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March 4, 2006

N-Gage, N-Gage, Rah Rah Rah?

civgage.jpg There are, clearly, some schools that think Nokia's N-Gage phone-handheld melange was an unmitigated disaster, Sidetalking and all (hey, even Nokia made fun of that [.MOV]). In terms of actual sales, that's likely true. But a recent LJ post by 'RoushiMSX' makes the case that the N-Gage has been unfairly ignored, at least recently.

Roushi comments: "You know why I want an N-Gage? Because it has some badass games available for it. I know, I know... most people only remember Tomb Raider, Pandemonium, and a small handful of other titles that came out at launch. You've probably seen the cases of the games pushed in the very back, most impossible to find location in your Gamestop."

He goes on to list: "Some key highlights of the N-Gage library (which is what...53 games strong right now?) are: Pathway to Glory and Pathway to Glory Ikusa Islands (86% and 78% on Gamerankings),High Seize (87% on Gamerankings), Glimmerati (87% on Gamerankings), Pocket Kingdom (70.1% on Gamerankings), Civilization (74% on Gamerankings), Rifts (83% on Gamerankings), Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (86% on Gamerankings) and soon Warhammer 40,000: Glory in Death."

For what it's worth, us here at GSW have been digging the recent N-Gage games, too, and a recent Gamasutra interview with Nokia's Jani Karlsson indicates some significant N-Gage related announcements at GDC later this month, so let's hope there are some good N-Gage compatible smartphones (even the QD's form factor is pretty horrid!) or some other neat changes announced there.

Interactive Fiction All-Stars Produce Two New Gems

bronze.jpg Over at Grand Text Auto, Nick Montfort has pointed out a couple of particularly interesting new text adventures that have been released from a couple of the leaders of the amazingly still-ticking over genre.

Nick says it so well that we'll let him explain: "Leading IF author Emily Short has released two new games, and Graham Nelson, IF author and creator of the widely-used IF system Inform, has a new IF offering, too. Graham’s piece is entitled The Reliques of Tolti-Aph. Emily’s new games are Damnatio Memoriae (set in the Savoir-Faire universe) and Bronze (a “fractured fairy tale” based on the legend of beauty and the beast). They were all coded in the soon-to-be-released Inform 7, and they come with lavish virtual “feelies” such as PDF manuals, a map, and a walkthrough (for the weak)."

Of course, Montfort would know because he is the author of Twisty Little Passages, the MIT Press book which "is the first book-length consideration of [interactive fiction], examining it from gaming and literary perspectives." It's got an entire chapter on Infocom, which automatically makes it great, incidentally.

ATEI's Digital & Physical Pinball 'Em Up

vispin.jpg While rooting around for pinball news earlier this week, we came across Pinball News' report on the ATEI arcade show in London, with particular reference to the pinball-related arcade machines there.

Obviously, pinball ain't what it used to be, but nonetheless, there's lots of info on the new ATEI-shown World Poker Tour elsewhere on the Pinball News, from the only surviving coin-op pinball manufacturer out there, Stern Pinball. In addition, there's pics of a Stern redemption Simpsons-licensed pinball-ish machine designed by Dennis Nordman, plus plenty of odd video game-based pinball setups.

For one, there's "Spanish company Recreativos Presas and their new video pinball based around Empire's Pro Pinball", now on its second iteration, but most interesting of all, a "new pinball simulator from Ultracade Technologies [that] uses Visual Pinball to recreate 10 famous Williams/Bally tables from the past. They are: Attack From Mars, Xenon, Black Knight 2000, Strikes & Spares, Pinbot, Medieval Madness, Funhouse, Fathom, F-14 Tomcat and Eight Ball Champ." Neat.

Hardcore Gamer Scores Grandia Opening

hgm9.jpg So, over at Hardcore Gamer Magazine, the latest issue of the neat North American PDF/hardcopy game fan-magazine, #9, is available for download.

We covered the last issue of the mag, which is put out by the DoubleJump Books folks, and they continue to do quality work, with the cover featuring Grandia III, and previews including Daxter and Syphon Filter, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, and Blazing Angels.

Finally, for features, and we quote directly: "We like to chase down our Grafx with a swig of Super and that's what we got goin' on here. Relieve the Danish's wonder years, where Axes were Legendary, Keiths had courage, and JJ & Jeff were two "confused" detectives looking for love in all the wrong places."

(We think this previous paragraph is about the TurboGrafx16/PC Engine, but it could be an elaborate sex cult.) [Via SiliconEra.]

