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Archive For March, 2007

GameSetCompetition: GDC Magnetic Poetry Giveaway!

March 23, 2007 11:48 AM | Simon Carless

- There has already been some marvelling at the Game Developers Conference 2007 speaker gift, which is "...a DVD clamshell with four sets of DVD-shaped magnetic poetry, the words conforming to themes from this year's conference [and random 'hilarious' game-related words!]" - and a little stand to put them on if you don't have a fridge handy, actually.

Anyhow, we managed to grab five sets of the DVD-case stored magnetic poetry from the wonderful GDC organizers who we sit near (thanks Jamil and Meggan!), and we're going to give them away in a stupendous GameSetCompetition! The question is simple enough:

"What's the best phrase, sentence, or nonsensical chain of words you can make by using the words on the special GDC magnetic poetry pieces?"

- You can see the full word line-up by clicking here or on the picture to the right - as I noted before: "A bunch of the words were actually contributed by myself and some others from Game Developer and Gamasutra editorial, hence some suitably dumb stuff like 'Riiidge Racer', 'Megaton', 'Dropdabomb', 'O RLY', 'shmup', and some others I can't remember right now. Also 'sensible stuff' like Itagaki, Wright, Schafer, Sid Meier's, shipdate, script, physics, texture, and so on."

Also, now I look at it, I remember I included GAF (oh dear!) - and also I think we didn't include enough 'doing' words like 'praised', 'beat', 'encouraged', etc. Oh well. But you can still get some good stuff out of this. Here's my completely random and quite possibly libelous example: "Drunk Jaffe Slipped Kojima The Twink"!

Anyhow, please enter by submitting your chain of words in the comments below at any time before Thursday, March 29th at noon PST, and include either an email address or a link to a website containing your email address. And may the dumbest answers win! [Thx for pics, Boyer!]

Ozymandias Muses On PS3 Memory Use

March 23, 2007 6:45 AM | Simon Carless

- You've got to hand it to Microsoft's gaming platform strategy guy Andre 'Ozymandias' Vrignaud - he's certainly been getting into the PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 conflict on his weblog recently - and he's asking some interesting, if Microsoft-centric questions, such as how much memory is reserved for OS on PlayStation 3.

So, apparently, all of the Xbox 360 system information (dashboard/online) fits into 32mb, resident at all times. Pete Isensee at Microsoft comments of the alternative: "For comparison, PS3 developers have to deal with a system that has memory split into two 256MB banks, one of which is reserved for graphics only. A large portion of both the memory banks are reserved for the system. On top of that, games that want to support other features, like friends lists or in-game commerce, take an additional memory hit."

He continues: "[An Ars Technica postl indicates that a total of 96MB is reserved for the system on PS3. [An Innerbits post indicates that 9MB is required for friends lists (and 60MB for in-game commerce!). If those numbers are correct, a PS3 title using friends lists functionality has 512-96-9 = 407MB available, 73MB less than an Xbox 360 title using the same features."

However, more than one commenter is skeptical about how this is presented - Parveen Kaler comments: "That is very one-sided analysis. There is a space vs. speed trade-off here. The PS3 doesn't require as much memory for certain tasks. For example, progressive meshes are a viable technique on the [PlayStation 3's] SPUs, whereas it is not very viable on the 360's cores." Later on, apparently blocked from commenting more by NDAs, he comments: "My final point is that this argument is all overblown fanboy fodder. This particular issue is a speed bump not an iceberg. Both systems have pros and cons. Developers will exploit the pros of both systems and mitigate the cons of both systems."

GameSetLinks: From Green To Mutant League

March 23, 2007 1:42 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah yes, those GameSetLinks - there's a few things hanging around that are worth posting before we get to the weekend, spanning follow-ups to previous posts through brand-new and hitherto undiscovered rubbish. Which you will like, honest:

- Firstly, an interesting comment follow-up to a recent GameSetWatch story about Guitar Hero 2 for Xbox 360 'going green'. Commenter T. Ryan Arnold notes: "I work in the Mastering Lab at THQ, so I would consider myself sort of an expert on things going Gold, Green, and everything in between. Here's another intersting tidbit of information. Back in the early Xbox days, builds submitted to Microsoft on DLT tape for submission would have a test run burned onto special submission DVD media which happened to be GREEN. Back then I'd hear a lot of devs talking about "going green", meaning that the final build had been burned to green submission discs. Most submission to Microsoft is electronic now...so [the naming] might just be a holdover to the days when "going green" meant that you basically had a build that was in the final stages before manufacturing." Useful!

