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Archive For August, 2006

COLUMN: 'The Gentleman Nerd' - Why I Love... Puerto Rico

August 25, 2006 4:11 AM |

[The Gentleman Nerd is a weekly column written by Jason McMaster and is dedicated to the more discerning tastes of the refined dork. Due to Jason's extreme nature, most of his columns will be subtitled 'Why I Love...' or 'Why I Hate...' - in case you were wondering.]

I am, usually, not so fond of economy games. In fact, I’m what most people would call a fan of killing stuff. Unless something is blowing up or I get to remove a piece from the board, then I’m not really into it. That’s why I approached Puerto Rico with a fair bit of skepticism.

Puerto RicoOn the surface, Puerto Rico appears to be a boring, counter-based game. That notion carries on throughout opening up the box for the first time. Oh boy, a ton of cardboard squares and circular counters. I wasn’t particularly excited about playing this game at all. The only thing I knew about the game is that it’s the highest rated game on Board Game Geek, and my friend Brian wouldn’t shut up about it. So, I gave in to the pressure and we set up the board. I must admit that when you set up all the pieces, it looks completely baffling and dense. Then we started playing.

Have you ever had a moment in your life where, after struggling with something, it all makes perfect sense, and that realization happens in a second’s time? It’s happened several times for me throughout my life. The first experience I can remember like that is when I was a kid and my dad bought me the full version of Quick Basic for my birthday.

Puerto RicoMy dad began programming in the seventies and I wanted to follow suit. So, I would sit in my room on my 8086 and try to figure out how to program stuff in BASICA. I eventually lost interest in it, and had forgotten all about programming until I received that gift. I’m not sure if it was just that I was older, or that I had access to more helpful documentation, but it all just started making sense. I completely understood the logic. That’s what happened with Puerto Rico.

My initial shock wore off and the game started making perfect sense. Each of the gameplay mechanics manages to be clever but not too complex, and there’s only one way to interpret any of the rules. The game’s layout is no-frills and concise, but for Puerto Rico, that works. In other words, I’m very pleased to say that all of my initial reactions were dead wrong. Puerto Rico is one of the strongest board games I’ve every played.

Puerto RicoLet’s take a quick look at how the game plays. On each turn, you choose a role card. These role cards decide who is what for the rest of the round. Once the round has ended, the role cards go back into the center and can be chosen again. These different roles allow for different actions, and whoever chooses that role gets a bonus to that action. The actions vary, but mostly have to do with the production of goods, purchasing of buildings and manning of farms. The game continues until all of the victory points have been given out, someone fills up their building spots or all of the workers are gone. Whoever ends the games with the most victory points wins. It’s a very easy game disguised as a complex one.

What the instructions don’t tell you, however, is that the real fun in Puerto Rico is screwing your friends over. There’s nothing better than taking the last farm that your friend needs and not even manning it. There’s this look that people get when they realize that you just took something from them just because you can. It’s like manna from heaven. Who ever thought that human suffering could be so fulfilling?

That’s why I love Puerto Rico.

[Jason McMaster is a freelance writer who has written for GameSpy, Firing Squad and several other publications. He’s currently working on a few small projects and updating his blog, Lamethrower, as often as he can.]

Final Fantasy III Price Gouging, Impressions

August 25, 2006 12:03 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/dsffiii.jpg Square's much-awaited Final Fantasy III remake for Nintendo DS was released in Japan this week, and NCSX has impressions of the game alongside some startling prices for the DS hardware FFIII bundle.

The site reveals: "Speculative vendors got gouge-happy again this week and shot for the stars by boosting the price of the FFIII DS bundle to ¥41,921 or US$362.22. Against our advisement, customers still confirmed their preorders and we are shipping those orders today. Everyone who confirmed as of 5:55PM EST yesterday will ship this afternoon." Yep, so almost $400, and a bunch of people still paid up - youch.

It's further noted: "We are aware of sizable supplies of the FFIII DS Lite Bundle being hoarded by traders. If sellers can't get their asking price within the next week or two, lofty valuations will get dumped as the speculative froth dies down. We've seen it many times before and we'll see it again in the future." Oh, and IGN has impressions of the game, too, for the interested - looks like it could be a big DS hit in the West, too.

