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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 November, 2007

GameSetMicroLinks: Friday Festivities

November 30, 2007 8:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Ah yes, it's almost the weekend, which can only be a good thing. And to accompany that division bell sounding to pipe us homewards, what better than links about weird PSP games, maximum 'feelies' with Japanese PC game bundles, and why Ratchet & Clank PS3 is nice?

Also, there's some completely obscure early PC game action and the Shakespeare-based virtual world, Arden, is finally upon us. Don't say we didn't warn you when we went all Star Trek holodeck on you:

Impressions: That One Crazy PSP Dungeon Game | Game | Life from Wired.com
Interesting sounding dungeon management game.

Tale of Tales» Blog Archive » Good games, bad games, ugly games
Some really, really interesting comments on this subject - reality is ugly.

Machinima Spotlight: The Snow Witch « Stranger 109
Interesting Sims 2 machinima review.

Terra Nova: Two Releases: Arden I and Exodus
Edward Castronova's Shakespeare-themed game space is available.

The Independent Gaming Source: Gamma256 Games Announced
The allstar low-pixel games entered in Kokoromi's Montreal-based competition.

Akihabara Channel » Eternal Fantasy Package
A $120 Japanese PC game package with crazy amounts of 'feelies'.

Armchair Arcade: Revenge of the Panasonic JR-200U Personal Computer (JR200, JR 200 U) (1983)) - PART 1
Wow, neat piece of game history I didn't know about.

Lost Levels Online: Previously-Unreleased NES Game Now For Sale
An isometric 3D title called Airball - interesting.

POV - A Producer's Point of View: Final Impressions ~ Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Activision exec producer Stuart Roch loves the game, and explains precisely why - good read.

Mark Dobratz - Interview - Adventure Classic Gaming
Great interview with Producer/Project Manager of Myst Online: Uru Live at Cyan Worlds

Opinion: Numerals, Game Reviews, And The Game Media

November 30, 2007 4:00 PM |

-[This special editorial from GameSetWatch columnist and NewType USA editor (and former game journalist) Kevin Gifford deals with the game journalism-related news you probably haven't missed.]

There's been a remarkable amount of net buzz about the firing of GameSpot senior editor Jeff Gerstmann, allegedly because he was too unkind to Eidos marquee game Kane & Lynch. Nerd rage on forums worldwide was immediate and swift, particularly on NeoGAF where all manner of theories -- ranging from the reasonably plausible to the patently absurd -- have been thrown around. My old boss Sam Kennedy of 1UP pointed out that CNET's recent hiring of Stephen Colvin, ex-CEO of Dennis Publishing (publisher of Maxim and the late Stuff), as overseer of GameSpot might have something to do with it, which sounds reasonable enough to me.

Perhaps CNET was looking for someone less uber-nerd Gerstmann-y and more hip and Adam Sessler-like to be GameSpot's most public face, and the K&L controversy was the straw that broke the camel's back. (GameSpot itself has issued a statement attempting to defuse such talk.)

This is all speculation, however, and it misses the real underlying cause of all this. Game publishers, nearly all of whom these days are multi-million-dollar corporations with shareholders and Wall Street analysts breathing down their necks harder than their gamer audience, don't care what Jeff Gerstmann or any reviewer has to say about their games. They care about the score, the Metacritic average, and it's been that way ever since the Internet became the primary vehicle for game media. In other words, game publishers keep a cozy relationship with game media so their scores can be maximized on an unrelated website whose owner "has largely stopped playing" video games.

Opinion: '20 Underused Game Mechanics'

November 30, 2007 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[We've linked Andrew Doull, who runs the Ascii Dreams weblog and develops the Roguelike game Unangband a few times on GSW recently, after he previously helped us cover the Edinburgh Interactive Festival for Gamasutra. In this guest editorial, he considers what game mechanics just aren't utilized enough in video games today.]

In the spirit of everyone else doing '20 game clichés we thought we'd repeat for you' lists at the moment, I've written a 20 under-used game mechanics list that'll hopefully at least give you some game design suggestions. No pictures - I don't want to pad out the reading time unnecessarily.

1. Asymmetric Co-op
: The game has a playable co-op mode, but the second player has different abilities from the first. Whether it's collecting star fragments, shooting colour drops or rising out of the ground to bust heads, allowing a second player to drop in for some lighter entertainment without needing the l33t skillz of the main gamer in the room is a sure-fire winner.

Idea from: Wizball. Druid. Super Mario Galaxy.

2. Bad-Ass Boss Fight: You want to know how tough the bad guy is? Play as him, before you fight him. Then you can really justify your inability to beat him.

