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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 August, 2007

Rejoice, For Rock Paper Shotgun Is Birthed!

August 21, 2007 4:04 PM | Simon Carless

- Wow, some good news in the world of PC online game journalism, as a bunch of reprobates - including Kieron Gillen, Jim Rossignol, John Walker and Alec Meer - have launched Rock Paper Shotgun, a new PC-specific blog site that looks to showcase writing from some of the most interesting UK-centric PC game journos. (And heck, it's great to see someone coming out and saying they want to write just about PC, for a change.)

Here's the press release on Gillen's blog explaining handily that the site "...aims to cover everything from the latest breaking stories about the biggest games to esoterica from the format’s obscurest peninsulas, and its fresh and lively daily updates site will entertain while invigorating your PC gaming spirits."

Thus far, in among some playful banter, they've got a rather neat Ken Levine interview about Bioshock, which starts with a good, acute impression of the stakes that the game is playing for: "Levine’s a fascinating figure – articulate, driven, passionate. And, no, I don’t want to have sex with him. (Denial’s not pretty – Ed) It’s worth stressing how this interview came about. Levine – a major developer – mailed me for no other reason than that he wanted to talk. No-one does that."

Gillen continues of Levine: "He’s played the PR machine on Bioshock enormously hard, clearly very aware of the enormous stakes he’s playing for. And he is, in a real, fundamental way. Levine sold the company he co-founded in order to get this game done." But - spoiler - there's going to be a happy ending, isn't there? Hopefully for Rock Paper Shotgun, too! RSS it now-ish!

Japanese Game Development: The Other Side Of The Rainbow

August 21, 2007 8:03 AM | Simon Carless

- We recently pointed out that pseudonymous Japan-based game creator JC Barnett (ex of Japanmanship) was nice enough to write up 'Working In Japanese Game Development: The Facts' for us at Gamasutra.

Well, we've just posted the second article, subtitled 'The Other Side Of The Rainbow' over at Gama, in which Barnett "...explains a little more in detail the various roles you could apply for and some general insights into the development culture", talking as a Westerner currently employed at a Japanese video game developer.

Barnett sums up the (intriguingly slightly different) job types in Japanese game development, noting: "As you can see, most roles only differ cosmetically from Western job titles. If you have a decent amount of experience in game development in the West there is absolutely no reason you won’t be able to do your job in Japan with equal gusto. It’s only some of the cultural thinking and ways of doing things that can cough up some problems, but with a little patience these can be overcome or accepted."

After running down some honest but, as far as I can see, pretty fair impressions of the creative but in some ways hemmed-in Japanese game biz, he concludes, somewhat more happily: "I am acutely alive to the fact I may have painted working in Japanese game development slightly more negative than is ultimately called for. Sure, working in Japan isn’t all rosy, but with the right mindset you can get some things out of it. As I never tire of saying, Japan is a pretty decent place to live and even with the low salaries in the game industry you can, if you’re a prudent spender, live comfortably enough. For the focused applicant there is a real chance to be working on those games you love and that possibly drove you to Japan in the first place."

[PS - while we're talking about crazy but detailed Gama features, we just a couple of minutes ago posted the slightly insane, 13,000-word 'Breaking Down Breakout: System And Level Design For Breakout-style Games', of which it's explained: "How much is there to learn about Breakout-style brick-bustin' games? A heck of a lot, according to LEGO Bricktopia level designer Nelson, who has written possibly the definitive genre overview for Gamasutra, complete with design specifics, interviews, and much more." This is too much bricking for one man!]

COLUMN: @Play: 'Fei's Problems'

August 21, 2007 12:04 AM |

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

To wrap up our discussion of Shiren the Wanderer (here's Part 1 and Part 2), let's have a quick look at one of the more interesting parts of the game, the series of puzzle dungeons called Fei's Problems. In the starting town there is a building that contains a shopkeeper-looking guy called Fei, who's constructed a series of 50 non-random single dungeon levels he wants you to attempt.

Most of these dungeons are arranged so that there's only one way out of the situation presented. Some of them rely on obscure aspects of the game rules. Because of this, they serve as an excellent step-by-step tutorial for learning how to play the game. Only one can be tried on each "life," but they yield helpful items, occasionally very nice ones. The screenshots illustrate the solutions to three early, and very simple, problems, but later on they get quite diabolical. For example: there's one that relies on the fact that, if you're standing on money without having picked it up, it can be accessed using the Floor command and thrown at monsters for high damage!

But as far as deviousness goes the last problem tops it easily....

Inside Two Decades Of Leisure Suit Larry

August 20, 2007 4:04 PM | Simon Carless

- This actually popped up a week or so back, but hasn't got much play - 1UP has a fun little feature on 'Two Decades Of Leisure-Suit Larry', with Chris Kohler quizzing the supremely affable Al Lowe on the history of the lounge lizard himself.

