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About GameSetWatch

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 October, 2006

Defcon, With Plenty Of Delay

October 30, 2006 2:05 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at SiliconEra, the normally import-friendly site has returned a little closer to home, and has been quizzing Introversion's Chris Delay on the recent debut of 'everybody dies' simulator Defcon.

Delay takes pains to point out the way the title abstract things somewhat shockingly: "Quite a few gamers have commented on the way DEFCON is almost brutal in its bare, understated reporting of the facts behind global warfare. You launch a nuke, it decimates your opponent’s city and all you see is a small pop-up indicating the number of dead in one full sweep. You are entirely removed from the horrific reality of the situation and this is probably not far off from the real-life detachment of nuclear warfare."

He also notes what the company is working on next: "What we now call "The Fourth Game" was actually the game I was developing immediately after Uplink’s launch, and it was being developed side by side with Darwinia at one point. It was then put on hold while Darwinia was finished and released, and it has remained on hold while this little wargame "DEFCON" was finished." Apparently "...cunning observers of Introversion’s past would probably be able to infer roughly what we plan for the fourth game" - but we're not that clever. Anyone?

Xbox 360 Face Plates, Times A Zillion

October 29, 2006 9:06 PM | Simon Carless

- We noticed a couple of sites have been relinking to the somewhat spectacular Lowdown411 Xbox 360 faceplate index, which leads us to both marvel at it and wonder - how's the market for collecting Xbox 360 faceplates going?

First thing to note is that there's a surprising amount of exclusive faceplates tied to press events - for example, X05 Canada's three different maple-leaf themed faceplates (!), including " X05 Canada - Large Maple Leaf" and "X05 Canada - Small Maple Leaf w/Ring of Light". Can't see any of those listed on eBay right now, though someone is trying to sell a 16-item collection that includes a 'Launch Team' and 'X05' faceplate.

Then there's other game-specific faceplates mentioned on the site, if not eBay-available, such as a Prey-specific faceplate for example: "This was an item made in really low quantities, made solely for Human Head, 3D Realms, & Venom staff. There were some at E3 2006 on the demo units showing Prey on the show floor. They were never meant for sale or distribution." Go chase!

@ Play: Thou Art Early, But We'll Admit Thee

October 29, 2006 4:06 PM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a bi-weekly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre.]

The venerable roguelike Nethack, the most popular of them all and possibly the deepest computer game ever made, is filled with a great many ways to die.

A popular spoiler some time ago was a listing of many of those ways, more than sixty of them, in which the game can end.

When a player in Nethack dies, the game prints an ASCII tombstone for him embossed with character name, cash on hand at game end, and the cause of death. This information also goes into the score list to be ranked against other players. One of the joys of playing Nethack on a multi-user system, in fact, is noting some of the unusual deaths experienced by other players and thinking to yourself at least it wasn't me that time.

[Click through for more.]

Chi-Style Drunksaling Go Bye Bye For 2K6

October 29, 2006 11:04 AM | Simon Carless

- We note with chagrin that, over at The New Gamer, the final instalment of 'Chi-Style Drunksaling' for 2006 has been posted, showcasing Chicago garage/thrift gamehunting fun.

Of course, half the fun of the column is the ridiculous non-game stuff they dig up, but hey, this time: "At least this weekend bore some fruit: a not-unwelcome non-Greatest Hits copy of Final Fantasy Tactics, and I can now explore the delights of the cockroach world with Bad Mojo. Not pictured was a cheap copy of Deus Ex 1 that I found at the last second. Unlike last year, this copy actually contained the proper discs."

And, at the end, they explain: "And that appears to be the end of the 2006 'drunksaling' season. Several days following snapping these photos Chicago had its first snowfall, which usually marks the period when folks are unwilling to sit outside for hours and let strangers paw through their goods... If by any chance you missed one of our outings, feel free to trawl through the back-issues in the drunksaling archives!" Please do!

GameSetCompetition Reminder: Game Boy Camera

October 29, 2006 6:02 AM | Simon Carless

- The competition deadline (Monday at noon!) is almost upon us, so time for a reminder on our GameSetCompetition to win a Game Boy Camera in box, for all your retro several-shades-of-gray picture hilarity!

Also, we have to boast that the competition is so hawt this time round that we even got a semi-celebrity cartoonist/rockstar entering (hint: we wrote about his GBCam music videos recently!)

Anyhow, he didn't win just yet (he has the same chance as everyone else, tho!), and as previously mentioned, the question this time round is pretty simple:

"How many pictures can the Game Boy Camera hold in its titanically large 1 megabit SRAM memory?"

Please send your answers to editors@gamesetwatch.com any time before Monday, October 30th at 12 noon PST. There will be one winner randomly picked from the correct answers, the judges' decision is final, and that's that. Have fun!