Idea from: Marvel Nemesis: The Rise of the Imperfects.

3. Design Your Own: Design the dungeon, then play through it. You can't blame anyone else for the problems with the architecture.

Idea from: Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground.
Who raved about it: Clive Thompson in Wired Magazine.

Pre-IGF Hype: Metanet, Jon Mak Talk Indie Fun

November 30, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Well, one of the reasons that it's been a bit quiet here this week is that I've been helping Matthew Wegner and Steve Swink with Independent Games Festival organizing and judging, and thereby error-resolving and checking a whole heckload of the Main Competition games - since we announce the finalists on Monday.

This is going to be excellent news, since over 170 entrants is a lot to take in, so it'll nice to be focus in on some of the titles that the judges have found particularly interesting. In the meantime, over at IndyGamer, Tim has interviewed Raigan and Mare from Metanet, and also checked in with Everyday Shooter's Jon Mak (pictured looking slightly Christ-like above), and their wide-ranging interviews touch on their own projects, plus their views on IGF entries (the Metanet folks are judges this year, Jon is not.)

Firstly, here's what the Metanetters think: "Last year, Raigan spent all of October doing nothing but playing IGF games.. I think 80 or 90 were judged. This year... is tough because there are no big 'stand outs' but many 'very good' games.. for instance: Gish 2, World of Goo, Cortex Command, Clean Asia, and Crayon Physics. Also, Raigan played DROD and Polychromatic Funk Monkey WAYY too long."

As for the Mak-ster: "I don't think I'd have the time to judge all those entries, and who am I to judge anyway?... Anyway, Crayon Physics looks hawt.. I saw the video of him playing it on a Tablet PC.. geez I'm jealous on so many levels. Clean Asia was one I mentioned earlier. Fez was insane, but they have to put guns in it, and lots of babes. Fish is going to hate me for that. I did play Battleships Forever. That game... man, I needed a roll of toilet paper next to me while playing it. It's like, a teenage boy's wet dream.."

Interesting! How do those picks tie up with the actual finalists? Don't ask me - there's still some last-minute voting going on! Also, it's secret. Check back on Monday and I guess we'll find out.

Game Developer's 2007 Front Line Award Finalists Announced

November 29, 2007 6:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, over at Game Developer we've just announced the Front Line Award finalists for this year - important awards for game tool manufacturers. As noted below, the winners will be announced in the January issue, and the magazine's cover is always a mash-up between the postmortem and the award.

In previous years, my favorite is Stubbs The Zombie trying to eat an award, though The Sims 2 characters catfighting was also a fine one. We have something v.neat lined up for January 2008's cover too - more info as soon as I can spill it:

"The editors of CMP's Game Developer magazine have named the finalists for the 2007 Front Line Awards, the magazine’s tenth annual evaluation of the year’s best game-making tools in the categories of programming, art, audio, game engine, middleware, and books.

Game Developer’s mission for more than ten years has been to provide game developers with information, news, and articles that pertain directly to them. The Front Line Awards are an official way of recognizing one specific aspect of the industry: the tools that developers need to do their jobs.

Each year, Game Developer looks at the powerful lineup of new products and new releases of favorite tools, from game engines to books, and selects the top five in six different categories. After a comprehensive judging process, one winner is chosen in each category. Front Line Award recipients represent the most innovative, user-friendly, and useful products from behind the scenes of the world’s best video games.

The finalists by category are as follows:

Engine

CryEngine 2, Crytek
Gamebryo 2.3, Emergent
Hero Engine, Simutronics Corporation
Unreal Engine 3, Epic
Vision Game Engine, Trinigy GmbH

Books

Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light, Deborah Todd, AK Peters
Game Writing Handbook, Rafael Chandler, Charles River Media
GPU Gems 3, ed. Hubert Nguyen, Addison-Wesley Professional
Second Person, ed. Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, MIT Press
XNA Unleashed, Chad Carter, Sams

Middleware

Euphoria, Natural Motion
Gameface Studio, Anark
Havok Complete, Havok
Kynapse, Kynogon
PathEngine SDK, PathEngine

Programming/Production

Hansoft 5.0, Hansoft AB
NVIDIA PerfHUD 5, NVIDIA Corporation
Perforce 2007.2, Perforce Software
ReplayDIRECTOR, Replay Solutions
XNA Game Studio Express, Microsoft

Art

3ds Max 9, Autodesk
modo 301, Luxology
Mudbox 1.06, Autodesk/Skymatter
Softimage XSI 6.01, Softimage
Zbrush 3.1, Pixologic

Audio

Fmod, Firelight Technologies Pty, Ltd.
Miles Sound System, RAD Game Tools, Inc.
Vivox Precision Audio, Vivox, Inc.
Voice-O-Matic, Di-O-Matic, Inc.
Wwise 2007.2, Audiokinetic

The final award winners, plus one inductee to the Front Line Awards Hall of Fame chosen for its outstanding contribution to the game development industry for five years or more, will be announced in the January 2008 issue of Game Developer, available to subscribers in early January."

