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May 20, 2006

WolfenGitmo - Taking Wolfenstein A Tad Political

wgitmo.jpg Currently on display at Parsons School Of Design in New York is a mod of Wolfestein 3D called WolfenGitmo by Evan Harper, and, as the War & Games blog notes: "In the game, you're a prisoner who wanders through a dungeon populated by attack dogs, American soldiers, and portraits of W. Since your hands are bound, you can't fight back." Controversy, anyone?

Harper's blog notes: "I've had some comments about this being in poor taste/political, and I hope that people can see it as an investigation into how games can comment on more serious topics", and Ed Halter's comments on the War & Games blog are also insightful: "The pop origin of the Wolfengitmo mod is itself meaningful: the Americans play roles previously held by Nazis."

Interestingly, it looks like this mod was created as part of Cory Arcangel's 'Disassembly: the Art of Hacking' course at Parsons - Arcangel being a veteran hacker/modder and a bit of an artworld darling, who does fun stuff like the Super Mario Clouds hack. [Via BB.]

(Oh, and before researching this post, we didn't know about Halter's new book From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games, " a definitive history of the longstanding relationship between games and military culture, from wargaming's roots in ancient civilizations, to the Cold War development of computing for battle, to a recent crop of Pentagon-funded shoot-'em-ups, big-budget commercial titles and homemade hacks." Sounds interesting.)

The Great GameLife Conspiracy Of 2006

meldead.jpg Someone else we know who's agreeably cantankerous, Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins, has posted an extremely long 'expose' of the GameLife online video show's 'depraved' past - we've previously covered a lot of the reaction to this 'Wayne's World'-style show on GSW.

Well, that's a lie - we haven't covered the recent 'insanity', which started up somewhere around a tip to UK Resistance about fake snuff-ish pictures posed by female host Melissa, and then... ack, this is all so LJDrama that we can hardly bring ourselves to write about it.

Anyhow, there was some alleged (and pretty weaksauce) scandal, as described by Matt (with additional vague conspiracy theories about Chobot-style power grabs), and now Melissa and friends have posted 'E3 True Hollywood Story: Gamelife Melissa', which makes the excellent point that - uhm, they can do pastiches of E! True Hollywood Story with a reasonable degree of accuracy? OK, we give up, we're never going to be Defamer - time to go back to talking about text adventures.

Mobile Madness At E3, Effectively Summed-Up

bestof.jpg Though it's a little bit after E3, the award-related shenanigans are still in full effect, but we thought we'd point out an area that got a bit ignored in the next-gen hype - handhelds. Both US portagaming site Modojo (with a full set of E3 2006 awards) and similarly styled UK site Pocket Gamer (with a multiple-article 'best titles' E3 round-up) have recently posted their impressions, and there's some neat stuff there.

At Modojo, a notable 'mobile game of the show' winner was Lumines Mobile, which, it was suggested, may even be better than Lumines 2 for PSP: "...surprising new features and solid design of Gameloft's version for mobile phones really came out of nowhere and brightened my day. Three block colors in a single level, special blocks, and new block shapes do a lot to further the Lumines experience."

Over at Pocket Gamer, their best of PSP list puts a title we also adore listed first: "Compared to the frantic energy of most other PSP titles on show, coming to LocoRoco is something of a shock to the system and things feel disappointingly cumbersome... Give it a minute or two and your senses adapt – you're soon entranced by the hypnotic music and locked in a beautifully vibrant world as far away from racing cars, combo-crazed fighters and special forces operatives as you're currently likely to find."

[Also, it's not entirely portable, but since Chris Kohler has given Elite Beat Agents his overall Game Of The Show award over at the 2006 Game|Life E3 Awards, he gets a shout out too. And he's right!]

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Inciter of Nothing in Particular

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]

This won't go up until Saturday, but I'm actually writing this column on Wednesday, because I'm flying to San Francisco over the weekend. I deftly scheduled this the week after E3 because I wanted to get massively drunk and party hardy with all my game-industry friends while they're still in that post-E3 "God, I don't want to do actual work yet" phase. In fact, the party will likely begin before I arrive -- it'll begin at George Bush International, where I'll take my hefty GameSetWatch paycheck and spend it all on longnecks at the Fox Sports Grill so I'm suitably sedated for the three-hour flight.

And speaking of senseless debauchery and complete wastes of money, I'd like to talk to you this week about the incite magazines.

Incite-premieres.jpg

incite is the name of several video-game magazines published worldwide simultaneously by Computec Media in 1999. Computec, established 1989 in the German city of Nuremburg, was (and still is) the largest game-media publisher in the country -- its current game titles, including PC Games, PC Action, Xbox-Zone, and German-language editions of Edge and Computer and Video Games, have a combined guaranteed circulation of over a million copies.

In late 1998, Computec -- gifted with millions in dot-com-era investment money -- decided to aggressively pursue the American marketplace. The full-court press it launched on the industry in the ensuing year was like none seen before or since.

Computec USA head Torsten Opperman began by investing $100,000 in a market survey of American gamers. The survey, which was one of the first to look at the PlayStation-era game marketplace, confirmed the now-common knowledge that over 80 percent of male gamers were between 16 and 34 years old. "We also found that 86 percent of people who play games had never read any hard-core gaming magazines because they didn't think they were written for them," Opperman told PR News magazine in 2000.

With this knowlege in hand, Opperman and crew began to put together two magazines that were at once hardcore and accessible to the general public. A $12 million ad campaign was prepared to launch alongside the magazines on TV, in print, and on outdoor media like billboards and kiosks. Nearly all of the editorial staff was hired on from rival game magazines, including Gamers' Republic, PC Games, Computer Game Review, Ultra Game Players, and more -- a titanic round of headhunting, the likes of which wouldn't be seen again until Gamers.com hooked a fair bit of Ziff Davis Media's top brass with its dot-com promises. (The name "incite" is a combination of the words "inside" and "excitement"; it was invented by SBG (now called Enterprise IG), a brand agency that Computec worked with before the magazines' launch. One of the early names reportedly thrown around was "Dorsal".)

To cap it all off, Computec held the Charge! event in July 1999, an industry conference meant both to discuss the study's findings and to launch the incite name to the general public. The publisher spent over $1 million on the conference, which included ice sculptures, comedian Dana Carvey, over 300 industry attendees, and coverage from CBS, Fox, and other national news outlets.

incite Video Gaming and PC Gaming hit US newsstands simultaneously on October 26, 1999. Both were priced at a loss (Video Gaming at 99 cents, and PC Gaming at $1.99 with CD-ROM) to get them in the hands of as many curious readers as possible. Computec's incite.com gaming website also launched on the same day, featuring a large staff and more video than had been seen before at the time.

