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Archive For January, 2007

Left Behind Closes Barn Door, Post-Rapture

January 31, 2007 7:21 PM | Simon Carless

- We've posted a few times about the Christian PC RTS Left Behind, and for some reason, some folks from maker Left Behind Games have chosen a November 2005 GSW post (in which we said nothing rude about the game!) to paste a slightly aggrieved message, which goes something like this.

"This statement is posted from an employee of Left Behind Games on behalf of Troy Lyndon, our Chief Executive Officer. There has been in incredible amount of MISINFORMATION published in the media and in online blogs here and elsewhere.

Pacifist Christians and other groups are taking the game material out of context to support their own causes. There is NO “killing in the name of God” and NO “convert or die”. There are NO “negative portrayals of Muslims” and there are NO “points for killing”.

Please play the game demo for yourself (to at least level 5 of 40) to get an accurate perspective, or listen to what CREDIBLE unbiased experts are saying after reviewing the game at www.leftbehindgames.com/pages/controversy.htm. Then, we’d love to hear your feedback as an informed player. The reality is that we’re receiving reports everyday of how this game is positively affecting lives by all who play it. Thank you for taking the time to be a responsible blogger."

Oh wait, I guess they pasted it on all of our blog posts about the game, even those semi-defending it. Also, apparently: "Many of the technical issues these reviewers experienced were with a non-updated version of the game." Is one of the 'technical issues' that the game is no good? Cos that's what the reviewers seem to be saying, Left Behind folks. And why don't you people be responsible blog responders and reply in the context of the original post, ahem?

XBLA Goodness Includes Chowdown From Eets

January 31, 2007 2:01 PM | Simon Carless

- You may have already spotted the news over at Gamasutra, but "representatives from Microsoft have released information on ten of the Xbox Live Arcade titles set to hit the service in 2007", and several notable indie titles are buried in there.

In particular, we previously hinted at the possibility of Eets: Chowdown for XBLA, and it looks like it's made it - there's a special page about it on Eets' site, with the folks commenting: "We’ve completely revamped the control scheme to work smoothly with the controller (in fact some of us even prefer it to the mouse), it’s presented in HD glory, it’s got new items, new levels, new action-game, new special effects, new scoring system… the works."

With Metanet also working with Klei to bring N to Xbox Live Arcade, with "a number of enhancements as well, including a level editor that will allow players to make and exchange their own levels", it's looking like XBLA should be great fun for indie lovers in 2007.

Daemon Offers Sex, Weapons, Power, Gaming References?

January 31, 2007 8:31 AM | Simon Carless

- An interesting phenomenon recently has been book publishers trying to pitch/sell books via the game press - and here's the latest one, for hacker novel 'Daemon'. Here's the blurb I got: "Somewhere there's a computer program scanning the web - searching for one man's obituary. Only then will it activate. . . and begin to tear civilization apart. That's the premise of 'Daemon', a new techno-thriller by Leinad Zeraus."

Game relevance? "A serious gamer himself and veteran IT consultant to Fortune 1000 companies, Zeraus has written a book as technically accurate as it is terrifying. Daemon is a fast-paced, gripping novel, that's already being stocked at the MIT University bookstore. Since you're an opinion-maker in the gamer community, I'd like to send you a free review copy of Daemon."

Wait, what relevance? "Daemon is about all the things gamers love: Action, MMOG’s, hacking, sex, weapons, power, and the dark crawlspaces beneath the modern world." You're right, I do actually like most of these!

Anyhow, I found it most interesting of all that the lead quote praising the book was from 'Tom Leonard - Lead AI Programmer, Half-Life 2 (Valve Software)', who said: “Daemon is a thought-provoking novel that presents real technologies in a new and terrible light. It's a hard book to put down.” Yes, game developers are now cooler than authors for recommending books.

The Frowny, Disoriented Face Of Gizmondo + BONUS HILARITY

January 31, 2007 3:30 AM | Simon Carless

- Thanks to Marc-André Caron from Ubisoft Montreal for pointing to Stefan Eriksson's appearance in Business 2.0's '101 Dumbest Moments In Business'.

Really, the article itself is a rehash of what we already know ("After leading videogame-console startup Gizmondo to nearly $400 million in losses and a bankruptcy filing, edgy entrepreneur Stefan Eriksson wrecks his $1 million Ferrari Enzo in a crash in Malibu in February... Eriksson pleads no contest to embezzlement and drunk driving charges and is sentenced to three years in jail"), but that picture is... kinda priceless. It's the orange jumpsuit that does it?

Meanwhile, I was looking for extra 'flavor' for this article, and OH MY GOD, it's Gizmondo's ridiculous street-scene exhibit space, which I remember walking through at E3 2005, I think? Anyhow, original cost was $2 million (ouch!), and it's now selling for just $110,000. This really would be the ultimate Gizmondo collectible, wouldn't it?

