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Archive For November, 2007

Nexon Ramps Up MapleStory With Bizarre Advertising

November 18, 2007 8:02 AM | Simon Carless

- It's been notable that Korean-headquartered Nexon are really trying to break casual, free-to-play pay for items MMO MapleStory in the States. For starters, I've seen ads for the game (which was profiled very handily on sister site Worlds In Motion) on the back page of major game magazines like Game Informer in recent months.

But even more interesting are the slightly surreal filmed commercials for the game over at the official site - they've been showing on sites like IGN, but be sure to check them all out - include Pig, Snail, and Fish. Snail is particularly odd, and features a kid with snails in entirely inappropriate places.

Really, online world MapleStory is underdiscussed in gaming circles - for those don't know, and as WorldsInMotion's Leigh explains, it's "...classic MMO with some platform-style gaming elements mixed in-- it's unique in that it's a 2D sidescroller, rather than the usual three-quarter or first-person 3D environment." Sure, it's particularly popular in Asia, still, but it'll be interesting to see if it get popular in the States, given the marketing push. [Via Joel Reed Parker.]

COLUMN: 'Playfield': A Pin Of One's Own, Part One

November 18, 2007 12:02 AM |


[Playfield is a slightly irregular column about all things pinball-related, lovingly constructed by Octopus Motor's Sparky.]

Thinking about buying a pinball machine? Here are some things to consider.

Ugh. I think that is possibly the lamest opening sentence I have ever written. So let’s just try to forget it happened, and move on, shall we?

Pinball prices have gone up in recent years, what with Ebay and the fact that these machines aren’t getting any younger. You can spend anywhere from $0 (look what we found in Grandma’s garage) to $5000+ (brand new Stern Spiderman machine), depending on the age, popularity, and condition of the machine.

If you’re just looking for a pinball because of its theme (say, you’re a fan of KISS or Dr. Who) make sure you’ve really played it enough first. I like KISS and Dr. Who, but the pinball versions? Bleah. Now, a “KISS, Tom Baker And K-9 Meet The Phantom Of The Park” pin? That I would be thrilled to own. But don’t worry too much about replay value -- as long as you take good care of a pinball machine, you can always sell it if you get bored with it.

IFComp Results Out, Lost Pig Wins Out

November 17, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, I see that the winners of this year's Interactive Fiction Competition have been announced, and there's all kind of text adventure goodness in there - but the amusingly named 'Lost Pig' from 'Grunk' wins out.

SidneyMerk.com has a review of the game, explaining: "Lost Pig is told from the decidedly simple perspective of the main character, an orc named Grunk. A new player might mistake Grunk’s broken English and seemingly unambitious goal as laziness on the author’s part. After only a few minutes of play, however, it becomes pleasingly obvious how much effort has gone into creating Grunk’s world."

All the games from 2007 are available to download at IFComp, and there are lots of impressions on the Intfiction.org forums, and also on Emily Short's blog and especially on SidneyMerk.com's site, where he's reviewed all the entries in some detail. Oh, and IFDB has details/reviews on all the games, so there.

Inside Arcadia Magazine, An Arcade Geek's Heaven

November 17, 2007 8:02 AM | Simon Carless

- The extremely otaku-friendly Akihabara Channel blog has an interesting post discussing the latest issue of Enterbrain's Arcadia magazine, the only consumer arcade game magazine in the world - and a testament to the niches that can exist in the Japanese market.

As is mentioned, the magazine "...had a scoop on a new expansion to the Melty Blood fighting game; Melty Blood Actress Again. The game is due out Spring 2008 and will feature 2 new characters: Riesbyfe and the main villain of the original Tsukihime game, Roa." The whole way that the super-niche doujin scene is feeding into the niche arcade scene in Japan - with titles like Melty Blood and Akatsuki Blitzkampf - continues to intrigue.

It's also noted: "Another interesting project on this magazine was the Arcadia Awards where the reader votes for the best Arcade machine. But… how can you compare games of different genres? For example, the nomination for best graphics are: Arcana Heart, Mobile Suits Gundam Senjyo no Kizuna, After Burner Climax, Battle Fantasia, and 2 Spicy…" An interesting cross-section, eh? But it feels like the arcade scene's appeal is getting perhaps more selective even in Japan.

Column: 'Might Have Been' - Gun Force 2

November 17, 2007 12:11 AM |

GUN FORCE 2: BLAZE OF GLORY, starring Daniel Pesina and Cynthia Rothrock.[“Might Have Been” is a sorta bi-weekly column by Todd Ciolek that explores the ways in which promising games, characters, and concepts failed. This edition looks at Irem's Gun Force 2, released for the arcade in 1994.]

