Sunday, June 21, 2009

What is this place?

I have decided to, for various reasons, open an individual blog here. I was an author for a website called Domus Ludorum, but my fellow authors abandoned the project, and the site came under heavy attack from spammers. I tired of trying to combat the spam with limited administrative privileges, and of being the sole source of content on what was meant to be a five person endeavor. So I am transferring some content here, with the intention of following through with new content once that is complete. These are the Games of My Life.

This blog is an ambitious, personal project as outlined below:

My goal is to post a game review of every game I have ever beaten in my life. Here's some answers to possible questions about the endeavor.

Q: What constitutes "beating" a game?
A: I am considering a game as beaten when it has been completed start to finish on (at least) the default difficulty setting, without cheating. For games that allow the player to continue playing after the story's ending, the story's ending will be considered to be the "finish" for the sake of this exercise.

Q: What constitutes cheating?
A: Cheating includes the use of cheat codes, glitch exploits, patch workarounds, save states, and et cetera. Save states are not always cheating, however. Many of the games I have completed have been played via emulator, as I have no access to many older game systems (much less their games). In these cases, if I must leave my computer for a while, I'd rather not leave my emulator running in the meantime. As such, I will use a save state and load it upon return, as a sort of extended pause feature. There are also a number of games that feature unlimited continues. In this case I will often use a save state at the spawn after a continue has been used (the idea being to simply skip the game over/continue screens and get right back to gameplay). Uses like these provide no gameplay advantage and are merely a convenience to the player - as such I do not consider them cheating.

Q: Does this potentially include any kind of video game at all?
A: No. Only games that can be beaten (or have all their story content completed) count. An MMORPG like World of Warcraft can never truly be beaten, and as such will never be on this list. An exception might be if the MMO ceases development and release of new content, in which case completing the highest challenge might be considered "beating" the game. This will be handled on a case-by-case basis, but is unlikely to occur. Furthermore, as a rule, only games that are or have been available for retail can apply. This includes full versions of old shareware games (the original Doom was shareware, for instance), but does not include flash games or their derivatives, even if available as a purchased download. Browser games and internet games of that sort are therefore excluded, even in their full versions. There may be cases in which completing such a game is more of an achievement than completing a given retail game, but I needed a clear line and this was it.

Q: Why only include games you have beaten? Why not ones you've played a reasonable amount as well?
A: For one thing, that drastically increases the number of games I would need to review. For another, I believe that one can only get a full and complete sense of a game after actually completing it. If you have beaten a game I am reviewing, you will be comforted by knowing that I struggled through the same things you did and really understand what I'm talking about. If you haven't, my review is more reliable, as it comes from someone who has fully experienced this game and is not based solely on initial impressions.

Q: So how many games is this, anyway?
A: While at first the undertaking sounds intense, generally there is the sense afterward that "Well, how many games can that really be?" The fact of the matter is, most people who would call themselves gamers, even casually, have beaten a lot more games than they realize. The difference with me is that I've actually kept track, and have completed quite a bit. As of this post I have completed 225 games that match the above criteria, and this number is always rising (albeit slowly nowadays - the current number can be found on the blog's sidebar menu). So your first instinct was correct - this is a LOT of games to cover.

Q: What will be the format of these reviews?
A: I have settled into a comfortable format, I believe, with these reviews. The general format will be a coverage of the gameplay, the general plot, what stood out to me as good or bad about the game, and will feature probably on average 4-6 screenshots of gameplay (of me playing the game myself, when possible), complete with rollover text and captions. At the end there will be an overall score out of 20.

Q: Why out of 20? Why not 10, or 5?
A: A scale that rates out of 5 offers too little flexibility, I feel, in giving impressions of the game. An exception is when the scale increments every half point instead of every whole point (i.e. 3, 3.5, 4, etc). But then it is essentially utilizing a 10 point scale, and no longer a 5 point scale. Similarly, most reviewers utilize a 10 point scale that increments every half point, giving 20 ratings. I use the 20 point scale incrementing in whole numbers for the sake of uniqueness and to do away with the half point system.

Q: Is 10 the average score then?
A: Probably not. A game receiving 10/20 is completely mediocre. There is nothing special to recommend it, and its shortcomings aren't so severe as to make it painful to play. The average score according to my calculations thus far is 14/20. This is due to a couple reasons. For one, game companies are more accountable now. In the 80s, companies could release anything and if it was well marketed, it would probably sell. Think terrible games with movie tie-ins, that sort of thing. Now there is easy access to multiple reviews of any game, often a day or two before its actual release. Consumers are better avoiding awful games, so companies are making a higher quality of product on average. Secondly, because this is a list of games I have beaten, many times if a game is not very good, I will not complete it. There are exceptions, of course. But I generally don't seek out terrible games to play and finish, and the scores reflect that.

Q: Is there some sort of order to how these reviews will be released?
A: Yes and no. I will strive to avoid overloading a certain genre or time period with successive reviews. That is, doing 15 reviews in a row of NES games likens me to a retro reviewer, and doing 8 shooters in a row gets boring for me and you both. I will attempt to vary the order of reviews to keep things relatively fresh, although I have beaten more "old" games than newer ones in general.

Q: What about games in a series? Will you follow any chronology?
A: Mostly yes. I will follow the chronology of the games (or in some cases of their release dates) when reviewing games in the same series. This means I will review Mega Man 1 before any other Mega Man game, for instance. However, I will not review multiple Mega Man games in a row. For a series like the Final Fantasy series, I will address the "numbered" games in their order, but the spinoff games (Tactics, Crystal Chronicles, etc) are fair play at anytime, as they do not fit into the core chronology of the whole. Unfortunately this also means you may have to wait on me to finish certain games! For instance, to return to the FF series, I have beaten the original Final Fantasy on the NES. I've also completed many of the later numbered games. However, I have never beaten Final Fantasy II (mainly because it's really not good...really). So I'll have to get around to playing and finishing that one before I can throw up reviews of the later games.

Q: Why does it matter that much to not sway from that order?
A: For a game series with storylines that overarch through multiple installments, the need is obvious. For games like Final Fantasy or Mega Man, the need is not there from that particular angle. However, I feel there is a lot of value in "building up." That is, usually new installments of game series add new features to the series bit by bit as the games progress. It serves the review format better and creates less confusion to simply discuss how the game differed from the previous one (and allows a closer appreciation of the changes), than to spend a paragraph every time relating the features of all the games surrounding it and where it fits in.

Q: What's the timetable for the release of these reviews?
A: The first few ones should come out by the end of June 2009, I'd expect. After that, I'm not holding myself to any given timetable for releasing them. I'm not going to say once a week or twice a month or anything, because I don't know what my schedule will look like, what my motivation will be like, and so forth. The reviews will come out when I churn them out, whenever that may be.

Q: So we just have to check back here every day to see?
A: Ayup. Bookmark it. Takes two seconds to check each day.

Q: What about reviews of things other than games?
A: I don't intend to review anything other than games on this site. The idea is to establish a review database of all these games, and attempting to branch into other content would cloud that somewhat. There is a chance I might do other game-related things, but don't count on it. The reviews are the point of this site and it's best to keep focused.

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