Incite3.jpg

The sales strategy was enormously successful at first. The first issue of PC Gaming sold 408,000 copies, while Video Gaming sales topped 548,000, making it the most successful game-magazine launch of all time. Reflecting their stated mission to attract casual gamers, both magazines heavily featured celebrities on the cover and in regular articles. Video Gaming seemed to love covering WWF stars, putting The Rock and Chris Jericho on two separate covers and featuring at least some wrestling content in every issue. PC Gaming, meanwhile, often struggled to find relevant stars, opting to put a random model on the cover instead on more than one occasion. (The joke at the time was that they would have to put Trent Reznor on every cover, since he was the only celebrity back then with a well-known interest in PC games.)

This initial success flared out quickly, as Computec failed to attract long-term advertising for either title. Despite the strong launch video-game companies were concerned that its audience was too casual to be interested in their games -- and non-game advertisers found the magazines' editorial slant to be too "hardcore" for their tastes. This was disastrous for Computec, which overestimated their projected ad-sales figures and subsequently relied heavily on advertising for incite's revenue. The ad rate for a spread (two adjacent pages) in the incite magazines was set at $16,000 per issue, the same rate that Maxim charged and one that was far above any other game magazine at the time. Management was anticipating each issue to be over 200 pages in size -- an extremely optimistic target even at the best of times, but downright impossible by mid-2000, when the game industry was about to enter the lull before the launch of the PlayStation 2.

The magazines proved to be a huge income drain as Computec struggled with the post-dot-com landscape, and Opperman was recalled to Germany on June 26, 2000, essentially shutting down the US arm. Total reported losses on the venture amounted to over $23 million.

The incite magazines didn't take off the way Computec hoped primarily because they were unable to target a specific audience. The titles were infamous for its intertwining of model- and celebrity-based interviews and features with its game coverage, something that neither the hardcore readership nor the magazine's staff was particularly enthuisastic about. Since the editorial was primarily picked from "hardcore" gaming magazines, they naturally preferred to offer hardcore gaming content -- but this butted against Computec's original aim to produce a magazine for gamers "threatened" by hardcore gaming magazines.

In retrospect, both incite magazines feature surprisingly entertaining writing, arguably the equal of Maxim and other "men's lifestyle" magazines. However, readers of all persuasions were turned off by its lack of focus, and the magazine wound up attracting no audience when it hoped to attract the entire audience.

IDG attempted a similar editorial design with GameStar in 2003...but that's another story.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He owns enough magazines to smother himself with should the need arise, and his secret fantasy is for someone flush with game-publisher stock options to give him a monthly stipend so he can spend a year researching their full history and finishing the site. In his "off" time he is an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]

Pussycat Dolls Virtual Lounge Gets Horrific

shpussy.jpg Agreeably cantankerous virtual worlds blogger TonyW (who has now retired from active GSW service, incidentally - we'll miss him!) has been doing bizarre faux-Japanese horror things with the virtual 'Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge', a virtual environment "intended to market music and other products to teens."

Walsh, who is as cheeky as ever explains: "Modders can easily access and completely alter the graphic images that comprise the material surfaces in the world, including the sky, walls, billboards, and even the skin of user-created avatars... Given this level of freedom, I decided to mod the PCD Lounge into the sort of environment seen in the Silent Hill series of games, turning the Lounge's attendees--even the Pussy Cat Dolls themselves--into disfigured monsters. And, just for fun, I replaced all the billboards with images from Frank Fairey's Obey Giant campaign."

The results are certainly pretty scary, and Walsh notes: "If [developer] Doppleganger doesn't hide the source files in the final release of the PCD Lounge, it will be very simple for modders to create "nude" skins for the characters, as well as easily block all advertising." Of course, it's a whole load of hassle to mod stuff that most players won't go through, but in principle, it's absolutely correct. We like the Silent Hill version more than the original, though.

Return Of The Ubiquitous - NetHack Goes GP32

nethackgp32.jpg It's a well-known fact that any gaming system worth its weight in gold needs to have a version of NetHack, in which, as any fule kno, you "...take the part of a dungeon-delving hero in search of the Amulet of Yendor. The quest is played through over 50 randomly created levels." And it's ASCII all the way, baby.

Well, the latest portable machine to grab a NetHack conversion is the GP32, with GP32x.com noting the debut of NetHack 3.4.3.1 for GP32, from the same guy who made NetHack for the TapWave Zodiac, another even more seldom-seen handheld.

As the readme on the conversion's website explains: "The user interface for this GP32 port is based on my Palm OS roguelike ports, which in turn are based on the excellent Sony PSP Angband port by abszero and Gendal. There is a full on-screen-keyboard and macro "star" interface. The Stick can be used to select items from inventory/equipment lists or other menus as well as selecting quantities of items." Hot stuff!

May 19, 2006

GameDaily Nods Too Many Times, Head Falls Off

noddy.jpg So we've been reading the 'Best Of E3' lists from the consumer sites with some interest - for example, 1UP.com's list tips its hat to a lot of the stuff we dug too, including Spore and Assassin's Creed. But we were kinda weirded out by GameDaily's press release for its E3 'Nods', which picked a multitude of games in a weird publisher-specific layout.

Most other people do 'Best X Game', but GameDaily's style this year is just to nominate multiple games for each publisher: for example, Sega has four nominations for Chrome Hounds (Xbox 360), Sonic Wild Fire (Wii), Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz (Wii), and Virtua Tennis 3 (Xbox 360/PS3), and even semi-shovelware firm Game Factory made it onto the list for, uhh, Noddy and the Magic Book (PS2).

Our disconcertedness is further underlined by the comment immediately before the 'Nod' winners: "GameDaily Nod awards ensure confidence in purchasing decisions as both retailers and consumers look forward to the busy holiday season. Publishers seeking marketing artwork and editorial quotes may contact Cory D. Lewis..." Seems like these awards were much more publisher-facing than reader-facing, for some odd reason?

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Blast Corps

blastcorps1.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 Blast Corps for the Nintendo 64, published by Nintendo and released in the United States in February 1997.]

Time to get moving!

Rare was once a force to be reckoned with in the games industry. The company was responsible for numerous quality titles during its heyday, but somewhere along the line, Rare seemed to forget how to make fun games. Many of Rare's more recent titles have been criticized for their focus on pointless widget-collecting, and the surplus number of used copies of Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero available at many retailers offer some indication of Rare's failure to capture the modern gaming market.

