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HardQuor Blog

Am I a pansy?

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So I'm playing through Dead Space for the first time, and I'm only just now starting to get used to the atmosphere of the game. after taking an extremely nervous 5 1/2 hours to get to chapter 5, I've got to say, not since RE2 or Code Veronica have I been so trepidatious while playing a game. Sometimes, my heartrate will increase and I'll be so stressed out that I have to take a break and calm down with some Chessmaster Live (Never thought I'd be thanking a Horror game for improving my chess skills :P) Needless to say, I'm extremely impressed with the production of this game as well as it's design.

But this isn't about how much I love Dead Space and other horror games, this is about how easily I get frightened by them. And I'm not just talking about the cheap jump-out-at-you-while-you-think-it's-safe scares, I mean, I really crawl through levels with my weapon pointed in front of me, hesitating for upwards of a whole minute before entering the next room. Only after I've died a time or two and learned the room can I run in with guns blazing. I can even remember playing Unreal single player for the first time at a friend's house and my friends laughing because I was playing through it so slowly.

But like I said, the more the hours pass, the more I'm getting used to the atmosphere, and the faster I'm running through rooms. In my defense though, I've played a few horror games that didn't phase me at all, Dino Crisis, Silent Hill, Resident Evil 3 and RE4 were all extremely light on the scares. (To be fair though, it has been many a year since I've played some of those titles, so my memory may be failing.)

So am I alone or what? Do you guys think that there's no game on Earth that could ever scare you? Or are there some games that you love because of how well they scare the crap out of you? I'm hoping I'm not alone, I have to believe that an extremely well-produced game can be scary, because I can't remember the last time I had to take actual breaks to cope with increasing blood pressure O_o;

Ch-ch-ch-Chip and Dale!

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Finally! After what seems to have been a conspiracy to mod me every time i got to 90+% of level 20, I'm NO LONGER a Metal Slime! Now i'm an animated, possibly homoerotic squirrel!

Huzzah! :lol:

I mean, honestly, who could worry about rescuing woodland critters and narrowly escaping human captivity with a smokin' hottie like Gadget around? Only homoerotic squirrels, that's who.

A New Union

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I've been posting a lot in Off-Topic forums the past few weeks and I've noticed that there are a pretty fair number of users with zunes. Many more than i would have figured, anyways. So of course, being a zune owner (and lover) myself, I find myself wanting to see all of their zune cards and badges. Microsoft really got it right when they decided provide the zune with an xbox live-esque, community-driven experience and then linked the zune and live service together. Where they screwed up, imo, is in not pushing the zune side like they did with xbox live. That's why I'm thinking about creating a new union for the zune owners and/or enthusiasts of Gamespot. A place where everyone can exchange their zune user names, musical opinions, new artists, albums, or singles, and just general music-oriented or zune-related chat. The only problem is that I have no idea what running a union entails. If someone out there is familiar with that whole scene, lemme know if I'm in over my head, please :P On the bright side, naming it should be easy enough, I'm already leaning towards "The zUnion" :P

New hobby?

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I really need a healthier hobby.. I've been thinking a lot about archery, lately. The girlfriend is into it, but i don't want to blow a benjamin on a bow and then find out i don't enjoy it. Decisions..

It always happens.

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When you least expect it, and when it will hurt the most:

anyone wanna pitch in for a new one? Maybe my rent is more important? Le sigh.

What makes games fun?

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Just recently I made a forum post in the (fantastic) Thinking Outside the Box union boards, in which I openly pondered what aspects made games fun. The following is a more structured (and grammatically editted) detail of my discoveries.

As an aspiring game designer, I've studied a lot of different aspects of a lot of different games in an effort to see what I think sets the truly clas(s)ic titles from the yearly crop o' crap. I'll impart my opinion, naturally, but I'm really more interested in what other people think.

From what I can gather, it all comes down to two factors. These factors consist of further aspects that are often discussed, but they all contribute to immersion and suspense. Probably not the two factors you were expecting, but hear me out, I've put a lot of thought into this.

We all know what immersion is, when a game's setting is so deeply crafted that you blindly accept that it is a living, breathing world on that screen. You invest feelings into characters that don't exist, and you're never disappointed because they exist to you. Immersion covers a lot of the main elements that is covered by most magazines' and websites' reviews. Sound, music, graphics, story, controls. It's the meat of the game, and this shouldn't really be a surprising revelation of what makes games fun.

The real discovery I made was when I was trying to analyze just what the hell made Geometry Wars so damned fun. No single aspect made it very noteworthy, and a lot of reviewers would leave this mystery factor up to a value lazily labeled "fun factor". And then it hit me: Suspense is the mystery fun factor.

