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Archive For January, 2007

Translating Earth Defense Force's Giant Ants

January 25, 2007 6:11 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at SiliconEra, they've got an interview about D3's localization and U.S. version of Earth Defense Force X for Xbox 360, now called Earth Defense Force 2017 - and yes, we're guessing the fanboy pressure to release this game did help!

Unfortunately, the producer doesn't really say anything that interesting, though the most interesting query is as follows: "Q: I heard that you're considering to keep the Japanese voice acting in Earth Defense Force 2017. Why?" And then: "A: We had considered it for a time. Since we know this game has a cult following here in the US, we wanted to keep that level of authenticity."

But, unfortunately: "However, after some discussions, we decided that the voice-over was too important to leave the player in the dark like that. Your squad members are constantly shouting out advice and pointing out incoming enemies. We felt that it might make the game too tough if you weren’t given those clues, so we’ve now reverted to recording all of the VO in English. It really adds a lot to the game." How about having both, guys? [Via Jiji.]

'King Of Kong' Doc Gets Distro, Remake Pickup

January 25, 2007 1:05 AM | Simon Carless

- So we just realized - there are not one, but two classic arcade documentaries at Sundance and associated festivals! We already reported on Chasing Ghosts, but a Variety article reveals another documentary, 'The King Of Kong', has been picked up from Slamdance by top firms Picturehouse and New Line.

Apparently: "In a mid to high six-figure package deal, Picturehouse won rights to distribute the documentary in theaters this summer, while sister company New Line gets remake rights and control of docu distribution rights outside North America." Blimey - this should be a high profile deal for classic gaming fans, then.

It's explained: ""The King of Kong" chronicles a rivalry between two gamers, Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, as they battle for the title of world champ of the arcade game... Picturehouse president Bob Berney, New Line Prods. prexy Toby Emmerich and chief operating officer Richard Brener found irresistible appeal in Wiebe's struggle to stop a personal losing streak, and the ruthless tactics of record holder Mitchell, who routinely compares himself to Helen of Troy and the Red Baron."

From Grocery Karts To Vertigo Fears!

January 24, 2007 8:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Tom Fronczak over at The Last Boss have been talking about a neat 'virtual reality' college project related to games, and which uses a wraparound screen and a shopping cart (!) to help out patients.

It's explained: "Last week my Virtual Reality college class headed out to a local hospital where an eye and ear virtual reality studio is set up for motion balance research to help patients that suffer from vertigo (constant dizzy attacks, just like in a bad RPG). The research they do extends to several other medical conditions, such as height phobias."

How did they do this? "Using their $5,000 medical grant they bought $3,000 Alienware dual processor PCs late last year and paid someone to use Unreal Tournament to make them a simple grocery store environment that patients could literally walk around in for therapy."

And what are they trying now? "Using the Unreal Engine we'll be making a level for their patients who have a height phobia - basically making a huge ass map that scares the crap out of them. Using the facility's habitual therapy sessions and facing their fears in a safer virtual environment several times a week, hopefully their brain can let them overcome their fear." This is... interesting!

2007 Independent Games Summit Bulks Up

January 24, 2007 2:34 PM | Simon Carless

- Some of you may recall that, although I'm not involved in organizing the bulk of Game Developers Conference this year, I am programming the 2007 Independent Games Summit, a new indie-specific subconference taking place on the Monday and Tuesday of GDC week (March 5th and 6th), before the Independent Games Festival Pavilion opens from the 7th to the 9th.

Anyhow, just wanted to note that I was previously worried that the Indie Games Summit (here's a good GSW rundown of the speakers, headed by Jeff Minter) would sell out, and we would have to stop registrations. But we managed to switch it to a room that's double the size, which'll stop us having to turn away all-comers, unless you guys manage to flood the double-sized space too. (I'm not hyping 'WILL SELL OUT SOON' here, incidentally - this was genuinely an issue!)

There have been a couple more additions to the speaker list, too. We've added Sony's E-Distribution supremo John Hight to the 'Console/PC Distribution Gatekeepers' panel, alongside Ross Erickson, Microsoft; Jason Holtman, Valve; and Sandy Resnick, GameTap. We'll be chatting to these guys "...who evaluate submissions for some of the major indie game distribution channels on both console and PC, talking about how to pitch your game to get on these services, exactly what the gatekeepers are looking for, approaches to royalties, and much more." Should be a neat way to compare and contrast how indies are getting onto these bigger portals.

