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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 August, 2007

Working On XBLA Without A Crystal Ball

August 28, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Xbox Live Arcade game portfolio planner David Edery has an intriguing post on his Game Tycoon weblog named 'Working Without A Crystal Ball', and it discusses his attitude to indie developers and XBLA, as well as what indies can do to help maximize their success potential.

I thought this passage was particularly interesting, since it discusses a system of peers in both content and marketing at Microsoft who help rate submissions - and of marketing, it's mentioned: "But first (for all you marketing haters out there), let the record show that XBLA’s two most experienced marketing people have regularly out-predicted the rest of the “experts” on the team (myself included) when it comes to sales of upcoming titles. Unfortunately, they stumble where everyone else does… attempting to predict the truly big winners."

Edery's conclusion discusses both the platform and the developer approach to games big and small: "Publishers can also do well by placing many (small) bets across a wide area, while (as always) relying on established IP to help stabilize revenues. But independent developers need to find their own solutions. If quickly creating and sharing prototypes doesn’t work for you, find something else that does. Hoping to be “the next Blizzard” is great, but 99% of developers won’t be the next Blizzard. In the off-chance that your company falls into that 99% bucket, having a plan B could help."

GameSetPics: Want To Play EA/Spore Monopoly?

August 28, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

So, you may have heard that Electronic Arts signed a new deal with Hasbro to create casual games based on notable Hasbro licenses such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Nerf, Tonka and Littlest Pet Shop (?).

As a results of this, Hasbro and EA jointly set out a special promo-only commemorative Monopoly set, featuring both Electronic Arts and Hasbro properties in place of the normal property names - and kindly sent one over to GameSetWatch (and yes, publishers, we can be sent stuff, we're not below mentioning that!) Anyhow, here are a few pics I took of the special board:

An overview of the board - with EA & Hasbro in the middle.

Zooming in on one of the sides, featuring The Sims 2, Pogo.com and Spore (just $220 to buy!)

The actual cards for the red set - great rent for Spore with a Hotel!

The other EA area, including Battlefield 2142, Medal Of Honor Airborne, and Need For Speed Carbon - also see Hasbro title Risk to the left..

Final shot of the card - note that it says '2142 Battlefield' thanks to odd logo text positioning, heh.

Honestly, the real story here - which I sadly don't have time to recount in detail - is the completely terrible deal Hasbro did in selling their interactive division (along with the Atari and Microprose brand names and games!) to Infogrames for about $100 million - mainly in stock - back in 2001.

Hasbro has spent tens of millions of dollars since buying their interactive rights back - for example, $19 million most recently and $65 million back in 2005. In fact, if you count the $22.3 million that 2K paid for the Civilization franchise, then Infogrames effectively got rights to the Atari name and all their games - plus other Hasbro rights they still hold such as those for Dungeons & Dragons, and other stuff like Games.com and various other Microprose properties - for free. OUCH.

Mind you, Infogrames is gradually drowning under its long-term debt after its massive spending spree, of which this acquisition was just a small part - but this one was the steal of the century. Still, should be fun to see some of these Hasbro properties in slightly better-funded hands, as long as you're not an EA hater, mm?

ErotiSim - Sex And The Sims: The Article

August 27, 2007 4:05 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at new PC uber-blog Rock Paper Shotgun, there's an excellent new Kieron Gillen article called 'ErotiSim: Sex and The Sims', which starts with, well, a call to Gillen "...from a freelancer from help-the-homeless-help-themselves magazine The Big Issue, which wanted to run a feature on The Sims’ runaway success. He was, essentially, looking for a quote saying that it was played by those with no social life to indulge in a surrogate fictional one."

Gillen continues: "He wasn’t interested in the truth – he admitted he’d been provided an angle by his Editor and was working to fulfil it. So I just informed him that, actually, The Sims was actually already receiving a snobbish backlash from actual hardcore gamers, and its fans were in fact non-typical players. Normal people were digging it, not just crazed obsessives." But, Gillen goes on - he thinks the angle that The Sims really thrives on is one that's very much hidden in the game itself:

"While sex is only a relatively small part of The Sims - crucially, your Sim can meet and form relationships with other Sims - it’s the dark heart that underlies everything. It’s not the engine of the game, but the romantic potential is its fuel, driving it onwards. Perhaps appropriately. The Sims simulates life and life’s nothing but a mass of social fabric wrapped tightly around that spark of attraction." More darkness within!

