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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 April, 2007

Playfirst's Chocolatier Woos Us With Chocs

April 30, 2007 8:34 PM | Simon Carless

- Always looking for a fun PR angle around here, and Diner Dash publisher Playfirst has provided one by sending us a special 'Chocolatier'-branded gourmet chocolate bar and 'golden ticket' (containing a free press-only download link for the game) to promote their upcoming PC casual chocolate-making tycoon game (!) of the same name.

Not much info on the web yet apart from the aforementioned Gamezebo preview (I think the press releases hit tomorrow!), but from that: "Fans of Tradewinds will be pleased to hear that Chocolatier has a lot in common with that swashbuckling franchise, except that instead of being a freewheeling privateer, you're a budding chocolate baron who gets to travel around the world collecting exotic ingredients, turning them into delectable treats, and then selling the chocolaty creations at local boutiques."

How does that work, then? Sounds like shades of Ghirardelli, and I'm really starting to like some of the creativity in new-school casual games: "You start off in San Francisco, where you create a name and customized logo for your business. Then, Evangeline Baumeister introduces you to the art of chocolate making based on the recipes of her ancestors. You'll start with only one factory and a handful of recipes, which are all that remain of the Baumeister fortune. It's up to you to make some cash, re-open the factories, and most importantly hunt down all the lost family recipes."

[UPDATE: Aha, the official Chocolatier page is open on PlayFirst's website, including a downloadable trial version of the game. "Do you have what it takes to conquer the world through chocolate?" Dunno, I like eating it though!]

2007 Game Developers Choice Voting - Deconstructed

April 30, 2007 3:30 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at the UK Guardian Gamesblog, editor Aleks Krotoski has been talking about "the findings from the data fiddling [she's] been doing with the International Game Developers Association's Game Developers Choice Awards nominations from 2007".

This most recently manifested itself in a post about regional variations in the 'Best Game' nomination voting, which Gears Of War actually won for after the finalists were decided, for those with a rusty memory.

The whole concept, courtesy Aleks: "I was curious about the cultural differences (and similarities) between the countries who voted when it came to what was perceived as worthy of gongs for Best Game, Game Design, Visual Arts, Innovation, Audio, Writing, Technology and Character Design, and whether there were any trends which emerged."

So, she digs in to the Best Game to find out what countries liked what: "As a reminder, the five games which were nominated by the most countries for this year's GDCA awards were:

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (10 countries)
Gears of War (7 countries)
Company of Heroes (6 countries)
Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (8 countries)
Guitar Hero 2 (4 countries)."

This is pretty neat, and there's a series of other results in previous posts, including a look at the overall presentation given at the Women In Games Conference in Newport, all worth checking out too.

No Gay Dwarf Marriage In Middle Earth?

April 30, 2007 10:24 AM | Simon Carless

- So, Salon.com has just posted an article entitled 'Why can't gay dwarves get married in Middle-earth?', and subtitled: 'Video games have been ahead of the real world in accepting same-sex marriage. Why doesn't a new online "Lord of the Rings" game allow it?'

So, is the piece a useful half-elf or a bit of a cave troll? It's actually an extremely well-researched, well thought-out piece which touches on a lot of the relevant issues regarding LGBT-relevant content in games, and even gets Rockstar on the hook to talk about the same-sex kissing in Bully:

"Rodney Walker, a spokesman for Rockstar, says the Rockstar team thinks of their games not like films, with static storylines, but as worlds that allow players to make their own choices, and Rockstar tries to shut down as few of those choices as possible. "If you're planning to take a vacation to California, you don't say to yourself, 'Where am I not going?'" Walker says. "When people talk about what's allowed in a video game, it's not about permission, it's about experience ... The thing that's so exciting about video games, which is why we think the medium is so popular right now, is because ... you can have an actual individual experience.""

Anyhow, apparently the reason why they're not allowing single-sex marriage in The Lord Of The Rings Online is to do with squirrel color: "When fans complained on the message board about an erroneous squirrel color, Turbine promptly corrected the mistake. Turbine had released a screen shot of a forest scene featuring a gray squirrel, but Tolkien once wrote in a letter that he hated gray squirrels." Jeez, that Tolkien, what a squirrel bigot! Uhm, OK, this isn't the exact reason, but it's an extension of the authenticity/Middle Earth argument, so it all flows along similar slightly cuckoo lines, apparently.

Why Pogo Island Is An Interesting Exercise In Connectivity

April 30, 2007 5:20 AM | Simon Carless

- A relatively unheralded Nintendo DS release of recent weeks has been EA's multi-game puzzle title Pogo Island, in which you can "... Hone your skills at five classic Pogo games, including Poppit!, Word Whomp, Squelchies, Tri-Peaks Solitaire, and Phlinx."

The 'Pogo' of which this speaks is EA's tremendously successful casual game website - as I speak (8.10pm PST on a Sunday night) there's allegedly 261,000 people online), and, though the game itself is on the average side, featuring basic-looking DS versions of the Puzzle Bobble and Bookworm-style titles which are a big hit on Pogo - the points-based connectivity is very interesting.

