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Archive For October, 2007

GameSetMicroLinks: The Seaman Of A Roguelike, Part Deux

October 25, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- Ah yes, it's approaching the end of the week rapidly, so time to whack out a whole bunch of radiating GameSetMicroLinks of goodness, spanning Goo, Dead Rising, Seaman 2, and plenty more strangeness besides - here goes:

- As is customary, 'And Maw! This' has his regular IGF entry round-up, with lots of good tips and recommendations, and some sass: "Is it just me or is there an over abundance of “blob” games this year? Gish 2, World of Goo, Goo, Gumboy Tournament, etc."

- Over at Kotaku, Brian Crecente has been hanging with the founder of Soldier Of Fortune magazine, thanks to the upcoming video game, and it's neat when features like this are about the interesting bits (people): "Brown walks the crowded rooms of his office with an Army swagger stick in his hand. He uses it to tap pictures of himself with Colombian rebels, Castro's army, Charlton Heston."

- PlayStation Museum has actually got hold of a playable version of Resident Evil 1.5, the legendary PlayStation 1 title "...also known as Resident Evil 2 Prototype [which] was shelved when development was approximately 80% complete in favor of a re-design to what ultimately became the hugely popular release of Resident Evil 2." Detailed videos are included to gawk at.

- After Game Developer magazine put out the Top 20 Publishers countdown, MSNBC.com did an article on this year's chart, including quotes from me (ugh!) and a hilariously non-plussed reaction from George Harrison of Nintendo. who "...says the company is “pleased to be recognized” but in the same breath said “consumer recognition is the thing that’s most important to us, and drives our business strategies.” (You'll only see the full article if you load the site in IE, by the way - weird bug!)

- The Toronto Star mentions that Douglas Coupland's jPod is being filmed for TV the author "...will executive produce a 13-part series based on his novel of the same name that examines Vancouver's video-game industry and is partly inspired by true events." Starts on CBC in January 2008, apparently.

- Late last week, GigaOm cued off the Gamasutra article to discuss the growing market for casual game ad space, which is potentially interesting in terms of monetization, though Au may be on the money here: "If that history is any guide, expect a lot of furious activity and money spent over this war for casual game eyeballs, followed by the industry’s morning-after question, 'OK, explain again how we make money from all this?'"

- Yoot Saito and friends are back with Seaman 2, which is predictably lunatic and actually topped the Japanese charts this week, oddly. Anyhow, NCSX has the awesome back cover and more info on the microphone-controlled 'Beijing Man' virtual pet game. [Oh, wait, and there's a 'dressing up dogs' DS game over at NCSX, too!]

- The New Gamer has an interesting editorial called 'Dead Rising & Interfering Gameplay', which asks, in relation to Capcom's zombie-em-up: "What other games have I ditched, not because they weren't engrossing, but because the gameplay got in the way?" An interesting concept, innit?

- TIGSource recently highlighted a video of abstract indie title Goo, which is both entered in the IGF and heading to XBLA, I believe, and explaining: "In Goo! you control an amorphous blob of goo trying to overwhelm and absorb opposing blobs of goo as they try and do the same to you.+ Actually, that’s just one of the many play modes planned for the finished game, but whatever." See above!

- At his 'Ascii Dreams' blog, all about a Roguelike developer, Andrew Doull has been recounting Unangband monster AI, in three parts - here's Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 - and boy, this is as hardcore as it comes, but pretty neat nonetheless.

Games For Preschoolers: A Parental View

October 25, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- The ever-excellent Gamers With Jobs has a new article called 'A Preschooler Primer for Parents', and it deals with one of these important things that doesn't get discussed enough - how to correctly interface games and small children.

As writer Sean "Elysium" Sands notes, kids have different ways of having fun in games: "You’re not going to teach your four year-old to appreciate the finer points of Civilization IV, and nor should you bang your head against that particular wall, so don’t overburden yourself with the idea that gaming with a young person has to involve plot points, solvable puzzles or even rules."

In addition, and this is even more of an important point: "While I am offering suggestions for how to keep a toddler or preschooler entertained, it really isn’t a substitution for your participation. For my son, he has a limitless desire to share every little thing with me no matter how insignificant it is nor the Herculean efforts I need go through to seem like I’m interested. The whole point here probably shouldn’t be to _always_ drop your kid in front of Beautiful Katamari so you can balance the checkbook, play World of Warcraft or get stinking drunk." Or all three!

COLUMN: 'Roboto-Chan!': Zone of the Enders: Fist of Mars

October 25, 2007 12:02 AM |

['Roboto-chan!' is a fortnightly column by TOLLMASTER, an individual affected by Mecha Obsessive Disorder since a young age. The column covers videogames that feature robots and the pop-cultural folklore surrounding them. This edition covers Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars, an inexplicable Super Robot Wars clone for the Gameboy Advance that somehow managed to find its way into English.]

