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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 May, 2007

Blogging Ultima, Step By Step...

May 29, 2007 6:12 PM | Simon Carless

- Via all kinds of people, including GBGames, comes a link to the fairly new (well, it started in February 2007) 'Blogging Ultima' weblog, which explains itself as follows:

"The purpose is to blog the experience of playing the now-defunct Ultima series by Origin Systems (plus a few other names here and there) from beginning to end. I will be including all the non-remake spin-offs that I am aware of, under the theory of 'If I'm gonna do it, might as well go all the way.' I am not blogging as if I am a character in the game, or giving reviews. I'm going to write about the process of playing, the annoying things, the fun things, and the assorted mental musings that arise from any long-term activity." He's up to Ultima VII already, and there's all kinds of interesting commentary along the way.

Related to this very idea, GBGames comments of extending the concept: "The existence of Blogging Ultima led me to think about similar blogs. What about a blog for the Wizardry series? The Prince of Persia games? Even Leisure Suit Larry or King’s Quest games would probably make for an interesting story for someone to play today." Yesh, please make all of the above.

Mutant Storm Empire For XBLA: Anticipation... Rising!

May 29, 2007 1:07 PM | Simon Carless

- So, XBLArcade.com has been checking out ESRB ratings again for Xbox 360 Live Arcade games - the existence of which tends to mean that games are forthcoming for North American release - and it's noted:

"Continuing in a trend that must be giving Microsoft PR ulcers, they have rated [four] more XBLA titles... [that] were already known about, but the fact that they are now rated means the titles should be released "soon"-ish."

Among those are SNK's Fatal Fury Special (interesting because at one point, Greg Canessa was claiming that it was going to be an Asia-only title, for some odd reason) and Atari's Tempest (the original vector version, presumably without too much Minter-esque psychedelia) - but the big deal is Mutant Storm Empire, a title I've been drooling about in public for a year now.

As I noted wayback: "The pictures clearly show scrolling levels (as opposed to the single-screen mayhem of Mutant Storm Reloaded), as well as simultaneous multiplayer (likely/hopefully across Xbox Live!), and there are all kinds of weird beasties such as octopi, fish, and gigantic spaceship turret madness crazies sprawled all over the place - yay!" I'm speculating that making Bliss Island slowed down the PomPom folks, but I really do hope that Empire dawns soon.

Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage Debuts As Freeware

May 29, 2007 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Veteran game creator and Krome co-founder John Passfield mentioned his Passfield Games blog in a recent GSW comment, and now I note that it's revealed a neat thing: "In collaboration with 3DRealms we've released Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage as freeware today!"

As Passfield explains: "Halloween Harry, the tough as nails marine from Alien Carnage, is 22 years old this year. He was the star of a game I wrote on the Australian Microbee computer system and released commercially in 1985. I was still in high school at the time and was super excited to have sold my second computer game (the first was called "Chilly Willy", a clone of the classic arcade game, Pengo)."

He also follows up with a post called 'Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage - what might have been!', explaining: "Of course there was a direct sequel called Zombie Wars released in 1996, but before that we kicked around a number of other ideas for games to put Harry in. Often times we mocked up prototypes to test out ideas - from Sidewinder Sally (a Harry spin off) to Halloween Harry: Undead (a 3D multi-player game) to the potentially very cool Lunch Break Commandos", which was "...designed as a "casual" game you could play during your lunch break", way back when. Early casual game idea alert!

Chalk - The Next Indie Game Love Object?

May 29, 2007 2:14 AM | Simon Carless

- This one's all over the indie airwaves, but I'll pick where I happened to see it first, which is on Dessgeega's blog - as she explains: "Joakim Sandburg’s Chalk has the sensibility of a shooter and the spirit of a ds title: the game is mouse-controlled, and revolves around drawing lines with left clicks while navigating with right."

