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Archive For December, 2006

Happy New Retro Round-Up, Innit?

December 31, 2006 8:14 PM | Simon Carless

- It's the week after Christmas (and indeed, very nearly the New Year!), but Jeremy 'Toastyfrog' Parish does not lie fallow, and he's done a new Retro Round-Up article over at 1UP with the latest Wii/X360/PS3+PSP retro goodness.

By far the best bit is the 'review' of the PS3-downloadable PS1 version of MediEvil for PSP (phew!): "Sony... what the hell are you doing? You implement this PS1-on-PSP scheme, and then use it to release a bunch of PlayStation games that have already seen improved sequels on PSP. Do you really think gamers are that eager to spend and hour or two downloading games they could just as easily pick up in an upgraded form for a few dollars more? In this case, the offender is a perfectly decent game called MediEvil, which plays not unlike a slower-paced 3D version of Ghosts 'N Goblins."

Toasty's conclusion: "So here's our offer, Sony. You start giving us downloads for games that we can't already play on PSP and we start encouraging people to use your service. Six bucks is a great price, and once you improve download speeds and stop forcing us to use PS3 as a conduit, it'll be truly magnificent. But please, make the game selections worthwhile, alright? Alright."

Kongregating The Best Web Games, Now

December 31, 2006 2:07 PM | Simon Carless

- We've previously covered the intriguing Kongregate indie web game portal, but we spotted that they have sign-ups open to the public right now.

As you can see on Kongregate's news page, they've been organizing weekly Flash game competitions with cash prizes, the most recent of which was won by IGF finalist Gamma Bros, and "contest winners are now determined by user ratings" - which is really the point of the site, which is trying to apply Web 2.0 paradigms to Flash gaming goodness.

It's pretty nice to have ratings, chart, similar games, and the actual Flash game all playable on the same screen (though with my monitor resolution, some of the games are a bit tiny!), and while sites like NewGrounds already do this type of thing pretty well, I find Kongregate more easily browsable and slicker, in terms of pure game content. You have to register to play, right now at least, but it's well worth a look.

GP32's Quest For Awful Games - Continued!

December 31, 2006 8:16 AM | Simon Carless

- Wandering around onto GP32X.com, to check out what's up with the GP2X, the latest iteration of GamePark's slightly wacky open-source handheld - and there's a GP2X Crap Games Competition just started!

It's explained, simply enough: "The premise of this competition is as simple as its potential entrants - you must make the worst game you can within the time you've been given."

And the current amazing entrants include: "The object of CarCounter2007 is to actually count the number of cars that pass. Each level is 8 hours long... Gameplay gets worse as each car that passes stops at the flags (I think they’re flags?) to release an ear-piercing beeping noise, which continues for around five seconds. Following the honking, the car passes, and the player must wait another six seconds for it to start all over again."

Also, there's Walking Simulator Extreme: "You play a (quite well-rendered, with a shadow and a full walk cycle - in this competition?) guy in a blue top and jeans who is enjoying a walk through a desert that actually appears to be flat (so maybe he's traversing a large picture of a desert, I don't know), with mountains in the background." It only gets better from there! Lots more info at the GP32X thread on the subject.

[This isn't the first intentional awful-game combo for GP32 - there was apparently a crap games competition from #gp32dev for the original GP32 back in 2005, including spectacular stuff like 'Pigeon killer' ("Right, it seems that some bloke with a big moustache isn't too keen on pigeons so he throws sticks at them, whilst listening to some of the most appalling music I've even heard in a computer game.")]

Playing With Fire Gets New Manifesto

December 31, 2006 2:05 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at Greg Costikyan's Manifesto Games website, he's revealed that the indie portal's first exclusive game will be 'Playing With Fire', a "...highly unusual platform puzzle game in which you play a giant ball of fire--and burn things down."

Costik explains: "Play With Fire was developed in an unusual way; [creator Chris] Bateman's company, International Hobo is based in the UK, but owns a development studio, Fantasy Labs Entertainment in India. Many of the game's more than 100 levels were created by people who responded when Bateman asked for submissions on his blog. So the development of Play With Fire was distributed not only across the Internet, but also across the globe."

Bateman has an entry on his blog celebrating the game going master (it was originally listed as a PS2 title to be released by Midas, too - but I don't see that mentioned anywhere?), commenting: "The basic principle has held: we’ve developed on a very low budget. Now all that remains is to see if there is a niche market out there looking for something a little bit different, something that could never be a mass market success, something which endeavours to be original."

He continues: "My biggest concern is our rather high minimum spec. We may be at the mercy of players more interested in the latest glossy FPS than an oddball game like this one." We'll try to post when it goes live - check Bateman's historical posts for more info on the thoughts that went into the design of the game.