Zone_of_the_Enders_The_Fist_of_Mars_Coverart.jpgWhen you talk about mecha games, the conversation eventually turns to the Super Robot Wars series. I don't think there is anything quite like it anywhere else in fandom; you can make a comparison to superhero crossover fiction, but while that gets bogged down by conflicting themes and confusing plots, the Super Robot Wars series just barely avoids these problems by realizing exactly what it is: fan wish-fulfillment.

But as epic as Super Robot Wars is, I'd prefer to ease my way into talking about it, so I thought I'd today pay attention instead to a red-haired stepchild of Super Robot Wars, based on Hideo Kojima's red-haired stepchild of a mecha series, Zone of the Enders. Most people know of the first game as 'the free PS2 game that came with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo' and many never realized a sequel later appeared, and even fewer know that there was a Gameboy Advance turn-based strategy game based upon it. So today the spotlight's on Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars, a game whose existence no one can rationally explain as anything other than 'Hideo Kojima is a rabid mecha fanboy in disguise.'

Why The Bionic Commando Remake Is Clueless?

October 24, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- Not that GSW is turning into 'all Raigan [EDIT: And Mare, of course!], all the time', but the Metanet Software blog has a fun, incendiary post about Capcom's Bionic Commando remake, referencing the newly announced next-gen title, and suggesting: "Wow.. this is exactly what’s wrong with commercial games."

Leaving aside the phrase 'commercial games' for a second (hee!), the N+ creators continue: "When we first heard of this project, we were worried that yet another grappling/physics-based game would be coming to take on [Metanet's next project] Robotology. After watching the video, all we could think was “this is the sound of a great game being F’d in the A”."

There continues some plot-related sighing: "“Radd Spencer” has become “Nathan Spencer”. Why not just call him “Blandy McBland” or “Egg”? Is there a more generic tough-guy name in all of history... And “Ascension City”, nice touch — apparently “Climbsville, West Tallington” was too obvious".

Finally, the coup de grace is delivered: "Why, WHY does every action video game have to pretend it’s the most bad-ass, super-tough thing ever?" The 2D to 3D transition is also queried, but... you know, it's an interesting question. Is Bionic Commando's rebirth a great example of re-imagining by a smart veteran publisher, or is it yet another trip on the road to creative bankruptcy? Or is it, most likely, somewhere between those ridiculous extremes?

2008 IGF Gets Record Student Entry Numbers

October 24, 2007 10:02 AM | Simon Carless

- Just wanted to cross-post this from Gamasutra, cos the list made it onto a bunch of indie sites already, heh, so we wanted to officially announce it too - lots of _very_ interesting games on this list:

"IGF organizers have announced that a record 125 entries have been received for the Student Showcase for the 10th Annual Independent Games Festival, for which winners will be announced at GDC 2008 next February.

The full list of impressively diverse student game entries, including details, screenshots, and links to official websites (many of which include downloads for the games) is available on the official IGF website.

The 2008 IGF Student Competition (run by the CMP Game Group, as is Gamasutra) 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, and each winner will receive a $500 travel stipend to help aid their trip to GDC 2008.

In addition, during Game Developers Conference 2008 itself, there will be a prize for best overall IGF Student Game awarded as part of the IGF Awards, with the finalists comprising all of the Student Showcase winners, and a $2,500 cash prize for the ultimate winner.

The Main Competition of this year's IGF has already revealed a record 173 entries, with a host of notable independent PC, web-based and even downloadable console games entering the contest - for which almost $50,000 in prizes will be given out in total.

GameSetMicroLinks: Weekend Hangover Edition

October 24, 2007 8:03 AM | Simon Carless

- It's happening again - the GameSetMicroLinks that are sourced at the weekend but don't appear 'til midweek, thanks to other CMP Game Group work. So it's time to roll them out now, and they encompass some fun eclecticism, from Splume to Cecropia and beyond:

- Zen Of Design has been discussing the fantasy sports lawsuits of late, and citing someone else noting: "Today’s holding seems to stand for the proposition that baseball cannot “own” the historical facts of its games." Some interesting implications here for video games, somewhere...

- Neverwinter Nights 2 is getting standalone expansion modules, with the first one being from former IGF Mod Competition winner Ossian Studios - congrats, guys.

- Adventure Classic Gaming has interviewed Secret Files: Tunguska's Jörg Beilschmidt, discussing the "...re-imagination of the mysterious, real life Tunguska phenomenon of 1908" - in crazed graphical adventure form. Genre. So. Not. Dead.