- This is not game-related in content at all, but Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw just updated his weblog with a great book recommendation: "The finest Robert Louis Stevenson novel I hadn’t read, The Master of Ballantrae (1889) blends the high-seas piracy of Kidnapped! and Treasure Island, with Jekyll & Hyde’s dark doubled vision of humanity. It seems to have had a strong influence on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer (1909), of which I was vividly reminded during certain long discussions in a ship’s cabin during a storm. And toward the stripped-down end of the novel, it turns into a grim frontier adventure reminiscent of Antonia Bird’s sublime Ravenous." So there.

- Gamasutra news guy Jason Dobson has posted a new interview with Atlus' Nich Maragos, also a former Gamasutra news guy (aha!) over at Snackbar Games, discussing the upcoming Etrian Odyssey - and Maragos explained of the first-person DS RPG: "What we hope to do... is put a little of the spark back into the genre. It's a very beautiful game, set in vibrant forest mazes that are a little more interesting to look at than your average medieval sewer. It's got colorful, bold designs for the monsters and characters that make it more appealing to people who have grown up with Japanese RPGs, rather than their American PC brethren."

- If you haven't seen Jeremy Parish's review for Cooking Mama: Cook Off! for the Wii, then you should do so. It starts: "[Editor's Note: The following teleplay is a transcript of the pilot episode of Iron Chef: Video Games, which was inexplicably dropped by the Food Network before its on-air debut.]", it's got an entirely goofy concept, and guys, guys, it's actually fun to read/view. Why can't more reviews be fun to read? That's the eternal question, of course.

- An interesting YouTube find, here - someone has posted a VHS-recorded video from BS Zelda no Densetsu, the "...expanded version of The Legend of Zelda that was released for the Satellaview attachment for the Super Famicom in Japan." Most bizarrely: "The game was divided into four weekly episodes. These episodes were played live, at the same time as a videogame tips show was running on the satellite network." Since the game can never be played live again, this is the only evidence we'll have of precisely how the game was shown through the Satellaview. [Via Frank, who adds: "They used cable television to stream "game data", which was actually live-broadcast, looping audio, with data downloaded via modem."]

- Worth pointing out at Gamasutra today - Alistair Wallis' profile of Mutant League Football's Michael Mendheim, explaining the genesis of the game: "Mendheim’s growing status in the industry saw his connections grow as well. Based on a love of American football and EA’s John Madden Football series of games, he contacted a producer at the company, and pitched an idea he had for a twist on the sport. “I loved Madden Football,” he enthuses, “it was and still is my favorite game. Football, science fiction, violence, and a touch of dark humor all seemed like a natural fit. Mix these elements up with the right amount of strategy and you end up with a blood and guts football game that makes people laugh and think.”"

- Kotaku's look at the upcoming movie Reign Over Me and its apparently intelligent use of Shadow Of The Colossus in the plot is a nice piece of reporting - we'll see how the movie turns out, but the point is good: "Reign Over Me must be one of the first Hollywood films, if not the first, to deal with games thematically and intelligently. While other industry pundits try to figure out how to take the latest blockbuster game and turn it into a movie or vice versa, Reign Over Me already has an insightful leg up: Let the games speak for themselves. Characters bond through games and lose themselves in them, only to find themselves again. They enjoy the simple act of play."

- Another Experimental Gameplay Workshop game I'm just waking up to (thanks Gillen/Kumar!) is 'The Truth About Game Development', in which: "You play the part of a game producer and your job is to produce the best game you can as cheaply as possible. Mostly you just try to motivate the lazy ass game developers by killing them." Nuff said, really - all of the Kloonigames 'done in a week' games are pretty awesome, so just look around!