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 12/30/06

December 30, 2006 8:42 PM |

['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.]

gpl2-0702.jpg

Since GamePro's settled that issue for me, I'll just get down to business -- the last Mag Roundup of the year. Click on to read all about the magazines that have hit stands and/or mailboxes over the past two weeks. Happy '07!

Super Street Fighter II, Sirlin-ated

December 30, 2006 2:31 PM | Simon Carless

- Game designer and producer at Digital Eclipse, David Sirlin (who incidentally produced Gamasutra's most-viewed article of 2006 in his lambasting of World Of Warcraft) has just finished work on Capcom Classics Collection 2 for PS2/Xbox, actually one of the least-discussed retro game products to come out this holiday season.

In any case, Digital Eclipse has gone an extra mile with the extras in general (here's the game listing, btw). But Sirlin is a major fighting game fan/expert in particular, and his personal blog has posted links to YouTube versions of the Super Street Fighter II Turbo tutorial videos, narrated by Sirlin, from the game itself. As he explains: "These videos are meant to help new players see the game in a way they might not have thought of (as a collection of rectangles dueling for control of space)."

What's more: "They also demonstrate lots of the standard techniques in Street Fighter such as 2in1s, “meaty” attacks, and reversals. I also show some advanced stuff with “button up” special moves and safe jumps at the end. Basically, there’s a little something for everyone from beginner to expert." The advanced video, covering stuff like 'Instant Overheads' and 'Piano Inputs', is a fascinating look at the jargon and reality of Street Fighter II expert players - and it actually makes sense, too! Great stuff.

[Also, Sirlin just posted his 2006 game awards, which are opinionated and crunchy - for example, Metroid Prime Pinball in his top 3 games of the year: "Metroid Prime Pinball is, for me, the perfect pick-up-and-play DS game. I don’t have to remember where I was in some huge story or map, or how this or that mechanic worked. I can just play for a few minutes, or for an hour if I want to try to get all 12 artifacts."]

A Passionate Defense Of God Hand

December 30, 2006 7:32 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at Hardcore Gaming 101 (which needs an RSS feed already, so we don't forget it!), there's an excellent two-page article discussing Capcom and Clover's God Hand, the PS2 title which debuted in the States earlier this year to alternately mystified and grinning reviews, and has clearly sold not a jot.

There's a handy, if stylized intro, too: "God Hand is the brain child of Shinji Mikami. After finishing off Resident Evil 4, Mikami moved to Clover Studios... After leaving Capcom Production Studio 4, Mikami had a meeting with Atsushi Inaba (Viewtiful Joe, Okami). Mikami brought up the issue to Sushi that action games today were all about weapons and not about fist fighting anymore. Gone were the days where you only had one button, two fists, and five different bad guys to beat down. That was the feeling Mikami wanted to capture."

There's also some great info on specific changes in the Western version: "When brought across the sea, several changes were made to the game to prevent confusion. The most minor change is the renaming of the God Reel, now called God Roulette. One item in the game called Chihuahua Curry was changed to Puppy Pizza. Curry is a popular delicacy in Japan, while here in America it is relatively unknown. Another change includes the removal and addition of a new attack. In the Japanese version, Gene had a pan technique he could use from the God Reel."

Apparently: "For a small bit of damage, a pan will fall from the sky and knock Gene on the head, granting him invinciblity for a couple of seconds. Why this was removed is beyond me. Maybe it was the sense of humor, maybe it was because in super plays, people were abusing it. But then again, the whole reason anybody would use this technique was to sacrifice a small bit of health for invincibility. Instead, we got a new move called Head Slicer. The only thing special about this move is it's ability to remove an enemy's head. No blood, only a decapitation that works randomly." Great! And nice work, HG101.

Comiket 71 To Bring Much Shooter Goodness

December 30, 2006 2:01 AM | Simon Carless

- The Japanese PC indie game and dojin scene amazes me sometimes - mainly because there's so much good stuff out there that barely even makes it onto the radar in the West, and is often startlingly playable in niche genres beloved of the hardcore.

Why this particular comment? Well, Posty is listing shoot-em-ups that will debut at Comiket 71 on his blog, and there's 12 games just there which all look pretty darn neat. For example, Trouble Witches from Studio Siesta is a cute witch-y sidescrolling shooter - and remember, this is just the list of shooters, so there are plenty more games otherwise - probably in the dating genre, for starters.

