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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For March, 2006

CMU Documents Game Innovation

March 21, 2006 3:01 AM | Simon Carless

gameinno.jpg Today at GDC, we had a chance to meet with some students from CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, and ended up finding out all about The Game Innovation Database, a new and potentially intriguing website.

As the site explains: "The goal of the GIDb is to classify and record every innovation in the entire history of computer and videogames. Because we could never complete this daunting task alone, we have made the GIDb an open wiki, allowing anyone to easily add innovation entries for the benefit of everyone who cares about the history, study, and practice of game innovation."

A good example is Super Mario Bros, for which the site claims of innovations, among a number of others: "Collecting Coins: Super Mario Bros. is the first game to use item collection as a secondary reward"; "Timer with Audio Warnings: Super Mario Bros. is the first game to give audio cues before the time runs out"; "Warp Zone: Super Mario Bros. is the first game that allowed players to skip some levels."

What we asked to see were timelines (on subjects such as audio and story) with specific innovations tied to them - we think that'd really help tie an already neat (and likely to be hotly debated!) project together. But the project is already well worth checking out in any case.

COMIC: The Multicart Project: Part Two

March 20, 2006 9:15 PM |

01-icon.pngThe Multicart Project is a weekly comic by cartoonist Dave "Shmorky" Kelly, detailing the lives of Nintendo Entertainment System characters way past their prime, living in low-income housing and just trying to get by.

In this second installment, A Boy and his Blob discover an unsavory house guest in their new room! Let's watch.

mp02.gif

[Dave "Shmorky" Kelly's cartoons have appeared in all sorts of exciting internet places, such as Keenspot, Shmorky.com, and Something Awful, where he served as animator on the Doom House DVD, and is currently outputting The Flash Tub on a weekly basis. He also has an Internet Movie Database entry, which makes him more famous than you.]

GSW Updates Slow This Week - GDC Intrudes?

March 20, 2006 4:15 PM | Simon Carless

gdc06.jpg Just a quick note to mention that, since it's Game Developers Conference 2006 in San Jose, Calif this week, and GameSetWatch editors are involved in both the Independent Games Festival and covering the show in significant depth for Gamasutra, updates on GSW may be a little on the sluggish side this week.

But, on the plus side, we promise to return with as many hairs plucked from the heads of famous game designers as we can, which we will then sell on eBay to South Korean cloning firms, as part of our own special project to propagate creativity in the video game industry. Anyone who was just thinking about alternative funding is clearly barking mad - genetic experiments are the way to go!

Play King Kong, Make A Friend

March 20, 2006 10:42 AM | Simon Carless

ubikong.jpg Although, we know, Ubisoft's King Kong game was released a while back, The New Gamer has just put up an intelligent essay called 'King Kong & the Merits of Character Interplay which tries to explore exactly how Michel Ancel's game differentiated itself from the pack.

Author G. Turner points out: "There's no one glorified leader in this crew, everyone just pitches in when they can. Ann will prompt you to follow her to take a certain route instead of getting lost. Hayes often be by your side, helping you pick off approaching Venatosauruses, and occasionally tossing you an extra gun (only if you ask first though). Even Carl will occasionally put his camera down to lift a hand in combat or help you open a door. And they aren't mute either - these crew members communicate with you..."

The concluding paragraph takes this point further, encompassing majestic loner Kong himself: "It is this character interplay that King Kong: The Official Movie of the Game excels at. The reactions Ann, Hayes, Carl and other members of the crew have when they interact with you infuses the title with personality that is widely lacking in many action games. The game itself is hardly perfect, but these character nuances and co-operative interplay go a long way towards overcoming the monotony of that comes over the title's later hours. Ancel then uses the comfortable cooperation of the film crew to underscore Kong's isolation, producing two very different playing experiences." An excellent critique.

PainStation Co-Creator Shares The Pain

March 20, 2006 3:59 AM | Simon Carless

oldnew.JPG The Little Mathletics blog has been doing some further updates, and has also added an interview with PainStation's Tilman Rieff about the "game of Pong within a specially designed cabinet that would whip and shock players hands, often causing tangible wounds."

The official PainStation site has more info on the latest iterations of the machine, which we recently covered when discussing the Pong Mythos exhibition, and gets a preciously art-styled quote from Tilman on what his collective, fur, has as its aims: "We are developing "art entertainment interfaces"...mechatronic artifacts that are re-evaluating the boundaries between man and his apparatus. Most of the time our creations are gaming machines that somehow incorporate new interactive experiences."

And, of course, every German art terrorist has to have a credo, and it appears that the PainStation guys' one is, simply enough: " World domination, legalize marijuana and make Shigeru Miyamoto president!" Well - fair enough.