- Brainy Gamer has done a gigantic 'girls play games' round-up, featuring "...a few of the more thoughtful essays devoted to the subject of girl and women gamers from various sources." Some good stuff linked in here.

- Arcade Heroes is crazy, and has bought an arcade board of 'The Act' on eBay, the cancelled knob-based arcade machine from Cecropia - here's the finished auction version. And _damn_, these will be rare.

- James Wallis at COPE has a dense article on "...the nature of courage, bravery and heroism, and their role in games and game-narrative." It's intense but interesting stuff.

- CorpNews has some grumpy, bad fanboy buzz about Hellgate: London, noting "...as a jaded MMO veteran, aged FPS player, and Diablo fan, I think that it fails miserably trying to mesh all of these things together." It's grumpy fanboy review, sure, but it's not what I expected as a reception from even a minority.

- Emily Short reveals the launch of the Interactive Fiction Database, which "...pulls together [text adventure] reviews from a variety of sources and allows users to add their own new reviews and recommendation lists, a la Amazon." It's neat, from what I can see.

- At The Escapist, Erin Hoffman has been talking to parents about kids and gaming, as part of a "...journey to find out first-hand what parents today really thought about videogames, and how, as a community, developers and gamers could reach out to them to provide information and support." This is important, folks.

- IGF co-organizers and crazy casual/indie developers Matthew Wegner and Steve Swink have launched Unity-powered web game Splume, which is somewhat of a physics-based Puzzle Bobble vs. Breakquest in a clown car, or something. Go poke at it.

COLUMN: 'Might Have Been' - Journey to Silius

October 24, 2007 12:03 AM |

Just slap a big logo over that Terminator shot, Taro.[“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 Sunsoft's Journey to Silius, released for the NES in 1990.]

Journey to Silius is the rare game that’s interesting not for what it is, but for what it almost was. Created in 1989, it was first planned as an NES adaptation of James Cameron’s The Terminator, but at some point before the decade’s end, Sunsoft lost the license, possibly to LJN. In remarkably short order, Sunsoft’s programmers yanked all but trace elements of the Terminator license and turned what remained into yet another game driven by jumping and shooting.

And so Journey to Silius arrived in 1990, in what was perhaps the busiest year ever in the NES market. Everyone wanted Super Mario Bros. 3, and, once they had it, Super C, Final Fantasy, Maniac Mansion, Mega Man 3, Crystalis, Startropics, Rescue Rangers, Ninja Gaiden II, and even B-listers like Dinowarz, Code Name: Viper and Burai Fighter all waited. Silius was probably lucky to land its one-page Nintendo Power debut.

Sunsoft's Requiem for a DreamJourney to Harlan Ellison Lawsuits

And it was partly Sunsoft’s fault. After stripping away the Terminator tie-in, the company added only a simple story. Jay’s father is a key scientist in a race to establish a new space colony. Jay’s father is murdered by terrorists, who, judging by the intro, drop an atomic bomb on him. Jay discovers this and, with an expression suggesting either murderous determination or heroin addiction, sets out to avenge his father.

A tow-headed kid in a white space suit, Jay isn’t terribly charismatic, and neither are the apparently all-robot “terrorists” he faces. Colored in various shades of gray, the enemies could easily be reused sprites from the game’s Terminator days, which would’ve needed mechanical grunts bland enough to avoid breaking the movie’s tone. In fact, half the fun of Silius comes from spotting the leftovers: spindly-legged mechs from Sunsoft’s original Terminator preview became a single sub-boss in Silius, and the final battle features a bulkier version of The Terminator’s unmistakable T-800 endoskeleton. Even the game’s first boss, a helicopter that disgorges robot ostriches, could be a revamped model of The Terminator’s flying Hunter Killer.

The scenery itself is generally disappointing, though there’s an impressive atmosphere in the first level’s vistas of charred cities and dark skies. Yes, it’s clearly the future envisioned by The Terminator, with a few embellishments (Cameron’s world of coldly genocidal machines never included cutesy wanted posters), but it quickly gives way to duller futuristic corridors and conveyor belts in the later levels.

Fez - Taking 2D To 3D With Aplomb

October 23, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at the 'Arthouse Games' site, Jason Rohrer has an in-depth preview of Kokoromi's 'Fez', a '2D to 3D' title that's been entered in the Independent Games Festival this year, and of which it's claimed: "This little gem is neck-and-neck with Braid as one of the most interesting and innovative games I have ever played."

