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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 May, 2006

Half-Real Gets All Real Book Extracts

May 29, 2006 12:12 AM | Simon Carless

halfreal.jpg Game theorist Jesper Juul has posted an update on his official weblog linking to extracts from his new MIT Press book Half-Real.

As we've previously mentioned, Juul's keynote at this year's Serious Games Summit @ GDC was possibly the most listenable and practically relevant talk we've heard from anyone who could be labeled a 'game theorist', and Half-Real looks to continue that interest.

As for the name of the book, the preface explains: "A video game is half-real: we play by real rules while imagining a fictional world. We win or lose the game in the real world but we slay a dragon (for example) only in the world of the game."

And the introduction (PDF link) notes amusingly of early game regulation/censorship (in 1457, golf was banned in Scotland because "it was felt that it kept young men from practicing archery". So there.) Anyhow, go poke around, already.

Cosplay Competition To Crown 'Miss Chinajoy 2006'

May 28, 2006 5:34 PM | Simon Carless

cjoy.gif We've been checking out the official ChinaJoy 2006 website, for the massive and pre-eminent Chinese video game trade show being held in Shanghai from July 28th-30th, and interestingly, a button labeled '2006 Miss ChinaJoy' on the site links to an official ChinaJoy cosplay competition, with lotsa contestant pics.

The choice of a 'beauty contest' style moniker for the competition is distinctly odd. But we, at least, find this interesting because we only tend to see U.S.-set cosplay competitions, or the Japanese cosplayers hanging out at TGS or Comiket, and seeing the Chinese physicality applied to cosplay is actually a refreshing change that highlights what the rest of Asia like cosplaying (Final Fantasy titles, mainly!)

For example, this seems to be one of the leading competitors, and the whole portfolio showcases the intriguingly ethereal look of many Chinese cosplayers. [Oh, and if anyone can translate and tell us more about the competition and the winners, go right ahead.]

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': You Brits and Your Magazines, Sheesh

May 28, 2006 11:21 AM |

['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.]

One thing you should be aware of as you read this column is that the United Kingdom loves its magazines. Loves them. Especially computer and/or game mags. Pretty much every major PC or game system over the years enjoyed at least two or three monthly mags dedicated exlcusively to it in the UK, with more popular platforms like the Amiga or PlayStation getting a good six or seven at once. Even systems you never imagined anyone could write 70 or 80 pages of editorial a month on, like Philips' CD-i and Commodore's last-ditch CD32 console, got magazines in Britain. In fact, at one point in the mid-1980s, there were three consumer-targeted computer mags in the UK that published weekly -- Home Computing Weekly, Personal Computer News, and Popular Computing Weekly -- each one with its own reviews, news coverage, and type-in programs for every 8-bit computer under the sun.

The Internet's slowed down this torrent of print media down over the years, but there are still far more mags in the UK than in America -- and while the idea of any new game mag launching in the US is pretty much unthinkable at this point, new titles are still hitting UK newsstands. How can they keep this up? Simple. Since distribution costs are smaller in the UK (because it's a smaller country, of course), publishers can keep magazines at circulations that would make their US counterparts pass out and still make a profit. (The usual make-or-break circulation for a UK mag is a little less than 20,000 copies a month; meanwhile, in the US, Ziff Davis Media cancelled GameNOW in 2004 when its circ dropped to "only" 80,000.)

How easy is it for a magazine to make money in England? Here's an example. I went to the UK in the spring of 2004 to cover some game or another, and while I was there I made it a point to buy every single game magazine on the stands that month. It nearly bankrupted me. I wound up going to a single shop and spending over 70 pounds on magazines -- and that was after I decided to skip over the strategy-only titles. I wound up discarding most of them before I moved cross-country, but one I saved just because it amazed me so much that it existed at all.


This is the last issue (March 2004) of the Official UK PlayStation Magazine. What? But certainly OPM must still be publishing in the UK. And yes, you're right -- the officially PlayStation publication in Britain, more correctly called Official UK PlayStation 2 Magazine, is still coming out and is in fact the UK's top games-only magazine. This, on the other hand, was the Official UK PlayStation Magazine. As in, PlayStation One.

In the US, the Official PlayStation Magazine did the sensible thing and incorporated PS1 and PS2 coverage into one magazine. Across the pond, meanwhile, Future Publishing figured they could make a bit more money by keeping the official PS1 mag going while launching a separate official PS2 mag...this despite the fact that after 2002, there really wasn't a whole lot going on with the old PS1, except for crappy budget games, and even those petered out by '03.

