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About GameSetWatch

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

GameSetLinks: June 20th, 2007

June 21, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- So, still trying to work out whether this redesigned, 'cut down' GameSetWatch is actually taking me more time than the old one, heh. It's certainly more, fun, though, and judging by the enthusiastic response to a couple of the opinion pieces I posted, people seem to dig it. Onward and upward with a nice smattering of random links:

- Aquaria Edits Things Up: An official Aquaria blog update has revealed video of the level editor that will now ship with the IGF Grand Prize-winning title - and it looks remarkably intuitive. Alec Holowka [EDIT: Oops!] notes: "We recently decided to work on including our editor tools in the game as well as a Mod framework... What else are we doing? Working on the end of the game, secrets and various details… and unfortunately we can’t show any footage of that yet, for obvious reasons." Neat!

- The Compleat Gold Farmer: This is actually from last weekend, but it's well worth pointing out, since we didn't - Julian Dibbell released a longform New York Times Magazine piece entitled 'The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer', and the result of a great deal of first-person research inside China: "For every 100 gold coins he gathers, Li makes 10 yuan, or about $1.25, earning an effective wage of 30 cents an hour, more or less. The boss, in turn, receives $3 or more when he sells those same coins to an online retailer, who will sell them to the final customer (an American or European player) for as much as $20."

- Quick, EA, Hyde!: Over at Pocket Gamer, British freelancer du jour Jon Jordan has written a cute little blog post pointing out Electronic Arts' UK headquarters being used in new BBC drama: "We’ll assume it’s not because the giant publisher is falling on hard times, but keen-eyed viewers of James Nesbitt-vehicle Jekyll, on BBC1 this Saturday, would have noticed EA’s publishing UK HQ standing as a swanky-looking hospital [pictured above, or at lleast someone loitering in front of it]... The Lord Foster-designed building used to be pretty busy, but last year EA Europe’s senior management buzzed off to a Swiss low tax haven, while all the developers got shunted down the road to Guildford, so maybe filling up the entrance hall with film crews makes sense." Hah!

- Developer, Academia Clash?: Well, not totally, but a Santa Cruz Sentinel article discussing the new UCSC game degree, co-run by Grand Text Auto-er Michael Mateas, has a couple of quizzical quotes from local developers about game education. Gish co-creator Josiah Piscotta: "I think schools are a little behind the times" - though I think he's implying it's a good thing that they are starting degrees now. Cryptic's Jack Emmert is a lot more vociferious: "I think these programs are stealing money... It's premature for universities to sell degrees when the industry hasn't even figured out what the skill set is to be a successful game designer." Though I think many schools train artists and programmers too, but - interesting. (via VH1 Game Break)

- Blow Hits Indie Podcast: Must say that I didn't know about the Indie Game Developer's Podcast, but the latest edition has Jon Blow, "...founder of the Experimental Gameplay Workshop at GDC and developer of the game Braid talking about game design" - GBGames explains that "...near the end, he talks about story in games, specifically saying that games can tell a story without resorting to the methods used in media such as books and movies." Blow also popped up on Arsecast recently, which is less painful than it sounds.

- Oh God, The Metaverse: Finally, Raph Koster points to a MIT Technology Review cover story called 'Second Earth', and subtitled: "The World Wide Web will soon be absorbed into the World Wide Sim: an environment combining elements of Second Life and Google Earth." Sure, it's breathy stuff, but it turns out the whole online worlds thing (often involving penguins!) is a big deal, despite the Second Life hype bubble distorting many viewpoints. In fact, we have something rather smart to announce in this general area (hopefully next week!), which I think will make Koster happy, for starters. And no, it's not a virtual beard grooming machine.

More Talk, Less Action: Erotic Text Adventures

June 20, 2007 4:01 PM | 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.]

-Just like with sex, the visual component’s a huge part of gaming. However, the text-only interactive fiction community’s still going strong, programming, sharing and entering into competition text adventures of all stripes— throwbacks to the Infocom era that are often quite sophisticated. Gamers can still enjoy over a decade’s worth of text adventures with only a simple, fuss-free interpreter for TADS or Inform, two of the most common languages for writing interactive fiction.

