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December 24, 2005

To Go Boldly Go To Go Weird

www.jpg After his recent overview of the IGF 2006 finalists, Kieron Gillen returns to review Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space, Digital Eel's outstandingly different 'short' space game, for Eurogamer.

Gillen sums it up helpfully: "In this space-strategy exploration game, the sequel to Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, you're placed as commander of an interplanetary vessel with a ten to thirty year mission to explore the nearby galaxy. Heading off, you move from system to system, seeing what's out there and being terribly Captain Kirk. Half an hour later, at most, the clock has ticked down and you either return to your home planet or you've perished in one of the systems of deep space."

The only problem? Apparently: "The problem here is that it isn't a game which, after playing, provokes the desire to rhapsodize in text. It's a game which, after playing, provokes the desire to have another game." Rich Carlson, Weird Worlds' designer, tries to explain the game's concept further on the game's website, explaining: "We... wanted the game to be easy to play, that was (and is) very important to us, and we wanted to eliminate numbers and all of the charts and stat sheets usually found in these sorts of games." Maybe Weird Worlds is so intriguing because it's a hardcore space sim hiding in swift, replayable casual game form? You can, of course, download the demo to find out.

Welcome To The World Of Sand

sand.jpg A forum post over at Insert Credit reveals, thanks to Kunster, a link to a Japanese in-browser Java game, 'World Of Sand' (scroll down to see it). As the translation of the info for this 'software toy' explains: "It involves playing with sand, water, salt, and oil as molecules of each fall from above. Use the mouse to draw walls for the materials to flow over and around. Ignite the play field with fire or a devastating(???) explosion. After allowing it to run for a while, I noticed that the ball of sand grew bigger as it collected the materials that poured over it."

Though not scored as a game, other Java toys by the same author include a 'destroy the slug using salt' game and an 'extinguish the fire with sand' software toy, both of which also use the mouse to draw walls and affect the game. Also, looks like all three game-toys were built with neat art/code tool Processing, which we recently mentioned as being used to create Unreal-related fine art.

OtaClock Goes Tick Tick Tick

otaclock.jpg We forgot to keep reading Hideo Kojima's English-translated blog, but the folks at linksite Noooz didn't, and have spotted info on 'a little gimmicky app' that Konami is about to release on the PC.

As the full blog entry explains of the Windows-compatible clock application: "The name refers to Otacon's desktop clock that he invented for use on his personal computer. It's the same clock that had a cameo on Otacon's monitor during the TGS trailer for MGS4... Soon we'll deliver the OtaClock to our audience. You'll always have Otacon around with this. Look forward to it!" We will, Hideo! Though the blog post is from November, we couldn't find the app on the Konami site - if anyone spots it, add a comment.

Wallguy, Take A Bow!

wallguy.jpg Over at 1UP, staff member and blogger Jared Rea has put up some typical 'X Of The Year' shenanigans. Woo? But if you skip the relatively straightforward first part, the second, more unconventional 'top list' for 2005 has some fun choices.

These would include the 'Beyond Good and Evil Award' for 'not enough consumer attention' going to the neato Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, the 'Sin and Punishment Award' for "the title which claimed the hearts of "hardcore" fanboys around the world, despite the game in fact, being garbage or quite frankly, nothing special" going to... Shadow of the Colossus (hide, Jared, hide!), and 'Mr and Mrs. 2005' going, sweetly enough, to Wallace Guyford and Hillary Clinton. We now pause for applause.

December 23, 2005

Introversion Goes To Defcon Three

defcon.jpgf The chaps behind the critically snuggled Darwinia over at Introversion Software have released initial information on Defcon, their new PC RTS game, in the latest issue of the UK PC Gamer magazine. However, though the official Defcon website is pretty uninformative right now, there's information and screenshots on the new Wikipedia page for Defcon.

