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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 September, 2007

GameSetNetwork: From Empires Of Sports To Fall Of Liberties

September 20, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Well, we've been posting a host of interesting content on CMP Game Group sister sites such as Gamasutra, WorldsInMotion.biz, GamesOnDeck, and GameCareerGuide.com this week, and I will attempt to wade through them in a random order (yes, we're covering Tokyo Game Show too, but every other website on the planet is, so let's go for the quirkier stuff):

- Continuing Gamasutra's histories of the games voted into the Digital Game Canon, following pieces on Spacewar, on Zork, and on Civilization, the site explores Doug Neubauer's Atari title Star Raiders, a somewhat obscure but vital precursor of the Wing Commander-esque digital space opera. The introduction explains: "Doug Neubauer’s Star Raiders was a game that made a vivid first impression. Released in 1979 for the Atari 400 and 800 computers, the game was a surprisingly complex space combat simulation. However, what left players entranced was its smooth, three-dimensional graphics. Star Raiders achieved a level of realism that few people had seen in a video game before."

- Over at online worlds site WorldsInMotion.biz, Leigh Alexander has been talking to Empire of Sports’ managing director, Christian Müller, and it's fun to hear how guilds might work if you're planning competitive sports teams: "The Coach, similar to a guild leader, has some special powers within the game. They indicate the gameplay, can nominate, dismiss or invite members on the team, and are required to play a social role." And for those wondering, the currently listed sports on the official game website reveal that "...tennis, basketball, skiing and a series of training/fitness games will be available at launch."

- Another notable Gamasutra story from earlier this week - 'The View From GameStop's Window: Retail Giant Talks Gaming In 2007', described thus: "Through multiple acquisitions and mergers, GameStop is now the predominant specialty U.S. game retailer - and Gamasutra talks to GameStop VPs Bob McKenzie and Tom DeNapoli about the state of retail for the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii, stocking AO-rated games, the firm's digital download strategy, and more." High-level retail execs don't often talk so informally as this, and it's a nice change.

- Over at GamesOnDeck, Mathew Kumar has been chatting to Alex Goatcher of Mikoishi, a team which "...has developed mobile titles such as Phoenix Wright and Star Wars Battlefront Mobile, but have recently begun to concentrate on original IP and new platforms such as Nintendo DS and PC." Their new franchise sounds a bit crazed, too: "SteamIron: The Fallen... is an epic cross-platform sci-fi fantasy that plays out over multiple installments on both handheld and PC platforms.The story begins on 3G mobile with SteamIron: The Fallen with future installments planned for mobile, Nintendo DS culminating in a PC MMOG scheduled for release in 2009." Blimey.

- Finally, and this article really deserves a bit more notice than it go, we ran a detailed analysis of Codemasters and Activision's legal fight over Turning Point: Fall Of Liberty on Gamasutra. It's notable because it's overflow from an already-acrimonious Spark vs. Activision lawsuit. Highlights would include Spark's lawyers insisting the company was not working on a WWII title, and then signing an alternate reality post-WWII title (featuring Nazis!) with Codemasters, and Activision's internal emails about paying Spark royalties on the Call Of Duty title they worked on: "[Spark] will not be seeing a royalty check from me. I think this means that we’ve essentially replicated the ‘scorched earth’ scenario… royalty reductions [are] locked in, as [is Activision’s] ability to make them recoup against every expense known to man.” Ouch!

Game Developer's Top 20 Publishers - The Sassy Version!

September 20, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- So, you may remember that we recently asked for comments to help with reputational and specific direct-interaction comments from more than 300 game professionals, to help make up our Game Developer's Top 20 Publishers.

We're just finishing up the article itself, which is going to debut in the October 2007 issue of the magazine, alongside a a Game Developer Research report that will list all our the responses, comments, and detailed data. Look for the rundown to be released online in early October.

Anyhow, a lot of the anonymous 'reputational' responses ended up being somewhat polarizing and rhetoric-flecked. But when combing the comments, we kept spotting one particularly witty anonymous responder - and we thought his comments on some of the major publishers were worth printing in full here on GSW, for acerbic laughs, if nothing else:

