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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

Kotaku Flashback: Ten Years Ago

November 24, 2007 3:00 PM | Simon Carless

- Continuing a look at 'what Simon did at Kotaku', something I dreamed up for the week (and actually turned out quite well, I think) was a look back at the GameGeekPeeks interviews, a set of Q&As with notable designers I conducted about 10 years back for (the now defunct) VideoGameDesign.com.

So I excerpted key questions and answers from the interviews with notables from Valve, 3D Realms, LucasArts, Lionhead, etc, and then added some commentary on they held up a decade later.

In some cases, it was excellently, in others... not so much! Here's the articles - with a particularly fun quote from each interview attached:

- Ten Years Ago: Half-Life Writer Marc Laidlaw: "Right now, I'm happiest with our plans to turn the player into a real character in [Half-Life], without making a snarling asshole out of him. The player is going to be important-and not only as a target. He's going to feel he's doing things for a variety of good reasons, including sheer survival."

- Ten Years Ago: Lionhead's Peter Molyneux, Demis Hassabis: "As we have developed the new game, we have come to the shaky realization that it is very ambitious and far beyond anything any of us have attempted before... Lionhead will only work on one title at a time, and it will never get bigger that 20 people ( We are currently 8 people)."

- Ten Years Ago: 3D Realms' Scott Miller: "When Prey is released, it will have been a two year project, which for a game as ambitious as this, is not too long. Plus, unlike some games long in development, like Stonekeep and Descent to Undermountain, Prey when released will be a cutting-edge game in both gameplay and technology."

- Ten Years Ago: LucasArts' Monkey Island Duo: Jonathan Ackley "[Adventure games] can be a difficult and expensive style of game to produce, so we've seen fewer on the market recently. However, LucasArts has a long and successful tradition with the genre, and we're very fond of it here. each time out we make some alterations to the style and gameplay, so I'm expecting it to continue evolving, but at the heart of it all is always a strong sense of character and story."

Kotaku Flashback: 5 Indie Picks

November 24, 2007 9:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Well, there you go - I'm officially back at the helm of the good ship GameSetWatch. Thanks to Karsden for his amazing work guest editing the site in my absence. (Incidentally, I made a GSW category with just his guest posts in if you need to keep and cherish them.)

And yes, we'd love to get him to do a regular column, but we'll wait til he's recovered from marzipan poisoning before we ask him nicely. In any case, I had fun editing Kotaku this week, and the next three or four posts will round up the 'original reporting' I did there, since the volume of posts on the site means you might have missed some of it.

One of my 'original-ish' series for the week was '5 Indie Picks', in which I picked out some pay-to-download independent games which the average Kotaku reader might have missed, and then pointed at it a lot, waggling my finger:

- Pick #1 was Deadly Rooms Of Death, of which I comment "...It's like almost nothing else out there... if you like thinking and computer games (see: Portal), you will like D.R.O.D." OK, cheeky comparison, but forgivable, I hope.

- Pick #2 was Pocketwatch's Venture Arctic, a game I definitely think has been lost in the shuffle, noting that it "acts as a sort of Al Gore-ish god game, in which "...the player controls the forces of earth, sun, wind, and water to bring summer and winter to polar bears, orcas, and more..." So, Douglas Adams' 'Last Chance To See' meets Black & White, then?"

- Pick #3 was Grubby Games' Professor Fizzwizzle & The Molten Mystery, noting that "...it's logic puzzles in a cute family-friendly manner? Yep, and you just don't see this kind of thing from the mainstream any more." I also recommended their Katamari vs. Breakout fun of Fizzball in passing.

- Picks #4 and #5, made in a single post because of Thanksgiving, were Blackwell Unbound ("a classic point and click-style adventure game in the LucasArts/Sierra style" - and I just noticed the first Blackwell is in the Top 20 at Big Fish - wider success ahoy!), as well as Lexaloffle's Chocolate Castle ("a tricky sliding block puzzle game".)

Some of you guys may know these games, but hey, it bears repeating - publicity for them (and resulting sales) allows their continued existence, so anything I can do.