It wasn't always like this, though. Many gamers have fond memories of playing Rare's Donkey Kong Country series, and GoldenEye was considered one of the best console first-person shooters of its time. During this era, Rare also released Blast Corps, a title that had all the hallmarks of a classic, but was largely overlooked.

blastcorps2.jpgShow us what you got!

The objective of Blast Corps is to destroy buildings. That's pretty much it. Games have been based around this concept before -- Rampage comes to mind, for one -- but Blast Corps manages to add enough variety to the destruction-based gameplay mechanic to make it never boring or repetitive. There's some reason or another behind all the violence -- some story about a runaway nuclear-equipped vehicle that will explode if it collides with anything in its path -- but the almost complete lack of cutscenes makes it easy to concentrate on blowing stuff up.

The game's objectives aren't as mindless as they sound, though. In the process of clearing a path for the nuclear tanker, you'll often have to find creative ways to destroy the obstacles in your way. The game provides you with a number of vehicles in every stage, each with its own special abilities -- the bulldozer is best suited for the quick leveling of small buildings, for instance, but some situations may call for a missile-launching motorcycle, or the speed of a racecar.

In many cases, Blast Corps more closely resembles a puzzle game than anything else, as the game often requires the use of several vehicles in sequence, in order to overcome environment-based obstacles on the way to a demolition site. These elements of planning and strategy make the act of demolition more satisfying than it would be otherwise.

It's like Pilotwings, only completely different.You can DO this.

Blast Corps also contains a number of side missions in addition to the main levels, most of which are time trials that test one's ability to use specific vehicles effectively. There's an impressive amount of optional goals and unlockables in the game, as most stages can be replayed for the sake of finding hidden items, or to raze an entire city's worth of buildings following an initial run-through. You'll be playing for weeks if you want to achieve the game's highest rank of "You can stop now."

Blast Corps adds a degree of depth to a simplistic formula, and the result is an engaging title that can be as mindless or as complex an experience as you want to make it. Plus, if nothing else, the game lets you control a giant flying robot who crushes buildings with its butt. How is that not awesome?

[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.]

Your Xbox 360 Loves You, ST TheKing

scoore.jpg Several ages ago, we referenced an interview with crazed Xbox 360 gamer ST TheKing, who had just broken 20,000 Gamerscore at that point in time. Well, we can now see his current progress on the awesome 360Voice.com blogs, and he's up to 35,428!

But the point of this wasn't the score, actually - it's the awesome blog concept, which you can see by scanning the most popular blogs - here's Major Nelson's one, in which his Xbox 360 talks back in hilarious ways: "You would think I had died and gone to heaven when Major Nelson showed up to play. Gamer score stands at 3437. He played UNO gaining 1 achievement, Marble Blast Ultra, and did it while drooling over my awesome graphics and sound."

A good summary of how it works was recently posted in the UK Guardian, noting that Microsoft outputs all of your play stats, and explaining: "Users are already finding ways to repurpose and even humanise this Xbox 360 XML stream. Two internet professionals from Chicago set up 360voice.com, allowing Xbox owners to enter their gamertag... and then view a daily blog, "written" by their machine. The blog doesn't just list what you played and when; the creators have built in dozens of phrases, so the resulting blogs read like they've been created by sentient humans."

[Mind you, I don't want to start one, actually, because my X360 will come off all needy and I'll start to empathize with it, and then we'll start fighting and have to get a trial separation.]

COLUMN: 'Game Rag Slapdown' - The Dos and Don'ts of E3: A Beginner's Guide (A Guide from a Beginner)

Do?  Don't?  Let Nathan Smart Be Your Guide![This first ever 'Game Rag Slapdown' column begins a regular, exclusive bi-weekly Thursday feature by The Game Rag's Nathan Smart that's always video game related, sometimes funny ha ha, but mostly funny hee hee (and sometimes funny, period). This week's column is a guide from a beginner on the dos and don'ts of E3.]

E3 2006 was my first E3. Somehow, I got myself a pass by charading as a 'Game Journalist.' What does that title even mean - that I journal games? Whatever. I got in and that's all that matters.*

When I first got to E3 I didn't really have any guide as to what to do and what not to do. What kinds of things were 'kosher' and what kinds of things were like 'eating pork.' I ended up making a LOT of mistakes and so I decided that for you, the reader (and I use that term loosely, you illiterates), I would make a list of things that would be good to know for when you get to go to E3. The problem is, I can't remember any of the things I wrote down because I left my notebook in LA. SO! You're going to have to make due with this impromptu list I just made up on the spot. This should cover mostly everything you'll need to know but if you want more, you'll have to ask Juanita at the Alhambra Super 8 for a peak inside my lost, treasured notebook.

DO take your shoes to a cobbler if you've got a hole in them.
DON'T if you don't live in 18th century Britain. Just get new ones.

DO make a controller respond to your movements.
DON'T do it if you've just spent an entire year making fun of it. Hypocrisy has a tiny Wikipedia entry.

DO play Guitar Hero 2.
DON'T play on expert even if you've almost beat Bark at the Moon on the first one. You're not as good as you think.

DO see the Wild Summer game booth for a cool new GTA style 'hanging out' game.
DON'T ask the booth babe if her boobs are real. She doesn't think it's cute, suited guy.

DO see the Classic Gaming Museum in Kentia Hall.
DON'T tell the guy standing there that someone left the Virtual Boy on and ran out the batteries. He doesn't work there.

DO a good drama about smart kids in Boston.
DON'T do a stupid family comedy about a road trip in an RV. Especially if the movie is named after the plot device.

DO play Xbox Live Arcade games on the Xbox 360.
DON'T play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox 360. No point.

DO talk with SimonC from GameSetWatch.
DON'T make a joke about the Queen of England in front of him. Oh God.

And that's all I remember. I hope you can use this guide when you go and I hope it's not too specific to me. I don't think it is.**

*There are other things that matter in life such as food, water, shelter and a steady supply of Vicks Vapor Rub, but in this case, for the purposes of this article, getting a pass to E3 is all that matters.
**I do. Who cares.

P.S. Here's a pre-E3 video made by the Game Rag staff, LIVE! from LA, in which: "The Game Rag staff and one lucky winner record an audio podcast live from E3 just a couple of days before the show." Enjoy.

