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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

Guerilla Gamer Marketing GONE WILD!

May 23, 2007 6:27 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah, guerilla marketing - where would we be without you? Probably in a situation where I didn't receive emails such as this one, which starts: "Hi Carless: As a fan of Game Developer's great gaming reviews, I'm happy to offer you some quality fuel for your late-night sessions."

Well, Game Developer doesn't actually review games, and that's my last name, but please, keep going: "I represent Carl's Jr. and Hardee's new Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (www.spicybuffalo.com). Inspired by the best of dive-bar hotwings, the Spicy Buffalo combines Frank's classic Red-Hot sauce with juicy chicken breast, giving you all the kick and spice of your favorite bar food without the spilled beer and sawdust."

Oh, OK, I see where the video game relevance is here! "And since you're into games, you might like to play with our Lunch Invite widget. Make a Lunch Date with Ashley Hartman (uh, there's a different East Coast link for Hardee's)... you get a $1 off coupon at the end, and you'll get to see a gorgeous girl do your bidding." Aha, appealing to the geeks, here. And the 'gaming insider' capper? " Of course, if you roll female Blood Elves, you're probably used to it."

Dude, I 'roll female Blood Elves' ALL THE TIME. But separately of that, I learned the following:

a) Don't try to shoehorn random gaming references into completely random subject matter;
b) If you're sending out a mass email, try to personalize correctly both the name of the person you are sending it to and what the outlet actually does;
c) Imagine if Electronic Arts was called something different in New York to California. That's the problem Carls' Jr and Hardee's has. Ouch.
d) I just gave these guys free publicity anyhow. Ack.

Building A Better Player Character For Games

May 23, 2007 1:24 AM | Simon Carless

- Just posted at sister site Gamasutra yesterday is the feature 'The Everyman and the Action Hero: Building a Better Player Character' by Iron Lore's Ben Schneider, who most recently worked on the rather mythological Titan Quest, and has also labored over games for Harmonix and Stainless Steel Studios.

It seems that Schneider has some genuinely well thought-out comments on character crafting: "Working from the template of the everyman and the action hero can help you achieve buy-in from the player, but it’ll take more than that to make your player character something special. In fact, making your protagonist safe is really directly at odds with making him or her original, evocative, or lifelike. There is a vital arm-wrestling match that goes on here between all those limitations and the creative goal of making a really good, memorable character."

Another intriguing point explored in the piece: "Most game developers do a pretty good job of finding that action hero/everyman sweet-spot, but far fewer take the time to make more out of the hero or find a compelling, striking way to introduce them. God of War, Max Payne, and Grand Theft Auto 3 (and 4, it appears!) stand out in this regard, simply for properly setting up the beginning of the game, even, in Max Payne’s and GTA’s cases, if the setup is a pastiche of pulp fiction clichés."

@ Play: Things to Do While Visiting Ancardia

May 22, 2007 8:20 PM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a bi-weekly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre.]

Nethack has gotten a lot of talk here, and it remains perhaps the most complex roguelike out there due to its profusion of object interactions, but it is by no means the roguelike with the "most to do." That is, the objective of Nethack, although more complicated than the old days where ultimately all you just had to get fire resistance, level teleport down to the Amulet, get it, then climb out, is still relatively straightforward. The game got a lot more complex in version 3.0, and more complex still in 3.1, but in this respect it really hasn't changed too much since Hack.

The roguelike with, by far, the most to do is ADOM (Ancient Domains Of Mystery), which is perhaps the example of the genre that takes the most ideas from the world of other RPGs. Nowhere is this made more evident than when examining the game's complex web of quests. Nethack has four (although one is different for each character class). ADOM has dozens.

Here is a very small sampling, chosen for a mix of ease of observation by beginning players and raw cool factor.

Dead Rising - Fixing What's Wrong With Games!

May 22, 2007 3:16 PM | Simon Carless

- Once again, GSW sister site Game Career Guide has been brave and let Eric-Jon Waugh out of his fenced-off area to analyze, from a game design point of view, a recent and interesting video game.

This time, he takes the lawnmower to Capcom's Xbox 360 exclusive Dead Rising, and within which he calls the game "...the self-appointed answer to everything wrong with videogames as they are now."

He sets the scene rather beautifully, too: "Somewhere between note-sharing exercises like the Game Developers Conference and the growing impact of games like Grand Theft Auto and Gears of War on the Japanese charts, goaded on by the phenomenon known as "gamer drift", in which existing players stop playing and no new players can be found, Western games have slowly begun to resume their aborted influence on Japanese design - just as Japanese design has influenced the West since Nishikado's Breakout-tile Invaders first began to boop down from orbit."

