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Archive For February, 2007

Retro Round-Up Courtmartials G.I. Joe

February 22, 2007 2:12 PM | Simon Carless

- Well, time to link to the latest Retro Round-Up at 1UP again, because it's just that time of the week and we're just that kind of retro-loving old nostalgia geeks. Sadly.

There's the obvious Virtual Console reviews and shenanigans, thumbs down-ing Legend Of Kage, and noting of Donkey Kong Country: "A shallow and derivative platformer that was bland a decade ago and hasn't improved with age... It's no Mario, but it's charming enough in its own clumsy way." My wife is a major, major fan of this game, incidentally, mainly for the nostalgia value, so we've downloaded it already and she's shaming me by pointing out things to do in the first level that I have no clue about.

[Oh, Lazyweb feature request, 1UP - one big page with all the Virtual Console reviews listed alphabetically? I needed that the other night when I was puzzling on how to spend my remaining Wii points, and sassy capsule reviews are a great way to Siskel and Ebert your way through download choices.]

But the highlight of Retro Round-Up for me is, once again, the Retronauts Bonus Stage video, in which the G.I. Joe series of games are deconstructed, and there's swearing, and knowledge of Cobra Strike for the 2600, and these are two things that I have very little damn knowledge of. So really - bring your Snake Eyes lust here, and worship at St. Joe's altar - 22,000 other people have, thus far.

Suda 51 Has Lovechild With Eric Chahi

February 22, 2007 9:07 AM | Simon Carless

- There _are_ some useful interviews and features from time to time on IGN, but I tend to miss them due to the site's somewhat tortuous SKU-split design and cross-posting shenanigans. However, a recent IGN interview with Suda 51 about Wii title No More Heroes has some neat points that are worth looking into.

Firstly, it's extremely interesting that Suda's first-mentioned gaming influence (and I believe he's cited this before) is a Western developer and a Western game: "My favorite game is Out of this World [aka Another World]. I was shocked and impressed by the game by Erick [sic] Chahi. My favorite movie is Paris, Texas. I was very moved by this movie, and that feeling still remains today." Incidentally, IGN, it's Eric Chahi - no extra K.

Also worth noting is Suda's sign-off regarding 'No More Heroes', which stars a Johnny Knoxville-style Japanese anime okaku (!): "We are tuning up No More Heroes to be simple and comfortable, but exciting and refreshing as a game. The game has a unique sense of humor and I hope fans will be excited about and look forward to it. I'll also try my best to make No More Heroes as violent, or even more violent than Manhunt 2!" I see sarcasm in here somewhere!

Does Australia Need An R Rating For Games?

February 22, 2007 4:02 AM | Simon Carless

- Just spotted that Aussie newspaper The Age has a video game specific blog, Screen Play, and it has a number of interesting Australian-related game posts on it, which seem to get pretty fierce commentary from the blog's readers.

In particular, there's a post about Australia's lack of a R rating for games, which notes: "The games industry has been actively lobbying State and Federal Governments for the introduction of an R18+ game classification for several years, but new statistics show the majority of Australians believe classification is irrelevant."

It continues: "The Interactive Australia 2007 report found 62 per cent of respondents in game-playing households said game ratings have no influence on their decision to purchase or hire a game, and a further 16 per cent said it only had "a little" influence." Well, from a U.S. and ESRB perspective, those stats probably sound... bad, if you think Aussie consumers are anything like American ones with regard to taking notice of ratings.

[Here's a Gamasutra piece discussing the Reservoir Dogs game's banning in the territory, which talks about the ratings gaps some more: "Due to a quirk in Australia's classification system, it is impossible for game titles to be rated MA18+, a mature rating which can be applied to games, meaning that games in Australia can either be rated MA15+ or banned entirely. In recent months, this topic has come under more intense discussion in Australia, Electronic Frontiers Australia renewing the call for a MA18+ rating to be instituted, since Australia is one of the only major Western countries not to allow 'adult' classification of games."]

GameSpot News Pontificates On Lowenstein

February 21, 2007 10:54 PM | Simon Carless

- So, GameSpot News actually has a special news blog, now, though they haven't updated it since last week, but I thought it was interesting to see informal opinions from the generally formal site.