March 3, 2006

Gizmondo, Ferraris, And... Homeland Security?

enzo.jpg Nope, we're still not bored of that Gizmondo Enzo crash-o story. And nor are the Los Angeles Times, apparently, since their latest investigative report reveals that: "The car's owner, Stefan Eriksson, a former video game executive from Sweden, told Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies who responded to last Tuesday's accident in Malibu that he was "deputy commissioner" of the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority police anti-terrorism unit, detectives said Thursday."

Uh... what? Apparently, this obscure Transit Authority, which has its own .gov website, has a uniformed police force, much to the concern of some local L.A. officials, and: "two unidentified men arrived at the scene on Pacific Coast Highway [just after the accident], flashing badges and saying they were from "homeland security," according to sheriff's department officials." Now, police want to question _them_.

But wait, there's more - the WreckedExotics page on the incident is still updating, and someone has stitched together an aerial view of the incident taken from TV news helicopter pics. Uh, wow.

Finally, according to Wrecked Exotics: "[Eriksson's apparent passenger] "Trevor" had asked a motorist who stopped after the crash if he could use a cellphone. "Trevor" used the cellphone while sitting in the motorist's car. After "Trevor" left the vehicle, the motorist discovered [a] gun clip stuffed in the crevice of the seat." Aw, why couldn't it have been a modified Gizmondo gun instead?

'Accordion Hero' To Hit Stores This April

ahero.jpg Those rascally Germans at Schadenfreude Interactive, who have recently been posting information on their Teutonic titles at GSW sister site Gamasutra, have just put up information on their April 2006 retail release, Accordion Hero.

An advertisement for the soon-to-be-classic game appears in the April issue of Computer Games Magazine, alongside an ad for 'zombie U-boat simulator' Dead Men Rising, which is equally awesome, but let's concentrate on Accordion Hero for now, offering, as it does, "all the great accordion melodies you've ever gotten really, really drunk to...from Ein Munchen Steht Ein Hofbrauhaus to Rock You Like A Hurricane."

The Schadenfreudians also add that the title "...comes with one Gloss Black USB accordion controller. Kirschrot (Cherry Red) controller sold separately for two-player squeeze action. Awesomely rad sticker sheet included." Awesome indeed, and the in-game screenshot makes it clear that Schadenfreude's blatant Boston-based imitators Harmonix should prepare for an army of towel-wielding German lawyers, any day now.

Roch On What Four Years Did For Ueda

shadowc.jpg Over at the weblog of Treyarch producer Stuart Roch, there's an interesting discussion sparked by Fumito Ueda's DICE speech on Shadow Of The Colossus, and touching on the issue of development time for video games.

Roch notes that "it took them four years to develop both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus respectively", and it got them to "an average review score of 91.05% collectively", and wonders: "Granted, it’s a bit of a stretch to make a simple correlation between more development time and higher quality product based on this tiny product sample, but I have to admit, there is certain attractiveness to the argument. Can it be that in a given number of development cycles, those that had more time with less resources would create better games than those that had short dev cycles with monster teams?"

You can read more about the DICE lecture from sister site Gamasutra's write-up, but this is an intriguing point - Roch argues: "Emotionally I hate the feeling that as a business we’re more consistently staffing larger and larger teams to do mad crunches to the finish line over smaller teams who have more time to do proper pre-production, prototype, be creative and iterate."

Adventurers Get AGS Awards, International Chamber

jordan.jpg Over at the lovable niche bunker that is AdventureGamers.com, they have news on the winners of the AGS Awards for 2005, honoring those making PC graphic adventures with Adventure Game Studio.

It's noted: "Leading the pack with four gongs from the community-run ceremony... was the fourth of the Ben Jordan games, Horror at Number 50, while Adventures in a Galaxy of Fantabulous Wonderment and Mind's Eye each picked up two awards." More info at the AGS forums.

Also on the adventure game front, a new version of UK indie adventure The White Chamber has been released, including multiple languages and 8 different endings to the neat "point and click horror adventure game", and is available from the Studio Trophis website - well worth checking out, if you enjoy Japanese-inspired SCUMM-esque 2D scariness. And don't we all?

Penn Jillette Discusses Unreleased Sega CD Game

pennteller.gifProfessional magician and comedian, co-creator and executive producer of last year's The Aristocrats, co-author of 'How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker; The Wisdom of Dickie Richard,' and larger half of performance duo Penn & Teller yesterday discussed the unreleased Sega CD videogame he helped design, Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors (or Penn & Teller's S&M, as he prefers to call it), on this daily podcast.

"It was a really mean, groovy game," said Jillette.

