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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

On Tragic Body Issues In Online Worlds

August 18, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- On Damion Schubert's entertaining Zen Of Design blog, there's a post called 'Orc Shrinkage and Heroic Asses', in which the BioWare designer discusses unexpected changes to MMO characters both old and new.

Firstly, there's what he calls 'the great shoulderpocalypse': "In a [World Of Warcraft] patch almost two months ago, Blizzard somehow shrunk the scaling on all shoulder pieces worn by orcs to a size which looks… well, almost reasonable. The reaction from the fans was quick, visceral, and seething with shock and hatred." It's amazing what tiny changes will engender in a committed fanbase, eh

Schubert goes on to note: "The lesson from all this, of course, is as old as the hills: Fuck with a player’s visual appearance against his will at your own peril. I still bear the scars of this lesson. As part of the original Meridian 59 team, we shipped a game with character art that was, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty much directly exported from Poser, a popular-but-not-very-good 3D modeling program of the era." And what happened when the (female) art director wanted to fix things up? "The horrifying thing is that every woman in the game logged in to find that, in their judgment, they had a fat ass." Wuhoh.

GameSetNetwork: From Id To Consoles In Korea

August 18, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Now, we already covered sister site Gamasutra's trip to Microsoft's GameFest earlier this week, but there's a whole bunch of other GSW-worthy content we put up this week on other CMP Game Group sites, so I thought I'd whip through it quickly - simple quotes and deks follow:

- The Tao Of Id - Kevin Cloud, Steve Nix Talk Tech, Future Of PC: "Legendary Texan developer id Software is making major plans for engine licensing with id Tech 5, and Gamasutra sat down with co-owner Kevin Cloud and biz dev director Steve Nix to discuss them alongside the future of PC gaming, DS and mobile efforts, and much more."

- Q&A: Kongregate's Greer On Funding The Flash Renaissance: "Gamasutra has been quizzing Jim Greer, co-founder and CEO of Flash gaming portal Kongregate, following the company's new round of VC funding - how are initially free Flash games meant to make significant money, what royalties does the site take, and what are 'premium developers'? Answers within..."

- The State Of Korea: Console Games: "Following his earlier look at the bustling South Korean PC gaming market, journalist Nick Rumas turns his attention to the country's console prospects, revealing exclusive data on the burgeoning nation's Sony past and... Nintendo future?"

- Q&A: Red Mile's Chester Aldridge Talks Sin City, Jackass: "In this exclusive Gamasutra Q&A, Chester Aldridge, CEO of Sausalito, California based publisher Red Mile (GripShift) details plans and expectations for the company's forthcoming Jackass: The Game, and talks collaborations with Frank Miller on its recently-signed Sin City IP."

- Edinburgh, Pt.1: Finally, at the beginning of the week, the Edinburgh International Festival had a bunch of intriguing content, and Gama had a man there covering it - from Endemol on 'virtual reality TV' through Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot waxing lyrical on a bunch of subjects, through Sony on 'Home', Linden and CCP on online worlds, and the BBC's Simon Nelson on a more 'playful' interactive vision - for starters!

- Edinburgh Vs. LazyTown?: But the most vital and exciting EIF news of the week? In the lecture from CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson, he "...explaining that the Iceland-based developer was originally founded a decade ago 'in a space that didn't really exist at the point in time,' also noting that when it was first founded it worked on Icelandic children's TV show LazyTown to fund its startup." Wow, a space-based connection to 'You Are A Pirate'? We never guessed!

Why Casual Portals Don't Work For Some

August 17, 2007 4:05 PM | Simon Carless

- I previously mentioned Klei Entertainment's new Jamie Cheng-helmed blog, and in the second instalment, the opinionated but always readable Eets creator talks about the 'Top 3 reasons Klei doesn’t do Casual Portals', as follows.

Firstly, he notes that 'developers take all the risk': "In this market, most developers create the game entirely on their own budget, and then ship it off to the distributors to sell. The distributors then put the game up on their site, and if it doesn’t hit certain metrics within a short time span, the game gets pulled off the front page, buried underneath hundreds of other games. You can bet the long tail is hard at work after this point, but selling a few copies here and there over a long period of time doesn’t benefit the developer — it benefits the distributor because of the volume of games. Hence, it’s in the distributor's best interest to grab as many games as possible to build their library up and fatten the long tail."

He also comments, probably most notably: "Even disregarding everything above, I believe the market goes against the greatest strength of the internet. It can be encompassed with one word: Service. The future of games, especially ones delivered over the internet, is providing not just a finished product, but a continued service."

