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Archive For December, 2007

Satire: 'Five Short Video Game Industry Keynotes'

December 28, 2007 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

- [Originally posted by Matthew at slightly satirical game developer blog Magical Wasteland, we thought we'd reprint this on GameSetWatch because not enough people saw it, and it made us laugh a lot. We're trying to get a little more 'insight' from him on GSW in the future, so stay tuned. In the meantime, this piece deals with talks that all of us who attend industry conferences will recognize.]

1. Let’s think about the future for a second. You probably don’t understand the kids that make up the bulk of our audience, but I do. I call them the network MySpace remix 3.0 social generation. Unlike any other people before them, young people today like to interact with each other. They also like music. YouTube is the perfect example of whatever point it is I’m making. Everything should be online and customizable.

2. Iteration is the key. Everything is about iteration. How many times can I use iteration in this talk? Iteration, iteration, iteration. This is how you make good games: by iterating.

The more you iterate, it doesn’t matter what direction you’re going in or what you actually do, as long as you get the number of iterations up. This process (iteration) is what turns all the bad stuff into the good stuff. Here’s a graph showing game quality and number of iterations approaching infinity together. This graph proves my point.

3. For our last project we used Scrum, and boy, are we glad we did. There is no way anything we did would have been possible without it. What is Scrum, you ask? It’s a set of new terminology for things that already happen when groups of people work together. For example, instead of a “meeting,” you have a “Scrum,” and so on.

You should use Scrum too, since it will solve all your problems. If I’ve piqued your interest, sign-up sheets for my specially discounted seminars on Scrum can be found clipped to the bottom of your conference program.

4. The game we made was great – because we’re great. We are just a group of awesome people. We never crunch, and we go to the beach every other Friday to play volleyball. Even those times when we did crunch, we had delicious catered meals. And there was one time we got a masseuse in the office. Awesome. Yes, our studio’s amazing array of perks and benefits keep us happy and doing our best work all the time.

We have a ton of open positions we need to fill very quickly so please send us your resume as soon as you can.

5. The game industry is in trouble. We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing before. We need to do this other thing, which is the thing that I’m doing. I said this last year but none of you came with me. Well, this time I really mean it.

GameSetLinks: Post-Xmas Non-Malaise

December 28, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- It's pretty much amazing how many video game-related blogs there are out there. And also how many of them I read via RSS, 'til my brow furrows.

Anyhow, this time there's a tremendous range of randomness, from the latest Xmas-themed text adventure competition (yay!) to more Surfer Girl, Mark Mothersbaugh (pictured!) & the new Spielberg game soundtrack, and some Perplex-ing news on educational ARGs. Take it away, Sirs:

The Independent Gaming Source: Text the Halls: Voting
Those seasonal text adventure games are available to play/vote on, yay.

Surfer Girl Reviews Star Wars: December twenty-fifth things.
'A2M is working on Indiana Jones for people who cannot stand to play consoles with the number three in the name' - sounds right, more Montreal scene rumors.

Japanmanship: 2007, a look backwards at a retrospective of the past in hindsight
Some good, not entirely cynical thoughts, blimey.

synaesthesiaJP » Blog Archive » PlatinumGames Official Blog
JP Kellams is the 'Ryan Payton' of PlatinumGames, the ex-Clover folks' new developer. Iiinteresting.

LA Weekly - Music - Are You Not Devo? You Are Mutato
Awesome article on Mark Mothersbaugh's music company, also noting they're soundtracking Spielberg and EALA's Boom Blox (aka PQRS!)

Six to Start » Stealth mode, unstealthed
Alice Taylor of Wonderland fame has commissioned Dan Hon (Perplex City)'s new startup for a UK Channel 4 educational gaming project, 'The Ministry, which explores privacy and identity online'. Iinteresting.

stevewetherill.com » Blog Archive » Uztek Athletics for Nokia S40 - free download!
A free mobile game from the IGF Mobile judge and veteran.

British Gaming Blog » BGB Awards 2007: 20 Greatest Moments
Thank you for picking Elite Beat Agents' 'You're The Inspiration' - I was going to write a column about how moving this was at one point.

Phases Crossed
Chaim Gingold's post-Spore personal blog, with crazy diagrams about his thought processes on departing - fun.