As explained: "Defcon is Introversion Software's third title. It is a primarily multi-player anti-war RTS based loosely on the 1983 film WarGames, where the main character played a game called 'Global Thermonuclear War'." Sound enticing? Well: "Players are given a dehumanised 1980s computer-themed world map with the objective to kill as many foreign citizens as possible with a variety of nuclear weapons. A typical game will see 'hundreds of millions' of innocent casualties." Sleek '80s-styled Cold War vector havoc with a Dr. Strangelove-ish undertone? Count us in.

Omega Men Get Wiped Out

wopure.jpg The folks at Edge Online make good use of their website and post an extended version of a Wipeout Pure-related magazine article, discussing the European-only (rats!) Omega Pack add-on for the excellent PSP launch title, with new tracks designed by leading visual designers.

Mark James, one of the designers brought in to craft the extremely alternative Omega Pack levels, comments: "Designing a Wipeout track, then, was great. I was a big fan of the original game and its Designers Republic graphics; that was a real crossover point for me. It seemed like the first design led game." Jon Burgerman also has pictures of his own Omega track (plus a neat print ad for the Omega Pack) on his official website. But, even for us American players, the downloads on the Wipeout Pure website have a total of 12 other bonus tracks to play, plus a multitude of audio tracks and ships - the PSP's ease of downloading being put to great use.

The Crown Prince Of Cosplay

princes.jpgKilvear, editor of Casual Fantasy, has put up a host of photos of cosplayers at the End of Year event at the Singapore Expo - which took place on the 12th of December. There are three pages of photos, and I don't recognize a number of the characters (a number are from obscure-ish manga such as Alichino), but there are the inevitable Final Fantasy types (that girl has also been a Ragnarok Hunter and Lenne from Final Fantasy X-2), Mario and Luigi, Sol and Ky from Guilty Gear, and a couple of Katamari princes molesting a cat.

RushJet1's Sounds Of The 2A03

rushjet1.gif Via Vorc, an awesome NES-chip retro MP3 release from key net.label 8bitpeoples, in the form of RushJet1's 'Sounds Of The 2A03'. The release txt explains: "Using [NES composition tools] MCK and MML, RushJet1 has crafted an eclectic collection spanning 8 crazy, upbeat anthems and slow, droning NES rock songs. Space battle frenzy hyper melancholy mode washing over you into overdrive with Konami flavor!"

In addition, a post by RushJet1 on the 2A03.org forums has more information on the NES chip fun, noting that 'Konamized' "took forever. it sounds like konami! sort of", and linking to the original .NSF versions of the tracks (as opposed to the MP3 versions on the 8bitpeoples website.)

Lazarus Man - Ultima V's Resurrection

u5laz.jpg After a mammoth 5+ years in the making, the creators of the unofficial Dungeon Siege engine remake/enhancement of Ultima V: Warriors Of Destiny, the appropriately named Ultima V: Lazarus, has _finally_ been released.

According to the release page, the game is... "the first Ultima remake project to ever actually reach the finish line....weighing in at over 500 megabytes, with nearly 300 unique NPCs, and literally hundreds of hours of play value, Lazarus is HERE! The game is available for both PC and Mac, though currently only in English--French and German versions will be forthcoming." Impressive stuff - the screenshots look pretty darn smart - go download it now.

December 22, 2005

For Rent: Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, 4BR, 2BA

marspeople.jpg Those gleefully sardonic video game importers of choice at National Console Support have just received the Japanese PlayStation 2 version of SNK's Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, and present detailed information on the all-star SNK 2D fighter to accompany its release. Well, maybe not entirely all-star...: "Famous and familiar fighters include Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yamagami from King of Fighters while we throw Kisarah Westfield from Toukai Gan Gan and Cyber Woo from King of the Monsters in the forgotten pile... A total of 40 fighters from many SNK games are featured and we're thankful that no one from Ragnagard made the roster to stink up the joint."

Originally released in the arcade, the home conversion (hopefully coming to the West?) enables players to check out a number of the wackier characters from non-fighting games, too - we were particularly enchanted that the 'Mars People' aliens from the Metal Slug series made an appearance - there's nothing like Shuma-Gorath-lookalike fighting game characters to brighten your day, eh?