Confirmed - You Can Now Touch The DS Dead!

March 22, 2007 8:41 PM | Simon Carless

- You may remember that I had an in-depth trawl of GameFly's pre-release information a few weeks back, happening upon the following entry: "- Touch The Dead (Eidos, April 30th) - sounds like a logical title! Are there any Japanese zombie touching DS games that Eidos could import, or is this a whole new title? No info online at all."

Well, information has now broken (huzzah!), and MTV's Stephen Totilo has a cute write-up of the game (scroll down) as part of his Eidos game inspection festivities in New York. He notes: ""Touch the Dead," which Eidos initially planned to call "Dead and Furious," is a first-person shooter on rails. You don't control where the character moves, you just tap the touch screen in the right spots to shoot at the zombies. When you're out of ammo, you drag bullets to the gun."

What's more: "In later levels, the zombies throw their heads at you. The player has to touch those craniums into oblivion. The game, which is slated for May, is running off a crude 3-D engine. It may have been the worst-looking game that Eidos was showing. But it doesn't matter. It had me using a stylus to tap zombies to their doom. So I crown it the best new game I played Tuesday."

[Anyhow, looks like the game, instead of being imported from Japan, as I conjectured, is heavily Japanese-inspired but made by Dream On Studio, a French developer spun off from Infogrames Lyon. The studio also makes Winnie The Pooh's Rumbly Tumbly Adventure - bit of a stylistic contrast, there!]

How XBLA, XNA Development Works

March 22, 2007 3:39 PM | Simon Carless

- I believe that we have an interview with them next week on Gamasutra, but in the meantime, Torpex Games' Jamie Fristrom has posted some fun facts about XNA and Xbox Live Arcade on his GameDevBlog personal blog.

Torpex are making Schizoid, which is mini-previewed on 1UP and is "...the first game to officially make the jump from XNA development to Xbox Live Arcade" - it's described as "a co-op action game in which teamwork matters like never before, as gamers and their friend or AI ally protect each other from barrages of glowing enemies." Should (hopefully!) be out before the end of the year.

In the blog, Fristrom explains the various approval processes for Xbox Live Arcade (handy!), talks about the advantages and disadvantages of XNA (also handy!), and concludes by answering the query 'What you think of the cost of doing "casual" games...?' with: "I prefer the term "downloadable" because our players aren't going to be casual. And, well, hey, it's cheap. Really cheap. A story went over Reuters today that said my alma mater - Spider-Man 3 - may cost $35 million. Schizoid will cost over two orders of magnitude less than that. And I believe it'll be just as fun. You could make over a hundred Schizoids for the cost of a Spider-Man 3! "

Muscle-Controlled Gaming For Mobile Phones?

March 22, 2007 10:37 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at a Forum Nokia blog, Finnish developer and researcher Arto Holopainen has been talking about his company's physically operated game controller experiments, specifically the "idea of using muscles to control wirelessly mobile phone applications like games" - intriguing!

He explains: "Since the first case study [.PDF link], the muscle controlling has advanced quite far. Now the actual muscle controller is kind of wearable “sleeve” that is made of skin tight material like sport clothes. The “sleeve” has built in textile electrodes to measure EMG signal from muscles as well as integrated small Bluetooth enabled bio-amplifier to collect and to forward the information wirelessly."

He continues: "You just wear the sleeve and start using it. MuscleControl application in mobile phone receives muscle activity and translates it to phone commands. Instead of creating own games that uses the “sleeve” in closed-box like fashion, the beauty of MuscleControl is to act more like a joystick driver that can be used to control other applications. So basically you can use and configure it to commands you like. Nice isn’t it?"

What's more: "In addition to just for fun, the application can be harnessed for more serious use like muscle rehabilitation (games for health) and for help to disabled persons (to activate e.g. phone call with certain muscle activity). And of course one obvious usage is the sport exercises. Wouldn’t it be nice to monitor your muscle activity during your training and to get to report afterwards? There are some many applications for MuscleControl that I’m just wondering why this hasn’t been done before..." Neat stuff.

[Actually, speaking of the 'alternative mobile gaming' area, sister site GamesOnDeck has just posted a neat feature about proximity-based gaming from Tom Soderlund, creator of the game BotFighters.]