Smoke & Mirrors - recently spotlighted in a Waxy.org post for being bootlegged by some awful hooligan, was developed for the ill-fated Absolute Entertainment at the height of the first CD-ROM multimedia craze. In addition to a main adventure game that involved killing rival magicians and ultimately debunking the 'magic' of a Siegfried & Roy parody, the disc was also set to contain a number of magic tricks to pull on your friends, guest appearances by both Lou Reed and Blondie's Deborah Harry, and a little something called 'Desert Bus.'

"The best part of that I think was an idea that was not mine, not Teller's, and not Barry Marx, who designed the game with us. It was an idea by Eddie Gorodetsky, one of the producers on 'Two and a Half Men,' really funny guy. I think that Eddie G. is one of the funniest guys in the world."

"Remember Janet Reno? When she was taking away our rights, instead of the people who are now? Janet Reno was really against violent videogames, so we decided to do this game, Eddie's original idea, it was called 'Desert Bus.'"

desertbus.gif

"'Desert Bus' was a game we thought would really appeal to people who didn't like unrealistic games, and didn't like violence in their games. It was just like real, loving life."

The goal of Desert Bus was to, quite simply, drive a bus from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada; a very very boring drive, as those of us who have done it know. There were a couple catches, though: in the game, your bus could not go over 45 miles per hour. Also, it veered to the right, just ever so slightly, so you could not simply tape down the accelerator button on your Genesis pad and leave the game alone; you had to man the wheel at all times. Oh, and did we mention the trip takes eight hours, in real time?

"You saw nothing. It was just desert stuff going by," said Jillette. "And there was a little green tree hanging from the rear-view mirror, one of those things that makes your car smell better? And it would just kind of drift in slowly to one corner of the screen. And you couldn't take your hands off the controller, and if you did...it didn't have a spectacular crash, it just slowly went into the sand, and then overheated and stopped, and then the game was you being towed backwards all the way back to Tucson."

desertbustitle.gif

"And when you went from Tucson to Vegas and did the full 8 hours, you had bus stops, and the bus stops...you could stop and open the door, but no one got on. No one's ever waiting for you. And if you went by them you weren't punished at all, because nobody was there. It meant nothing. And a bug hit your windshield five times during the eight hours, and that was the only animation. It was just road after road after road. Eight hours of desert bus. And then when you got in - and I love this - when you got into Vegas and pulled in and stopped, the counter - which was five zeros - went to 1. You got 1 point for an eight hour shift, and then a guy came in and said, 'Do you want to pull a double shift, Mac?' And then you could drive back to Tucson for another eight hours for another point."

Jillette then detailed the official Desert Bus contest that Absolute had planned to accompany the game:

"And we were planning on giving a very lavish prize for the person that got the highest score. It was the person who got like, a hundred [points]. So 800 hours of playing this. We were hoping that groups of people, like fraternities and stuff, would play."

"It was going to be, you got to go on Desert Bus from Tucson to Vegas with showgirls and a live band and just the most partying bus ever. You got to Vegas, we're going to put you up at the Rio, big thing, and then, you know, big shows."

"It was a HUGE prize. It was dedicated to Janet Reno."

"The really sad part of this is that Barry Marx, who was the brains behind it and working with us, and a dear dear friend of mine, he had this massive heart attack out of the blue and died. So I think he would have a website certainly that gave all the instructions and everything, because it was really his baby, and a very funny idea."

March 2, 2006

Dead Rising, Zombies Chuckling, Eviscerating

deadr.jpg At least for us, one of the most-anticipated Xbox 360 titles is Keiji Inafune and Capcom's semi-comical zombie holocaust Dead Rising, originally unveiled in mid-2005.

Well, the Xbox 360 Live Marketplace just got updated with a free-to-download recent trailer of Dead Rising, which we also spotted over at GameTrailers.com [.WMV], and if you haven't seen the 3-minute promo spot, check it out right now. It showcases the improved graphics, bizarre improvised weapons, and cone-on-head wackiness of the visually improved X360-exclusive title, which is due out this summer.

In addition, we ran across this brand-new Inafune interview on the OXM UK website, in which the Mega Man creator chats about Dead Rising's less serious bent, pointing out: "Already we are making Resident Evil 5, so we’re going to have a serious zombie game too. But look at zombie movies. They’re not all deadly serious – there are comedy zombie movies, even romantic zombie movies!" Dude, we're all about the zombie smooching.

Pinball Gets Second Aussie Lease On Life

ripper.jpg We at GSW haven't been covering pinball enough, besides a random post about PC pinball controllers or two, so it was a delight when RetroBlast spotted that "Pinball.com forum members have started receiving invitations to pre-order remakes of [1997's] Medieval Madness and [1998's] Cactus Canyon to be made under the Bally name."