GameSetGuest: 'A Very Schadenfreude Christmas'

November 23, 2007 8:08 PM |

deutsche_woche.jpg

Guten Morgen, everyone. Look at our two lovely balls down there! I suppose they are a bit big, but they are festive, no?

It is Schwartze Freitag. You must all be back from shopping for your Rock Band and Wii and plasma television and USB Singing, Dancing Billy Bass Elmo Furby. The Christmas season now truly is upon us.

Every company has its holiday traditions. For example, at Electronic Arts, they release the employees from the office on Christmas Day and allow them to play in the front driveway for several hours, which, for some, is the only exposure to sunlight they will get all year.
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Our company Christmas party is held on December 6th, St. Nicholas’ Day. Traditionally, children place their shoes out for St. Nick to fill with candy. The worst child in the house gets no candy, but instead rocks or stones in their shoes.

Here, each employee just leaves their file drawers open, as no one wishes to go home without their shoes on. Last year, Lothar (our art director) received in his drawers a copy of American McGee’s Bad Day L.A. His work has improved greatly this year, perhaps in fear of a copy of Empire Earth III.

Each year the party is much the same. Everyone drinks a lot of Glühwein and dances badly. Bruno brings his wife and also his pet miniature schnauzers. Crispin gets very weepy. Otto will demonstrate his impressive ability to burp the first 30 digits of Pi.

GameSetGuest: 'This Takes The Cake'

November 23, 2007 12:00 PM |

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Since all the other more hip, cool game sites are full of photos of Mario cupcakes, Companion Cube cookies, and pies that look like the load screen of Gunstar Heroes I thought, we here at GameSetWatch must also display our gaming confectionery skills.

Thus Ulrike (our VP of sales) made a lovely chocolate cake of which she was very proud, the top of which was decorated with a marzipan sculpture of the GameSetWatch logo creature. I do not know what this logo creature is exactly, I think it is a baby chicken in a robot battle suit. Although I do not know why a chicken would wish to fight like a robot -- perhaps the influence of Berzerk? Anyway, Ulrike brought me into the office kitchen to show this cake to me and imagine our shocksurprise when we opened the refrigerator and found THE CAKE HAD BEEN EATEN:

morderkuchen.jpg

GameSetNetwork: Marathon Zwei, Feeling Things Up

November 23, 2007 7:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Aha - a happy post-Thanksgiving to all you folks. Almost done with that fun Kotaku guest action (and will be summarizing the original material I posted over the weekend, for those who can't keep up with the 60+ posts a day the collected team whacks up over there!)

In any case, our pride and joy big sister site Gamasutra ended up posting some features over Thanksgiving, and you may find the content bucket a little empty at this joyous time of year.

So we thought it was worth rattling off a list of the notable original stories we published this week - firstly features, and then some news/interview highlights:

- Game Feel: The Secret Ingredient
"Game designer and lecturer Steve Swink takes a close look at the "overlooked phenomenon" of game feel, referencing titles such as Super Mario 64, Zuma, and Donkey Kong in his intriguing quest to work out how designers can create a smoothly controlled digital game object."

- Postmortem: Freeverse's Marathon 2: Durandal
"Developer Freeverse was the team behind the recent 'enhanced port' of classic Bungie title Marathon 2 to Xbox Live Arcade, and in this exclusive postmortem, the company's Mark Levin goes into detail on the trials and triumphs of updating a Mac classic to XBLA."

- Designing A Next-Gen Game For Sound
"In this game audio article, sound designer Rob Bridgett (Scarface: The World Is Yours) discusses the key elements of next-gen audio - and just what sounding "as good as film" means in today's increasingly sophisticated market."

- The Development Of A Continuum: Andrey Iones On TimeShift
"Saber Interactive's Vivendi-published TimeShift has a fascinating path to market - two publishers, developed on two continents, and a year of re-development after the game's original completion in 2006 - and Gamasutra chats to VP of production Andrey Iones about the title's storied history."