(For those wondering what the heck it is, the Wikipedia page for Comiket explains: "Comiket, otherwise known as the Comic Market or CM, is the world's largest comic convention, held twice a year in Tokyo, Japan. The first CM was held in December 1975, with only about 30 participating circles and an estimated 700 attendees. Attendance has since swelled to over a quarter of a million people. The convention lasts for three days. It is a grassroots, DIY effort for selling dōjinshi, self-published Japanese works." There's a good 'dojin soft' page on Wikipedia, too, talking about games specifically.)

MMOG Nation: Citizen Spotlight on The Cesspit

December 29, 2006 8:01 PM |

['MMOG Nation' is a weekly column by Michael Zenke about current events in the world of Massively Multiplayer Games. This week's column highlights the ongoing MMOG-related game design conversation happening at The Cesspit.]

The CesspitSo far, in the 'Citizen Spotlight' series I've interviewed two highly cogent World of Warcraft players and an astute news blogger. There's something about being a veteran of Massive games, though, that brings out the designer in everyone. Perhaps it's because of the very personal nature that players have with game worlds; it's hard not to have opinions on, say, a combat system after you've been intimately familiar for years at a stretch.

Likewise, the scope of a Massive game makes it hard for any one person to have a monopoly on understanding everything. These elements combine to make long-time players some of the most vocal 'backseat designers' in gaming. While there's no comparison to years of experience on the job, actually making games, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Rarely are game design related-opinions stated so forcefully as they are on the site simply named The Cesspit. Written by the blogger named Abalieno, the posts to the Cesspit site tackle all aspects of Massive game design. From the very high-level (“How to design a Fallout MMO game”) to the most specific of gripes (“I design a competent LFG tool”), the ideas coming from the Cesspit are always thought-provoking. He is a self-described logorrheic, and the few interview questions I shot Abalieno via email generated over 5,000 words in response.

I've edited down his responses to capture the core ideas, and have gone back through the last year of Cesspit posts to offer up the blog entries I found the most interesting. This was a challenge, as nearly every entry Abalieno offers up has some chewy thoughts at its center. Read on, and learn a little bit about what keeps the Cesspit in the RSS readers of enthusiastic gamers and veteran designers alike.

Gaming's Best Of The Best, 2006 Countdown Fest

December 29, 2006 2:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Yes, yes, I know there are 8 billion countdowns for the Best Games of 2006, but I'm going to limit my linkage to people who I happen to a) have on my RSS list and b) admire for having their own point of view, as opposed to munging billions of opinions into one uber-list of death. So that would be:

- Wired News' Chris Kohler has a very personable Top 10 posted, singling out games like Bully ("Politicos and moral crusaders slammed Rockstar's boarding-school adventure as a "Columbine simulator." In reality, Bully... was a lighthearted, gun-free comedy"), and - yes, Elite Beat Agents ("Do you believe in life after love? While you're tapping the DS' touch screen to the beat of 19 guilty-pleasure pop songs (also including "Material Girl" and "Sk8r Boi"), you will.")

- The San Jose Merc's Dean Takahashi get oddly war-centric in his Top 10, including the somewhat overlooked Company Of Heroes for PC ("Your soldiers have to struggle for every bit of territory with pitched battles that are won by the side with the best ground, flanking strategies, and massed firepower. It never felt so good to defend a series of bridges or to take the center of a town"), and rating Resistance: Fall Of Man highly, despite reservations: "It's like a realistic Ratchet & Clank, without the characters that you care about. You're never quite sure if your soldier is a monster or a super-soldier."

- What, no love for the Nooch? Dean's colleague, Mike Antonucci, also has his Top 10 posted, and he grabs out some hazy memories from earlier in the year like Kingdom Hearts II ("I listed it ahead of "Brain Age' for the first half of '06, but ultimately its fight-and-quest appeal is more limited. A big treat for PS2 owners in the year of the PS3 and Wii"), as well as, well, Brain Age itself ("A game that can get some adults interested in video games for the first time, as well as an important early-year release for the hot-selling DS.")

- OK, I don't _particularly_ care about him, but Lou Kesten of the Associated Press listed both his best and worst of the year, and he slams Appaloosa and Majesco's Jaws Unleashed: "Glitchy graphics, unnecessarily complicated controls and stupid missions take all the fun out of swimming around and chomping on innocent humans." I've heard from friends that you can swim around and chomp on innocent humans in ridiculous ways anyhow, in spite of the game? Even though it has horrid reviews, I just bought it in the GameFly end of year sale, so we'll see whether I need a bigger hype boat when it arrives. [Semi-via VH1GameSnap.]

To conclude - oh, go on then, what was your favorite game of 2006, or more to the point, the one you spent the most time playing? I already commented on a couple of my favorite games in the Gamasutra Quantum Leap Awards, but to be honest, the one I probably spent the most time playing in 2006 was Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee for PSP, thanks to it monopoliizing my plane journeys for most of the annum.

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