I'll try to explain myself via anecdote: As previously mentioned, I find the act of shooting hundreds upon hundreds of geometrical enemies into oblivion without respite a fun endeavor to engage in several minutes at a time, several times a week. One phenomenon I've encountered during most of my Geometry Wars sessions is that I'll try my best to get an achievement or certain benchmark, whether it be to survive to 400k or score 1 million. During these goals, if ever I have it in my head that it's just not going to work out on this run, I find myself heading back to the main menu to start a new run, since continuing would be unfun.

And here is where my hypothesis is born. If what makes games (like GW) cease being fun is certainty of fate, then logically, what makes games fun is uncertainty of fate. More concisely put, suspense makes games fun. Think about it. How many times have you played a guitar hero song, trying to make 5 stars and restarted after missing 3 consecutive 4x streaks? Up until then, you were hellbent on getting it beat, even though you were unsure if you would make it or not. Once you knew you wouldn't make it, the magic was gone, you're determination vanished, only to be found anew on your next run when that uncertainty returned.

In competitive games, you're never sure if you're going to beat your opponents until either the game is over or the skill gap between you and your opponent(s) has become apparent. At this point, the game is either over or (worse) has ceased to be fun. It's always been my opinion that people who play those much better or lesser than themselves and claim to be "playing for fun" are lying, either to themselves or others. At that point, you're either playing to get better (which would constitute training, which i do not define as fun) or just enjoying your time with friends (in which case you're not playing for fun, you were having fun before the game started).

Suspense can be seen even more easily in story-driven games. In fact, that's what the story is there for, to keep you wondering what plot point will unfold next. Will Mario ever find the correct castle? Does Sonic ever defeat Robotnik for good? Will Solid Snake defeat Liquid in time to escape? You sure as hell aren't going to put the controller down and walk away from such pressing matters, are you? Of course, not.

I'm sure my juvenile examination of the essence of games will not sit well with many of you, but that's OK. That's why I'm posting this, I want to know what you think about what makes games fun. Educate me, I'm open to more and better ideas than my own. I hope to read some well-formed opinions. :)

My first review about a game so good, I had to blog it. Puzzle Quest.

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While 2 weeks ago everyone else in the world was losing their minds (but mostly just their patience) over Halo 3's release, there was a small yet loyal group that would have to wait just a little longer to see their hay day. And now that day has come, and it was everything that at least I had hoped it would be.

And for those of you who are too indulged in the commercial mainstream... Well, it won't be too long before you start hearing praises for this absolutely brilliant meshing of puzzle and RPG genres. While effectively just a Bejeweled clone, Puzzle Quest successfully integrates a simple, yet deep combat system into the oft-imitated puzzle cla(s)sic. Toss in a well thought out elves-goblins-and-dwarves-fantasy story with anime-inspired art direction, and you have yourself a puzzle game cla(s)sic on par with, dare i say it, Tetris.

This release of Puzzle Quest for Live Arcade marks the first time this fantastic game has seen the light of day unmarred by it's port development. While the Nintendo DS version had relatively few game-affecting drawbacks, the PSP, alternatively had the worst bug of all, rendering companions literally useless. This version marries the best of the 2, the superior graphics, sound, and layout of the PSP version, without the bugs that came along with it. But now we have something new to rave about. Multiplayer support via Xbox Live.

While this feature was a really a no-brainer and probably the best reason to be featured on XBLA, i did find something to complain about. It's not a big gripe, and honestly, could be a mistake on my part, but i found that that the lack of voice communication support really took away from the multiplayer experience that i was expecting. Truthfully, I'm thankful for even having multiplayer at all, but it feels to me a little too much like playing a slower, sometimes less, sometimes more intelligent A.I. Aside from that, the developer did well in adding balancing features such as level restrictions, and handicapping (where the lower level character gets adjusted stats, but no new spells).

My only other minor gripe was that we see virtually no changes other than the addition of multiplayer and the removal of bugs. There are no new enemies (keep in mind I'm only about 10-11 hours in) no new quests, no new items, no new ****s, and no new spells. Although there is a new difficulty setting (at least, i think it's new) that provides more or less exp relative to the difficulty setting, it really isn't enough to provide a new experience for veteran players.

After all's said and done, Puzzle Quest is still among the best of the best, and for 1200MSP (US$15 ), this title is an absolute MUST for any self-respecting Puzzle/RPG fan. That statement goes tenfold for players that have yet to experience it's awesomeness.

Do yourself a favor. Get it now.