Metal Slug shouldn’t have succeeded, considering how games were in the mid-‘90s. Amid all the 3-D polygon revolutions and flashy new consoles and PlayStation ads with a blocky Russian dominatrix alienating female customers in droves, there wasn’t much room for Metal Slug, a side-scrolling Neo Geo action/shooter with a violently cartoonish streak and strictly 2-D gameplay. But it worked. Through either its own charms or the blind love of Neo Geo fans desperate for something that wasn’t King of Fighting Samurai Real Bout Ragnagard 3, Metal Slug did well and kept on doing well, to the point where it’s now arguably SNK’s biggest series.

Metal Slug wasn’t an SNK creation, of course. The series was devised and, up until the third game or so, developed by a smaller group called Nazca, which, in turn, had been started by programmers from Irem. Metal Slug fans were quick to uncover evidence of this in old Irem arcade games that use the same grimy, carefully detailed visual style later defined by Metal Slug. Undercover Cops, In the Hunt, Cosmic Cop, and even R-Type II all have the look, but there’s one old Irem title closer to Metal Slug than any other.

Women crying. Yep, this was made in Japan.Metal Slug Zero

Irem’s original Gun Force was a response to the Contra series, albeit one lacking the impressive bosses, smooth controls, unique weapons, and all of the other things that make Contra fun. For the sequel, Irem’s future Nazca staffers enhanced just about everything. Gun Force 2 ("Geo Storm" in Japan) was still a walk-and-fire Contra clone, but with much more impact.

Granted, most of that impact comes from the fact that everything looks so much better. The scenery brims with details, from the blackened husk of a train engine to the walls of the expected last-level crawl through an Aliens-inspired hive. It’s a dirty, burned-out, and weirdly interesting world. And, best of all, everything blows up real nice: flying bombers spew gouts of flame as they sink from view, a jointed mech boss sets a forest on fire, and boxcars go up in screen-filling blazes. And that’s just the first stage.

Irem also re-thought the game’s controls and came up with something odd: instead of basic single-gun armaments, the stars of Gun Force 2 (the man’s Max and the woman’s Lei, judging by the default name-entry screen) each carry two machineguns. One’s aim is directly controlled by the player, while the other just sort of tags along, sending its shots either a little higher or lower than the main gun. It makes for some creative, if unwieldy, firing patterns.

The Metagame, Starring... Crotilo!

November 16, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- The New York-based Totilo/Croal nexus (aha, 'Crotilo' is their new name, like 'Bennifer!') continues to blaze a trail for high quality game journalism, despite their obvious proximity to the Atlantic Ocean tending them to complete irrelevance (yes, I'm looking to start a West Coast/East Coast beef, what of it? Look out for my informative upcoming mixtape on the subject.)

In any case, MTV's Multiplayer blog has posted video from The Metagame, a real-life panel game show about... video games, which was filmed as part of MTV's Games Week going on this week.

As an accompanying blog post written by MTV's Stephen Totilo explains: "On Friday, November 2, I joined MTV News’ Tim Kash in a face-off of video arguments against Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal and author Heather Chaplin. We played “The Metagame,” a game show created by game designers Eric Zimmerman, co-founder of Gamelab, and Frank Lantz, co-founder of Area/Code."

Some of the questions, and results, were as follows: "Opinion: “Tetris” has more randomness than “Resident Evil”... Argument: Team MTV said it does. Team Brooklyn challenged... Verdict: Overruled — The audience agreed with Team Brooklyn." Or, indeed: "Opinion: “Virtua Fighter” is sexier than “Super Mario 64″... Argument: Team Brooklyn said it was. Team MTV said it wasn’t... Verdict: Upheld — The audience sided with Team Brooklyn." Brooklyn took it, folks.

DS' Most Wanted In The West Now Game Center CX?

November 16, 2007 8:02 AM | Simon Carless

- So, we only just posted a MicroLink to Chris Kohler's initial impressions of Game Center CX, which is the spoof-styled DS game based on the cult Japanese 'play through classic games' TV show - and now Kohler has outlined the mini-games and challenges in more detail over at Wired News.

As he explains: "Not only have the designers managed to come up with a clever assortment of retro-games-that-weren't, they've wrapped them all in an addictive umbrella game. You can load up and play in any game you like at any time, but there's always a certain challenge that you have to complete before you can move on and get more games." Titles include Galaga clone Cosmic Gate, platform action-er Karakuri Ninja Huggleman, and Dragon Quest spoof Guadia Quest.

What fascinates me about the game is that it's so 'meta' about the whole experience of playing games - as Kohler explains in his first impressions article: "Each game, of course, has secrets. You can enter in secret codes for powerups, or find Super Warp Gates on certain levels. To find these, you'll have to flip through back issues of Game Fan Magazine (no, not that Game Fan), which also contain previews of upcoming games, fictional Top Ten lists, and editorials from the fictional staff."

If you want to know more about the TV show it's based on, Ray Barnholt wrote to GSW a few months back linking to his own insanely detailed guide to Game Center CX, which is now in its 8th season, and he's just been updating with info/grabs from the shows from the new season - the newest includes Western platformer Flashback, which Arino crunches through in 16 hours straight, ouch. Awesome work. Now who's going to localize this for the West, since it's pretty unplayable if you don't know Japanese?