Interactive fiction—commonly called simply “IF”—requires a goodly helping of imagination. This is due in part to the fact that solutions are sometimes notoriously obscure, but largely, it’s simply because in today’s environment of lush game cinematics and jaw-dropping graphics, it’s increasingly tough to play a game where all of the images are user-created—that is, spun from the mind’s eye.

Many Hentai games are little more than point-and-click slideshows of character graphics; given the often typified plot construct clumsily erected to showcase the sex scenes, plenty of people prefer to bag the “game” entirely and just download the CG sets. Given this, how erotic can a completely image-free sex game be?

GameSetQ: Your 'Oh My God' Moment In Games?

June 20, 2007 8:02 AM | Simon Carless

- The other evening, I was happily playing along in Medium mode on Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360, and - at the point of an encore, about halfway through the mode, it happened. What happened? A heavens-to-Betsy 'Oh My God' gaming moment - which I'm sure all of you have had in the past at some point.

What conflation of events made me so ecstatic? Well, take a finely crafted Harmonix rhythm game, always one of my favorite genres (and I loved Frequency and Amplitude, too), and add a little Spinal Tap - whom I'm proud to say I caught live with Steve Vai in San Francisco during their last tour - that's a great start.

More specifically, the track in question is 'Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight' - you just wait for the breakdown before the guitar solo comes in, and then hit Star Power and jam it, and - not a dry seat in the house, indeed. Then slam happily into the end of the song to see... the drummer explode onscreen. Even yet another Spinal Tap reunion can't compare to that particular piece of video game magic.

- So I guess what I'm saying is that everyone has a certain combination of gameplay styles, visuals, music, effects, and personal loves that can come together in a special moment. And it's not quite the same as other creative media, because you're interacting with the game and affecting the outcome.

Thus, my GameSetQ to you, kind reader, is as follows. Whether it be in Rez, Zelda, Psychonauts, or a host of other games, what single crowning moment in video gaming has blown you away with how much you enjoy it, on a visceral level, a humor level, or even a deeply emotional level?

How Perry, LoPiccolo, Dizzy Got Their Start In Games

June 20, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- OK, the cute little eggman isn't really one of those we asked, but sister site Game Career Guide has been quizzing a bunch of notables, including Dizzy's daddy Philip Oliver (Blitz), former Shiny supremo David Perry, and Harmonix VP Greg LoPiccolo (as well as Aussie veteran Derek Proud), about just how they got into the game industry - way back when.

Let's have a paragraph, then, highlighting each of the alternately 'bedroom programmer' and 'rock god' ways they sneaked into the biz - not necessarily applicable nowadays, but darn interesting nonetheless:

Philip Oliver: "The twins believed that by using their own "ideas and perseverance" they could "write great games". Even at that point though - staying up until all hours of the night, working on their own games, which were steadily becoming more and more proficient - Philip never "projected ahead" for a possible career in the industry. "Industry?" he laughs. "At that point in time nobody really believed there was an industry; just a passing fad for a few nerdy hobbyists. Our view was that if we could get paid to for our hobby then we'd see how long we could avoid getting real - dull - jobs.""

Greg LoPiccolo: "LoPiccolo's interest in games didn't start until the relatively late age of 32 - for the most part, he was more focused on his career in Boston rock band Tribe. It wasn't until 1993 that he was exposed to the industry by a friend who worked as a programmer for Looking Glass Studios, which had just released Ultima Underworld II. The company was about to start work on System Shock, and LoPiccolo was asked to contribute to the game as a composer."

David Perry: "Later that year, Perry decided to send his work on Cosmos, and a number of other games, to National ZX Users Club magazine, and was paid £450 for his efforts. It was at this point, he says, that he realized working with games "could actually become a job". After meeting the magazine's publisher, Tim Hartnell, Perry asked if he could contribute a chapter to one of the books that Hartnell was working on at the time - the appropriately named Tim Hartnell's Giant Book of Spectrum Games." Wait, isn't Tim Hartnell's Giant Book of Spectrum Games more rock than being in Tribe?