Over at The2Bears, they're also raving about the game, explaining further: "Gameplay revolves around moving your character (right mouse button moves you to the cursor or ‘WASD‘) while drawing lines of “chalk” on the screen. There are certain elements that are eliminated by drawing between their points (they might have 2, 3, or more). Other enemies are killed by drawing a point back from a purple bullet to them. There’s more, plus bonuses and bosses to fight."

Finally, TIGSource has a linked YouTube gameplay video inside its entry, which is handy if you want to see what it looks like without downloading, with commenter AdamAtomic noting: "The boss fights especially are totally friggin sweet. I agree, This game could live happily on the DS I think!" Quick, publishers that are reading - go snap it up?

GameSetJapan: Vicious Microbe Wars Hit The DS

May 28, 2007 8:11 PM | Simon Carless

- Import store NCSX continues to reveal some fascinating and fairly obscure DS games coming out of Japan, and the latest is called 'Kurikin: Nano Island Story', and is, we kid you not, a microbial life combat game, apparently created by Media Kite.

NCSX explains of the title: "Wee beasties are on the rampage and it's your prerogative to make sure they are marshaled properly to destroy other wee beasties. In the early missions, players control masses of nano creatures known as "kin" that look like dispersions of dust on the touch screen. The top display features a magnified examination of the kin, some of which look like paramecium while others look like clams with movable shells. To send the beasties into war, scribble a circle around them and then swish the stylus in a direction to mobilize them against enemy forces. "

What's more, you have to watch the solution you're swimming in to get an idea of battle tactics, apparently: "Similar to actual microbial life forms, the kin in the game are affected by temperatures and PH level. Some kin do better in warmer temperatures than others while an alkaline PH may lower the viability of certain kin." This is probably a bit quirky for Western release, but that's a shame, because it sounds pretty intriguing.

The State Of The Introversion, Probed Fully

May 28, 2007 2:09 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Eurogamer, they've posted a new Kieron Gillen-penned interview with Introversion's Chris Delay, discussing the history and shape of the UK indie firm's 'bedroom programmer'-tastic titles.

And indeed, here's a good summing up from Delay on that very subject: "Comparing DEFCON to our other games is difficult. Uplink is rugged and buggy and ugly and still sells more than Darwinia every day. Darwinia is our oddball second album, our very own love letter to the Amiga and the soul of great videogames, and the game I'm most proud of. DEFCON is a relatively simple multiplayer game idea and I think that's probably the key to its success."

There's also some fun discussion on what the previously GSW-mentioned Subversion is - and the conclusion is that... nobody knows: "We can understand that everyone wants to know what it is, but we just can't say. If someone had access to all the source code and all the design documents for Subversion, and had listened in on the last month's telephone conversations between the directors, they still wouldn't know what the game was going to be about. It's experimentation. I think part of the problem is that people can't quite believe it still exists in the games industry, and no longer recognise it when they see it."

GameSetInvestigation: The GameSpy Column Files

May 28, 2007 8:07 AM | Simon Carless

- Poking around on GameSpy, which I think is somewhat neglected by the blogosphere nowadays, I spotted that there's a regularly updated columns section which doesn't get noticed or linked to that often, despite having some good content enjoyed by GameSpy regulars. Anyhow, here's the column-specific RSS for those wanting to keep an eye on it - and there's actually some fun stuff in here.

Looks like the 'GameSpy North' office in the Bay Area has been getting some new personnel of late, with journalists hired from Ziff Davis and Future, among other outlets - though there are still GameSpy edit folks working in the Southern California offices, of course - a recent 'What We're Playing' column reveals that ex-G4-er Li Kuo and veteran Sal "Sluggo" Accardo are still hanging in there, for example. Listing some of the intriguing columns randomly:

- After OPM closed down, Thierry 'Scooter' Nguyen hopped across to GameSpy, and has a regular column, 'First Person Scooter', which I'm finding pretty entertaining. In one of the recent instalments, he admits, with a hangdog fanboy wink: "These days, while I still enjoy the likes of BioWare, Blizzard, Monolith and Valve, my tastes have gone a little more casual. To wit, I have a new favorite developer: PopCap Games."