He then neatly files Dead Rising in an interesting place: "At its core what Grand Theft Auto wants is to recapture the glory of Asteroids and Centipede - the old American school, from before Atari fell off a cliff and the PC scene got weird... Dead Rising is that same idea, plus structure. It completes the picture by dragging GTA back into Ed Logg territory, and turning it into the modern equivalent of an Atari Games battle of attrition. Namely, sort of, Gauntlet." Waugh thing, I think I love you.

GameSetPics: Rare & Nintendo - Where It All Began

May 22, 2007 10:12 AM | Simon Carless

- Though I'm not as much of a collector as our very own MagWeasel, I've been known to hop on eBay from time to time to pick up some gaming magazine memorabilia, even if shipping for all that dead wood is a little bit excessive.

In fact, Gamasutra contributor Jason Dobson and I [EDIT: Uhoh, grammar fiend commenters object!] recently fought through a fierce bidding war to each pick up a few mid-'80s issues of arcade/amusement trade journal RePlay Magazine, and boy, there's some pretty amazing stuff in there.

RePlay stood alongside rival Play Meter magazine as the only trade chroniclers of the arcade industry as it grew up, crashed, and was reborn in the '80s, and there are some stand-out looks at the Japanese arcade biz in 1986 and in-depth interviews/site visits with Capcom and Konami's U.S. divisions in the issues that I managed to purchase.

However, we obviously wouldn't reprint these articles without permission (something we're currently talking to RePlay about - we'll see what happens!). But in the meantime, there was one Nintendo-supplied press photo from the August 1986 issue of the magazine I wanted to scan in for you all, because I'm pretty sure it's never been available online before, and it shows the beginning of a seminal relationship in the history of video games (click through for hi-res version):


This picture was taken on the first-ever signing of an outside software developer, Rare, to produce titles for Nintendo's VS. System, the NES-based arcade setup. So, from left to right, there are some people you may have heard of - Joel Hochberg of (Rare's U.S. business partner) Coin-It, Chris Stamper of Rare, and Nintendo's Frank Ballouz, Howard Lincoln, and Minoru Arakawa.

What happened from there? Actually, a Steve Kent article for Screenager Central (!) has much of the skinny. Skiing title Slalom, at least, made it out for the VS. System, and also for the NES itself. And obviously, Rare went on to a much closer relationship with Nintendo, creating RC Pro-Am, Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, GoldenEye, and a host of others - and Lincoln and Arakawa were key figures in Nintendo's rise to power in the West, too. And this is where the Nintendo/Rare relationship all started - which makes it an important image.

God Of Violence? Barlog Explains, Journalists Nod

May 22, 2007 5:12 AM | Simon Carless

- Stephen Totilo sent over a note linking to his new MTV News article on "...some observations and interviews I had from Sony Gamer's Day centered around the -- for once -- surprisingly frank and open response to attacks on violent video games" - he comments on it on his blog and the full piece is on the MTV News website.

As Totilo notes: "In previous years, when video games both violent and tame were showcased at the Electronics Entertainment Expo, video game makers did not go out of their way to refer to controversy... Offstage at Sony's San Diego event there were other indications of a change in tone." He's talking to the God Of War PSP folks in particular, and indeed they do try to justify the violent nature of the titles, as follows:

""Chains of Olympus" creative director Cory Barlog knows some people are put off by what Kratos' adventures ask of them. Standing in front of a big-screen TV playing the game, he argued that the discomfort some players feel is intentional. "During [the ancient Greek] wars, people weren't hugging — it was very, very brutal," he said. "We really wanted to stick to that mentality, creating situations within the game to force the player to choose, and kind of morally have to be, what Kratos is like."

You know, I don't really think that's a great explanation. But my God - this _is_ an attempt at explaining artistically why it's done, and that's light years ahead of the normal Rockstar 'do bad stuff, don't comment on it' attitude that they used to radiate - though I will note that even they have got better recently, for example, talking on the record about the same-sex kissing in Bully.

And overall, I do appreciate that there's an attempt to think things through, and particularly, some agreement that there is some thought given to morality: "Ru Weerasuriya, whose Ready at Dawn Studios is handling most of the creative duties on "Chains," agreed that the line is sometimes hard to see. "You go as far as you can," he said, chewing a piece of gum. "Sometimes you have to push it far to then bring it back a little."" The fact that we're discussing a line is certainly making the biz look much less Neanderthal.