The people behind this remake are Australian firm The Pinball Factory, who've licensed classic Bally IP for this neat hobbyist reissue, and RetroBlast mentions: "According to the pre-order forms, reserving a machine will set you back $2500 and the total cost will be $5000 plus another $500 in shipping from Australia."

In addition, The Pinball Factory is working on a brand new, original 'Crocodile Hunter' pinball machine using the Bally name, described as currently "in the development stages". Over at Bally's Wikipedia page, it notes that "The Pinball Factory also has bought the right to manufacture new games using his company's new hardware system under the Bally brand." It's a bit tricky to see the playfield in detail, but certainly looks like a 'little ripper', as the ads say, and it's great to see pinball machines not entirely dead and buried.

I Am 8-Bit Showcases New Art, Book Info

biskup.jpg We've previously covered the latest incarnation of the excellent 'I Am 8-Bit' art exhibit and book, and Game Informer Online now has new images and info on this year's 'I Am 8-Bit 2.006' art show.

According to the article, "On Saturday, April 22, the exhibit will play host to the official book release party. Here, show goers can pick up the book, and get it autographed by artists and authors. Plus [curator Jon] Gibson noted there will be a surprise DJ, the band 8-bit Weapon will play, and there will be a Capcom themed bar (who will sponsor the exhibit) with Capcom inspired cocktails." Mm, Capcom cocktails - sold!

Gibson also comments on some fresh interactive exhibits: “This year there will be a few surprises, kind of like the NES controller, that I’m not going to divulge. But if you show up you’re going to be surprised. If all comes together it’s going to destroy the 8 foot NES controller." We're very much looking forward to it, since 'I Am 8-Bit 2.006' is also open during E3.

GameTap's March Grabs Capcom, Sega Additions

vfvf.gif Continuing GSW's death wish to be 'all GameTap, all the time', we just got their latest press alert, discussing March's forthcoming games and attractions, following February's line-up update from Turner's monthly subscription PC gaming service, and there's a couple of excruciatingly vague but interesting tidbits on there.

Apparently, the game vault is 'now approaching 400 titles', and "this month, three of Sega’s most popular games are coming to GameTap, including the world’s first 3D CG fighting game!" GSW editor and 'retro master' Frank Cifaldi is predicting that this means Virtua Fighter for the 32X, but we rarely listen to him anyhow.

In addition, there's a big Japanese name appearing as a new GameTap licensee: "Capcom will be entering the GameTap arena with nine – yes nine – additions to the GameTap library." Of course, there's no hint as to exactly what titles - but damn, we wish that Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara could appear, stripped of the D&D license, or something, just so we can play it legally.

In original programming, apparently "...two of the biggest names in the punk and country music scenes, respectively, will be featured in shows addressing their love of video games" - Johnny Rotten and Dolly Parton? We're just spitballing here. Finally, the most-played game of February on GameTap was Army’s Men: Sarge’s War. Uh? Still, next was Galaga and then Root Beer Tapper, so the world is still sane. Kinda.

March 1, 2006

GameSetWatch Launches Columns, Looking For Columnists

gsg.jpg Well, as you may have spotted, we ran our first ever GameSetWatch column today, the first instalment of regular shooter column 'Shmup Me Up, Buttercup', thanks to Jeremiah 'Nullsleep' Johnson, who is writing a pair of columns for us that will run biweekly.

Johnson, who runs famed bleep net.label 8BitPeoples, will be writing a GSW column dealing with video game music and 'chiptune'-related news and links. In addition, Vintage Computing & Gaming editor RedWolf is compiling for GSW a weekly column looking at vintage game print ads, including plenty of exclusively sourced ads from classic game magazines.

However, we're looking for more columnists who have the time to write weekly columns for us, and we're particularly interested in the following subjects: Japanese doujin games, game modding, weekly profiles for selected classic PSX/Saturn/N64 games, similar profiles for Genesis/SNES/NES games, a Western and/or Japanese arcade column, and any manner of other geeky things. You may have some better ideas, even.

In any case, contact us if you think you can source and post something weekly on any of these (or other GSW-relevant!) subjects. There is some (trifling!) payment involved, too. So have at it!

COLUMN: 'Shmup Me Up, Buttercup' - Ibara Is Hell For Bullets

ibara.jpg ['Shmup Me Up, Buttercup' is a bi-weekly column by Jeremiah ''Nullsleep' Johnson, dealing with the latest shoot-em-ups, or shmups, from Japan and the West, and covering the frantically cultish game genre that refuses to die, despite many bullets aimed in its direction over the years.]

Ibara Attacks The PlayStation 2!