As the IGN review notes: "For those who use Pogo.com, EA added a pretty cool ability to upload earned tokens from within the adventure to your [Pogo] account using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. This function links the DS game with the Web-based network in a limited fashion, but if you're always on Pogo.com trying to earn tokens to enter their weekly cash drawings, this is a nice way to bulk up your odds of winning the prize money."

Of course, the game itself isn't that hot, and none of the titles even have online multiplayer connectivity. But the idea of earning points on your handheld to do something on the web (or away from your DS), with information transfer via DS Wi-Fi, seems like a potent one - and for hardcore Pogo addicts, that alone may be enough to get them to go and buy EA's product. More of this, plz!

GameSetLinks: Ah Ha Ha, It's Raiden 3 Hilarity!

April 30, 2007 12:24 AM | Simon Carless

- So it's totally Sunday night, and here's a compendium of odd, amusing, or otherwise interesting video game links from around the Web, starting with the following:

- Over at Shoot The Core, Posty has heard about some unfortunate issues with Raiden 3, the PS2 shooter that's newly released in the States: "Japanese games swap the functions of the "x" and "o" buttons - so "o" is used to confirm a selection on a menu screen, and "x" is used to go back. 99% of the time, developers Americanize this setup when translating a game for US release - not the case in Raiden 3. [Posty's local game] store had all three copies of Raiden 3 returned becuase "the game locked up on the memory card setup screen, and wouldn't progress any farther."" But it was actually that you have to press circle, and there's no prompt. DOH!

- Over at Sokay.net, they have a postmortem of Flash game 'Little Loki Escapes from Hell', and it's an interesting analysis: "Little Loki Escapes from Hell, which I developed at Liquid Generation, was my first experience developing a reflex based platformer game. It was the result of a bit of brainstorming and a good deal of freedom during the calm storm between projects. It was the type of project I’d been wanting to develop for a while and I dived in. I invite you to read about a story of its development." Calm storm? Hee!

- There was a week's worth of Hellgate London previews/related articles on 1UP last week, but I particularly liked a retro look at Diablo, Diablo II, and the Lord Of Destruction expansion pack, and they're notably big on the third of these: "Bought by millions and played by a good portion of them to this day, Lord of Destruction redefines staying power, a trait few would have predicted this game would have when it was released almost six years ago"

- Retro history alert! Steve Wetherill has posted a page about classic '80s UK developer Odin Computer Graphics, where he worked before moving out to Vegas to do the Westwood/Command & Conquer thing, and there's some awesome unanswered questions there: "* What is Lindsey from reception’s last name? * What is Dave, the original Nodes of Yesod programmer’s last name? * What the heck [does] PLOD mean (Dougie?) * Did we miss anybody/any games?"

- How important are single-issue sales of Game Informer to GameStop, as opposed to the normal 'trade in games, get a subscription' dealio? Well, according to Xemu, not very: "I had to argue with the clerk at the local Gamestop for almost 20 minutes to convince him to sell me a single copy of Game Informer (the one with GTA IV on it, natch). You'd think I asked him to let me walk off with my pockets full of stolen merchandise. I'm sure it was not a useful investment of my time compared to just paying for the subscription to Game Informer, which seems to be what they are hard wired to provide instead. But it was the princple of the thing. It galled me that they were insisting I could only get the magazine with the subscription, which I knew to be patently false. It took the guy calls to three other Gamestops before he could figure out how to do it."

Everybody's Talking About DS Style

April 29, 2007 7:17 PM | Simon Carless

- So, Square Enix is releasing this new line of software called 'DS Style' in Japan, with lots of mainstream Touch Generations-type content like 'Why Not Listen to Classical Music on the DS' (pictured - from Ouendan creators Inis, no less!), 'Flower Blooming DS: Gardening Life', and 'DS Yoga Lessons: You Can Start Today'. Blimey.

Anyhow, SiliconEra's Spencer Yip went and asked some online game writers about this very concept, and Game Developer's own Brandon Sheffield is the first quoted personage: "This is Square-Enix’s entry for a demographic that Nintendo lured into games for the first time. That being non-traditional gamers, the likes of the elderly, housewives, and people of that nature. I don’t like to call these ‘non-games’, because that that doesn’t describe what they are, it described what they’re not. These dry roasted peanuts I have on my desk are also non-games."

Spencer also chips in: "Like everyone else I think these are going to sell well in Japan too. I’m really not sure how a DS travel guide would sell in North America, but Square-Enix’s classical music program might be worth localizing. Maybe Square-Enix could team up with a University and use it as a supplementary learning aid. Either way I want to see it come over since Inis is behind it." Yessir!

When Is A Game Blog Not A True Game Blog?

April 29, 2007 2:05 PM | Simon Carless

- When it's a game blog that pirates its content, of course. I'd been aware for a while (by checking Technorati, and from a couple of tip-offs) that there's at least one blog out there which just reprints GameSetWatch posts wholesale, but I was horrified to find out this weekend that several commenters/authors have started posting in these fake blogs, because they don't know where the story originated.