In other words, casual games delivered over portals don't get you involved in after-sales service, your game's community, or suchlike. Cheng also admits that the Klei employees just aren't into the kind of games that are popular on portals - but is that alone the issue here, or does he have a bigger points about how casual portals work? Should more developers be trying to break out of that portal paradigm?

GameSetJob: Looking For A Game Developer Research Editor

August 17, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Now, you may recall that we were looking for a features editor for Gamasutra a couple of months back - a position happily filled by GamesRadar, GameSpy, et aliis veteran Christian Nutt, in the end - he's marauding out and about on our behalf already.

Well, this time we're back for more, since we're going to be expanding our already-successful Game Developer Research division, and we're asking the GSW public if you know anyone who loves games, but also isn't scared by a little analysis, to fill a Research Editor position that also works on Game Developer magazine. Our handy HR people put up an ad on Craigslist, so I will cite the relevant bits from it:

"The position of Research Editor is responsible for overseeing the content and editorial vision for our new product, Game Developer Research, including commissioning, editing, and publishing monthly research reports for sale. In addition, the Research Editor will work with Game Developer magazine to author and broker technical and research stories, largely based on the research.

Primary Responsibilities include:
• Working with the Product Manager of Game Developer Research to devise a full schedule of research reports, then commissioning and editing the articles for monthly debut.
• Managing the editorial budget for research.
• Ensure the research articles are correctly laid out, fact checked, and published for paid download.
• Work on the Game Developer technical and research magazine articles, including the annual Front Line Awards.
• Technical product review co-ordination (also sometimes research-related)
• Write the magazine versions of the research reports – which are anywhere from news to feature-sized."

Obviously, what we've published so far is the Salary Survey research, plus the Game Developer Census. Moving forward, we'll be doing regular research into online worlds, as well as a Top 20 Publishers research paper (greatly expanding the magazine coverage for it!) and a great deak of other interesting material - much of it never properly looked at, and with direction to be decided by whoever takes this position.

So if you think you have a careful analytical mind and great game industry knowledge - you will be commissioning and directing research, not writing it from scratch, incidentally - go ahead and apply via the official job ad email address - cmpcareers35@cmp.com. The position is full-time, with benefits, and is based in San Francisco, in what we like to call the 'Wired-Ziff-CNet Triangle', just south of Downtown. Journalists get lost in it, you know!

COLUMN: Cinema Pixeldiso: 'King of Kong - The Roundtable'

August 17, 2007 12:02 AM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/kingofkongrevisit1.jpg

A few weeks back, I was able to check out The King Of Kong, a brand new documentary that centers on one man (an every-man, actually!) by the name of Steve Wiebe, and his attempt to nab the highest score possible in Donkey Kong, as well as the challenges he faces. Not from the game itself, which in itself is quite difficult (perhaps one of the harshest from its era) but from the one person who laid claim to the record, that being the enigma known as Billy Mitchell - one of the competitive gaming scene's most infamous figures, as well as his devoted followers.

For those who missed it, my review of it can be found here, though the bottom line was I found it to a totally fantastic and absolutely engrossing film, and easily one of the finest documentaries to be crafted on the subject of video games yet produced.

The tale it spins is a fascinating one, especially because it's "real"; what happened really happened, and the characters are actual people, though some are still very much "characters" in every sense of the word. Yet, even the best documentaries don't tell the entire story. They often simply can't due to various reasons; there's not enough time, the camera can't be everywhere, you can't bore the audience, etc. But immediately afterwards, I thought back to something that I personally witnessed that conflicted with the narrative of the story....

Without getting into too many details, because it would both spoil the movie and take too long to explain, I actually met the film's "star", Billy Mitchell (Wiebe might be the center of the story, but Mitchell is clearly the star) a few years ago in New York City at a film festival that had a video game component. He was on-hand with footage of himself playing Donkey Kong and breaking the world record. He then presented the videotape to Walter Day, head of the Twin Galaxies, the word's recognized authority of video game score keeping. Little did I know then that it would lead to doubts about a movie years later down the road.

I later explained this to my friend, MTV News' Stephen Totilo, who was also wondering about a few things, primarily stemming from his interview with one of the featured individuals from the movie, Robert Mruczek, who was the referee that verified another tape that Mitchell produced in the movie. Was it the same one that I saw in real life? There was no mention of it, and the timeline that was laid out doesn't allow for it. Both myself and Stephen decided to investigate, and in the process came up with a different timeline. The people over at Twin Galaxies, who have since day one doubted Weibe’s abilities, which is made crystal clear in the movie almost immediately, also created their own.