[Nathan Smart is a fake news writer for The Game Rag and really enjoys the benefits of it (no facts, no research, no real interviews). He also does Bobby McFerrin versions of indie rock songs with his one man group Indie Blockedappella. He thinks things are funny.]

Did You Have A Crabtacular Time At E3?

crab.jpg The always fun The-Inbetween.com has decided to post about the epidemic of in-game crabs shown at last weeks' E3 Expo - apparently, crab-like creature are vital to the next generation.

Clearly semi-seguing off the crab in the 'Sony Press Conf In 1 Minute' video, revealed in techicolor are "...all the crabs that I've noticed in screengrabs or released screenshots. Some of these might be a little loose in the definition of "crab", but they're all very much crab-like aliens or mutants or crab-robots."

But really, the crab from PS3 title Genji 2 (showcased in the Sony press video!) still wins every time, because, as is pointed out: "Once the giant crab creature showed its face in this historic game with real battles from history, there was no saving Sony's showing."

California Extreme 2006 Thrusts Arcade Gaming Forwards

mmq.jpg Yesterday we got a real. honest to God snail-mail flyer (yay for paper!) for California Extreme, hands-down the best classic arcade game show on the planet, and due to take place on July 8-9, 2006 in the Parkside Hall in San Jose, California - right next to where GDC was held this year, if that helps orient you.

Apart from the fact it's about 300 yards away from my house, California Extreme rocks because of the insanely large amount of rare games that collectors haul out of hiding specifically for the show. For example, this is almost certainly the only place in the world you can play Marble Madness II: Marble Man this year - same for the mindblowing, double playfield Akka Arrh, a prototype-only 1982 Atari machine.

Last year, GSW co-editors Simon, Frank, and Brandon all made a pilgrimage to the show (there's plenty of old picture galleries online to give you an idea), and my own personal favorite was Atari's Quantum, an awesome trackball title that got pretty limited distribution back on its 1982 release - only 500 machines ever made, I seem to recall.

The other two wacky guys got waaay into Fire Truck, a dual-player 1978 Atari title where "the front player sits and drives the rig while the rear player stands and steers the trailer." Awesome. [Oh, and CAExtreme has got an absolute crapload of awesome pinball machines, too, for the pinheads amongst us - we have a pinball column starting on GSW soon, incidentally - more info in due course!]

May 18, 2006

Come Out And ARG Play In NY?

playco.jpg The excellent ARGN blog has more news on the New York-based public gaming event to be held this September, and named 'Come Out & Play Festival', noting happily: "Does playing on a computer cramp your style? Feel restricted by that Monopoly board? Or maybe you're a Puppetmaster who wants to do more than the usual email and websites with your next ARG."

Though not strictly video game-based, the new festival obviously has a sorta ARG crossover, and apparently "seeks to provide a forum for new types of public games and play", and "will feature games from the creators of I love bees, PacManhattan, Conqwest, Big Urban Game and more." Yay, PacManhattan!

Among the festival's organizers is Nick Fortugno of gameLab, we note, and you can submit your game right now - we're looking forward to the theoretical prospect of the Nintendo Amusement Park guys making an open-air appearance, in our dreams.

My Perfect Game: Game Designer/Lecturer Ernest Adams

eadams.jpg ['My Perfect Game' is a new irregular feature, where we ask 'interesting people' what their perfect video game would be like. This second instalment is from Ernest Adams, the veteran game designer and lecturer who runs popular game design workshops, consults for companies like Ubisoft and THQ on game-related matters, and writes The Designer's Notebook column for sister site Gamasutra. He also has great hats.]

My perfect game includes no villainous thugs nor evil overlords; it takes place in no dungeons or decaying urban landscapes. To defeat an evil overlord was the adolescent fantasy of a generation ago; to be a villainous thug appears to be the adolescent fantasy of today. I am not an adolescent and my needs for fantasy have changed.

My perfect game is a garden of earthly delights, not a den of brutality and pain. My perfect game contains no snarling semi-naked vixens dressed in skintight leather, wielding breasts and weapons of improbable dimensions. My perfect game contains instead fully naked dryads who peep at me shyly from behind the trees that are their homes, and, when I have successfully lured them out, come to sit with me upon the grass and read me verses from Shelley in voices that resound gently like silver bells.

My perfect game is a ramble through the woods in autumn, a wander over hilltops lit by shafts of sunlight piercing through the gathering storm. Ruinous stone circles rise from the earth and whisper ancient magic to me, and men in cloaks and sandals with eyes the color of the sea tell me tales of hunting the walrus on the shores of Ultima Thule. We play games of kubb and hnefatafl on the beach in the gathering dark as the fires of driftwood glow, and we drink the aqua vitae made by the monks of Lindisfarne.

Then the stars burn brighter and I unfold my wings and sweep aloft, sailing among the canyons of the skies and looking down upon the twinkling lights of the cities of men, whirling and diving and rejoicing in the chill night air. South I glide to descend and play senet with young Tutankhamun and mancala with Shaka Zulu. I visit Solomon and dispute philosophy with him for a laugh, but in my perfect game I prove to be wiser than he and he gives me gifts of spices and cloth-of-gold. I load them all upon my robo-camel, fire up the steam engine, and together we trek with a clank and a clatter across the Euphrates and into Persia. And in my perfect game I risk all the spices and cloth-of-gold on a single game of shatranj with a magician in the court of Darius the Great (he must be taught the rules, for shatranj will not be invented for another thousand years). But I win and to pay his bet the magician must bring my robo-camel to life and set her free.

And so laughing I steal one of Darius' horses from the royal stables, and ride like the wind to Samarkand, where we learn to play polo together and I trade Solomon's spices for a palace with a thousand fountains and a personal spacecraft that requires no fuel. And from time to time I invite Kubla Khan for coffee and petits-fours and a game of go. We have a good laugh at the expense of that junkie Coleridge, but later I realize how much I owe to him, because he has made it all possible -- all of it, the walruses and the spices and the spacecraft too, that romantic junkie poet: he invented the willing suspension of disbelief.

My perfect game is filled with mystery and wonder, not sweat and struggle. My perfect game is easy. My perfect game is beautiful. My perfect game is joyous.

[If you think you fit our random arbitrary definition of an 'interesting person' and would like to contribute, please mail us at editors@gamesetwatch.com to check, and you can write about your perfect game, too. Otherwise - don't call us, we'll call you!]

