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Archive For July, 2006

Shanghai Game Experiences - Part 1

July 26, 2006 12:50 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/shanghai.jpgThough the ChinaJoy game expo doesn't start for another day or so, I'm out here in Shanghai meeting with a number of local companies, and the fruits of my labor are up at Gamasutra.

Specifically, there's two write-ups so far - 'The State Of The China Game Biz - Part 1', in which I give an overview, and also comment: "On the way to my hotel from the airport, it's clear that Shanghai is the in the midst of a significant boom - massive new multi-level apartment buildings in various stages of construction dotted the side of the road on the way from the Pudong Airport. And, even though the roads were populated with a combination of souped-up BMWs and trucks containing pigs or watermelons, the amount of tech companies setting up in the industrial parks along the way showed this is, in many ways, a rising force."

There's also 'What Chinese Gamers Look For In MMOs', in which lots of fun insight from Radiance's Monte Singman (my old boss at Infogrames!) is relayed: "As for the graphical sophistication of Chinese MMOs, especially in a post-World Of Warcraft market, the stereotype that the Chinese are happy to play purely 2D titles is going away - Singman noted: "Pretty soon in China 2D games are going to be history, just like in the U.S."... In addition, it was noted: "PK is almost a must for Chinese MMORPGs" - definitely not the case for the North American or even the Japanese market, where player killing is not a major factor in an MMO game's success."

[I've also been taking some pictures, but since ChinaJoy hasn't started yet, most of them aren't relevant to games - though there is a tragic picture of a closed-down 'Sega World' arcade, as well as a billboard for a racy Chinese MMO to tide you over for now.]

You Had Me At "Grappling Hook Monkey"

July 26, 2006 8:31 AM |

Matthew over at Fun Motion has posted about a new physics game by Rag Doll Software called Rocky the Monkey.

rocky-the-monkey-1.jpgMuch like the physics-engine bubble baubles that had you dragging a scantily clad woman (or in one variant, George W. Bush) through a field of randomly generated orbs, Rocky the Monkey has you put in charge of the spunky, stick-figure monkey armed with a pixelated grappling hook.

The objective, instead of falling lazily through bubbles with realtime ragdoll physics, is to make your way up them, climbing as high as you can while a vicious tide of water rises beneath you. Collect bananas to fill your "banana bar" (a timer) and keep going up. That's it. It never ends, and it never gets old. Expect some finger cramps, however. The games WASD controls coupled with mouse clicks will have your hands working overtime to keep Rocky afloat.

I love that little monkey.

Letters from the Metaverse: You Know When You've Been Tringo'ed

July 26, 2006 12:50 AM |

[‘Letters from the Metaverse’ is a regular weekly column by Mathew Kumar about his adventures in the massively multiplayer online world of Second Life. This week’s column covers gaming in Second Life.]

Last week when I left you I was in Yadni’s Junkyard, trying to make head or tails of the system of ‘animation overrides’ that is required to change your animations from the unbelievably terrible defaults set by Linden Labs.

I've given up. While yes, buying a box of animations is easy enough (point and click!) And viewing said animations is easy enough (point and click!) Actually overriding the animations seems to either involve coding, or using someone else’s animation override system. Of the two I found on offer (for free, admittedly) in Yadni’s Junkyard, one came with a help file which said “It’s open source, work it out yourself” (really!) and the other, it seems, expected you to be familiar with the other! So, looks like I’m stuck jerking my way around the world of Second Life for some time yet.

2006_07_25_tringo2.jpgBut enough about that. Really, the past few weeks I haven’t managed to prove to anyone, least of all myself, that Second Life is much more than a glorified chat room, with a dress-up doll attached, for players who don’t want to get their hands dirty with coding. As the voracious kind of gamer that reads Gamesetwatch, I imagine you’re simply chomping at the bit to find out what opportunities there are for real ‘game’ experiences in the world.

Well, I decided to go and find the most obvious and popular game experience in the world, Tringo. Already discussed on these hallowed pages by SimonC (who linked to a nice article at Wired) Tringo is a kind of competitive Tetris/bingo. Flying over to creator Kermitt Quirk’s island (“The Home of Tringo”) I found absolutely no one there that was interested in playing. Luckily, however, I could see one of Kermitt’s neighbours was in her house, and in traditional RPG manner I just barged in without knocking and rifled through her stuff, by which I mean I asked her nicely if she knew where I could play Tringo. She let me know the ‘hot’ place to play was Ice Dragon’s Playpen, and finding there was a Tringo event running, I dashed off to get involved.