Radio Taiwan International: 'Taiwanese dancer takes Pump It Up crown in Mexico'
Another great microscene example, for Andamiro's DDR clone: 'In the end 20-year-old Shen Shiou-hwa saw off champions from fifteen other countries to take top prize in the female speed event.'

From World of Y!Craft To BravoNation

December 27, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Gordon Luk's GetLuky.com, the Yahoo! developer has been discussing the new BravoNation.com website, a Y! project currently in closed beta.

Interestingly, the site is aimed at bringing Xbox Live-style achievements to, uhh, life on the web itself, for any real, imagined, satirical, or factual achievement of your choice.

Andy at Waxy.org has a good overview with lots of screenshots, but the original name of the project is instructive, as Gordon explains: "Earlier this year, I presented a team prototype hack at one of Yahoo!’s internal Hack Days called “World of Y!Craft”, which was an attempt at creating a platform for incentive systems for various Yahoo! properties."

Ex-Yahoo-er Andy explains the crossover concepts a bit further: "Inspired by the gaming panels from SXSW Interactive earlier this year, Gordon wrote a series of blog entries drawing parallels between multiplayer gaming and Web 2.0 communities. In particular, his three-part series on avatars discussed different achievement-like systems in gaming, on the web, and the crossover between them." Game-birthed concepts that go far beyond games, then?

Opinion: 2007's Top 5 MMO Trends

December 27, 2007 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

- [Continuing the year-end retrospective over at Gamasutra, Slashdot and MMOG Nation's Michael Zenke takes a look back on the biggest moments of the year in massively multiplayer online games - and is eminently worth reprinting here, so we're going to, nuh.]

This has been an unbelievable year for Massive games. Unfortunately, I don't mean that in a positive sense. When I made a few back-of-the-napkin prognostications about the coming year in December of 2006, I thought I was being a huge sourpuss.

It turns out I wasn't nearly sour enough. Closures, projects failing in their development phase, the departure of notable individuals from high-profile titles, weak launches, minor scandals, a number of games that were just plain delayed ... it's been a hell of year.

It wasn't all bad, of course. Specifically the mainstream acceptance of World of Warcraft and the successful launch of Lord of the Rings Online speak to future successes for the genre. There have also been several 'dark horse' contenders showing their heads, plenty of new companies throwing their hats in the ring, and (finally) some measure of success for foreign games imported to the states.

Despite all these negative signs, I see 2007 as generally positive. The Massive game industry is still in its infancy, in many ways, and these failures are hard growing-up type lessons. I've tried to keep that in mind when constructing a list of the Top Five MMO Trends of 2007.

In the spirit of previous Top Five articles from other observant commentators, these points will try to sum up the most impactful events of the year for Massive gamers and the hobby they love so much... with an eye to what lessons we should draw for the future.

Let's hope looking back on 2008 will be more about sugarplums and less about coal.

Special: Q-Games On PS3's 'Gaia' Music Visualizer

December 27, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

One of the more hidden features of the PlayStation 3's 2.10 firmware update is the spectacular Earth-based music visualizer, seen in motion on multiple user-posted YouTube videos and in stills in the pictures below.

The feature's creator, Kyoto-based Q-Games (PixelJunk Racers), which was commissioned by Sony to create the visualizer, has been talking to GameSetWatch sister site Gamasutra about the feature's genesis, its use of NASA data, and possible expansion concepts.

Q-Games' chief of technology James McLaren spoke to Gamasutra's Brandon Sheffield about how that project got started, explaining: "Originally, we were working on the Gaia project (our name for the earth viewer) as a possible boot sequence for the PS3. The waving cloth background, also created by Q-Games, got the nod when the PS3 launched."

McLaren continues: "We persevered with Gaia, and this visualizer came out of that ongoing work. We've had this under our hats for a while, so it's nice to finally see it released into the wild."

He added: "What you are seeing is a slimmed-down version, due to Flash ROM restrictions, so we are happy to witness a largely positive reaction on various internet forums."

But how were the effects in the visualization created? McLaren explains: "This representation of the earth is a 3D model with some shaders and SPU trickery going on. We tried to accurately model the earth's atmosphere and have all the correct highlights on the oceans, etc. The texture data is sourced from the NASA Blue Marble project."

"They have some data that they've patched together from hundreds of satellite passes over the earth, which is really top-notch quality, as you can see. We really owe NASA a debt of gratitude for the data, as without it we wouldn't be able to produce something that looks this good."