The intro is a good set-up too: "The amount of sexually explicit scenes in every Larry game combined wouldn't fill a floppy disk. It was the comedy that made the games worth playing, and even that rarely rose above the level of PG-13 gags, sly references that the kids wouldn't understand anyway. Not to mention that the games had all the tricky puzzles of their family-friendly counterparts."

The quotes are a little short, and it's a couple of months late, but we do get some neat insight on why Larry was perversely... girl-friendly? "Although men were the vast majority of Larry players, says Lowe, the games attracted as many female players as King's Quest. 'What we didn't realize was that because I made Larry a loser, the women ended up being his superiors most of the time. That made women enjoy the games,' he says."

GameSetPics: ACMI's IGF Exhibition Scans, Buscaglia Help

August 20, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- So, a couple of Independent Games Festival that we'd like to point out (DISCLAIMER: I help run the IGF alongside good lieutenants Matthew Wegner and Steve Swink). In the first case, the organizers have announced that "...finalists and winners of this year's festival will be awarded with free assistance and consultation with 'Game Attorney' Thomas H. Buscaglia."

This is neat news because, from what I heard, many IGF finalists nowadays do get hit with approaches from publishers large and small - and knowing what to sign and how in terms of distribution/publishing contracts is absolutely a big deal in today's indie game market. Many thanks to Buscaglia, one of the most developer-friendly lawyers around, for stepping up to help out here.

Anyhow, on to the main part of this post, which we've previously mentioned on GameSetWatch, is that the Australian Center For The Moving Image has been putting on an IGF exhibition (which may be extended - look for info on this soon!) Anyhow, I got round to scanning in the neat brochure and some fetching postcards they've been giving out alongside the Melbourne-based exhibit, so here they are...

The Death And Rebirth Of Genre

August 20, 2007 12:03 AM | Simon Carless

- Former Computer Games Magazine editor Steve Bauman has posted a thought-provoking piece on his weblog discussing what he calls 'The Death and Re-birth of Genre', and focusing on the strange renaissance of the commercial adventure genre - we covered this a bit before.

Bauman notes, by way of an overview: "At one point, adventure games were the biggest, most important PC genre... [but], with the gameplay stagnating, the technology falling behind, and the audience moving on to other genres, adventure games died. But they’re coming back thanks to casual games."

He then discusses the 'Hidden Object' casual game genre, and the evolution of that, explaining: "But a casual game like Azada takes that basic “Seek and Find” formula, adds in some additional bridging puzzles, and you end up with a game with a series of static screens filled with items to discover. You put these items in your inventory and combine them in order to open up additional areas... And it’s all wrapped up in a storyline, further driving your desire to “finish” the game. In other words, it’s an old-school adventure game." Full circle alert!

COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': MagScam: The Tale of Norman Hunt

August 19, 2007 4:05 PM |

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Off Amazon recently I picked up a book called Priming the Pump: How TRS-80 Enthusiasts Helped Spark the PC Revolution, a personal history of the early home computing era written by two of the entrepreneurs who participated in it. David and Theresa Welsh were the duo behind Lazy Writer, one of several first-generation word processors available for Tandy's TRS-80 series of computers. The Welshes ran one of thousands of small businesses that popped up to support the TRS-80s, Apples, Ataris and Commodores that spread across homes and businesses from 1977 onward, placing dozens of ads in computer magazines every month and ballooning them up to the many hundreds of pages.

I'm a sucker for early computer history, and while Priming the Pump isn't as evocative as On the Edge (or as funny as iWoz), it's a great addition to the library, covering a computer that arguably had the #1 userbase for most of the early era but is all but forgotten today. For mag fans in particular, though, one passage brings up an interesting incident in computer media history: the saga of Norman Henry Hunt Jr. (aka Harry Hunt aka Jim Anderson aka "Colonel David Winthrop"), one of the PC biz's first serious con artists and definitely the first one to work through magazines.

Inside The Short (Bus) Gaming Revolution!

August 19, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Two of the higher-profile individual bloggers in the game biz are Newsweek's N'Gai Croal and MTV News' Stephen Totilo, of course, and their 'Vs. Mode' chat this week is full of the kind of pontification that GSW is particularly interested in - the future of 'short-session gaming'.

There is, of course, a Round 2, a Round 3, and a Round 4 to get through as well, because these guys can _talk_, but there's plenty of stuff in here that I substantially believe, especially this Totilo comment: "I like the idea that every couple of days there is a new game for me to play on the 360 or PS3 that I can download in the blink of an eye, have embedded in an easy-to-navigate menu of games, and that I can sample and judge whether I like it in just a few minutes. I feel that this is a more exciting way to be a gamer."

