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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 February, 2007

On The Golden Age Of CRPGs

February 24, 2007 4:39 PM | Simon Carless

- We do link the lovely folks at Armchair Arcade here on GSW sometimes, and thanks to a deal with AA's Matt Barton, we've published 'The History of Computer Role-Playing Games Part 2: The Golden Age (1985-1993)' over on Gamasutra.

Barton particularly notes: "Nowadays, it's all too easy to look at games like The Bard's Tale, Quest of the Avatar, Bane of the Cosmic Forge, The Pool of Radiance, Wasteland, or even Dungeon Master and wonder what all the fuss was about. Nevertheless, these are the games that led directly to the modern CRPG, and no one who enjoys the latest Elder Scrolls, Diablo, or Dungeon Siege should fail to doff his cap to Wizard's Crown and Alternate Reality."

Honestly, I think that Barton knows more about this subject matter than almost anyone out there - we also reprinted Part 1, about CRPGs from 1980 to 1983, which originally ran on Armchair Arcade, and we're planning to publish at least one more article from him in the near future, on the "Platinum Age," which "...will cover all classics I promised above and many more like Baldur's Gate and The Elder Scrolls, as well as Diablo and Planescape: Torment."

Oh My, Shmorky's Furious Famicom Faggot

February 24, 2007 11:34 AM | Simon Carless

- You may remember I was talking about neat game-related subcultures that don't get talked about much in the 'mainstream' of game blogging - citing Newgrounds.com as a prime example of youth gone wrong in the most adorable ways.

Well, another is the ever-vitriolic SomethingAwful, and I was alerted to the recent awesomeness going on at SA's 'The Flash Tub', courtesy of longtime SA goon (and at one point official GameSetWatch cartoonist) Dave 'Shmorky' Kelly.

What you should know - there's a tremendously 'popular' YouTube uploader who calls himself 'Angry Nintendo Nerd', and swigs from beer while swearing in a reasonably funny/unnecessary fashion about slightly borderline NES games - here's his take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for one.

Thus, in Shmorky's messed-up world, we have Furious Famicom Faggot (that link is for Part 1 of the 7-part series - the rest are viewable from the Flash Tub homepage.) According to various other notes I've seen hanging out online, there's also a bit of Seanbaby and GameLife referencing in there. There is also an AWESOME Charles Dickens / Dizzy joke in one of the episodes. No lie.

My personal favorite is Episode 4, dealing with Megaman II, and includes the line: "My doctor told me to stay away from playing Megaman, because it would give me FUN cancer", as well as massive amounts of incoherent, sarcastic rage, and a terrible improvised song over the end credits. Oh yeah, and swearing. Well, it works for me. More interestingly, the later episodes get more and more surreal, as somehow the FFF gets 'sucked into the game', with a bizarre denouement in Episode 7 - watch all the way through for the 'story', though, kids. [Ta for link, Mr. Cifaldi!]

Game Of The Blog Of The Game Blog

February 24, 2007 6:32 AM | Simon Carless

- Thanks to Frank for pointing out that the often pseudonym-ed Packratshow has a new weblog, 'Game Of The Blog', and it's an uncommonly smart ramble through the kind of areas that GSW likes talking about.

Taking two posts randomly, there's a really fun post about 'Gamers becoming a target audience?', which points out a new housing development which says on the signs advertising it: 'Foodies, Activists, Gamers, Techies - You belong Here.' It's noted: "I could blather on about how inane the whole thing is ([in the overall random list of people] they want chocoholics and attorneys but no doctors?) but the interesting part is that the advertisers actively targeting gamers. It may be a horribly misguided attempt, but it's nice to see the that the gaming community can be thought of as an actual consumer segment."

Elsewhere, there's a nice little overview of Chulip, which notes of the extremely odd, GameStop-exclusive PS2 title: "The plot, script, character design, and art are all very unique but when you strip all of that away, Chulip is brutally unforgiving adventure game. So brutal in fact, that the instruction booklet seems to(I only quickly glanced through it) contain complete solutions to when and how each underground dweller needs to be kissed." There's other fun stuff if you scroll back a few posts, and we'll post more from this site soon, no doubt!