GameSetLinks: June 19th, 2007

June 19, 2007 4:07 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, time for the new-style GameSetWatch 'concatenate lots of random links into one place' concept - and there's everything from Crecente Winfrey's Game Club to fractal fighting action in this particular bouquet of goodness:

- Kotaku's Game Club: Kotaku's Brian Crecente was nice enough to ask me my opinion on some interesting indie PC games to include in his Game Club concept, which is, yes, a lot like Oprah's Book Club, except for games - and he set up a poll to pick the first title, including my picks for discussable, deeper indie titles - Deadly Rooms Of Death: The City Beneath, Mr. Robot and Cave Story. Looks like Cave Story is coming in second to Beyond Good And Evil right now, but hopefully they will try more of these games at some point, because they're all very worth.

- Metal Gear/Halo Comic Art @ Ebay: Some late-night eBay trawling produced some completely awesome Ashley Wood artwork from Metal Gear Solid, apparently an alternate cover for one of the comics. Wood's style is increasingly being used by Kojima Productions, of course, with it appearing in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, so it's a rare example of game-comic-game crossover. Also, there's some Simon Bisley art from the Halo graphical novel, if that's your poison.

- Fractal Fighter Shmup!: Derek Yu points out a completely awesome looking shooter at TIGSource: "Crazy cactus has put together (in 24 hours, I might add) a great [free-to-download] “boss rush” shoot ‘em up called Fractal Fighter. In this one you’ve got to clip off the tips of each boss while you slowly make your way in to the core. Each “generation” of the boss has it’s own attack pattern."

- Pollen Sonata's Abstractions: Abstract ambient game alert! Selectparks points out a Source Engine-modded title called Pollen Sonata, which is "... meditative, to say the least: the mix of navigating in wind currents (the work with force vectors is quite impressive) sound-design and soft colour-palette had me quite preoccupied with my my new life as a small cluster of pollen. Once finished playing I was left looking for a genre with which to describe it and arrived at Casual Ambient."

- Silent Movie Critics & Games?: MTV News' Stephen Totilo now has his own domain for his MTV Multiplayer blog, and on it, he links to a new MTV News story which discusses the early days of film criticism and how it resembles how games are being treated now. "Münsterberg [who was around in the 1910s!] wrote about the "movement toward Federal censorship" and defended movies — photoplays — by claiming that people always hated a new medium but inevitably learned to appreciate it."

Who Are The Sex Pistols Of Gaming?

June 19, 2007 8:02 AM | Simon Carless

- So, I was watching Julien Temple's excellent documentary 'The Filth And The Fury' earlier today, and it really made clear just how iconoclastic and absolutely terrifying The Sex Pistols were in the '70s.

For example - let's not forget that when they got to the top spot in the UK music charts with 'God Save The Queen', there officially was no No.1 single that week - the top spot was just blank in the printed version of the chart countdown.

And it got me thinking - has the game industry got an equivalent of The Sex Pistols? That is to say - a rough and ready, don't give a crap-styled set of rabble rousers who nonetheless start a whole movement?

Well, probably not, since there's nothing that the media and public is quite so abjectly terrified of, nowadays. But here's some nominations for people who at least embody elements of the Sex Pistols' spirit:

- They're English as well, but they don't spit on stage as much - the guys at Introversion Software, headed by Mark Morris, Chris Delay, and Tom Arundel have an attitude, an image, and let's not forget, they can use naughty words to get developers pogo-ing with the best of them. Mind you, they aren't afraid to aim high, too, integrating elements of Malcolm McLaren-esque svengali-ing into their publisher non-f*cking-with. Their long-term goal? "To be the Kubrick / Tarantino of the games industry." Talking a good talk is very Pistols.

- In terms of careful image creation and cooler-than-thou attitude, Rockstar Games, whatever its state under Take-Two's new management, exudes 'don't mess with me' attitude. Like the Sex Pistols, Rockstar speaks to the press little, if ever - exuding disdain along the way (in The Filth And The Fury, inebriated journo Nick Kent admits that the Sex Pistols got on so well with the media because they hated them, and journalists are essentially "masochistic".) And they're drawn to controversial subjects like flies to honey, something the Pistols ('Belsen's A Gas', after all) were also mighty fond of. There's a similar ability to cause outraged politicians and tabloid headlines, too.