GameSetMicroLinks: Thursday Thoughts

November 29, 2007 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Hey, Thursday, how's it going? What's that, you say? You'd like a bunch of random links ranging from odd Chocolate Castle-related eating contents to spot-on blog posts on Tabula Rasa?

Oh wait, and a new rumor about where Bioshock 2 is being deployed. Sure, it's a bit showy for us, but we can oblige. Here goes:

Margaret Robertson's Lookspring » Onomatoplaya
'I intend to be the first person in the world to exhaustively catalogue all the games in the world you can play while doing what you’re doing in the game.'

Hey Game Developers, WTF? from 1UP.com
Sharkey obnoxiously points out things that are wrong with games. Adorable.

Japanmanship: Best of the West
Awesome piece on Western game design's success (or lack of) in Japan.

richardcobbett.co.uk > Richard's Online Journal > Tabula Rasa
'It’s a deeply bizarre game, broken on so very many levels, yet strangely compelling, almost despite itself.'

z a c k h i w i l l e r » On Lists
Discussing Ernest Adams' Gamasutra '10 years of games' articles and some new picks.

Merc News blog: The Madness of Randy Stude and the triumph of the PC gaming platform
A good (Dean) Takahashi piece on Intel's beliefs, and the reality, of PC gaming.

...on pampers, programming & pitching manure: Kim leaves Microsoft
Microsoft game biz personage Kim Pallister is off... somewhere. Smart guy!

Braid » Blog Archive » Preview videos will probably happen.
'I have concocted a plan wherein we produce augmented gameplay videos… not just scenes from the game, but also tied to some narration conveying ideas that would be interesting in their own right. ' This will be interesting when it happens!

Arthouse Games: Interview w/Fez's Phil Fish
Another one of the new breed of 'personal', stylish indie games.

The Common Sense Gamer » When the Boys go to Harvard
'Large money and big expectations mean a change of focus on what made MMOs great in the first place.'

Hollywood Reporter: 'Differing perspectives on licensing IPs for casual games'
Specifically referencing Beanbag, who have picked up I Love Lucy, among other things, heh.

GameAlmighty.com - Nothing is Perfect
'I haven't made any official tabulation, but I suspect this year has seen more perfect scores for imperfect games than ever before.' Whinefest!

Surfer Girl Reviews Star Wars: Disaster: Your Irrational Behavior is BioShocking
Suggesting that the Bioshock sequel will be made in the Bay Area by a new 2K studio, per a new Gamasutra job posting. Scuttlebutt is a bit vicious, but the actual studio info looks on the money.

Counter-Opinion: Why The Orange Box's Name Is Alright

November 29, 2007 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Luckily enough, following Russell Carroll's recent opinion piece about the naming of The Orange Box, we got another response, from Creative Traction's Duane Brown, in which the PR pro and Gamasutra writer thinks the game is named just fine. Our questions and his answers below.]

Did Valve impede sales of The Orange Box by calling it... The Orange Box?

Overall, I don’t think they impeded sales by calling it The Orange Box. The biggest part was making sure they got across what was coming in The Orange Box because you aren’t just getting one game, but 5 games including Portal, which I’ve been looking forward to from day one. The game rises high on a Google search and Valve’s games tend to lean more towards the “hardcore” gamer then say Nintendogs, which is something more for the mainstream.

Is this too confusing a name?

No, not at all. The name is perfect on a couple levels because 1) It’s not something similar to a past or present game coming out. 2) We won’t have a preconceived notion of what the game is about by the name.

When you look at GameRevolution's article on the worst video game names, you see that The Orange Box is pretty good overall, particularly because of the two points above. Plus, some of those names on the list make you want to think of something else.

Do you think the naming of the release helps endear it to a) the hardcore gamer or b) the more mainstream gamer, or both?

I think Valve was going after the hardcore audience, no matter how you look at it. So appealing to them was a given from the start. The only game in The Orange Box that could have appealed to a more mainstream audience was Portal, because of the puzzle/strategy aspect of the game. Sure, Valve would love to get more then their core audience buying the game, but whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

What would you have called this compilation, if you'd have had complete free rein?