- Andy Mahood has been running modding column Modify for a loong time (we're up to #42), and I believe I've linked to it once or twice in the past. Anyhow, it's still a good read, and the latest column takes a look at some of the mods that won a recent FilePlanet contest centered around F.E.A.R. - other columns span flight titles through FPSes to racing games and beyond.

- 'Dream Game' is a new column by former GamesRadar editor Gabe Graziani, and the latest one talks to the folks at Realtime Worlds and Crystal Dynamics about gameplay features and control tweaks to make the best-ever action game, like, ever. Oh, and along the way, he explains handily: "I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I state that every game would be better with either a grappling hook or a jet pack."

- Sure, the ol' 'play against the editors' thing is hardly new, but the 'Spy Hunter' columns write them up in a pretty fun way - with videos sometimes, to boot! The latest looks at Halo 3 Beta carnage, and includes the longest 'disclaimer' sentence evah: "Possible reasons for bootage include but are not limited to: an inordinate amount of swearing or other forms of epithets relating to sexual orientation or mental disability (if you can't make it through a match without dropping an f-bomb or calling someone an r-tard, mute your mic), unsportsmanlike conduct (gloating or otherwise insulting other players - especially team-killing in games that allow that sort of thing) and anything that might generally make you come off as a jackass." Bravo!

On Game Design On The Web - Redux!

May 28, 2007 3:00 AM | Simon Carless

- We covered the web software acting like video games meme just the other week, and now, Kevnull.com has posted an in-depth critique called 'Iminlikewithyou and Game Design in the Web'.

This is a little abstract to explain, but the currently invite-only dating-ish website works like this: "Iilwy is based on “games” each person creates. Players use the in game point system to “bid” on games. The top 5 bidders at the end of the game are eligible to be picked as the winner by the game owner and the winner and game owner are subsequently contacts who can contact each other through the site messaging system."

The blogger, Kevin Cheng, is impressed with the concept: "Iilwy’s game system is actually a great system for meeting and filtering new people well beyond just the dating realm. In this case, a barrier that makes doing something harder is desired and very deliberate in its design." So how about that - couldn't this kind of thing be set up in an MMO, as well, with creative challenges between players awarded as an explicit game feature? Or is it already? Looking outside conventional games for game design is looking increasingly interesting. [Via Waxy.]

GameSetPlaying: May 27th, 2007 Edition

May 27, 2007 9:48 PM | Simon Carless

- Woops, it's been a while since I did one of these, but nonetheless - I'm going to talk about the games that I've been checking out recently, and then I'll open the floor for GSW readers to do the same in the comments. Here goes:

- WarTech: Senko No Ronde (G-Rev/Ubisoft, Xbox 360)
Though it's had a pretty low profile thus far, and $60 is certainly quite a lot to ask for a Japanese arcade shooter/fighter conversion, what I've played of Senko No Ronde so far has impressed me - it's a really artful mix of bullet-heavy shooting and one on one combat. Reviews have gravitated significantly, with 1UP's 5/10 getting some interesting and heated commentary over at Zerochan's LJ [Ta Xian!] - I like Eurogamer's review, which gave it 8/10, a lot more. But it's definitely a very niche title, and the pricing is a bit questionable. But hey, I bought it.

- Parappa The Rapper (NanaOnSha/Sony, PSP)
Probably a title that should be released on the PlayStation Store as a downloadable PS1 title, really, but the native PSP version was available on Play-Asia for $17.99 the other week, and I couldn't resist. This version comes out here in July, and there's a lack of extras - though there are apparently downloadable remixes in the U.S. version - how do you get to them in the Asian version, if they exist, anyone? But c'mon - even without them, you get widescreen, old school Master Onion action - what is there not to love?