I Can Be Your Idol Master, Baby

August 24, 2006 8:20 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/idol.jpg Over at Insert Credit, Brendan Lee has posted an excellent feature on playing and adoring Japanese arcade game he Idol [email protected], which is coming to the Xbox 360 in Japan pretty soon too, it was recently announced.

Lee explains the cost of failure all too well: "You can see that she's not going to make it, a few games back. You're keeping up with all of the various statistical meter-o-trons and reading her fanmail, and things are going along reasonably well, and then it all goes to hell, rather sharply and suddenly, and she starts failing audition after audition, and you can see her slipping away, and they don't just fade the screen black on you and flash the Game Over, no, you've got to keep slotting the coins just to keep her from being in a state of limbo, to give you both some f*cking closure on the thing . . . Then it's too late. Then the Last Concert begins."

He notes of the endgame: "Deep pockets or no, it gets harder and harder and harder as the game goes on. There's a time limit to get to the next level, and the game keeps counting down the weeks on you, and sooner or later the Director of your talent company lets you know that he's tired of dumping money into your sorry ass, and then you start the worst game of The Idol [email protected] that you will ever play."

Sega has networked the game, so you play to make The Idol [email protected] leaderboard, too, alongside people who've "always got full ninja regalia or Taiko no Tatsujin outfits or other full item sets that you need to spend hundreds of thousands of yen to get." This article make me want to play the game. But judging by the despair, maybe I shouldn't go there?

Jeff Minter's Space Giraffe Is Here!

August 24, 2006 4:10 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/spacegir.jpg We don't much like linking to the lovely chaps at QT3, because they're nice private guys who don't like the entire Internet turning up at their door (though they let Sparky post, apparently!), but Gary Whitta gives us no choice, by linking to [NFSW for language!] pictures of Jeff Minter's XBLA title Space Giraffe, without revealing which of the Yak's 8 billion blogs/messageboards it came from.

As is explained: "Many of you will be familiar with Jeff Minter, author of such 8-bit classics as Gridrunner, Trip-a-Tron, Mama Llama, Hover Bovver, Iridis Alpha and Meta-Galactic Llamas Battle at the Edge of Time. And of course Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar. Most recently he co-authored the Xbox 360 music visualizer. Well, he's just posted some screenshots from his latest game, Space Giraffe, due to be released on Xbox Live Arcade later this year."

And why, pray, do the screens have swearwords all over them? Commenter 'Naked' explains: "Yak (Jeff Minter) uses the foul language to prevent sites like IGN posting shots like this (essentially WIP/Tech Test images he posts on his blog/forum) as "exclusive shots of Jeff Minter's new game" when they're not exactly representative of everything he's going for. It happened on Unity, leading to a bunch of silliness, so now he throws in some NSFW language as a (tongue in cheek) safeguard." Also, the dummy score is Pi - v.clever.

Wicki! Wicki! DJ Optical Mouse Fun

August 24, 2006 12:14 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/wick.jpg Over at the recently relaunched Playthrough blog, they've posted up a link to the awesome (but sadly not playable online) turntable-controlled Flash game 'Wicki Wicki', as co-created by Swedish design student Patrik Berg.

As Playthrough notes: "24 year old student of design, Patrik Berg created a brilliant prototype for a musical video game named Wicki! Wicki! where the player ’scratches’ along to various electronica and hip-hop tracks using a special turntable peripheral."

It continues: "To create the peripheral, Berg merely refinished an old Technics turntable, mounting an optical mouse as a pickup, which was then hacked to be controlled by a PC running a Flash game developed by Berg and his school team. So far only used in a school competition, this is definitely a fun little game for those budding DJs out there who are tired of scratching up their record collections."

Reminds a bit of Sega's Crackin' DJ, which actually used a turntable properly, unlike the still-fun Beatmania - though I guess this probably doesn't measure the length of the scratch, so it's more like Beatmania in that sense? Brain... cloudy!

WTF? Work Time Fun Details Unearthed

August 24, 2006 8:14 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/baito2.jpg SiliconEra has the most detailed gameplay info I've seen so far (not that I've been looking!) for D3's WTF for PSP, which we've previously covered in-depth under Japanese title Baito Hell 2000.