Baseball With The NES Greats

March 19, 2006 7:46 PM | Simon Carless

toadSMB.PNG McSweeney's, that funny ol' publishing/website conglomerate created by Dave Eggers, has posted a rather amusing humor column, written by Rick Paulas, which answers a question about video games and fantasy baseball teams posed by, uhh, Rick Paulas.

The question, from Rick to Rick, was: "What would your ideal fantasy-baseball lineup be if you had to create it using only characters from classic Nintendo video games?", and it turns out there's a well thought-out answer behind this, starting out with Bald Bull from Mike Tyson's Punch Out ("Much like Manny, Barry, or the Big Hurt in his heyday, the powerful giant causes everyone in the ballpark to stop what they're doing when his name is announced.")

Other stand-outs include Toad from Super Mario Bros. ("Only on the team as a favor to the marketable Italian brothers, this diminutive's only attribute is chasing fly balls and catching them in his soft, padded, circular mound-head"), and Simon Belmont from Castlevania (" Despite the fame and fortune he's gotten from his changeup ("like it was pulled back on a string, or maybe a whip," the batters often say), Belmont has a deep loneliness.") All agreeably silly.

COLUMN: 'The Gaijin Restoration' - Asmik-Kun Land

March 19, 2006 12:28 PM |

Label Art Work["I often import games from abroad and play them. On such occasions, my imagination is sometimes stimulated more as I don't understand the language.” – Fumito Ueda, creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. 'The Gaijin Restoration' is a weekly examination of underappreciated Eastern games that never cross to Western shores. This week's title is Asmik's Asmik-Kun Land, which represented on the Famicom in Japan in 1991, a palindrome.]

And Now For a Personal Anecdote

Kwirk kicking back with the guy from NARC, Wizards and Warriors and some dude from Double DribbleOnce, when I was little, I chose two Game Boy games. One was Kwirk, which featured a punk rock, shades wearing Tomato who solved puzzles. It was boring. Kwirk later found himself on the Acclaim TV show Video Power. There may be a reason that Acclaim went out of business. The other game was Boomer’s Adventure in Asmik World. The cover featured a pink dinosaur rendered in a carefree illustrated manner, with overlapping eyes, thick black outlines and colors that refused to be contained within. Hopefully, this was to be a gateway to some sort of Doodleville. It ended up being a poor puzzle hybrid. Oh, to buy games based on their box art…

Warp forward to 2006 with various Hong Kong-ish sites offering dual Famicom/NES compatible clones (of questionable legality.) A Famicom cartridge appears with said little pink dinosaur. This is the game I wanted.

Fond Fossil Found

Great SceneryAsmik-Kun Land was Asmik’s late, 1991, entry into the 8-Bit mascot war in Japan. (Now, why they wouldn’t release Boomer, a pink dinosaur who attacks with what appears to be gentle flatulence [OK, it’s a tail-whip] to a generation of strapping young lads who were mesmerized by Sonic’s ‘tude escapes me.) It does give entry to Doodleville, my translation for Asmik-Kun Land. The pastel skies are filled with band-aids, eggs, cutlery, crayons and their sketches that cement the game’s artistic nature. Environment effects include pollen that makes poor Boomer sneeze, interrupting whatever he’s doing, and tomato juice pools that turn him all red and disallow him the use of his items until he washes in some water.

Items can be purchased at any time via the select button using the egg currency Boomer picks up from enemies he’s tail-whipped/farted on. Boomer’s repertoire is a varied, if typical, skill set including rolling attacks, flying, time freeze, an air bubble and the very useful ‘1-OK’, that allows a preventative hit point before a premature ice age. Now, with Boomer being a light weight one-hit kill, coupled with game’s ur-physics (inertia and gravity playing token roles), you get an uprooted 2D platformer where the control approaches the uncanny. Enemies are as bizarre as the surroundings, and are plentiful, with each having their own unique trick to master. Combined, there is definite challenge with the little pinko dino.

Attack of the Band Aids boomer6.jpg

Random Rock Paper Scissors

The game unfolds on an island map, where you can pick which stage you want to play. Each stage is 2 levels long and usually consists of the age old “go as far right as you can” progression, with some horizontal challenges, an underwater level and one in the air. Each stage ends with a boss battle. Boomer doesn’t appear to be capable or willing to take these guys head on, so they play games of Ro-sham-bo (aside: easily the worst minigame in The Rub Rabbits), mixed in with a game of Mother May I and some other random elements hidden in those Japanese glyphs. Pro-tip: stick with scissors, feather the run button, and save your eggs; messing up depletes your stock and when you hit zero, it's back to the beginning of the stage. With luck, perseverance, and some big ovaries, you can clear all the bosses to unlock the challenging final stage, and finally the disappointing all-text ending.

