Replay Value: Sh*t and Shinolah.

I was taking a look at my Steam library this weekend and viewing my hours played for each game I own. One thing, well two things, became very clear to me. The first being is I play waaaaaay too much and the second, the games making up my favorites list all contain some element of replay value. Upon further reflection I realized that all my favorite current games and fondly looked upon games of my past all have aspects of replay value.

Replay value, the second word being just as important as the first. If you go to a bar and buy a double, once you finish it you have nothing to show for it (except maybe a slight buzz) and no way to enjoy it again unless you purchase another. A game that contains some facet to it that will bring you back  again and again means you have a game with replay value. It is not a game where you play through it once, blow your load, and decide never to call it again (See the indie game Braid. Great game but once you finish it, will you ever return to it?).

Trying to find an antithesis to games that contain some replay value is a difficult task in today’s gaming market and nothing against Braid because its focus was always the single player experience and the story that goes with it. Publishers and developers are well aware that a games digital shelf life is important to its profitability and gamers realize its important to their happiness and bank account. Replay value is now a part of almost every game released. Some games do it well and make it a focus of the games development cycle from start to finish. Some games try to just stick in some replay value so they can put it in quotes on the back of their retail copies or within their trailers (Cough! Cough! Ghostbusters: The Videogame.)

Shit

Two routes seem to be the the most effective in creating replay value. Creating a game that is centrally focused on mulitplayer (i.e. Battlefield Series) or a  game that is focused on game useful collectables and exploration (i.e. Diablo series). The games that seem to have the shelf life of a radioactive isotope have found a way to creatively do both, focus on multiplayer and in-game items.  Team Fortress 2 is the shining example of this method of creating and replay value. Its original release (in 2007) was as a much anticipated multiplayer shooter with a purchase cost. It has now transformed to a free-to-play online shooter with an item drop system and money making item cash shop. An example of a game focusing on exploration (crack) and items (meth) is the Re-Logic’s Terraria. This side, and up and down, scrolling adventure game was crafted from start to finish to use collecting shinies, creating shinies from those shinies and repeat, as its main focus and draw – with great success. It has 4 player multiplayer (Four player multiplayer seems to be a gaming norm now. So everyone, make sure you only have four friends.) where you can explore and hoard shinies together.

Shinolah

Games from here forward will continue to be multifaceted experiences that pay heed to our social (multiplayer), inquisitive (exploration) and addictive (shinies) character traits. Games are getting better at appealing to our guttural desires and our recession styled pocket books. Games, and their publisher and developers, are now replay value focused. Just a bit of caution though, some publishers and developers will be creating games that they want their customers to play persistently, enjoy and do contain quality replay value. Others will just try to market to you that their games contain quality multiplayer and item hunting adventuring.  So when considering a purchase whose marketing mentions keywords associated with replay value consider the following video:

So I leave it up to you fellow gamers (and those of you who haven’t picked up the hobby yet) to be able to determine shit from Shinola.

Battlefield

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The Unemployed Gamer Virus: Cure Found

Gaming has always been a hobby, an escape and a social meeting arena for me and my friends. Gaming has provided me a place where I can go and not bring any other thoughts with me,  my own personal sanctuary…unemployment briefly changed that. Unemployment has a tendency to twist the things you enjoy and turn them into moments of self conscious periods of doubt. Unemployment is a computer virus on my hobby.

Gaming in the evenings, after a day of stressful and frustrating work, was end-of-the-day therapy for me. Coupled with a hard workout, gaming was cure number two for the weekly grind. As long as I could get in 1 1/2 hours of gaming every two days, coupled with an hour of working out a day, I could usually go to bed and rest. I could usually make it to the weekend and be able to let everything go and enjoy those two precious days that start with a “S”. You would think with more time to enjoy my hobby then all the better?

For the first time, the first weekend not being gainfully employed, gaming did not bring the same meditation it once did. About 5 minutes in to my pastime that Friday afternoon a storm stealthy blew in and within its lightning strikes rode the unemployment virus striking out at my lightning rod brain. I  immediately began to doubt the efforts I put into job hunting over the last two days. I questioned if  I saw and applied for all the new jobs posted that week that even remotely related to my education and work experience. I immediately worried that I had missed touching base with someone in my network. I would worry that I wouldn’t hear back from someone in my network. I would worry, I would worry, I would worry, I would… die, in my game. Distracted and infected with the unemployment virus I let the walls to my sanctuary crumble and fall, making a ruin of my once great gaming monument.

