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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 April, 2006

The Xbox 360 Should Cost.... More!

April 23, 2006 4:10 AM | Simon Carless

x360.jpg I like Dave Long's 'LongShot' editorials on GamerDad - always have, used to link them when I edited Slashdot Games, and the latest is especially fun, espousing the theory that the Xbox 360 was too inexpensive.

Long explains his reasoning: "The beginning of a console generation has typically been for those with deep pockets or an unhealthy hardcore jones for videogames. These people are willing to smack down big bucks for the latest technology. The price of 360 was too low to keep the launch confined to that group and it was a big mistake in my opinion."

He continues: "With a higher price tag, Microsoft would have made more money, made sure sellouts wouldn't have lasted for months after Christmas and still sold through all the units they had to sell before the holiday", and concludes even more defiantly: "That's why I think Sony should be aggressively high with the price of PS3. Push that newly priced at $129.99 PlayStation 2 into every single home possible by sending the message that right now, the next generation of gaming is SUPER expensive." Thoughts?

Audiophiles Flocking To... The PS1?

April 22, 2006 11:06 PM | Simon Carless

tubee.jpg There are certainly some hardcore game sites out there, but one of the weirdest we've found recently is Mick Feuerbacher's page on PlayStation 1 audio playback, for sure.

Basically, Mick explains: "You may have heard that the Sony Playstation is a remarkably good CD player. Indeed this is the case for the very first model, the playstation 1 model SCPH 1002... On this page I will, one by one, add a series of... modifications [which] turn the PS into a truly audiophile piece of equipment, which, concerning the sound quality, clearly beats commercial "high-end" CD players up to price ranges of several thousand Euros."

These tweaks range from the relatively straightforward PS1 CD drive laser tweaking, through some much more complex audio output circuitry to clean up the sound, all the way to audio damping using a children's bicycle inner tube. Honest. And to cap it all, there's even a modchip removal tutorial - welcome to Bizarro World! S'all extremely neat, mind you. [via normalroach].

Hirameki, RPGFan Make Sweet Love Together

April 22, 2006 5:06 PM | Simon Carless

hiram.jpg Continuing the previously in-force semi-obsession with U.S. dating-centric Japanese 'visual novel' importers Hirameki International, RPGFan has posted dual reviews of recent Hirameki titles Tea Society Of A Witch and Exodus Guilty Vol. 1: Present, the latter of which amazingly "involves the past, present, and future" - all at once!

Exodus Guilty is apparently a lush title in which "religion (particularly eschatological theories), morality, and the values of mankind are strong themes in the narrative", but reviewer Neal Chandran notes: "Visual novels are not a genre based around gameplay, but the gameplay offered in Exodus Guilty is more limited than in other visual novels I've played. There are extremely few decisions to be made in the game and even if you make an incorrect decision, you get a do-over until you make the correct decision the game wants you to make."

As for the review of Tea Society, it's explained delightedly: "If you are looking for a love adventure that is serious-minded and features a deep and very thoughtful romance, then stop reading right now and go pick up Hourglass of Summer. If you want to experience silly romatic hijinks with a bevy of silly anime girls, then Tea Society of a Witch just may be up your alley." [RPGFan also has a review of Hirameki's Ever 17, for the intrigued.]

What We Think of What You Think - We Think?

April 22, 2006 12:58 PM |

e_010.jpgEver read an article about your own country from the perspective of another? As a reader of English living in Japan, I get to do that all the time. So from Japan with love, comes this delightfully charming, slightly clueless summing up (JP link) of the Western reaction to Nintendo's DS exports, from the Kyoto Newspaper Electronic Edition.

With respect to Nintendogs' success, it's suggested: "The US market spends a huge sum of money on development to compete among themselves on very complex stories and difficult technologies, so [the success of Nintendogs] is a surprising and uplifting thing outside of their predictions." In that otherworldly US market, the game companies "target fans who enjoy complicated FAQ-required games" by creating "games including car racing, basketball, war and fighting."

Note specifically the war part: that's something a lot of Japanese don't get, the fixation on World War II and the like. The article mentions also mentions a perception that the Japanese tendency toward simple, basic game mechanics is taken as appealing to just children over in the States, so the author is doubly surprised at the DS' success.

The entire piece has this awestruck tone of surprise that sounds like this, "They like our games! Our simple games! Can you imagine? The great mechanical beings of Mars have descended to enjoy a little foozball." You can see many articles that are slightly less silly, but had the same point: at GDC and the like, when Japanese creators appear alongside their peers in America, there is a definite, "What does big brother think of little brother?" mentality from some observers.

I now return you back to your complex FAQ on Call of Duty 2, my lovely American brothers and sisters!

Welcome To The Virtual Wooorld Of Tomorrow

April 22, 2006 6:39 AM | Simon Carless

terra.gif Via a whole heap of people, Business Week's latest issue is themed around virtual worlds, and the cover story discusses the ever-printworthy metaverse of Second Life.

