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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 December, 2006

Top 10 Indie Games For December? Ah Yes!

December 26, 2006 5:16 PM | Simon Carless

- Those cheeky chappies at GameTunnel are counting down their best indie games of 2006 (and we'll link to that when it's done!), but in the meantime, they published their Top 10 indie games for December, and it's an excellent standalone read.

The top title, interestingly enough, is War On Folvos, which is epic in its unheard-of-ness here in GSW Towers - Seth Robinson comments: "Hex grid turn based strategy usually scares me but thanks to an easy learning curve WOF makes it work. With an appropriately epic soundtrack you send units into battle as the Dune-like story unfolds."

#2 for the month is the neat-sounding Minigolf Mania, for which Russell Carroll explains: "Minigolf Mania is sort of Rocketbowl taken to golf. The holes on each of the 3 courses are original and fun and focus on the coolest part of miniture golf (which isn't putting!!!). The focus is on exactly what it should be: trying to make just the right shot to put your ball past the windmall and going down a long set of corridors into a land you can't even see when you first start your shot."

Sex, Violence, Tension, & Video Games

December 26, 2006 10:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at sister site Gamasutra, we're still keeping up some updates over the holiday period, and we just posted an interview with author Gerard Jones, subtitled 'Sex, Violence, Tension and Comic Books', in which the writer of 'Killing Monsters' talks about violence and games eloquently.

When asked: 'What do you think it is in your work that resonates with the gaming community?', Jones comments: "Video games have been so much under attack recently, that I think there’s a certain nervousness. Most people in this business are very pleasant and non-confrontational and the fact that they are being reviled as the causes of crime, causes of violence, is disturbing. On the one hand, I think people want to know how to respond to those criticisms. But on the other hand, I think there’s some genuine anxiety that maybe games have a bad side, maybe there is a problem, and how do we deal with any guilt or fear?"

He continues of legislative and media attacks on video games: "I would say now we’re kind of at the tail end. If games continue to push boundaries, particular ones could come under attack. A lot of it’s just the medium being around long enough that people have realized the world hasn’t gone to hell. It’s just something else people are doing with their spare time." IMHO this is a pretty interesting/thoughtprovoking piece - Jones goes into more shades of gray than your average commentator.

Game Studies Gets Semi-Festive Update

December 26, 2006 4:10 AM | Simon Carless

- Jesper Juul has posted a new update on his site to note: "In time for the holidays, the new Game Studies issue has just been published. The biggest issue yet. For the future, we are considering switching to a fixed release schedule of twice a year. (We do these things so you don’t have to.)"

Some of the wacky results? Benjamin Wai-ming Ng: "Street Fighter and The King of Fighters in Hong Kong: A Study of Cultural Consumption and Localization of Japanese Games in an Asian Context", for one - the article notes: "Hong Kong players have... established a set of rules for arcade games commonly used in Hong Kong. Many of the rules were started from Street Fighter and then reinforced by KOF and other arcade games." Local slang for KOF game banter included!

Also cool? Charles Paulk: 'Signifying Play: The Sims and the Sociology of Interior Design', which explains: "It would not be difficult to argue The Sims has sped the ascendance of this "sociology of interior design." At the very least, like Trading Spaces and its ilk, the game is a byproduct of the phenomenon, and possibly its most lucid illustration. Consider that many players employ their Sims' home as a testing ground for real-world remodeling projects." Wait, so Will Wright is to blame for Ty Pennington? Lemme at him!

Homework On Innovative Games

December 25, 2006 10:17 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Michael 'Zonk' Zenke's MMOG Nation blog, he's been talking about his picks for the most innovative video games released in the last 2 years, in response to a question asked by Brian 'Psychochild' Green, and it's an interesting, thoughtful list.

According to Zonk, Half-Life 2: Episode 1 "...gets my nod for best game of the year, most innovative … everything you can throw at it, this three or four hour beauty deserves it. The reason? Two words: Alyx Vance. I have never cared about an NPC the way I did during Episode One."

There is also some Resident Evil 4 love, as all logical humans must give from time to time: "This game was one of the best titles ever released on the GameCube, a complete reinvigoration of the Resident Evil franchise, and has entirely set the tone for modern shooters. A lot of the goodness from Gears of War came from filing the serial numbers off of RE4."

How about you guys - what are your picks for the most innovative, and why? (My pick is odd, because the game still isn't out yet, but Jon Blow's Braid, which actually has some screenshots posted on the official site now, and was Innovation In Game Design winner at the IGF earlier in 2006, is the only game that reliably blows my mind every time, thanks to its mix of time manipulation and cunning game mechanics.)

Mr. Robot Unleashed On The Public

December 25, 2006 2:14 PM | Simon Carless

- Posty over at Shoot The Core has some excellent news: "Ok, this is totally non-shmup related, but my gracious hosts, Moonpod, have released their second game today, [PC indie title] Mr. Robot."

