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Archive For December, 2007

Konami's Yamaoka Talks Silent Night, Uhm, Hill

December 25, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Over at Gamasutra, we posted an Xmas Eve interview with Konami's Silent Hill music supremo Akira Yamaoka, and it actually covers a number of interesting avenues - from the Silent Hill movie to Japanese development to Silent Hill 5.

The interview, originally printed in the December 2007 issue of Game Developer magazine, has been expanded for its appearance on Gamasutra, and includes Yamaoka answering why Konami chose California-based developer The Collective for the currently in-development Silent Hill 5: "Basically, their graphical skill... and also they really understand the world and concept of Silent Hill."

In addition, when asked: 'What is it like working with an American team for Silent Hill 5? Is it different from having a team in-house with you?', Yamaoka commented:

"It's completely different working with an American team. There are of course advantages and disadvantages, but overall, I'm really impressed with the American staff and their technology. Their graphical and technical ability is amazing.

There's a huge gap, actually. They're very advanced. I'm Japanese, and I think this is not just with Silent Hill but with the whole of the industry -- I look at what American developers are doing and I think wow... Japan is in trouble."

Later in the interview, Yamaoka elaborates in-depth on the issues he currently sees in Japanese game creator, explaining why he feels Japan has some issues when it comes to creating cutting-edge titles:

"There are two reasons I think. One is that the development environment in Japan is divided into developers and publishers. Publishers have to create a game in a short amount of time at low cost, and it's a lot of pressure on them in that respect, and they pass that on to the developers. So basically it has to be done as quickly and cheaply as possible. And the people doing this are getting old like me. And tired! And the salary isn't that great.

So you've got pressure on these people to perform like they did when they were 20, and it's just not possible. I look at a game magazine, and I see interviews with the "important creators," like Mr. Sakaguchi. He's a great game creator, but he's not young. And I don't see many young game creators in Japan. Then I look at the west, and I see all these young guys coming up so fast, it's just amazing.

The second reason is that... well for example, on another project [we] were in development for a while, and we realized that we needed a new driver for some graphics program. That happens of course. So we looked around for it, and we found it, OK. Same maker, same everything, should be fine right? But the problem is they're all in English. So we get this thing and we have to localize it into Japanese.

So we don't have a lot of people who can understand English deeply enough for something like that, so that reduces speed. And while we're waiting for that, we're already a step behind everyone else who can understand it intuitively. This sort of thing builds up, and we just fall further behind. I mean of course we can understand it once we know what it says, but this falling behind really affects the quality of what we can do. So that's the second big problem."

The full interview with Konami's Yamaoka is now available at Gamasutra, including plenty more in-depth information on his history in the business, his work on the Silent Hill movie and his new CD, iFuturelist.

GameSetWatch 2007 Game Company Xmas Card Countdown: Nintendo To Free Radical

December 24, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

Finishing up the series - here's the first and the second set of holiday greetings - this is the final set of publisher/developer Xmas cards we received in time for the 2007 holiday season at our offices here in slightly chilly San Francisco.

These cards are compiled from everyone in the CMP Game Group offices - special thanks to GDC exec director Jamil Moledina, Game Developer senior editor Brandon Sheffield, and Gamasutra features editor Christian Nutt for letting me take their cards home to scan. [Also, former Gamasutra and current Joystiq editor Jason Dobson posted a few other cards on his Flickr account, for those wanting more.]

Here goes:

Nintendo's Xmas card features a snowflake-specked version of Super Mario Galaxy iconography - and is flecked with glitter, whcih is particularly fetching.

Now, here's the ironic card inclusion. This card is not personalized in any way to the company who sent it. But... that's because it's from 'game development ninjas' Tose, of course. Haw haw.

This card from Ubisoft is available in a couple of other places too, and only just fits on the scanner - but showcases a massive range of Ubi characters, all the way from Rayman to the 'Imagine' casual game series.

A group card from NIS America, this one features some art from the much-awaited Disgaea 3, as well as lots of signatures from key folks at the Japanese-headquartered, SRPG-happy firm.


The final card is from the folks at Free Radical, and all four page reveal a rich tapestry of l33t gaming puns on the holiday season - along with a spoof disclaimer that channels Assassin's Creed, somebody mentioned to us. A fine end to the series, we believe - happy Christmas to all.