- All The World's A Stage: Inside Silicon Knights
"Gamasutra recently had a chance to tour Canadian developer Silicon Knights (Eternal Darkness, Too Human) - resulting in intriguing thoughts from founder Denis Dyack and other staffers on process, university recruitment, and how government subsidies can go too far."

Finally, notable original news/interviews published this week, from newest to oldest, are: Carmack, Kang Talk Id Mobile, Nintendo Love (discussing Wolfenstein mobile/DS, Orcs & Elves to Wii); Q&A: Disney Online's Goslin Talks Pirates Online (on Disney's new Depp-ish free-to-play MMO); MIT: Koster, Jenkins On 'Fan Labor', User-Generated Content (Raph and friends on how to get the fans to do work for you); Id's Carmack: World Of Warcraft The 'Train' Driving PC Gaming (Carmack on the state of PC games); MIT: Heroes, Narnia Panel Talks Transmedia Storytelling (film/game crossover thoughts with Heroes exec producer); IGDA Forum: Gamelab's Herdlick On Managing A Happy Team (happy game employees are good!); Future Play Panel Talks Self-Censorship And 'The Chilling Effect' (are developers censoring their own games?).

GameSetGuest: 'Spear And Magic Helmet'

November 22, 2007 4:30 PM |

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“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed and instead of bleeding, he sings.”
-- Ed Gardner

Oh, it is Thanksgiving, NO ONE IS READING. I am going to go play Peggle. In the meantime, here are some notes about Nachtmusik, our karaoke survival horror game released last Spring, and how it came to be. Ha ha, notes, musik, ha ha.

Nachtmusik

Lothar (our art director) is a big fan of the Japanese horror genre (The Ring, Dark Water, Silent Hill games, etc). He is a big fan of anything Japanese. It is always "kawaii" this and "desu desu desu" that. And he never stops trying to get me to watch something called Bubblegum Crisis.

Perhaps he would be more at home over at Kotaku.

On the other hand, I am a big fan of opera, particularly Wagner. But I had the idea, could not these two interests be combined in a game? I had never heard of a karaoke horror game. I’d certainly heard some karaoke horrors – Bruno, our CTO, singing America’s “Horse With No Name”, for one.

GameSetGuest: '8-Bit Geschichte'

November 22, 2007 9:00 AM |

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They say that after three days, visitors and fish both stink. But it has been four days, and I hope I do not stink, or if I do, that it is in a "tasty pickled herring salad" way and not a "low tide in the East Frisian islands" way.

I thought today it might be nice to interview my friend and co-worker Bruno Schwartzritter about a few of the early games we made. Also, I thought it would be easier than writing an entire article myself.

In the mid-eighties, when Schadenfreude Interactive was even not a augenglimmer, Bruno and I (he is now the CTO of SI) made quite a few games. They were all clones, because that is how you learn to make games in the beginning. As you learn, you evolve into making your own more original games. Well, some game developers never crawl out of the mud and grow legs. But Bruno and I have been in this business for a long time, and I feel we are at least newts by now.

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GRABUNGADUNG (1982)
Karsden: This game was Dig Dug, without the silly Fygars. Instead, they were dung beetles. But I suppose it was similar enough, since we eventually got a cease-and-desist letter from Namco, and so we made Grabungadung II, which was more like Ripoff.
Bruno: We ripped off Ripoff.
K: Basically you are the beetle and roll your dung ball around, accumulating as much dung as possible, while fending off flies and other beetles who will try to steal your ball.
Bruno: In a way it is a metaphor for life.
K:We made a coin-op version, which was very popular in Southern Germany. It was a “cocktail” arcade machine, with a large brown ninepin ball as a trackball.
Bruno: And then we did another dung beetle game, years later…because you are so fond of these dung beetles.
K: Yes, that is why we made Dung Ho!, which was a bit like Katamari Damacy.
Bruno: But much less colorful.
K: Brown is a color!

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': Meet The Family

November 22, 2007 12:01 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.]

