don't see myself as a professional reviewer at all, just someone who's been reviewing a lot with the interest of helping other people improve.

Sonofkirk: Let's hope this club will last years and years and keep doing the awesome job it's doing. I can assume it's one on the most useful club on NG and it really helps the authors keep going and improving. It's been a long time I haven't lurked in the thread but I guess the members are still thinking about a mean to receive less audio requests and I wish the best of luck! :p

Q: Coop - How did you become a Forum Moderator? Do you enjoy your job?


Coop: The first part was simple - I became a Review Mderator back in April 2009. That gave me the power to control the reviews that were being left for Flash and Audio submissions, which has been a positive learning experience.

After that, in January this year, I was asked by Wade if I would like to become a BBS Moderator and I jumped at the chance to step up. I think I've made my mark and I intend to carry on as I am for the forseeable future.

The main thing here is that I'm a moderator that spends a lot of time in the Writing forums and I do a lot of reading on there. If / when a Literature Portal is released on Newgrounds, I expect to be able to lay down a lot of reviews for these pieces.

Q: What can we expect from the Review Request Club in the future?


Coop: Well, expansion into Literature if and when the said portal arrives, we also envisage more expansion in terms of new reviewers and lots more Flash and Art to review. Currently, we have a lot of people just aching for their Audio to be reviewed and it is a little overbalanced at the moment, but we're staying afloat.

Haggard: You can expect more quality reviews from this Club. Right now we go through a very difficult phase, as we are simply overrun by audio requests at the moment, but I'm sure we can work out a solution that benefits the club and the requesters as well. Once we solved this problem we are back stronger than ever. ;)

Fro: Expect it to have it's low times and it's high times, but in the middle of all of it expect quality. I would also look for the yearly RRC flash that I would like to organize with the current members of each year. The flash would say the best submissions requested from the year and award the best reviewer from the club. You can check out the first one we made here.

Supersteph54: We are not professionals, but we've reviewed thousands of submissions and so, you can expect high-quality reviews every time you request. We're planning on inviting more people to become members in the club, and we always aim at improving our reviews to help requesters improve their work, and to go 'holy crap' when they read one of our big reviews :D.

Sonofkirk: Let's hope this club will last years and years and keep doing the awesome job it's doing. I can assume it's one on the most useful club on NG and it really helps the authors keep going and improving. It's been a long time I haven't lurked in the thread but I guess the members are still thinking about a mean to receive less audio requests and I wish the best of luck! :p

I must admit that I used to be a member of the old Review Request Club thread. I can say that it is a nice experience to be able to review flash movies submitted by others. However with the way things are, the club seems to be bombarded with more and more audio submissions, which is one reason why I lost interest, no flash to review, too much audio. Despite all of this, the Review Request Club can only grow from here and become something more than just a mere club. Who knows it may become a staple of reviewers that all of Newgrounds will take as seriously as the great Roger Ebert.



Beautiful interview.

This is one of my favorite interviews, I'm glad that the RRC got some much needed attention.