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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

Time To Go Delving Inside Knytt Stories?

August 25, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- The fun indie Mentisworks blog has been discussing the upcoming PC indie title Knytt Stories, which is actually due out in just 6 days, and is much awaited by fans of Nifflas' other games - abstract but almost folk-art evocative in turn - such as Knytt and Within A Deep Forest.

Michael from Mentisworks has grabbed a preview copy of Knytt Stories, and provides an interesting analysis, first noting: "The most prevalent design element which I see in all of Nifflas' games is minimalism. This does tend to come in varying degrees, but each title that he produces seems to follow the old adage of "less is more." Knytt Stories continues in this vein in all aspects as much as its predecessor, and that is in no small part a contributing factor to its success."

His conclusion? "The fewer preconceptions you can bring with you the better. Not because your expectations will not be fulfilled, but because this game is a different experience than much of your standard gaming fare. Come to Knytt Stories relaxed. Come to it as you would come to an old friend you have not seen for years, and it will treat you well. If you can manage to do all this, it is unlikely that you will be disappointed." Six days, folks.

Game Design Essentials: 20 Difficult Games

August 24, 2007 4:03 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Gamasutra, the ever-handy John Harris has just delivered 'Game Design Essentials: 20 Difficult Games', the first in a series of, yes, list articles - but list articles that find some interesting angles and provide concrete design lessons for game professionals. Or that's the idea!

As he notes in the intro: "Certainly, difficulty in a video game must be handled carefully. Nothing attracts the ire of those fickle game bloggers quite like them getting their asses handed to them by a game. And it is possible to make a game arbitrarily difficult without too much effort."

I won't give away the full contents of the list (which already made front page on Digg and hopelessly broke our site briefly as a result), but here's a salient disclaimer: "Take note, although some of the hardest games ever made are on this list, it is by no means a list of the absolute hardest games. That’s why it includes Mischief Makers before Alien Storm; not because the latter game isn’t harder, but because Mischief Makers’ difficulty is particularly instructive. Of course, both of them pale before the terrible majesty of Sinistar." So go poke and disagree noisily, already.

Mapping User Patterns In Quake III, Halo 3

August 24, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Funnily enough, this post started with a much more low-profile reference, with new metrics tools company Orbus Gameworks discussing their example Quake III visualization software, and there are all kinds of interesting visuals linked there-in.

It's explained of the upgraded version: "The important thing we added was a heat map based on where players spend time on the map. The opacity of each green square represents, for the area it covers on the map, how much time was spent in that square by the players. So you get a good sense of how much of your level content is actually used. It also revealed things about certain levels, such as areas where there is high traffic but very few kills tend to occur."

Oddly enough, I was then reading the latest issue of Wired Magazine, and the excellent cover story on Halo 3, by Clive Thompson, talks about many similar kinds of metrics analysis being used in Bungie's much-awaited Xbox 360 title, for example: "In early tests, players wandered lost around the Jungle level: Colored dots showing player location at five-second intervals (each color is a new time stamp) were scattered randomly. So Bungie fixed the terrain to keep players from backtracking." Synchronicity at work!

Game Developer's 2007 Game Career Guide Gets... Jeff!

August 24, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Just spotted that Jeff Ward, former Bethesda and current Orbus Gameworks staffer, has posted his additional Top Ten Tips on his Jeff On Games weblog "...that I wish I had known just coming out of college and looking for a game job."

This is actually an extension of his tips for those wanting to get into the game biz, as printed in the new Game Developer 2007 Career Guide magazine special, which I realize we forgot to mention on GameSetWatch - and will do so now by extracting the Gamasutra story about it:

"The special 2007 Game Career Guide issue of Game Developer magazine, the sister U.S. print publication to Gamasutra, is now available for paid digital download and on news-stand, including a wealth of exclusive articles and listings on paths into the video game industry.

A digital version of the issue is available for download at the official Game Developer magazine site. In addition, copies of the Game Career Guide will also be available at the CMP Game Group's and other affiliated events over the next few months, starting with next month's Austin GDC show.

As well as the canonical Game School Directory, a list of major North American schools with game development classes, detailed columns explain different types of game schools, run down the 2006 Game Developer Salary Survey, and a guide of the top industry events, associations, and other major features.

In addition, the major feature articles in the Career Guide are as follows: 'Top 10 Tips', by Jeff Ward, Tom Carroll, Michel Kripalani, Toby Schadt, and Stuart Roch: "Ten things things you need to know right now to prepare you for life as a video game programmer, modeler, animator, designer, or producer. Undecided? These tips do more than just guide—they also shed light on the personality profiles of each profession so you can ask yourself where you’ll fit in best."

The postmortem for the issue is as follows: 'Student Postmortem: P.H.L.O.P.' by Brian Kircher, Chance Lyon, and Thanh Nguyen: "Physics Has Limitless Observable Possibilities! Okay, maybe the title of this game doesn’t exactly make you want to jump out of your seat and shoot some zombies, but you can’t knock the team that built it. Three DigiPen students share what went right and what went wrong in creating this physics-based puzzle game."