I had to take a step back. I had to refocus my thought process. I had to be able to enjoy one of my favorite hobbies again. I had to reassure myself and cure this unemployment virus.  The first step was to look at my job hunting process I set up. I looked over the spreadsheet I created (complete with columns for links to job descriptions, company names, date applied,  follow up dates and contact names and their numbers/emails) and the jobs I had already applied to.  I reviewed my resume again, updated my LinkedIn profile and looked back over the two new cover letters (a generic and a targeted one) that I created a day before. I made sure I provided updates to all my social media accounts that had a place for a status – “Freshly unemployed and on the hunt. Any leads would be appreciated. Experience in journalism, marketing, corporate communication and much more. For details to my education and work history please touch base.” was noted openly and hopefully. I realized I was organized and running hard as if I was being whipped by Ron Turcotte himself. I also realized that keeping organized and on a routine similar to a regular work week would help bring back my peace of mind.

That Monday I got up at 7AM as I would usually do as if working. I worked out, showered, made coffee and then set down at my desk for my new job… job hunting. I applied to new job posts I felt qualified for. I updated my spreadsheet and checked on follow up dates and made a couple of calls. I checked the social networks for any mentions of possible employment and to double check if there was someone I hadn’t reached out to that I should. I ate lunch then checked if there were new posts for possible employment or emails in response to earlier applications.

I did my new temporary job into the afternoon and then stopped. I saved my spreadsheets and other documents, logged out of  my social media sites and closed down my email. I then started up Steam and joined a friend already in a Team Fortress 2 game. I shot ‘noobs’ in the face and burned their backs with a flamethrower. I destroyed sentry guns and teleporters. I checked for spies in our base and air pushed back temporary invulnerable opponents. I sneaked out a doorway and off a ledge, burned half the opposing team to death from behind and pushed the game ending bomb-on-a-cart to victory as the hated pyro.

How I dress for gaming success - Team Fortress 2's 'Pyro'.

I did all this and thought about nothing else. I cured the unemployment gamer virus with organization, practical effort and the reassurance that I am doing (and will continue to do) all I can to once again be a gainfully employed gamer. I enjoyed gaming.


What’s Your Gaming Juice?

You want that gaming edge but can’t afford or have a moral issue against cocaine? You know steroids don’t provide the focus required for an epic gaming run by evidence of the 5 or 6  keyboards you have smashed your sweaty, meaty fingers through. What is your gaming juice? Well here are a sampling of some with additional details on what time of day they are best for and for what type of game.

Coffee flavored anything is the proper medicine for morning gaming.

Coffee:  If you just got up and you have the urge to play but not the mind motivation, then coffee is your cure. Coffee has always been the ‘wrong side of the bed’ alleviator and it is the morning gamers cup (or 5) of gaming juice. There is something about the flavor of coffee and early morning sunrises that go hand-and-hand and coupled with a brain draining RPG, it is the perfect recipe for gaming success. If you have the extra funds splurge for a homemade coffee concoction, with the extra shots of espresso, to get you to a 10th level character plateau. When you start to feel the initial effects of the gourmet brew fade, grind your own pot of coffee so you can grind to level 15.

 

From experience, Tazo's green ginger tea is the best choice for providing hours of aid.

Ginger Tea:  3 hours deep into a Civilizations 5 [Civ 5] marathon and your eyes are already tired and blurry. You can’t focus on what Wonder to build in what city because you are dizzy. You don’t know which city to defend from Gandhi’s surprising wrath because your stomach is in knots and feeling woozy. There is a cure for all of those symptoms that will allow you to turn back Gandhi, build your Wonder, and refocus your peepers on the changing tides of Civ 5 diplomacy. A caffeinated ginger tea (no, not a drink brewed from hairs of a redheaded person) is the ancient days cure all and a current day aid to extended gaming sessions. Gingers healing powers’ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger] are numerous and perfect for those who get a little nauseous from rapid eye movement induced by rapid monitor movements so, it’s also useful for First Person Shooter [FPS] marathons. Make sure to use a version of ginger tea that does include caffeine so you can focus on your game without the negative effects of motion sickness and have the caffeinated energy to make it through a eight hour plus Civ 5 map. Tea used in this way should be sipped like wine at a pace of 1 cup per hour or hour 1/2 of game play.

The only energy drink better than Chuck Norris's...an energy drink from Chuck Norris's beard.