GameDaily Puts GamePro Under The Microscope

February 24, 2007 1:28 AM | Simon Carless

- Sometimes it feels like our very own Kevin Gifford's 'Mag Weaseling' column is the only web-based effort actually talking about video game print magazines, so it's good to see Kyle Orland reviewing the new redesign of GamePro in his latest GameDaily column.

Count Orland's intro tries to bring an even-handed approach to a sometimes maligned publication: "Even though gamers as a group have gotten older, there's still room for a magazine that caters to younger gamers. Still, for old fans, it's hard not to feel that the magazine has failed to grow with the gaming audience. With the content and design overhaul in this issue, GamePro had a good chance to break out of its youth-oriented niche and find some cross-demographic appeal. Did it succeed? Let's find out."

Our own Mr. Gifford is an ex-GamePro editor, so suggested some redesign ideas and commented on the actual issue himself, and overall, I think Orland's consensus doesn't stray too far from ze Weasel's, as the GameDaily piece concludes: "You can dress it up, but you can't take it anywhere. The new GamePro matches the old in being light on substance and heavy on editorial that reads like ad copy. Some relatively interesting reviews aren't enough to save a magazine that feels like it's still trapped in its '90s heyday."

Arctic Thunder Poker Mash-Up Indie Insanity!

February 23, 2007 8:26 PM | Simon Carless

- Got a note from Manifesto Games about a pretty odd/intriguing new PC indie title: "Arctic Stud Poker Run is not your father's poker game. In fact, it's more like the biathlon of the game world, except instead of skiing and shooting, you chase people and things on high-speed vehicles, fire automatic weapons, and play poker. OK, so maybe it's more like combining Super Mario Kart with snowmobiles and poker. Whatever. It's fun. It's fast. It's poker, only different in the middle."

It's also noted: "The game's designers, Brian Colin and Jeff Nauman, are legendary old-school arcade game creators with credits that include Star Trek Voyager and Pigskin 621 AD. Arctic Stud is their first indie game. Brian explains their move to independent game development by saying: "For us, it's always been all about the game. We've had great clients who have given us amazing artistic freedom, but it's still not the same as following your own ideas to their eventual conclusion.""

Cute - there's a fun behind-the-scenes segment from cheesy local Chicago news (hah!) on developer Game Refuge's website - and of course, these guys designed Rampage, which is much more famous. And they're Midway Chicago veterans, and this feels oddly like Arctic Thunder with added poker action, which is pretty funny. I'm guessing that at one point they were thinking of making an arcade machine out of it?

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – Avalon

February 23, 2007 3:23 PM |

['Cinema Pixeldiso' is (supposed to be) a bi-weekly column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s selection is a foreign co-production that tells a familiar tale a bit better than most.]


First off, Cinema Pixediso is back after a brief hiatus! So it's time once again to take a look at video game as viewed and depicted on the silver screen, most of which you've probably never heard off. And some for good reason...

For for this particular installment, we once look elsewhere in the world... actually, two foreign lands. Avalon, produced in 2001. It’s both an Asian and European production. The movie was produced and directed by the Japanese; the director, Mamoru Oshii, is actually well known in certain circles, that being those who follow anime (among other things, Oshii was the man behind the groundbreaking Ghost In The Shell). But the rest of the film was co-produced and filmed in Poland. Plus the entire cast is Polish as well, with all the dialogue spoken in their native tongue.

Though what really sets it apart from the rest of the pack from others is how, for a video game movie, its decidedly un-video game-y for the most part. Often, the best films of its kind will make you forget that they are even about games in the first place. Not sure what that says about the medium... perhaps its because the best filmmakers can touch upon conventions without exploiting them and relying on cliches (unless its intentional, of course). But that's an point of view that might be best reserved for another time...

Big Huge Catan Xbox Live Arcade Dreams

February 23, 2007 10:19 AM | Simon Carless

- It's nice to see the bigger blogs doing regular columns (even if they scroll off the page so quickly due to the amount of posts!), and Joystiq's Scott Jon Siegel pinged me about his 'Off The Grid' interview with Brian Reynolds about Big Huge Games' Xbox 360 Live Arcade board game conversion Catan.