It's definitely a cute, good-looking title - for which the system specs imply it might be aimed eventually for XBLA, according to Rohrer - and as he notes: "As the world swivels [from its 2D default], all sorts of formerly-mysterious details are brought into focus. Why could you both walk in front of a crate and also jump on top of it? Because the platform supporting the crate actually had depth, with room to stand in front of the crate." If you're not expecting it - or if you haven't played games with this style of gameplay - this kind of logic is magically awesome.

However, in the comments, N+ creator Raigan Burns has some interesting points: "I really think that this article should at least _mention_ "Super Paper Mario" or "Crush"... I really didn't feel like Fez blew my mind spatially, because I had played Super Paper Mario and experienced that sort of world/perception-manipulation happening. I was already aware of the possibilities; this doesn't mean that Fez is crap or anything, because it certainly is taking a much different approach to everything." But he still likes the game - for which there is a teaser trailer available - a lot, mind you.

Q&A: Douglas Gayeton On Johnny Mnemonic's CD-ROM Wetware

October 23, 2007 8:04 AM | Simon Carless

- There are many games out there that deserve more than a footnote in history, despite having disappeared from the radar somewhat, and the 1995 PC/Mac CD-ROM title Johnny Mnemonic, published by Sony Imagesoft, is just one of those.

I've been fascinated with the FMV-centric title for some time for a variety of reasons - in fact, the ones I'm about to list. Firstly, it's one of the relatively few filmed adaptations of William Gibson's work. (Here's an interview with Gibson revealing the filmed part of the game cost $3 million, plus the tech development.)

Secondly, despite being released at the same time as the Keanu Reeves-starring movie of the same name, it's actually got a significantly different script, actors, and plot - with Isaac Hayes instead of Ice-T, and Julie Strain coming along for the ride - as well as Christopher Russel Gartin as Johnny.

As well as all that, the title deliberately minimized the interface, making it one of the oddest of things - a no-HUD cyberpunk FMV game that was a clear symbol of the Siliwood convergence era, but was swallowed up all the same. And the game's director, Douglas Gayeton, is back in the news recently because HBO has picked up his Second Life documentary, and intends to submit it for Oscar consideration.

So I'm pleased that Gayeton was understanding of someone wanting to ask him about a CD-ROM he made more than 10 years ago, despite the fact that he's CCO of online world building firm Millions Of Us right now, and presumably has better things to be doing. For those who haven't seen the game, someone has uploaded the intro FMV to YouTube, which is a good starting-point. [Thanks to MobyGames for the media displayed here, too.]

Surfer Girl's 18 Games You Never Knew

October 23, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Yes, we've been covering the 'Surfer Girl' mystery, and yes, the self-proclaimed industry insider is tending a little towards the self-involved, with a Kotaku Australia interview allowing her to keep her mysterious airs.

But she's still coming up with the goods - witness the '18 canceled games you never knew existed unless you worked on them' post on the 'Such Things That Never Were' blog, which is a genuinely interesting list.

Among the notable ones: 'A.I. [arena fighting game based off the film] (XBOX, ACES Studio/Microsoft)', which was presumably the cancelled game that the 'The Beast' ARG was originally going to be accompanying, as well as 'Fight For Your Right [party game] (platforms unknown, Z-Axis/Activision)', and an interesting claim: 'The Getaway Online [eventually became Home] (PS2, Studio London/SCEE)'.

In fact, you can dig around in here for a while - there's the claim that William Latham's now-defunct Computer Artworks (responsible for The Thing) were working on 'Alone in the Dark: The Abductions' for Atari, and also a mention of 'GhostWorld', a pretty obscure and neat-looking title that Luxoflux were working on from 2000 to 2002 - Joby Otero has a page up about it now, sure.

And actually, it's just about possible for someone to have Googled all of these games from portfolios - here's one backing up Alone In The Dark, here's another mentioning 'Lemmings Forever' - but you'd have to be reasonably tragic to go to that trouble.

And on the other hand, there's a follow-up with pictures of a canned 3D version of Joust, with the following commentary: "In the early 2000s, Midway was working on reviving every single classic arcade game the company made in the 80s (NARC, Gauntlet, Spy Hunter, Defender, Dr. Muto and possibly one or two more) into a slightly-to-vastly inferior three-dimensional versions. Thankfully, Joust was not amongst them, the planned update slated for released in 2002 for PS2, Xbox, and GameCube played much more like a not-very-good version of Mortal Kombat on flying ostriches than like the original Joust." Dr. Muto wasn't '80s arcade IP (was it?), but otherwise, this is on the money - I visited the developers at Midway San Jose while they were making the game.

[Also, our Girl posted and then retracted screenshots of Freelancer 2 - here's one of the images still up on the Blogger site. Wonder why? (UPDATE: Ah, it's back up.) Overall, a bit of an attitude, but continued good information flow, which makes up for it, eh?]

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