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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 June, 2007

Pac-Man CE, XBLA Leaderboards, & Polite Asian Gamers

June 30, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- So, I've been playing some more of the absolutely marvellous Pac-Man Championship Edition, which is possibly my favorite classic arcade remake ever, thanks to some really well thought-out extra maps and modes and cleverly enhanced art.

Anyhow, I ventured onto the leaderboard to find out that a gamer named 'Cosin45' had scored 619,790 in the 'main' mode that the Pac-Man World Champion was decided on, way above the 420,000-ish for the other contenders. Odd - so I checked out the guy's profile, and his description, it turns out, is 'UnintendedCEScorByBug'. Aww.

So it turns out that Japanese X360-owning Cosin45 must have accidentally triggered a bug that whacked his score up really high (though he's obviously a good player too - he's got 200/200 Achievement points for the title). Looking around, there's a thread on the Twin Galaxies forums discussing this exact piece of cuteness - and poster PERodgers2003 also spotted: "Yesterday, it read something to the effect that he achieved that score on the Extra 3 mode. I hope MS can remove that score without clearing the entire leaderboard!" I know some Microsoft folks read GSW - any chance of tweaking the bugged-up score, btw?

I just thought this was a great study in how nice/polite most gamers actually are, as well as communication by unexpected means. Cosin45 correctly guessed that most people would be checking his profile because of the Pac-Man CE high score, and gave them updates on it by switching out his description text multiple times. Neat.

[And while you're reading, Zotmeister has a lengthy description of why Pac-Man CE rocks on the Twin Galaxies forum, starting: "It is to the original Pac-Man what the Tetris the Grand Master series is to the early Tetris games", and going into plenty more detail about the nuances of the switched-up, almost delicate, still high score-centric gameplay.]

From IGF Finalist 'The Blob' To THQ Wii Game 'De Blob'

June 30, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- As you might have spotted from a multitude of reports, some of THQ's E3 line-up has 'arrived' early, and one I'm delighted to see is the leaked announcement of 'De Blob' for the Wii, since it's a conversion of 2007 IGF Student Showcase finalist The Blob - which was actually called 'De Blob' in its native Dutch, and avoids nasty Steve McQueen copyright suits, now I come to think of it.

It's awesome to see student and indie projects get picked up like this - hopefully the increased IGF publicity had something to do with this! [EDIT: Spoke to The Blob's creators - apparently the THQ deal was almost finalized by the time GDC came around, but lots of other publishers and even Alexei Pazhitnov praised the game in person, so now the makers have some great contacts to pitch their next title at, yay.]

The original PC freeware game, which was done by students in the Netherlands as some kind of municipal project for the city of Utrecht, I believe (?) is still available for download, and the expanded Wii version, being handled by Australian studio Blue Tongue, seems to be due out in 2008.

Plus, as 'WizarDru' notes in the GoNintendo comments, and I pretty much agree with: "OMFG. De Blob is PERFECT for the Wii. I played the free game on the PC, and it was a great Katamari-esque game. Short on gameplay, of course, but it was a University project. Expanding it into a full-fledged multi-level game would be excellent!" Also, I will point out that the game makes me just as motion-sick as Katamari, which is a spectacular achievement (and my problem, not the creators', heh.)

GameSetQ: What Do Wii Want From WiiWare?

June 30, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- So you've seen that Nintendo has confirmed WiiWare downloadable digital content for the Wii, starting in 2008. And as our Gama story notes: "In a press statement, Nintendo suggests that WiiWare will pave the way for “smaller, more creative games” at lower prices and without any inventory risk to developer."

Now, there's still a little bit of controversy about how easy it is up to now for indies to get hold of Wii development kits - you may remember Ian Bogost's Serious Games Source feature on the subject late in 2006. But I've been chatting a little to some of the Nintendo folks in charge of their original downloadable efforts, and it's clear that they mean to do this right - and are starting, if a little late, with good intentions.