TO Jam Serves Up More Indie Goodness

August 27, 2007 8:05 AM | Simon Carless

- Aha, got sent a note from the folks at the Toronto Game Jam, aka ToJam, which we've covered before: "We recently finished a backlog of game uploading and website design. Since I last emailed you we've added at least 16 new games!" This is the second iteration of the Jam, btw - and it's pretty neat to see what people can come up with in just 2 or 3 days.

It's noted: "There have been 19 more games added [to the ToJam 2007 website] such as... * Two by Two * Noodle * Emergency Response Team * Super Defender Robo * Speakeasy * Monkey Banana Blitz * Yarrgh! * Box Wars * Urban Tactics * Sex Drugs & T3chno * Killer Coding Ninja Monkey." Poking around a bit, Urban Tactics has pixelated zombies in a Flash game, for starters!

Oh my, and there's also a music game called 'Sex, Drugs And Techno' - terrible name, but free music rhythm games are not to be sniffed at, and even Yarrgh!, which is a DS homebrew title that runs in an emulator: "Defend your airship from the merciless air pirates with the help of your rocket." Feel free to recommend/disrecommend other games in the comments?

GameCareerGuide Vs. Fumito Ueda Vs. NeoGAF - Fight!

August 27, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Something posted late last week to relatively little fanfare was Eric-Jon Waugh's 'Rock in His Pocket: Reading Shadow of the Colossus' - the latest in his series on our GameCareerGuide.com, which follows similar critiques for Viva Pinata and for Dead Rising, as well as an earlier look at Animal Crossing.

Waugh starts by suggesting, perhaps a little provokingly: "Paired with a more down-to-earth design team to translate his ideas (someone with a Valve mentality, perhaps) Ueda could change the world of games. But so far, he's been the master of the golden arrow. His ideas are so poignant yet so tediously executed that they create a certain cognitive dissonance in the player, inspiring not so much awe as transcendence, a deep need to puzzle over what went wrong and how to better it."

More fun still, the dangerous leprechauns at NeoGAF have been poking at the feature, group-tussle style, and I really appreciated the synopsis from Lemming_JRS: "What I took away from the article was this: SotC is a brilliant game that prevented itself from gaining a wider audience through design decisions that, while they might have served Ueda's vision, did not serve the player. Frame rate issues aside, SotC is not a game that most people, non-hardcore gamers especially, can just pick up and "get" right away. Does that make it a bad game? No. Does that prevent more people from seeing the entirety of Ueda's interesting ideas and vision? Yes." I never got into SotC, actually, and agree with the above.

Telespiele 1972-2007 Picks Most Influential Games

August 26, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- So, the Leipzig, Germany-based Games Convention trade/consumer show ends today, but something that's relatively little-reported is the Telespiele 1972-2007 mini-exhibit at the show, with an all-star collection of German journalists voting on the most important and influential games of all time.

Obviously redolent of the Digital Game Canon project, which now has a much more filled-out entry at the IGDA's Preservation SIG Wiki, incidentally, the folks at GC organizer Leipziger Messe sent over a press release for their own project which I can't easily find anywhere online, so I'm going to reprint it here.

For those who can't be bothered to scroll down/click through - the list, organized by Leipzig-based game journo Rene Meyer, includes 16 titles that the assembled voters found particularly seminal. It's implied that the four most-voted titles, in descending order, are Tetris, Pong, Doom, Pac-Man. Ah, look, and the German-language site has a full list of nominations, which is additionally interesting. Anyhow, read on for the full release...

COLUMN: 'Might Have Been' - Monster World IV

August 26, 2007 8:03 AM |

Holy crap, Asha is ugly.[“Might Have Been” is a bi-weekly column by Todd Ciolek that explores the ways in which promising games, characters, and concepts failed. This week’s edition looks at Sega and Westone's Monster World IV, released for the Mega Drive in 1994.]

The Monster World series is often recalled as one collective gem that went unappreciated in its time, but that isn't quite true: not only were there mediocre installments, but the series also had plenty of exposure.

If the original Wonder Boy was quickly overshadowed by Hudson’s fully licensed Adventure Island rip-off of it, Westone quickly developed the Monster World/Wonder Boy/Monster Lair/Whatever line into a succession of fairly popular action-RPGs, and nearly all of them came out in American and Europe. The only truly underrated, only-in-Japan Monster World was, sadly enough, the last and best of them.

There, that's better.Wonder Girl in Monster Land

Monster World IV is perhaps the only part of the series that can’t be mislabeled a “Wonder Boy” game; instead of an armored (or diapered) young swordsman, the lead is a silent, green-haired girl named Asha (“Arsha” shows up in some halfway official materials, but I don’t like it as much ), who pluckily departs her parents’ caravan to see the world.