"Activision - Solid - if unimaginative
Atari - First the good news. Bruno's gone. Now the bad news. Bruno's gone.
Codemasters - Plucky, intelligent senior management willing to take a risk.
Disney Interactive - Does what it says on the tin - and no more.
Eidos/SCi - Could yet grab defeat from the jaws of victory.
Electronic Arts - Currently in therapy.
Konami - Trying to be less Japanese. Currently failing.
LucasArts - Looking increasingly rudderless - the industry's biggest vanity publisher
Majesco - Two words - New. Jersey. 'Nuff said.
Microsoft - Succeeding in spite of itself. Will miss Peter Moore more than they know.
Midway - Sumner Redstone's folly. Spectacularly, almost entertainingly bad.
NCSoft - Playing the long game - and has the cash to do it.
Nintendo - It's their ball - and we can all play with it - on their terms.
Sega - One to watch - clever, nimble leadership who know how to succeed.
Sony Computer Entertainment - Sadly lacking leadership skills at the highest level - expect changes in 2008.
Take-Two - GTA 4 better be good.........
THQ - Looking a bit lost - despite some good work, does anyone know what is THQ for?
Ubisoft - The amazing Guillemots and their dedicated senior team run rings around slower, bigger competitors.
Vivendi Games - World class - in parts."

[Disclaimer: GameSetWatch doesn't necessarily think this arch wit is right. And fortunately, most responders to the survey were a little less flippant. We do think he's pretty amusing, though, whoever he is.]

Treasure Fan? (In Comparison) You Ain't No Treasure Fan!

September 20, 2007 12:04 AM | Simon Carless

- Thanks to RoushiMSX for pointing out Stefan's Treasure site, in which a Swedish fan shows off what must be the most beautifully presented physical collection we've ever seen in homage to game developer Treasure.

There's essentially one shelf per game, and the rather obsessive collection is also split out by game, and yes, that even includes Wario World, perhaps the Treasure game that's least identified as being made by Treasure - and I claim is actually a bit of a forgotten gem.

But yes, there are a few things Nimrodil doesn't have - and here are the totally obscure ones that made me grin: "Double Pack: Davis Cup World Tour and Gunstar Heroes (Australian)... Bangai-O (N64) Phone card... Radiant Silvergun: plush dolls... Light Crusader; Korean version." So if there are any slightly obsessive OCD-type folks with, uhh, doubles of these, you know where to go!

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': In Defense of Breast Physics

September 19, 2007 4:04 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.]

Last week, this column discussed the dignity of our long-standing heroine, Samus Aran, the respect we as gamers maintain for a woman who doesn’t show skin, and the relative low popularity of searches for Samus hentai (which, ironically, have abruptly spiked in the recent week as if to spite me). Scantily-clad game heroines and burgeoning breast physics are a topic quick to raise ire in particular among female gamers – it’s exploitive and degrading, some say; it’s unnecessary and misleading, others claim.

Let's rethink that a little, shall we?

Charting World Of Warcraft's Balance Changes

September 19, 2007 8:03 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at game metrics blog We Can Fix That With Data, Sara Jensen has been doing some fascinating World Of Warcraft balance analysis, examining which player classes have been fixed, buffed, nerfed, and various other odd MMO-specific titles.

But how can you begin to ennumerate the changes? As Jensen, who works at Spacetime Studios for her dayjob, explains, a particularly data-hungry World Of Warcraft forum-goers has "...listed every class change made since the beginning of recorded history (i.e. early beta), and he’s categorized it by buffs, nerfs, bug fixes, changes, new features, and overhauls." Jensen has crunched that all into a very interesting set of graphs, showing that, for example, the Warlock has the most changes, but the Druid has been buffed the most in Blizzard's gameplay tweaking.

In comments, 'Scott' provides some useful color: "So, the biggest problem is that there’s no relative weight to the buffs/nerfs, so the nerf to Dire Bear armor in 2.0 is assigned the same weight as no longer being able to teleport to Moonglade while in tree form. Of course then you start having to assign subjective weight", adding: "The real interesting data points you’re missing are of course class population overlaid on these figures." Good points all!

Koster Reveals Metaplace - Online Worlds For Everyone?

September 19, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Aha - delighted to see that former Origin and Sony Online exec Raph Koster has revealed the major product from his new venture capital-funded firm Areae at the TechCrunch 40 conference in San Francisco - a new online worlds platform called Metaplace.

According to information posted on the official Metaplace website: "Metaplace is a next-generation virtual worlds platform designed to work the way the Web does. Instead of giant custom clients and huge downloads, Metaplace lets you play the same game on any platform that reads our open client standard. We supply a suite of tools so you can make worlds, and we host servers for you so that anyone can connect and play. And the client could be anywhere on the Web."