We Can Replicate It For You, Wholesale

3sheep.jpg The ace virtual world blog 3PointD has revealed that residents of Second Life can soon be able to order up physical versions of their avatars, or any of their favorite Second Life objects,

According to the story: "Simon Spartalian (aka Simon Jezebel in SL) and Mike Beradino (a recent graduate of the Art Institute) will launch the service on June 1, offering to mill SL objects up to 9″X 5″X 5″ out of anything from foam to wax to stainless steel. The pair are already documenting their milling efforts at their Recursive Instruments blog."

We remember we were super-excited about these 3D milling machines at SIGGRAPH last year, mainly because we pretended they were affordable - and we'll still have to pretend, unfortunately, since it's noted: "A cost model has yet to be determined, Spartalian tells me, but it sounds like a typical avatar, milled in foam or wax, would run something between $30 and $60."

Mario's 'Magic Winch' The Future Of Gaming?

mariowinch.jpg Over at PressTheButtons, MattG has spotted a teeth-grindingly weird unofficial Nintendo theme park concept, in the form of Nintendo Amusement Park, "...a real life obstacle course which a player jumps through using a power assist harness."

As Matt says, delightedly: "Who wants to be the first to slap on a special bungee cord and go leaping through the fantastic Mushroom Kingdom (if the Mushroom Kingdom were made of tarps, balloons, boxes, and deflatable Goombas)?"

But the creators, clearly geniuses, have a scalable plan - that's right, it's $35 million for the 'Magic Winch', and they also reveal: "Our ideal partnership would be a collaboration with Nintendo and Disney Imagineering to develop an entirely new experience."

Don't know about you, but I really think that Disney should have reconsidered the Pixar thing in favor of these guys - though one does wonder if the pitch is an elaborate art-world hoax.

Sam And Max Gets Trailer Trailer Trailer

samnmax.jpg The new Sam & Max title from Telltale Games and original S&M creator Steve Purcell has been known about for some time, but by heck, there's a new E3 trailer on the official site to help promote the game's signing by our friends at GameTap, and it's as sassy as you'd come to expect from the pair, hurray!

Also, we totally hadn't spotted the 'Make Your Own Sam 'N Max Comic' page, in which "you can give everyone's favorite canine shamus and hyperkinetic rabbity-thing the power of speech from the comfort of your own home or office." Please, no swearing!

Finally, those totally gorgeous Sam & Max art prints we spotted on Steve Purcell's Spudvision page a few months ago have returned in the merchandise section of the site - and they're signed by Purcell, too, so grab 'em before some other SCUMM-y freaks do.

May 17, 2006

Scalextric Shifts Mobile With A Vengeance

scalextric.jpg In the wild, wide-eyed world of mobile gaming, and of special importance to UK gamers, mobile firm Player X has announced that it "has been signed up by Hornby to publish exclusive mobile Scalextric games."

Much-loved by callow UK youths, Scalextric is "a slot car racing brand that first appeared in the late 1950s", and "Scalextric for mobile is a classic top-down racing game with a unique track editor featuring five different racing car models."

Though we don't generally like companies that call themselves 'ambitious' in their own press release, we do agree with the final quote from Tony Pearce, Player X CEO: "The best mobile games have one-button gameplay and that's exactly how you play Scalextric."

[It's all about one-button games on mobile, which is why we're so enchanted with Gamevil's awesome one-buttoner Nom 2, which we've been playing recently on a Korean cellphone they kindly lent us - we're looking forward to Gamevil's alleged U.S. debut, too.]

Physics Games Going On An Armadillo Run

armad.jpg We actually ran into Matt Wegner, who runs physics blog Fun Motion, at E3 last week, but we did not push him over to see if he rag-dolled, because we're polite like that (oh, and we found our voice recorder, thanks for asking!) But, in a newsworthy turn of events, Fun Motion does have a new video-enabled review of Armadillo Run, a physics-based PC game.

The title, according to Wegner, is "...a build-and-simulate puzzle game in the same vein as Bridge Construction Set and The Incredible Machine", and essentially: "The goal of the game is to guide the armadillo—it’s basically a basketball—to the target area. To accomplish this you have a limited budget to spend on building materials like metal struts, cloth, rope, and rockets."

The positives are a slick interface (" Rather than forcing you to draw on a grid, you can simply draw supports wherever you like. The game will automatically segment pieces while you draw them"), and negatives sloppy goals ("The player goal in Armadillo Run is very loose, particularly in contrast to other physics-based puzzle games"), but overall, it's concluded, the title "...represents the evolution of puzzle physics games. It is both familiar and new, and offers something fresh for players bored with building bridge after bridge."

Oh Yes! More Lemmings, Now For EyeToy

lemm.jpg Definitely lost in the melee that is E3, the folks at the tabloid-a-docious Noooz have spotted a preview of Lemmings for PlayStation 2 that reveals some fiendishly cool EyeToy support for the game.

The title was already announced for PSP (with Tim Follin music, natch!), but this preview explains: "The big feature that will differentiate the PS2 version is the EyeToy mode, in which you will use your body to help guide the lemmings, as opposed to the controller. There will be 15 to 20 EyeToy-specific levels in the finished game, and the game uses a new edge-detection technique to help with the precision needed in the game."

So yep, it's just as you thought in your head: "When you play the game and use your arms to build bridges, the lemmings walk along with great precision, and you can even flick them over obstacles if you're precise." We've loved Lemmings ever since DMA Design (yes, now Rockstar North, the Grand Theft Auto chaps!) birthed them back in 1991, and Noooz's post on the game has links to a couple of screenshots of Lemmings climbing all over kids, yay.

Romero, Apogee Re-Unite For Nostalgiafest

jro.jpg We've covered some of 3D Realms' fun 'The Apogee Legacy' series before, catching up with classic PC shareware types, and the latest talks to the notorious J-Ro, also known as John Romero, about his formative game creation years.

An amusing story, for starters, is Scott Miller's tactics to 'borrow' Romero from former publisher Softdisk: "Scott knew I worked at Softdisk and knew they filtered mail to make sure no one was trying to steal their programmers and artists. So he sent me about 4 letters in the mail, all of them pretending to be someone who played the game and wanted me to write them back for various reasons."

Another notable in the 'alternate history' department: "Paul Neurath asked me to join him as his first employee at Blue Sky Productions (later Looking Glass Technologies). I didn't take the offer because I had already planned on starting a company with my boss (Inside Out Software). If I had taken the offer at Blue Sky then an incredible amount of things would have been different. I'm glad I did what I did."