Thus far, February saw the release of a variety of exciting new shooters, reaffirming the vitality of a genre based largely on navigating through ungodly swarms of bullets.

Combining the sex appeal angle of Mushihimesama with a rank and scoring system reminiscent of Battle Garegga, Ibara is the latest bullet-fest to hit the PS2. Although it carries the Cave name, with Shinobu Yagawa's influence as lead programmer some are calling it the first new Raizing shooter since 2000. Cave fans will have to deal with the larger hitbox, heavy debris and needle bullets, but hey, the cute Rose sisters dolls should make up for it.

Radilgy Gets Dreamcast Love?

radi.jpgOn the other end of the spectrum is Radilgy, brought to everyone's favorite undead console, the Dreamcast, by developer Milestone - it's also now due for PS2 and GameCube. Where their previous effort, Chaos Field (which recently saw a US Gamecube release) came across as unpolished and somewhat derivative, Radilgy shines with vibrant, cel-shaded graphics and more engaging and original gameplay.

And while they may not have the luxury of releasing an entire line of figures to coincide with the release of the game like a certain other company, they do have papercraft!

gradpsp.jpgGradius, Gunner's, Bullet...

Add to this the Gradius Portable collection for PSP (well worth importing, but is it worth firmware upgrading?) and access to the previously-Comiket 69-exclusive releases of excellent doujin shooters Gunner's Heart and Shoot The Bullet, and it all adds up to shooting heaven!

Stay tuned til the next instalment of 'Shmup Me Up, Buttercup', where we'll be discussing more of the latest shooters for console, PC, handheld, mobile, and whatever other formats we can get our hands on. Feel free to contact us with feedback or tips for the column.

[Jeremiah Johnson is co-founder of chipmusic and computer-art collective, 8bitpeoples.com based out of New York City. Working with Game Boys and NES consoles to create music, he has been featured in various publications ranging from Wired to Vogue.]

R, R, L, L, Send, Send, Send

stepui.jpg Over at ZDNet, there's a cute new report up headlined 'Microsoft sees Dance Dance Revolution in e-mail', and continuing: "The software maker's research unit has developed a prototype e-mail program in which cubicle dwellers can wade through e-mail and delete messages using their feet."

According to the story: "The genesis of the footwork project is that computer input is a continual strain on the hands, while other tasks, such as playing the piano or riding a bicycle, use both hands and feet. It's part of a broader look at the role feet can play in computing, an effort dubbed "Step User Interface" (StepUI)."

In fact, there's an official page for StepUI on the Microsoft Research site, which even includes a video [WMV] of the project in action. Apparently: "Average heart rate increased 19% while using StepMail and 13% for StepPhoto", and "Taking a break from the keyboard was popular". So this is clearly the medium of the future!

McConnell Talks Psychonauts, Monkey Island Madness

mcconnell.jpg The ever-wondrous International House Of Mojo, which has expanded its LucasArts agenda to cover any number of ex-Lucas employees, has posted a link to a fun new interview with Lucas alumnus Peter McConnell on Italian LucasArts fansite Lucasdelirium.

As MnM notes: "The interview discusses [McConnell's] work on specific titles like Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island 2, Fate of Atlantis, more general LucasArts subjects like his work on the iMuse interactive music system used in most of LucasArts' classic adventures, and touches on what he's up to now. As a bonus to non-Italians, the interview's even in English!"

Also covered is Psychonauts, which McConnell also scored, and when asked about the game's critical plaudits but apparently ambivalent sell-through, he notes: "I think Double Fine is pretty happy with how Psychonauts has done, so I wouldn’t be quite so bleak about it. Besides, you could look at the fact that there can be two or three hits at a time that are, say World War II games, as a good thing. It means story and execution matter. Gone are the days when there is just one shooter that takes all the marbles. That said, I’d like to see a little more imagination out there. E3 has become a bit predictable."

The Secret Origins of Strider

strider.gifCourtesy of all-around great guy and Lost Levels forums member Chris Covell comes this rare video footage of Capcom's Strider for the Japanese Famicom (aka the Nintendo Entertainment System to us western folk).

This is significant for two reasons: first, because Strider was never actually released for the Famicom, and second, because this preview footage is from 1988 - nearly a full year prior to Strider's arcade debut. What you're seeing here is the earliest known footage of what would become one of Capcom's more popular franchises.

The console version was eventually released for the NES in the United States, sometime after the arcade game, with quite a few layout changes and modifications made. It would appear - and this is pure conjecture - that the Famicom version was cancelled in favor of an arcade release, and then re-visited and tooled with specifically for the American market.