So how do you fill up a 100-page magazine with virtually zero advertising with coverage for a system that's been legally dead for nearly two years? Editor-in-chief Ryan Butt's solution: Get silly. OPMUK's final issue has a whopping two reviews (for XS Junior League Soccer and Ford Truck Mania, which is given a pity score of 7/10), a few pages' worth of capsule game lists, a feature on the 108 greatest PS1 cheats, and a primer on the PlayStation 2 for all those avid magazine-reading gamers who somehow didn't know what a PlayStation 2 was by 2004. The rest of the magazine is pure fluff -- 2 pages on the editorial staff, 2 pages covering a typical month of the magazine, a spread with character art you can cut out to "make your own OPM funeral" with, and an Operation-type game where you get to pull out all the bits from erstwhile editor Dan Curley. It's all remarkably well-written and amusing, which is the really surprising thing here because the readership had to have been in the four-figures by this time.

As it turns out, Future Publishing (the biggest UK game-mag publisher around) does this sort of thing all the time. The best example I can think of offhand is Commodore Format, a mag launched in 1990 devoted to the Commodore 64 computer. Launching a C64 mag in 1990 seems silly enough already, but amazingly, the mag survived...and survived...and survived, publishing 61 issues before finally closing in October 1995. 1995! Who the hell was using a C64 in 1995?

And this is exactly why the UK magazine scene is so neat. If you can find a few thousand people interested in reading PS1 coverage long after everyone's ditched their PS1s in the closet, then you can -- and what's more, it may just support itself in the long run. In the US, magazine overheads are too high to allow anything like that. (In fact, US mags didn't really experiment at all until the Internet forced them to in the early 2000s -- good for readers, but arguably a case of too little, too late.)

[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.]

GameTunnel Discovers Sunny May For Indies

May 28, 2006 6:21 AM | Simon Carless

eets.jpg Probably the only unmissable indie-related article every month is the 'Indie Game Monthly Round-Up' from GameTunnel, and - good news, the May 2006 edition is now online.

Looks like the overall game of the month is the excellent puzzler Eets, which actually recently posted its postmortem on GSW sister site Gamasutra, and received an overall 9.0 score.

Reviewer Mike Hommel commented of the title: "A really solid and original puzzle game. The emotions work out as a really interesting aspect to the puzzles, and the physics-y nature of it all makes the puzzles a little more lenient and freeform than you get in more tile-based puzzles." So yay!

Other well-rated GT titles included The Odyssey: Winds of Athena ("Instead of controlling your units, you try to steer them in the right direction by modifying their environment"), and Bone: The Great Cow Race ("...does a good job of using 3D graphics while retaining a warm Disney-ish painted look.")

Once A Journo, Now A Community Manager, Forza Edition

May 28, 2006 12:29 AM | Simon Carless

pplace.jpg For those wondering what former 1UP staffer and current Microsoft community manager Che Chou is working on, turns out he's the community liaison for Forza Motorsport 2, the Xbox 360 racing sequel announced at E3, and coming out this Xmas.

Thus, he's running regular weblog updates on Forzamotorsport.net, and there's some pretty interesting stuff out there - for example, a trip to local exotic car dealership Park Place, where "a quest for exotic autos and soggy wet hamburgers", always a good combination, resulted. It's actually interesting to see (as with Ivan Sulic and Hellgate London) ex-journos being hired purely to provide community support and articles for single, high-profile games - and it's pretty neat.

[Oh, and while we're here, another fun third-party Forzamotorsport.net story is a chat with PGR art director Kiki Wolfkill and fame design director Chris Novak (hey, Project Gotham Racing 3 guys - sneaking onto the Forza site!), who "barnstormed the 425-hp British exotic through 5,000 miles of American countryside" in the 2006 Tire Rack Cannonball One Lap of America - neeto.]

Get Speedy With Metal Slug 5!

May 27, 2006 5:26 PM | Simon Carless

ms5.jpg Back to the always fun Speed Demos Archive after a little hiatus, and this time they've added a speed run of SNK Playmore's Metal Slug 5, which, while maybe not the best of the series, is good fun to check out for wacky bosses and classic 2D fun.

The run, by Mike Uyama, is played at hardest difficulty with no deaths (wow!), and there's lots of good tactics-related discussion in the text submitted with the run, but Uyama notes at the end: "I'm satisfied with this run, I don't think there are more than 30-40 seconds worth of mistakes/bad randomness. I don't think I'll touch this game again even if there is a lot of room for improvement because it is the worst out of all the Metal Slug games. Hopefully I will have a successful run of Metal Slug 3 someday."

Luckily, if you don't like that version of the game, there are also runs of the first Metal Slug, of Metal Slug 4 (also called "the worst of the Metal Slug series"), and for Metal Slug X, one of the best MS titles - lots of blasting action to enjoy!

Why There Are No Indie Video Games?

