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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 September, 2006

Gamer's Quarter Issues Seventh Dispatch!

September 25, 2006 10:14 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/gq7.jpg Well, lookee what we've got here - news of a new issue for the ever-fun PDF-styled magazine (which also has a hardcopy available for ordering), The Gamer's Quarter.

Boss man and sometime GSW columnist ShaperMC explains: "The Gamer's Quarter is quarterly journal dedicated to printing personal, insightful and introspective videogame writing. We've just finished The Gamer's Quarter Issue #7 and it is now available for download."

What's more: "Within the 107 pages of Issue #7 you'll find 22 articles covering various Mario games, the Final Fantasy series, Dead Rising, the Japan-only Bit Generations series of GBA games, a series of Haiku about Dragon Warrior VII, and much, much more! You'll also find gobs of original artwork, including a unique look at the modern videogame store and an absolutely insane cover by Indianapolis artist Max Martin!" As always, this is well worth checking out

Seaman 2 Digs Out Peking Man

September 25, 2006 5:12 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/seamantwo.jpg I know we already mentioned Seaman 2 briefly, but it's been pointed out that 1UP has some more information on the PS2 game, including screenshots of the awesome faux-documentary introducing it.

It's explained: "The premise in Seaman 2 remains largely the same -- you're still supposed to interact with a virtual pet -- except that this time around your creature is basically a mini neanderthal man. As the story goes, a species of these prehistoric mini-men were found to have lived in Peking China. A company in Moscow took their bones and created a factory to clone them and mass produce them as pets. 3,000 of them have been created so far. You're one of the lucky first to have one of them."

What's more: "The game was introduced in the form of an infomercial from the Russian company selling these men. A salesmen pitches you on buying one of these pets and shows how it could enrich your life." Completely awesome - and let's not forget that this marketing style actually helped make the first Seaman into a significant success in Japan - can it work again?

GameSetPics: TGS Chiptune Concert

September 25, 2006 12:10 PM | Simon Carless

Ah, a break before the final 'normal' Tokyo Game Show pics go up, since I managed to snap a couple of pictures of a special mini-chiptune concert at TGS, as part of the D4 Enterprise booth, and featuring, as is noted: "BEEP-BOY, DRM, hally and YMCK."

D4 (not to be confused with D3!) is an interesting company which deals mainly in digital distribution of retro Japanese gaming, particularly the MSX (though they also distribute Compile's RPGs and strategy titles for PC digitally, for example). Hally (who works there!) notes: "The first two performers play also as the demonstrators of 1-chip MSX, the brand new FPGA-based MSX compatible machine which will be released soon in Japan."

Here's what I managed to spot:

I believe this is BEEP-BOY, who sung and played (computer) keyboard like no tomorrow - he was followed by DRM, who played an awesome, awesomely loud 808 State cover version and then demonstrated the 1-chip MSX sound chip's capabilities.

The final live chiptune act was the uber-catchy YMCK, who are certainly the only chip-pop group to have a .S pixel sculpture made in their honor. And their music videos are uniformly awesome, too, esp. the 'Magical 8-Bit Tour' one.

[UPDATE: I uploaded about 20 seconds of video of DRM's performance as part of this TGS chiptune showcase to Google Video - sorry, this is all the video I got!]

GameSetInterview: Lexaloffle's Joseph White

September 25, 2006 7:17 AM |

swarm_racer.jpg Joseph White is the founder of Lexaloffle, a New Zealand based indie developer responsible for titles like Neko Puzzle, Zen Puzzle Garden and the recent Swarm Racer.

“What is it about Lexaloffle games that I love so much?” Queried Derek Yu on TIGSource at the time of Swarm Racer’s release. “Everything about them is so endearing, from the cute graphics and music to the easy-to-understand (but hard to master) gameplay. The games are just so earnest and polished. Playing one is like putting on your favorite sweater and having some tea and a scone on a blustery fall afternoon. It’s like what I imagine New Zealand to be like. Or maybe getting nuzzled by a unicorn.”

Quite a write up, certainly, but “earnest and polished” is pretty much a spot on description of Lexaloffle’s games. The bit about the “favourite sweater” isn’t too far off either – these are games with soul.

We got in touch with White via email to discuss Lexaloffle’s history and its future.

When did you start developing games?

I started out making ASCII games on a BBC Micro when I was about 10 years old. At that time I was trying to reproduce games I had seen in arcades like Moon Patrol and Elevator Action. I was happy just to get an ASCII guy with slashes for limbs running around though.

Where do you take inspiration from for your games?

All kinds of places. I think the most interesting design ideas come from things which have nothing to do with games. But in general if I want to think about games, I like listening to chip music and looking at pixel art.

I assume the idea for Zen Puzzle Garden came from things outside of games?

