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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 02:24:17     -    Audiosurf (PC)

    Gamelog Entry #2:

    GAMEPLAY:
    I must say that after playing it for a couple days (read as 15+ hours), I definitely have a much better grasp on the game than in the beginning. The fast paced zones that were just murderously hard in the beginning have become less difficult –still a challenge though– and I have even made several top score boards. I have figured out that I can spread out ‘fins’ and capture the blocks on all the tracks at the same time by holding down the left mouse button, and I have also figured out that in particularly difficult and/or cramped situations I have the ability to jump and thereby avoid blocks that I need to.
    I still have not tried out all of the puzzles and mostly stick to Mono Pro (edit for my previous post: it was supposed to be Mono Pro not Ninja Mono).

    DESIGN:
    Naturally the levels of this game are very varied, since each level is based directly on a particular song; so unless you play the same song each level will be different. Meaning that if you have a lot of music you would, potentially, be able to play a different level each time by playing a different song from your collection. The game world, or each track in this case, is very colorful, most of the time having the color change depending on the intensity of the song that you are playing.
    This game’s main challenges are sensorimotor (hand-to-eye coordination), spatial reasoning (seeing the blocks and knowing how to react to them based on your position), pattern recognition, (grabbing up blocks in such a way as to get the highest amount of points), and sequential reasoning (planning ahead to either grab certain blocks or not to). The last three you pretty much get dumped into one because you have to look ahead at which blocks are coming up, be able to decide if you can grab them, and also plan ahead to obtain the combo and/or bonuses you want.
    As I said in my previous gamelog, this is an online game so there always exists a social challenge that is backed up by a performance conflict of wanting to score higher than your friends and every one else playing the game and/or your favorite song.

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    Mar 6th, 2008 at 01:55:46     -    Audiosurf (PC)

    Gamelog Entry #1:

    SUMMARY:
    Audiosurf is a puzzle racer that adapts music into a race track; it’s like being able to interact with musical visualizations. This race track gets filled with blocks that the player has to either collect or dodge depending on which puzzle he or she is playing. The speed on the player’s racer is determined by the instantaneous tempo of the song being played.

    GAMEPLAY:
    There are three difficulty levels: easy, medium, and hard. The difficulty setting determines the amount of blocks that are on the race track. In all of the different puzzles there is some sort of penalty for either hitting blocks that are not supposed to be hit or overfilling one or more of your collecting lanes with blocks. Hence, when there are a lot of blocks and you are going through a particularly fast zone you really have to watch what you collect or be penalized. Blocks disappear –and turn into points– when there are three or more adjacent blocks in the collecting lanes; however even if this condition is met the blocks don’t instantly disappear, but remain there for a little while giving you time to collect more and receive a higher bonus.
    This game really ropes you in because you are able to enjoy all of your favorite music and solve puzzles that are dependant on your favorite music. While this game is available both offline and online, it is much more fun to play online since you can compare your top scores with everyone else’s. At the end of each level as you wait for the statistics to load you hope that you scored high enough and obtained enough bonuses to make it into the top scores list.
    I haven’t tried out all the different puzzles, I mostly prefer playing Ninja Mono in which the player has to collect all the colorful blocks and avoid the grey blocks.

    DESIGN:
    I think this a very innovative idea, but more importantly it is completely original (or at least I haven’t seen anything like it before). I like how the designer allowed for the game to be controlled in many different ways: the mouse, arrow keys, ASDF-keys for direct lane switching, and even being able to hook up an X-Box controller. The learning curve is a little steep though especially if most of the music you have is very fast paced. There isn’t too much documentation, but the puzzles are described enough that the player has a general understanding of what each one is before playing it.

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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 17:51:19     -    Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC)

    Gamelog Entry #2:

    GAMEPLAY:
    Since I’ve been playing Morrowind for several years I’m going to discuss what happens after you’ve played the game once through and are starting a second character. Something I should mention is that Morrowind has two expansions Tribunal and Bloodmoon, which I have also played through. I didn’t mention these in my first entry, but I will be commenting on them here.
    WARNING: There will be SPOILERS.

    In terms of character creations you will likely choose the one with the best bonuses for later in the game and you will create a custom job class so that the skill you used the most the first time around will be either major or minor. You will also know that at around level five you will be attacked by assassins as per Tribunal’s start, thus you tend not to worry about buying, finding, and/or stealing armor for your character. You will know that spells are the most powerful attacks in the beginning of the game; that being the case choosing a character race that has more mana is favorable.
    Overall, game play tends to be more rushed when you already know where you need to go and what you need to do to complete certain quests. When I was replaying Morrowind several parts of the main quest that I remembered taking a really long time I managed to do really quickly. Also you tend not to interact with the NPCs that much anymore, since you pretty much know what they are going to say and you know what the background story is.

    Let’s talk about the two expansions: Tribunal and Bloodmoon.
    Of course, there are new items, new NPCs, a ton of new side-quests, and all-new monsters. There is a new storyline in each of the expansions, in which Tribunal’s storyline lightly builds on Morrowind’s while Bloodmoon is completely stand-alone. One thing you don’t see, which could have been really good, is new dimensions to quests. Like maybe have more puzzle-type quests rather than the straight forward “go kill a certain monster and reap the rewards” type of quests.
    Both expansions add a degree of difficulty to the game. The enemies are stronger than they are in the original game and there is a lot higher chance that they appear in mass. A short-coming of the original was that 99% of the time you would fight enemies one-on-one and while this continues to hold true for a large part of the expansions there are a lot more times when you are forced to fight groups of enemies (this applies more to Bloodmoon).