In particular, Brendan Sinclair's comments on Doug Lowenstein's departure are interesting and on the money: "If Take-Two wants to make a fortune off Grand Theft Auto and rattle cages with controversial content, it should be willing to stand up and explain what possible artistic value their games have when overprotective and out-of-touch legislators come knocking. It shouldn't just make a mess and expect the ESA to deal with the entire cleanup." [We just ran industry reaction to Lowenstein on Gamasutra regarding this, btw.]

But, there's caution on whether the game press should shut out Jack Thompson: "The gaming media could ignore the man entirely, and I'm convinced he'd still be plenty happy with the attention he received from the mainstream press, concerned parents, and legislators. Thompson constantly resurfaces in opposition to the industry and is taken seriously (at least for a time) by parent watchdog groups and politicians. That makes him a threat to the industry's interests, and as a result, that makes some of his actions newsworthy."

'Gaymers: Not A Simple Word'

February 21, 2007 5:52 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at GSW sister educational site Game Career Guide, there's an interesting little feature called 'Gaymers: Not a Simple Word', which points out: "“Gamer,” like “reader,” can encompass a diversity of people, from casual gamers to import gamers to cyberathletes (“Gamer”)."

It continues: "In fact, new variations of the word continue to pop up in various gaming circles. “Gaymer,” one such variation, is used to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) gamers. While the origin of “gaymer” is hard to pinpoint, it’s clear that the term has garnered some attention. Many embrace it for its sense of community; others decry it as exclusionary."

Why so? "In a recent online discussion, some LGBT people expressed their discomfort with “gaymer.” After all, it does construct a straight-gay binary that leaves no room for in-between space, fluidity, or alternate identities. The potential for exclusion is great. Furthermore, “gaymer” is also used derogatorily. UrbanDictionary.com, a site dedicated to slang, lists five definitions for “gaymer” and three of them reveal that it’s meant as an insult. It’s no surprise then that some people dislike “gaymer.”" It's an intriguing discussion, FWIW.

Opinion: 'Gamecock and Other Schemes'

February 21, 2007 12:45 PM | Simon Carless

- [GSW just got handed an interesting opinion piece on the newly announced Gamecock from new anony-game blogger 'Grassroots Gamemaster', He explains of his anonymity: "Naturally, I must protect my identity and the location of my Secret Gamemastering Treefort - lest evil-doers attack me..." - but does appear to be a professional game designer. And he has some thought-provoking things to say about why splitting games up into a film-like 'individual creator' business model is the way to go, even for perceived 'indies' like Gamecock.]

"Maybe you've heard about Gamecock - the new publisher that is going to focus on an unmet need - getting indie games out there. Their entry into the world of game publishing is sorely needed. Well...

I appreciate Gamecock's entry into this business but, you know what, in a way they are still playing yesterday's game. They say we all need to lighten up. I say we need to grow up. I laud their courage to jump into the fray, but I don't need to be talked to like a teenage kid who needs sugar pops to convince him to eat his vegetables. I am a game designer who just wants a square deal. Talk to me straight. All this jumping around says to me you aren't entirely convinced of what you're doing. If you're self-confident you don't need a chicken suit.

The main question I want to ask is this: How is this Gamecock business model coming to terms with the reality of outsourcing and the complexity of game development and production today? You honestly think an indie game developer can do all and be all like it could in the 8-bit days? You need to come to terms with the reality on the ground now; and that is outsourcing."

Top 20 Free Adventure Games Of 2006

February 21, 2007 7:43 AM | Simon Carless

- Recently posted on the invaluable Indygamer blog, a list of the Top 20 freeware adventure games from 2006, listing all kinds of interesting AGS and other-style adventure games from this fascinating niche community.

A couple of highlights: #1 is Duty & Beyond: "Your 'quest' in Duty and Beyond is simply to deliver a pizza. But who knew that the adventure would take you on an epic journey across several exotic locations in search of the mysterious customer. Simply a winner in the content category, with multiple endings to achieve depending on your final score. Fans of classic LucasArts games (especially Maniac Mansion) will love this one to bits."

Also v. interesting, Automation: "Automation is a winner of the first One Room One Week Competition, in which all entries are small games made in a relatively short period. The story is centered around a bloke who met an accident while transporting a rather expensive droid, and must attempt to recover his experiment back in one piece or risk losing his job." Many good games in here!