Alongside the normal talk of bright event horizons rapidly approaching, there's some interesting points made by the author: "My disorientation points up one of the big challenges of these virtual worlds, especially one so open-ended as Second Life: With nothing to shoot and no quest to fulfill, it's hard for newbies to know what to do. Virtual worlds require personal computers with fairly advanced graphics and broadband connections and users with some skill at software." In fact, Will Wright, who is cited as 'admiring' Second Life, notes: "The tools are the weak spot... That limits its appeal to a fairly hard-core group."

There's also some oddly evocative prose in an online-only interview with MMO economist Edward Castronova, who comments almost anguishedly of MMOs: "The concept that it's becoming a global commercial phenomenon, that's intimidating to me... I like the body. I was watching a ballet recently. I was crying because I was thinking the bodies are so beautiful, and we're losing the body. I'm just afraid of losing the body."

So, are we going from hunting and gathering wild animals to keypresses to, eventually, brain synapses? The concept is either liberating or tragic, depending on how many early '90s issues of Wired you've been reading at the time.

Fristrom, Della Rocca, World Tussles On Mat

April 22, 2006 12:31 AM | Simon Carless

planit.jpg Some interesting discussions have been popping up online about how video game development is planned, and they all started from IGDA executive director Jason Della Rocca's recent article for The Escapist, 'Friction Costs', subtitled: "How immature production practices and poor quality of life are bankrupting the game industry".

Now, longtime Gamasutra columnist and Treyarch technical director/designer Jamie Fristrom has found some disquiet with Jason's suggestions, or at least reason to write him an open letter, noting: "I agree with your article -- too many studios out there, when faced with hardship, the first thing they think is: "We've got to make everyone put in more overtime."... But I also find the article a little hurtful. Your article talks about how we're in the dark with our project management, and how if we got out of the dark we wouldn't have to kill ourselves anymore."

In return, Della Rocca has penned a reply that particularly refers to Steve McConnell’s lecture at GDC 2005 as part of the Quality Of Life seminar. To which Sony Japan's ever-present Greggman responds: "Just being a dick but if Steve McConnell is so smart why is Vista like 3 years late? Isn't he supposed to be product of Microsoft management methods or visa versa, taught them their methods? And hasn't nearly every single Microsoft lately product been late?" Aand... the flaming argument ship rolls on!

Bloodthirsty Seventh-Graders Crave Monster Hunting

April 21, 2006 8:15 PM |

oresama.jpg Capcom's action RPG Monster Hunter series just happens to be one of those games whose white hot popularity in Japan cools considerably when it travels over the Pacific.

Even for Monster Hunter though, a curious trend has been emerging, that of the huge PSP hit Monster Hunter Portable/Freedom outdoing the nonetheless huge popularity of the PS2 sequel Monster Hunter 2. Why is this? Japanese website Nikkei BP believes it has the answer (JP link) in the phenomenon of how the game is especially popular among junior high school students, where it is called 'Monhun'.

For those who aren't familiar with 'Monhun'--with just the one title being released in the US so far--its a Phantasy Star Online type of action RPG that focuses specifically around a feel of hunting to all of its battles, and a great deal of its popularity stems from the things you can customize your avatar with your hunting spoils.

If you haven't already noticed the similarities with Pokemon, then Nikkei BP does it for you. A game that revolves around fighting monsters that gets a popular shortened nickname and finds its greatest audience on a portable? Nikkei believes the reason for this are twofold: 1) It's easier to play with friends face to face on the portable than it is to get everything ready for online play on the PS2, and 2) The grotesque expressions in Monhan appeal to the junior high school age.

Why this second? Nikkei uses the comparison of sports as mitigating ancient hunting instincts, and points to how Monhun specifically tends to assign collaborative roles to its players that are similar to soccer roles. Indeed, here they mention how instead of growing friendly with the monsters you fight, you slaughter them mercilessly, citing the opening mission where the player is tasked with murdering harmless herbivore monsters who won't fight back. In this way, junior high school students can believe they have graduated from Pokemon to something more sophisticated, which is helped by the fact that the PSP is such an advanced piece of hardware compared to the Gameboy Advance.

Did Capcom cynically plan it that way all along? Who knows, but no other Japanese company has come close to matching their PSP performance, and it appears as if Monhun will be a phenomenon for quite a while yet.

I Am 8-Bit 2.006 - Visual Evidence Sighted!

April 21, 2006 3:12 PM | Simon Carless

hford.jpg Ever entertaining New York blogger Matt, aka Fort90, has managed to procure an almost complete set of photos (part 1, part 2) from the freshly opened I Am 8-Bit 2.006 gallery show in Los Angeles, yay.

