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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 July, 2006

Blogging the 3DO: Continued

July 24, 2006 12:25 PM |

GameSetWatch is no stranger to "3DO kid's" blog, an entirely readable retro blog that seeks to chronicle the misadventures of the nigh-forgotten console.

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/power%20reactor.jpg hspace=

The latest entry, about the space shooter Starblade, is bursting with praise for one of the fallen console's greatest hits:

"For ten minutes this deep space epic over shadowed the freedom of Elite and the story line of Wing Commander. For a moment the awesome spectacle that is Starblade dwarfed its nearest rivals absolutely. With its scale, its sense of reality, its wonderment, its incredible power and its tribute to the technology of its time. For a moment Starblade showed you exactly what you wanted. What you hoped. What you dreamt games like Privateer would be like but never were."

Whether or not you owned a 3DO, this is one of the most engaging reads on the game-blog scene today.

COLUMN: 'Free Play' - d_of_i

July 24, 2006 3:01 AM |

[’Free Play’ is a regular weekly column by Ancil Anthropy about freely downloadable video games, and the people who make them. This week’s column profiles d_of_i.]

Most of the games on d_of_i's website were originally blog posts, physics toys created in Processing, a Java-based programming environment aimed at non-coders, but the blog entries were so frequently linked that they ended up on d_of_i's frontpage. d_of_i's creations, which now include Flash- and Windows-based games, revolve around a set of physical laws which the player must learn to manipulate. Some of them are just toys, sandboxes where the player is free to tinker with the rules and pieces endlessly.

Sand sand sand

d_of_i-sand.png

World of Sand may be d_of_i's most impressive toy, a literal sandbox. Sand and water, salt and oil pour from the sky, and the player can use the mouse to draw walls, creating containers, fountains, mixing pots. The substances all interact in different ways—plants grow when exposed to water, burn when exposed to fire. Oil will ignite if it catches flame.

Being a toy, it has no real goal—you just tinker with it as much or as little as you like. More game-like variants exist: slay slugs with salt or extinguish fire with sand. Similiar is War of the Hell, where the player dangles a rope that tiny, damned stickpeople grab onto, and swinging your mouse will toss them up towards heaven (the top of the screen). Later, d_of_i combined the game with World of Sand to produce Hell of Sand.

Other Java-based games worth playing include Rolling Omusubi, a game about a spinning rice ball's journey home, and its more interesting sequel in which the rice treat swings from its nori wrapping like Umihara Kawase. X Snow Cats is a kitten bobsled race—the Z and X keys are used to make the player's cat turn in mid-air, executing flips and backflips for points.

Neko neko neko

d_of_i-cannoncat.png

In addition to blog-posted browser games, d_of_i has also released a few downloadable games for Windows. In Cannon Cat, the titular kitten uses a mounted gun to propel itself through polygonal caverns while fighting giant sprite enemies. The mouse is used to aim and fire—shooting backwards will propel the kitten forward. The goal is to get the cat to the rightmost end of the cave before the time limit expires, but the exit usually won't open until all the enemies have been defeated—also with the cannon, backfire still applies.

The same cast of monsters makes an appearance in Magic Puppet (guide to downloading from Vector for non-Japanese readers), but in this game they have to be hacked up with sword slashes and magic attacks. The player controls a wooden puppet that can change its size by consuming mushrooms, and explode into pieces as a special attack.

Finally, be sure to check out...

Egg Way is a short but tricky game that asks the player to use the drawing mechanic of the sand games to guide an egg into a frying pan.

[Ancil Anthropy is a game developer and space invader. She fills dessgeega.com with lots of good stuff and writes for a bunch of places, including The Gamer’s Quarter and The Independent Gaming Source.]

PC Accelerator Fails To Predict The Future

July 23, 2006 11:09 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/pcaccel.jpg hspace= Poking around on Kevin Gifford's magazine history website Magweasel, we noticed a bunch of cover scans from PC Accelerator, and one in particular caught our eye.