Among the mini-games: "In Private Number players take a stab and guessing a girl’s phone number out of the blue. When the game starts her profile tells what she likes and the four numbers used in her phone number. If you’re on the right the track she will give you signs like “Bingo” or act surprised. If you have the right number, but in the wrong place she’ll give a different sign. The faster you guess her number the more money you’ll earn. Also after you guess her number you can “call” the girl."

Also, uhh, 'Restaurant Bill Splitter': "One of the most useful tools in WTF, the restaurant bill splitter asks for the amount of money on the check and how many in the party to split the bill with. Then it divides the bill evenly or you can set it in “gentleman mode” so all the ladies pay less for the meal." Yes, this game is crazy - and reportedly not actually that great.

Indie August Round-Up Reaches DevastationZone

August 24, 2006 4:14 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/devz.jpg Yay, it's the latest GameTunnel indie game round-up for August, and it's revealed: "This month's article looks at ten indie titles including the perhaps Katamari inspired freeware game The Blob, Kudos, from the same mind as last year's amazing Democracy, as well as DevastationZone Troopers, a 3rd person shooter that lets you redefine your landscape with your weapons."

Top marks go to DevastationZone Troopers, of which Seth Robinson comments: "This game has you running around shooting robots in generic looking levels. It plays like a gorgeous 3D Crimsonland. You collect cash to upgrade your weaponry and by the end you're a virtual tank clearing a swath of glowing death through not only the enemies, but walls and dirt as well. Anything that might slow down the action has been removed - you aren't damaged by explosions, you never get lost, and a good offense is always the best defense. It's simple. It's primal. It's fun."

Also doing well is Kudos, which we've mentioned here before - Brian Clair likes it just about the most, noting that it's "a nice indie-take on the success of the Sims-dominant life-simulation genre that’s become so popular. While not graphics heavy like the Maxis franchise, Kudos proves to be just as addictive without so much meaningless fluff thrown in."

GameSetLinks - Splat Splat Revolution

August 24, 2006 12:20 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/discnat.jpg Oh my, a whole batch of fresh randomness for this fragrant Wednesday night - many of which you may not even have SEEN before. Links are crazy like that! Here we go:

- Gunpey Synth Fun? - the ever-observant Jiji notes that, if you go to the official Gunpey-R for Nintendo DS site and choose the bottom link (never mind that it's in Japanese!), you'll see a demo for 'Pico Pico Machine', where you "can create music in your own style" - it seems to be an entire extra Electroplankton-esque synth music creator built in to Q Entertainment's new puzzle remake? We LIKE!

- Splat Splat Revolution: Indygamer is still digging up the gems - witness a new post on Extermination Disco Nation, which is " a sample project by Kyle Gabler, developer of Super Tummy Bubble and Tower of Goo. Not much of a game but it does demonstrate the use of a dance pad very well. Controls are mapped to the QWEASD keys while pressing 3 skips the instructions." Yep, basically - step on things with the dance mat!

- Digidrive Test Drive: Still somewhat fascinated by the GBA Bit Generations titles, and over at Silicon Era, Spencer Yip has tried out Digidrive in some detail, explaining: "Of the intentionally-simplistic bit Generations titles, DigiDrive has been said to be the most complex, that it just has to ‘click’: suddenly, players confused by the minimalist (and all-Japanese) fold-out manual and a demo totally undemonstrative of the game’s true capabilities, who have then found terrible fortune with FAQs (this could be me)… suddenly, they just ‘get it’. So, in its dissimilarity from just about everything, DigiDrive is not for the easily-frustrated or faint-of-heart." Sound neeto.

- Spin, Mutilate, Recycle: Over at Vintage Computing, they've posted the ominous-sound 'Eric’s Look at Recycled PC Game Ideas', and it's full of hiiilarious anecdotes. Like: "In my first year of college (1992), I started dating a lovely young woman — as compassionate and non-violent a person as you could ever hope to meet. She wasn’t much of a computer geek, but… well, nobody’s perfect. One weekend we made a trip to see my parents, and my dad showed her this new game that he was hooked on: Wolfenstein 3D." It goes on to talk about the evolution of game styles, not dads playing Wolf3D, but nothing's perfect!

Buzz Investigates: PlayStation 3's 120 FPS Subliminal Messages?

August 23, 2006 8:13 PM |

HypnoPS3.jpg[GameSetWatch is extremely proud to debut this latest scoop from veteran game journalist Joseph 'BUZZ' Berkley. Not content with pioneering the video game journalism scene as we know it, he's now getting next-gen, presenting an EXCLUSIVE SCOOP on the PlayStation 3's hitherto unpublicized extra features.]

