June 12th, 2017 by Kurt "Chet" Christel
Here at Hard Mode Gamers, we prefer to feel like we are gamers just like you. We aren’t necessarily journalists. When we do our reviews, we don’t want you to have to read a 10-page essay on the minutiae of everything contained in the game whilst using big fancy words like “minutiae” and “whilst.” We want to be direct and concise. The reviews contained here are considerably short and very easy to read. In our reviews, we provide a simple and clear expression on why we scored a game the way we did. To do so, we divided five core elements of game design to be individually scored.
These elements are:
GRAPHICS – How does the game look? Is it technically expressive? Is it very artistic? Many factors are considered, like if realism is a factor, or if the art style if unique against other games. Top scores for this category should make us stop in awe at what we are seeing.
STORY/IMMERSION – How’s the overall plot, writing, characters, and/or lore? Was the plot overbearing or was it too weak? This might seem like a slight against arcade-style games or indies, but that’s not true because when a lack of plot is accounted for, we consider if having little plot benefits the game, and if the design of the game itself does the storytelling for us. A great story is either one that keeps us engaged or doesn’t get in our way. [Update: 3/22/19] We recently added “Immersion” to the title of this category to better express what we are looking for in this section. We figure that the game should keep your interest in one way or another.
AUDIO – How’s the mixing, sound effects, and original soundtrack? Would we listen to the OST outside of playing the game? Audio is a big and important factor when playing games and many reviewers sort of gloss over this aspect of game design, but it’s just as important. Audio also factors in the quality of the voice acting, because the written story and the execution of it are different factors.
GAMEPLAY – Of course, there’s the game itself. How does it play? Can we pick it up and play or does it take a while to learn? We try to make sure our reviewers are playing the game they want to play so they can report how a game stacks up to other game in its genre. Having a good control scheme is crucial to having good gameplay. Also considered is what sort of gameplay elements are implemented in the title.
FUN – And finally, fun is the most important factor. Any of the above could suck, but they may not impact how much fun we are having. What does impact our fun are things like glitches/bugs, game length, immersion, addictiveness, and catharsis. Replayability is also a factor in this category, as we could enjoy a game thoroughly and then realize it’s not really worth a second go.
Now, each of these elements have a very simple numerical score attached to them. They are ranked on the incredibly basic scale of 0-2. It’s pretty straightforward here:
0 – Bad
1 – Good
2 – GREAT!
It becomes easy to consider when we turn the decision for each element into a nearly binary choice. We can determine if an element is either good or bad. After that, if it’s good, is it REALLY good or just regular good?
The total score of all of these elements will add up to an X out of 10 score. This way, the game practically scores itself for us. We don’t have to think about what we want to score the game because once we look into a game based on these criteria, we have our answer. This also benefits the reader because they can quickly see which parts of the game design were impacted when it comes to the final score. You can see a review and quickly determine where it’s lacking and where it shines. All in all, we find this system to be the most non-biased when it comes to reviews, because it’s so direct. And that, readers, is how we review our games.
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