- The Red Star (XS Games, PlayStation 2)
This has been a stupendously long time in the making, but having rented The Red Star for PS2 from GameFly, I can say that it's an awesome throwback to classic early '90s Capcom brawlers, taking the Christian Gossett comic book license and melding it into something that feels like Strider for a new age, with extra 3D and style galore. See, Acclaim's demise eventually spat out something wholesome! Oh, and it's revealed of the game on Wikipedia: "A projectile weapon used by the character Maya Antares is named the "Davbrentsky AKA4U." This is a reference to the UK comedy television series The Office, which features a character played by actor Ricky Gervais named David Brent, who speaks a line ending with the phrase "...AKA, for you.""

Other things I've been checking out? Just got Brooktown High: Senior Year for PSP, so will be trying that this week. And a quick perusal of my Xbox 360 GamerCard, which has just topped 6,000, will reveal bits of the ugly truth (yep, I just completed TMNT. Absolve me, Lord!), and some slightly better XBLA tastes, hopefully - still pluggin' away on Jetpac Refuelled and Lumines Live, and have been using Boom Boom Rocket's Visualization Mode as a background during soirees. Yikes, socialization outside friends lists? I'll try not to let it happen again. What have you been playing this week?

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': ABC Show and Tell, Nintendo Power Licensing

May 27, 2007 4:39 PM |

['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]

pink1censored.jpg

To begin with show-and-tell this week, I'd like to show you a typical ABC pink sheet, the document which advertisers rely on to give them an accurate picture of a magazine's circulation details.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) is an organization that gauges and measures circulation, readership, and audience information for magazines, newspapers, and other publications. There are multiple ABCs around the world; the American ABC was founded in 1914 and is based in Schaumberg, IL, with offices in New York and Toronto. It's funded with fees from its members, mainly comprised of media companies, advertisers, and some universities.

Generally speaking, the ABC audits a magazine by first receiving a stated circulation number from the magazine's publisher, then comparing that number with records from retailers, wholesalers, and other links in the magazine distribution chain. ABC publishes its results every six months to members, but a full auditing process can take up to nine months for each six-month period, by which time the situation of the magazine being audited may have changed greatly.

In order to provide timelier numbers, the ABC takes the figures submitted by magazines at the end of each six-month period and publishes them as "pink sheets" without any extra auditing. These pink sheets are available two to three months after the reporting period. (If a pink-sheet figure turns out to be too much higher than what the ABC finds with its audit, the publisher may be warned and eventually have its membership revoked for repeat offenses.)

Game publishers are not required to report ABC-audited circulation figures to the general public. Instead they report their own figures -- usually in the form of "rate base," or the average sell-through figure they guarantee to their advertisers. Also, due to the expense involved, most general-interest magazines in America do not apply for an ABC audit unless their circulation is around 125,000 copies or greater. Once a magazine reaches its point, it usually raises its ad rates to the point where outside confirmation of their sales figures becomes vital. As a result of this, most of the "second tier" of game magazines (such as Play or the Beckett titles) do not have ABC-audited figures, offering their own figures to advertisers instead.

I've redacted any identifying information of the magazine in this particular pink sheet, but I thought you'd be interested in having a look at how the front page of such a report is set up anyway.

np-0707.jpg

And now I'd like you to tell me something -- what's up with Nintendo of America such that they want to "license" out Nintendo Power and keep it a print magazine? This, according to Perrin Kaplan in an interview published at Game Informer. I mean, Ziff's allegedly been trying to sell its mag-heavy portfolio for ages with little success, right? Are you telling me that a company's more interested in licensing Nintendo Power than one of several mags which sell more than that? Crazy!

I'll refrain from further comment until I hear the whole story, but if the mag's moving, then I do feel pretty bad for one new editor up at NP, who got laid off at the Official PlayStation Magazine, moved to Redmond for the NP job a few months ago, and may be facing another difficult decision right now...

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]

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