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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

Mega Man 2600 - The Saga Begins!

April 26, 2007 5:02 PM | Simon Carless

- We only just pointed out the full gallery for the I Am 8-Bit game art show in Los Angeles, but longtime GSW buddy Ryan has just posted footage of Mega Man 2600, a game made especially for the show, over on GameTrailers.com.

Comments are already semi-slavering for the bizarro Atari 2600 'tribute' version of the Capcom classic - with significant changed-up gameplay: "That's awesome. And it actually resembles Mega Man 1! I so want to try this out soon. I'm guessing you hold up for jumps and press the joystick button to shoot, right? Still cool."

Anyhow, I can't really find much other information on Mega Man 2600 - who programmed it? Is there going to be a homebrew release? Is there a webpage anywhere with more information on it? I look to you, kind GSW commenters, to find the answer.

[EDIT: The GameTrailers folks have passed on the name of the author, David Galloway, who also co-wrote recent Atari 2600 homebrew title BliP Football, described thusly: "Faithfully mimicked in appearance, audio and gameplay, BLiP Football recreates the experience of playing the original electronic football [released in 1977]."

COLUMN: Game Collector's Melancholy - Clock Tower

April 26, 2007 2:01 PM |

[‘A Game Collector’s Melancholy’ is a bi-weekly column by Jeffrey Fleming that follows the subtle pleasures and gnawing anxieties of video game collecting. This week we take a look at the Clock Tower series. Games loved by some, hated by a few, and ignored by most.]

I’ve always had special fondness for horror themed video games. Perhaps because horror game designers show a greater cultural awareness and are more willing to incorporate influences from other media into their work. Most video games seem to be influenced by other video games but horror is a genre with a distinct literary and cinematic heritage that is quite separate from the world of Mario.

The First Fear

clocktower0.jpgMost people know of the Clock Tower games on the PlayStation, but the series actually began on the Super Famicom. Created in 1995 by Human Entertainment, Clock Tower told the story of a teenage girl named Jennifer who was orphaned under mysterious circumstances. She and her friends from the orphanage are sent to live with a wealthy family whose gothic mansion lies isolated in the mountains of Norway. Upon arriving at the mansion things quickly turn sinister and Jennifer’s friends are murdered one by one in a variety of cruel ways.

Clock Tower resembled a point and click adventure but undermined the measured puzzle solving with a wicked twist. Periodically, a maniacal killer called the Scissorman burst into the scene and began chasing Jennifer. With no means of fighting back, she could only flee from Scissorman and hopefully find a safe place to conceal herself until the pursuer moved on. It was a unique style of play that called to mind frantic games of hide and seek or the desperate flights of nightmare.

Visually, the designers of Clock Tower had a particular love for the films of Dario Argento with Suspiria and Phenomena being major points of reference. One of the first murder scenes that Jennifer witnesses is a recreation of the brutal first ten minutes of Suspiria, including an earnest attempt at imitating Goblin’s crazed soundtrack on the Famicom’s sound chip. The game also gave a nod to William Peter Blatty’s Legion (filmed as Exorcist III) as Scissorman wielded an enormous pair of autopsy shears.

Clock Tower was later ported to the PlayStation under the title Clock Tower ~The First Fear~ and versions were also made for Windows 95, and the Wonderswan. However, none of these made it the United States.

I Am 8-Bit 2007 - The Full Gallery Shaboodle!

April 26, 2007 8:55 AM | Simon Carless

- May be a bit behind the curve on this one, but I-Mockery has posted a full gallery from the newest I Am 8-Bit art show in Los Angeles, showcasing some of the neatest-looking video game-inspired art to grace gallery walls since, uhm, the last I Am 8-Bit show.

The intro explains: "I know a lot of people have been waiting to see the all of the amazing 80's video game inspired artwork from the 2007 "I Am 8-Bit" show at Gallery 1988. Well, for those of you who didn't get to attend the opening reception here in Los Angeles, you're in luck. We took over a hundred photos of the show so you can check out most of the classic game creations that were on display."

However, it warns: "You'll have to excuse the odd angles we had to take the photos at sometimes... it was insanely crowded in there and we weren't about to shove people out of the way just to get a perfectly centered photo."

Actually, most stuff is well shot, and, in discussing this with a friend over IM, we agree that this year's show is basically 'more of the same', but pretty darn GOOD 'more of the same' that we'd be highly tempted to buy to hang on our wall, in most cases - though there's a bit too much Mario and Pac-Man, in general.