GameSetWatch's 2007 Game Company Xmas Card Countdown: Ninja Theory To Double Fine

December 24, 2007 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

Continuing from the first in the series, it's time to rummage around some more of the neat game publisher/developer Xmas cards we received in time for the 2007 holiday season at the offices of Gamasutra, Game Developer magazine, GDC, and, heh... GameSetWatch.

A reminder - these cards are compiled from everyone in the CMP Game Group offices - special thanks to GDC exec director Jamil Moledina, Game Developer senior editor Brandon Sheffield, and Gamasutra features editor Christian Nutt for letting me take their cards home to scan.

Good ol' Ninja Theory have their special Heavenly Sword-themed Xmas card - which I think they've used before, since the old-style PS3 design and 'boomerang' controller sneak into the design. Fun.

Koei aren't afraid to plug Dynasty Warriors 6 in their card, with the perennial Japanese history borrowers suggesting that 'heavier armor' is the answer to your holiday chill-related issues.

Over at Sony Computer Entertainment America, they've paid someone to carve the PlayStation controller button insignias onto a snow bank, in marvellous holiday stylings. (OK, it's probably a Photoshop trick of the mind, but close enough.)

You might know D3 Publisher of America from Puzzle Quest, of course - not to mention Earth Defense Force and their Japanese parent's Simple 2000 series. In this case, a simple play on their logo makes up their Xmas greetings card.

Finally, last year's Double Fine card was really darn cool, and the Psychonauts and Brutal Legend creators have again come up with something neeto, with the double-headed 'Fine mascot riding a sleigh hotrod, and some cunning prose. Bravo, Sirs. Final Xmas card compilation coming soon...

GameSetLinks: Heads In Jars Say ZX Spectrum

December 24, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Not giving up yet on the GameSetLinks, and this set encompasses a multitude of sins - particularly Chris Baker's game-related bonus access to the Futurama crew thanks to his recent Wired article, yum.

Also notable, though, is the Eurogamer crew (who rarely put a step wrong) getting an honest-to-goodness Xmas-themed Spectrum game made about them, Gus Mastrapa's neeto Rock Band list, Petri Purho's latest distinctly tongue-in-cheek indie game, and a few other gems - za za zoo zoo:

The Compleat Gamer Geek's Guide to Futurama | Game | Life from Wired.com
Leftover game goodness from Mr. Baker's Wired Futurama profile. YUM!

The Flogging Will Continue… » There and (mostly) Back Again; A Solstice Greeting
All kinds of Daniel James randomness, including him being fashion blogged in a truly horrific (in a good way?) suit.

Looky Touchy: Something For the Ladies: 25 Songs With Female Vocals That Should Be in Rock Band
Thoughtful list articles involving Rock Band FTW.

Kloonigames » Blog Archive » M3 - Molesting the Match-3 Market
'The idea in the game is that you’re a casual games’ level designer and it’s your job to create levels for the game, in which the players can get the maximum score without really doing anything.'

richardcobbett.co.uk > Richard's Online Journal > Gamer Snap
Some awesome random gaming pictures, including a Tabula Rasa one that made me guffaw.

Insomnia | Reviews | Wii | No More Heroes
Distinctly lukewarm review - we'll see how polarizing the game is.

Eurogamer: Article - The Eurogamer Xmas game!
A special ZX Spectrum game all about rescuing them at Xmas from Eurogamer Towers. They win (and a screenshot is pictured above!)

MTV Multiplayer » ‘Dirty Dancing’ Game Brings Back Childhood Memories, Questions
Insert 'time of my life' joke here.

Sirlin.net — Your source of shocking insights on game design: CGS is Plagiarizing to Win
Oh dear, a writer borrowing Sirlin concepts for a championship gaming site blog.

GameSetWatch's 2007 Game Company Xmas Card Countdown: PopCap To BioWare

December 23, 2007 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

Well, we're making this a yearly event now - following 2006's game company Christmas card gallery, GSW has got its trusty scanner out and is posting all the neat Xmas greeting cards we collectively got from our friends in the game biz.

Firstly, let's give a shout-out to the other sites who've started this job - in particular, the UK chaps at ComputerAndVideoGames.com have posted over 10 scanned cards from this year, including neat Rare, Konami, and Blizzard ones. In addition, Kotaku has 7 more cards posted, with some awesome Namco Bandai, Petroglyph, and Lionhead digital/physical cards. Oh, and there's Valve's ApertureScience.com online card, of course.