GameTappers, Patrolling Nightly For Classic Games

February 21, 2007 2:41 AM | Simon Carless

- Thanks to RoushiMSX's LJ post on the new site, I'm pointed to GameTappers.net, which is a new unofficial messageboard for geeked-out users of Turner's GameTap service.

Now, disclaimer, as you may recall, GameTap is sponsoring the IGF, which I help run, but I'm a bit of a fan of GT completely separately of that, so it's nice to see people getting down and dirty and chatting about hidden gems on the service, from Hoyle Card Games to Jagged Alliance 2 and beyond, blimey.

[Incidentally, the aforementioned RoushiMSX has been getting all excited about Interstate '76 appearing on GameTap, noting: "The game has aged pretty well, and the version on GameTap is the version with D3D and textures on the terrain. Sadly, it's locked at 640x480, but after playing for a few minutes it won't bother you none. The game is still incredibly fun to play a decade after it came out, though there's a few little things you should be aware of going in." And then he lists them!]

Play With Fire's Design Document Published

February 20, 2007 9:38 PM | Simon Carless

- You know how you don't often see actual, real game design documents available for public viewing? Well, over on Gamasutra, we've managed to post the original design doc for 'Play With Fire', the previously GSW-mentioned puzzle title that's now being published by Manifesto Games.

It's interesting because the design overview (while it's not perfect, f'sure') is pretty similar to the kind of design docs I used to write, in terms of encapsulating the game both from a pitching and practical point of view - and Play With Fire (aka Fireball/Hidama) is, after all, intriguingly abstract - has anyone played it much? What do you think?

Here's the overview: "The player controls a ball of fire, and traverses a landscape made of blocks of different materials. As the player sets fire to these blocks, they grow hotter, and can set fire to more and more different types of blocks. The fireball the player controls can also rise up in height and the hotter the player gets, the higher they can jump in this fashion."

Handy Sez: 'Gamix Is Crazy Stuff!'

February 20, 2007 4:26 PM | Simon Carless

- [Yay, a guest post, and the second in a raggedy series of 'Alex Handy Sez' missives, in which the former Game Developer editor and current Computer Games Magazine/Massive/otherstuff contributor riffs on something or other - cos we like his crazy hair!]

"Hey guys! Guess what! There's a new game console!

Stop laughing. This isn't an investment scam, and it's not another bothersome phone that you talk into sideways. There really is a potentially viable fourth party at the table. And you probably already own it.

Gamix is an open hardware specification, that amounts to a 2-year-old Windows PC. 1.8 Ghz, 512 MBs of RAM, 128 MB graphics card, and a USB thumb drive for saved games.

See, you already have one, don't you?

So, Gamix's hardware also calls for a software requirement as well: each game disc is a bootable Linux environment. So, while there's no Direct X, there is SDL, OpenGL, and all that cool open source game development stuff... Hey, Gamix ain't perfect.

Development environment issues, aside, Gamix games themselves are the draw here. You buy a Gamix game, pop it in your Windows PC, and reboot the machine. Then, bam, it boots up behaving like a regular game console: nothing but the game.

I inherited a stack of these blue DVD-boxed games from a certain magazine editor that hates hearing about Linux games. Many of them are staid old Linux classics, like SuperTux, NeverPutt, and Lost Labyrinth. But some of the others here, I'd never heard of. NoGravity is a nifty space combat game that's causing me to pilfer a joystick from the ACCRC "free shelf" this afternoon. Elsewhere on the docket is Kiki the Nano Bot, which seems a little buggy on first glance, but is certainly a new take on the platformer genre.

Like all open source software, there are still bugs and kinks and generally bizarre things going on all over. But you've got to admire the approach here. But the spark is here. As it says on Gamix's Web site, software sales incur no royalties for the use of the Gamix logo. Hardware sales include $1 per unit distributed. That's a distribution model developers can get behind. When you think about it, this is just a return to the days of the Apple II or Commodore 64: those systems booted right into their games, afterall.

I think this is just about the best way possible to distribute an indie game at conferences, yard sales, out of the back of a Volvo, or wherever the underground, grass-roots stuff starts.And remember, as my friend Andre LaMothe is fond of pointing out, you can sell games as impulse items in grocery stores and bargain bins. Mom and pop still play MahJong and Solitaire. As most lInux games are GPL, you could make a killing boxing up and selling the things. Unscrupulous? Only if you don't compensate the lead developers!"

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