So - an open question. What is 'right', in this context? Do you want to see Nintendo going after great-looking Flash games or existing indies and getting them onto Wii? Do you want only to see titles that make unique use of the Wiimote, or are ones using the 'classic'-style controls perfectly acceptable?

Some other questions - is it better to have a more open playing-field, so that we get lots of content from all sizes of creator, and the users can pick and choose from a large amount of games?

Or should it be a little more highly selective, so that there aren't three flavors of block-shuffling puzzle game, for example? And how about first and second parties - should they be making WiiWare too, or should it be the one place where Mario doesn't hustle in to steal the spotlight? Opinions, please.

[UPDATE: A couple of blog reactions to this - A Link To The Future has a number of ideas, including: "Be careful leveraging Nintendo IP for new DLC. Nintendo’s biggest advantage over Microsoft is the fact that it has so many recognizable brands… but if it just churns out more crappy minigames, people are going to wonder why the hell they’re paying full price for more Mario Party."

Also, Tony @ Clickable Culture floats an interesting idea: "There's already a voting feature available for the Wii. It's called "Everybody Votes," and allows Wii users to weigh in on lightweight topics like "Sasquatch or Nessie?" What if Everybody Votes was mashed up with WiiWare? Voting could be limited to one vote per console per game, thus reducing or eliminating ballot-stacking. I'd rather have gamers tell me what's worth playing than Nintendo."]

Inside The (Expanded) History Of Zork

June 29, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- So, I'm hoping most of you already spotted Matt Barton's awesome 'The History Of Zork' feature over at Gamasutra, another one in a series profiling the Digital Game Canon titles. But you might not have spotted that Barton put up full versions of his original interviews for the feature on his own Armchair Arcade site.

He handily explains all the people talked to, as well: "Dave Lebling and Marc Blank are two of the original implementors who worked on Zork. Steve Meretzky came in later, and wrote several of the most successful Infocom games. Howard Sherman is president of a modern-day IF publishing company named Malinche Entertainment. Nick Montfort is the author of a book about IF called Twisty Little Passages."

My favorite quote? This Meretzky commentary on the influence of Zork and its brethren: "Sometimes I see the same sort of humor and irreverence of Zork popping up in games, for example in some of the NPC dialogue or quest names in WoW, and I like to think that that’s the influence of Zork in particular and the Infocom games in general. And without adventure games leading the way, I’m not sure you’d see storytelling elements so widespread in other genres."

[Oh, and a special scoop for GSW readers - next up in the Digital Game Canon series on Gamasutra will be Benj Edwards profiling Civilization and J Fleming (who previously analyzed Space War) discussing Star Raiders - and both will have extensive creator interviews. Good, important stuff, I think.]

Print Media, Jeff Green Cozy Up, Dish The Truth

June 29, 2007 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at The Escapist, there's a new interview with Games For Windows' EIC Jeff Green, every inch the elder stateman of the print journalism community. I found it particularly interesting after my recent ruminations on impartiality and journalism, since I referenced Green's impressively extreme independence to criticize Windows Live, despite GFW being an 'official' Microsoft publication.

Green too references this v.tricky balancing act, noting with a hint of terror: "The actual name of the magazine has still not exactly gotten much easier to say without cringing somewhat, and that has not been helped by the less-than-stellar rollout of the entire GFW platform so far, but, hey, far be it from me to bite the hands that feed! I love you, Microsoft! Seriously, they've put up with a lot of grief with us so far, and I am grateful so far that they have kept their word with us about "editorial independence." I haven't even gotten a call yet about my last column."

Plus, I think Green's sharp words for game websites are entirely on the money: "I'd say take a little more time to edit and proofread your articles. I just read some truly embarrassing stuff today, from one of the more supposedly "professional" sites. I mean, we're talking basic grammar here. Don't swallow every goddamn little crumb of hype that the game companies toss to us, like fish to seals, and post it as if it was some revelatory big scoop. Exercise more critical judgment."