The Japanese version is something of a holy grail among Famicom enthusiasts. In fact, a pre-release review copy of the game - the only one I've ever seen - was sold on Yahoo! Japan Auctions last month for 176,000 yen. That's over $1,500, for those playing along at home. Which, by our estimates, makes this blog post worth about $10.57. Score!

February 28, 2006

Mind Control Software Thwarts Poker

thwartpoker.jpg The Indy Gamer weblog has posted a mini-review of new casual PC 'poker' title Thwart Poker, which "derives its name from the method in which cards are selected. All fifty-two cards are laid out at the bottom of the screen and no cards are ever dealt, only selected by the poker players."

Interestingly, Thwart Poker has been developed by Mind Control Software, the makers of IGF winner Oasis, and looks to be a cunning variant on the normal poker rigmarole, while also sporting some fetching graphics.

Actually, Mind Control seems to be working on some other neat products recently, including Dimenxian, a fascinating-looking educational title using GarageGames' Torque Engine, for which the slogan is, we kid you not, 'Learn math or die trying'. It's apparently "a relevant and engaging way for middle and high school students to learn algebra concepts." And also shoot stuff. Lots.

Life Of D. Duck Takes Graphic Adventure Surreal

bjorn.jpg Formerly hosted on the DIY Games website, Jozef Purdes' excellent Independent Adventuring monthly wraps now have their own weblog, and he's added an entry for January 2006's graphic and text adventures.

Of January's releases, Purdes has special praise for the practically 'folk art' Life Of D. Duck graphic adventure, explaining :"This is a superb medium-length adventure where you play a duck, which wants to make some oat porridge. The game is relatively straight-forward, but still requires some thinking, as some of the puzzles are more on the obscure side. What makes the title really good, however, is the very unique graphical style."

The game's author, LeChuck, further explains: "This adventure game is filled with broken english and awful, awful artwork that would make Walt Disney turn in his grave. You're probably wondering why, and the answer is to celebrate aspiring artist Bjørnar B. He made all the dialogue and artwork in this project." Oh, Bjørnar, we love it that we're confused about your existence.

Meet The Newest Face At Sega!

spinelle.jpgWe just got a press release over the wire that may excite your crazy Sega fanatics out there.

No, it's not about Shenmue 3, think bigger. No, they haven't officially apologized for Sonic Heroes. It's way more important. Ready?

Sega Amusements, USA has appointed a new Customer Service representative for the Parts Division.

Her name is Angela Spinelle, and she has a really nice pink sweater that seems to be made of cotton, or perhaps some cotton-like material. Her desk has manilla file folders, which I've found is a great way of saying "no, I can't do that, I have too much work piled up as it is" without ever opening your mouth. She also keeps strange alien devices on her desk, as seen in this enhanced photograph:

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The device on the left is obviously a ZX Spectrum, for when she needs to play Eggy Adventure or Pick-Axe Minor Man Guy or Tiny Tim's Big Trouble or whatever people played on those. The middle object, we're speculating, is the decapitated head of the miniature customer service robot that Spinelle created and had to subsequently destroy to save humanity. And the object on the right is some sort of storage and display device for holding pencils, pens, and other long objects.

"Angela has a very positive attitude that will be recognized by all of our customers and staff alike," said Sega Amusements President Rick Rochetti. "It is important to have a person in this position who can manage relationships as well provide a good service to our distributors. Welcome aboard Angela."

Gizmondo Exec's Enzo Gets Wrecked Exotic Page

enzoboom.jpg A wily tipster has pointed GSW to a special webpage devoted to Gizmondo exec Stefan Eriksson's crashed Ferrari Enzo on the aptly named WreckedExotics.com, and if you enjoy obsessing over the firm, like us, then you'll appreciate some of the extra details in there.

Though our original post regarding the incident wrapped up the major threads, updates since then include "a call from the Bank of Scotland claiming that the bank was in the process of repossessing the car", a recent video clip of Mr. Eriksson in Beverly Hills with his other, black Enzo, and indication that "The car had a European registration and nothing had been done to make it street legal in California."

There's also a note that a "40cm length hose" from the crash was being auctioned on Ebay: "This was picked up after all the debris had been cleared out", but sadly, it's already been pulled. Still, you can buy plenty of Gizmondo hardware and accessories on eBay, even if the chunks of Ferrari are no longer available.

IGF Finalists Get Press, Press, Press

igf.jpg Since we also help out with the Independent Games Festival, and we just compiled all the recent interviews with the IGF Finalists, we thought it might be cool to crosspost them on GSW, with a couple of bonus links. So... let's do that!