COLUMN: 'The Aberrant Gamer': Flower Girl

November 16, 2007 12:02 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.]

Where there are games, there are conventions, and where there are conventions, there are people in character costumes – doing cosplay. The images of these devout fans in costume are part of gamer culture, especially online, where pictures of elaborate, pitch-perfect character clothing frequently make the rounds of blogs, forums and news sites. The people behind the pictures can be objects of wonderment, when the costume is good, or the butt of jokes, when it’s not so much. In either case, seeing a photograph of a person who has spent weeks or months preparing, through meticulous craftsmanship and hours of styling, to look – sometimes eerily – like a video game character can provoke plenty of curious reactions. Some wonder at the cosplayer’s efforts – despite spending hours and hours on gaming and game fandom ourselves, the level of detail on display makes some people wonder if the person’s quite well mentally. Have they begun to cross that line, beyond which fantasy and reality are becoming difficult to distinguish? Are they flagrantly attention-whoring, hoping to cash in on the attention and affection popular game characters receive? Are they high-strung detail-obsessives?

According to Adella, one cosplayer who’s earned a reputation in the close-knit hobbyists’ community, “there are plenty of psycho cosplayers.” But when she decided to do a series of Aeris costumes, it changed her life. And it wasn’t because of psycho cosplayers, but because of psycho gamers.

GameSetMicroLinks: Classic Albums In The Game Center

November 15, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- Aha, now I've got going with this new-style links thing, it's time to step it up and feature a few more tidbits.

These include bizarre Nintendo DS imports, through TV shows you should be watching to get ready for Rock Band downloadable content, all the way to the dumbest quiz show-based game that we've yet to encounter.

Delicious, m'dears:

The Independent Gaming Source: 'Trilby: The Art of Theft'
Latest game by Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee, great art style.

Ludacris Added to the Impressive Cast of Gerard Butler's Game « FirstShowing.net
'The prisoners are actual convicts who are being "played" in a massive multiplayer game outside of the prison "walls" by gamers.'

First Impressions: Game Center CX | Game | Life from Wired.com
Sounds like a pretty cool DS game in its own right - Atluus?

Metacritic: Ontamarama (ds: 2007): Reviews
Talking of Atlus - blimey, you guys sneaked this one out, and it's a DS rhythm game, too. Lost in holiday rush, bigtime.

'Classic Albums' documentaries - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Looking forward to Rock Band? VH1 Classic has been showing 'Classic Albums' on The Who's 'Who's Next', one of the add-on Rock Band albums - a great primer that made me want to buy the album.

GameDaily - Media Coverage: Rumor Reporter
Tor Thorsen is an awesome editor, but doesn't GameSpot's Rumor Control exist to some extent so they can print outlandish rumors as headlines to get page views, THEN debunk them? I'm so not on board the rumor debunking express.

- National Console Support, Inc. | Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader
I'm highly amused by this DS title - doesn't it lose most of its point if you're humiliating... yourself?

paidContent.org - Marvel To Unveil Subscription-based Online Comics Outlet
Interesting as a comparison point for 'all you can eat' game subscriptions - $60 a year ain't bad, but it depends on what gets rotated in and out, when, and how new it is.

Katworks: Hero's Puzzle Path Game
'Watch the board animate to life as you disarm troublesome tricks and traps' - interesting concepts, if basic homebrew art.

The Secret Diary of Michael Pachter
In the general style of Fake Steve Jobs, only not really funny. Still, good idea!

Switchball - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I don't think many people spotted that this recent XBLA addition (lots of fun, though some annoying frame tearing) was an IGF finalist in 2006 under the name Crazyball. Now you know!

Toronto Spawns Artsy Games Incubator

November 15, 2007 8:02 AM | Simon Carless

- Jim Munroe is a nice chap who runs the No Media Kings organization up in Toronto - you might have heard of him in relation to games because of his 'Freeware Rebellion' mini-doc, or his satirical GTA machinima 'My Trip To Liberty City'.

In any case, he just sent out his latest newsletter, and nestled quietly in there is word of the 'Artsy Games Incubator' project, a Toronto-based club that is 'sponsored by' Metanet (of N/N+ fame) and Queasy Games (Everyday Shooter, of course), and has a really refreshing angle on game making.

As Munroe explains: "A lot of artists I know have great ideas for videogames, but no programming skills. A lot of videogame makers I know wish there was more creativity and innovation happening in the field, but don’t know how best to foster it. I started the Artsy Games Incubator to try to address both issues."

As he explains: "We just had our first prototype set of sessions, with four of us meeting once a week for four weeks, and I kept notes. Using point-and-click game creation tools we made games and game elements for the sessions and invited feedback and discussion from the other members. It’s based on the writer’s-circle model that I’ve also used for movie making." It really looks like the participants came up with interesting stuff using tools like Adventure Game Studio and the N level editor - and it's a great cross-media idea in general. More of this, please.

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