Grumpy Gamer Has Bad Santa Experience

grumpy.jpg Ron 'Grumpy Gamer' Gilbert has released the latest 'Grumpy Gamer' Flash cartoon, this time dealing with what Santa doesn't bring to game developers (even though he's nice to little children, the scoundrel!). The answer seems to be - the chance to create original, compelling video games?

One can't help feeling that the self-avowed "often incoherent and bitter ramblings" of Monkey Island creator and Humongous co-founder Gilbert are, in this case, at least semi-autobiographical. The 'Grumpy Gamer' sitting on Santa's lap complains: "I just want to make something with great design, good writing, humor and characters in a rich, interesting world", and is rebuffed at every opportunity by Father Xmas, who seems to be, we don't know, some kind of cipher for game publishers?

3DO Blogging Is So... Now?

dillo.jpg Via the excellent RedKeyRedDoor, a pointer to a new weblog called '3DO Interactive Multiplayer', which has apparently been set up specifically to... document and chat about Trip Hawkins' failed early '90s 'franchisable console'? Wow.

Some of the recent blog highlights include a review of Iron Angel of Apocalypse 2 ("Yeah, OK. Well, mmmm. "Better". Certainly better than Iron Angel of Apocalypse 1."), and even in-depth coverage of, uhh, Cyberdillo ("Cyberdillo is wrong. Badly wrong. The one redeeming factor about Cyberdillo is that it is rare. Thankfully."). Apparently '3D0 Kid' is going to cover all the games eventually, and, though he's bat country insano for trying, this is a seriously readable blog. Come back, Trip, all is unforgiven.

Age Of The Beast, Eerievale Homebrews Trailed

aotb.jpg Two new(ish) trailers have been released by different companies, pointed out to me by Omegadog on the MMC. First up, there's a trailer for Age of the Beast (PC, DC, PS2, likely GP2X, Xbox). This is from Team Senile, who created Beats of Rage. AotB is a new game (and engine) created to be portable like the first, but with greater flexibility, and with a much wider array of abilities. Check the FAQ for more details on that aspect.

Next, there's EerieVale, a very long in development Jaguar game, which is now also coming to Windows, Linux, Mac, and naturally the Dreamcast. It's a D-like game (CG horror point and click) developed in Germany by a young fellow named Lars Hannig. Looks like the game's getting much nearer to completion - check the goofy trailer in the downloads section. Don't sit on that toilet!

Stretch Me One More Time!

strtech.jpg The somewhat crazy guys from Different Cloth sent over a link to their latest Flash game, the obviously DS-inspired wacky draw-a-thon Stretch Bendycoot. Yes, that's Stretch Bendycoot, nothing to do with a certain marsupial we all know and love.

Anyhow, the gameplay involves an auto-scrolling level in which the player has to draw shapes with his mouse to let Stretch jump over obstacles. You get marks for drawing as close as possible to the optimum 'evaluation' of the right shape to avoid the obstacle, and it's a leetle bit jerky and unwieldy, but still pretty good fun in a Kirby DS or Yoshi DS style way. So go try it - high score is 'only' 12991.

Nintendo Cart Issues, Pop Culture References

blowme.jpg Are we bored with gaming T-shirts yet? Because there sure are a lot of them. On the non-obscure Japanese front, we like Busted Tees' latest 'Blow Me' NES cartridge shirt, which comes in both male and female flavors. [Via The-Inbetween.]

Actually, it's refreshing to see a T-shirt retailer that isn't _entirely_ game geek-related - the somewhat older Oregon Trail-referencing tee is one of the few other Busted shirts referencing games. Oh, talking of which, apparently Broderbund is still producing new versions of the classic educational title. "Develop solutions to help your friends and family survive the dangers of the long journey, including raging rivers, buffalo stampedes, sickness, and starvation." But... is the dysentery now in 32-bit splatterificosity? Inquiring minds want to know.

December 21, 2005

The Best Gaming Moments Of 2005?

pandaking.jpg Stephen Totilo of MTV News continues to crank out some fun articles, and his latest, on 'The Year In Video Games: 2005's Greatest Gaming Moments', has picked some fun moments from this year's more interesting games.