1848 Reasons To Download Wargame For Free

1848.jpg Thanks to online wargame publisher Battlefront.com and developer Hussar Games, there's a completely free release of PC title 1848, described as: "a turn based computer strategy game for the PC. The game [is] set during the violent era of the Hungarian Independence War of 1848-49."

In fact, this could practically be considered a 'serious game', since: "The game was sponsored by the Hungarian Ministry of Education and the hungarian version was released for the anniversary of 1848 in March 2005. It was a huge success in Hungary: in a country of 10 million people, the game had more then 100,000 downloads."

This is all a generous promotional deal to help promote For Liberty!, which is "a turn based computer strategy game for the PC, covering two independence wars – the North American Independence war of 1775-1783 and the Rakoczi War of Independence in Europe 1703-1711", using an upgraded engine from 1848 - it'll be released on July 4th in the U.S.!

May 16, 2006

Knock Out Lennox Lewis - In Video Game Chess?

lennox.jpg You may not think of video game chess tournaments as a place for violence, but casual game firm King.com has revealed that former boxing world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will 'step into another kind of ring - the chess ring', playing online for cash prizes.

Lewis commented, somewhat amusingly: "Chess has been around for centuries. It improves your focus, reasoning skills and teaches you how to strategize. For me, playing chess takes the stress away, which is why I enjoyed playing when I was training. The sports are similar in that it's one on one, and in boxing, it helped me prepare a strategy to beat my opponent." Yes, we also can see how boxing and chess are similar (and yes, we know about chess boxing.)

Apparently: "King.com players will have the opportunity to challenge Lennox for free to a game in the online Chesster lobby: Any player who beats Lennox will win $1000, and receive a document certifying that they 'knocked out' Lennox." Time for Bobby Fischer to come out of Icelandic hiding, perhaps?

COLUMN: 'Parallax Memories' – History of Video Games

History of Games.jpg['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's 'special edition' column takes a look at the Classic Gaming Expo's History of Video Games exhibit at last week's E3 Expo.]

While at E3 I was almost completely absent from the internet last week, but I still don't think there's been much coverage of the The History of Videogames "booth" in Kentia Hall. There were little displays all over the show floor—usually containing mini-arcade cabinets of Frogger, or old PC games in good condition boxes—but when I found the full exhibit, there was much more than I expected. Enjoying older games as I do I was happy to get the opportunity to take a break from the overwhelming amount of new ones.

Friday was the shortest day of E3, and I still had to conduct a few interviews and check out far too many booths . But I had to get a good look around the display. I had to spend more time there than was healthy; I was compelled. At what could only be the center of the labyrinth that is Kentia Hall, I gazed eagerly upon row after row of arcade cabinets ranging from Asteroids to R-Type.

Cabinets.jpgAt a first look, the arcade cabinets ranged from good to excellent condition, but upon closer inspection there were noticeable blemishes. The buttons were all original and so not always in the best shape. The monitors ranged from blurry and unwatchable to clean and burn-free. But overall, the cabinet artwork was in wonderful shape; the original painted side art was intact, as were all stickers and instruction cards.

There were more games than I can list here, and all were on free play. The games ranged from all eras of the arcade up to the early '90s. I could only take the time to play a few games of Tempest and Centipede (two games that are fairly difficult to in the arcade "wild").

handhelds.jpgBehind the rows of arcade cabinets there were hundreds of stacked boxes of handheld electronic and LCD games. They ranged from mini-arcade mock-up cabinets to obscure Japanese handhelds. It was stirring to see this massive collection laid out on the floor. I saw games from Japan that I never knew existed, including one based on Dr. Slump (a manga from Akira Toriyama of Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball fame) and a two player Hokotu No Ken game(released as Fist of the North Star in the United States).

Even further back in the exhibit, I found some rare and older videogame systems on display. The systems featured most often in this column (the Genesis and SNES) were represented, but they were only showing very common domestic games—nothing of real note. However, there were a couple Vectrex machines that were still in amazing shape for their age; it's always astounding to see those super-sharp vector monitors in action. And I grabbed the opportunity to play the Atari Jaguar's port of Raiden (which was, unfortunately, quite poor).

Keith.jpg
I skimmed parts of the display; there really was just too much to take in at once. Seeing a classic Apple II monochrome monitor really warmed my heart, and the Coleco Vision reminded me of long-past weekends with my uncle. As I headed back to “the future of gaming,” I spied Keith Robinson (co-founder of Intellivision) playing a skillful game of Jumpman Junior on a Commodore SX-64. With so much talk about moving ahead in games right now with the “HD era” upon us, it is comforting to know that some people are making note of the past.

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer's Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first-person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]

SiN Episodes: Emergent Silliness?

mnature.jpg UK PC/game journalist Richard Cobbett has a sassy take on video game issues, and his latest journal update takes apart Ritual's SiN Episodes Vol.1, released last week during E3, with some aplomb.

You may recall that we marveled at Ritual's E3 booth 'attendants' outfits, and Cobbett claims that the plot is as thin as their costumes, noting of the Source engine, Steam-distributed game: "Characters stand around like lemons, idly watching as you massacre their workers and destroy their labs, only springing into action for their cut-scene. Elexis turns up every few minutes, gleefully talking about her plans for the main character one second, then trying to have him killed, then forgetting, then showing up again with a whole other idea...usually in holographic form, invariably with her breasts hanging out...and once again plotting generic evil with her collection of genetic mutations."

Cobbett's conclusion is cuttingly specific, if not completely damning: "Sin: Episodes is a bizarre game, really. The engine’s there, the production values are decent enough, there’s plenty of action, and you do get a solid chunk of game for your money... There’s nothing special about the action to keep you holding on for the next instalment; it’s nothing you wouldn’t get in just about any shooter you pulled off the shelves, and it’s sure as hell not one you follow for the story - a story which pretty much begins and ends with the artists getting to draw jiggling breasts, and the rest of the team playing dress-up with fetish models." Youch.

Capcom Cracks Japanese Market With Bikini Pack-In

bikini.jpg Apologies for two bosom-related posts in a row - the devil made us do it, honest. Anyhow, IGN's bright spot, Anoop Gantayat (who has a very readable blog on the site, incidentally) has noted that Capcom are including a bikini packed-in to the Limited Edition of PSP title Finder Love, out this June in Japan.

Anoop explains: "Since we're sure only a handful of you keep up with the cutthroat world of live action Japanese love sims (this week's newsletter is coming soon, boys!), here's what Finder Love is all about. Finder Love is a combination gravure disk and love sim focusing on three hot Japanese girls: Hara Fumina, Hoshino Aki and Risa Kudo. The game lets players interact with the three hotties and snap pictures which can be then be traded with friends."