Well, you know what, Jeff? Some game websites are so unprofessional that they might run a picture of unrelated race driver Jeff Green instead of you. How's that for critical judgment? Huh? Huh? (We kid, he's entirely correct. And he's rude about game mags just after puncturing the pride of game websites, so don't fret!)

Anyhow, it's a great interview, despite using a vaguely tongue-in-cheek hyperbolic quote for the title ("Game Magazines Have Sucked for Forever"). Thanks to QT3 for pointing it out - they have a decent thread on the whole discussion, also. Oh, and I believe this is The Escapist's news-specific RSS feed, if anyone is looking for it.

How Many Game Developers Are There In North America?

June 29, 2007 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

- The above question is what our Game Developer Research division, in the form of Alistair Wallis and a cadre of helpers, has been pondering for the last few weeks, and we just debuted a Gamasutra story with the results, as follows (we're selling the report to outsourcing firms and other services companies so they can get a head start on who lives where in the North American game biz):

"The CMP Game Group’s Game Developer Research division has revealed its first-ever Census - determining, through in-depth research, the number of people working within video game development and publishing in North America.

The key findings of the Census include the fact that there are more than 39,700 professionals developing or publishing games within the United States, with more than 8,100 professionals doing so across Canada.

More than 46% of all of those creating games within the United States (around 18,300 employees) are based in California, with Washington (11.63%) and Texas (7.37%) rounding out the top three states. In total, seven states (also including New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Florida) have more than 1,000 game professionals working in them.

Not included in the current Census estimate are game tools companies, game contracting/services companies, external PR, marketing, legal, and other business services, and liaison or licensing divisions at larger media companies. Game Developer Research putatively puts this figure at around 15,000 across North America, though it intends to research this part of the market in detail at a later date.

The Census report lists nearly 600 companies alphabetically by U.S. state and Canadian province, along with addresses, website information, estimates of employee numbers and details on their market specialties (from casual gaming, online gaming, mobile gaming and serious gaming to PC, handheld or console gaming). The report is intended to be a valuable tool for game industry contractors, service companies, and other entities wanting to acquire an accurate list to reach out to the North American game market as a whole.

“The game industry has long been asking for a census to better understand just how many people are creating games professionally in North America, and as the organization behind Game Developer magazine, Gamasutra.com and the Game Developers Conference, the CMP Game Group felt that it was our responsibility to use our expertise to establish an accurate view of its size,” said Simon Carless, publisher of Game Developer Magazine and director of Game Developer Research.

For more freely available information, including sample data, or to purchase the complete Game Developer Census 2007 report, please visit the official Game Developer Research website. Purchase of the full report includes both a 150-page in-depth report with listings by U.S. state and Canadian province, and a separate Excel document featuring the full, comprehensive data set in sortable and exportable form."

Achtung! An Impending Wave Of Lumines DS/PSP Ripoffs!

June 28, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- One of the cool things about the relative accessibility of Sony's PSP and Nintendo's DS is that you get some pretty sophisticated 'homebrew' programming for them, and even indie developers and publishers can make and release games.

But one of the issues with that low-budget 'clones' can quickly spring up, and European publisher Xider just put out a press release about an absolutely shameless (pictured) one, Luminator for DS - the catchy sounding 'Spieleflut.de' has more screenshots of the game.

The press release reveals: "XIDER Games will be making its first venture into the Nintendo DS format with Luminator DS, a puzzle-strategy game with a modern soundtrack and updated Tetris-style play which will banish your Rubik’s Cube to the attic permanently... Construction combos are needed as the player aims to turn their building blocks into valuable points... Luminator DS offers the player a constantly evolving challenge with two difficulty levels in ‘normal mode’ and three in ‘puzzle mode’, plus music to add tension and enhance enjoyment."