[Oh, and the official site notes that game company sponsors include Capcom and Foundation 9 (plus CMP's PR agency of record 47 Communications!), so thanks for supporting great art, youz guyzes.]

Why Gameplay Is A... Dirty Word!

April 26, 2007 3:51 AM | Simon Carless

- Oh, semantics! We just got a note from Alex of previously GSW-linked site Insomni.ac, and he explains to us: "I recently wrote a little piece on my website about why the word 'gameplay' is stupid and why I think we should all stop using it."

Not saying I agree, or disagree, or have even thought about it that much, but... heeere's Alex's controversial thesis: "By far the biggest problem with the word gameplay is that it's too all-encompassing to be of any use. When you say "this game has bad gameplay" you are not really giving me any more useful information than if you had simply said "this is a bad game". Besides, it seems that different people have different ideas of what gameplay is supposed to be -- there is nothing like a widely-accepted definition (check also: dictionaries). So the term has come to basically mean: "I cannot be troubled to specify what I like or don't like about this game"."

Conclusion? "In the end, sloppy use of words promotes sloppy thinking, and before you know it you are sprouting nonsense like "The most important part of a game is the gameplay". If this sentence doesn't sound dumb to you it's because you've been brainwashed from seeing it in print a billion times. For perspective, this is just as pointless as saying "The most important part of a movie is the moviewatch"."

Made In Japan: Western Perspectives On Japanese Game Development

April 25, 2007 10:47 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at big sister site Gamasutra, today's main feature is called 'Made In Japan: Western Perspectives On Japanese Game Development', and Ryan Winterhalter has done a pretty good job of summing up how Japanese development is just handled differently, with the help of a few special guests.

Here's the overview: "How do best practices in the Japanese game industry differ from the West? Expatriates Gregg Tavares (LocoRoco), Dylan Cuthbert (StarFox), and the pseudonymous JC Barnett discuss what they've learned - and what we can all learn - about game development in Japan."

Absolutely unmissable is Dylan Cuthbert's summing up of game development culture throughout the world - and having worked in 2 of the 3, I have to say he's spot on regarding those:

“The UK is a pub culture - people like to doss and arse about a lot, but they are very good and very skilled at their jobs - when they do them.”

“The US is a corporate culture, everyone is a cog in the machine, even in a smaller company, so there is far less responsibility towards the company and its finances and people assume that they should have the best wage, best equipment, best software, best everything, even if they don't use them. That said, they have great responsibility to the work itself and there are some extremely clever and diligent people there. Corporate politics, gossip and rivalries can get a bit too much.”

“The Japanese games development culture is still slightly "salaryman", everyone kind of avoids responsibility by remaining quiet but they persevere by themselves until they get the product done. Unfortunately, this lack of sharing is hurting the technical development of the games industry here in Japan. The Japanese never give up until all the details are in place and they try and leave nothing haphazard or rough-edged, or oozappa (in Japanese).”

Bring The Hobbit To The Stock Exchange Closing!

April 25, 2007 5:42 PM | Simon Carless

- Mr. Sheffield forwarded me a Midway PR email which contains links to some of the most uncomfortable video footage displayed in public in recent years: "Executives and guests from Midway Games Inc. visited the New York Stock Exchange on Tues., April 24 to celebrate the launch of its latest video game, "The Lord of the Rings Online"."

Oh yeah? "To celebrate this special occasion, CEO David Zucker rang The Closing Bell." And here's the video evidence that he did [.ASX link] Unfortunately, there seems to be a tiny little hobbit standing to his left, and then 'Gandalf' just to the side of him. 'Gandalf' is bopping his stick up and down in delight as Zucker alternately rings a bell and slams a mallet into the desk, in a Phoenix Wright courtroom stylee. Guys, this is pretty surreal! [The accompanying image has been blurred to protect the innocent!]

Oh, and over at MMOG Nation, the ever-online Michael Zenke has been talking about Lord Of The Rings Online on its launch day, and he has some neat conclusions: "It may seem to you like I put most of the core of the game under ‘like’, some fluff under ‘love, and some serious problems at the bottom. You’d be right. I didn’t shell out $199 for a lifetime membership because I don’t think I’m ever going to play the game that much. By biting the bullet when I did I can stick to the $9.99 membership and get my jollies at a lower cost."

Quality Vs. Scope In Game Development

April 25, 2007 12:39 PM | Simon Carless

- Jamie Fristrom, who once upon a time did 'Manager In A Strange Land' as a column for Gamasutra, has published a new 'MIATS' column on his weblog, named 'Quality vs. Scope', and it's as perceptive as ever.

