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Archive For August, 2006

COLUMN: ‘Game Mag Weaseling’: Mag Roundup 8/26/06

August 26, 2006 10:01 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.]

shelf4.jpg   shelf5.jpg

It took two man-days of work and I think I threw out my back, but a long-overdue task is finally completed -- I have inventoried my magazine collection, more or less.

Why haven't I done this now? Well, because it's a hell of a lot of boring work. I mean, I knew generally what I have and don't have in my head, but actually going through every mag in the collection to amass physical proof is a pretty dull job -- one highlit with the occasional exciting discovery (I am only five issues away from completing my collection of 99'er, an extremely obscure and haphazardly-published computer magazine), but still pretty dull overall.

Still, I have completed it, and now I can pin a few numbers on my hobby. All told, I own 1989 video-game magazines and 2049 computer/PC game mags, for a grand total of 4038 issues. This doesn't count a lot of things, though -- I didn't bother tabulating the British and foreign-language mags, and individual issues with multiple "collector's edition" covers count as one. I also haven't counted up my list of duplicates, which is growing worrisomely large; I'll list that up tomorrow so I can hopefully get some more trading action going on.

Regardless, 4038 is a very large number, about 1000 more than I was expecting. Even so, I'm still lacking in many areas -- I need a lot more issues of PC Gamer and Game Informer, for example. In due time, however.

If you're interested in looking at exactly what I have, here are Excel files of my video-game mags and my computer mags. If you see a title in the lists that you'd like me to talk about in this column, by all means comment or email me.

Anyway, enough horn blowing -- it's time to check out all the game mags released in the US for the past fortnight. Click on below to see the whole spread.

Rocket Slime, Platypus Boss

August 26, 2006 7:05 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/sliime.jpg Over at 1UP, J.Parish has posted an extremely readable preview of Squenix's Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, which includes an interview with the game's director Yoshiki Watabe.

Of the action-adventure almost Zelda-like DS game's insane name, Watabe explains: "One of the biggest things we were worried about was the image of a slime. In Japan, [the smiling Dragon Quest monster] is what people think of when they hear 'slime,' but in the West if you'd never played Dragon Quest you'd think slime was just a blob."

He continues: "We wanted to give the idea that he's more solid than just a pool of bubbles and that he can actually snap around like a slingshot. That's why we gave him the name Rocket. The juxtaposition of 'rocket' and 'slime' makes you think, 'Well, why did they call it that?' and when you see the game you realize right away that he shoots around like a rocket."" Don't get it, but I love the justification.

And really, when the plot for the game is like this, who cares? "Rocket's mission is to rescue 100 of his slime friends from the Plob, a mafia-like mob of platypuses whose rank is determined by the number of tails they wear. The lowest ranks wear a single tail, while the Plobfather himself wears seven." I'm actually sold - there's relatively few good DS games in this genre (the multi-tail platypus boss one, of course!), for some weird reason.

Nancy Drew's Secrets Can Kill!

August 26, 2006 2:18 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/75th.jpg We seem to be linking to Matt Barton's Armchair Arcade posts quite a lot recently - but hey, they're fun, and the latest is a massive overview of Her Interactive's Nancy Drew series, shining a light on some games that aren't really talked about by most video game sites, uhh, ever.

Barton notes: "First, a few admissions. I'm addicted to Her Interactive's Nancy Drew adventure game series, even though it's ostensibly intended for girls aged 10-15. I've played through every one of them up to the 13th game, Danger by Design, and intend to grab that one soon. The reasons why I like the game are simple: They're extremely well-designed, full of colorful characters and wit, and highly playable. They basically take everything that's fun about graphical adventure games and strip out the junk that makes most of them so frustrating."

Then there's a little 'girl gamers don't like pink!' ranting (though to be fair, one of GSW's female co-workers was salivating over the pink DS Lite yesterday), and a handy conclusion: "As far as acquiring these delightful games, I'd recommend starting with Dreamcatcher's 75th Anniversary Collection, which includes the first five games as well as a Nancy Drew novel." Though it's not quite the same game style, it's notable how the Mystery Case Files series is insanely popular as PC casual games, too - the whodunnit is back, baby.

Shock! Drunksaling Finds Current-Gen Console Games!

August 26, 2006 9:15 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/gaaames.jpg Yes, yes, we've been following The New Gamer's 'Drunksaling' garage sale pictorials for a while now, but in the latest, they actually found some Xbox and PlayStation 2 games, a rarity in a world (in a woorrrrld!) where crappy FMV PC titles are much more the norm.