Among his highlights, Totilo includes 'sketching one's own wanted poster' in Quantic Dream's Indigo Prophecy ("The goals of escape and apprehension naturally conflict. So what is the player to do when, in a detective level, they are given the task of drawing an accurate police sketch of the wanted suspect?") and 'arguing with the Panda King' in Sucker Punch's under-rated Sly 3 ("Players take control of the Panda King, a "Sly 2" villain wracked with doubt about his allegiances in the new game. To sort things out, the player must take control of the Panda King, point him at a mirror and make him win an argument with his own reflection.") So, rather than just a list of games, a list of moments in games is rather more piquant, no?

SketchFighter's Deadly Doodles

sketchFighter01.jpgThe scrawltastic "SketchFighter 4000 Alpha" is a promising 2D shooter currently in Beta-testing by veteran Mac-centric game developer Ambrosia Software. Unlike traditionally-slick shooting games, SketchFighter looks very much like it's leapt from the pages of my middle-school notebooks--the game's spaceships and scenery are all doodled on a field of graph-paper.

Although the final details are likely to change, Ambrosia's Lars Gafvert says that the game will focus on exploration, where access to new areas is achieved by defeating bosses and upgrading one's ship. Gafvert says "There is also a two player mode that focuses more on short matches where the players either compete [or] work together to collect points." Sounds like a refreshing change from standard shooter play. Based on Ambrosia's catalog of games, SketchFighter 4000 Alpha is guaranteed to be available at least for Macs, if not for Windows-based PCs. One can hope.

Droidmaker, LucasArts, And Murray The Skull

murray.gif Over at GameSetWatch sister site Gamasutra, we have a new interview with author Michael Rubin about his book Droidmaker, described as: 'The inside story of George Lucas, his intensely private company, and their work to revolutionize filmmaking.'

Rubin is particularly interesting talking about Star Wars' influence on the company, commenting: "Personally, I think the best games to come from LucasArts were their original creations, like Maniac, Monkey Island, Zak, and so on... and it took them some time before HQ trusted the games guys enough even to let them create games based on the valuable assets of movie characters (the first test was Labyrinth, then an Indiana Jones game); but soon enough it made sense to have the Star Wars titles get generated internally. It sort of reminds me of an old adage about restaurants -- restaurants with a great view generally have lousy food. But people go for the view."

The State Of IGF Independence

weirdworlds.jpg Taking control at Eurogamer, the ever-ready Kieron Gillen checks out some of the finalists for the 2006 Independent Games Festival [the IGF is run by CMP, as this blog is!], and writes them up in eloquent fashion.

Gillen particularly digs Weird Worlds: Return To Infinite Space, of which he comments: "It's simple, compulsive and propulsive. It's a strategy game which you can approach like Robotron or Defender. In that you get in, try for a high-score, and whether you succeed or fail you leave happy", and also has kind words for a number of the other indie finalists, including multi-nominee Darwinia, which he's been a notable champion of.

Ornament Grow For Xmas

growornament.png Over at TIGSource, they've spotted a Christmas update of a unique webgame, explaining: "you may be familiar with eyezmaze's grow games (the original grow and its sequels, grow rpg and grow cube), in which the player is asked to add a collection of objects, one at a time, to the playing field, with the goal of enabling each of them to "grow" to its ultimate form."

The latest in this series? Why, it's the distinctly holiday-themed Flash game Grow Ornament, in which you have to place objects on the tree in the correct order for a perfect evolution. Extremely neat!

December 20, 2005

Beck UMD Competition? Hell Yes!

guero.jpg You may have heard that the Sony PSP plays other things than video games, in the form of UMD movies. And apparently, this now includes Beck's Guero UMD special edition, which includes all the audio tracks from the 8-bit retro game-ish influenced album, special video art by D-Fuse for each track, and seven music videos. And in GameSetWatch's first ever competition, thanks to Beck & friends, we have a copy of the Guero UMD to give away, if you can answer the following question:

"Which UK collective directed the video game-like music video for Beck's E-Pro from the Guero album?"