But come on - in what way can Xider think they can get away with this? The screenshots clearly reveal that the game even has similar style block designs and the horizontally moving 'scan thing' from the original PSP version of the most excellent Tetsuya Mizuguchi co-created puzzle game. And then there's the small matter of the first 5 letters of the title being 'accidentally' the same. So I'm presuming someone will do something about this.

- Anyhow, I was most of the way through finalizing this post when I noticed Got Game's PSP title 'Puzzle Scape', which has already shipped to stores, and boy, it's another borderline iffy Lumines clone/ripoff. As the publicity page explains:

"Escape to block-busting puzzles and pulsating beats in this exciting new puzzle game for your PSP system! Be entranced by brilliant, interactive evolutionary backgrounds from cells to dream-like landscapes in four unique themes over 40 levels. Level by addictive level, unlock fresh colors and luscious beats in either time and goal-oriented play or score-oriented play."

So nothing at all like Q's puzzler, then? Although having said that, as the Finnish creators at Farmind explain in an interview: "You manipulate the blocks that have already landed (not the ones that are falling) by swapping them horizontally. You must build a 2x2 square of blocks of the same color to explode them. If you add more adjacent same-colored blocks, they will create a chain reaction and explode as well." So there is at least a slight twist on the action - does that make it fair enough? Hmm.

The Gamer's Dark Side: Bloody-Handed?

June 28, 2007 8:01 AM | Leigh Alexander

- [The Aberrant Gamer is a weekly column by Leigh Alexander, dedicated to the kinks and quirks we gamers tend to keep under our hats. However, this special column deals, head on, with the subject of violence in games.]

The year is 1993, and a few kids are at the arcade, playing two-player Mortal Kombat. Sub-Zero versus Sonya, and the ninja’s winning. One of the kids is so small she has to hop up and down in the air to watch the fight, and she often does.

Sub-Zero’s being played by the oldest of them, and the kid’s practiced at this. The onlookers know exactly what’s coming. “Finish her!” They cheer in unison to Sonya’s dizzy swaying. The oldest kid bites his lip, steeling himself on the controls. Everyone’s watching, and he’s gotta do it right.

As Sub-Zero wrenches Sonya’s head from her body with the spine still attached, the oldest emits a guttural cry of triumph. The littlest child hops extra high to view the blood-drenched words spattered across the screen. Fatality.

All the kids squeal with the delight of the kill. My cousins and I.

GameSetHollywood: From Warcraft Movie To fl0w

June 27, 2007 11:55 PM | Simon Carless

- We've been covering the Hollywood & Games Summit, put on by Jamil and our CMP Game Group colleagues alongside The Hollywood Reporter, all day on Gamasutra (and a chunk of yesterday, too!). So, thanks to frantic scribblings from Brandon Sheffield and note deciphering from myself and Brandon Boyer, I wanted to present some highlights here:

- H&G: Tull Talks World of Warcraft Film: "Speaking at his Hollywood & Games Summit keynote, Legendary Pictures chairman Thomas Tull discussed the World of Warcraft film, saying the game has "the right stuff" to make a hit movie appealing beyond subscribers...

Speaking about the relative size of a game adaptation's potential audience, he noted, "Sure, there are 8 million people playing WoW, but even if all of those people saw the movie multiple times, we’d still be screwed." "It’s a jumping off point," he concluded of the game's subscription base, "and we see it as larger than that. World of Warcraft has the right stuff to make it happen.”"

- H&G: Mechner, Dille On Crossing The Digital Divide: "At a Hollywood & Games panel session, speakers including Prince Of Persia creator Jordan Mechner and Chronicles Of Riddick and Transformers TV show/game writer Flint Dille discussed how voice, writing, and film talent can cross the digital divide into games.

