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Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

ThrawnFett's guide to good CCO rating


Rating a CCO may seem easy at first, but there's much more to a rate than just numbers. You must determine balance and originality, but most of all you must give good, complete reasoning and general suggestion by which it can be improved. This guide is designed to give new raters some guidelines and suggestions to make their rates effective, accurate, and helpful.

The first thing you should always do with a rate is to read the entire CCO. Don't just skim it, read it closely. Pick out the theme of the CCO, get an idea of the personality, and get a general feel for it. Ignore spelling, grammar, and formatting for the moment and just read it.

Once you find the theme, figure out if it's fits the AW universe and makes logical sense, at least to a point. Magic and spiritual matters do not fit into the universe, nor do really dark characters. While some in-game powers don't make complete sense (summoning snow, for instance), it's at least feasible that there's a snowstorm. Olaf doesn't use magic to summon the snow, it just comes. I've yet to run across a power or ability where the basic stats cannot have a feasible explanation aside from magic. The AW universe is a fairly clean and lighter-hearted atmosphere than some other video games, so judge a CCO based on how it fits into the universe.

With an idea of the theme in hand, it's time to start the actual rate. First category, name. This is probably the least important category, so I use a very basic rule of thumb and pass right over it. If they remember to give the CCO a name, I'll give them 3 points. If it's a normal name (like Andy), then I'll add one more. If it fits the theme (like Flak), I'll add one. So, the only way to get a full five points is to have a name that is normal and fits theme (like Max). Some raters give a bonus point for names like Max since they fit perfectly while still being a normal name (yes, that's a 6/5).

Now, right about now there's a few of you saying, "What about the in-game COs? They don't all have names that fit!" Well, this goes under the assumption that all the in-game COs would get perfect S-ranks. With COs like Colin in there, that's a pretty bad assumption. I can't think of any CO I would give a perfect S to.

Ok, on to the bio. This section is by far the one that contains the most bias by the rater. By far, the most important thing here is originality. I think I'd throw up if I had to rate yet another CO that "served under [insert CO], was noticed in [insert mission from AW] and was promoted to CO." That's what we call cliche. After that, the theme should be solidly established and a personality fleshed out. Lastly, length, flow, spelling, grammar and feasibility should taken into consideration. There's no real good guidelines for this, but it should be pretty obvious on some of the points (like spelling and grammar).

Quotes: Again, this section is not all that important. I'll give at least half the credit if they have everything. I think the standard for AWDS is 6 power quotes, 3 victory quotes, 2 tag quotes, and 2 quotes for each tag affinity. After that, judge how well the quotes fit the theme, the personality, and the AW universe. Corny puns are a must, or else Drake will wave goodbye to your points.

And that's it for the Creative Section. Look back over your rate so far and add up the points. Judge the final score based on your gut reaction from your first read and adjust any scores that stand out as wrong. If they get a near-perfect score, yet you noticed a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes on your first read, then you probably did something wrong.

The ability section is where you really have to know the balance of the AW game you are rating for. In AWDS, you're balance point is slightly over 100/100. It's very hard to describe exactly where it is, so I'm not going to attempt it. Play the game, look at other balanced CCO, and figure it out for yourself. Many CCOs will be obviously over or underpowered. If it's that obvious, just start out by saying so and explain your reasoning. That is probably the most important aspect of rating. Just saying "overpowered" and moving on helps no one. If it appears fairly close to balance, it's a bit harder.

My favorite method is to divide up the game by sections and analyze the stat changes that way. I normally go: capture phase, early game, middle game, and late game. This is where a lot of experience with the game helps. Figure out whether the CCO will be obscenely powerful in any one phase, or conversely if they are crippled. If one phase is more powerful and another is weaker, then judge if the boost to one balances out the other. Secondly, I go group by group. Soldiers, Vehicles, Air, and Sea. Normally this is where the stat changes happen. One group is boosted and another is weaker. You need to figure out whether they balance out or are off the target. Lastly, I look at anything else that might come into play. FoW situations should always be considered here, but also directs vs indirects, money vs stats, weather conditions, and anything else that may apply should be looked at.