Tringo can initially be bewildering. You have to find a space to sit and click the board to receive your game card, and as soon as the game master decides the game begins. Your game card is an in-game object on which you can see your 5x5 game board, score and the next piece to be played, and during the game all players must place the pieces on their board to make rectangles of 2x2, 2x3 or 3x3 for points. As all players receive the same pieces the strategy really is about maximising your score through your arrangement, rather than speed. I mucked my first game up completely, uncomfortable with the way in which I interacted with the game board in the world, but with my second game I managed to come second.

2006_07_25_tringo1.jpgTringo is not *exactly* a gambling game – it’s free to play but you can choose to donate to the pot and it’s this aspect, that you’re competing for as tangible a prize as is possible in the virtual world, that makes Tringo so thrilling. When playing for a pots of over $500 Linden (equivalent to a dollar) it had the same kind of addictive, one more go thrill of cash-prize online poker. I found myself playing for hours simply to try and win one game. Alas, I still haven’t yet.

The strangest thing about Tringo, and perhaps its flaw, is that taken in isolation it’s actually quite boring. You can play it online here, but playing for points alone just isn’t the same as playing for prizes, and the utter lack of coverage for the solo play GBA port perhaps hammers this home.

It’s going to be hard to tear myself away from Tringo, particularly with the idea that I could start to actually make money with it, akin to those who play online poker as a career. However, the more I play it, the less I’m sure I’m enjoying it!

NEXT WEEK: SimonC checks my character into a Second Life Rehabilitation Centre to get me over my Tringo addiction.

[Mathew Kumar is a freelance journalist who’s dabbled in MMORPGs, but is too cheap/strong willed to play past a free trial. He got his break with Insert Credit, and his work has been featured in publications as diverse as The Globe and Mail, Plan B magazine and Eurogamer.]

Poyo: The Next Big Indie Puzzler?

July 25, 2006 8:53 PM |

Poyo.jpgTim at The Independent Gaming Source has a post up beckoning us to try out a new puzzle game called Poyo. Made in under a month using Game Maker, Poyo is the brainchild of Lazrael, an active member of the Game Maker community.

The game is simplistic, hearkening to the days of Dig Dug and Lode Runner, with the character possessing the means only to run, jump and warp. Still, Poyo can be punishing at times, and for a game coming out of nowhere, feels like it will stand the test of time.

Though I don't know if agree with Tim's likening of the game to such heavy-hitters as Cave Story, it's a solid indie offering and a great way to kill some time.

Finally, Cellphones Get More Teen Angst!

July 25, 2006 4:40 PM |

TheOC.gifPocket Gamer, a UK-based mobile games site, has gotten word of mobile publisher Gameloft's latest offering: a simulation/dating game based around the television series The O.C.

Apparently after the success of Paris Hilton's Diamond Quest, Gameloft realized a branded sim game could do well in today's market. As you take control of the windswept and/or glistening girls and boys of one of TV's most popular dramas, we'll see if this theory holds true.

Date, fight, offer items, drive, and play host to a sweeping wave of self-pity as you realize you're playing a game based on a teen drama...on your cell phone. Gameloft assures that the character customization and bounty of minigames will make this a must-have, but personally I'm holding out for a Twin Peaks game tie-in.

COMIC: 'Our Blazing Destiny' - Samurai Showdown!

July 25, 2006 12:40 PM |

[Our Blazing Destiny is a weekly comic by Jonathan "Persona" Kim about our society, cultural postdialectic theory, and video games. And about the indigenous people of Japan fighting in fictious historic battles against highly fictionalized historic icons.]

"I've been playing Samurai Spirits: Tenkaichi Kenkakuden and my thoughts remained on the dramas of the cute mascot sisters of the Samurai Showdown series: Nakoruru and Rimururu.

You know, considering that Samurai Showdown takes place sometime during the 18th century, I guess it's kind of odd for them all to be sitting around a kotatsu in the middle of summer. And for Rera to want five American dollars. ANACHRONISTIC SLIP!!"

nakorurucomic.jpg

[Jonathan "Persona" Kim is sometimes a character animation student at the California Institute of the Arts, other times a ninja illustrator, but in his heart, a true comic artist looking for his destiny in the sea of stars. His path on the torrid road of comics include a quarterly manga on The Gamer's Quarter and his website on the awesome collective, Mechafetus.com. Visit and take a look at the new Oekaki board!]

Suda 51's HeROes: New videos

July 25, 2006 8:13 AM |

Gus at Looky Touchy has a link to a post over at The Wiire, a site devoted to the Nintendo Wii, about an upcoming title, HeROes.

Produced by Suda 51, aka Goichi Suda, of Killer 7 fame, the game sports the distinctive art style that had pundits postulating on "games as art," though it appears to sport a slightly less demented storyline and substantially more ultra-violence.

