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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

COLUMN: Game Collector’s Melancholy – Zone of the Enders

May 25, 2007 9:01 AM |

[‘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 look at the often-dismissed Zone of the Enders series.]

Giant robots have been a staple of Japanese pop culture for decades. As Roboto Chan! shows, the robot in manga and anime has been rich source of inspiration for game designers. So when Konami’s Hideo Kojima decided to bring his post-modern touch to the giant robot genre, expectations were high.

Zone of the Enders

zoe.jpgReleased in 2001 for the PlayStation 2, Zone of the Enders was a remarkable demonstration of what the new hardware was capable of. Abandoning the lumbering tank movements of other giant robot games, the robots of Zone of the Enders moved with a pole-dancing, acrobatic style that would become the hallmark of modern action games like Devil May Cry or Dynasty Warriors. Called Orbital Frames, the game’s mecha were designed by Yoji Shinkawa as lithe, airborne seraphim. As if to emphasize their aerial nature, they did not even have feet. Instead, their legs terminated in elegant spikes. In close combat the Frames whipped out flashing energy blades. From a distance they launched bolts of plasma from their hands like a 50 meter Sailor Moon gone berserk.

Despite the slick presentation, Zone of the Enders was unable to get by on its looks. Initially the game invoked a wide-eyed thrill, but after a few hours of play, Zone of the Enders had revealed most of its impressive tricks, leaving the remainder of the game feeling only half-formed.

Zone of the Enders is an easy game to find, so don’t pay more than $15. However, make sure that it includes the Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Demo disc which allows you to play the Tanker chapter up to the Olga Boss fight with the original Japanese voice acting.

Definitely The Pinball Tattoo Of The Century

May 25, 2007 3:59 AM | Simon Carless

- You may recall that GSW is a bit of a pinball fan, so it was neat to see that distinctly retro gaming site RetroBlast! has spotted an extremely impressive pinball-themed full-arm tattoo, done by Darren Brass of the reality show Miami Ink for game developer Amy Gunson.

Gunson notes that the gigantic and rather stylish tattoo "...took two sessions and close to 9 hours to complete", and further comments that "...it's an homage to one of my first loves, pinball. I've moved across the Pacific five times and had to sell most of my pinball collection in the process. Now, I have something that I can take with me anywhere I go. It's bold and colorful and full of energy!"

Apparently, anyone working at EA Vancouver can admire the tattoo themselves, since Gunson works there as a technical artist - she further details: "The design was done by the fantastic tattoo artist, Darren Brass who used to play a little pinball himself, with Theatre of Magic being one that stands out in his mind. Those of you who play might recognize the ball locks from Big Bang Bar, rails galore, and the big bold color in the pop bumpers that look like they may have jumped out of a Charles Bell painting." Awesome-o.

Warren Spector, Tom Chick Escape From The Grid

May 24, 2007 10:56 PM | Simon Carless

- It's really a bit painful, in a 'tree falling in a forest' type way, that there's a four-part Warren Spector treatise on storytelling up on The Escapist for a few weeks now, and, uhm, nobody has really made a big fuss about it. And they should, because it's pretty interesting, if on the dense side.

Randomly picking Part 4, here's some perceptive, if slightly depressing prose: "Once we can create beautiful, photorealistic spaces, players will expect us to do so, and then we'll have to teach our NPCs how to navigate through and interact with ever-more complex worlds appropriately. Rapid advancements in graphical fidelity and depth of simulation have always left AI and design playing catch-up. That problem seems likely to get worse, not better, in the next few years."

Getting away from TEH DOOM for a second, Tom Chick's Escapist column has been proceeding apace, and apparently, the Fight Club logo designer still hasn't sued yet (parody!), yay. So far, a random email exchange is probably the funnest one, for me, since it included the immortal line: "He can't do it. He just got a job as a viral marketer for Second Life. I need you to do it." Though I will note that splitting up longer articles into X weekly installments is totally a print trick, and doesn't work very well on the web.

Also, Mr. Chick has now brought his own brand of laconic spitballing to GameSpy, where his first Alt-Tab column is up, and it's also a load of entertaining, hyper-intelligent bollocks: "Let's talk about the things that are untrue about you. You are a twenty-four-year-old leggy girl from Texas who worked as an exotic dancer for four years so you could save up money to put yourself through a PhD program in electrical engineering. You only date guys you meet from your World of Warcraft raiding guild."

Outrun 2 SP SDX Gets Backseat Driving Vegas Welcome

May 24, 2007 5:54 PM | Simon Carless

- Last year, sister site Gamasutra chatted to Sega Entertainment U.S.A. about the rebirth - or at least some minor stirring - of the U.S. arcade scene, and we just got a press release revealing some concrete additions they're making to their GameWorks arcades.