While my method is time consuming, it also presents a very clear picture of what the CCO does well, where it's weak, and most importantly the balance. Now, as if that wasn't enough, you need to figure out originality and theme. I don't care if it's balanced, a CCO with Jess' stats is not going to get a high score. This part involves a bit more bias, but it should still be fairly obvious.

Ahh, the powers. While day to day is time consuming, powers tend to be a bigger pain. Balancing the powers and the cost is a bit trickier than the day to day. A lot of the normal effects have generally accepted costs, such as +1 movement to all troops is 2.5 stars and +2 is 5 stars. (Adder gets a xxXXX bar because he's bland, remember?) Others are a bit more argued, so it can be trickier there. (Mass Damage can be justified anywhere between 2 and 3 stars, but I won't go into that now.) Finding the balance here is very much about instinct and knowing the balance of the game. My method for day to day can help here too. Is the COP still useful in the late game? Is the SCOP game turning enough for it's cost, or is it technically balanced without enough true bang? Again, balance is the most important, but also take theme and originality into consideration. A direct copy of an in-game power isn't good. I can't tell you how many Lightning Strike wannabes I've rated. While taking pieces of in game powers is ok (it'd be hard not to), it's about combining them in different manners. I don't mind if someone refuels all their units for a power, but doing that in addition to a vehicle stat boost isn't good. However, refueling all units combined with an Air stat boost might work well for an Air specialist.

With AWDS, we have a whole extra thing to consider, tags. This adds some emphasis to what the SCOP is and how it will interact with other COs SCOPs. Drake and Olaf provide a perfect example of this. While both of their SCOPs are mostly balanced alone and with other tag partners, together they are nasty. If the SCOP interact like that with any in-game CO, make sure to point that out (and likely take a few points off due to that being overpowered). In some cases, a simple negative tag with them can fix it, but that also needs to fit the theme. The other thing to consider is the tag affinities. I am definitely not an expert here, so all I can offer is to stick with the theme. If you mention a CO in your bio, you'll likely want to put something in the tag affinity to show their relationship (good or bad).

Time for a Technical Total. Once again, add up the points and check it against your first gut reaction. If it's way off, inspect the rate and fix anything that needs fixing. Add up the Tech and Creative sections and we have a rate! Well, not quite. Write a paragraph or so after the rank to give your general impressions of it. If it was horrible and they need to scrap the idea, say it. If it's a good idea with bad execution, point that out. This can be the difference between abandoning the idea or sticking with it, especially on the first few rates.

Now, for a few general tips. Firstly, don't be afraid to give out bad ranks. I've gotten quite a few C-ranks in my day and I'm still alive. Heck, I've gotten a few IGNORE'D/100 before we stopped doing that. Unless it's an S, the end rank isn't as important as the rate itself. It's supposed to give suggestions and point out issues with the CCO. On rates where I can see glaring errors, I tend to be a bit easier with handing out points on some of the categories since it will still be a C or a B.

Second, make sure your rate is helpful. Writing a single sentence for each category and moving on is not helpful in any way. Sure, you've said what you think, but it's not backed up and it will almost never assist the CCO maker to improve it. The only times I can see a single sentence working is with the Name, the Quotes, or if you've rated that CCO before and the section has not changed since your last rate.

Third, S-Ranks are not candy! They are hard to obtain for a reason. An S-Ranked CCO should be near perfect in balance. If you end up with an S, definitely check it against your gut. If you don't think it should be an S, look over your rate and figure out what you may have overlooked and fix that. I've taken away a few S-ranks because the numbers didn't match my overall instinct. A-ranks should also be hard to obtain. Unless there's obviously a lot of work put into it, most CCOs shouldn't get an A on the first rate. An A-rank indicates that the CCO is fairly close to balance and just needs a few tweaks. If it needs any major part of it completely changed, then it probably doesn't deserve an A.

Alrighty, that concludes my CCO rating guide! I hope this will be helpful to anyone new to rating.

Fourth, don't rate based on the creator. I made that mistake when I first started rating. I rated one of CG's CCOs, and since he was one of the few raters at the time, I went really easy on him and gave him an S. HPD came the next day and gave it a B-rank. Just because someone is good at judging balance doesn't mean they are perfect. I personally am really biased when it comes to my own CCOs. That the whole reason I need other people to rate them. So, once again, don't bring user bias into a rate.

by ThrawnFett

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