In addition, we've rounded out the final panel, 'Building The Future of Indie Games', with two new neat indie (or indie-influenced!) types. There would be Bit Blot's Derek Yu, co-creator of multi-nominated 2007 IGF title Aquaria (and TIGSource writer to boot!), as well as Sony's David Jaffe, best known for God Of War, but currently working on a small, 'indie-style' title Calling All Cars for PS3 E-Distribution. While he works at the resolutely non-indie Sony, it should be pretty interesting to hear his perspective on why small teams can make for focused, fun games. (Also on the panel: Greg Costikyan of Manifesto Games and Mark Morris from Darwinia/Defcon creators Introversion!)

Chris Avellone On Game Design Research

January 24, 2007 9:04 AM | Simon Carless

- David Edery, nowadays one of the acquisitions guys for Xbox Live Arcade, but also a prolific blogger at Game Tycoon, pinged me with a neat piece from Obsidian's Chris Avellone guest-posted on his blog, and called 'Game Design Research, ala Avellone'.

There are multiple good threads in that (and some great sketches!), but here's one highlight from the designer: "Over the past ten years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with licenses like Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons (in multiple worlds), Star Trek, and now, Aliens. I think I know more about some of these settings and their inhabitants than I do about Earth culture. Which is pretty shameful, now that I think about it."

Avellone continues: "But for our industry, having that knowledge saves you a lot of time. Knowing all the sub-plots that took place in comics, novels, all the nuances of why Giger concepted the aliens the way he did, the history of the Weyland-Yutani corporation - this minutia of science fiction licenses is actually a valuable knowledge base. There’s a reason they have fact-checkers and historians at LucasArts and Blizzard and other franchise houses - knowing the setting in and out is a paying gig... So my advice for any aspiring members of game development is pretty simple. If you’re a nerd, keep being a nerd." Done!

Annoying Trends In Games, In 2006!

January 24, 2007 4:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Having stumbled upon this while checking out a webpage of a GSW commenter, I'm delighted to present Dave and Nihongonauts' '6 Annoying Trends in Games 2006' article, as petulantly readable a piece of writing as anyone could hope to expect, yay.

One of the highlights is 'Unwarranted Paranoia Over Microtransactions', for which it's noted: "The public has reacted with complete panic and paranoia, insisting that publishers will soon ship “incomplete” games that require additional purchases to fight the last boss, finish the race, or otherwise do what has heretofore been considered a part of a normal retail game. This is, needless to say, complete and total bullshit and a waste of time to even think about."

Also zinged, 'The Games As Art Debate': "Look up the f*cking word “art” in a dictionary! Any dictionary! See that part about the “conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements”? How about the “human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature”? This means that all games are art. Period. If my interpretation of the arrangement of a brick in an otherwise abandoned lot is aesthetically pleasing, then it fits the definition." Why do I get the feeling that this isn't the last word on that subject?

GameSetLinks: From JPod To Otis Twelve

January 23, 2007 11:04 PM | Simon Carless

- Eek, this tangled miscellany of game links has been hanging around since last weekend, so it's time to unleash them on the slavering world. Apologies if a couple are approaching a ripe vintage:

- The New Gamer's journal has spotted something neat and game-tangential - "Seemingly in order to promote the recent Canadian paperback edition of Douglas Copeland's latest novel JPod, Showcase has made available a short, five minute, film adapted from the book." For those not aware, the book "...concerns a group of video game programmers whose last names all begin with "J". They live and work in a development "pod", which they refer to as the "jPod", within a company that Coupland has described as "resembles, but legally no way is Electronic Arts"".

- A little while back, 1UP posted an excellent article named 'Clash Of The Cultures', which explains: "New ideas are always being bounced around, warped, and remade, creating concepts that are both uniquely tailored to the local culture while still maintaining a feeling of familiarity. But why do gamers in each of these markets like the games that they do? Why are American sales charts dominated by the likes of big, burly men with guns while the Japanese flock towards fanciful RPGs?" This is a sophisticated, smart multi-interview feature, even chatting to Keiji Inafune about the concept, so... yay!

- RetroBlast! has spotted that Stern is building a Family Guy pinball machine, and what's more, the game is "...designed by Pat Lawlor, his team at Pat Lawlor Design, and the engineers at Stern Pinball." You may remember my Pinball Hall Of Fame feature lauding Lawlor, noting: "Why would you know Lawlor? Uh, try Whirlwind, Funhouse, The Addams Family, Twilight Zone, and many more - he was responsible for multiple games in most pinball fans' Top 10." So... at least the sole remaining pinball firm is doing it in style!

- In many cases, successful publisher-owned studios are kept at arm's length from their corporate overlords, and this seems to be a major theme behind Edge Online's article about life inside Bungie published last week Prime evidence: "Head of production Jonty Barnes, a slender Englishman very recently arrived from new stablemates Lionhead, was stunned. “Actually, it’s very much like a publisher-developer relationship. Lionhead and Bungie are equally intermixed with Microsoft, and that’s quite incredible considering the geographic locations.": Didn't know that Bullfrog/Lionhead super-veteran Barnes had jumped to Bungie, either.