One thing I particularly like is that Reynolds cares a lot about the subject matter here: "I've been a big fan of Settlers of Catan (and the games of Klaus Teuber in general) for years. In fact I have a 1st place trophy for Settlers of Catan from our regional Maryland tournament, and the fact that I'd played the game at the tournament level was definitely a help in doing the A.I. It's funny, but if anything working on Catan Live has gotten me even more into playing the game."

He also revealed how the project came into being: "It was actually Microsoft who approached us – last spring I had no idea the project possibility even existed, but Microsoft was looking for developers to bring "Euro" board games to XBLA, and they came to us early in the process. Obviously once we knew about the project we were very excited." Great interview, and I'm very much looking forward to the game, which may hit as early as next month.

Into The Time Maelstrom With Jon Blow

February 23, 2007 5:19 AM | Simon Carless

- We've already established that Jason Rohrer from Arthouse Games is a big of a big Braid fanboy, but his interview with Braid creator Jon Blow is handy because it lets Blow talk about the complex and interesting influences behind the game.

This bit is particularly thought-provoking: "I'm on a few mailing lists for game designers; some time later, on one of those, a discussion arose about Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Blinx: The Time Sweeper. Both of these games provide the ability for the player to rewind events, like rewinding a movie in a VCR. One aspect of the discussion was that both these games used rewinding as a gimmick---your ability to use it was limited for when you collected power-ups or whatever. A very opinionated friend of mine, Casey Muratori, said that all games should give you the ability to rewind without limitation. In a lot of games we already effectively have that---the ability to save anywhere and then reload that save point -- it's just a much, much more inconvenient interface."

Blow continues: "This was a controversial position, because if players can just rewind any time they want, then consequence and tension seem to go out the window. So there was this big argument with everyone taking a different position. Nobody actually tried implementing the unlimited-rewind in a game, which in retrospect seems kind of weird (but not too weird, because the people on the list tend to be pretty busy.)" So that's what Blow did, x10, in his game, which will be released eventually at some point, haha!

British Film Institute Books Top 100 Games

February 23, 2007 12:15 AM | Simon Carless

- The ever-erudite UK Guardian Gamesblog has pointed out that there's a new video game-related book from the British Film Institute, called simply '100 Videogames'.

Guardian blogger Keith Stuart notes that the book is written by Iain Simons (who organises the Nottingham GameCity festival) and James Newman, and "...does pretty much what the title suggests it will - looks at 100 videogames and explains what makes each one important. In the foreward the authors point out that this is not a book about the 100 best videogames - instead they've gone for interesting and innovative titles from the last 30-odd years."

He continues: "It's a very decent selection, taking in the obvious (Asteroids, Doom, Final Fantasy VII) and the not-so-obvious - stuff like browser-based titles Hapland and SissyFight. Each game gets a short essay examining its strengths and contributions to the medium. I've spotted a few factual errors (Cannon Fodder is twice listed as a 1983 title - just a decade out there, lads), but that's part of the fun with these books." Sounds neat! They'd better have Jet Set Willy and/or Manic Miner in there, incidentally, or there will be trouble.

Programming The 2600 With Batari Basic!

February 22, 2007 7:14 PM | Simon Carless

- Just to prove that the most ancient of game consoles never die, Atari Age has revealed that a new Basic-style programming language has been released... for the Atari 2600!

The front page of the site explains: "After 18 months of development, Fred Quimby has announced the official release of batari Basic! Aside from enhanced stability and flexibility, this release introduces many new features that should help programmers write better games. batari Basic (bB) is a BASIC-like language for creating Atari 2600 games."

What's more: "It is a compiled language and the compiler runs on a computer, but it creates a binary file that can be run on an Atari 2600 emulator or used to make a cartridge that will operate on a real Atari 2600. Versions are available for Windows/MS-DOS, Mac OS X, and Linux. To learn more please visit the new batari Basic website, and you can discuss this new version in our batari Basic Forum."

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