The official FAQ continues: "You should be able to stage up a massively multiplayer world with basic chat and a map you can build on in less than five minutes. It's that easy. Inherit a stylesheet -- puzzle game, or shooter, or chat world -- and off you go... Metaplace will support everything from 2d overhead grids through first-person 3d. However, right now we only have clients that do 2d of various sorts, including grid view, 2d isometric, 2.5d heightfields, and so on. We expect to keep working on the 3d client support."

In addition, Koster himself has commented on the announcement on his official weblog, explaining of the technology: "We fully expect most users to be players, not makers. That’s just how it is. So for us, fun is absolutely key. I’m putting my money where my mouth is on that point, too. Yes, we have a new MMO we’re working on. And yes, we’re doing it in Metaplace."

This really does seem like intriguing tech - and a further continuation of concepts being worked out in Three Rings' Whirled, another diverse web-based engine for constructing games and social worlds. And thus, the ubiquitous web browser continues to conquer all, eh?

Independent Games Festival Debuts 2008 IGF Judge List

September 18, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha - crossposted from Gamasutra but of interest to GSW folks too, here's the full information on the Independent Games Festival judge list for this year - and the Main Competition entry deadline is less than 2 weeks away at this point, so potential entrants had better get coding about, uh, now:

"Following last week's announcement of new Independent Games Festival judges, the full line-up of fresh and returning IGF judges has been announced, with late additions to the roster including Fl0w co-creator Kellee Santiago alongside Big Huge Games' Brian Reynolds and many more.

ThatGameCompany's Santiago, who was previously a Student Showcase winner with student project Cloud, and Neversoft co-founder Mick West, an industry veteran who writes the 'Inner Product' column for Game Developer magazine, are added alongside Games For Windows magazine's Darren Gladstone to round out the new judges for the 10th annual competition.

Other previously announced new judges for this year's IGF including Newsweek's N'Gai Croal, Bit-Blot's Alec Holowka, and Gastronaut's Don Wurster, and the full line-up of over 40 judges includes many returning for the fourth or fifth time to help judge the competition.

The journalistic and content-centric contingent for this year's judging panel include Wired's game editor Chris Baker, Joystiq's Chris Grant, Wonderlandblog and Channel 4's Alice Taylor, Kotaku's Brian Crecente, and Joystick Nation author JC Herz.

The independent game stalwarts hopping onto the judging panel this time include Raigan Burns, previous IGF prize-winner with N, Indygamer editor Tim W., and TIGSource editor Derek Yu, as well as new additions Santiago and Wurster. Other notable 'mainstream' game industry judges returning this year include Sony and Ubisoft veteran Mark Deloura, Foundation9's Chris Charla, Nihilistic's Mark Cooke, Midway's Richard Rouse III, and Big Huge Games founder Brian Reynolds.

As for the competition itself, the IGF ceremony will take place February 2008 at Game Developers Conference, with all finalists playable on the GDC show floor, and an Independent Games Summit again running alongside the main festival.

In addition, the 2008 IGF Main Competition will again be open to all independent developers to submit their games - whether it be on PC, console digital download, Web browser, or other more exotic formats. The prizes again total nearly $50,000, with a $20,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize, and the deadline to enter the Main Competition is Monday, October 1st 2007.

The 2008 IGF Student Competition will once again award the best student games, and this year will also include student 'mods' to existing games. As a result, the number of Student Showcase winners has been increased to 12. The deadline to enter the Student Competition is Monday, October 15th, 2007."

COLUMN: 'Roboto-chan!': Mobile Suit Metroid

September 18, 2007 8:03 AM |

['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column by a mysterious individual who goes by the moniker of Kurokishi. The column covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This edition covers yet another Gundam tie-in but one that excels with its controls in a similar manner to that of the latest Metroid.]

sensen_cover1.jpgAfter the hellish release of Gundam Target in Sight, gamers (outside of Japan) still perceive Gundam tie-in games to be something wholly evil; a mechanical plague of functional mediocrity if you will. This ill-conceived point of view was covered in a previous column by my forbearer Ollie Barder, showing that there are a number of excellent Gundam games available.

Gundam MS Sensen 0079 was released for the Nintendo Wii and it has very quickly earned its place amongst the more accomplished Gundam games. Developed by Team White Dingo (who were also responsible for the Blue Destiny trilogy on the Saturn, Rise from the Ashes on the Dreamcast and Lost War Chronicles on the PlayStation 2) Sensen 0079 uses their signature first person approach to mobile suit control and like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk is superlative.

More after the jump...