Wander Around Disney Parks For DS 'Pirates' Booty?

May 22, 2007 12:08 AM | Simon Carless

- Disney is getting _really_ interesting in the game space recently, and here's the latest example from the House Of Mickey:

"Timed to the release of the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End video games, Disney Interactive Studios announced today a partnership with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to release exclusive content for the upcoming Nintendo DS video game at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort."

Specifically: "Beginning May 22 with the release of the video game, Disney park guests who bring their Nintendo DS and a copy of the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End DS video game with them during their visit can download new video game content at specific "X-marks-the-spot" hotspots hidden near the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions. This download unlocks new content such as unlimited health and "savvy," as well as fun extras, including additional costumes. This special content is only available to Disney park visitors and can be accessed with a Nintendo DS."

Personally, I love the idea of wandering around a Disney park with my DS to get extra content in specific places, especially if that content can only _ever_ be unlocked that way and it's cool and bonus. Not sure about unlocking 'cheats' that way like unlimited health - that seems a bit potentially game breaking. But hey, as long as the extra costumes are neat and the game itself is decent, I'm not complaining. More ideas like this, please!

When Business Software Behaves Like... Video Games?

May 21, 2007 7:03 PM | Simon Carless

- The New York Times published an intriguing article over the weekend entitled 'Why Work Is Looking More Like a Video Game', which tries to point out that games can teach software a lot of things about motivation and usability - or something like that?

Of course, you only have to wait for the first paragraph for overt implications of games being juvenile: "Paul Johnston has remade his company on the idea that business software will work better if it feels like a game. Mr. Johnston is not some awkward adolescent, but the polished president and chief executive of Entellium, which makes software for customer relationship management."

The gaming comparisons continue: "Rave isn’t exactly the business version of Madden N.F.L., at least not yet. But Craig K. Hall, president of Logos Marketing Inc., a graphics company in Albany, said it reminded him of video games he has played, like the Legend of Zelda. Mr. Hall, 31, says he likes the way Rave pops up information, including news that will matter to clients." This is all a little tenuous, to be honest, but it then wanders into a decent discussion of serious games, so hey!

Why We Need More Boring Games

May 21, 2007 2:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Gamasutra, 'serious games' creator Ian Bogost is making the case that video games should be more mundane, particularly discussing of Nintendo's Brain Age: "It’s certainly a very different kind of game from Halo or even Miyamoto’s own Zelda series, games that allow the player to inhabit complex fantasy worlds. Instead, much of Brain Age’s success seems to come precisely from the ordinariness of its demands."

So - what of this? Would games become more accessible if they tapped into everyday things a little bit more, as opposed to spiralling off into fictional realities? Bogost suggests: "As a medium becomes more familiar, it also becomes less edgy and exciting. This is what [clothing designer] Marc Ecko means when he refers to movies as demystified. Over time, media becomes domesticated, and domestication is a mixed blessing."

But, he cautions, there's an upside: "On the one hand, it allows broader reach and scale. It means that more people can understand and manipulate the medium. Grandma and grandpa understand what they are looking at when you send them a VHS tape of junior blowing out the candles." Do you want to live in a world where games are 'ordinary'? Because sooner or later, we're going to get there - or that's the suggestion.

PlayStation Museum... Liquidating Contents? Aw, Wow.

May 21, 2007 8:56 AM | Simon Carless

- Wuhoh, bad news for the folks at the PlayStation Museum, who explain on the site: "The PlayStation Museum is liquidating all of our retail and development hardware and software. Now is your chance to get over 1,500 games, a lot of hardware (including a 10 Million Model PSX and MIB edition) plus a few other surprises."

Here's the eBay auction in question, and let me be the first to say that the selection is _insane_ - though they do note: "Virtually all hardware listed on this site is in the auction and a lot of the software. Due to NDA, the gaming graveyard games are generally off limits (unless listed in the auction)... Unfortunately, this is not a promotion nor a joke."

Quite apart from the ridiculous amounts of boxed software and hardware, including plenty of rare development kits and a prototype PlayStation keyboard, there's by far the biggest set of Lightspan educational PlayStation games I've ever seen - as the linked article says: "In a groundbreaking strategic partnership with Sony, San Diego-based educational software and Internet company Lightspan has cornered the K-8 market on video games in the classroom... PlayStation produces all of Lightspan's software at Sony Disc Manufacturing, and Sony charges license fees for the use of its gaming platform for a for-profit venture." Now, the 'BUY IT NOW' price is $30,000, of course, but you can always make an offer?

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