Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Myth of Hardcore

The title of “hardcore gamer” is not an identity; it is a temporary state of being. Many people start playing video games, and some of them keep playing more and more of them until they develop skills and tastes that place them into the “hardcore” category. Hardcore gamers stay hardcore for years or decades, and then their reflexes fade or their interests shift and they find themselves enjoying different things.

There’s this mistaken feeling among players who self-identify as “hardcore” that they’ve been left behind, that there’s this shift in the culture of development that has abandoned them. This is mostly nonsense. It’s true that for about a decade, most every game was made for a hardcore player… but that decade was the worst one in the history of video game design.
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The Player in Oblivion

Many game designers are so enamored with their game that they neglect the player.

I’ve been sick for the past week or two, so I’ve been getting very little done and pursuing rather escapist past-times. One of the unhealthier things I’ve done is play a lot of Bethesda Game Studios’ Oblivion. A whole lot of it. Steam says I’ve put in 39.3 hours, and I’ve only been playing for four or five days.

It’s an escapist game that appeals to my urges for exploration, completion, and optimization, even if I feel the need to patch the hell out of it. I’ve got 39 mods installed for it, all graphical upgrades, bug fixes, or interface tweaks. People no longer look like corpses and most of the bugs are fixed, making the game quite playable.

As much as I clearly enjoy the game, it suffers from a fatal flaw: the developers sacrificed user experience in their pursuit of their game system. Oblivion has an elaborate, interesting setting and backstory, an impressively large and detailed world, and a complex set of mechanics. But it’s all a lot less fun than it should be.
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TASOAE: 036

This comic printed sideways, yes; but it was also printed on the Flipside, the paper’s humor page. The Flipside was printed upside down relative to the rest of the paper, on the back. Like any college humor page, the quality varied dramatically. I like to think that my time as humor editor was a high point in the page’s illustrious history. Before me, there was a tendency for humor editors low on content to “ironically” print a black box on the page. I mostly managed to keep the page from containing any bigotry, and even did some genuine satire. The current state of things is decent, from what I can see.

The music being played is “Soramimi no Cake,” the opening theme to the Azumanga Daioh anime. I hear the US military uses it at Guantanamo Bay during their torture sessions (not really).

The Obsolescence of Lives

I twitted that “restarting a long multi-screen level on death” and “limited lives” are examples of retro mechanics that should stay dead. I thought that I would expand a bit on what I meant.

In part, this is a corollary to my past writings on challenge and punishment. In my definition, challenge is when a task is difficult to accomplish because it requires a high amount of skill, ability, or experience. Punishment is when failing a task imposes a burden on the player, usually in the form of lost time.
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TASOAE: 035

Every year, the housekeepers… what? Yeah, we had housekeepers in our dorms. They vacuumed, emptied the trash, and washed our bedclothing. It seems pretty posh, but keep in mind that at Rose, many dorms would have become infested with vermin if not for the housekeepers. People had enough trouble bathing at least once a week and washing their laundry at least once a month.

Where was I? Right. Every year, the housekeepers would put up a rather impressive Christmas light display in the basement of BSB Hall, where there were few student rooms but plenty of stuff like the lounge and the laundry room/kitchen. It was awesome, but those of us who are of the taller persuasion had to dodge and weave to avoid getting entangled.

TASOAE: 034

Cthulhu is cryptic and evil; the world is a featureless white void. Sophomore year is the busiest year at Rose, and at this point I must have been both feeling the coursework and feeling the limitations of my premise. For Year 3, I reinvented the comic quite a bit, switching the focus to two named (!) characters, but I managed to rally a bit with the second half of Year 2 and add some more creativity. Still, these comics are probably the height of the dark ages.

Eidos and Monaco

“The most unsettling thing about it,” said Monaco, “is that if you have Eidos simulate our own world, it means it’s simulating another Eidos. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that there is an endless chain of nearly-identical Eidos-frames, stretching into infinity. The chances that we are in the original, ‘real’ frame are infinitesimal. We have simulated ourselves into fictionality.”

TASOAE: 033

I still think this is a cool fact. On the right, you can see a sketchy rendering of Rose’s rather complex dining hall meal tray disposal and distribution system. It’s a carousel that turns in front of a wide window, with racks on which students place their trays. The trays slowly revolve around, and end up in the dishwashing area, where they are collected by workers and cleaned. With a quick Google search, I was unable to find an example of this product. I found plenty of carousel-style automated dish- and tray-washing systems, but Rose’s device exists purely to provide a high-bandwidth way to dispose of dirty trays and bring them to the dishwashing staff, who then presumably moved them by hand to sinks or other washing devices.

Why is gentleman so worried about the spoons? In the Rose dining hall, the spoons are sharper than the knives.