G. Turner drools: "Delicious modern games. There was a portly fellow eyeing them right in front of me, but just as he opened his mouth to ask the proprietor how much they were, I jumped right in and beat him to the punch! They were certainly worth the two bucks he was asking." I bet that portly fellow reads GameSetWatch. Or maybe just Fark.

Other highlights include some ancient handhelds, disturbing old books, overpriced strategy guides, and pretty much anything else you would expect to find when poking around weird-smelling old places. Worth noting: "Time for our local Village thrift store! Yes, these are the folks who scream & shout whenever I photograph anything in their store, which is why this copy of Space Quest 4 was photo'ed in the car." We love the Roger Wilco paparazzi!

Senko No Video Gorgeous-ity For X360

August 26, 2006 4:20 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/senk.jpg The ever-reliable Fort90 points out the first 10 minutes of Senko No Ronde X for Xbox 360 in video form, posted over at gigantic video site Xboxyde.

Writer BlimBlim explains: "Senko no Ronde Rev X. is the second japanese Xbox 360 game I get to play this week-end... This game is a strange but interesting mix of a fighting game and a "Bullet Hell" Shoot'em Up, and at first it's really confusing. But after a few minutes everything starts to make sense and it get really enjoyable."

He continues: "The game system is quite simple: A for boosts, X for simple attacks, Y for special attack (guided projectiles, or temporary power ups for the simple attack), B for the secondary attack (bullet hell, mines...), right trigger for the shield and the lest trigger for the mega attack. It doesn't take more than a minute to get used to the controls, as expected from an arcade game. This is a really enjoyable but of course quite limited in scope title, old school gamers should love it." But the question is - who's bringing it to the States? Atlus? D3? Ubisoft? Mastiff? Aaaaanyone?

Second Life Gets Official Guidebook

August 26, 2006 12:14 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/cornfield.jpg Mark Wallace's 3PointD.com has a post revealing that there's an official Second Life guidebook being released in hardcopy form this December.

The blog notes: Due out in mid-December, the Sybex-published volume “explores in detail every aspect of Second Life’s rich and multilayered virtual world, explains how it works, and offers a wealth of information and practical advice for all Second Life residents.” The book was written by Michael Rymaszewski, who in the past has penned official guides to such popular video games as Age of Empires III, Zoo Tycoon 2, Rise of Nations and others."

Further commentary: "On first blush it seems an odd choice, since game guides usually focus on getting from start to finish as easily as possible and uncovering hidden corners of the game in question. But Catherine Smith at Linden Lab tells me that it was the publisher who approached the company about doing an official guide. In addition, “LL has had lots of input into the content, the look and feel and the writing of the book,” she says." I'm presuming the adult areas will be studiously avoided, mind you.

Power Leveling - A Little Like Daycare?

August 25, 2006 8:11 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/index_carless_lg.jpg OK, a little cross-promotion here, since the first feature I've written for Gamasutra since returning from China is up. It's called 'IGE: Inside The MMO Trading Machine', and it talks to the COO of the world's largest MMO item/gold trading company. I actually chatted to him while I was in Shanghai, but it's taken a while to get the piece (which is a rare on-the-record statement from the often shadowy company) properly written up.

I've previously written on GSW about the wackiness that is power leveling (go give your WoW character to a 'babysitter' who levels it up for you!), and IGE clearly have their eye on this market: "[IGE COO James] Clarke also noted that, in pure economic terms, paying people to level your character is "a market which tends toward commoditization." Of course, those handing over their character have "a high degree of sensitivity" to what's happening to their virtual avatar - the COO quipped: "It's almost like day care... you'd be amazed how much they check in.""

The controversy over who own in-game items also continues to rage - Blizzard claims: "The World of Warcraft Terms of Use clearly states that all of the content in World of Warcraft is the property of Blizzard, and Blizzard does not allow "in game" items to be sold for real money." However, IGE claims: "We very much stand behind the concept of in-game property being owned by the players" - meaning, of course, it can be sold and traded to others.

Of course, in-game gold farmers are arguably ruining the fun for many by camping, and they sell things on to IGE, no matter whether they're 'officially' allowed to pass on items or not. But people pay for these items, and to level up easily, and so the cycle continues, at least until there are definitive legal challenges to item selling in or outside the U.S. But these are challenges that, even if there are possible, will be confusing enough that they might go against the MMO firms? Fun all round!

Academy Awards Warn Us - Don't Game About!

