After launching the Kotaku review template last year, we decided to move on to the next most important aspect of judging games: Judging them before they're finished. Most folks call them previews.
Our goal with previews was to make them easy to read, to the point, and complementary to our review system. They are designed to be welcoming to readers unfamiliar with a particular title, but also have worthwhile information for hardcore fans of a series, genre, or developer. We also wanted to be transparent about what we played — as our previews would be limited to hands-on experiences only — giving potential players a clear look at how a game is shaping up.
Finally, we want previews to be honest. While games in development often deserve the benefit of the doubt, we're not going to overlook a game's flaws.
Previews are broken down into several sub-sections.
What It Is
We'll tell you what the game is, providing as much information about its story, gameplay, and development pedigree in the most efficient way possible. We won't bore you with the details you can glean from a press release or fact sheet; we'll just write up what you need to know to quickly become familiar with the game being previewed.
What We Saw
Sometimes we may play three hours of an in-development game, sometimes we may play just five minutes. We'll let you know exactly what we played, on which platform and under what circumstances. Did we play it at a noisy convention? Did we play it on the comfort of our couch? Was there a producer or PR handler guiding us through the experience as we played? Our goal is to provide the most accurate representation of the conditions under what we played, so you don't have to question it.
How Far Along It Is
As games can be in development for years, we may see and play a title that's not due to be released for another 18 months. In general we'd expect a title that's still a year off to be rougher around the edges than one that's hitting store shelves in six weeks. In some cases, we may have to trust the publisher or developer to let us know when it will be done or how complete the game is percentage-wise.
What Needs Improvement
Our previews will focus on not just the positives, but the negatives of in-development games as well. If something stinks, we'll say it stinks. Our goal is to revisit titles more than once so that we can keep track of what's simply not working for us and let you know if those aspects have improved or not. Yes, we know that a game's frame rate can be polished up at the end, but we're still going to call a bad frame rate out.
What Should Stay The Same
These are our favourites aspects of a game being previewed. If you're looking for the good news, you'll find it here. We'll not only explain what we liked, but why you should care about the title, what separates it from the competition. If a developer mucks with any of these aspects, they're in big trouble. If a game has addressed the faults we noticed during a previous preview, we'll laud those changes here.
We summarise the game, essentially judging, based on what we saw, what we liked and what we didn't like, whether we'd recommend the game to someone as it currently is.