Is Q-Games helping out Sony with any other updates in the near future? McLaren explains: "Unfortunately, we can't really say much about that. We'd certainly like to expand the current Earth visualizer and allow people a little bit more user control, something we've seen a few requests for on various online forums."

However, he notes in closing: "Perhaps a future update might include the full Blue Marble dataset, but that would need to be a hard disc-resident version..."

Announce: IndieGames.com: The Weblog

December 26, 2007 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[This blog entry was originally posted by editor Tim W. over at IndieGames.com, which has a new GameSetWatch sister blog focused on the indie scene, and is basically a converted version of the formerly named Independent Gaming ('IndyGamer') blog. We had a chance to help Tim and indie games out and decided to do so.]

Here's some news - the Independent Gaming weblog is moving to a new domain and becoming IndieGames.com: The Weblog, as part of the CMP Game Group (Independent Games Festival creator)'s outreach into the independent gaming scene.

Please change your bookmarks to point to IndieGames.com: The Weblog at http://www.indiegames.com/blog - indygamer.blogspot.com will no longer be updated. The Feedburner RSS feed for Independent Gaming has been automatically switched to point to the new site. Comments are being migrated as we speak.

Thanks to the CMP Game Group and Simon Carless for the invaluable support and hosting of the new site; we promise to continue to serve all your indie games news and review needs as we have done before. Here's a word from Simon about this change:

Simon: "Hey folks - you may know me already from running GameSetWatch and also helping to manage various other Game Group properties like Gamasutra, Game Developer magazine, and - of course - the Independent Games Festival, which is definitely the most relevant for this announcement!

This whole concept started a couple of months ago when Tim announced that he might have to shut the Independent Gaming blog unless he got some help in hosting and partly paying for his time working on the site. We wanted to help out, and we'd already launched IndieGames.com to help educate people about independent games, so having him move his blog over here made a lot of sense.

So nothing is really changing here - Tim [EDIT: And other IndyGamer editors who would like to contribute, of course] has still got an open editorial remit to blog and interview who he likes, and we may occasionally pop in to mention IGF and other Game Group-related news - which is likely of interest anyhow. We'll also be working with him to look at whether we can help to better develop the indie scene through setting up better distribution mechanisms for independent games - though we've only just started thinking about this."

GameSetLinks: Boxing Day Alert, Innit?

December 26, 2007 8:09 AM | Simon Carless

- The day after Xmas is a joyous one for lying around contentedly, and this day is no exception. However, there are some links to round up - and I'm particularly interested by this new Konami arcade music machine in the Bemani series, 'Jubeat'.

However, there's some other fun stuff here - including news of Marvelous USA setting up shop and a good review of the Square Enix-infused Jump Festa out there in Tokyo, among others. Here goes:

New Bemani series, "Jubeat," announced! - bemanistyle.com
Pronounced 'YouBeat', with touch screens to music, v.interesting.

Alex Ward to Burnout Paradise Haters: Cry More and Merry F***ing Christmas - NeoGAF
Ward's tremendously defensive post-demo message sparks havoc from possibly over-emo NeoGAF massif.

Akihabara Channel » Jump Festa 2008
Good review of the Japanese mag/game fest, w/Square Enix stuff galore.

RPGFan - Exclusive Interview Feature: Interview #5: Yasuhiro Wada @ Marvelous Interactive
From the Harvest Moon creators: 'We have already set up MMV USA in North America. At present stage it is not functioning as a publisher, but it will begin its activities in the near future.'

The Independent Gaming Source: Interview with Gesundheit creator Matt Hammill
IGF Student Showcase winner talks his neat booger-busting game.

Water Cooler Games - Parking Wars on Facebook
'Parking Wars interests me because it successfully gives the sense of both trying to get away with parking illegally and that of trying to stay vigilant to find those who are.'

Adventures Of PT Winterbottom Blog: Winterbottom Video Trailer
The USC Student Showcase winner in the IGF this year is a Victorian time travel Flash adventure - top hatlicious!

Game|Life's Ten Biggest Disappointments Of 2007 | Game | Life from Wired.com
Look, game blogs, this smartness is what happens when all three of your writers are actually cogent!