He continues of the previously GSW-mentioned title: "I played through the hour demo and it's pretty fun. It's a hybrid action platformer and RPG game, with a robotic/technological backdrop. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Mega Man Battle Network. Very high production values for an indy company, but this is the norm for Moonpod (and no, I'm not just kissing up, other people think highly of their products also.)"

If you want to know about development, there's a fun developer diary from this month, too, with some interesting comments: "The 'reality' sections of the game have had a different set of issues; almost all being related to parts of the game being insanely difficult... We've discovered that people with experience of the old-school isometric platformers are now pretty rare, and so without that vocabulary of actions built into your mindset, even just jumping over a short space can be pretty hard. Things Nick and I can almost do blindfold turn out to be difficult. "

@ Play: I Never Meta Rogue I Didn't Like

December 25, 2006 7:04 AM |

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.]

One of the interesting ideas that that sadly-vanishing class of amusement machine, the pinball table, brought over to the scene from its less-reputable kin, the slot machine, is that some aspect of the game could carry over between plays. Although modern pinball games, which take almost as much inspiration in their design from video games as video games took from pinball back in the late 70s and early 80s, tend to downplay this kind of thing, it used to be that that progressive jackpots were a common feature on pingames.

A progressive jackpot is an award that builds, not during just a single game, but over many, and when someone earns it it resets to a minimum value. This could be considered bad because the traditional concept of a score is of a measure of a player's skill, and this upsets that notion by potentially giving different scores to two jackpot-earning players who have had identical games, simply because one of them played when the pot was at a larger value than the other. It also seems nonsensical in that, unlike with gambling devices, the points awarded by a pinball machine are wholly arbitrary in nature. While a slot machine cannot dispense money indefinitely and thus progressive jackpots allow for a good balance between income and outlay, a pinball machine can mint points indefinitely.

But what progressive jackpots provide best is a sense of continuity between games. By introducing variables into the game that are not at a default or random state at the beginning of play, a sense is introduced that the game goes on even after the final ball is lost. Further, it draws in other players: if you play ten games and build the progressive jackpot up to a high value then walk away from the table, it will still be at that level when the next player comes along, and he could earn the whole thing. In that way, different players may contribute to a game in interesting ways, producing a collaborative effect, a truly meta kind of game. There is no real reason to put this kind of feature into an automated amusement device like a pinball machine or a computer game program, but it is still an oddly compelling idea. It injects an aspect of the real world into the play.

This idea, in a form, is used in Will Wright's upcoming Spore, which doesn't have literal multiplayer but does have in-game opponents supplied from other players' installations of the game, but beyond that it is interesting that so few other games proudly feature outside influences. They seek to simulate a world completely removed, or at removed as possible, from the real one, so every game begins from a zero-state. But of course, stories that feature Final Dark Sources Of Ultimate Peril Threatening Generic Fantasyland, at the end, do not stand up well if they recognize the existence of prior, or future, playthoughs. The game would be subtly suggesting the world doesn't need saving, silly user, you already saved it last time.

So... do roguelikes do this kind of thing? The answer, sometimes, is yes.

GameSetLinks: Special Xmas Edition

December 25, 2006 12:02 AM | Simon Carless

- Actually, there's nothing spectacularly Christmas-y about this round-up, but since it's debuting on Christmas day, we can pretend, eh? Here's some stuff I picked up from around the Interweb (and without even consulting RSS feeds!) over the past couple of days:

- Ellis Meets Reuters: Over at news agency Reuters' Second Life blog (!), there's news that writer Warren Ellis is starting a weekly column about SL there, starting in January. Ellis is best known for his smart, beautifully literate comics like Transmetropolitan and Planetary, and has a pretty interesting blog, too.

- Edge's Top Tips: Over at Edge Online, they've posted the winners of the 2006 Edge Awards, and the highlights would be: "Best Game: Final Fantasy XII (PS2); Best Innovation: Nintendo Wii; Best Visual Design: Okami (PS2); Best Audio Design: Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey Of The Cursed Kin (PS2); Best Developer: Nintendo; Best Publisher: Take Two; Best Online Experience: Test Drive Unlimited (Xbox 360); Best Hardware: Nintendo DS." Nothing too insane in there, though the award for Test Drive is probably the most interesting one.

- GTA Creators Do... Kirby?: Something from Gamasutra that's worth pointing out - our Playing Catch-Up with DMA's Dave Jones, in which it's revealed that, around the time of Uniraces: "DMA were contracted to work on a Kirby title for the publisher, though this never made it to release. “It was to be a showcase for the SNES mouse, but the mouse did not sell that well and the game was not great when played with a joypad, so it never saw the light of day,” explains Jones." Wow - wacky! Otherwise, a fun retrospective.

