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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 January, 2007

GameSetQ: Mind-Reading & The DS' Dual-Screen Opportunities?

January 27, 2007 11:45 AM | Simon Carless

- So, this is partly an observation, and partly a call for ideas and suggestions. I rented Touch Detective for the Nintendo DS the other day, which is a decent, but very very Japanese adventure game where you randomly run around solving crimes and trying to combine/use objects in an illogical fashion.

The game itself is, you know, OK - but what I was excited about was the fact that a picture of the main character (Mackenzie) fills the top screen, alongside location info, and her internal monologue is actually timed to what's going on in the game. For example, in this screenshot, you can see another character talking, but if you want to glance up to the top screen, you can see what Mackenzie is thinking at that exact time.

This mechanic (which, for this game, is just icing) wouldn't work so well without the dual screens. There are actually some great gameplay possibilities spinning off ideas like this. I could imagine it being integrated into a detective game where you could interrogate people, turn on your special mind-reading powers, and see their thoughts pop up at the top of the screen. You could then speak to them and try to divine their true motives. But you could only use mind-reading for particular periods of time so you'd have to pick when to turn it on, etc.

So my GameSetQ is - what has been the best use of the DS' non-interactive top screen you've seen in a game so far (here's a list of DS games to help you out.) Have you guys got an idea for using it in an even more clever way that hasn't been done yet? Don't worry about spilling the beans, no game developers read GSW or, uhh, anything.

Inside The Japanese Game Development Process

January 27, 2007 6:31 AM | Simon Carless

- Ditto with Japanmanship, who is on a roll with awesome Japanese game development-related posts, and this time looks at the issues with organization while working on game development teams in Japan - and comes to some fascinating conclusions.

He very interestingly explains the issues with both Western and Eastern game dev processes from personal experience, noting of Western processes: "The code base to build on isn’t quite as solid as it should have been because the previous project was rushed. But there is something there, at least. Design continues throughout and results in a feature creep, Content and code are constantly effected by design changes and require some overtime to get fixed. QA starts at some point and delivers stacks of bug sheets. The publisher eagerly waits until the game reaches “shippable” level and then immediately ships it."

However, in Japan: "Once the idea for the project is dreamt up everyone shoots off the starting line. Due to the hard-coded nature of most Japanese games there is little or no real reusable code-base so essentially a complete reset is required. Though design has hardly had a chance to get going, content needs to be created unless you are left with half a team bored out of their minds. So the art department shoots off and gets roped back down when the inevitable design changes occur. QA starts late and the bugs brought up by it cause further design changes and masses of overtime for all concerned. Once the game reaches “shippable” level people are too tired and don't care much about getting to “complete” and the game gets stuffed in a box and released." This is smart, and well-analyzed, and I like it a lot.

The Wii Bowling Project

January 27, 2007 1:06 AM | Simon Carless

- In our continuing quest to link everything The New Gamer posts, ever, we present their latest idea, 'The Wii Bowling Project', a definitely endearing concept which promises "to see how our Wii Sports bowling performance rated against our league bowling performance."

Blogger G.Turner, whose significant other unitdaisy also belongs to their 'Thar She Bowls!' Chicago-area bowling team, comments: "With the league on my mind all this month, I couldn't help but think of my real-life bowling average while playing Wii Sports. I was quite surprised to see just how closely my Wii Sports bowling stance, curve and scores mirror my actual lane action."

But how? "What unitdaisy and I decided to do was to bowl two sets of games a week: the two games our normal league bowls on Sunday, and on Wednesdays we'll bowl two Wii Sports bowling games... At the end of the league's season on April 15th (as league seasons go, it's rather short, running a brief 14 weeks) we'll pick apart the scores and see just how well our Wii bowling improved (or declined) compared to our league bowling. Who knows, maybe we'll see some other interesting results too!" GSW promises to update daily with the latest stats.

Why Vista Doesn't Mean The End For PC Indies

January 26, 2007 7:02 PM | Simon Carless

- Stephen Totilo has once again written a story interesting enough to make me venture within MTV's Stygian halls of autoplay videos and interstitial gum ad hell, and this one talks about Windows Vista's (lack of?) chilling effect on indies, cuing off a Gamasutra opinion piece by WildTangent founder and CEO Alex St. John.