And then Stephen scored the ultimate coup: the first post-documentary interview with Mitchell, who, needless to say was not happy with how he was portrayed in the film, which could be best described as "the bad guy". Though it needs to be pointed out that he hadn't seen the film... and still hasn't, despite numerous attempts by the film's director and producer to make it so. Anyhow, even more places and events were brought up, which were not mentioned in the movie. And I myself began to wonder if what I enjoyed and wanted to see do well deserved such support.

Hocking Talks Authorship In Games, Bub!

August 16, 2007 4:04 PM | Simon Carless

- Well, we at GSW haven't been so keen on reporting the whole Ebert vs. Barker games as art thing, esp. because it's all a bit annoying, but fortunately, Ubisoft game design supremo Clink Hocking has saved the day with a post called 'On Authorship In Games' on his Click Nothing blog - one that takes the conversation into altogether less clammy waters.

Mind you, it still gets into some powerful definitional kung fu, as Hocking notes: "First, there is authorship in games, no matter how much we abdicate. The form of the authorship is different, and hard to understand, but no matter how much we try to abdicate it, it will always remain. It is undeniably there, and it is inextricable from the act of creating a game. Second, interacting with a work does not shape the work, it ‘only’ reveals it. Therefore, while there can be an art of expression in the way someone reveals the art, this does not necessarily diminish the art in the design of the work itself." And it gets wiggier from there.

But then, even wackier than the argument is a series of deranged posts by a 'concerned Canadian citizen' called 'insert coins' in the post's comments, who rages (in one of 10+ posts!): "Dear Clint, Tell us, as a Game Author, ::: What does we, canadian citizen, gets in return from our collective investment in your career? ::: What do you do of 35% of your salary that is STILL TODAY paid by the canadian citizen?"

He's referring to Ubisoft Montreal's tax/financial support by various parts of the Canadian government, and seemingly conflating it with game-art issues in a kerrazy fashion, but as commenter Diego notes: "Dude, you've been ranting about this since 11:40 last night. That's like 17 hours non-stop." Oh, the Internet!

COLUMN: The Aberrant Gamer: 'Hot-Button Issues'

August 16, 2007 8:14 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.]

-This column has touched before on how we gamers are a highly defensive lot. We’ve all struggled a long time to convince the uninitiated of gaming’s legitimacy, fending off accusations by tech-ignorant parent watchdog groups, censorship agencies, irate politicians and hyperbolic TV specials who have latched on to the hot new scapegoat.

Why are we so sensitive? After all, it’s not like it affects us personally if a large and stubborn percentage of society continues to misinterpret our favorite little pleasure. Nonetheless, ire en masse at the slightest provocation is the norm online. Just about everyone who follows, writes or discusses gaming on blogs, chat, forums or in online play has experienced that moment of hesitation wherein their opinion on a particular gaming issue differed from the popular sensibility and they wondered, should I say this? Everyone has experienced that zero-point when, finger hovering over the “submit” button, they weighed their desire to express a point of view against their dread at the landslide of flames and grief they’d invoke.

It’s quite likely that no individual among the plugged-in, ‘net-savvy core gaming demographic is a knee-jerk lunatic; rather, this is probably an expression of mob psychology. We’re one of the most vocal mobs in any industry – why? First, let’s take a look at some of the topics most likely to create a thousand-comment explosion of offended debate.

Indie Game Creators? Better Bring Your B Game!

August 16, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- You just can't trust the reprobates at TIGSource, and their latest underhanded trick is to announce a new 'B Game Competition', raging until September 14th, with the object to make Clive Thompson feel silly, as far as I can make out.

As Derek Yu proclaims joyfully: "Just like cinema has its B-movies and cult cinema, video games has its B-games. They've got Ed Wood and Roger Corman, and we've got Jazzuo and MDickie. You've seen 'em, you've played 'em... we're talking about games that are bad in the right way."

And so? "By popular demand, TIGSource is sponsoring a competition to celebrate the creation of B-games! We want to see some bad games with some great personalities! Broken gameplay that works; low budget graphics that titillate the primitive and perverted parts of our brains; outrageous themes beyond the ken of normal human beings. We want to see bad games with that certain "je ne sais quois." Terrible, hilarious, sincere games that have the kind of moxie that can only come from the independent game community."

Totally awesome - the prizes are vague, but the concept is sound, and the competition was inspired by Jazzuo's own Sexy Hiking, a Game Maker game which is actually worse than it sounds on paper. If that's even possible.

GameSetHelp: Game Developer's Top 20 Publishers Needs You!

August 15, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Cross-posting this from big sister site Gamasutra, since I know a lot of people who work in the game biz read GSW as well - we're doing the Top 20 Publishers countdown again for Game Developer magazine, and need your anonymous feedback-based help!:

"The editors of Game Developer magazine are asking all game professionals to complete a brief anonymous survey which will help decide the rankings of this year's renowned 'Top 20 Publishers' feature.