If you’re a regular reader of The Aberrant Gamer, you know by now that hentai game stories tend to hinge on implausible conventions – exaggerated male fantasies that serve as a vehicle for the action. Generally, the h-game protagonist is a markedly ordinary young male of high school or college age, whose poor luck and relationship difficulties are suddenly reversed by a stroke of impossible luck, wherein he finds himself suddenly surrounded by eager beauties. Those women too, follow certain archetypes, and thus we have a formula.

In that respect, The Sagara Family is formulaic in every way; the protagonist, Yusuke, is sent by his father to board nearer to his school with a family consisting of a beautiful, youthful widow and her four equally nubile daughters. The game is billed as “the ultimate homestay fantasy,” and indeed it is – Mom wears skimpy lingerie as she swills sake late in the evening, and the youngest daughter, Ruruka, gets the urge to crawl into bed alongside Yusuke at night. By the way, she’s young enough to be considered innocent in doing so – yet, says the game, she’s 18, of course.

The first sex scene takes place between Yusuke and his host mother, Maria, not ten minutes into the story’s unfolding, once each female and her general, two-dimensional nature has been introduced. With h-game stories often comprised of rather long, elaborate narratives – essentially, the player must click, click and click through a great deal of text to get to the action – it’s not unusual to throw the first bone, so to speak, early. That the game is stereotypical and cheap is apparent – but if you’re a regular reader of the Aberrant Gamer, you know by now that there’s always something else going on.

GameSetGuest: 'Code Affen'

November 21, 2007 3:00 PM |

deutsche_woche.jpg I am terribly late as usual, being European, but I saw this Code Monkeys television show mentioned on Kotaku or one of those other Augenbrennanspielesiten. It has apparently been renewed for another season.

Note: I do not get the G4 channel here in Germany, but I have seen photos of Olivia Munn in a Princess Leia bikini and Blair Butler dressed as a Stormtrooper, so I feel familiar with the basic gestalt.

Code Monkeys is about two young men who work at a game company in 1980s, and their wild and supposedly humorous antics. It is animated in a pixelized style in order to “look like a video game”, says the director. Well, as my friend Bruno and I were game company employees of a sort in the 1980s, I wanted to see what this was all about, so I went to the YouTube.

code-monkeys.jpgThere I found one clip from the show in which a monkey had sexual intercourse with a woman’s head. Another episode featured a man who took off his pants and painted his genitals green. There were also several bong jokes.

This is not the kind of thing that went on at game companies in the 1980s, not in Germany at least. Many years before I founded Schadenfreude Interactive in 1995, Bruno and I ran a small game company out of his father’s garden shed. Back in these days, you programmed a game, copied it onto a floppy disk, put this disk in a plastic bag (or paper bag if you, like us, could not afford plastic) and took it to the local software-and-board-game shop where it was sold on commission.

In addition to this, Bruno and I had a fledgling business designing small runs of coin-op arcade games, mostly clones of popular American games like Joust, Qbert and Dig Dug.

Choice Awards 2008 Announces Call For Special Nominations

November 21, 2007 11:08 AM | Simon Carless

- Since I know a lot of developers read GameSetWatch - especially this week, with a fellow game creator guesting - I wanted to pop on to mention the Call For Special Nominations for next year's 8th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards.

If you have heroes or people you admire in the game development community and you're a game professional, go ahead and nominate them. Info as follows:

"The 2008 Game Developers Choice Awards, the highest honors in game development acknowledging excellence in game design, will return to San Francisco for a second consecutive year on Wednesday, February 20.

Presented by CMP Technology’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) and Webby-award winning Gamasutra.com, this year’s awards feature several new categories.

Two of these - the Ambassador Award and the Pioneer Award - are now open for nominations from qualified game professionals. Nominations are also now open for the Lifetime Achievement Award - all three are available for voting on after logging on with your main Gamasutra.com user ID.

The awards ceremony, held in conjunction with the Independent Games Festival Awards, will be hosted during GDC 2008 in the Esplanade Room in the South Hall of San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

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