It explains: "Sega Entertainment U.S.A., Inc’s. (SEUI), casual dining brand, GameWorks, will install three different, and very original, gaming attractions to the entertainment mix at its 14 GameWorks locations. The company has added 3 units of the newly released OutRun 2 SP SDX Driving attraction to their Las Vegas , Detroit and Chicago venues, install 84 Sega UFO Catchers throughout the company's US locations and is testing Virtual Bowling by Brunswick as an attraction in Las Vegas ."

Of these, OutRun 2 SP SDX is definitely the most interesting - Kikizo already has a bunch of detailed screenshots from the upgrade to the OutRun 2 upgrade (!), which was originally unveiled last year, and Sega explains the twist: "In traditional racing games, one player drives the car. In the new version, two players are seated in the car and each has their own steering wheel, brake and accelerator."

Wha? "The control of the game is determined by how well a driver maneuvers the course - once they hit a wall or crash, control will immediately shifts to the second player. This will happen for the entire length of the game, and during stage changes as well, sometimes changing player control 6-7 times. Players can easily check their rankings in the middle of the race, through the electrical bulletin board attached to the game... CCD cameras are also installed at each cabinet to take pictures of players, and are then aired on a large monitor." An interesting gameplay mechanic and deluxe giant playscreens means a unique arcade experience, which can only be good for the biz. Bet the machines cost a bomb, though!

MMOG Nation Column Flies Away, 1UP Cages A Variant

May 24, 2007 12:50 PM | Simon Carless

- So, Michael Zenke, whom you also know as Slashdot Games editor Zonk, has been helping us out with his awesome GSW column 'MMOG Nation', based on his blog of the same name, over the past few weeks and months.

Sadly, this is no longer to be the case, as he explains on his MMOGNation.com blog: "You’ve probably noticed that my ruminations on the GameSetWatch site have been absent from the site of late. The reason is that, following some discussions allll the way back at GDC, the ‘MMOG Nation’ column has found a new home. Now to be known as ‘Massive Update’, it’s going to try to be a slice of the previous week from the Massive perspective."

He explains: "It will still feature my opinions, but instead of a grand subject I’ll be focusing on concrete things that have happened in the recent past... The keenest bit? Massive Update’s new home is the 1UP Network" - and here's the first 1UP Massive Update column.

Congrats to Michael for getting picked up by the Ziff folks, and many thanks to him for his excellent MMO column-ing that he did for us over the past few months - as you may recall, the columns here are done on a slightly voluntary basis for a slightly random audience, so we're very happy if people go on to bigger and more trafficked things.

COLUMN: The Aberrant Gamer - 'Princess Maker 2: Daddy's Little Girl'

May 24, 2007 7:45 AM | Leigh Alexander

[The Aberrant Gamer is a weekly, somewhat NSFW column by Leigh Alexander, dedicated to the kinks and quirks we gamers tend to keep under our hats-- those predilections and peccadilloes less commonly discussed in conventional media. Hentai gaming, fantasy fanfics, twisted psychology and notes from the dark side-- we'll expose, discuss and enjoy the delicious underbelly of our beloved gaming universe.]

- Can you call a game a “sex game” if there’s no sex?

It’d be tough to classify old chestnut Princess Maker 2, originally created by Evangelion maker Gainax in 1993, as a Hentai game—in fact, it’s probably most appropriate to call it a parenting sim. More similar to Nintendogs than it is to any sex game, the player is tasked with raising a girl child to adulthood. A laundry list of stats—things like strength, grace, morality and stress-- combine to determine what kind of woman she’ll be. Her health and well-being, her job, and even her future husband are the result of the way you raise her.

The story begins under a fantasy premise—“the gods” bestow you with a little girl about ten years old as a reward for defeating a demon lord and saving the city. Apparently, there’s no gratitude from the populace in the form of monetary compensation (there never is, is there?) because despite being a supernatural war hero, you must immediately put your dewy-eyed ten-year-old to work. Each job causes a boost in some stats and a decrease in others—working at the farm, for example, boosts strength but lowers refinement. You can also affect her condition by gifting her with pocket money or scolding her. Finally, the game has an RPG-style adventure mode, which allows you to raise a little fighting heroine, in addition to snagging special items.

There’s a dizzying number of possible endings— among others, your daughter might end up a nun, a scholar, an innkeeper, a lady-in-waiting or a lumberjack. She can also be a soldier, a bounty hunter or a street performer. She can even become Queen, if you raise her up real well.

But what if you don’t? You wouldn't entertain dirty wishes for your little girl, would you?

GameTunnel's May Masquerade Flutters Eyelashes

May 24, 2007 2:45 AM | Simon Carless

- Aha, what do we spy here? "Game Tunnel has just published the May Independent Video Game round-up, its 35th monthly panel reviewing what is new in indie games." This is rather awesome news, we fear.

The Game Tunnel-ers continue: "The 10 games in this month's article include an incredibly edible castle, an insane lighthouse, a monkey named Darwin, and a "hyperkinetic rabbity thing" named Max." And this time, the Game Of The Month is not a Sam & Max title, rather Chocolate Castle, the Lexaloffle-created PC indie puzzle title that we've previously covered on GameSetWatch.