Another major feature is 'Is Modding Useful?', by Alistair Wallis: "Once upon a time you had an idea for a video game. You said, “I just have to make this!” And so you did. You drew up some design documents. You doodled on the back of your checkbook. And one day, with the help of a few friends, it all came together when you realized you could morph an existing game engine into your very own dream game. Was it all just fun and games, or is it possible to claim that experience on your resume? Can you get a job if you’ve only ever developed mods?"

Finally, there's 'A Day In the Life' by Andrew Zaferakis, Ben Lichius, and Ben Schneider: "Taxicab Confessions? How about Developer Diaries? If you’ve ever wondered what a game developer actually does each day at work, here’s your chance to find out. We asked three pros to take notes on a typical day and put together a journal of what happened. In this exclusive article, take a peek at what goes on inside three studios."

The Game Developer 2007 Game Career Guide issue is available for digital purchase in Game Developer's interactive digital format now - and is also available in physical format at major North American bookstores and magazine sellers."

Kokoromi In Gamma 256 Abstraction Shock!

August 23, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, a brand new competition has been announced by Montreal art-game collective Kokoromi, and it's all about making low-resolution games, as follows: "Between now and November 1st, 2007, you have 70 days to create a game with the smallest and/or most irregular aspect ratio you can dream up. And then on November 28th, we’re throwing a giant party for your game, in Montreal. It is gamma 256."

And it's pretty neat, really - the results will be shown at an [EDIT: official closing party!] for the Montreal International Games Summit, and there's only two rules: "1. Your game’s resolution absolutely may not exceed 256×256 pixels maximum. 2. Your game must run on Windows XP and use an xbox360 controller." Straightforward enough, eh?

In addition, there are questions and answers already on whether 'blown-up' entries will be allowed: "The idea is that the games will be blown up to fill up big projector screens all over the venue. So yes, your “in-game pixel” may actually be 64 pixels on screen. BUT, you can't have smooth 1 pixel scrolling or rotations or things like that." So there. Looking forward to lots of horribly blocky entries - in a nice way.

COLUMN: The Aberrant Gamer: 'Suffer the Little Children'

August 23, 2007 8:04 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. NOTE: No BioShock spoilers whatsoever beyond discussion of exposition; Leigh's twisted, but humane.]

-This week, legions of souls were pulled down into Rapture. The ruined utopia built on – and decimated by – vanity, greed and madness is compelling for many reasons; hauntingly vivid environments, unprecedented physics, and an unsettlingly lifelike quality in the smallest of aspects, in each little discarded artifact of a society torn open by excess and obsession, hiding in the fringes of their broken world.

One of the things that makes BioShock so compelling, ironically, is its humanity, a funny thing to think of when it’s so immediately evident just how far from humanity Rapture’s citizens have strayed. But it’s the objectivity of that distance that really gives one pause; though they’ve long since made fatal strides from the path of sanity, we can see behind each blood-smudged mask and spliced body, can hear in each broken moan and tortured whisper, the ghosts of who they used to be – ghosts that look quite a lot like us.

It makes sense; it’s very clear in the environmental storytelling how a tweak became an overhaul, how a paradise became Hell – rooted, as such extremes always are, in a very moderate wish. What if we could repair those traits which cause us suffering? Scientists, doctors and therapists, dieticians, cosmetologists and engineers endeavor to that end even in our real-world lives today. What if there wasn’t necessarily something wrong with us, but we just wished to be a little more beautiful, a little stronger, a little more resilient?

Robertson Waxes Lyrical On Vibri Goodness

August 23, 2007 12:03 AM | Simon Carless

- Matteo Bittanti was kind enough to point out that former Edge editor (and current 'journo about town') Margaret Robertson is updating her 'Downtime' blog with neat material about games - most recently a post about Masaya Matsuura's Vib Ribbon series of games.

She notes: "You'll probably remember Vibri - the angular rabbit that did rhythm gymnastics to your CD collection [in Vib Ribbon.] You probably won't remember Mojibri - the big-trousered gent who did rapping calligraphy in Mojib Ribbon, or Vibri's elastic return when she bounced all over your digital photos in Vip Ripple."

And then continues by ruminating of the titles: "So are they a trilogy at all? Or just three unrelated games from someone too lazy to think up a new naming convention? Absolutely. What Matsuura does is use the familiar to make the unfamiliar more palatable."

Also, Robertson is writing semi-regular game editorials for BBC News, and the latest takes an entertainingly perverse look at why games aren't always about socializing: " That image - of the lone figure hunched over a keyboard, curtains drawn against the intrusions of the afternoon sun, typing in vowel-less code to total strangers and peeing in a bottle to reduce time away from the screen - will persist, and it will persist because it's accurate." Good show!

GameSetHelp: Shanghai-Based Readers, GDC China Coverage?