- This is cute: LJ user 'Jokeyxero' has been listening to a recent GDC Radio podcast at GSW's sister site, explaining: "The follow quote has been transcribed from the GDC Radio podcast episode "How to Prototype a Game in Under 7 Days"... The speaker is Kyle Gabler from Carnegie Mellon University's Experimental Gameplay Project and now with EA." The punchline is: "I think the lesson we learned there is to stop hitting your head against the wall, just use the magic key", and I'll let you click through to read the preamble - but it's head-smackingly good advice.

- All this time, I was figuring that adventure game maker Vince Twelve was using a pseudonym. But an comment in a recent GSW piece about him reveals his similarly named, famous pater, since his dad, Otis Twelve, comments: "I must say, I am a bit miffed that no mention has been made of Vince’s roots. Do people think that such off-center innovation, staggeringly clever story telling and Dadist flair for the poetic title, spring spontaneously like flies from the cerebral dung of our intellectual byways?" There, Otis, we mentioned you now - you might know him as part of "the Omaha-based Ogden Edsl... who recorded deliciously tasteless novelty numbers like "Kinko the Clown" and "Dead Puppies" of Dr. Demento fame", and nowadays writes award-winning fiction. Blimey.

Pluto Strikes Back, Plots Physics Game

January 23, 2007 5:03 PM | Simon Carless

- Matthew Wegner at physics blog Fun-Motion has unleashed a handy review of another PC indie physics game gem, Pluto Strikes Back [.ZIP], "a great [freeware] solo project by Petri Purho, who has been rapidly prototyping games in the spirit of the Experimental Gameplay Project."

It's explained: "This title was created in seven days, and the concept is awesome: Pluto, angry at being reclassified as a “dwarf planet”, takes a bat to the rest of the Solar System to act out his jealous revenge." Hah, awesome concept. Matt adds: "I’m impressed with the elegant minimalism of Pluto Strikes Back’s design" - and creator Purho has an excellent blog discussing rapid prototyping, too.

Finally, Wegner elaborates: "Pluto Strikes Back utilizes a simple planetary gravity physics model. As the asteroids get closer to the planets, gravity’s influence exponentially increases... It may seem, at first glance, that designing a simple game would be easier than producing a feature-laden one. In my experience, though, the opposite is true: It’s really hard to create a tight, simple design." Indeed!

Pajitnov Interrogations At Game Developer

January 23, 2007 2:01 PM |

pajitnov_smaller.jpgSince this is a CMP blog, and I'm allowed, I'll let you in on a bit of the inner workings of Game Developer magazine. Sometimes when we're making mock-ups of the cover for our next issue, we'll use the template from a former, just to see how everything fits. I thought this one was too good to let go, for obvious reasons.

The image is from Resistance: Fall of Man, which is our February postmortem, and the text is from the September issue, in which I got to interview Alexey Pajitnov, who created Tetris, and is Russian as all get-out. I also interviewed Suda51 in that issue! I must say, I was pretty pleased with it.

Anyway, what you see to the left is an odd amalgam. Certainly looks like a heated interview! The question remains though, who is who in this picture? Am I the alien creature, lifitng Pajitnov up in order to extract crucial block-related information? Perhaps I'm angry because that line never comes when I need it. Somewhat unlikely though, as he totally has a beard, which means he can survive in the cold, and probably spits vodka acid.

So I find it more likely that Pajitnov is the gun-toting aggressor, blind with Russian rage at my insolent questions. The more I look at it, the more I realize it also fits the middle and rightmost coverlines in cute ways. Hooray!

By the way, there's a very nice interview in the Feb issue too, but I can't say who it is. MYSTERY! We'll let you know when it's released though...it's pretty far up there in my personal list of 'interviews I've enjoyed doing.'

Railroads! Flies High At Flugtag

January 23, 2007 10:44 AM | Simon Carless

- Here's a neat story from 2K Games: "Gaining inspiration from Sid Meier's Railroads!, Tom Symonds, an artist at Firaxis, and 4 friends created a train shaped "aircraft" and entered it in Red Bull's annual Flugtag Event which took place in Baltimore on October 21, 2006."

What's more, over at the Railroads! siste, there's a really neat 7-minute movie that "...shows you the story of how their train shaped "aircraft" was created and how they ultimately won the People's Choice award." Here's an explanation of Flugtag, for the confused.

In addition, there's a page on the Flugtag site explaining more of the 'ambience': "On the flight deck, the trio will be joined by pals Phil Sullivan and Sean Hart for some inspired dancing to a railroad-themed mix including “Night Train” and “Come on Ride a Train.” All will be dressed in “sexy overalls” (oxymoron?) and engineer hats." Choo choo?

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