In fact, Caspian Prince positively raves of the title: "Lexaloffle has a wonderful unique style in the indie game world today - a kind of raw 16-bit retro with no anti-aliasing which really works and brings back memories of times when gameplay reigned supreme. In Chocolate Castle we've got a slickly presented puzzle game polished to a sparkling shine ... and what's this! It's totally original! At least as far as I know." I also get the warm fuzzies over Lexaloffle's unique stylings, so congrats to him for winning out this time round.

Digital Domain Gets Tarred By The Bay Connection?

May 23, 2007 9:42 PM | Simon Carless

- What's the wrong way to get the attention of the game biz? Seems like Digital Domain found out the other week when the CG house's announcement it was planning to make video games was overshadowed by the connection to company co-chairman Michael Bay, director of the famously vapid Armageddon - or at least, the announcement has got the goat of Ubisoft's Clint Hocking in his Click Nothing blog.

It's probably the very 'Hollywood' tone of the Los Angeles Times article breaking the news which is particularly disagreeable - it reveals that Digital Domain "...plans to develop four or five games over the next two years", and says oddly nonsensical things like: "As video entertainment becomes more sophisticated, the line between video games and movies is blurring."

At one point near the end of his commentary, Splinter Cell supremo Hocking rages: "They actually think that they can just hand over lead creative on a game to someone who made some movies and that will work. Well, I wish them luck. Okay, that's not true. I don't wish them luck. I hope they fail. I'm sure people will be happy to tell me what an egotistical asshole I am. But let's not forget I'm not the one gambling 25 million bucks on an ego that says just because I directed some movies I can therefore direct games. Maybe we'll get to see if the man-god can bleed after all."

Well, a couple of counterpoints here. Firstly, Digital Domain are on a panel at the upcoming Hollywood & Games Summit being organized by my colleague and GDC head honcho Jamil Moledina, and the impression he has is not really that it's a 'film director'-led exercise, rather that they are using CG talent and recruiting from the game industry to make conventional game teams, but with some director input. In other words, it's quite possible that the L.A. Times played up the, uhm, L.A. angle - at the expense of making it sound like any game creators had input into the burgeoning division at all.

And one particularly notable paragraph near the end of the piece: "A recent TV ad that Digital Domain made for "Gears of War," the popular Microsoft science-fiction game for Xbox 360, showed off the new direction. Instead of relying on conventional software, Digital Domain's visual-effects artists created the 60-second spot using the same software that the game runs on. The commercial featured realistic effects and took only five weeks to make, about half the regular time."

A CG house using Unreal Engine 3 to make a commercial? That makes convergence sound pretty damn interesting. But we'll see - after all, fellow CG house Rhythm & Hues stepped up to the plate in the mid-'90s and the result was, uhm, Eggs Of Steel. So really, anything could happen!

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': You Got Your Mecha in My Wargame

May 23, 2007 4:37 PM |

['Roboto-chan!' is a (hopefully) fortnightly column formerly ruled with an iron fist by Ollie Barder, but recently stolen off him by Christopher Bruso, alias TOLLMASTER - it covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This week's column covers Activision's 1995 PC title MechWarrior 2, a simulation-style mecha game that somehow became a hit in a time long past, practically introducing mecha games to the Western audience.]

mech2box2.JPG Americans love big things. Americans are a radically diverse people, but wherever in the United States you go, you'll find an appreciation for scale, even in unlikely places such as the South (I, for one, consider the monster truck fan to be a relative of Homo mechotakus, or the giant robot anime fan). It was only a matter of time before the United States would notice similar appreciation for size in their neighbor across the sea in the genre of giant robots, and attempt to create a work in that genre, combining both Japanese and American elements.

Add to this humanity’s universal penchant for war and explosions, and you got a game called MechWarrior 2, many Westerners’ first experience with the mecha video game genre, and one that is still fondly remembered those gamers lucky (or wise) enough to have played it.

XIQ - A Game Of Traps And Lines, Fa La La!

May 23, 2007 11:31 AM | Simon Carless

- Thanks to Shawn McGrath for sending over info on his new PC/Mac/Linux freeware title, XIQ, which is, reversibly enough, "...inspired by the arcade classic QIX", and was made at the 2nd annual Toronto Game Jam - which looks to have been a v.neat event - full game list from it coming soon.

For this abstract shooter (mmm, abstract shooter - there's a video at the bottom of the info page!): "The objective is to create boxes on the screen that enclose triangles. You shoot lines in four directions using wasd and move with the arrow keys (gamepad works too). You can use the lines both offensively, (creating boxes), and defensively, (blocking off space, creating safe paths to move, etc)."

What's more: "There's four powerups - two that stay on the screen permanently, (and cause great distraction if you leave them for too long), and two temporary ones that are risky to try to get, but are often life-saving." Looks like a well-designed retro treat - and honestly, judging by the video, this is the first game in which I've ever found vector-based triangles to be menacing. So that's a big plus.

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