Game Review Scores - Fixed Forever!

March 22, 2007 5:34 AM | Simon Carless

- I've been quite enjoying the blog posts of Dan 'Elektro' Amrich of Official Xbox Magazine recently, and one of the most recent ones is titled 'I will now fix the review score problem', and, uhh, does, kinda.

Dan explains: "Recently OXM took some heat for giving Crackdown a 7 out of 10. OMG WE HATED IT, said the readers. But when OXM gives a first-party game an 8 or above, OMG THEY R TEH BIAS. So. After careful consideration, here’s the answer..." What? What? We feel a revelation coming on!

Wow, it's genius. "All games get one of two scores: 7 or 8. As already determined by the audience, 7 means the reviewer hated it. An 8 means the reviewer loved it. There will be no complaining, no arguments about whether a stealth game that gets a 9.8 is actually superior to a shooter game that gets a 9.9. You get a 7 or an 8."

He explains why: "It’s a very personal but extremely binary decision at its core. Pull out your wallet and tell me it’s different: It’s worth your money or it’s not worth your money." You know, I see the sarcasm, but he also kinda has a point, right? I've been liking 1UP's Retro Round-up reviews, which do exactly this - thumbs up or thumbs down. Maybe all reviews should go that way, hmm?

Inside Humble's The Marriage

March 22, 2007 12:30 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at Arthouse Games, they have the scoop: " Rod Humble just released his experimental artgame The Marriage for public consumption."

So, what is it? " With no sound, no music, and barely-there graphics, this game is clearly not meant to dazzle your senses, but instead meant to intrigue your mind (and its low-fi nature is not a cop-out---Rod Humble's day job is at EA, so he has plenty of experience making high-fi games)."

Arthouse Games' Jason Rohrer continues of the title, which was showcased at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at GDC this year: "I have played The Marriage quite a bit, and so has my spouse. We've spent some time talking about what it might mean. The game, and my experience discussing it, have reminded me of experiences at galleries of modern art---for each piece, I stare at it, scratch my head a bit, and try to mine the piece for meaning of some kind. I'm also reminded of watching a David Lynch movie with friends---we'd spend the rest of the evening discussing what the movie might mean."

Toronto Indie Game Jam 2 For The Win!

March 21, 2007 7:24 PM | Simon Carless

- So we ran the results of the first competition last year, but the guys at the Toronto Indie Game Jam have slung us info on their new TO Jam 2 'make a game quick' festival, taking place in just a few weeks. Indies in Toronto should check this out:

"This is the official announcement of TO Jam 2. What's this Jam deal all about you ask? You attempt to make a game in one weekend. You say it can't be done? Well it has been done! Thi's years event promises to be bigger, more exciting and prestigious than last year."

The event "will be held in the downtown Toronto area" and "will happen May 4-6, 2007" - there's going to be more information on the forums in due course, and considering that completely wacky games like Kalishnikitty came out of it last year, we're looking forward to seeing what they (and you!) do this time round.

Queen Bee Of ARGs, Jane McGonigal Talks

March 21, 2007 2:22 PM | Simon Carless

- Realized that this was posted on sister site Gamasutra, was very GSW-worthy, and I didn't link it - Bonnie Ruberg chatted to 'alternate reality game' creator Jane McGonigal, known for her work at 42 Entertainment on ilovebees and Last Call Poker, during GDC.

This was a pretty interesting exchange, for one: "One of my most rewarding game design experiences has been the gameplay for cemeteries (Last Call Poker), the Activision-commissioned project for the release of Gun with 42 Entertainment. I did the game design for the cemeteries. We had a lot of goals with that, some were related to Activision, their interest in exploring the history of the game and the real American folklore of the game."

McGonigal notes: "Part of it was also we realized we were going to send players to cemeteries, and, well, once people go to cemeteries to play a game, they’ll probably go back again some day for something not quite as fun. It was the idea that we could read some sort of social experience and meaning system in a cemetery that would make those later moments somehow more bearable." This is definitely a bit out there, but I do actually appreciate the sentiment.

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