"So what do you look for in writing for games? Ubisoft Montreal's Ben Mattes chimed in: “If I had to choose someone, right away the first thing I’d tell them is there’s not a scriptwriter. There’s no room for writers in the game space. If you think of yourself as a writer, you’re going to have a hard time being in the space. I think there maybe was a time where people tried to hire writers, but now we look for story designers. You have to be a designer, and design that narrative and everything that goes around it.”"

- H&G: Tull, Davis On Brash's Film/Game Convergence: "Speaking at their Hollywood & Game Summit keynote 'Driving Mythology Forward' Legendary Pictures chairman Thomas Tull and Brash Entertainment CEO Mitch Davis talked film and game crossovers, confirming Brash game deals with Fox, Lions Gate, Warner Bros, Universal and Vanguard Animation."

Tull, who helped found Brash Entertainment, said of the motivations behind founding the company: “Contrary to what I’ve seen in the press, it's not to fix anything that’s broken. We looked at the growth in the category, and the platforms and what we think we can do, and one of the low-hanging fruit is movie games. It allows you to get a start in the category and kind of get your feet wet.”

- H&G: Santiago Talks Fl0w's Digital Distribution Success: "In another panel at today's Hollywood & Games summit in Los Angeles, Thatgamecompany's Kellee Santiago discussed digital distribution and her firm's PlayStation 3 downloadable game Fl0w, revealing a goal of "a game per year" for the developer."

In fact, of Thatgamecompany's future, it's revealed: "Fl0w was completed [for PlayStation 3's PSN downloadable service] in 7.5 months, and our goal is to continue creating a game per year. Even if you're working on a large project, with digital distribution you could make a smaller project on the side."

[UPDATED UPDATE: Final post for today is LucasArts' Jim Ward talking about lightsaber games very vaguely, you big tease. We also just posted something on Brent Friedman's intriguing 'Afterworld' cross-media project, possibly to become an MMO, and 'The Future Of TV And Games', with representatives from Foglight Entertainment, Electronic Arts, DirecTV and Xbox . And we already mentioned the Clive Barker 'games as art' keynote and Heroes' Jesse Alexander on ARGs from yesterday, too. Just being completist!]

Focus On: PlayStation Museum Goes Apocalyptic

June 27, 2007 6:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Every now and again, I like to sit back and focus on a neglected site that's doing a sterling job in some way, and this time round, it's the PlayStation Museum that I'd like to highlight, a resource that's doing a great job of somewhat obsessively finding and documenting unreleased PlayStation games.

Of course, the site also talks about released games (and was recently forced to try to liquidate its entire physical collection for unspecified reasons, though the latest update mysteriously reveals: "The director of the museum has recovered about 60% of the condition that he was stricken with a few weeks ago. This means business as usual.")

But it's the protos that are spectacular, with a particularly good Neversoft connection revealing an unreleased Ghost Rider proto and the very unreleased Exodus. Then, away from Neversoft, there's the PlayStation version of Superman, allegedly much better than the terrible N64 version, and a whole bunch more obscuro prototypes and unreleased titles.

Anyhow, the latest gem is again tangled up in Neversoft's history, and it's the original version of Bruce Willis co-starring action game Apocalypse, a title which had a pretty checkered history. It's explained: " Apocalypse started out as being developed in-house at Activision Santa Monica. The concept was to use Bruce Willis' likeness as a sidekick to the main character... After months of work, management at Activision had decided to let the team go and use an outside developer to finish the game. Scrapping the game was no option: Activision paid too much to use Bruce Willis' talent."

Thus, Neversoft stepped up: "None of the original code was used in the final version of Apocalypse, although they did use a bit of their graphics for the initial rooftops level... Another point was that focus testing has supposedly revealed that people wanted to play as Bruce, which contributed to the whole AI-sidekick thing being scrapped." There are videos of the original version of Apocalypse, too, and this is an awesome piece of gaming history, now fairly well documented (though it'd be great to hear all sides of the story, not just the Neversoft-predominant version.)

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