August 22, 2007 4:03 PM | Simon Carless

- Firstly, thanks to those readers who responded to our previous call for help on attending far-off game conferences and reporting for Gamasutra - we got help with both Leipzig and Edinburgh coverage from GameSetWatch readers, and we thank you guys heartily for it. But now, we have a tougher assignment - next week's GDC China event in Shanghai!

Our original freelancer who was covering the inaugural event had to drop out at short notice, so we are looking for someone in Shanghai who was going (and/or is interested) and can spare some time from August 27th-29th to send us notes from some of the major and minor lectures.

This first GDC China event, which is co-organized by CMP and IDG, has keynotes by folks from Epic China and Sony Online, and a whole heap of interesting lectures, all of which are also available in English, even if the source language is not originally that.

Anyhow, our Group Director Kathy Schoback (formerly of Sega and Ageia, among others!) is going and will be helping us with some notes, but obviously, asking your boss to be a journalist for you is a tad embarassing, so we'd love some more help there - please contact us if you are attending and can pass along raw notes from sessions. (Payment in mag subscriptions/dollars will be provided.)

Intuition Games And The Indie Bootstrapping Matrix

August 22, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Randomly found via Technorati, new indie startup Intuition has made a detailed post on "...the options out there for bootstrapping a game company with no games in its portfolio."

It's now thinking that Kongregate might be the way to spool things up, but there's a great diagram laying everything out in the post, and they believe: "Based on these, we thought that the cell at coordinates [PC, Web Browser] was the best option for bootstrapping, because it's relatively easy to develop for, the cost is low, and the barrier to entry is low. The only downside is that it's risky; who knows what the sales will be, and it's not a well-established way to make a living."

The team, which also has an official website, is now working on both pitches for Adult Swim's game section, and also a pitch for a funded Kongregate Flash game, so we'll see how it all ends up for them. Apparently some of the Adult Swim pitches involved a clay dinosaur with a football helmet - and a rocket launcher - so it sounds like they are along the right lines! For, uh, insanity.

GameSetLinks: Get Lamp? Got A Clue!

August 22, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Some post-weekend GameSetLinks, then, and there's some interesting stuff hanging out there - not least a brief teaser of a documentary that I'm very much looking forward to:

- Getting Lamp!: Jason Scott has been working on his multi-part text adventure documentary Get Lamp for some time now, and he's just posted a teaser trailer for the doc on his ASCII blog. The full HD version, which also "...shows a number of interviewees (Steve Meretzky, Austin Seraphin, Nick Montfort, Brendan Desilets)", is available on the official site. This is vital recorded history - very much looking forward to the final doc.

- Ellis Winds Up Castlevania Fanboys: The ever-bombastic Warren Ellis has posted an excerpt from his Castlevania animated movie draft on its official blog - and, well, Ellis' ridiculous new book, Crooked Little Vein, has a dustjacket blurb by cyberpunk don William Gibson which simply says: "Stop it, you're scaring me". Similar for this extract, which is a) probably not a wind-up b) bodes well for stupid fun.

- Dare To Be... Digital!: Nokia Design's Matt 'Blackbelt' Jones has posted discussing last week's Edinburgh Festival and games, and particularly commenting: "Just before I had to go to the airport I skipped out of the last session and kidnapped a couple of colleagues to visit the Dare Protoplay event, where young teams of games creators were showing playable demos of their efforts - I guess a bit like the indie games jam." Jones suggested that the winning games from Dare To Be Digital, a UK-organized student game competition, might actually be more exciting than EIF itself - so it's worth some poking.

- Grand Text Auto - The Exhibit: Those art-university-game reprobates at Grand Text Auto have announced that they have an exhibition all of their own at the Beall Center for Art + Technology at the University of California, Irvine, starting in October. The full exhibit includes some fun art-game craziness, in particular: "Michael and Andrew will not only be showing their Façade - they will be providing us with an AR (augmented reality) version of this interactive drama."

- Tougeki 2D Fighting Insanity: Over at Subatomic Brainfreeze, they've handily posted annotated YouTube links to the recent Tougeki 2D fighting game championship in Japan - which is popular enough that it's streamed by top Japanese game magazine Famitsu! It's got sentences in it like: "Instead of killing ST, Hyper SF2 has only made it stronger. This match is Super Turbo (X) version Chun-Li vs. Champion Edition (Dash) Bison." If you understand this, you may like it!

- When Edge Ran Out Of Room?: The UK's latest game magazine ABC subscription numbers came out last week, and there was one particularly eye-opening stat in there: "Multi-format magazine Edge, which recently has shown trend-defying increases, this time fell from 35,145 to 30,021 copies sold per month." This somewhat blows the concept that quality, in-depth game magazine reporting can buck the circulation-dive trend, doesn't it? For those interested, here's the full ABC chart - with 6,329 copies of each mag distributed outside the UK, and 1,606 non-UK subscriptions, for those wondering how the international breakdown runs nowadays.

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