May 27, 2006 10:32 AM | Simon Carless

noindie.jpg Well, the title of this GSW post is the title of a new Slate article by Luke O'Brien, subtitled "And why that's bad for gamers", and dealing with the state of indie in gaming.

O'Brien has some fair points, such as :"In today's movie business, it's possible for an indie film like Napoleon Dynamite to become a sensation. Saw, which cost a mere $1.2 million, grossed 100 times that amount. That just doesn't happen in video games." Basically true - the barriers to producing and the variable sale prices for smaller budget games seem to have precluded such a major phenomenon as yet.

But other parts of the piece are rather meanspirited - claiming that classic creators are burnt out and solely working for the big boys, for example, with Sid Meier having "spent most of the last decade updating his previous hits at a company owned by Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive" - the acquisition was only recent, and saying Garriott "never produced another breakthrough like Ultima" rather underplays the importance of Ultima Online as a pioneering MMO, if that's not included in the statement.

And so, we reach the same old 'cultural crossroads' conclusion, which is as untrue as it ever was: "If the big studios stay in charge, it may return to its former status: the pastime of teenage boys and middle-aged nerds at gaming conventions." How about Nintendo's Brain Training, the casual game explosion, EA's moves toward developing original IP, the strides with games like Guitar Hero? I'm bored of this article, so why do people keep writing it?

Underdogs At E3 Sent Overground By Baio

May 27, 2006 5:18 AM | Simon Carless

abai.jpg Andy Waxy.org Baio, who created now Yahoo!-owned events site Upcoming.org and is quite the gamegeek (and a GSW chum!), made the trek down to E3 earlier this month, and has posted his impressions of his 'E3 Underdogs 2006' at his personal site.

He does note, interestingly, that in finding the downtrodden: "This year was particularly hard. Partly because I spent most of the day waiting in line to see the Nintendo Wii, but also partly because the entire gaming industry is getting so weird."

He continues: "In catering to the casual gamer and trying to differentiate from the competition, every platform and publisher is spending serious money turning former underdogs into big-name titles... I was surprised to see games like Loco Roco and Viva PiƱata with huge marketing efforts by Sony and Microsoft. (What hath Katamari wrought?)"

But some of the Baio-approved 'under rug swept' titles include our favorite Elite Beat Agents, Guitar Hero II, which Baio is parading around at work "(I won't be happy until I get Jerry Yang and David Filo to battle it out on "Bark at the Moon.")", and one title not really mentioned by GSW thus far, Elebits for Wii ("Part hide n' seek shooting game and part physics simulation, Elebits uses the Wii controller as a gravity gun to ransack ordinary household settings to find and capture cute little characters.") Neeto!

Sonic, The Comic, The Archive, The Definitive

May 27, 2006 12:21 AM | Simon Carless

s0r.jpg We've been meaning to post this for a while, but well worth checking out (though not strictly legit) is the Sonic The Comic Archive, an almost complete scanned archive of every single Sonic The Hedgehog and Sega-related comic book published thoughout the '90s.

The handy info page explains it best: "STC is a comic based on the adventures of Sega's flagship mascot Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as including strips of many other famous Sega characters such as; Ecco the Dolphin, Sparkster and Streets of Rage. STC was produced by two companies over its 8 year and 223 issue life span."

We love Sonic, but our favorite bit is the special comics section, which includes such wackiness as an 'Eternal Champions' special edition comic, and a poster mag starring the Street Of Rage characters. Yay, Sega, yay! [Via #ic.]

Waiting For Hasselhoff, Rocking Out To Cthulhu Karts

May 26, 2006 7:32 PM | Simon Carless

bwn.jpg Our dear friends at Schadenfreude Interactive, last seen discussing game designs featuring renegade beekeepers with amnesia, have returned to sister site Gamasutra with a brand new column, 'Waiting For Hasselhoff'.

The feature "chronicles audio engineer Alex Voll mit Aalen's Beckettian odyssey, waiting for David Hasselhoff to arrive and craft voiceover for the firm's award-winning Cthulhu Karts series", and the lines he must speak are rather astounding: "A borean terror gnaws at my vitals as, before me, a many-tentacled creature waves its dire glaucous flag. Am I courting madness with this karting madness?"

We won't give away the ending, but suffice to say, the path of the Hoff does not run smooth, and Voll mit Aalen is obstructed, among other things, by German death metal band Moribund Impetus, who, he relates. "leave the studio a mess. Someone has left a pair of leather chaps behind an amplifier. I sigh and place them in the Lost & Found cabinet beside the Ottorino Respighi-shaped Pez dispenser, a deflated inflatable pig, and a cucumber wrapped in aluminum foil. This job is not as glamorous as I expected it to be -- some days I just feel like a janitor with a copy of ProTools." Working in games isn't as fun as we thought!

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