GameTunnel Licks FizzBall Right Into February

January 30, 2007 10:14 PM | Simon Carless

- The inestimable Russell Carroll pointed out that we'd forgotten to run anything on Game Tunnel's Top 10 Downloadable Games for January, so now we're linking to it, come hell or high water.

The 'gorgeous' opening blurb explains: "January starts the year off with not one, not two, but three Gold Award winners! Independent, Casual, and Downloadable games seem to be getting better all the time, and this month's round-up starts the new year off right with PopCap's RPG meets word game Bookworm Adventures, Cryptic Sea's explosive puzzler Blast Miner and the return of Grubby Games' ever popular Professor Fizzwizzle in FizzBall. It's 10 games you may not have heard about...but should definitely check out." Of course, we've heard of them, but we're smartypants.

Overall, Mike Hommel is suitably happy about IGF finalist and excellent Game Of The Month, Fizzball: "Hey, it's what I wanted! A breakout game that actually does something new! I won't say what it's a cross between, because the other round-uppers will. Also, at long last, somebody has borrowed the Gravitron from Breakquest! Only it's in reverse, in the form of fans." Fizzball is well worth checking out, if you haven't already.

GDC 2007 - Last Chance Saloon For Early Reg!

January 30, 2007 5:32 PM | Simon Carless

- Hello campers! Just wanted to point this one out - not quite so much through rampant self-promotion, but more through a 'don't forget' type of logic. As we mentioned on Gamasutra earlier, the early reg. deadline for the 2007 Game Developers Conference (run by my compatriots in the CMP Game Group!) is fast approaching, so you have til the end of Wednesday, January 31st to register at significantly reduced rates.

So, and I quote massively here: "This year's GDC is confirmed as having two major keynotes, featuring Sony's Phil Harrison, the President of Worldwide Studios for the PS3 creator, on "Game 3.0: Developing and Creating for the 3rd Age of Video Games", and Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto making a rare Western appearance to talk about "A Creative Vision" and Nintendo's plans.

Some of the highlights of the main conference itself, which runs from Wednesday March 7th to Friday March 9th, include recently announced lectures from Warren Spector on 'The Future Of Storytelling', talks on Alan Wake's tools, the physics in MotorStorm, and making The Sims for Wii.

Other top talks still include Tsutomu Kouno presenting a postmortem of LocoRoco, Castlevania's Koji 'Iga' Igarashi discussing the 'Light and Darkness of 2D Gaming', and Id boss Todd Hollenshead talking on games and the piracy problem, as well as Ubisoft producer Jade Raymond on Assassin's Creed, Rare discussing Viva Pinata's unique graphics shaders, and Elite Beat Agents' Keiichi Yano on making the cult DS title. Also featured are lectures by Killer 7's Goichi 'Suda51' Suda, Lionhead's Peter Molyneux, and a rare postmortem of Square Enix's Final Fantasy XII.

Special events and other highlights at GDC 2007 (which is created by the CMP Game Group, as is Gamasutra) include the Game Developers Choice Awards on the Wednesday night, two separate expo floors including a multitude of game-related companies and international pavilions, as well as the Independent Games Festival Pavilion, the Suite Night event, and many associated events.

Also noted on the GDC schedule at a glance are the subconferences running on the Monday and Tuesday of GDC week, including GDC Mobile (featuring a keynote from Digital Chocolate's Trip Hawkins), the Serious Games Summit GDC (with a keynote from Square Enix's Ichiro Otobe), as well as the Casual Games Summit and the new Independent Games Summit (sporting a keynote featuring Llamasoft's Jeff Minter).

Further information on new lectures and existing highlights is available on the GDC news weblog, and the GDC pass options page has full information on pass prices and savings before January 31st." So there!

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': Aces High

January 30, 2007 12:21 PM | Ollie Barder

['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column by Ollie Barder which covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This week's column covers the Another Century's Episode games.]

amuro_nu_ace2.jpgThose of you may remember my low-down of the Armored Core series and a nod to the developer, that of From Software, who created it. As of 2005 From Software have branched into more licensed gaming fare and whilst that may sound like terrifyingly bad news, they've approached the task with similar otaku fervour and created a whole new franchise that epitomises their nerd-like stranglehold on all things mecha.

More after the jump...

Inside The Becherova Game - Cheers!

January 30, 2007 7:15 AM | Simon Carless

- Some info on this has already surfaced on TIGSource and IndyGamer, but the Tomus Files weblog has posted a summary of the Becherovka Games 2006 winners - an indie PC game competition organized by the Czech herbal liquor, of course!

The folks at Tomus Files, who evidently help judge the competition, have a neat blog post summarizing 'must-play games' from the history of the competition, such as 2005 winner Space Merchants: Conquerors ("Elite-like space sim game with trading and fights and RPG elements.")