Specifically, Pro Game News, which also reprints content from Joystiq and Xbox 360 Fanboy, is the worst offender - I found GSW story subject William Volk commenting on the ProGameNews version of his story, as did Psychochild recently, ack! This is very not cool.

Another offender is TheGamerBlog.com - and sure, they just repost wholesale from RSS feeds, and I guess we should be flattered that they like GSW enough to nick our stuff, but enough is enough. Other bloggers should probably check those sites to see if they need to take action.

I've taken the first step of contacting the offending domain owners through their WHOIS contact info, and if I don't hear back soon, I'll presumably take it to the next step (ISP abuse contact and/or lawyers). [Also I'm hoping that this post gets reposted on the offending sites, which will be most amusing!]

[UPDATE: Aha, this post indeed makes it to the front page of ProGameNews. PGN, 'You are a pirate!'. Looking forward to hearing from you. As for TheGamerBlog, they wrote back pretty quickly, commenting: "TheGamerBlog has killed the autoblog feature. We were unaware this wordpress plugin was doing something wrong."

Looks like they're talking about a plugin by Elliott Back which is referenced here, it's called 'Autoblog', and it's explained: "This plugin is potentially dangerous: it converts xml into Wordpress posts. It could be used to run an aggregator site, or it might be used by spammers to push high-profit keywords into their blogs." Great!

And to be clear - 'reblogging' by referencing another site and linking to it is part of weblogs (see the Eyebeam reBlog or any linklog) but these automated scrapers - which both of the above mentioned blogs clearly are - are unfortunately lame attempts to make money from Google Adwords, etc, by just plain stealing content.]

The Return Of Speedball: Part Deux

April 29, 2007 9:24 AM | Simon Carless

- Was vaguely aware of news of another remake of classic Amiga futuristic sports title Speedball, but didn't know how far along it was until Kieron Gillen popped his bobbly little head up and previewed the new Speedball 2 PC remake for Eurogamer.

Ever-specific, Gillen provides "...two main impressions: 1) It's not Speedball 2 yet, in terms of polished playability. The player's speeds are slightly misjudged. The sliding tackle doesn't slide enough. The sense of HARD COLLISIONS BETWEEN STEEL-ARMOURED MEN isn't quite there. 2) I couldn't stop playing it."

Of course, the Bitmap Brothers really have fallen by the wayside a bit since the original, and there's been at least one slightly unfortunate remake. There's a nod to this in the preview, discussing the new Parisian developers: "You may remember Kylotonn from Ironstorm and Bet On Soldier, the first-person shooters. Which, at least for me, is a strong mark against them. Faith is more restored by the presence of The Bitmap Brothers' Mike Montgomery, who's supervising development." So.... we'll see, eh?

Muscling In On The Gangs Of GDC

April 29, 2007 4:22 AM | Simon Carless

- Probably the least reported-on event by the media at this year's Game Developer's Conference was the 'Gangs Of GDC' real-life game, created by NY game developer Gamelab (Diner Dash, Arcadia), and described by them as "the world’s first... massively multiplayer mobile phone fighting game or MMMPFG" - so we got them to write a postmortem of it for Gamasutra.

Co-creators Gregory Trefry and Mattia Romeo explain the general notion in the intro: "The theme was that rival gangs such as the Match Three Boyz and the MMOFOs are vying for control of the GDC by fighting over three neighborhoods scattered throughout the conference center. Each neighborhood consisted of a large flat-screen display set up in a high traffic area of the conference showing a grid of nine blocks."

Continuing: "Players would dial up a number [using their cellphone] displayed on the TV, and be immediately placed on one of the blocks where they would either fight any rivals that were on the block or else flip the block over to their gang’s control. When fights occurred players resolved them through a simple rock-paper-scissors game... every five minutes each neighborhood would be scored and the gang that controlled the most blocks in a neighborhood would gain points for each block they controlled."

It's a really neat idea, and as always, I definitely appreciate the effort the Gamelab folks put in, in order to "...provide our fellow developers with a chance to interact with each other while diverting themselves from the whirlwind of activity that is the GDC." A lot of people are likely too busy to even play, but I know that those who do really get into it, and it's another part of the slightly eclectic GDC flavor, I reckon.

Game Market Dominance Through... Charity?

April 28, 2007 11:19 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at HDRLying, there's an intriguing new editorial entitled 'Giving Back: Market Dominance through Charity', and it posits that the more freebies or pseudo-freebies given out through 'philanthropic marketing', the more beloved a game company may become.

Prime example? Club Nintendo in Japan, he says: "The genius in Club Nintendo is two fold: not only are all products on the site (including figures, Nintendo Music CDs, and even games) exclusive to Club Nintendo, but members that gain a certain number of points over the course of a year are made Platinum Members. Platinum members then choose a free gift from a list at the end of the year, which is then sent to them, free of charge."

The Sony Game Advisory Panel is also mentioned, which is "...an invitation only network that allows Sony gamers to post their game collections, blog about their thoughts on gaming, participate in pivotal gaming surveys, and more. The whole idea is made to make the gamer feel special; to make them feel as if they have the ability to change the course of game development. Who knows? Maybe they actually do." So how about it? Can you 'buy' loyalty through programs like this?

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