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Top 10 Silliest Computer Mag Covers in History

October 29, 2006 1:10 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.]

9.jpg

This column is late as all 'eck, but there's a good reason for it. That's because I've spent the last couple hours poring over my computer-magazine collection (numbering over 2500 these days, and I'm proud to say there isn't a single PC World or Wired in it) in order to build something I've meant to create for a few days now -- The Top 10 Silliest Computer Mag Covers in History.

Now, keep in mind that when I say "silly," I don't necessarily mean "crap." I have a deep-seated love for nearly every home-computer mag from the 1970s and 80s, and it always pains me, in a way, to think about how boring the PC industry has become these days. Mag editors had real enthusiasm and ideas about the revolution they were fomenting back then. What they didn't always, however, was the top caliber in cover design. This occasionally leads to covers that, while normal-looking or even eye-catching in their day, look just plain silly in 2006. Hence, this list.

This ranking is based entirely off my own magazine collection, which is heavily geared toward the classic era of computing, so naturally it's not gonna cover every silly mag out there. If you have a magazine you think I'm missing, though, by all means leave a comment (and a picture, hopefully) and I'll cover it later.

[Click through for more.]

Perplex City Gets Extra $$$ For Confusing Us

October 28, 2006 8:01 PM | Simon Carless

tjtj.jpg The newly renamed ARGNet has full details on Perplex City creator Mind Candy's $7 million round of funding for its unique CCG-based alternate reality shenanigans.

Alongside this announcement, it's revealed: "There is more Perplex City on the way! It is official. The second season of the popular game will be driving us mad sometime in early 2007. They also promise that there are loads of new Perplex City products in development including books, video games, and mobile content."

Also: "The UK-based company is also expanding beyond Perplex City and is currently working on a new puzzle brand that will be aimed at a younger demographic." I wonder how mainstream-translatable or even expandable the whole Perplex City thing is, given its elliptic, if fascinating nature, but I guess we'll see!

Welcome To New GSW Columnists!

October 28, 2006 3:01 PM | Simon Carless

tjtj.jpg Some of you may have noticed some new GameSetWatch columns rolling out this week, so I just wanted to thank the new columnists and introduce you to them individually.

- Firstly, Ollie Barder has started up the supremely geeky 'Roboto-chan' column, which "covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them." UK native Mr. Barder has written for The UK Guardian and sometimes contributes to co-worker Brandon's Insert Credit, even. Also, he knows more about Super Robot Wars than we will ever - so stay tuned for bi-weekly hilarity!

- Next up, the infamous 3DOKid (who we've blogged about quite a bit thanks to his somewhat obsessive 3DO blog, yay) is writing a bi-weekly column simply called 'Beyond 3DO'. His first one talks about 'why the dreaded 'FMV adventure' is much more pleasant that you might actually guess', and we figure it's all gonna get crazier and more early '90s from there.

- There's also a rather fine new column, 'A Game Collector's Melancholy', from Jeffrey Fleming, which "follows the subtle pleasures and gnawing anxieties of video game collecting." I find it rather finely written, actually, and the first one discusses the Panzer Dragoon franchise, always pretty beloved among hardcore collectors. So, yeah, we cater to obsessives some more, so sue us.

- Finally, we're delighted to get Todd 'Kid Fenris' Ciolek on board to write 'Might Have Been', a neat new concept 'that explores the ways in which promising games, characters, and concepts failed'. I already like this column a lot, and the first one discusses the odd 'Tiny Tank', which I'd never really pegged in any way satirical, therefore didn't look at it further - perhaps one of its problems.

Anyhow, we just wanted to thank all our GameSetWatch columnists again, both the excellent regulars and the smart new guys - a lot of these folks are doing out of the goodness of their own heart (since we're running GSW pretty much as a renegade off-the-radar editor blog, we're crazy like that), so give 'em feedback and love and that type of thing. And we still have at least one more new column starting soon, so watch out for that.

[PS - Whoever it was who wanted to do a black&white Game Boy game review column, ping us again - we mailed you but haven't heard back.]

COLUMN: 'Might Have Been' - Tiny Tank

October 28, 2006 10:02 AM |

Toy Story 3: Rise of the Machines[“Might Have Been” is a bi-weekly column by Todd Ciolek that explores the ways in which promising games, characters, and concepts failed. This week’s edition looks at AndNow and Appaloosa Interactive’s Tiny Tank, released in 1999 for the Sony PlayStation.]

This is all your fault, Gex

It’s not clear when the mascot wars started. Some claim that Sonic kicked off everything in 1991, while others will tell you that the push to create marketable, kid-friendly game characters is as old as Pac-Man.

