Chris Hornbostel

Presenting the winners of 2016’s annual Quarter to Three Quarterlies

, | Games

Way back in 2007, the Quarter to Three community voted on the best games of the previous year. The numbers were tallied, the winners declared, and the awards weren’t handed out in an extravagant ceremony hosted by Geoff Keighley. It was our own Peoples Choice Awards, decided by the folks who hang out in the virtual spaces of our forum. We’ve been doing these annual Quarterlies ever since.

So what game is the big winner after ten years of Annual Quarterlies? Continue reading →

Make October Scare Again

, | Features

Just before the start of fifth grade, my family moved across town to a new neighborhood and subdivision. I only knew a few kids on my street since I stayed at my old school. October and Halloween could have been awkward, so I was thrilled and relieved when some neighbor kids asked me to go trick-or-treating with them. My parents didn’t seem to bat an eye at this (though I think they’d gotten to know the other parents in the neighborhood pretty well), and on Halloween night I set off with three kids I’d known for less than a month, after dark, in a neighborhood I barely knew.

After the jump, welcome to old school Halloween. Continue reading →

A new golden age of horror movies

, | Features

Last year Tom and I spent the month of October covering 30 years of horror movies, from the first red blood in a Hammer film on through to the dusty desert vampires of Near Dark. We covered the rise of the genre into the modern era and mainstream acceptance. We wrote about some of the most influential, interesting, and (hopefully) frightening films of that time period and really enjoyed talking about them with folks in the comments and on the forums. For this October, I figured we would pick up where we left off in 1987, and bring you a bunch of great horror movies from that year on through the 1990s.

There was just one problem with that. The 1990s were the worst decade for horror movies in the history of cinema.

After the jump, a single week turns the tables Continue reading →

Labyrinth Games and Puzzles is mom-owned awesomeness on Capitol Hill

, | Features

Normally in this space there’ll be a review of a game, and as a potential player you can decide whether or not it’s something you might want to play in the future. Instead of reviewing and recommending an actual game here, I’d like to do something a bit different and recommend a board game store.

One of the inherent disadvantages of tabletop gaming in comparison to videogames is the lack of instant gratification. Thanks to digital delivery, I can buy and play a new videogame in a matter of hours, perhaps even minutes. I don’t even have to put on pants and leave my home. I can also join other players without any face-to-face interaction with them or their possible nasty habits.

But to play a boardgame, unless I’m willing to wait for a delivery, I have to hoof it to a local game store. Local game stores frequently and sometimes literally stink. They’re typically utilitarian, dingy, and clumsily thrown together. The extent of customer service too often tops out at a nod from an uninterested person behind a counter. Furthermore, random gamers playing at tables can seem standoffish, if not downright unfriendly. It’s tough for a new player to find a group that he actually likes.

So I was absolutely delighted to discover a the small miracle of a store that bucks all those stereotypes. Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in Washington DC is a glorious, astonishing exception.

After the jump, heaven can be other people Continue reading →

The Secret World: the clothes make the toon

, | Game diaries

In every mainstream MMO, the gear your character collects acts, alongside the abilities you choose for your toon, as a gate for accessing more content. It’s an incredibly powerful carrot to dangle in front of players. Get more stuff with better stats and you get to level up and see more of the world. If the equipment the game gives you both looks good and improves your chances of survival, so much the better.

Secret World, though, makes a big part of the loot chase — namely armor — invisible on your character. This effectively divides equipment so that the useful gear you wear can be divorced from the cosmetic way your character appears onscreen. I’m not only chasing loot for practical reasons to improve my guy, but separately I’m also on the lookout for outfits that make him look sharp, too.

After the jump, does this hoodie make my toon look fat? Continue reading →

The Secret World: we’ll always have Solomon Island

, | Game diaries

In college, I spent many hours in the Ellis Library at the University of Missouri. The gigantic old building is a huge and somewhat forbidding place. The farther up you go, the less light you encounter. Shelves of books press together against narrow aisles, with study desk cubbyholes squeezed in wherever they fit. I’m guessing it’s fairly typical for big universities. But whoever designed the top of the Innsmouth Academy knows places like the Ellis Library.

After the jump, shhhh! Continue reading →

The Secret World: can this World be saved?

, | Game diaries

When an MMO launches, it does so trumpeting the boldest of intentions for its continuing evolution and development. That’s especially true for a game launched with a subscription model, like The Secret World. Sure enough, when Funcom released the game 16 months ago, Game Director Ragnar Tornquist bravely predicted monthly content updates would follow.

You could almost see the disaster coming here. An ill-advised publishing deal with EA produced no significant pre-release marketing, but may have contributed to the game being rushed to launch. As released, The Secret World was plagued by frustrating bugs to fundamental things like quests and chat that the Funcom team struggled to fix over a six week span of time. Sales were awful, large-scale layoffs at Funcom ensued, and when Tornquist abruptly “stepped aside” a year ago, I’d have laid even money that The Secret World wouldn’t live to see 2013.