In addition, the dichotomy between short game styles that we love is dissected by Totilo: "As I began to think about the short games I’ve been enjoying, they all fit neatly into one of two categories. Twitch: “Meteos,” “Lumines,” “Pac-Man CE,” “Everyday Shooter,” and others all play out in rapid-fire bursts. They may start slowly in order to settle the player in, but soon enough they’re running at 100 mph. Thinking: “Picross DS,” even in its nerve-wracking multi-player mode is a thinking game and requires a sense of controlled, considered manipulation of the game." Good stuff.

GameSetLinks: Lammy Vs. Everiss?

August 19, 2007 12:10 AM | Simon Carless

- Time for some GameSetLinks picked up during the week - a few really old, and a few already remarked-upon, but never quite described in this exact order before. So there:

- Um Jammer Cha Cha: The community-contributed articles on Jeremy Parish's Gamespite.net are pretty much pro quality, and I particularly enjoyed this precis of Um Jammer Lammy from 'Bobservo': "What makes the flopping of Lammy so tragic is that the follow-the-leader gameplay that Parappa made famous is both better and more fun to play around with in the guitar context."

- Wikipedia Scanner And EA: This is well-discussed already, but I wanted to tip the hat to Shacknews for trying the Wikipedia Scanner software with game companies, discovering that someone within EA downplayed original founder Trip Hawkins' presence on EA's Wikipedia entry and "...deleted references to the notorious ea_spouse debacle and spun the class action lawsuit brought on by overworked, undercompensated employees to portray the company in a good light." Journalism + investigating = teh win!

- Everiss On Games: Someone who's been around the UK games scene for almost 25 years is veteran marketing guy Bruce Everiss, responsible for Imagine Software's early-80s 'rockstar' posturings, so it's neat to see him pop up with his own blog, BruceOnGames.com. There's some fun stuff about early Codemasters and budget game pricing tactics, for one.

- Linux Games On Virgin America Flights: Via Dan Hon, there's a BoingBoing post discussing the new Virgin America flights, which include in-seat text chat with other passengers (!), but more interestingly for those reading, the entertainment console comes with: "Games. Including Doom. They're planning an open source game design competition, will feature winning games on the flights." Sounds like the games run on Linux, dunno if they can run Flash. Here's an earlier video - anyone got more info?

- Rhythm Games - The Series!: Very randomly found, James Chen has a gargantuan series of rhythm games spooled out on his personal blog over the last few months, and it's absolutely excellent. An extract from the conclusion: "So unlike what my old friend assumed, memorization isn't required in these games. It's one of the only genre of games where you don't need "prior knowledge" to pass a particularly difficult challenge."

- Sourcing, Gentlemen, Please!: You'll notice that I'm restricting this to a paragraph so I don't get ranty, but business media, if you're not at a conf such as GameFest, you can't, uhh, do unsourced reports on it anyhow. Yes, MCV's Ben Parfitt, if 1UP has the scoop on hard-disc requiring Xbox 360 titles, you can't just copy the story and nick a quote. Even worse, GamesIndustry.biz's Mark Androvich, if 1UP's GameFest keynote coverage says 25 million Xbox Live downloads and subsequently corrects it to 45 million, it's a bit of a giveaway if you run the original 25 million figure, as misheard by 1UP's Patrick Klepek. Bottom line - unless you watched the webcast like Develop did, or also turned up in person like we did at Gamasutra, then cite, for God's sake. Otherwise I have no respect for you at all.

- Plus here's a random assortment of other things - Insert Credit pointing out a weird DS political quiz, The Hollywood Reporter talks to a comedy fest founder/mobile game CEO on why mobile games don't suck, and the awfully geeky Zero Punctuation game video humor videoblog thing debuts on The Escapist, with a Heavenly Sword demo critique. These are fun!

Tetris: The Grand Master - The History!

August 18, 2007 4:04 PM | Simon Carless

- One thing I really appreciate about GameSetWatch is that we tend to get thoughtful submissions from readers that fit the site, and this one from Hoang "PetitPrince" Pham is no exception:

"You and GSW's audience might be interested in this article I wrote discussing Tetris: The Grand Master. Originally written in French, but translated by a fellow Canadian Tetriholic, it talks about the far too unknown arcade evolution of the original Tetris, whose third sequel is still popular nowadays in Japan's game center."

He continues: "The article itself is a dissection of some of the game mechanics, how it is tailored to favors an highspeed, hardcore style of play (well, it's an arcade game, after all). It has a pretty solid community in Japan, and, despite the fact that it is legally impossible to find it outside the land of the rising sun, it also has some fans in Occident."

Indeed this version does have fans, especially at TetrisConcept.com, which I've previously mentioned on GSW - check out their TGM rotation Wiki entry to sample the hardcore, for example. And most of all, it's a shame that we'll be getting two new versions of Tetris on Xbox 360 this year in the West, but neither of them will be The Grand Master, as far as I can divine - even though it's out in Japan for X360!

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