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Archive For January, 2006

"Virtual Pinball" Coming to the U.S.

January 27, 2006 12:01 AM |

virtualpinball.jpgSouthern Music Ltd. Entertainment, the distributor founded in 1956 whose claim to fame is, according to their company bio, being "one of the first companies to introduce jukeboxes to the Calgary market," has signed a deal with TAB Austria to distribute its Virtual Pinball units throughout commercial locations in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Virtual Pinball (pictured) retains the basic structure of Regular Pinball, though in a slightly more compact form, and with a 42" plasma display instead of an actual game board. Its designer, TAB Austria, has previously released a number of MP3-based jukeboxes, and Silverball, which is one of those touch screen thingies you see on bar tops all the time. Silverball has 140 games available, though I've never looked beyond the one where you find minute differences between two naughty photographs. There's a naughty jigsaw puzzle game too, but I hate jigsaws.

There's unfortunately nothing naughty about Virtual Pinball's five built-in games, which are upgradable via an online connection. Only two of the five games could actually be considered pinball, and that's only if you're counting this monstrosity. We're not sure what's worse, the Bizarro World perspective, or that yellow couch that's sure to bounce the ball into the dead zone repeatedly.

SML Entertainment has plenty of pinball experience, and is a distributor of all those recent Stern machines you probably weren't aware existed, like Elvis, Nascar, Lord of the Rings and The Sopranos. So, we like them, and wish them well, even if we can't find any of their machines around here.

PSX Games Invade Nuon

January 26, 2006 6:01 PM |

invs2.jpg DragonShadow Industries (not to be confused with DSI Games) has released a Nuon port of two games originally for Sony's PlayStation-based development kit the Net Yaroze. The games are Katapila (original platformer) and Invs (french Space Invaders clone). All you need to do is burn it to a disc and put it in your Nuon! Assuming you have one.

For this ongoing project, DragonShadow's Scott Cartier uses libraries he created when porting his own Yaroze title, Decaying Orbit, over to the Nuon. He has plans to bring over a larger compilation of Net Yaroze games at some point, though it doesn't appear as though the process is simply plug and play. He's got a contest up for Invs as well, which I'll let him describe in his own words: "Think you can create better sound effects? Philippe (Invs creator) has given the go-ahead to do a total replacement of the in-game sounds. The winner will receive a signed NUON Games & Demos disc and have their sounds immortalized in a future version of the Yaroze Classics collection."

In other Nuon-related news, head over to Nuon Dome to check out a newly retitled (via a previous contest!) homebrew by the name of Sheshells Sea Adventures, an undersea shooting game.

Miz Gets Every Extended, Emotionally Attached

January 26, 2006 12:12 PM | Simon Carless

eee.jpg We recently covered Brazilian site FinalBoss' interview with Yuzo Koshiro, and now they've gone and interviewed Q? Entertainment's Tetsuya Mizuguchi as well, bless their cotton socks.

In particular, Mizuguchi reveals how his company's forthcoming PSP version of dojin title Every Extend came about: "Every Extend Extra was a very special case. It happened kinda by accident. On my staff, there was someone who played Every Extend -- the PC version -- one day, and then everybody saw it and started playing. "Oh, what is this?' “It's a free game.' Three days later, still playing it... 'That's still fun?', "Yeah, it's still fun.' (laughs). That staff member asked me if I wanted to talk with this guy who made the game. He sent an email to the creator of Every Extend, and he met him, so.."

Away from happy freeware frivolity, Mizuguchi muses about the future of games, particularly commenting of next-gen console power: "High-def has very positive possibilities, but also dangerous possibilities, because it can provide an experience that is too strong. Like... shooting people in a game in high-def can be too strong... We are going to the next step, and we'll have to think about the morality." In other words, with great power comes great responsibility to, as he suggests, provide "emotional content and attachment". And amen to that.

Nintendo's DS Variations In Otaku Major

January 26, 2006 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

elecplank.jpg The jolly good chaps over at the (new to us) British Gaming Blog have compiled a great pictorial selection of every single Nintendo DS variant, from the obvious (standard Titanium and Electric Blue colors in North America), all the way to the obscurest DSes of them all.

Some of our favorites? The "11 custom Electroplankton DS systems", of which: "One belongs to the game's creator [Toshio Iwai], and the other ten were won by visitors to the Electroplankton exhibition in Japan", are really smart-looking, and the Japanese 'Hot Summer' DS series are pretty darned attractive, as well. [Via SiliconEra.]

[Oh, and talking of limited-edition variants of handheld items, check out a blast from the not-so-ancient past Segagaga's Dreamcast VMU catalog page, with more Visual Memory Units than you can shake a stick at - the 'Dream Point Bank Ichigo' strawberry VMU is precious, my precious.]

The Art Of Gradius Averaging, Completed

January 26, 2006 4:15 AM | Simon Carless

gradius.gif GSW previously reported on The New Gamer's quest to test its concept of 'averaging gameplay' using multiple, layered-together videos of people playing Gradius. You remember that, right?

Well, the full results of the experiment are in, using 15 different submissions, and a remarkable amount of diversity in the final video (26.4mb .MOV) - for example: "The average time taken to kill the end level boss was 20.055 seconds, with the fastest player finishing him off in a mere 10.01 seconds."

R. LeFeuvre concludes of the test: "There's also a lot to find that just cannot be easily expressed in text. Watching how different players react to a spray of bullets; seeing how some go on the offensive and attack nearly all enemies while others fire less and dodge more; looking when certain people retreat to the back edge of the screen and when they charge forward; monitoring the enemies as they are destroyed, slowly peeling back the layers of color, possibly leaving a mostly transparent ghost to escape off the left side of the screen." Poetry in motion, eh?