Firstly, Gamasutra has been continuing
with its finalist interviews, including Dodge That Anvil's Jack Grandchamp, The Witch's Yarn's Keith Nemitz, Dofus' Thomas Bahon, and Putt Nutz' Suzanne Brooks, as well as IGF Student Showcase finalists such as Cloud's Cloud Team, Goliath's Level 11 Games, Ocular Ink's Pistachio Productions, and Ballistic's Ballistic Team.

Secondly, GameDev.net has also been doing a plethora of great Main Competition interviews, including with Ankama (Dofus), Flashbang Studios (Glow Worm), Insert Coin (Rumble Box), Oddlabs (Tribal Trouble), Rabidlab (Dodge That Anvil!), 21-6 Productions (TubeTwist), Atomic Elbow (CrazyBall), Grubby Games (Professor Fizzwizzle), Ominous Development (Strange Attractors), and Pocketwatch Games (Wildlife Tycoon: Venture Africa).

Finally, the folks at BioWare sat down and interviewed the Neverwinter Nights 2006 IGF Mod finalists, providing more interesting discussions regarding the nominated games. And for the GSW-exclusive extra links - there's a neat Canada.com interview with the Professor Fizzwizzle guys, plus previous IGF finalist Dustin Sacks has some great advice for this year's IGF finalists on his Random Dude weblog. So there.

February 27, 2006

GamerDad On Gaming With, Uhh, Dads

reynolds.jpg GamerDad's Andrew Bub has reprinted an extended article on gaming with families, as originally appearing in Computer Games Magazine's August '05 issue, and it's a great read.

As the article reveals: "Brian Reynolds, the CEO of PC game maker Big Huge Games, makes in depth strategy games like Rise of Nations for a living, but off the clock, he's an Undead Priest traveling the wilds of World of Warcraft with his sons. "Ro (9) usually wants to be a wizard of some sort (because of Harry Potter), so he's currently playing a level 40 Troll Mage. Tay (7) is a level 41 Tauren Warrior.""

The interviewed parents are also careful on hands-on parental supervision - for example, Reynolds "sets a one-hour per day limit for all games in his house. "I also control the boy's accounts. They don't know the passwords. So they need me to personally log them in each time they want to play.""

Thus, Bub concludes: "Maybe this year, instead of hitting the Grand Canyon or the local beach, your family should explore the far reaches Norrath, fight the Cogs in ToonTown Online, or delve deeply into the forests of Azeroth. Heck, the whole family could wear matching armor!" And you can go to the Grand Canyon as well, if you want!

Never Welcome To The Neverhood

gunhockeya.jpg Over at the Hardcore Gaming 101 site, they've added a very neat synopsis of all The Neverhood-related titles, showcasing the great claymation titles from Doug TenNapel and friends.

Not only is there a bunch of good information on The Neverhood, originally produced in association with Steven Spielberg at Dreamworks Interactive (the Internet Archive has a electronic press kit movie for the game featuring Spielberg talking about it), but the rather rare Klaymen Gun Hockey is also covered in some detail.

As the authors explain: "It's pretty strange for an American-designed game to get a spinoff specifically for the Japanese market. And yet here we are with [PlayStation 2 title] Klaymen Gun Hockey, developed by a company called KIDSMIND and published by Riverhill Soft, who also published the other Klaymen games in Japan. It's pretty much just air hockey, except you shoot the puck with guns. " Gun puck madness, we tell you!

Bootleg U2 Rock Out In Second Life

r360.jpg Ilya Vedrashko's Brands In Games weblog has put up a new post documenting today's concert by the 'U2 In Second Life' band, held in Linden Lab's Second Life online virtual world.

Vedrashko explains: "The concept in brief: players [here's the official U2 in SL website] stream a soundtrack into the world and create character animations for the performance itself. The major problem was the number of avatars the server could accept without the latency becoming too noticeable. Otherwise, a truly fantastic performance with every detail thoroughly worked out."

The band's website also notes of the unofficial tribute to the band: "We do this for fun but, most importantly, to raise awareness of the various causes supported by the real world band—causes such as ONE.ORG, DATA.ORG, and MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY.ORG." Good stuff - Second Life continues to host plenty of intriguing events.

StarROMs Takes Last Train Out Of Town

starroms.gif Over at RetroBlast!, they've spotted that legal ROM site StarROMs is closing its doors, after a couple of years of selling Atari-licensed MAME-compatible game ROMs like Asteroids, Tempest, Quantum, and many others.

The farewell message on the StarROMs site simply reads: "Since October 2003, StarROMs has provided a legal source of game ROMs for classic arcade enthusiasts. Unfortunately, we will no longer be licensing or distributing game roms. Without further notice, this site will go away in the near future."