But whenever the trend started, it certainly hadn’t ended by the late ‘90s, when the success of company-defining faces like Parappa and Crash Bandicoot gave rise to a cavalcade of generic crocodiles, skateboarding skunks, clownish street kids, slingshot-wielding Dennis the Menace rip-offs, and even a cuddly version of the Jersey Devil. All were swiftly forgotten. Perhaps that’s what led AndNow and Appaloosa Interactive to mock the whole idea with an action-shooter called Tiny Tank. It was also swiftly forgotten.

Tiny Tank is, at first glance, an appealing game. In a setup that satirizes Cold War propaganda and adorable corporate-made shills, the irascible title tank becomes the mouthpiece for a military-industrial firm that eventually gives rise to an army of world-conquering war machines. The game's fake-commercial cutscenes, which recall the tone of Pixar movie previews more than the typical canned game intro, find Tiny and an off-camera announcer bickering over his public image, complete with bleeped-out swearing and corny ‘50s-style jingles.

And when the game’s first stage kicks in, it’s almost as entertaining to control Tiny. In spite of the aptly tank-like play scheme, he’s able to roll, strafe, jump, hover, and mount five different weapons at once, including smaller (and cuter) customizable mini-tanks. And, in keeping with the game's sense of satire, the soundtrack is interspersed with wryly amusing radio broadcasts from Tiny’s nemesis, Mutank.

tinytank1.jpgStill better than Steel Reign and Shellshock combined

Things don’t begin to fall apart until the second level. From there, it becomes increasingly obvious that the stage designs are standard issue, and that Tiny isn’t well suited to jumping challenges or quick evasion, both of which the game demands. Worse yet, the hardware can’t quite handle everything that AndNow and Appaloosa wanted, and the surroundings frequently explode into a mess of spastic polygons. Nor does it help that Tiny isn’t nearly as funny in the game as he is in the attached fake-ad rehearsals. Without anyone to play off of, he simply spouts a series of one-liners about Nirvana lyrics, that falling-and-not-being-able-to-get-up commercial, and other topics that were embarrassingly dated even back in 1999.

As a final blow against any long-lived popularity, Tiny Tank struggled even to arrive at stores. Though it was originally scheduled for an early 1999 release from MGM Interactive (whose efforts as a PlayStation publisher also brought us the god-awful Machine Hunter), they dropped the game and turned it over to Sony’s American branch, which tossed Tiny Tank out six months later. The game’s advertising was no help.

While the in-game Tiny is chirpy and vaguely upbeat, magazine spots saw an enraged Tiny bursting through a page while exclaiming “Who the %#&@ you callin’ tiny?!” and generally just not caring who he pissed off. Another oddity: the game was promoted with the subtitle "Up Your Arsenal," but the phrase appears nowhere on its actual packaging.

more like tiny STANKBecause tank games sell

In all fairness to some long-disbanded marketing team, Tiny was a hard sell from the start. While he stands out as an amusing reaction to the likes of Rascal and Bubsy, he could only go so far in the gaming industry. Too profane and subtle for children but too simple for older gamers, Tiny really wasn’t noticed by many, beyond the Official PlayStation Magazine critic who threatened to write a review consisting entirely of “SHUT THE &*!@ UP!” after hearing too much of Tiny’s in-game banter.

It’s hard to say how Tiny would’ve fared as a gaming icon, even if his game had been well-designed and consistently funny. Would it have merited a sequel? Would it have amassed a cult of deluded fans to gush about Tiny Tank from every angle and on every message board? Would we see Tiny Tank toys and bedsheets and board games and pencil-top erasers? Probably not, but considering how his first outing went, it’s flattering enough when someone remembers Tiny Tank at all.

[Todd Ciolek is a magazine editor in New York City.]

Better Late Than Never W/October's Indies

October 28, 2006 5:02 AM | Simon Carless

tjtj.jpg Well, we covered September's edition a few weeks back, but someone clued us in to the fact that we haven't mentioned GameTunnel's October 2006 Indie Game Round-Up yet - so now we are!

As is mentioned: "This month's article looks at eleven indie titles including the much anticipated Defcon, the insane adventure game Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso and the perfectly retro Pizza Panic." Most intriguing, perhaps, is that Defcon doesn't snatch game of the month, with Russ Carroll interesting claiming that it's "an interesting game that looks a lot slicker than it plays."

Thus, it's left to Mr. Smoozles, which we covered a couple of months back, to take the overall top prize from the GameTunnel panelists, and apparently the gameplay on the overhead adventure game from BAFTA-winning game writer Steve Ince includes "...watching a cat running around with a gun trying to kill you as you try to keep the fabric of reality from being completely distorted." In which case, I'm in.

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