    DESIGN:
    I don’t know whether this is a short-coming in the design of the game, but it is very easy to exploit several features and elements (training, enchanting items, corpus disease stat boosters, finding powerful unique items, and getting millions of gold) of the game in order to make your character very powerful in the very beginning and then just breeze through the game. On one hand this makes the game too easy and less fun to play, but on the other it makes several tedious factors (for example, walking with the speed of a snail) go away quickly. There is a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained from being able to exploit some small developer over-sights (like making yourself a second Wraithguard; if you know what you’re doing).
    One thing I found that is definitely a short-coming is that if you have the best items (enchantments of items included) you’re practically invincible. Resist magic 100+% really does make you impervious to all magic spells along with many weapon enchantments.
    Thus, interaction with the game heavily depends on whether or not you have played it before or not. If you haven’t then in the beginning of the game you spend a lot of time exploring, which is probably exactly what the developer wanted to happen. However, if you’ve played it before then you tend to skip many things and go straight for things and quests that you know are the most fun and/or will give you the best experience. Traveling via walking pretty much goes out the window, if you can help it, unless it’s to find a really good item. If you get particularly lazy and/or bored you start to travel using the console (pretty much cheating).
    In that sense, the exploration and interaction elements of the game are dulled and one could argue that the game is less fun to play, but I would disagree with that. I think that the variety of races, skills, and different low-level character builds (I say low-level because in the end all your skills are maxed out and it doesn’t matter who you started out as) make the game fun to play; as long as you don’t keep doing the same character build over and over.
    The fun and attractiveness of the game really starts to wind down once you’ve become a “god,” done everything there is to do, and been everywhere interesting. While you will probably never completely dissolve the fog-of-war on the map, you have to realize that more than 50% of map is just terrain with nothing on it, no caves, dwellings, tombs, ruins, or strongholds; and personally uncovering a lava pit from the fog-of-war is pretty god damn boring. There are just no more accidental finds or small nifty features that really make you stop for a moment and think, “hey, that’s cool, I never knew…”

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    Feb 8th, 2008 at 16:50:54     -    Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC)

    Gamelog Entry #1:

    SUMMARY:
    Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind is a single player RPG in which you control a character from a race of your choice (Argonian, Breton, Dark Elf, High Elf, Imperial, Khajit, Nord, Orc, Redguard, and Wood Elf). In the huge game-world, there is a main story and quests that you must go through to beat the game as well as many side quests. Even after playing the game for four years I haven’t explored everything in the game.

    GAMEPLAY:
    Morrowind is a first-person RPG, though you have a choice to switch views to third-person, but it’s a lot more intuitive and comfortable to play in first-person. The basic WASD control schema is used for moving around with keys around it for auxiliary functions; some of these include jumping, drawing a weapon, using spells, and the like.

    The game begins with a race selection (each race has different bonuses to skills and attributes), birth-sign selection (each giving a different bonus; mostly in the form of a spell), and job selection (here you can either choose from a list of preexisting ones or create a custom job; this defines your major and minor skills). If playing the game for the first time you will likely go for a preexisting job class that you think will suit you best. After this you are told to go visit an NPC in another town, who then tells you to explore the world. This sequence provides a good introduction to many elements of the game like traveling, talking to NPCs to get extra information as well as background story, and starts you off on several side quests that help you explore the world more.

    The giant game-world really sucks you in because you want to explore, do quests, and get new and better items. Once you start the main quests, you get even more into the game as a whole new segment of the game is opened up and you learn that many things aren’t exactly like how the NPCs have told you. Overall, the story is interesting though some of the quests become tedious at times; especially if you are going through the game for the first time. I will say that the game is very fun to play, even after three years of playing the game I keep finding new places that I haven’t been to, some of which aren’t even in the walkthroughs.

    It’s not exactly a social game, because there are no multiplayer options, so unless you are playing it in the same room with a friend or two there is no real interaction between you and other people.

    DESIGN:
    As you go through the game your character improves his or her skills by using them and gains attributes when leveling up. However, in the beginning when you have low stats for skills you tend to want to choose the race that has the best bonuses to the skills that you think you are going to be using the most.
    Since Morrowind is a very open-ended game you are pulled to explore the world before starting on the main storyline. Exploring allows growth in your character’s fighting skills and as well the fact that you find some rare and unique items. I don’t know about you, but I get a certain sense of satisfaction from clearing as much fog-of-war from the map as I can. Also there are many features and elements that you discover as the game progresses that improve the game play and make certain previously tedious actions very simple. These include, but are not limited to: water-walking, water-breathing, attribute boosts, and damage boosts. You find that just because your character is a warrior-type by job doesn’t mean that he or she can’t use spells; in fact, spells can be quite helpful. Overall, Morrowind does a good job of drawing you into the game-world.
    The designers did a good job with the travel system such that you don’t have walk all over the map to get to large cities, but you do have to walk if you need to get to small cities. This really promotes the notion that you need to explore the game-world. On this note, I should mention that while you are out in the wilderness a lot of the creatures will attack you on sight and while this is a realistic element of sorts it gets annoying after a while and I wish the developers had put something in such that when you are a high level that doesn’t happen anymore.
    The fighting in Morrowind isn’t very innovative (I think they could have done a better job) all you have to do is just chop at the enemy and eventually it will die. There is the notion that if you prepare the attack it will do more damage, but you end up not really using that very much.
    Another interesting element of Morrowind is that you can read all the books that are present in the game. Thereby learning more about the background of the game story and also specific books can increase one of your skills (this can only be done once per certain skill). On the subject of books, your character keeps a journal of everything that has happened to his or her; quests and details about them are also recorded in here. A feature was added in one of the expansions to allow you to search the journal by topic or quest.
    A major downside is that the game has a tendency to crash or glitch, though you tend to get used to these things; so falling through the floor (common glitch) becomes almost part of the game.

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