StarROMs was trying to do an admirable thing - an interview with the site's Frank Leibly in 2004 explains more on their philosophy - but in the end, it seems like lack of diversity and ease of PC ROM-copying may have done them in. If so, that's a shame.

February 26, 2006

Zelda's Second Quest Gets Super Speed Run

zelda2.jpg The gigantic Speed Demos Archive continues to add a number of quality speed runs, all done on official hardware and with fairly stringent rules, and the latest is a second quest run on The Legend Of Zelda for the NES.

As the Wikipedia page for Zelda explains: "The player could play the "second quest" either by completing the first quest of the game, or by entering "ZELDA" as the character's name... The basic overworld map is slightly changed, but the locations and layout of the dungeons are completely different, and most of the items and secrets are in different places than before."

Well, Robert 'Trebor' Nobles has completed this version in 44 minutes and 33 seconds, and without using the 'Up & A' in-game warping which returns the player to the start, as the news page explains. Robert's notes on the game also explain : "I was so relieved when I saw the time was sub-45 [minutes]; that was my original goal. Of course, like any good runner, I'm not completely satisfied, so look for me to improve this run sometime. I still work on it on a daily basis, but I wanted this to get put up so I wouldn't feel like I've accomplished nothing." Nice - this is some hardcore playing.

Manifesto's Bloggers Set Up Shop

bm2k6.jpg Over at Greg Costikyan's weblog, the veteran game designer and co-founder of the still very nascent, pre-production Manifesto Games indie game distribution website, has announced new weblogs from the other principals.

It's noted: "[veteran ex-CGW editor] Johnny Wilson will be blogging at Game Gospel; essentially, he's been cobbling together reviews and articles about some games we want to offer, and I figured we should put them out there ahead of time. They'll eventually be reformatted for the Manifesto Games site, but for now, you'll find some timely discussion of at least the sorts of games he likes--strategy games, for the most part." In addition: "Eleanor Lang, our publicist, will be blogging at Comrade Lang's Little Red Blog."

Wilson's first posts deal with a game Manifesto will apparently be carrying, hardcore stat sim Baseball Mogul 2006, of which it's explained: "To the statistics-oriented fan, Baseball Mogul 2006 offers a fabulous laboratory for testing their Sabremetrics approach to front office management." It remains to be seen if Manifesto's funding and infrastructure can be put in place, but at least they're thinking carefully about the kind of games they want to promote.

Brand Consultants, Gaming Produce Unholy Child

brandgame.gif Game theorist Matteo Bittanti has a new post up pointing out a soon-to-debut book on brand management and video games.

According to the blurb for 'Brands And Gaming: The Computer Gaming Phenomenon and the Impact of Brands on Gaming', which is published by Palgrave Macmillan next month: "The computer gaming industry is bigger than the film and music industries and is growing faster than both of them put together. The industry is also changing fast. The typical computer gamer is in his mid 20s and female gamers make up one of the faster growing parts of the market. New developments in sociability and interactivity are also transforming the industry. This is the first major study of brands and gaming and shows huge opportunities for brand development." Bigger than film _and_ music? Not bad!

So, yep, if you want to know how to market your product or license in the apparently ripe for exploitation gaming world, there are chapter headings like 'Will Gaming Replace TV?', and 'Strategies for Your Brand to Enter the Gaming Space'. If anyone gets hold of a copy, send us some choice extracts.

Driving With WoW Power Levelers

wowoo.jpg We at GSW have been chatting to Kaiser Kuo of Red Herring's Chinese bureau recently, regarding some MMO-related stories they're doing, and in the process spotted some fascinating World Of WarCraft-related 'power leveling' messageboards.

As you might/might not know, you can pay for a WoW 'non-stop power leveling service', during which "your character will be leveled by 2-3 [of] our master players almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except for lunch, dinner and restroom." After you hand over your character, it'll take $125 and 6-9 days to get from Level 1 to 40, and $300 and 13-18 days to get from Level 1 to 60 in WoW, after which, you can have your buffed-up char back. There's even a 'Power 1-60' option for $600 which includes: "two professions, first aid, fishing and cooking 1-300, epic mount, good equipment and 600+ gold." Tasty!

Anyhow, the afore-mentioned messageboards, which are public, are a chance for the people who have paid to get updates on how their character is doing, and a couple of the threads are rather amusing: "They are using my other Charactors in the Game. I paid for you to level only one Guy Tillamook... I have checked and found out that all of my charactors are next to mail boxes and not all in the Inns where I left them." Next to mailboxes? Oh my god! Actually, this mini ruckus got sorted out, and it seems that the vast majority of users are happy with the insane work that Power-Leveling's WoW grunts put in.



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