Yep, the cover is for 'Quake II killers', from the first ever September 1998 issue of the mag, and the contenders are Daikatana (uh, not so much!), Duke4ever (well, maybe, but more of a Quake V contender!), and Klingon Honor Guard, which I didn't even recall actually existed. Still, it's actually a fun cover, and isn't the babe-heavy stylings of the mag's later run.

If you want to check out some of the other covers from one of the edgier titles in U.S. game mag history, you can search for 'pcxl' in the search box - the likely most ridiculous one is this cover, for '69 hot new games', with an unimpressed, semi-undressed significant other.

Cendamos' Attic Of Debug Mystery, Revealed

July 23, 2006 6:12 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/debug.png hspace= A mysterious wizard by the name of Cendamos has set up his homepage of Nintendo debug goodness, and lo, it was actually pretty interesting.

For example, there's a page on playing as 'Dark Link' in Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time - all a bit scary! And too: "As an added bonus, I even created a Play as Kafei code for MM (USA Release)... go to Clocktown's main street at 6 AM and press L when you see Kafei!" Also, there's a Stalfos House code, fun.

The other bits of goodness are various hidden code-unlocked debug rooms - for Metroid Fusion, and a Wario Land 4 GBA debug, plus Kirby for GBA, heh. [Via Jiji.]

GSW Goes To ChinaJoy - Updates Light

July 23, 2006 12:04 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/shanghai.jpg So, you may see non-column updates on GSW run a little slow over the next few days (though I'm queuing ahead a few posts right now!), since I'm off to Shanghai for the ChinaJoy game expo. We'll also be meeting with Chinese game companies to understand the region better and help shape the CMP Game Group's editorial plans there.

However, I'll be posting regular 'State Of China' articles on the show and what's happening in the Chinese game biz over at Gamasutra, and I'm also going to try to upload additional comments and perhaps some pictures, here on GameSetWatch.

Also, I'll try to get some pics of the cosplay contest and other game-related goings-on in Shanghai, since we don't see much Western game press coverage of that scene right now. In the meantime, enjoy the 'normal' GSW programming.

K9 Headlines Dr. Who-Related Web Game

July 23, 2006 8:11 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/k9.jpg So, the UK has resurrected the wonderful sci-fi series Dr.Who (second series just ended in the UK, first series has been running on Sci-Fi in the U.S.), and the "mysterious time-travelling adventurer known only as "The Doctor", who explores time and space with his companions, fighting evil" has spawned a new webpage on the BBC site.

The game involves robot dog sidekick K-9, who recently made a re-appearance (to much fanboy frothing!) in the second series of the new Dr. Who, and the game is a keyboard-controlled Flash action game where you need to help destroy The Doctor's enemies - yay.

Oh - one good quote from the Wikipedia entry on K-9: "All the K-9s referred to whoever owned them as "Master" or "Mistress" depending on their gender. The units were programmed to be both loyal and logical, with a penchant for taking orders literally, almost to a fault. The Fourth Doctor would often use a glib remark to disarm those who were surprised by K-9's appearance; in The Stones of Blood he said, "They're all the rage in Trenton, New Jersey."" [Via Aderack.]

Minter's Xbox 360 Neon Exposed In Cold Light

July 23, 2006 4:09 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/fluffyjpg May have been around a while, but the folks at EvilAvatar have made me see the light - they pointed out the guide to Jeff Minter's X360 visualizer secrets, some of which I had no idea about.

It's explained: "Jeff Minter creator of the music visualizations available in the Xbox 360, has a guide up on his Llamasoft site that explains how to make the most of the visualization program. Did you know that each of the 4 controllers on the 360 affects the effects of the music visualizations differently?"

And yes, there is a section about the 'Psychedelia and Boingy' effects available on Controller 3, and includes the Yakkiest sentence ever: "If possible use a nice gentle piece of music to practice to, so that Boingy is mostly in a small flower-shape in the middle of the effect. I've got some Tangerine Dream playing through Neon right now as I'm making these notes, and it's just lovely."