Heroes_high_divx.jpg

Though the links seem missing out of the Looky Touchy post, I managed to dig up a video over at The Wiire, or peep the whole directory here for more options.

The trailers look incredible, and will rumble your subs with gunfire aplenty. Try to ignore the characters when they talk, though. The dialogue is cheesy and poorly done and hopefully just filler for the trailers. With Killer 7 not exactly faring fantastically at the checkout counter, let's see if the guys at Grasshopper Manufacture and Capcom can drop something a little less...esoteric on us come Wii season.

COLUMN: 'Parallax Memories' - 32X

July 25, 2006 3:13 AM |

32X['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 column profiles Sega's accessory: The 32X]

The 32-bit Promise

The 32X is the reason that I lost faith in Sega. As a kid, I was jealous of my friend's Master System and its superior graphics. A little older and able to make my own purchasing decisions, I was an early adopter of the Genesis and Game Gear, which I proudly tauted as the best possible systems in their respective fields (even though I had to carry around an adapter for the Game Gear). The Sega CD was a little too much for me, and after playing a few games of Sewer Shark at a friend's house, my desire to own one waned. The 32X, on the other hand, got me excited.

The 32X was the first console add-on that fundamentally changed a console into something else. Unlike the CD add-on, which only expanded the current possibilities of the system, the 32X actually altered what the Genesis was capable of. The original system was only capable of 64 colors on screen (although a few games had some programming trickery which gave the appearance of more), yet the 32X promised over 32,000. The processor was also truly 32-bit with onboard scaling, rotation, and 3-D capabilities that were previously impossible.

The ADS!What Went Wrong?

Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama started the cartridge-based 32X project (originally titled Project Jupiter) . But Sega found that a CD-based system was more viable, and the production of the 32X was moved to the United States along with some of Sega of Japan’s engineers. SOJ continued independently with Project Saturn, the CD-based 32-bit system that would become the Playstation’s main competition.

In order to meet the promised release date of Christmas 1994, the 32X was released with the hardware availability well below initial demand (much as the PS2 and X360 would be in later years). Games were cut down and scaled back to get them out on time. Levels were cut and game-crashing bugs were left unresolved. On top of that, many systems had compatibility problems or were just plain faulty. Though initially popular and surrounded with hype, the console proved to be a major failure.

32X on the Console
A Quick Death

Unlike NEC’s console, the 32X did not thrive in any environment. There was only one region-exclusive game for the console in Japan (Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV). And the Saturn—which had superior hardware and software—had already been released in Japan by the time the 32X was available. In the United States, it debuted only six months after the United States release of the 32X.

Sega promised to support the 32X despite the release of the Saturn. But it was a lie. In less than two years, the final game for the 32X was released; the system never even had a “killer app” to justify its price. The system quietly died after being lampooned time and time again by the major gaming news outlets. All the goodwill that Sega had built up with me on the Genesis was in ruin after the 32X. I like to think that the Saturn's steady decline was a direct result of the 32X’s antics. I know it’s why I never purchased a Saturn until just two years ago.

[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.]

Place and Space in New Media Writing

July 24, 2006 10:45 PM |

Scott Rettberg over at Grand Text Auto (A group blog about digital narrative, games, poetry, and art,) has posted a new entry about guest-editing a just-released issue of the Iowa Review Web focused on the ways that different forms of new media writing reconfigure concepts of place and space.
gtextauto.jpg
More to the point, this issue of the Web is a who's-who of Grand Text Auto posters, with an interview with Nick Montfort on his interactive dramaBook and Volume, as well as an interview with Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern on their IF game Façade.

To see what all the fuss is about, check out Interactivestory.net, the home of Façade, and also check out the Book and Volume homepage for a taste of some new interactive fiction.

GamesRadar Picks Best Ten Gaming Years... Ever!

July 24, 2006 5:39 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/gamesradar.jpg hspace= Got a note from the ever-geeked Christian Nutt over at Future's GamesRadar, and we, indeed haven't linked them in a while, so here's what he said:

"Thought you might want to check out this feature we've done at GamesRadar, our first big elaborate one really. It's called "Top ten years in videogame history" and covers the entire history of games... selecting the best ten years of games from the gamer's perspective. We took in PC, console, arcade and handheld releases and judged each year, narrowing it down to ten, and then writing up our reasoning behind it."

I would cite some suitable witticisms from it, but the hotel Internet connection out there in China is actually on the terrible side, so you'll just have to make do with the above link for the meantime - and thanks to ChaseM for helping me out by posting in my semi-absence.

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