- Fight Them Vipers!: Over at uberfangirl Zerochan's LJ, she's pointing out some neat YouTube fighting game videos, including a "...faaaaaantastic Fighting Vipers 2 combo/technique video. You can pull off some INSANE stuff in this game at a high level of play, and I think this vid does a nice job of showing it. It also serves as a reminder that FV2 is completely crazy and awesome and WE NEED ANOTHER ONE LIKE FOUR YEARS AGO MISTER KATAOKA-SAN." Indeed - there was never much FV2 mastery in the West, was there?

- Warthog's Gizmondo Fallout: The directors of Warthog, who sold their developers to Gizmondo a couple of years back before the handheld company's infamous crash and burn, are still feeling the results, according to an AFX news article from this week. It's noted that: "The group is conserving resources whilst seeking a reverse takeover and continues to actively pursue possible opportunities", and the yearly results from September reveal: "As has been widely reported in the press Gizmondo Europe Limited was put into liquidation and the shares in Tiger Telematics Inc. ("TGTL") have become worthless."

What's more: "When the common stock in TGTL was received in November 2005 we were unable to dispose of it, as it was not tradable due to TGTL not having filed its quarterly financial statements. The directors tried a number of avenues to try to achieve realisation but ultimately were not successful. Consequently the whole of the investment in TGTL has been fully provided for in these accounts, which show an audited loss for the year ended 31st March 2006 of UKP4,000,675." Ouch. Of course, the former Warthog employees who lost their jobs when Gizmondo shut down are hurting anyhow, but the directors of the company really did get screwed, here.

1UP's Retro Round-Up Rounds Up Retro

December 24, 2006 4:34 PM | Simon Carless

- Just a pointer, since you might not have spotted - 1UP's latest issue of its Retro Round-Up news has been posted, grinning happily: "Military Madness isn't the only insanity happening this week."

Firstly, teh Parish comments: "We've heard Nintendo is prepping an amazing Virtual Console surprise for Christmas -- and they'd certainly better be doing something awesome next week, because the December 18th VC selection was... what's the word? Oh yes: Crap. Only three games, and of those only one [the aforementioned Military Madness] is actually worth any money." Fortunately, since the 1UP article was posted, Nintendo has confirmed Street Fighter II, Super Castlevania IV (yum!), Toe Jam & Earl and R-Type for its Xmas day debut. But with no networked multiplayer or achievements, I'm still a bit underwhelmed in general. Though it's definitely _cool_.

And then, there's the 'Virtual Selection' wishlist item for Virtual Console - Dragon Warrior/Quest IV for NES: "So what's the appeal of Dragon Warrior IV? In a word, the story. The game was divided into three scenarios featuring different characters with unique objectives, including a merchant named Taloon (aka Torneko); at the game's end, a fourth scenario pulled them all together into an adventure that wrapped up the game's various threads. It was without question the biggest, most epic and most impressive 8-bit RPG, besting even Final Fantasy III, and would definitely make for a must-have VC download." Are you listening, Nintendoooo/Square?

GameSetPics: Sony Xmas Origami Wallpaper

December 24, 2006 11:01 AM | Simon Carless

When we ran the game company Xmas card post a couple of days back, a commenter asked for the Sony origami paper (which depicts PlayStation and crossbar music/game/photo logos arranged into a snowflake pattern!), so we're happy to oblige here at GSW.

I went ahead and scanned three of those, and they're below in 1024x768 and 1600x1200 wallpaper sizes - you can resize to fit your desktop, of course, and it's probably tileable, but I didn't have the necessary skillz to mess with that. Here we are:

[1024x768] [1600x1200]

[1024x768] [1600x1200]

[1024x768] [1600x1200]

Actually, there were four different sheets of origami paper included in total with the card, plus instructions regarding making some fun (but non Sony-themed!) origami out of them. But three should be enough for you reprobates - and apologies for slight artifacting, I'm using an ancient version of Photoshop which has slightly awful compression. (Thanks again to Jamil @ GDC for letting us borrow these.)

Introversion Heads Into Subversion

December 24, 2006 5:35 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah, it appears that the Darwinia/Defcon creators at Introversion have set up a brand new blog on their website, and they're talking about their next game.

Chris Delay notes in his first post about it: "Our fourth game is going to be called Subversion. Now I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little apprehensive about this developer diary. Part of me would love to openly discuss our next game with the world, to shout from the rooftops about this grand idea that has been waiting in line since Darwinia took its place in 2003. But another less reckless part of me knows that bad things can happen when developers disappoint gamers, and gamers need few excuses to feel disappointed."

There are screenshots, sure, but they don't really explain what the game is about, just yet. A second post explains what they are: "I worked every hour on Subversion for many months, absolutely convinced this would be Introversion’s big hit second game. By the end of 2002 I had a basic working prototype, screenshots of which can be seen in my previous blog entry." But then Darwinia happened, and only now are they getting back to this game. [Via Gillen.]

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