After the jump, it’s not a bad little tree at all, Charlie Brown. Maybe it just needs a little love. Continue reading →

From 1957 to 1987, thirty years of horror in thirty days

, | Features

October has always been my favorite month. It’s the month of cool weather, awesome clothes, and sleeping with the windows open. It is long shadows and the magic hour in prime time. Thanks to Halloween, it’s also the month I love to dive deep into spooky stuff in all kinds of media, from horror story collections to favorite scary video games.

After the jump: “You wanna see something REALLY scary?” Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: devilishly good details

, | Game diaries

I know that the hunter’s camp I’m looking for is around here somewhere. Twain, budding assassin that he is, has a Brotherhood contract and the fellow he’s supposed to kill is at that camp. As ever with directions, it sounded easier to get here in theory than in execution, and I swear I’ve been all over this riverbank looking. Honestly, I’m almost wondering if I’ve got Twain at the wrong bend in the river entirely. It didn’t use to be this difficult to find quest objectives, after all…

…and I love it.

After the jump, greater than the sum of the parts Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: thieves like us

, | Game diaries

Look, I know Mercer Frey is the head of the Thieves Guild, but he has got to be kidding with this one. He wants me to investigate this dude in the city of Solitude. No big deal, right? Well, except for the fact I’m in Riften (where the Thieves Guild is located) and Solitude is all the way across the entire map. This is not some jaunty day trip to the corner store–this is a serious journey, one that should take me across three or four separate climates in Skyrim. This is some serious Lewis & Clark exploration, and it will require some actual planning and attention to detail.

After the jump, join the thieves guild, see the world Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: tool time

, | Game diaries

The Drunken Huntsman in the city of Whiterun is one Twain’s favorite haunts in all of Skyrim. My character is a sneaky guy who kills lots of stuff with arrows, and the Huntsman is a great place to both replenish ammunition and also check for bow upgrades. Twain’s been shopping here since he was a mere level 2 rube visiting the big city to take the Ataxia cure at the temple.

That first visit, Elrindir the proprietor showed the young and impressionable Twain a mix of goods of fairly low quality. If I made no changes to the way Skyrim works, when I’d send him back in to the store at level 10, level 15, and level 20 he’d see incrementally more powerful things on offer to buy. While it’s certainly nice to be able to buy better and better gear as you advance in the game, it also illustrates a problem inherent with vanilla Skyrim.

After the jump, making crafting worthwhile Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: meta and potatoes

, | Game diaries

You might be able to tell by looking at the picture above that Twain — my character in Skyrim — is having something of a crisis of confidence right now. That’s him on the barstool, drowning his sorrows at the Vilemyr Inn, and I can’t blame him for his despair. While Steam tells me I’ve spent nearly 18 hours in Skyrim since I started keeping this diary, I can’t help but notice that Twain’s still wearing the same grungy furs he’s had since early on in the game. What’s worse, I could pull up a menu showing that despite all that in-game time the poor guy is still only level 11. If we were able to ask him, Twain would probably take a swig of Honingbrew Mead and express that he felt like he’d been through all this before.

After the jump, mod-induced deja vu syndrome Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: dawdling & dragons

, | Game diaries

I’m guessing that I smell like a wet dog. Worse than a wet dog, perhaps. It’s pouring in Riverwood, and the locals have had the good sense to get under shelter out of this rainstorm. Me, I’m out in it, dressed from head to toe in animal furs and probably smelling like the crotch of a quarterhorse. I can’t stay in from the weather today — if I don’t hunt, I don’t eat. If I don’t eat, my ability to stab things in the dark takes a big hit. It’s awfully hard to sneak up on people when my stomach is rumbling.

After the jump, a week in Riverwood Continue reading →

Skyrim director’s cut: tales I tell myself

, | Game diaries

By January of this past year, playing Skyrim had become a chore to me. I kept telling myself that when Bethesda released their mod tools–The Creation Kit–that things would somehow get better, that the shortcomings I’d begun to struggle with in the game might be fixed by the modding community that had done such excellent work with Oblivion and the Fallouts. It is entirely possible that I was totally right about that…but I never found out. Just ten days after the Creation Kit arrived in early February, I abandoned Skyrim. I’d hit the wall and was burnt out, but not so much that I didn’t vow to return at some future point in time.

Perhaps it was the cold snap that brought unseasonably cold nights to the East Coast this fall. Perhaps it was just absence making my gaming heart grow fonder. Whatever the reason, recently I started to feel that pull back to Tamriel’s far north province. November marked the anniversary of Skyrim’s release, and after a year of patches, DLC, and fan-made creations, I wondered what the state of the game was. I knew that if done right a fully-modded version of Bethesda’s game could be a brand new experience; a Director’s Cut of sorts. If I chose wisely and installed carefully maybe I could finally get out of Skyrim the experience I’d always wanted to have.

After the jump: Spoiled for choice. Continue reading →

Could Big Huge Games have saved 38 Studios?

, | Features

Since Monday’s coverage, highly placed sources inside both 38 Studios and Big Huge Games have come forward with clarifications and new information in the ongoing story of 38 Studios’ demise. A previously fuzzy picture of an unbelievably swift collapse has come into sharper focus as a tale of two studios: one a group of hardy survivors, the other doomed by its own ambition.

After the jump, the best of times, the worst of times Continue reading →