You just played a song and now it’s time to critique it!
This can be the hard part, but is EXTREMELY important for a thriving mapping community as thought out feedback not only helps every player looking for a good map to play, but it also really helps the mapper improve.
This article is meant to provide a better understanding of how to leave helpful reviews and how to understand the reviews you read. Don’t think that this means you have to spend a longer time writing reviews. Read this, get it in your brain and then just let it subconsciously guide your scores when you leave reviews.
This is the most subjective criteria on the list. After playing a map once or twice, this number should come from a quick gut-level reaction to the map you just played. Ask yourself “How much fun did I have playing this compared to other maps?” “Did the culmination of flow, patterns, etc. all add up to make this a fun map worth playing?” “How much do I want to play this map again?” “How easily would I recommend this map to someone else looking for an enjoyable map to play?”
To be fair, I would ask that last question with who the map was intended for in mind. Meaning, if you’re reviewing a pro level map, maybe ask that question about another pro-level player you’d be recommending it to.
Again, this is the most subjective criteria and after quickly doing a gut-level scan of those questions, you should grab the number that pops up in your head. Try not to overthink this one too much.
Rhythm solely consist of whether the blocks in a map are in time or not. Since this is one of THE most important parts of a map in a “rhythm game,” this should be a 5/5 on every map.
Sometimes I’ll come across a good map that has one or two blocks oddly timed that don’t really match up to the actual rhythm properly. I usually take a whole point off for each single block not timed well. That means if quite a few blocks aren’t in time, the score should be a 1/5. If this is the case, I usually don’t even finish playing a map. You can leave a review JUST with a Rhythm score of 1/5 (delete the other criteria) so your overall review is 1/5. Poor rhythm should null any other comments on the song and should be fixed before a mapper can receive a proper review.
Pattern quality can be slightly more subjective than Rhythm. For a mapper to stray from the proven “rules of patterns,” it’s a bit like the saying with writers where you “need to know the rules in order to break them.” This includes all those maps with patterns where you have to swing from the very top level block down, two of the same color down block’s side by side, etc. View the general good mapping techniques for a reference of more of these.
Since a lot of these patterns severally intrude on good “flow,” the “Pattern Quality” and “Flow” criteria’s share similarities (I’ll get to the difference in a minute).
The “Pattern Quality” score should come from more than just “does this map have “awkward patterns,” however. A map that plays it “too safe” with boring patterns should still only get a score of 2/5 or 3/5. To be 5/5, the patterns used in the map should really compliment the music, flow well from each other, have good variety AND not break any of the major “rules” of good mapping (unless it intentionally broke them within reason).
Exceptions to this could be in a meme map where a certain shape of blocks is the whole point of the song (and it still fairly works), or a pattern that tries to match a dance move (and still works) etc.
At the end of the day, remember that almost every rule can be broken and if the map still shows a “solid excellence” with what the mapper was trying to achieve, you may give the “pattern quality” score whatever you feel like the map deserves.
Flow, as mentioned before, is almost a subset of “Pattern Quality.” It’s extremely important in a good map, but is more the “opposite” of the blocks in a map. I once heard a musician say that excellent music doesn’t just deal with what the notes and instruments are doing, but with what the piece does with “silence.”
Flow really deals with the time “in between” the blocks… the “silence between the noise” if you will.
If your sabers left faint colorful traces as they move in Beat Saber, a good map with solid flow should have elegant, cursive type patterns in the “trace” as you look back. (Hey modders, I suddenly want a “tracer” mod 😉 )
Each pattern should be placed in a way that thinks through how your sabers will move from a pattern to the next one, like they’re doing some type of dance (Expert++ songs being a VERY fast dance 😉 )
You could have solid patterns, but if they aren’t positioned correctly, they cause you to have to jerk your movements at the last second in an awkward way, immediately breaking flow.
Even in Expert+++ level maps, flow is still important. The difficulty of the map shouldn’t come from the mapper purposely creating poor flow to make the map hard.
If the map has even a single odd, awkward movement, I usually give it a 4/5. Like Dancing, Flow can have a subjective element to it. One person might love the way you move while doing the Tango and others might only enjoy the flow of ballroom dancing.
The flow score should leave out personal preference as much as possible and just ask the question “was the way that your sabers moved from point A to point B thought out or did it seem haphazard?”
Besides a song being off rhythm, poor readability in a map can be one of the quickest reason’s to make a player rage quit the song. Face-level blocks in VR can be very disorienting, not to mention making the song unfairly hard. Difficulty should not come from not being able to see the blocks and needing to memorize a map first.
Readability issues is the equivalent of sitting a concert-level pianist down, giving them the sheet music to play, then spilling Whiteout all over the pages and asking them to play the piece.
Readability should be fairly easy to score. If a single note is behind other notes to the point of not being able to see it well in the song or behind a wall, etc. then I’ll immediately dock one point. If it happens a couple more times, I usually dock a couple more points.
For the final x/5 score, pretend like someone says “I have a hard time seeing blocks sometimes, how good is this map for me?” I put it in the context of a recommendation because difficulty should absolutely be accounted for. A difficult song moving at a fast BPM is designed for players of a harder difficulty. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the mapper did a poor job designing readable patterns (just like a concert pianist can still sightread a hard piece).
All that to say, use your own judgement, but review the “readability score” based on maps of the same difficulty level that achieved “good readability.” Difficulty does affect readability in general, but it shouldn’t alone change the readability score.
Level design consists of the placement of bombs, walls, the NJS (Note Jump Speed) selected and lighting. Mappers might think the easy way to avoid getting a low “level design score” would be to just avoid using bombs and walls at all and then also have decent lighting in their map.
While this would certainly be better than poorly placed walls and bombs (one of the easiest “rookie mapper” mistakes), there are certain songs that really need more than just blocks to make a song interesting.
Because of this, docking points on level design is slightly subjective. If a song has a musical interlude and just has 0 notes AND 0 walls or bombs (just a moving platform that the player stands and waits on), I would dock points. If that same musical interlude was full of crazy bombs that seemed randomly placed, I would also dock points.
Walls poorly placed can also severely mess up a song. As a general rule of thumb, due to player’s play spaces, a wall should never force a player to have to go to the farthest edges of a platform. You also don’t want to have them placed in ways that are near impossible to run to the spot in time.
Some mappers have also recently started to use “inverse walls” (walls that don’t hurt you, but are unavoidable and freak out the player). I don’t believe those lend to a polished level design experience and I often consider docking points unless used well (there are some reasons for doing it). An example of using it well might be if a part of the song builds, then feels like it goes “under water” or something. That might make sense to use that wall type for that specific situation. (author note: this was written about 5 months ago, and I’ve seen some really fantastic uses of inverse walls since then. Use only if you know what you’re doing)
Because lighting can be so tedious to do, I don’t always enforce a “super fancy lighting job” to get a 4/5 score, but I usually reserve a 5/5 level design score for a map that doesn’t break any “level design” rules AND has great lighting.
This should sum up the basics of the bsaber.com review criteria. I’ll end with this variation of the same quote used earlier:
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso
No matter how many rules you setup, there will be times to break them and when done intentionally, it can create something beautiful. Take this into account when you map or review another mapper that is truly entering the “artist” domain with their maps.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Thanks!