- Most of all, I think of Vince Desi and the Running With Scissors clan at GoPostal.com. Desi is a man, lest we forget, who has licensed his key product to Uwe Boll to make a 9/11-aping movie in which he appears as a gigantic penis mascot called 'Krotchy' (tagline - 'Only my father and my priest can touch me there'). They sponsor Mixed Martial Arts fighters for no good reason, and they declare happily: "Running With Scissors develops and publishes outrageous games just for the hell of it." Now that's the deliberately pointless Sex Pistols spirit at work - touche. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

GameSetNetwork: From Hard Drivin' To Domestic Abuse

June 19, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Something else I'll be doing more of is rounding up original reporting on the CMP Game Group's edit sites - which includes big sister Gamasutra, as well as mobile game site Games On Deck and education site Game Career Guide.

Why? Because, honestly, I think some of the stories sometimes get a little slept on, due to the volume of edit we put out. Here we go:

- Take Action On Domestic Abuse: Over at Gamasutra, there's an interview with Susana Ruiz of Take Action Games, the designer of MTVu-sponsored social activism game Darfur is Dying. She's now revealed her latest project, RePlay: Finding Zoe, a Flash-based game encouraging children to report domestic abuse - and she explains: "What the game attempts to convey is that, while it can be extremely challenging to act out on an injustice around us, it is definitely our greatest power to observe, care and take action."

- Midway & Ghost Patents: Our main feature on Gama today was called 'Hard Drivin', Hard Bargainin': Investigating Midway’s ‘Ghost Racer’ Patent', and the Kyle Orland-authored piece is explained as follows: "Did you know that games such as Project Gotham Racing and Ridge Racer 6 are paying Midway to include 'ghost mode' cars to race against, thanks to a patent in the company's 1989 arcade racer Hard Drivin'? We analyze the original patent, talk to Midway and licensee Global VR, and examine just how patents impact the biz." Honestly - damn those patents all to hell.

- Hollywood... Games!: My colleague Brandon Boyer caught up with Hollywood & Games Summit and GDC head honcho Jamil Moledina to discuss next week's L.A.-based conference, which CMP is doing in association with The Hollywood Reporter. and has keynotes from Clive Barker and 300 producer Thomas Tull, as well as appearances from Jordan Mechner, Rob Pardo, and a host of others. Moledina seems to think that the film and game biz are playing a lot nicer, nowadays:

"For the first couple of decades of this relationship, the collaborative expressions lived at a fairly consistent level, where most decisions were business-related. There was a mix of results, as you pointed out, that everyone would admit. Today, we’re seeing much more creative participation."

[A couple of brief other highlights - there's a Games On Deck feature called 'Ditch the Emulators: How to Code Your Own J2ME Simulator', handy for the hardcore cellphone game heads, and the latest 'China Angle' column has Shang Koo discussing Microsoft's investment in Chinese PC-based 'console' firm Changhong, which "...might be the first step in Microsoft's intricate strategy, but will likely end as a cheap lesson on China's console market."]

2007 Independent Games Summit Gets Physical

June 18, 2007 4:10 PM | Simon Carless

- So, I'm delighted to announce that we've just set up a new website for the Independent Games Summit, the IGF-affiliated event that took place for the first time at Game Developers Conference 2007 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, on March 5th and 6th, 2007. (We'll do it again in 2008.)

As we explain on the page: "The Independent Games Summit [which runs alongside the Independent Games Festival at GDC] seeks to highlight the brightest and the best of indie development, with discussions ranging from indie game distribution methods through game design topics, guerrilla marketing concepts, student indie game discussions, and much more."

Even better, we are gradually putting video of the 2007 Independent Games Summit online "for free, in the spirit of sharing, and to help the indie community understand and better itself".

The first one of these is the 'Physics Games Go Indie' lecture from new IGF content co-director Matthew Wegner - here's a direct Google Video link and .MP4 download link for his lecture, plus the embedded version:

Here's the original session description: "Wegner, who is both an indie developer and runs the physics game blog Fun-Motion, explains why real-time physics are such a big part of many innovative independent games, with demonstrations and practical tips for developers wanting to use physics to make their games stand out."