And, wow, much like last year, also documented by Fort90, this year's show, documented photographically by somakitty, looks amazing. We particularly dig the genius Brandon Bird's pic of Harrison Ford and his Sega Master Sytem all upset at his kids (who are playing NES? Difficult to tell from here.)

But pretty much everything else is amazing, too, from a Pac-Man ghost skull and crossbones sculpture to some Frogger felt genius - oh, and more excellent faux-Christian Pac-Man-related iconography. We wish we could buy pretty much all of this and hoard it in a cave. Maybe that's just us?

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Pepsiman

April 21, 2006 11:41 AM | Danny Cowan

pepsiman1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Pepsiman for the Sony PlayStation, published by KID and released in Japan in March 1999.]

Have a Pepsi!

Product placement in video games is usually a little bit more subtle than it is in Pepsiman. Most gamers probably don't bat an eyelash when a game makes you collect iPods to access hidden music, and does it really matter if your game has a few Snickers banners in it? In the past, there have been titles that exist solely to promote dog food and the magical power of Skittles, so it's difficult to categorize any kind of incidental advertising in gaming as "blatant".

Pepsiman, however, is a game that takes product placement beyond what could even be considered blatant and crosses over into the realm of the absurd. In Pepsiman, you play as a man -- himself presumably made entirely out of Pepsi -- who runs through a number of stages collecting Pepsi cans and distributing delicious Pepsi to those in need of refreshment. The game is based off of a series of Japanese Pepsi advertisements, and it's even more ridiculous than it sounds.

pepsiman2.jpgEverybody Pepsi!

The first level's introduction is a good indicator of the madness to come. The heroic Pepsiman theme blares in the background, serenading the player with repeated cries of "Pepsimaaaan! Pepsi-Pepsi-Pep-Pepsimaaaan!" A Pepsi deliveryman calls out to you, in desperate need of help. "There are a bunch of people waiting in front of the vending machines, and they want Pepsi!" he says. "And the word is that they're just about to riot. Can't you do something, Pepsiman?" Pepsiman nods, then rushes to the scene. It's up to you to ensure that Pepsiman gets there in time, before a war can erupt on the streets.

Pepsiman's gameplay was once described to me as being "like Crash Bandicoot for idiots." Take that for what you will. Pepsiman runs unceasingly forward, and your job is to make sure that he doesn't trip over anything in his path. Circumstances may occasionally force Pepsiman to ride a skateboard, or navigate the landscape with a trashcan over his head, but gameplay always involves lots of jumping, dodging, and Pepsi can collecting. All of this matters little in the end, though; once a level's goal is reached and crisis is averted, Pepsiman immediately suffers a violent death. Such is the way of Pepsi.

Pepsi for big fat American jerks!Pepsi for Pizza!

After Pepsiman dies and before he is resurrected without explanation for the next stage, the player is rewarded with a live-action FMV cutscene featuring a fat American man extolling the virtues of Pepsi. These clips are devoid of context, and none of them have anything at all to do with gameplay. One such scene begins with the guy laughing while shoving potato chips into his mouth. He then laughs at an even greater intensity, causing crumbs to shoot out of his mouth and onto his protruding stomach. He pauses to take a sip of Pepsi, then looks directly into the camera and cheerfully states, "Pepsi for TV game!" Fade to black, end of scene, begin next level.

Truth be told, Pepsiman as a game is not very much fun to play. The controls could be a lot better, and later levels are full of cheap, frustrating deaths. Still, the idea of preventing riots and saving lives using the power of Pepsi has an undeniable appeal, and the lure of the next inexplicable FMV cutscene will keep you playing until the end.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]

Bethesda Should Be Benevolent Billionaires

April 21, 2006 7:30 AM | Simon Carless

obliv.jpg Not really sure we've mentioned it before, but Bill Harris at Dubious Quality does some seriously smart game-related blogging at times.

The latest of these is a post named 'Mark Cuban Meets Bethesda', he discusses the Broadcast.com founder's recent play as owner of the Dallas Mavericks: "Last night, on Maverick's Fan Appreciation Night, he gave all 19,000 fans in attendance (and 1,000 watching on television) free ticket vouchers on American Airlines. It works out to about $3 million if everyone cashes them in."

Harris continues by commenting: "The reason I bring up Mark Cuban today is because Bethesda needs to learn from him. They've put out a brilliant, wonderful game [in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for PC and Xbox 360], and I'm not exaggerating... [but] you're not trying to get people to buy one or two add-ons. You're trying to create an environment where people will buy all of them. And you're blowing it. Because it doesn't matter if 100,000 people bought the horse armor. What matters is how many people buy the fiftieth download, and the hundredth, and you're headed in the wrong direction. Fast."

In other words - are Bethesda's current Xbox 360 pay downloadables for Oblivion not priced or scaled correctly? The horse armor was roundly pilloried, and The Orrery seems to have similar issues. What would you do right now, if you were Bethesda? Harris thinks he knows, but is he right?

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