Yes. Originally the game was about placing objects in a garden so that they satisfied a set of rules. Trees must not be in line with each other, a stone lantern must have space around it etc. It was similar to the 8 queens on a chessboard problem. I couldn't get the rules of the puzzle to agree nicely with the theme though, and it eventually evolved into the Zen Garden idea. Once I had that theme it fell into place much more easily, because I wanted to do some kind of geometric puzzle, and raking lines in sand is perfect for that.

Zen Puzzle Garden, in particular, has had an amazing response – how does that feel?

It feels great. It's very satisfying to produce something that people can enjoy, and also it means that I can probably keep on doing what I love.

What kind of reactions have you had to your other games?

The only other Lexaloffle game which has been out for a while is Neko Puzzle. It did well as a cell phone game in China, but as a desktop game I think it mostly piggy-backs off Zen. More recently, Swarm Racer seems to be gathering a decent following. It was just a quick game for fun, but it's had such an appreciative response so far it makes me wonder why I spend so much time working on epic projects.

neko_puzzle.jpgHow did Neko Puzzle get released as a cell phone game in China?

I was doing some work with a company in Wellington which had contacts in China. We teamed up and made several ports in Java which they liked and licensed to a Chinese network. It was nice to see Neko reach its natural habitat - that game was really asking to be put on a cell phone.

What can we expect from the upcoming game, Jasper's Journeys?

Jasper was originally released in 1998 for DOS, so you can track down the old demo and find out! It's basically a mishmash of things we like about old fashioned platform games. Secrets inside secrets, quirky creature behaviour, frantic bullet dodging and a lot of leaping around. That sort of thing.

Why are you remaking it?

The DOS version didn't get around much, so it seemed worth giving Jasper a second chance. The new version is much slicker and will run nicely on modern operating systems, so hopefully it will reach a wider audience this time around.

How do you go about developing a title for Lexaloffle?

I tend to quickly prototype ideas as they occur to me, so at any one time I'll have about a dozen games bubbling away. Once I become sufficiently excited about one of them, I'll promote it to the pool of games that I work on regularly (currently Chocolate Castle, Jasper's Journeys, and one unannounced game). From then on it's just a lot of pixelling, coding, map designing, play testing and tweaking in no particular order. I think it's good to have a number of projects going on at once so that ideas can sort of cross-pollinate between them, and I can rotate around them if I need a break. The downside is that the ratio between released and unreleased games isn't so great.

What's Chocolate Castle?

It's a puzzle game which involves shifting blocks of chocolate around so that little animals can eat them. It sounds cute, but really it's a platform for designing mean puzzles.

Where does the name Lexaloffle come from?

I found it in a pile of old notes I was flipping through around the same time I needed to come up with a name for the company. I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote it down, but I liked the way it sounded. I was about to go with 'Modern Monster' or 'Yellow Rocket', so I was happy to get away from that whole [adjective] [noun] thing.

zen_puzzle.jpgGiven that you're distributing the games as shareware, do you get many people upgrading to the full versions?

In general about 1%-2%. It depends on the type of traffic coming through. People coming from a niche puzzle game site are more likely to buy the games than a stampede of download.com visitors, for example.

What made you decide to produce games for Mac as well?

Basically because I could, and because I like Macs. My games don't need much in the way of platform-specific code because I do most of the graphics in software. As long as I have a screen to blit to, a controller, and some sound, I'm happy. It's much easier to get exposure in the Mac world too. A good percentage of my customers are Mac users.

I notice you're offering discounts to schools that purchase your titles - have you had many takers on this?

Only a handful. After I heard back from a couple of teachers who were using the games to develop problem solving skills, I liked the idea and wanted to encourage it. I haven't done anything to target schools beyond that though.

Do you consider your games educational software?

Not really. It's not something I set out to do, but a lot of puzzle games are educational by nature just because…well…they're puzzles.

Finally, I almost forgot to ask about the awesome music in Swarm Racer. Who's the artist who does it, and how did you get involved with them?

The title music was written by Laszlo Vincze - also know as Vincenzo. He put out a great music disk called Emerald Box (with his demo group at the time Conspiracy), and later when I was working on Swarm Racer, one of the tracks sprang to mind as a perfect title tune. He kindly provided a copy of it that I could use, which made me very happy. It's just so damn funky.

Montreal Indies - Say Hello To Kokoromi!

September 25, 2006 2:20 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/gamma0.jpg Another email to GSW worth reprinting, from some Montreal-based game developers looking to do the indie thing for fun: "My Montreal colleagues and I have formed a group here to promote experimental gameplay, and games as art, called Kokoromi ("experiment" in Japanese)."

It's explained: "For our first project, we're throwing an event called GAMMA (Game Art Montreal), to be held during the Montreal International Game Summit and the Festival Arcadia. Our goal is to publicly showcase the potential of indie and "small games" as an artistic and cultural medium. And we'd like you to be a part of it!

"During the next two months, you are invited to develop a small PC game that responds to a particular design challenge (which I'll explain in a sec). In early November, we'll debut all the finished games at a city-wide social event (aka insane dance party) to coincide with the two consecutive Montreal conferences."