2008 Independent Games Summit Announces Line-Up

December 26, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- [Well, bit of a 'Happy Xmas' while also revealing the line-up here, I guess - this looks like it's going to be a blast, and with the IGF Finalists in both Main Competition and Student Showcase also invited to attend in the audience, it should be a good mix of indie and pro developers for the first two days of GDC.]

The organizers of the 2008 Independent Games Summit have announced the majority of the line-up for the February 2008 event, with postmortems of N+ and Schizoid alongside talks from notable creators at Introversion, Queasy Games, Kongregate, WayForward, ThatGameCompany, and more.

The 2008 Independent Games Summit (operated by CMP, as is Gamasutra) seeks to highlight the brightest and the best of indie development, with discussions ranging from indie game distribution methods through game design topics, detailed postmortems of independent titles, digital distribution-centric business concepts, and much more.

Once again, the IGS is a sister event to the 2008 Independent Games Festival. Taking place on the Monday and Tuesday of Game Developers Conference 2008, February 18th and 19th, the event follows the successful Independent Games Summit in 2007, for which multiple videos have been posted on Gamasutra in the last few months.

While speakers representing IGF Grand Prize winner Aquaria, World Of Goo, PixelJunk Racers, fl0w/The Night Journey and more already confirmed, the new set of confirmed 2008 Independent Games Summit lectures include:

Q&A/Essay: 'Smith Sam' Talks Gold Farming, Power Leveling

December 25, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless

- Over at Gamasutra a couple of weeks back, we got an interesting article submission from a Chinese-headquartered gold-selling and power leveling company, USFine.com. The piece was notable because it tried to present a history of the ever-controversial (and likely EULA-busting) third-party item-trading business, which has thrived through use of cheap labor in emerging markets.

So I followed up with the writer, the Chinese-based 'Smith Sam', who appears to be one of the owners of USFine, and got a little background on the company he helps run. According to Sam, there are forty employees at the company, which offers power-leveling (having a third party level up your MMO character for you) and in-game gold in a pretty comprehensive set of games.

His company's Top 5 most popular games in terms of demand right now are World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI ,Runescape, Maplestory, and Lord of The Rings Online. But they offer services for almost 15 types of game, including Vanguard, Sword Of The New World, Gaia Online, and even 2Moons.

Although power leveling is also a major part of USFine's business, and the subject of the essay below, Sam notes that gold and/or in-game currency tends to be the best market for them overall. Interestingly, Sam also comments that Google and Yahoo! search engine results are one of the chief methods of advertising his company's services - showing how much the major generic search engines have penetrated these types of niche, potentially infringing markets.

What follows are some edited highlights from 'Smith Sam's on the ground impressions of how this power leveling market has evolved. Of course, with major companies like the VC-funded Live Gamer trying to officially muscle in on this market by partnering with publishers for secure item trading - if not power leveling, one suspects - it'll be intriguing to see how this controversial and oft-maligned submarket evolves.

China GDC 2008 Announced For Beijing

December 25, 2007 8:01 AM | Simon Carless

- [The first GDC China, co-organized by my co-workers Meggan and Stephanie, seemed to go off pretty well, so it's neat to see they're doing it again in 2008, this time in Beijing - info broke just before Xmas, just getting round to reprinting it now!]

CMP, creators of the Game Developers Conference (and parent of Gamasutra), along with technology media and events company IDG, have joined with China Joy producers Beijing Howell International Exhibition Co. to announce the second annual China Game Developers Conference, set to take place in Beijing on September 24th-26th, 2008.

The event, to be held at the Jiuhua Spa and Resort in Beijing, builds on the success of the 2007 event, held in Shanghai, which exceeded expectations with more than 2,000 attendees. China GDC will once again feature content programmed by an advisory board of Chinese developers who share a commitment to promote and support their country's game industry.

China GDC will be produced "by China, for China," offering opportunities for learning, networking, and inspiration in the Chinese market, and for those looking for a vertical reach into that market. More information on speakers and registration opportunities will be released in early 2008.

Meggan Scavio, senior conference manager of CMP's Game Developers Conference, commented, "While GDC connects the worldwide game development community, the goal of China GDC is to provide the burgeoning Chinese market a unique, specialized experience. We look forward to expanding on the success of the 2007 event by complementing the formula and spirit of GDC with the extended reach of our partners in China."

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