[And actually, pictured in top left is his own Flashbang Studios' Sealab 2021: Sweet Mayhem game [.EXE link] for Adult Swim, completed as part of the IGF Project Goldmaster Award, which used physics rigs for the enemies - we're always up for a little bit of elastic Stormy action.]

OPINION: Evenhanded Media Digg Policies - For Game Sites, Too?

June 18, 2007 8:08 AM | Simon Carless

- Jason Kottke has pointed out something that warms the very cockles of my heart, with regard to fair linking and Digg, something I've previously discussed more than once here on GameSetWatch.

He explains: "Digg policies from Lifehacker and [from] Gizmodo, which state that the only Digg-worthy posts of theirs are those with "original content, new reporting, treatment, or photos" because "it's not fair when we get the Digg for someone else's work.""

However, Kottke then goes on to make the fair, but slightly tortuous point that: "This seems inconsistent on the part of Gawker Media. One of their main innovations (if you'd like to call it that) regarding the blog format was the idea of linking to things in such a way that readers don't need to actually leave the site to get the full (or nearly full) story."

Yet should a site be actively promoting a story that's been broken by another site? As I've said before: "You can absolutely submit things from your own outlet to Digg - we also do it from time to time - but IMHO, it should be your own original reporting, otherwise the dilution of information just discourages first-hand reporting." I think Kottke's arguing that the very blog format does that already - so the Digg-ing of such stories is just another form of what makes the blog useful in the first place.

But I think what Jason is missing is that increasingly, blogs are running original content in order to lock in their readership increases and develop a more unique editorial voice, while getting people to link to them - Kotaku has a fair amount of original stories every week, for example. So they're also now in the situation where they break exclusives and other editorial sites and/or blogs don't give them the respect that they deserve - which is unfair.

This linking thing is mighty confusing, of course - but consider this an open call sites and ESPECIALLY random Digg users. Here's what I think. When a blog picks up on someone else's tip or original reporting, then when writing a story about it, they should name the source (at an absolute minimum) and link them (unless there's a v.sensible reason not to).

At which point, site admins and _especially_ users - don't Digg the story or heavily promote it unless you are promoting the primary source. Checking out the Digg game page right now, I can see thousands of hits redirected away from Newsweek and from IGN, without any crediting, natch. It discourages independent reporting and thought in the game journalism community, and it's lame. Anyone else want to comment about it too on their own sites?

GameSetLinks: June 18th, 2007 Edition

June 18, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Been trying to think a little bit about what GameSetWatch means to me, my employer, and the game biz, and so we're trying something new for a little bit.

Namely - the same unheralded/alternative links we have always run will be around, but concatenated into a single daily post, linklog-stylee, and then we'll save our longer posts for more interesting and longer-form columns and opinion pieces. Or that's the concept. So here we go:

- HDRLying has a piece up discussing 'The Top Eight Labors of Love in Gaming History', explaining: "Sometimes, a team puts so much of their heart, soul, time (and sometimes even their lives) into a game, that it becomes much more than just a product; it becomes a labor of love." Examples include Panzer Dragoon and Cave Story.

- There really do seem to be more forgotten, interesting titles on the Game Boy than a lot of other consoles - and Disgruntled Designer rounds them up in a new post - for example the marvellously obscure Trip World: "This game suffered the fate of many of Sunsoft's fantastic games in the 1990s like Hebereke and Gimmick!, namely being withheld from release in North America, and being released in low numbers in Japan." [Via NamakoTeam.]

- How many page views might you get if those dapper dons of gaming cartoons, Penny Arcade, linked to you? Thomas & The Magical Words creator Chanon at Viquasoft has found out: "In the month of December 2005 we got 42,904 visitors and 26,081 downloads (hits to the download link) for our game Thomas and the Magical Words from Penny-Arcade from this post. Conversion rates were actually above normal, which I believe was probably because Tycho himself was actually recommending the game." Not bad.

- Here's an interesting one - someone at NBC Universal sent over a physics toy that I guess they've commissioned (is this to promote something, or just a new interactive site they're trying?): "I wanted to point you in the direction of a game/community called Calamity Game. Its a Flash based physics web toy where users start with a blank canvas and a rag doll. They can then create their own scenes using different tools." It's... neat.

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