Impress Watch has pictures of the outfits in question, as well as the Limited Edition bikini outfits, which will clearly be never worn by a girl, since none of the people buying the game know any. IGN notes as a capper: "Capcom warns that the bikinis can't be actually worn. We'll have to see about that!" Please don't tell us how?

MTV Get Blogged Out With Gamedrop

gdrop.jpg You know that everyone and their mother is starting a video game weblog? Well, looks like MTV has now joined the family circus with the MTV Games Gamedrop weblog, which started just before E3, and _may_ have been just a one-time E3 deal, since it seems to have slowed down now.

So, not sure if it's a continuing thing, but the E3 posters on Gamedrop included Carrie Shepherd, late of PC Accelerator, GamesRadar.com (the old one!) and GMR magazine, and Greg Orlando, ex. Electronic Gaming Monthly, Next-Generation, Xbox Nation, and GameNow, plus Paul Byrnes, who's written for CGW, EGM, and various others.

In other words, a crowd that we wouldn't mind blogging more permanently - but we understand if it's just a special event deal. Still, add Gamedrop to a list of unknownish blogs by big companies that are worth checking out from time to time, and keep reading the main MTV News game news page for excellent Stephen Totilo articles like this one about Yukes' development of WWE SmackDown that was reported in Japan last month, but posted during E3.

May 15, 2006

X360 Demo For... PlayStation 1?

x360c.jpg Scavenging around somewhere or others, we came across the Game Rave guide to the x360 Demo Disc, which is not for the Xbox 360, but rather a very rare demo disc for the 'x360' surround sound system for PlayStation 1, bizarrely enough.

As the description explains: "A very cool promotional item given away at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 1998. It's really just two simple demos that demonstrate the sound capabilities of the PlayStation", including Maze Demo ("A First Person Shooter, you need to quickly run around and shoot the alien space ships as they appear. There's no real end, at least until you lose you tin-plated armor from shots fired. The emphasis in this demo is the explosion effects as it travels past you through sound.")

The Game Rave site also has a full PS1 box art variants listing, as well as an insane amount of interesting material in its PlayStation Perfect Guide, from which the x360 Demo update is taken - so go geek around, immediately!

COLUMN: The Gaijin Restoration: 'Slumming It In Kentia Hall'

Countryside Bears![" 'The Gaijin Restoration' is a weekly examination of underappreciated Eastern games that never cross to Western shores. This week's 'special edition' column looks at games, both Japanese and not, highlighted at last week's E3 Expo.]

E3 is over. Worked fourteen days in a row. 170 hours. Before this starts sounding like a LiveJournal with byte diarrhea, I’ll stop. But consider yourself warned. With no time to play games, and with Simon, the patron saint of obscura ludo, blogging the bejesus out of games ripe for this Gaijin, all I have to offer is my lateral thought patterns on the organized chaos that strikes three days each year.

As Simon mentioned, my good friends at the U.S. D3 (who just released a killer Cabbage Patch GBA game, featuring – get this – puppies!) shocked me on two fronts. First, the lovely Baito Hell is coming state side under the guise of WTF. I’m very interested on how the translation will be handled and how they’re going to price this sucker. Also, surprising but awesome was the resurrection of the 100 Bullets license - though for all-new games, not the cancelled Acclaim title. Smart moves like that coupled with the cash Naruto most be bringing in, I really peg this as a publisher to watch. Hopefully we’ll get a shovel-load-ware of Simple XXXX games in the States some day soon.

Speaking of ballsy U.S. publishers, I take my hat off and offer a low bow to Atlus - Rule of Rose is coming Stateside. Now, after Hot Coffee (and perhaps Michael Moore) nudging publishers like Atari to censure games like Fahrenheit, it takes some big cojones to bring out a game that’s constantly dressed in an odd mist of amateur pedophilia. Now, I’ve seen about six trailers for this game and the first few hours of gameplay, and while it’s by no means a child molestation simulator, that odd inkling of writhing preen limbs and fat girls going a little heavy on the lipstick does help lend a certain aura of creepiness that you can chalk up to cultural differences and perhaps natural perversion… still, it’s in the minutiae that the games atmosphere truly locks you in. Screw the cool AI dog companion, it’s all about using your weapons, like a FORK (Ultima VI joke here), in situations where your character puts one hand over her face and starts swinging blindly.

On the flip side, Final Fantasy III on the DS looks fantastic and will hopefully destroy Dirge of Cerberus, which is horrid and is only trying to dry hump the cash cow. FFIII was my first import, and you never forget your first. It’s also the only FF game I’ve ever completed, and while I can’t speak much of the overarching plot, the scenario writing is fantastic, with a job system that is lenient enough for exploration but obvious enough to keep you floating on that linear quest for crystals or whatever. Bonus: you can turn your party into frogs or tiny heroes. Like Yoda.

Slumming through Kentia Hall and the country-specific booths in the main halls led me to the cornucopia of cell phone games. I got to play Gamevil's Nom2, in its entire one button splendor: it’s the real deal. The GameQuest Direct guys seem to have republished the entire Shadow Hearts series for those who missed out on it the first time, and the definite rip-off artists Phoenix, complete with British accents, were trying to hawk 8 quid Disney-esque games like Mighty Mulan, Son of the Lion King and Countryside Bears. [We just noticed they have a game called 'Furry Tales', too - yeeeeeuch!] Barry Hatter was, sadly, MIA.

Speaking of Disney, Korean company Windysoft wins the Engrish 06 award for their press CD. Reading: “Windysoft: Disneyland of Online World! Compant (sic) that shares dreams with customers”, I found myself re-evaluating Korea’s standing in the games industry. But I leave you with a final game, also Korean. Diet Queen [we found a pic on the E3 2006 Korea site] from E3net is a cell phone game that promises you that slim body you always wanted via mini-games, jazzercise and aromatherapy. It also has a calorie calculator. This is perfect for that imaginary girlfriend you were trying to break up with. And now I sleep.

[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.]

Variant Strikes Back At Cave Story Skeptics

caves.jpg You may recall an alt.publishers article a few weeks back which called out Variant Interactive, the outfit supposedly publishing much-loved PC dojin title Cave Story for PSP next year. Well, now the Little Mathletics site has interviewed Variant's CEO Christopher Boyer, who strikes back at the skeptics.