Please send your answer, alongside your name and snail-mail address to editors@gamesetwatch.com by Monday January 2, 2006, and then we'll randomly pick the winner from our email folder of death - death, we tell you!

Have A Very Merry Lucas Xmas

lucas.jpg The good folks over at Kotaku have posted a scan of LucasFilm/LucasArts' Xmas card for this year (here's a higher-res image of the card), and playfully note: "Can you name all of the movies/games represented?"

Well, we can't, but we love the theme of the card, which has famous LucasArts/ILM/LucasFilm characters stomping across the Golden Gate Bridge from the company's old headquarters in Marin County to their new HQ in San Francisco's Presidio former army base, where the divisions can better collaborate together.

[Oh, and for bonus geekout, the gold dome at the bottom of the picture is the Exploratorium, where an early version of Toshio 'Electroplankton' Iwai's Sim Tunes was originally displayed.]

Egg Vs. Chicken Hatches

eggchicken.jpg Good news, everybody! The latest PC title from Eric Zimmerman-headed NY indie developer gameLab and VC-funded casual game powerhouse PlayFirst has now been released, according to an awfully official looking press release, and it's the excellently named Egg Vs. Chicken - there's even a free PC demo for the intrigued.

Wait, let's excerpt some marketing copy: "It's "three-in-a-row" meets "protect the castle" in this hilariously clever, cracked-up combination of strategy and action puzzle. In Egg vs. Chicken a small team of runaway eggs takes on a mighty army of marauding chickens as it travels through time to resolve the ultimate riddle: "which came first?" Like a traditional slider puzzle, players must deftly slip their eggs into position, and then launch attacks against ruthless roosters and harrowing hens." Hah.

GameLab's previous game for PlayFirst, the '00s version of Tapper that is Diner Dash, was a bona fide smash hit in casual game terms, and this game looks, wait for it, 'eggstremely interesting'.

Munch Munch Munch, Sue Sue Sue

munchkin.jpg 1UP has just posted an overview of the history of video game lawsuits, and it's especially strong on obscurities, in particular the K.C. Munchkin case: "Atari sued Philips and forced them to stop production of K.C. Munchkin! because Atari had exclusive rights to the home version of Pac-Man, which wasn't due out until 1982. They won on appeal; the court decided that Philips had copied Pac-Man, and that Munchkin's differences only "emphasized" this plagiarism, a ruling that ultimately established how copyright laws would apply to the look and "feel" of software." There's lot more info on Pac vs. Munch via an excellent Patent Arcade article.

Actually, issues regarding plagiarizing game 'look and feel' will come up again at GDC 2006 next March, when Crazy Taxi v. Simpsons Road Rage: Litigating a Gameplay Method Patent will be presented by the lead attorneys for Sega and Radical Games, a fascinating case which "provides a rare insight into the realities facing litigants and the strategies of lawyers in a major patent case involving a core method of gameplay." We'll probably write it up for Gamasutra, too, for the nosy.

The Death Of An MMO

ac2.jpg Clive Thompson's latest Wired News game article deals with what happens when MMO populations go away, in this case preceding the closing of Turbine's PC MMO Asheron's Call 2 on December 30, and it's... eerie. "'Anybody out there?' I type, but I already know it's pointless. There's nobody anywhere near me. For almost an hour, I've been wandering around a desolate plain: Gray clouds scud slowly over rough quartz mountains, while a few birds wheel in the air near mushroom-shaped trees. I never see another living soul. It feels like the end of the world."

This Murakami-esque dreamworld has human fall-out, too: "'It's really heart-wrenching. How will you connect with those people you spent every single day with? It's as though someone suddenly took away all e-mail,' as one player who calls herself "Ellen Ripley" online told me. 'Suddenly they seem nameless and ethereal, where once they were as real and important as our families, co-workers and Earth-realm friends.'"