It’s been over a year since Ken Kutaragi announced that PS3 games would be able to run at a stable 120 FPS. While some might assume it was an empty marketing claim that simply doubled the current industry standard of 60 FPS, Kutaragi stood strong. Never mind that even the newest HDTVs cap out at around 60hz - some day in the future these TVs would exist, and the PS3, despite being a few decades old at that point, would be ready.

However, the human eye can only process input with an upper limit of around 75hz. Now, if Mr. Kutagari’s claims were just meaningless hyperbole designed to create a new bullet point for arguments about which hardware has the biggest numbers, one could assume that he didn’t realize this. But since we know from personal experience that he’s a serious man, Buzz Investigates asks: what are the other 45 frames for? They’re going by too quickly to be perceived consciously, but our minds will process them and mull them over subconsciously.

After speaking to sources so secret that it’s possible they don’t even exist, we’ve found no reason not to post this unsubstantiated speculation. After all, none of my sources could tell me for sure the PS3 wasn’t designed with so-called 'brainwashing' in mind. And not being told “no” is a lot like being told... well, you know how cutting-edge journalism works, right?

What does this mean for consumers? At its most innocuous, the relatively harmless: subliminal advertising. In fact, this method of advertising would likely be legal! The developer would simply add a notice to the End User License Agreement, which you never read anyway. It could be as simple as a notice that the User understands that the game contains advertising, with no mention of the fact that it will be delivered through the will-dominating method of Really Quick Images Flashing on a Screen, or RQIFS. These RQIFS-es could even be updated with new, possibly fast-food related ad campaigns using the PS3’s online capabilities. Could this be the entire reason that no concrete details about the service have been announced? The Buzz thinks so!

There is currently an alternate theory spreading across the Internet that, rather than planning to force the gamers of the world to obey their every whim, Sony will be looking toward the PlayStation 4, in around 10 years, to release some kind of Optic Nerve Clamp, somewhat like the scientific documentary Inner Space, that would allow the system to send video signals directly to the extrastriate cortical areas of the brain.

Obviously, this is wishful thinking at its best. If Sony is going do anything with Optic Nerve Clamps for PlayStation 4, it’s going to involve totalitarian mind control via altered perception. In the mean time, consider your mind altered, Buzz-style.

luciddream.jpgNEXT TIME: Buzz Investigates asks the hard questions. Does Peter Moore not know what lucid dreaming is, or do all his lucid dreams feature people with distressingly unrealistic facial movements?

['Berkley's BUZZ' is a regular column from veteran game journo Joseph Berkley, whose illustrious career extends from the formation of Video Game BUZZ Monthly back in 1982 all the way to the founding of seminal teen game mag 'GameBUZZ - For Kids!' in 1992. More recently, he was a regular columnist for much-loved late '90s game mag Big Important Thing, and the author of self-help manual: 'BUZZ Says - Less Drugs, More Games!' His column appears regularly on GameSetWatch and is rarely true. If he did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.]

Two Guys... With Guns!

August 23, 2006 4:27 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/cabelblog.jpg Over at his personal weblog, Cabel Sasser (who makes those darling Katamari Damacy T-shirts as part of his company Panic), has posted a fun call-to arms named 'The State of American Videogames' ("As illustrated by the last three covers of EGM").

He comments: "Are you like me? Do you yearn for American games to reach the diversity of other American mass media, like, for example, movies? Right now I can go to a movie theatre and see a quirky indie comedy about a dysfunctional family, or a ridiculous action epic about snakes (that happen to be on a plane), or a screwball comedy about NASCAR racers and baby Jesus, or a documentary about global warming, or a terrible animated film about farm animals, etc. etc... But if I step into Electronics Boutique, these days I can pretty much only buy "Two Guys With Guns"."

Ending up, Sasser muses: "The thing is, while it's really easy for me to sit here and implore all game developers to try new things (yay blogging!) — and, to be fair, many developers are, like Telltale Games, Keita Takahashi, the Xbox Live Arcade, etc. — I have to wonder: are there simply not enough gamers, non 15-year-old male gamers I guess, to financially support new and different gaming styles?" Well, aren't there? [Via Wonderland.]

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