Contact Atlus, Receive Grasshopper Manufacture Game

July 23, 2006 12:10 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/contact.jpg Over at Siliconera, they've got an interview with Atlus' Tomm Hulett about DS title Contact, as created by Suda51's company Grasshopper Manufacture, and previously mentioned on GSW.

Hulett hasn't actually played the game (which is created by Akira Ueda, currently working on a sequel), in that much detail yet, has just translated it, heh, but has some notable words on why the U.S. might dig the title more than Japan: "I’m not sure why it didn’t do well in Japan, though I do suspect its release just before the highly anticipated Mother 3 had something to do with it. However, Contact’s US release will be the only wackiness infusion American Earthbound fans get for a while, so we can at least corner that demographic."

He adds: "I also think most of the DS users in this country are still gamers (as opposed to Japan, where a large majority are non-gamers), so there should be more people who will appreciate the humor featured in Contact. Which isn’t to say non-gamers won’t enjoy Contact; they totally would. They should go preorder it RIGHT NOW." So, covering all bases, then!

PlayFirst Diner Dashes To Success

July 22, 2006 8:11 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/ddash.jpg Over at casual site GameZebo, they've added a neat interview with Kenny Dinkin of PlayFirst, chatting to the producer at the California-headquartered casual game publisher/developer.

The most interesting part of the interview, for me, is the fact that the sequel to the Gamelab-developed casual game smash hit Diner Dash (PlayFirst's major slamdunk thus far!) wasn't actually done by Gamelab: "We were really lucky to partner with Gamelab on the first Diner Dash game, so the foundation for a great franchise was built when we took on doing the next one internally at our PlayFirst studio." In fact, it sounds like Gamelab didn't retain any of the IP to Diner Dash - not something I'm very used to when it comes to casual games - but not completely crazy, or anything. Just... surprising..

Dinkin has some great comments on some of the best casual game makers, too: "I respect what Patrick Wylie at Big Fish has done with the Mystery Case Files series. There's an attention to narrative immersion, and of course a really compelling (but simple and accessible) mechanic there. I also admire the games that are coming out of Sandlot Games. Tradewinds is a personal favorite."

He ends: " Mostly, I like to see developers that are taking new risks on gameplay and narrative - whether it's games like Q-Beez 2 or Fish Tycoon. Best of all, we have seen some amazing concepts from small indie developers, both from within the PlayFirst circle and from new groups. Check out Professor Fizzwizzle or Pirate Poppers to see what I mean."

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Unraveling Game Players

July 22, 2006 4:26 PM |

['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.]

gameplayersv1n2.jpg   gameplayersv3n6.jpg

For a magazine collector, there few greater challenges than trying to collect all the assorted mags and one-offs with the Game Players name on them. Why? Complexity. Signal Research (the Greensboro, NC-based publisher behind the Game Players name) was the first company to get a Nintendo-specific magazine out on newsstands in the summer of 1988 -- Nintendo Power was still subscription-only at the time, and the other mags were still a few months or so away. They tried to make the Game Players name a universal brand for kids, and along those lines they put out a dizzying array of magazines, specials, books, videotapes, and other merchandise.

The resulting output dwarfs that of any other publisher at the time, and yet the early era of Game Players titles (up to around 1995) is really, really hard to find nowadays. Looking at the mags today, the reason behind this is pretty easy to deduct -- the paper's cheap, the visual design is boring, and the screenshots are tiny and lack detail. About the only thing GP had going for it was that it (a) covered unlicensed games aggressively (b) wasn't afraid to spoil endings in strategy guides, which sounds evil but was really a breath of fresh air considering how hard a lot of NES games were.

Myself, I'm at the point where I only have a few holes to fill before completing my collection (with the exception of their PC games magazine), and that took me a couple of years and more money than I'd like to admit. If you'd like to try collecting them yourself, here's a quick tour of what to look for. (Click through to read the full column.)

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