The folks behind GAMMA, which include Heather Kelley, Phil Fish, and Damien Di Fede, explain:"You are invited to create a game that translates a live audio stream into realtime game elements and gameplay. At the GAMMA event, the live music (DJs, bands) will be fed into the games to trigger the game content, and the partygoers will play the games live on large screens. Thus, gamers as VJs!" Interested parties can go to the GAMMA forums to say hi and sign up - we look forward to seeing the results of this boogiedown.

Toribash Gets Pay-To-Play Update

September 24, 2006 8:29 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/toribash.jpg We featured info on the unique turn-based physics fighter Toribash a few weeks back, and now developer Nok writes to GSW to note that the first pay-to-play version, 2.0, has been released.

As he explains: "Toribash is a turn-based fighting game. Create your own martial arts movies in single player sandbox mode, or join the competition in the multiplayer modes. Focus is on tactics rather than reaction and button mashing. The game features physics, full dismemberment, decapitation and comic style blood... Windows, Mac and Linux Clients are available."

Now, whenever a game switches from free to pay, it's going to be a bit controversial (v2.0 costs $20 right now, and will eventually cost $25), but there's a demo available, and apparently the server fees alone for the free version of the game have been significant, so we wish Toribash luck. Actually, this would be an awesome XBLA/PS3 online title, if anyone is listening.

GameScapes Sweep Across Italy

September 24, 2006 3:10 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/st3rn.jpg You may recall a confused but corrected post about a book on Cory Arcangel's game art we posted a few days back - well, here's the newly released info on a new book and exhibition also featuring him.

Matteo Bittanti's Videoludica site now explains: "GameSpaces. The Landscapes of Videogames is a group show featuring works by some of the most celebrated artists working with digital games: Cory Arcangel, Mauro Ceolin, Jon Haddock, Eddo Stern, and Carlo Zanni. The exhibition will open on October 12, 2006 in Monza, near Milan."

It continues: "Included in the exhibition are a video installation by Cory Arcangel, "Super Mario Movie" (2004), a series of paintings by Mauro Ceolin from the "SolidLandscapes" (2004-) series, Carlo Zanni's interactive installation "Average Shoeveler" (2004), Eddo Stern's neo-medieval installation "Fort Paladin: America's Army" (2003) and the entire series of Jon Haddock's seminal "Screenshots" (1999). Most of these artworks have never been presented in Italy before."

What's more: "Johan & Levi is publishing the GameSpaces catalog which features new commentary texts by Rosanna Pavoni, Matteo Bittanti, and Domenico Quaranta." Neat - a little more mainstream acceptance for game art, eh?

UK Resistance Rises, Wikipedia's Lair Falls

September 24, 2006 9:03 AM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/lairir.jpg Ever the Sony-baiters, UK Resistance has been pointing out the CG => realtime Lair difference, and then suggesting: "HOW YOU CAN HELP: Please vandalise the game's Wikipedia entry accordingly."

Naturally, some choice, evil vandalism occurred, including the revelation: "Premium will ship with 30 dragons but the Basic edition will ship with no dragons. One of the main features of the online package will be the option to purchase extra dragons via 'sonsactions'."

Also a BIG SURPRISE: "Lair is a upcoming game being developed by Factor 5 and published through Sony Computer Entertainment America for the Sony PlayStation 3 video game console. It uses the Wii controller's tilt functions for movement within the game." Y'know, vandalizing Wikipedia isn't big or clever, but this is tragically funny nonetheless.

COLUMN: ‘Game Mag Weaseling’: Mag Roundup 9/23/06

September 24, 2006 3:12 AM |

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]

If I'm any later submitting this it will no longer be Saturday, so let's drop the pleasantries (and the ferret pix) and get right down to business. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Since I'm still in Japan and on weird hours, it wasn't Saturday by the time this was published! But just wanted to praise Kevin on the amazing job he's doing with these round-ups. I feel like I learn things, and often useful things, too! Yay.]

Every other week, I cover all the game magazines that hit US shelves, complete with cover images and commentary I almost always regret on Sunday morning. Click on to, er, read on...

[Click through for the full column!]

Tingling All Over, But Not For Scientology

September 23, 2006 8:01 PM | Simon Carless

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/vanpool0.jpg It's worth checking out the Game|Life weblog, more than usual, even, since Chris Kohler has been doing some neat photo updates for Wired News from Tokyo.

But I particularly liked his photos from the Vanpool offices, the creators of the ultra-bizarre Zelda spin-off Tingle RPG for DS - he noted: "But I had to ask the designers: was their game really intended, as I suspected, as a parody of Scientology?"

So: "As it turns out: no, but sort of. While they didn't know what Scientology was, they said they were inspired to create the scam-a-riffic religion of Rupee Land by voodoo bullshit like fake charm pendants and healing bracelets and all that." But man, bizarre real-life Tingle-style press-on nails, too? Odd odd odd.

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