December 19, 2005

Video Game Art, All Tilty

videogameart.jpg The latest game-related book to wander into GameSetWatch's hands is Assouline's Video Game Art, which is a thick 320 page paperback-sized artbook filled with renders, concept art, and other smart graphics from recent games, edited by Nic Kelman, whose fiction title Girls was apparently highly regarded when published a couple of years back.

In any case, there are some good choices of games to feature in the artbook, from Psychonauts through Samurai Western, though with two or three pages for each game, you're often left wanting more, and the end-of-book 'game timeline' is a tad on the inaccurate side. But the gorgeous lenticular cover, alternating Solid Snake and Abe from Oddworld, catches the eye, the preface from Henry Jenkins is illuminating, and Kelman's prose declaiming games as an art form is nothing new to the game world, but more pleasing if seen from an art world perspective (and Assouline, indeed, make art books.) Games are art... books, then?

YMCK + .S = 8-bit Music Goodness

YMCK Family Racing .S Japanese chiptune popstars YMCK will unleash their second blippy effort, "Family Racing", on December 21st in Japan. This should not to be confused with last years "Family Music", which saw stateside release this summer courtesy of Records of the Damned.

The real story here is YMCK's limited edition pixel toy package, part of the .S (dot-s) series from Tomytec. .S collector's will not only be able to recreate the pixelated likenesses of YMCK's Midori, Yokemura, and Nakamura for display alongside their Solvalous and Dig Dugs, but will be treated to an exclusive color (hunter green!). Big, big news for a small, small segment of the population.

Listen to samples of YMCK's brand of 8-bit, sugarsweet vocal music here while waiting patiently for a reputable importer to carry the dot-pin set.

Katamari Pee Ess Pee!

katapsp.jpg Over at Sony Japan's website, they've updated with a streaming ad for 'Me And My Katamari' for PSP [.ASX], complete with jaunty soundtrack and new footage of the much-awaited Namco title, which is due out in Japan this week, and will come to the U.S. in early 2006, most likely.

Previews of the game are being shown to the North American press, and Jeremy 'Toastyfrog' Parish at 1UP very readable hands-on preview of the game, noting of the port (which Keita Takahashi is not involved with, and for which initial contol impressions were bad, since the PSP lacks dual analog sticks): "Happily, things aren't as bad as they first seemed. After putting in a little time with a near-final version of the Japanese game outside the manic environs of the TGS show floor, we've found the control concerns are much less drastic than initially reported. Katamari on PSP does take some getting used to, but it's a far cry from the disaster early reports had suggested."

Authentic Atari T-Shirt Awesomeness

atari.jpg German-headquartered expat blogger RedKeyRedDoor did a major disappearing act earlier this year, but is back and linking to Canadian retrogame T-shirt store PongNation, which includes some neat shirts in a variety of (very unlicensed) flavors, including a great 'Commie 64' soccer shirt.

But even cooler still are vintage early '80s authentic Atari tees, which cost a somewhat ridiculous $64 each, but are pretty much totally amazing, albeit actually marked 'Not For Resale', as you can see - the current Atari should relicense these gems for remanufacturing, they'd make a mint.

Pow Pow, Hole In One

golf.jpg The folks at Outside The Box Software entered the IGF with their Shockwave-utilizing web game Pow Pow's Mini-Golf, and unfortunately didn't make the list of finalists, but in the meantime, they're offering a free playable Beta version, featuring a full 18 holes, for those wanting to try it out. It's mini-golf, it's 3D, it's free, and actually plenty of fun in a wholesome indie style - so go check it out.

[Interestingly, the guys at Outside The Box, headed by ex-Sony tester Chris Evans, seem to be going for a franchise by making a range of games featuring Pow Pow as the main character, including a puzzle game and a 2D platform title (previously the subject of a Q&A at GameTunnel). Why don't more indie creators try for franchises using the same main character?]