He explains: ""Scope" is a fancy project manager word for "Size." I don't know why I use it. I guess to look fancy. You've heard that expression: "Cheap, fast, or good: pick two." (Or, as the guys from Id put it at the last DICE: "Cheap, fast, or good: pick *one*.") Well, there's a variable missing from that equation. What we really should be saying, is: "Cheap, fast, good, or big: pick three." Or, better still: "Cheap, fast, good, or big: prioritize them and find a balance you're happy with.""

Fristrom also has some interesting musings on this general issue of working out "...when you're doing something that's going to improve quality, or if you're just making the game bigger at the expense of quality" - which is much trickier than it might seem!

He concludes: "If this all seems obvious, I have to ask - why does choosing size over quality seem so epidemic in our industry? Maybe it's the schedule - it's easy to write down an estimate for how long it will take to "Get Snowblower Mode In"; it's not so easy to estimate how long it will take to "Get framerate to 60" or "Smooth out player experience.""

Gamenauts Casually Float Off Into Space

April 25, 2007 7:37 AM | Simon Carless

- Really enjoying how Gamezebo is taking the time to profile some of the leading casual game creators - the latest is an interview with Stanley Adrianus from Gamenauts, the creators of recent hit title Burger Rush, a game that's, yes, Diner Dash-y on the surface, but 'match 3'-like in its core, an interesting mashed-up concept.

He explains exactly how it came about: "In the case of Burger Rush, there were a couple of starting points - the first is that being a fan of obscure Japanese cooking games, I had wanted to create a game about food and cooking for a long time. The second is that at Gamenauts, we're particularly fond of merging 2 different genres together. In fact [previous Gamenauts title and non-hit] Spacebound itself is also a melding of 2 different games, although not as obvious as Burger Rush."

He also talks about why Burger Rush has hit the sales mark, but Spacebound didn't: "For our first title, I think we suffered that same problem that plagued many new game developers: Notunderstandingourtargetaudience-itis. The players who liked Spacebound the most are typically fans of console and handheld puzzle games, and not the mainstream casual games audience. This was a valuable lesson for us and we shifted our focus and attention squarely on the "casual moms" as the target audience for our next game." Neat stuff.

UK Resistance Show Us How Real Interviewing Is Done

April 25, 2007 2:34 AM | Simon Carless

- The only true journalism on the Internet belongs to the increasingly lunatic Zorg and friends at UK Resistance, for whom the PlayStation 3's European launch has been a mind-shattering experience that's turned the site into a boggling variation on faux-Sony bashing that's basically... Sony bashing!

Actually, I think this has led some people to get confused about the site's satirical origins (or at least, satirical mid-life crisis), so it's good to see an interview with Sumo Digital about Virtua Tennis 3 which is asking all the wrong questions in just the right way.

For example: "Why is it that some games are glitchy and rubbish on Xbox Live, but others are really smooth? Surely developers should all enable 'Really Smooth Mode' by default?" Or... "Isn't it sad what's happened to Sonic The Hedgehog recently?" Or especially: "Finally, can you say something controversial, so we can make it the headline and get loads of traffic from Digg? Say something like "PS3 isn't as good as Xbox 360" or "Wii is just a Gamecube with a rubbish controller"." Which Sumo refuses to do, the rotters.

Katamari Damacy Mobile - Demystified, Innit?

April 24, 2007 9:33 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at our sister mobile game site Games On Deck, the lovely Mathew Kumar has got out his journalist deerstalker and tracked down specifics on the announcement of Katamari Damacy Mobile, a currently Japanese-only cellphone version of the franchise.

Sounds like a pretty interesting title, because you actually tilt your phone to roll the Katamari: "Namco Bandai has announced Katamari Damacy Mobile, a fully 3D cellphone title featuring motion sensitive controls... The game is currently only confirmed for Japanese release, and will come pre-bundled with the iMode FOMA P904i phone. It will also be made available through download at the Bandai Namco Games Japanese web portal, starting this June."

What's more: "The motion sensitive controls are to be provided by Gesturetek's Eyemobile Engine (as previously discussed in a Games On Deck Q&A) which allows movement to be sensed through use of the in-built camera featured on many phones. It doesn't require that the phone have any dedicated hardware [other than the camera!] to sense motion."

[Oh, and a Japan-only release of a 2D mobile version of Katamari is also mentioned, which I'm not sure I realized existed. Neat - let's keep piling up more Katamari information on GSW until we've created a big aggregated pile of it!]

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