And instead of a rudimentary Western fantasy realm, Monster World IV’s world is the stuff of 16-bit Arabian myth, full of ornate palaces, turban-sporting shopkeepers and bustling, sandy bazaars. The only things truly out of place are a breed of round flying creatures called Pepelogoo ("Peperogu" is another possible spelling, but it's not as aptly cute).

Shortly after arriving in the kingdom of Rapadagna, Asha hatches a rare blue “Pepe,” and it follows her throughout the game. A floating, dutiful little blob resembling both the title creature of My Neighbor Totoro and the Gundam franchise’s Haro robots (essentially the R2-D2 of Japanese pop culture), Pepe seems a highly marketable mascot that Sega never really tapped.

Penny Arcade Gets Wired, Not Tired, Expired

August 26, 2007 12:03 AM | Simon Carless

- Now, we've already linked the Halo 3 metrics cover feature from the new issue of Wired Magazine, but there's also another major video game-related article in the October mag - Chris Baker's very readable profile of the Penny Arcade chaps.

As Baker ably and correctly points out: "Penny Arcade may be invisible to the vast majority of Americans, but it has enormous reach and influence among people who care about games — the developers who create them, the publishers who sell them, the retail wage slaves who put them on store shelves, and the gamers who buy them."

For me, the sharp and accurate tongue of Holkins makes him possibly the most potent and important taste-making columnist in the entire game world - which is why Wired is profiling him, I'm guessing! In any case, Robert Ashley also has a pictorial preview of Penny Arcade Adventures, the upcoming game from the duo and Hothead Games, over on the Wired site.

[And yes, this post is handily located in the same spatial time continuum as the Penny Arcade Expo, which Gamasutra has been covering, including write-ups of a storytelling panel with Sam & Max, Penny Arcade Adventures and Sly Cooper staffers, plus the surprise Uwe Boll appearance, roughly equivalent to introducing Frankenstein at an angry villager convemtion.]

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Mag Roundup 8/25/07

August 25, 2007 4:02 PM |

2600.jpg

I got a bit of free spending money a week or two ago after being paid for some freelance, so I decided to use some of it to complete my collection of 2600. This is no arduous feat, since every issue (dating all the way back to January 1984) is available for purchase on their website.

If you're at all interested in the topic of underground computer activity and its history, I think you should definitely make this (admittedly kinda pricey) purchase. The mag has never been the flashiest, but ever since its inception it's always been about half serious hardware/software issues and half civil disobedience. I can't get enough of its rhetoric, and I hope it'll continue to defy death in the current magazine marketplace.

By the way, the ferret in the picture is one I've been fostering lately. Her name's Princess (blecch), she is almost seven years old, and she'd like to have a home. Why not contact Forever Homes Wanted Ferret Rescue if you're in Houston? I bet she'd be happy to hear if you did.

Anyway, click on to read all about the game magazines of the past couple weeks. This month marks most mags' "E3 issues," which for me are consistently the most boring editions of the year these days (it's all been on the internet for a month, I mean duh magazine editors), so not much commentary from me this time.

Jason Rubin On Life After Naughty Dog

August 25, 2007 8:08 AM | Simon Carless

- Apologies for being a little link-heavy and opinion-light in recent days, btw - a very busy 2008 budgeting season and a trip with my folks to San Diego are slowing me down.

But hey, that just means that I get to parcel out more neat GSW-worthy Gamasutra links to you, and the latest is the in-depth piece 'Naughty Dog, New Tricks: An Interview With Jason Rubin', just posted yesterday.

As we noted in the intro: "You might know Jason Rubin for his co-founding role at Los Angeles developer Naughty Dog, creator of the Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter series, but the developer, who largely left the industry after amicably departing Naughty Dog a couple of years back, is currently involved in a number of new projects. These include his Web 2.0-styled slideshow/transition-enabling website Flektor (which was created with his Naughty Dog co-founder Andy Gavin, and has just been acquired by MySpace) and his new IP, comic book and reported 'multimedia project' Iron and the Maiden."

This interview is based on a Comic-Con follow-up that Brandon Sheffield did, after we had lunch with Rubin a couple of months back, and there's plenty of notable material in there (yes, including more on the Metallica game!) - we particularly extracted Rubin's comments on next-gen hardware:

"I would much rather have a console that’s 30% weaker and have three times as many of them in the first year sold, so your game reaches a broader audience, and you can be a little bit more aggressive with your budgets up front and things like that. I don’t think it’s about technology. It’s about entertainment."

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