St. John had claimed: "We have found many of the security changes planned for Vista alarming and likely to present sweeping challenges for PC gaming, especially for online distributed games", pinpointing specific issues with the cost of rating games with the ESRB and lockdown issues around parental controls. Totilo cornered Chris Donohue, the director of business development for Games for Windows, who downplayed St. John's concerns:

"I don't think we're artificially restricting anyone, he said. "But on the other side of it there's a yin and a yang to allowing anybody to publish anything on your platform. You're going to get a lot of good stuff and some not-so-good stuff." He also added on the cost of getting a game rated: "A couple of thousand bucks doesn't necessarily work for the casual guys." So what's the end result? Probably that Vista is more of a pain, but Microsoft claims it's a survivable and necessary pain in the interests of locking down PCs from evil content. We'll see, I guess.

The 30 Year Old MMO Virgin

January 26, 2007 1:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Gamasutra news contributor Jason Dobson is still going with his Etoychest site, now switched around to have an Escapist-style weekly posting schedule, and I just spotted the last part of the excellently named 'The 30 Year Old (MMO) Virgin', written by Edward Pollard for the site.

Fortunately, there are links to the other parts, starting with the first, which grins of World Of Warcraft: "For the last 20 minutes I've been running the installer (Disc 3 of 5) and it crossed my mind that I was on the cusp of something. Jaded, cynical, and about to take the plunge into the MMO phenomenon that has dominated the industry for the past 2 years. Not only haven't I played it, I don't know a damn thing about it. I figure there has to be some other brave or stupid souls out there who have yet to answer the seductive siren call of the MMO but are like me tempted to do so."

So? "This one is for you. I don't know how long this can last, but I'm inviting you to come along and experience it with me. My name is Edward Pollard, I am a World of Warcraft virgin, and this is my story." And the conclusion to this fantastic voyage?

"Is World of Warcraft worth this price? The answer is an unqualified yes. While I can't compare it to other online games, World of Warcraft provides me with a totally unique game play experience that has nearly limitless game play. I can't even imagine how long it will take me at the current rate of progress to reach the level cap, but I do know I'll have a lot of fun doing it." Score 8 million and one for Blizzard!

From Guru Logic To Drill Champ

January 26, 2007 7:44 AM | Simon Carless

- Sorry, a little more Japanmanship linkage came a-calling, because it's in the form of a post on 'Forgotten gems' of Japanese gaming - specifically: "Some absolute classics that many people should play but that have never made it across the language barrier."

The obscurities include Guru Logic Champ for GBA ("This is, by far, the best puzzle game I have ever played. Created by the sadly deceased Compile this game never saw a western release"), and Kururin Squash for GameCube, which I did at least know about ("Kururin was a special little GBA game that not enough people played. Kururin Squash is the home console version and though not noticeably different in essence it’s still a worthy purchase, especially as it was released at the mid-price range in Japan.")

Also noted (and I've heard great things about this from someone - maybe Toasty?) is Mr. Driller version Drill Land for GameCube: "Though Mr. Driller isn’t unknown to western audiences this particular outing never made it to foreign shores. I once had a chat with a Namco localiser who told me he had begged his boss to let him translate this game; he would even do it in his spare time, such was his righteous love for the product. The boss, however, declined; as, with all things great and misunderstood, the game never sold well enough to even consider starting a localised version. This is too bad because this version is by far the very best Mr. Driller game of all."

'Groove Champion' Sneaks Onto GameTap, Easter-Egg Style

January 26, 2007 2:38 AM | Simon Carless

- Those crafty types at 'all you can eat' subscription PC gaming site GameTap (or more particularly, XAmount, who co-runs unofficial in-house GameTap user design blog Angled Whiteboards), have revealed that there's a special Easter Egg in the latest GameTap update, if you look real hard.