Energy Drinks:  So here are the heavy hitters. The super sugary sweetened caffeine bombs. They pick you up quick and hard but let you down dirty and messy. They are the hookers of caffeinated drinks, cheap, plentiful and a few… are actually tasty. If you are a FPS fan-boy then you are very familiar with these mistresses of the night, these caned caffeinated vigor venereals. From the ugly stepchild Monster, the world wide branded Redbull, to the champagne of energy drinks, Bawls – all are good at what they are supposed to do, wake you the f*ck up! From the time you yell “CLEAR”, like you are getting ready to jolt your heart with a defibrillator, to your crash, similar to a heroine junky coming down, you are a gaming animal. From a twitch based shooter like Counter Strike to a more multi-class based shooter like Team Fortress 2, energy drinks are your temporary solution. Just be prepared to crash like Windows Vista.

Bawls, put it in your mouth.

Vodka/Bawls:  Is it the weekend? Are you and your friends meeting up online for an epic FPS shootout? Want to keep the conversation social and entertaining and give yourself an edge over the online competition? My favorite and most effective gaming juice blend takes the aforementioned Bawls energy drink plus a top shelf vodka and gives you pure gaming euphoria. First and foremost, moderation, this gaming juice is only effective if paced out and mixed properly. For each 10 oz. nubby bottle of Bawls mix ONE SHOT of vodka over ice. Yes, just one shot. For this gaming juice to work properly you need to ease into it with about one mixed drink per hour until you hit that gaming peak performance that provides equal parts focus, quick twitch ability and booze infused ‘Bawls’. Once you hit this prime time intoxication (you will realize it because you will be at the top of the player score screen) you should ease off the vodka to half a shot per 10 ounces of Bawls. This will help you hold you in the gaming juice zone and extend the positive effects of it. Be warned, if you do not moderate your alcohol intake as mentioned your peak performance will quickly crumble into a mountain slide and there will be no coming back.   Be warned, you will hit this wall no matter what, but the more you regulate your intake the longer it will last. How will you know you’ve past your gaming juice prime? You will be at the bottom of the list of player point totals, your kill to death ratio will be horrendous, and that noob, who just spray and prayed you when you came around the corner, he/she will be setting just above you on the player score screen. The solution, go to bed.

Top 10 Cures for Weapon Disassociation

This week I follow up my last post regarding rewarding in-game weapons. Below you will find 10 in-game weapons that effectively present appearance; sound associated with the weapon’s usage; and provide visually accurate/corresponding feedback when fired. This list is not definitive, and limited to FPS games, but all the weapons listed below do meet, and exceed, the prerequisites of a superior in-game weapon.

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Land Shark Gun

10 ) Land Shark Gun / Armed and Dangerous: A gun based off a classic Saturday Night Live skit that makes you laugh almost every time it is fired.

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Spinfusor

9 ) Spinfusor (disk launcher) / Tribes 2: It reminds me of the Aerosmith infused arcade game Revolution X where you fired CDs and LaserDiscs at your enemies. Yes, LaserDiscs were a weapon – at least they were good for something.

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8 ) Gravity Gun / Half Life 2: Most of the fun comes from seeing what you can use as a weapon. Kill someone with the body of someone you already killed? Yes, you can do that.

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7 ) Auto Shotgun / Left 4 Dead: One of the best solutions to someone yelling “Tank!” into your headphones.

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Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

6 ) Lightsaber / Jedi Knight series: “A more elegant weapon from a more civilized age.”


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5 ) Rail Gun / Quake 3 Arena: Also a pretty good nickname to give your penis.

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Grenade Launcher

4 ) Grenade Launcher / Quake 2: Simplicity in design, simplicity in sound and simplicity in effect – a perfect example of form and function.

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Shrink Ray

3 ) Shrink Ray / Duke Nukem Series: What’s better than Pig Cops? Mini Pig Cops that you squish beneath your boots! Come get some!

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2 ) Sniper Rifle / Team Fortress 2: When up against it you are constantly looking for the red dot tell. When behind its scope you hide the dot just enough for it to be missed. One of the most beautiful head shot generators in the gaming world. Mind your head wanker!

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1 ) Super Shotgun / Doom II: Double barrel all da’ way!

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Just missing the cut were the Pipe Bomb from the Left 4 Dead games; the Tracer Dart Gun from Battlefield Bad Company 2; and what would of been the third weapon from the Quake series, the Rocket Launcher from Quake II. Let me know what weapons should of challenged my top ten ways to cure weapon disassociation in the comments.