These cards are compiled from everyone in the CMP Game Group offices - special thanks to GDC exec director Jamil Moledina, Game Developer senior editor Brandon Sheffield, and Gamasutra features editor Christian Nutt for letting me take their cards home to scan.

Between us, we have over 15 specially designed game firm Xmas cards not posted online by C&VG and Kotaku yet this holiday season, so we'll be putting them out in three posts, and compiling them all into one big megapost after that. Fun! Let's go:

PopCap's card came with some really cute set of three notebooks with embossed PopCap game characters on them, and a little Xmas-y company factsheet which revealed the firm has managed 50% growth per year _every year_ for the past few years. Good lord, casual games megaton.


Another 'reveal'-styled Final Fantasy card from Square Enix this year, and this time, it looks like a snowman... before opening the card reveals that the eyes are actually from a super-kawaii Chocobo. Aw!

The folks from Marvelous Interactive (Harvest Moon) sent over this distinctly Japanese-styled card celebrating Santa's skydiving prowess. Reborn!

From Naughty Dog, the stars of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune take the opportunity to wish us a happy holiday season - further displaying some of that Magnum P.I.-ish vibe that makes me grin.


The crown jewel of this particular set, BioWare's Xmas card features completely awesome custom Mass Effect art (both Santa-themed and super-deformed!), and a catchy 'Jingle Bells'-pastiche Xmas poem within which starts 'Mass Effect, Mass Effect, Shepard's on his way, He's out spreading Christmas cheer throughout the mass relays'. More cards soon!

Game Developer Editor Brandon Sheffield's Personal Top 10 Games Of 2007

December 23, 2007 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [So sure, we already did the countdown thing, but Game Developer magazine senior editor and Insert Credit blogger Brandon Sheffield didn't have a chance - so we grabbed him in the office yesterday and made him cough up his picks.]

I decided to make my own Top 10 games list for 2007, just for fun. It differed slightly from the general Gamasutra list, which I didn't have time to be on, due to finishing the January issue of Game Developer magazine.

So here you are, my games of 2007 (note: these are the top 10 games I actually played. There are some nice ones out there that I just didn't get to). Get ready to be EXCITED and AMAZED by another list!

GameSetNetwork: Agile Use Of The Vectrex

December 23, 2007 12:01 AM | Simon Carless

- Aha, time to round up some of the interesting stories (particular features) posted on the CMP Game Group's other sites, including Gamasutra, this week.

Of course, one of them is the gigantic 'Best Of 2007' compilation, which you've already seen most or all of reprinted on GSW, but there's plenty of other interesting material round here somewhere - such as:

- Scrum and Long Term Project Planning for Video Games
"The agile methodology known as Scrum is rapidly gaining development credence, and High Moon Studios CTO Clinton Keith (Darkwatch, The Bourne Conspiracy) presents this in-depth Gamasutra article explaining how publishers and developers can benefit through regular, focused iteration."

- A History of Gaming Platforms: The Vectrex
"The 'ambitious and unusual' vector-based Vectrex console was one of the most intriguing game console failures of all time, and Loguidice and Barton continue their 'History Of Gaming Platforms' series by analyzing the rise, fall, and legacy of the cult '80s console."

- Persuasive Games: The Holly and the Ivy
"Ian Bogost's latest 'Persuasive Games' column takes a seasonal twist, as he examines the history of holiday-related themes in games - from Christmas NiGHTS through Sims 2 expansions - and suggests that the industry should produce more Christmas games."

- Sponsored Feature: Going Live - Announcing XNA Game Studio 2.0
"This is the first in a series of game development articles hosted on the new XNA micro-site at Gamasutra. This month's article gives you an insider's look into the new features of XNA Game Studio 2.0. In addition, we introduce you to the broader XNA organization which serves both professional and community developers on Microsoft platforms."

- Better Living Through Order: An Eidos Montreal Studio Tour
"Want to know how Deus Ex 3 is being created? Gamasutra presents an in-depth Eidos Montreal studio tour, including comments from GM Stéphane D'Astous and DX3 producer David Anfossi on the update to the seminal franchise."

And a couple of bonus original Gamasutra news stories/reports that are worth checking out - 'China Angle: Top 2007 Events Shaping The Future Of China's Industry', plus 'GDC Lyon: Kuju's Baverstock On Developer Marketing' and 'IGC: BioWare's Dubose Talks QA On New MMO'.