Since you are getting 5 games that span 3 franchises, you can’t or at least you shouldn’t call The Orange Box by one of the franchise names. What they are actually getting might confuse people who don’t read full articles or press releases. With a lot of the game names in The Orange Box having to do with a sequel, I might call it “The Second Level”. A Google search proves this could be marketable/brandable from a gaming perspective. Some might say it’s close to Second Life, but only the market can determine that.

GameSetOuch: Rein Headline Puns We Missed

November 28, 2007 10:00 PM | Simon Carless

- So, we posted a in-depth, rambunctious Mark Rein interview on Gamasutra earlier today, discussing subjects like Home's interaction with Unreal Tournament 3 on PlayStation 3 and whether there's a distinctive 'look' to UE3 games (we think there might be, in a nice way.)

But I realize that we missed a cardinal opportunity - to make ridiculous puns in the article title. Sure, it's called 'The Unreal Man: Mark Rein Speaks', but it could have been so much more silly, given that 'rein' is replaceable with 'rain' and 'reign' for groanworthy purposes.

Brainstorming, this is what the editors and me (OK, mainly me, I have nothing better to do) came up with:

- Purple Rein (illustrated with a picture of an enraged Epic VP shaking his fist.)
- Reindrops Keep Falling On My Head
- Rein Of Blood/Rein Of Terror (some kind of backlit horror tableau?)
- Here Comes The Rein Again (Unreal Engine is so ubiquitous!)
- Rein Man (More savant than idiot!)
- Reining It In
- Insane In The Rein (just forget we ever suggested that one.)

Oh dear. We promise we're not picking on Mark - in fact, he's one of the smartest guys in the biz, and I'm glad that previous run-ins with the press haven't changed the Epic VP's lovably outspoken nature. We just need our headline fun! Thanks for understanding, feel free to chip in.

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': Are The Kids Alright?

November 28, 2007 4:30 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.]

Combine the veil of anonymity with the community elements the internet supports and you’ve often got a vocal mob. Far from being an exception, gamers are perhaps a case-in-point – off the top of your head, can you think of any other discussion topic, aside perhaps from American politics, that incites such a firestorm? An earlier Aberrant Gamer column took a look at the “hot-button issues” in the gaming community, examining those topics most likely to bunch gamer panties, and theorized that lingering social misconceptions and the fact that we still feel mostly alone in our world despite advances in networked gaming and an increasingly broader audience contributed largely to our defensive attitude and quick rise to anger.

One of the “hot-button issues” Aberrant Gamer highlighted in the past was our often unjust scrutiny at the hands of mainstream media, complete with accusations of violence, maladjustment, addiction and anti-social behavior. We’ve had to defend our favorite hobby from this kind of malign almost since its inception. We’re innocent.

Or, we were. Lately, many have found themselves asking whether, as our own society with its own set of norms and behavioral standards, gamers are approaching – if not already crossed – a line from the justifiably passionate into the alarmingly vitriolic. As certain kinds of gamer behavior, mainly online, reaches a fever pitch, many of us have found it increasingly difficult to take a defensive stance. It’s becoming harder not to ask certain questions about ourselves.

Are we crueler than we were years ago? And have we, as a society, become unhealthy?

GameSetMicroLinks: From Ultima IV To Slate Rock

November 28, 2007 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, gonna try to keep up with this daily, regarding the whole random links thing - there's a lot of good content out there in the gaming blogosphere of recent.

Anyhow, today's GameSetMicroLinks include a nice tip sent to me by the GameTap folks on a retrospective, some odd LiveJournal links that probably only I care about, and real rockers trying out Rock Band, as follows:

GameTap: Retrospective: Ultima IV
Ah, back in the Lord British days.

sardius_ LJ: 'DS goin nuts'
Danny goes searching for odd DS games - check out the 'Spanish For Everyone' videos and... marvel.

Points - Blog Archive - Episode 02 online!
Interviewing Dylan Cuthbert on Super FX chip fun for GameVideos.com - approve!

GDC News Blog - 'Director's Cut'
Jamil Moledina's new blog as Game Developers Conference head honcho - neet.

Sleater-Kinney's guitarist tests out Rock Band. - By Carrie Brownstein - Slate Magazine
Thoughtful, piquant article alert.

KidFenris' LJ: 'Outrage Trigger'
Complaining about Douglas Coupland's JPod picking a certain video game as a character's favorite. Deliciously, needlessly hardcore - thumbs up.

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