Or, indeed, there's Space Becherovka ("Absolutely great, absolutely funny adventure game. Parody on Star Wars, Space Odyssey, Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy and many other sci-fi classics..."), or even Becherov ("Overall winner in 2004. Looks like GTA 2, plays like GTA series. You may not act that evil there, but it's still very funny.") I'm guessing most of these are Czech-language only, but it's still interesting to look, right? Please comment if you find English-friendly highlights.

Gordon Rennie On Game Writing, Och Aye?

January 30, 2007 2:11 AM | Simon Carless

- Brian Baglow of Indoctrimat pinged me with a neat item on his ScottishGames blog: "I've just posted an interview with Gordon Rennie, noted comics author and the BAFTA nominated writer behind Rebellion's Rogue Trooper game. It touches on comics, games, writing in games and why so much of it sucks."

And it's fun reading! Here's Rennie on his introduction to game scripts: "Someone at Lost Boys Games - now Guerrilla - really liked this nasty future war comic strip called Glimmer Rats that I'd written, and tracked me down on the interweb thingy to ask me if I was interested in working on the script for Killzone, which was still in early development then. That experience ended slightly unhappily - I was one of the thousands crushed beneath the wheels of the Killzone juggernaut as it slowly inched its way along the road to completion - but I did get to hang out in Amsterdam, meet Rutger Hauer and get a peek behind the curtain at the surprisingly half-arsed way some games are put together."

He also talks about his perfect game licenses - a lot of which revolve around the rich 2000AD universe, handily owned by Rebellion, of course: "Sticking close to home, I think there's a lot of IP potential in the 2000AD stable of characters. Rebellion's initial Dredd game was a misfire, but Rogue Trooper benifited from the learning curve on Dredd - hiring a professional writer being part of that curve, and paid off by getting them a Best Screenplay BAFTA nomination - and from having more love and attention lavished on it."

He concludes of the 200AD experience: "Classic series like Strontium Dog, Nemesis the Warlock, ABC Warriors, Robohunter and perhaps more recent ones like Nicolai Dante and Sinister-Dexter could all make great games, having distinct, visually-interesting lead characters and an immense amount of backstory and strongly-realised fictional universe concepts to draw on." Heartily agreed.

COLUMN: 'Beyond Tetris' - Lights Out

January 29, 2007 9:14 PM |

["Beyond Tetris" is a column from Tony "Tablesaw" Delgado about puzzle games that transcend mere abstract action and instead plunge deep into the heart of problem-solving. This installment looks at the classic handheld puzzle game Lights Out.]

The most recent edition of Lights Out, published by Hasbro The best puzzles hide great complexity in simple packages, but Lights Out turned out to have more surprises than I bargained for. I thought I'd write a bit about the handhelds, write a bit about the puzzle appearing in videogames, and be done with it. When I sat down to do the research, though, I discovered that the small game was tied up in some big things like linear algebra, patent law, and the collectors of rare mechanical games.

Lights Up

Lights Out was first produced by Tiger Electronics in 1995 (Tiger was bought by Hasbro in 1998). It was a very simple device with a simple puzzle. You were given a 5x5 grid of buttons, each of which concealed an LED. Some buttons were lit, and others were not. The goal, as one might expect, was to turn all the lights out. But every time you pressed a button, you wouldn't just toggle on or off that one button, you would toggle the buttons above it, below it, and to its sides. If you pressed a button that wasn't on an edge, it would create a pattern like a cross or plus sign. Every button had undesired consequences, and going from a given pattern to lights out became difficult. The game contained a set of fifty patterns of increasing difficulty, and another set of one thousand solvable patterns.

Tiger developed several version over the years. There was Mini Lights Out, which used a 4x4 grid. Lights Out Deluxe had a 6x6 grid, and had puzzles where the buttons you were allowed to press were limited. On the Lights Out Cube, the edges weren't boundaries, so the cross pattern applied everywhere (sometimes wrapping to an adjacent face). Lights Out 2000 added a third state to each button (that is, instead of going from off to on to off, you cycled through off to red to green to off). Lights Out even appeared as an actual, honest-to-goodness, console-based videogame. In 1997, Tiger released the Game.Com to compete with the Gameboy, Lights Out was available as a pack-in for the system.

A screenshot of Sigil of Binding, by John Paul Walton, a reskinning of Mini Lights OutUnsurprisingly, Lights Out became a quick hit among puzzle fans. And since puzzle fans make puzzle games, it didn't take long before imitations appeared in videogames. Clones and solvers hit the web quickly, and they continue to be popular. Sigil of Binding, a popular entrant into the first Jay Is Games Game Design Competition, is simply Mini Lights Out with a new skin. Lights Out was also incorporated as a puzzle in puzzle-oriented adventure games; one of its most recent appearances was as the green wall in Mystery of Time and Space. By 1998, the interactive fiction Usenet groups considered it a cliché and encouraged authors to avoid it. In fact, it became a puzzle standard so quickly, I stopped noticing it years and years ago. And when doing the research, I was surprised that such an old chestnut had only surfaced twelve years ago. I should have expected that the truth would lay much farther back.

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