Unreleased Sonic Saturn Developer Speaks

January 26, 2006 12:08 AM |

xtremeshot.jpgChris Senn, a former employee of the Sega Technical Institute, has opened up a specialized forum to discuss the creation of Sonic X-Treme, the Sonic the Hedgehog title for the Sega Saturn that was cancelled mid-development for various reasons. Senn served various roles in the development of the game, including music composer, art director and coordinator, and toward the end of the project, co-lead designer.

"I've received so many emails asking for information, pictures, playable versions, etc. that I just couldn't keep up. This is my way of trying to give back to the community," Senn said in an introductory forums post. "I spent 3 years pouring my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into the game. I started as an artist and worked my way to designing, leading the design and coordinating part of the team. Many problems occurred on the project. I was young, very ambitious and a perfectionist. I was a part of a large team that started small and grew to 30+ people... This game was canned almost 10 years ago, so I won't remember as much as I'd like."

Senn has been sporadically sharing some of the media he has saved, including very early concept animation, design sketches for a female hedgehog protagnoist named Tiara Boobowski (no, seriously), and even Senn's proposed cover art for the game. The total sum of his work will be released later, he says, in a massive online document called the "Sonic Xtreme Compendium," or SXC for short.

Anyone curious about the development of this lost Sonic chapter can join in the discussion on Senn's official forums, though reader beware: many of the threads contained therein are authored by a number of amateurs discussing their plans to "finish the game" via limited, open-source game creation software. Yeah, you do that, kids.

Cities, Heroes, And The Revenge Of The Geek Mafia

January 25, 2006 9:37 PM | Simon Carless

geekmaf.jpg Sister website Gamasutra has just posted an interview with former City Of Heroes creator Rick Dakan, who was displaced as lead designer before the game's launch. He's now written a book called Geek Mafia, which is "...the story of a rogue game designer who enlists the help of an underground group of con-men to enact revenge on the developer that fired him, and make a small profit on the process."

So the question immediately arises - how autobiographical? Dakan admits: "There's a ton of sort of big and small aspects of the book that are inspired by just my time at Cryptic and my time in the Bay Area in general", but insists: "None of the people in the book are supposed to be people in real life that had those same positions when I was there."

However, the intriguingly honest Dakan does end by noting: "There's strange art imitating life sort of stuff. Like, I had started that book and then while I was plotting it, and before I really started writing it, I ended up selling my stock out to Mike [Lewis]. But I already plotted out those early pages that had that sort of activity going. So it was a weird life imitating art sort of situation there." A strange whirl, indeed.

Brain Training - The New Deer Hunter?

January 25, 2006 5:13 PM | Simon Carless

brain.gif Rightly getting a lot of blogosphere linkage right now is Cabel Sasser's analysis of Nintendo's Brain Training for DS, as posted on his personal weblog by the Panic co-founder and Katamari Damacy T-shirt vendor.

Cabel comments: "So, the #1 game in Japan is a non-game. My (shocking) conclusion: there is a huge market for new styles of games and new game players, and the gap between "games" and "apps" is getting smaller." And he concludes: "At first it's hard to imagine something like Brain Training ever hitting the top of the USA video game charts. Virtually impossible, I'd wager... But, if you had told me that "Deer Hunter" would've become the top-selling computer game a few years ago, I would have pulled the car over and laughed you out of it — and yet, it happened, stunning a whole generation of developers who were working on "Brown Devil Alien Guns III"-style games."

So, what do people say - is Brain Training really going to set the West aflame, or is it much more of a Japanese thing than any of us, including Nintendo, have necessarily bargained for?

DS GBA button hack, GP32 Rumble, and GBC touching

January 25, 2006 12:19 PM |

gbctouch.jpgMy old pal Mash has redone his website, and has a brand new set of mods. Most notably, he has this chip for your DS which will allow you to remap your L and R buttons to X and Y when playing GBA games - on the fly. You toggle between the two by pressing L and R together, continuing the long tradition of hackers fixing things Nintendo should have done themselves.

Other nifty mods include an internal rumble pack for the GP32, and - perhaps most impressively, a touch screen for the Game Boy Color. It has three layers - LCD screen - front light - then touch screen. He's definitely got it working, though I'm not totally clear on how it's implemented in-game. The full writeup is coming soon, so watch for it!

Xbox Vanguard For Jellyfish Invasion Discovered

January 25, 2006 6:22 AM | Simon Carless

beachx.jpg Gadget weblog Gizmodo has been having lots of fun with a story on 'The Tale Of The Beached Xbox', referencing Beatrice Murch's finding of a washed-up Xbox near San Francisco last weekend. (Yes, yes, and by washed up, we mean from the sea, not all out of style, etc.)

Gizmodo wittily claims: "Every day millions—or one or two—XBoxes wash up onto our beaches where they die an excruciating and horrible death. They are lured to the sands by the lights of million-dollar condos and teenage jackanapes involving beer and bonfires", but as commenters vaguely spot, it's likely the recent floods in Marin County that dumped the Xbox from a home, down a local river and out to sea.

But we have a better explanation - the giant jellyfish invading Japan of late? We heard they're shock Microsoft-trained troops importing Xbox 360s, buried inside their poisonous bodies, to the East by sea, where they will disgorge the consoles onto beaches to breed and multiply, whether the Japanese buy them or not. This poor Xbox? It's just left over from the U.S. test program, but the caustic libertarian media atmosphere of San Francisco made its jellyfish host perish and decompose, as the chanting sounds of 'M$, M$, M$' filled the air. Honest.

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