GameSetExpose: The Peculiar Success Of 'Two Worlds'

September 18, 2007 12:10 AM | Simon Carless

- Well, not so much as an expose as some brief doodlings from someone who doesn't particularly play the genre, perhaps, but I wanted to pick up on a particularly interesting entry in the recent NPD game charts for August in North America - specifically, Xbox 360 RPG Two Worlds, published by Southpeak, making it all the way to #13 in the all-formats countdown.

To say Two Worlds, which is a first-person/third-person title developed by Polish studio Reality Pump, is a surprise on the charts would be an understatement - with a minor publisher and relatively little overt buzz from at least my point of view, I'm not sure anyone would have guessed it'd show up in the Top 20.

But here's a great hint as to why, from the first line of the gameplay description on Wikipedia: "Two Worlds is a three-dimensional role-playing game which has often been compared to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion." And indeed, if you Google for 'Oblivion' and 'Two Worlds', you'll see a whole heap of previews, articles, and opinions comparing the two games. It appears that Oblivion has created a whole mess of latent demand for firstish-person, open-world RPGs that even the game's expansion packs couldn't satisfy - hence fans latching onto Two Worlds.

Indeed, here in the CMP Game Group, our sales admin Gregg Silberman mentioned to me that he pre-ordered the Collector's Edition of Two Worlds (again, remind you of anything?), before cancelling when he heard that the gameplay was a tad more hack and slash than Oblivion. And indeed, critics aren't spectacularly happy with Two Worlds on the Xbox 360, with an average of 52% on Metacritic.

But that doesn't necessarily matter if there are semi-insatiable Oblivion fans out there, quite happy to start long threads comparing their favorite Bethesda-authored game series to Two Worlds. Difficult to say the exact sales for Two Worlds as a result, but it's certainly broken 100,000 on Xbox 360 by now in the States (probably edging 150,000?), and it's already topped the charts in Germany, where the PC version is also well-received.

Mind you, one of the oddest things about the surprise U.S. success of the game is that I suspect Oblivion wasn't necessarily the primary influencer in the game's development - the open-ended Gothic series seems to be one of the most influential European PC RPG series in recent years, and other people have picked up on the Gothic 3 comparison. On that front, imagine how well Gothic 3 might have done in the U.S. if they'd sorted out an Xbox 360 version?

Sounds like Gothic 4 might be coming to the Xbox 360, depending on your definition of 'current-gen' - but maybe the Oblivion geeks will have had their fill of debatably buggy Continental European open-world games by then, hm. However, Two Worlds is slightly poisoning the drinking water for everyone right now, one fears. And not saying Gothic is the premiere open-world daddy here - that title itself might well have been influenced by Daggerfall and heck, you get the general idea.

[Incidentally, I was going to go check out sales numbers on VGChartz.com, but then discovered it's the first site I've ever seen to be tagged as having malware by Google - awesome! I went and checked anyhow, and they're estimating 256,606 sales in North America so far - which I think is a bit high, but gives you the general idea.]

Textfyre - Bringing Back The Commercial Text Adventure?

September 17, 2007 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Gamasutra today, one of our quirkier interview pieces - chatting to David Cornelson of Textfyre, a new startup that "intends to target a young audience with regular episodic [text adventure] titles featuring reoccurring characters, with the first game expected near the end of the year." That's right, someone is trying out commercial interactive fiction once more - an eyebrow-raising prospect.

Cornelson talks about a bunch of cool hypotheticals related to if he ever got hold of the Zork or Harry Potter licenses, but here's his main pitch for his company's distribution plan: "We’re going to use simple DVD cases with a full color cover, a 10 page full color comic book, instructions, and a full color labeled installation CD. We will also offer downloadable versions and possibly versions to play online. We’re also going to seriously look at adapting our games to the mobile PDA market, but that’s a long term strategy. There are other packages I like better, but they’re more expensive. We plan to do “feelies” when it’s obvious."

Interestingly, Cornelson sees his pitch as competing with Young Adults fiction on bookshelves: "Yes. If you look at the Young Readers section, you’ll see numerous series-based fiction. These books are enormously popular and some of them have dozens of books. I think the market that is attracted to these books is my target market."

Specific authors aren't mentioned in the piece, but Grand Text Auto spills the beans in a recent news story: "Michael Gentry (Anchorhead, Little Blue Men) was the first IF author to join up with Textfyre, as a writer... Ian Finley (Babel, Kaged) has joined to do world and game design... Jon Ingold (All Roads, Muldoon) will write a game for Textfyre." These are 'names' in the IF world, and it's going to be highly interesting to see how the outside world will react to their fiction.

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