That Artwork Is (Literally) Unreal

unrealart.jpg The net.art-related site Artificial.dk has a new interview with Alison Mealey about her Unreal Tournament-generated paintings. As the intro explains: "[Alison] lets a number of virtual players play the game for approximately 30 minutes at a time and uses the data from the games to produce complex drawings. These drawings are also based on photographic portraits."

The interview also goes into satisfying details about how the final results are produced: "Only two types of data are taken from the game. The position of every player (taken every second), and the acknowledgement of a death. As the data from the game is coming in 1 second chunks, [art/code tool] Processing takes every second's chunk and produces a drawing from it, these drawings are built up over time to produce the final images."

December 18, 2005

Strategic Choices For 2005

awds.jpg Interestingly enough, some of the best U.S. writers on games spring from the more cerebral, PC-oriented end of the spectrum, which is one of the reasons that Computer Games Magazine, lackluster design notwithstanding, is possibly the best-written multi-format video game mag currently available in the States. A regular CGM contributor of late is Troy Goodfellow, and he recently posted an end-of-year strategy game wrap-up on his personal blog that's a must for those wanting to know what's up with the genre.

Goodfellow exclaims: "It's been a good year for strategy games. The best indie game of the year is a strategy game. The best game of the year is a strategy game. The best budget game of the year is a wargame", and goes on to recommend a host of PC titles, while also noting: "Even if it leads to the end of AAA turn-based strategy titles for the PC, the continuing success of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series is now coupled with the excellent Advance Wars and better than expected Shattered Union."

Gamer's Quarter Goes Fourth

mgcrossing.jpg The kind folks at TIGSource have pointed out that the fourth issue of 'The Gamer's Quarter' PDF magazine is now out, and it includes goodness including an interview with Manifesto Games' Greg Costikyan, critiques of Katamari and Shadow Of The Colossus, and perhaps most crucially, a somewhat hilarious cartoon called 'Metal Gear Crossing', involving Solid Snake and Tom Nook crossing swords in a demented (and fortunately non slashfic) style.

Basically, if you like intelligent, literate writing about games (by admittedly younger, fan-impelled writers), then Gamer's Quarter (which some might claim is a spiritual half-brother of the Insert Credit crowd's ramblings) is well worth checking out. So do it.

Inevitable Game Of The Year Post #9514085

sprung.jpg It's definitely a chart time of the year, and the folks at the UK Guardian Gamesblog start it off with a few personal top three games of 2005 from the writers and contributors to the excellent, literate UK newspaper video game section.

There are certainly a few unexpected choices, mind you - Aleks Krotoski goes for DS dating adventure game Sprung as her favorite, commenting: "The writing's superb, the tasks (flirt mercilessly, get boyfriend/girlfriend, ski) are silly, the potential for this game to utterly twist social relationships into a strange husk of their formal selves", and Nick Gillett plumps for Xbox title Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, suggesting: "Like Fable, this is a game you feel you slightly live in after extended trips through its beautifully rendered alien Wild West. You come for the Halo-esque tactical battles; you stay for the non-intrusive, expertly told story with a very neat and playable twist." Otherwise, World Of Warcraft, Resident Evil 4, and other obvious pieces of smartness make more expected appearances.

Nokia Tries Twitchr Mobile Virtual Ecosystem

twitchr.jpg Tom Hume's blog has a very interesting new entry on a virtual pet environment built for Nokia cellphones, and called Twitchr. Hume explains that in the game, "...digital birds visit your mobile phone. An application that resides on your handset gives you a window onto a "virtual garden", into which these birds will fly from time to time. To tempt them, you use an almost childishly simple one-click interface to drop pieces of seed on the ground; minutes or hours later, your handset flashes and tweets as a bird arrives, and you have a short window of opportunity to click again and snap a photo."

There's also further complexity, both local ("If you configure Bluetooth and "pair" your device with that of a Twitchr-playing friend, then birds can fly between your phones") and worldwide ("Once you're online, your phone becomes part of a massive digital environment: numbers of the various species rise and fall over time, new species can be introduced, and old ones become extinct.") Oh, and its name is a Flickr-inspired riff on a 'twitcher' - effectively an ornithological trainspotter.



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