It's explained: "You know how you guys have been all eagle-eyed with the email announcements and the Coming Soon ring? Not letting any game slip through the cracks? Well it’s certainly helped us step our game up. So this is pretty sweet: we’ve got an Angled Whiteboards EXCLUSIVE easter egg for you, our devoted readers (and your friends, and hopefully your friends’ friends…)."

How so? "Hidden in today’s new GameTap catalog is [awesome Activision '70s-set car combat game!] Interstate 76. Only you won’t find it in the New Games ring. In fact, you won’t find it anywhere under the name Interstate 76. Head to the search ring, search on “Groove Champion” (star of the game), and BOOM. There’s your game. That racing/hot-rod week is still on the books (now slated for late Feb.), and we’ll be officially releasing all the originally promised games then. But you can play Interstate 76 all you want in the meantime." This is a bit like Pimps At Sea, or something? Woo!

Into The Castle Of The Winds

January 25, 2007 9:33 PM | Simon Carless

- This one was a little hidden away on sister site Gamasutra, so I'm happy to point at it - Alistair Wallis' latest in his awesome-o 'Playing Catch-Up' column ends up talking to Castle of the Winds creator Rick Saada.

The thing I like about 'Playing Catch-Up' is that I enjoy reading the column even when I don't know much about the game in question (as occured this week!), and it turns out Saada's game was part of the shareware halcyon days: he "...had been planning to use the shareware model, he notes, though was inspired what he refers to as the “sequelware” model, where a shareware game would be quickly followed by a commercial sequel – used at the time by id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D. Saada briefly thought about releasing the game himself, but reconsidered when approached by Epic MegaGames founder Tim Sweeney."

Nowadays, he joined up with Flying Lab Software, working on a game concept that ""...would eventually develop into Pirates of the Burning Sea, an MMO set in the Caribbean in 1720 that combines ship combat with the ability for players to explore sea and land areas. “It's been several years of steady work and growth,” says Saada, “and at this point we've got over 50 people pushing towards a June release.”" Interesting!

ModDB Picks Best Mods Of 2006

January 25, 2007 4:24 PM | Simon Carless

- You may recall that the IGF also has a game modding-specific competition, but the folks at ModDB, who helped us out a bit last year, have expanded their slightly more mainstream-styled competition significantly, and have just announced their 2006 Players Choice Awards.

As they bubble happily: "80,000 votes. 4,000 mods. Over the course of 2 months, gamers from across the globe came together to decide which mods rank as the epitome of what our hard working community can do. Now, gallons of blood and sweat later, we tell you what triumphed in 2006."

There are lots of very worthy mods in there, plenty of which don't get so much mainstream coverage, and I guess I'm giving it away a bit to reveal: "Point of Existence 2, for Battlefield 2, has won Mod of the Year for 2006. Point of Existence 2 manages to extend the gameplay of the original game into a new setting with a complex and believable storyline. It manages to have stylish art assets while remaining within the bounds of realism and enforces teamwork without feeling like a chore. It takes a popular formula to the next level of balance, flow and fun." Still, go check the whole thing for a great countdown.

What Makes An RPG... An RPG?

January 25, 2007 11:14 AM | Simon Carless

- Matt Barton of the excellent Armchair Arcade has just completed the second in a series of 'History of CRPG' articles, this one to be published on Gamasutra in a couple of weeks, and has posted a really interesting companion piece discussing how Computer RPGs are archetypically defined.

This explains: "I just finished my "Golden Age" article that covers the years between 1985 and 1993, and I've been thinking more about what makes a "CRPG" a "CRPG," and how different developers have modified the concept over the years. What I've noticed is that a few perennial questions really dominate the discussion, and even if I'm not sure where I come down on all of them, I think it's worthwhile to put them on the table."

He then wanders through a bunch of the staples behind CRPGs, one of my favorites being 'The General Store': "There are few CRPGs indeed that don't have some type of blacksmith that sells arms, armor, and adventuring equipment. Often enough, these will be the only types of stores in the game, which makes one wonder how the various towns and villages of the world manage to get by!" I dunno, I'm sure you can buy donuts in at least a few RPGs!

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