Crayon Sky Power Ups

In the end Asmik-Kun Land is a unique platformer with a clever aesthetic style, a fossil of the popular cel-shading we see today. The somewhat random and anticlimactic boss battles are a barrier for those lacking in Japanese knowledge, but there is a wave of satisfaction in wrestling through this black box’s internal logic into victory. Not an upper echelon title that the West missed out on, but worthy of inspection and play.

[Ryan Stevens is the associate producer on the various Cinematech shows on G4TV, which showcases many of the games written about here. He's been known to do the collaborative blog thing at That's Plenty.]

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FFXI Fan Festival Fares Felicitously

March 19, 2006 6:43 AM | Simon Carless

ffxit.jpg 1UP's James Mielke is a _serious_ fan of Square's Xbox 360/PS2/PC MMO Final Fantasy XI, and thus, his regular 'My Life in Vana'diel' column has by far the peppiest write-up on last weekend's Final Fantasy XI Fan Festival in Santa Monica.

The big deal, of course was the FFXI expansion The Treasures Of Aht Urhgan, which Mielke previews in pretty spectacular detail elsewhere on 1UP, but it's in Mielke's naked delight for the expansion that the most joy can be extracted from the piece: "Treasures, as evidenced by all the new features the development team unveiled, just looks like it's going to be cool as hell. I mean that sincerely. Chocobo breeding and raising? Hell yeah. Mog Lockers? Yeahhhhh! Besieged and Assault? Oh Hells Yeah!!!! Job balance changes to every job? About time, my friends!"

Mind you, in some ways, the article also shows how spectacularly complex MMOs are, and how the vernacular becomes solely intelligible to players after a certain point: "Even though I'm a NIN70, I will be the first to admit that PLDs have way better hate control. It's hard not to when you've got Provoke, Warcry (at 70-plus), Sentinel, Shield Bash, Flash, Cures, Cover. As a NIN, I've got Provoke, Warcry (finally, at 70) and the meager damage from the elemental wheel and enfeebling ninjutsu, like Kurayami." Yes, two of those, please! But its delight is, nonetheless, infectious.

Leafy Pastures Of XBLA - Heaven For Indies?

March 19, 2006 12:49 AM | Simon Carless

fluffy.JPG We like the folks at Edge Online because they try to hew a little differently from your average 'OMG! PS360!' weblog. They also post material from the excellent mag of the same name, and the latest Edge feature to be posted is named 'Long Live Live Arcade', dealing with the Xbox 360's downloadable game service.

We particularly like that the article is honest about some of the current hurdles for the groundbreaking service: "There are still pitfalls to be negotiated: the interface will need some substantial revision as the service expands, and the arrival of weaker games like the relentlessly vapid Feeding Frenzy could possibly weaken confidence in the system."

But none other than the saintly Jeff Minter comments: “Live Arcade is pretty much the natural home for the likes of Llamasoft", and the conclusion is truly uplifting: "But if standards can be maintained and improved, and an increasing userbase matched with increasing publisher support, then Live Arcade stands a real chance of returning to the days when innovative games were sustainable for small-scale developers, and accessible to whole households of new players." Rejoice!

Game Testing's Incredulous Road To Riches?

March 18, 2006 6:10 PM | Simon Carless

paidgames.JPG We spotted one of the regular Google text ads to appear alongside GSW was advertising 'game testing for fun and profit', essentially ("Get Paid $9-$80 An Hour To Play Games, Only $34.95 Money Back Grnt"), so we clicked through to find the Game Tester Guide website, with some startling revelations.

The site is run by one 'Alex Lum', who states confidently in the intro: "I am a full-time video game tester. I have been a video game tester for various Game Developers for 4 Years now and I love it. I know that it can be difficult to find a video game testing job, because I have been there. How does a guaranteed video game testing job sound?"

It appears that, in Alex's world, developers mail out pre-release copies of their game to random people, who play it for 4 hours, return it (without pirating it all over the Interweb) and get $260.

Well, the concept of broad, brief focus testing, but when Alex claims: "You can Make anywhere around $9 to $80 an Hour, right now I make about $75 an Hour", we tend to exhibit a little - skepticism. Most full-time game testers we know make $10-15 per hour, and that's for hard 8-hour per day slogs through broken, possibly not fun software that they have to play for weeks at a time. It's a great way up the ladder, and it can be fun under certain circumstances, but.. as a get rich quick scheme? Not so much. Still, we reserve judgement until someone pays the $34.95 and tells us what the hell they get in exchange.

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