August 25, 2006 4:10 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/oscar.jpg Here's a fun bit of Gamasutra-related hilarity - a little earlier this week, our UK news editor David Jenkins posted a [since edited] news story about a new Japanese game award show, and compared it to the Academy Awards in the news title - or rather, cited a GameSpot article which translated a Japanese media report which quotes someone as comparing it to the Academy Awards.

Anyhow, we got a very polite email this afternoon from a legal-type person: "I am writing on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As you will no doubt be aware, the Academy annually presents an Award of Merit statuette, commonly known as the OSCAR, to people who make outstanding contributions to the motion picture industry... As a result of the long and continuous use of the Academy Marks in conjunction with the granting of awards, the Academy has gained valuable goodwill and strong recognition in these trademark in the U.S. and worldwide."

So what was wrong? "A Gamasutra article... has recently come to our attention. The headline reads [well, it did before we edited it!] "Japan Plans 'Game Academy Awards'." It refers to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to create an award for the country’s video games industry. Regardless of whether or not this ACADEMY AWARDS reference was derived from an outside news source, it is nonetheless concerning to the Academy. We consider the use of the ACADEMY AWARDS name in Gamasutra's headline as damaging to our rights by tending to dilute the ACADEMY AWARDS mark's unique identification with the Academy or incorrectly implying these awards are in some way connected with or endorsed by the Academy."

So yes, they asked us to change the headline. It's an old story, the change doesn't break the meaning in any way, and we didn't really feel like arguing with Uncle Oscar, so we did. Here's our reply: "Well, I find this one a bit of a puzzler, because as you rightly note, the original comparison was made not by us, but by the Japanese newspaper the Yomiuri Shinbun, whom we are merely citing. Nonetheless, we're tickled that you noticed, somewhat understand your point, and we're happy to amend the article, which we have already done." Has this post made you see the Oscars differently? If so, the Academy's lawyers have done their job!

Manifesto Successfully Manifests Itself

August 25, 2006 12:24 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/manif.jpg Greg Costikyan and Johnny Wilson's somewhat-vaunted Manifesto Games indie game portal is now open for a 'Beta' version, and it's, well, not unreasonable-looking!

There's the amusingly-named Dispatch From The Central Committee weblog, which is "something equivalent to "Outgoing Mail"; it's where Manifesto's management and employees will post about our plans, our thoughts, and what's going on with the company", and a whole bunch of games to check out, the featured choice right now being IGF finalist Mudcraft.

One notable thing is the good-quality descriptions: "Dune II, WarCraft, Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, and Empire Earth--real-time strategy games have always been about warfare and conquest, right? How could you possibly do a peaceful RTS?... Mudcraft is no high-end high-poly high-budget high-def extravaganza; it's a simple, pleasant, goofy, fun little art game that engages you and brings you back for one level more. And yes, you come to care a good deal more about the mud people than you do about, say, the minutely-detailed soldiers of a big-budget RTS title." This type of rhetoric makes me want to care, amusing communist allegories aside.

Retrogaming Times Exposes Pac-Man Shame

August 25, 2006 8:13 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/hackem.png The good people at Atari Age handily pointed the way to the August 2006 issue of the Retrogaming Times, which features a whole bunch of quirky articles in a pseudo-newletter stylee, yaaay.

This particularly includes a neat article on attempts to redeem Pac-Man on the 2600, with the intro: "Many people have claimed that the official Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man, programmed by Tod Frye, was responsible for the beginning of the end of Atari’s market dominance before the crash. This most anticipated home version was, to some, the most disappointing. I’m not here to debate the merit of those claims. What I am here to discuss is another effect that 2600 Pac-Man has been responsible for: inspiring some of the best hackers to provide the 2600 playing community with something that it has always lacked, a decent arcade conversion of one of the most beloved games in video game history."

The absolute best? "The programmers at Ebivision were determined to show the world that an extremely accurate port of Pac-Man could be done for the Atari 2600, and in only 4K of ROM. They started programming the game from scratch, and planned on releasing the result commercially. But since we live in a world of litigation, Ebivision was concerned that Namco or other copyright holders would attempt to sue them for their efforts, so they decided to convert the game in to something Pac-Man-ish and named it Pesco. Nukey Shay decided to take what they had released and convert it BACK in to Pac-Man."

Thus, we get Hack 'Em, and Pac-Man's ghosts (haw!) are finally laid to rest. Lots more fun articles in the Retrogaming Monthly too, all endearingly obsessive.

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