2008 IGF Student Showcase Announces Finalists

December 22, 2007 4:01 PM | Simon Carless

- The 2008 Independent Games Festival (IGF) has announced the twelve finalists in the Student Showcase for its 10th annual set of awards.

Chosen from a record 125 entries by a jury of experts from leading game design programs at universities across the world, these games will go on to compete for an overall Best Student Game prize, to be awarded at the IGF Awards Ceremony on February 20, 2008.

Some of the finalists this year include USC Interactive Media Program’s quirky The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom, Sheridan Institute’s stylish booger-busting Gesundheit (pictured), and The National Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment’s dual-perspective Half-Life 2 modification Flipside.

All IGF finalist games will be exhibited at the IGF Pavilion, Feb. 20-22, 2008 at this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) Expo. GDC, CMP Technology’s annual conference dedicated to the art, science and business of games, takes place February 18-22, at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Each finalist in the IGF Student Showcase will receive a $500 travel stipend to help aid expenses for the trip to GDC 2008. The winner of the IGF Best Student Game Award will receive a $2,500 cash prize during the ceremony. Full nominee list after the cut...

GameSetLinks: 'Twas The Weekend Before Christmas

December 22, 2007 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- Ah yes, it's almost Crimble time, which means GSW will collectively be floating on the sofa in a haze of half-digested pudding and brandy. Wait, that's what we do most weekends, though.

In the meantime, here's a few notable links to tide you over, including some smart blogging on death in MMOs, a critique of the apparently 'fanfic'-like Silent Hill PSP title, and even the fun (and pictured above) promo video for N+, which is all live-action and viral and shuggywuggah. Gotta love that, and in the meantime:

Elder Game: MMO game development » What’s in a Death Penalty?
'I find it very interesting that WoW’s death penalty is much harsher than the death penalty in EQ2, which goes against our preconceived notions of these two games.'

Graphic Engine » Blog Archive » The Video Game Explosion
'A quick plug for a new book edited by my friend and colleague Mark J. P. Wolf, The Video Game Explosion: A History from Pong to PlayStation and Beyond (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008).' First I've heard of this.

Clickable Culture - ‘I Am Legend’ In Saintly Style
Broken Saints guys doing I Am Legend promo - more Flash movie than game, but interesting in an Internet-creative way.

Silent Hill: Origins | The New Gamer
'Like the fanfiction writer, they know they like the scenery and style of Silent Hill 2, but they don't understand the deeper meaning behind the imagery.'

Pop Cosmopolitanism » On Zelda And Timelines
There is an upcoming book called 'The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy'. Who should we thank?

Teaching Game Design: Pittsburgh Game Jam games available for download
Including a four-player co-op maze game with a fog of war? Blimey.

Water Cooler Games - Scholastic Defiles Self, World with Game-Book Tie-ins
Amusingly abusive, but interesting to see book/webgame hookups to the fore here.

War Angels coming to XBLA | XBLArcade.com
Mr. Robot creators Moonpod are behind this - v.good news.

N+: ninjas, robots and awesome
Live-action trailer for the XBLA/handheld indie expansion - totallycute!

COLUMN: 'Play Evolution': Difficulty Levels and You

December 22, 2007 12:01 AM |

THE WITCHERERERER.[“Play Evolution” is a bi-weekly column by James Lantz that discusses the changes that games undergo after their release, from little developer patches to huge gameplay revelations, and everything in between. This week: evolution and progression in difficulty levels]

I picked up The Witcher the other day on a whim – and well, also because Bioware had its magic paws in it – and the first screen it greets you with upon starting a new game is the difficulty selection screen. At this point, you have three options: easy, medium and hard. The game describes “Easy” as a difficulty level where the combat is simple. Under “Medium” it says that the combat is of average difficulty and that alchemy is powerful but not required. On “Hard,” it claims that the use of alchemy is required to survive. That’s it. That’s all it says.

First off: what on earth is alchemy? I know what its definition is and I know that it will probably have something to do with potions and probably something to do with mixing them and maybe even something to do with witches and cauldrons, but how am I supposed to know whether I want to be forced to use it or not? How am I supposed to know whether it’s an interesting and well-developed part of the game or a complete waste of time?

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