Boyer claims: "There are some fans who think we're trying to steal the game from Pixel, and thusly are going around to web forums and news sites claiming that we are "shady."... The thing is that some suspicious fans of the original game emailed Pixel using Babelfish to ask him about our adaptation, and when he said he didn't know what they were talking about, they went all "AHA!" on us."

This is all fair enough, but if Variant Interactive is a 'proper' publishing company, would they not sign a contract with Pixel and get concept approval from Sony for the game before 'announcing' it to the world? It's not immediately clear that they have done either of these things - they're certainly listing games like Speed for the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo DS on the site without having development kits for either, as far as I can ascertain.

We somewhat wish that Little Mathletics had given them a harder time, but if any of the Variant folks are reading and would like to riposte, that's what the comments are for...

My Perfect Game: Jason Scott, Textfiles.com

jscott.jpg ['My Perfect Game' is a new irregular feature, where we ask 'interesting people' what their perfect video game would be like. The first instalment is from Jason Scott, who runs Textfiles.com, directed the BBS Documentary, and is currently working on both text adventure doc Get Lamp, and Arcade: The Documentary.]

"I'm luckier than most, I guess; I have already bumped into my perfect video game. I've done it multiple times, and with it likely to happen again. Maybe my standards are just low. But I think it's more that my perfect game isn't a specific DESIGN, but an APPROACH.

Coming up through the early video games (where you needed a whole quarter to play), I was more intrigued by the games where you could advance as you accomplished more, cascading into an ever-changing set of levels and sights until finally your faced an end against a horrifying creature and then broke through to a credit screen. Since my experiences could be measured in minutes, this was perfectly fine.

But once I started to play games where you entered greater and greater spaces, added 3-D, and played at home, this ever-changing set of unique levels lost the fun for me. You always ended up with a feeling, at the end, that you'd just walked a long distance, haphazardly, having nothing to show for it but a set of ticks on the right side of the screen, or some arbitrary number.

Maybe it was just me getting older, but I have found the perfect games for me are ones like Hexen, Super Mario 64, Mario Sunshine, Zelda: Wind Waker... games where you start out in a place, and over time you return to the same places, but changes have occured in you and your skillset and now you can achieve things that you couldn't before. Or the location has tweaked ever so slightly and you can make out new avenues to travel. Or maybe there's just a lot more cool stuff where there wasn't before.

If a game has that sense of regarding old locations and events with a new eye and using skills you've acquired within the game, that's as perfect as it gets for me."

[If you think you fit our random arbitrary definition of an 'interesting person' and would like to contribute, please mail us at editors@gamesetwatch.com to check, and you can write about your perfect game, too. Otherwise - don't call us, we'll call you!]

May 14, 2006

Oh Ho Ho, It's Wacky Races For 3DO!

wacky.jpg Keeping the record of being just about the only site to link to the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer blog, we note an interesting new review for the Japan-only 3DO version of 'Wacky Races'.

But, first things first: "Wacky Races is not, I repeat, 'Not', a racing game. Shocked? Yes - me too. Wacky Races is split into two parts. One part is betting. The Second part is map and object finding." Oh, and: "Dick Dastardly speaks Japanese. Fluently. As does Penelope Pitstop. And the Ant Hill Mob."

Ultimately, it seems a little, well, iffy: "You bet on a race by selecting two cars from a selection of 10, they then race - such as it is. Each race is composed of a sequence of pre-rendered clips. These clips are not as good as the actual cartoon and while faithful to varying degrees it should be remembered that the cartoon was 2D and the game is rendered, 1990's style, in 3D. It suffers. Once you win a bet it's time to take a trip. Since the game is 90% Japanese language and 10% Japanglish the nature of the trip is somewhat, what can I say?"

[Though not great, Wacky Races for Dreamcast from Infogrames Sheffield is much better - but don't get the PS1 version, a different game entirely from Ecco creators Appoloosa, unless you like bleeding eyes.]

Space Ghost, Peter Moore Meet In E3 Deathmatch

ghostmoore.jpg All through E3, the folks at our favorite 'all you can eat' subscription site GameTap were interviewing people for their live GameTap TV service, both offstage (yours truly!) and onstage by the mercurial Space Ghost (a whole heap of video game industry luminaries!). Well, the full vids are available on the GameTap client itself, but someone put a filmed version of the Space Ghost / Peter Moore video up on YouTube, and it's pretty much classic.

Among the highlights - Moore getting all vindicative against the PlayStation 3 after Space Ghost pitches some kind of dermatological-based shooter for the Xbox 360, rebutting the superhero with: "Go see the guys at Sony - they've got that funky controller - that sounds like a lot more creativity than they're doing there right now, let me tell you."

The clip ends with Moore dancing for a dollar, and really, that probably sums things up better than any extended E3 wrap-up, right? Hopefully Turner will officially release a bunch more of these, because George Lowe can be pretty darn funny on the fly when he gets going. [Via Evil Avatar.]

Lost ARG - Certainly An Experience!

hansofoundation.jpg Over at ARGN, they have an extremely handy overview of the Lost TV show's 'Alternative Reality Game', named 'The Lost Experience', for which there's actually an official 'making of' blog on ABC's website.

Actually, Lostpedia's 'The Lost Experience' entry is also an excellent synopsis of the concept, noting: "According to a New York Times article at news.com, the game will be "a multimedia treasure hunt that makes use of e-mail messages, phone calls, commercials, billboards and fake Web sites that are made to seem real." The Lost Experience is created by the show's actual writers and will progress the storyline."

ARGN is certainly digging the ARG, which is even using Hanso Foundation TV ads to communicate messages, summing up: "So far, the game has performed well, and updates to the Hanso site give players the sense that the game is something they should be watching every day. This is one Alternate Reality Game a lot of people have been waiting for, and it has opened the door to ARGs for an entirely new audience."

Rawk Guitar Hero Practice From Windows?

guitar-hero.jpg Over at Dubious Quality, they've spotted a really smart thing - a PC utility which allows Guitar Hero practicing, using the Guitar Hero DVD-ROM placed in your PC.

Some of the features of the VGSPlayer? "The Speed control allows you to slow the song down to observe the fast/complex parts in detail. This is done using audio time-stretching, so the overall pitch of the song does not change with the speed... An Animated fret display shows the fret button presses for a given difficulty setting... Optionally, the software can hint early presses for upcoming notes."

Bill at Dubious Quality notes: "This program doesn't support the Guitar Hero controller--yet. You just play along unconnected, but it's still really helpful. However, controller support is listed as a possible future feature. Freaking amazing."



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