For this year's fifth annual Top 20 Publishers countdown, the magazine is looking for two sets of feedback.

The first part is a reputational section, ranking and optionally commenting on all major publishers, which can be answered by all game professionals.

The second part is a section to be answered only by those professionals who have managed or participated in relationships with specific game publishers, either as employee or third-party developer. Both are part of the same survey form.

This feedback will be combined with a multitude of other statistics used to work out the ranking, including revenue, average game review percentages, and release SKU amounts, to create a new Top 20, to be revealed in the October 2007 issue of Game Developer magazine.

All of the survey feedback is completely anonymous, and this year, alongside the in-depth magazine article and information disseminated on Gamasutra.com, full, canonical data will also be available in a forthcoming report from Game Developer Research.

The Top 20 Publishers survey will remain open until Monday, August 27th. For further reference, interested parties can read last year's Top 20 Publishers countdown, which was topped by Electronic Arts, on Gamasutra."

GameSetMiniLinks: Crack Crack Crack The Egg...

August 15, 2007 8:03 AM | Simon Carless

- Aha, the second half of the GSW mini-links, this time wandering around between everything from scary rapping competition winners through to classic Infocom science fiction text adventures. No, really, you're welcome:

- Parappa Psychosis Taking Hold: Over at PlayStation.com, they've put up the winner of the Parappa Rap Showdown competition, and it's deeply, deeply scary: "We gave you the beat, you gave it your all. Here is the PaRappa the Rapper Chop Chop Master Onion's Rap Showdown Winner. Adam S. is going to PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, WA, August 24, 25 and 26, 2007, with a friend." But will he still be over-enunciating?

- Selective Love For The Matrix Online?: I seem to remember that Alice pointed this out, but MMORPG.com has pointed out the SOE Fan Faire panel on The Matrix Online, showing some rather selective appreciation for one of the more neglected SOE titles: "Attendance at this panel was modest, a total of 12, rising to 15 as a few drifted in after the panel started." Really, what's the subscription numbers for keeping titles like this alive and kicking? Must be lower than we all think.

- Science Fiction Vs. Interactive Fiction: The Adventure Classic Gaming site has a fun article called 'Science fiction meets interactive fiction', starting: "Despite the diverse subject matters which these games eventually embraced, science fiction remained as the most common alternative theme explored by interactive fiction." Neat, erudite stuff.

- Games Go Graffiti: Well, not 'graffiti' - 1UP has an article called 'Taking Controllers To The Streets' which grins in the intro: "There are videogames that feature graffiti as either a gameplay mechanic or an aesthetic device to create a certain urban effect, people who do the opposite and create street art based on their favorite games, and the inevitable marketing teams who see the perceived instant cool factor of street art as a sure-shot way to get into the minds (and pockets) of a new generation of consumers." Fun piece.

- Super Columbine - The Documentary: Whatever you think of Danny LeDonne, he's a committed guy, and the UK Guardian Gamesblog has an interview with him on Super Columbine Massacre RPG and his upcoming documentary on his own game. As noted: "Ledonne has some controversial views, not just on his own game, but on its consequences and ramifications."

- The End Of Cloning: Aha, Gamezebo has an article called 'The End Of Cloning', which talks about why casual games are getting so relatively sophisticated that they're becoming unclonable. True? Not sure, but it's got a great intro paragraph: "In 1992, Francis Fukuyama wrote The End of History, in which he boldly proclaimed that with the end of the Cold War, the historical struggle between competing ideologies is over and liberal democracy has emerged as the victor."

- Gamma Bros Go For The Win: Pleased to see an interview with Pixeljam, creators of Gamma Bros, over on Planet Free Play, and I'm really happy to see Miles Tilmann's response to 'At what point did you start taking game development more seriously? ': "Probably after the release of Gamma Bros. Before then I didn't really take the whole flash gaming thing seriously, nor did I think one could make money doing it. The whole landscape seems to have dramatically changed in the past couple of years and we are happy for that. Also, going to the Game Dev Conference really charged us up about creating games for a living."

- Hard Time Creators Speaks Out: Indygamer has spotted that GameShark.com has been running some good indie interviews, recently chatting to perennial indie fringer Matt Dickie, who has made titles from wrestling to, uhh, prison sim and beyond. And he has sass: "I already censor myself quite a lot! My style is supposed to veer into Quentin Tarantino territory, but it all gets lost in translation."

In random, final links, Shoot The Core points out that Comiket 72 is coming soon, and there are all kinds of super-smart dojin titles debuting there. Yay! Oh, and David Sirlin posted the videos from his Super Street Fighter II tournament on his blog. Watch him go!

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